A Wildlife Photographers View of the Nikon D4
Finally after 5 solid years Nikon has announced a successor to the D3. From a wildlife photographer's perspective the the D4 looks impressive, and most importantly it looks like Nikon seems to have made an extensive series of small improvements and not a lot of big changes for still photographers. In other words it looks like they did not make any huge mistakes as Canon has done over the last few years with their pro cameras. Thankfully Nikon has aimed for it's professional user-base and tried to improve the D3S which was probably one of the best, if not the best DSLR ever made.
Note: I have not had a chance to use the camera yet so all of this info is based on Nikon supplied info. If you would like to find out more of see Nikon's brochure see the bottom of this post for links.
Some of the more important D4 photo shooting specs are a new higher-resolution 16.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor and the ability to shoot at 10 frames per second with AF. Most importantly the continuous shooting ability has been increased from 43 shots with the D3S to 97 NEF on a CF card and 105 NEF files with the new XQD card. Limited RAW file continuous shooting capability has always been a problem for action photographers since the first DSLR.
Nikon reports that the new Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX AF system in the D4 has improved low light ability. A new 1005 pixel AE metering sensor has been replaced a new design with 91,000 pixels. The 3D tracking performance of this new color matrix metering has reportedly been dramatically improved. This is huge since I feel that the current Nikon AF system is the best AF system I have ever used. It is comforting to see that Nikon has confirmed autofocus at f8 so super-telephoto NIKKOR users can use 1.7X and 2.0X teleconverters. Nikon has always had this capability on pro and pro-sumer cameras but new cameras like the Canon EOS-1DX have dropped this capability. This is a very important issue for a lot of people including me.
The D4 a lot of new interesting capabilities with the new WT-5 Wireless Transmitter. This will allow the user to log into your camera with a laptop, tablet or smartphone and will have access to a camera control panel and live view feed with a standard web browser.
The Real Challenge
Image quality is really most important and I think it is the D4's biggest challenge. I feel that the Nikon D3S is the closest thing to the perfect camera on the market right now. Nikon promises that the D4 will offer even better image quality and even better low light performance. The D3S low light high ISO performance was almost unbelievable. For an example of what kind of file the D3S can produce, look at the image below.
Dalmatian Pelican at 25,600 ISO, Greece, 2011. Nikon D3S with Sigma 50-500mm OS @ 340mm at 1/8000 F14, ISO 25,600. image copyright © 2012 Robert OToole.
This is the kind of image quality the D4 has to beat. The image made at an astounding 25,600 ISO is almost completely noise free. For the record no noise reduction or blurring has been applied, yes the D3S is that good!
I would be surprised if the D4 will be able to surpass the IQ of the D3S at high ISO but if it can at least match it the D4 will be worth the 3 year wait.
Things Missing From the D4
Enough resolution to make the D4 the first true dual mode camera. Rumors have been circulation for years that the D4 would offer high full frame resolution and a 12-14 MP 1.5x crop mode with a higher frame rate. This would be the ultimate camera for action and outdoor photographers. Full frame and a faster 1.5x mode when you need extra speed and reach. The D4 offers more resolution but it looks like it will only provide about 6-7 MP in crop mode. Maybe next time? D800 maybe?
No removable viewfinder, I still miss this feature from the film SLR pro camera era.
No built in incident meter.
No removable upgradable sensor.
No removable low pass filter.
No built in RAID SSD hard drive with thunderbolt connector for downloading.
What I Do Not Like About the D4
Nikon made a mistake dropping the AF-Mode selector on the back of the camera and replacing it with the the same AF mode / AF manual mode combination switch from the D7000. All of the online reviews I have read claim that this change is an improvement, for me its a bad move for photographers. Nikon went from a brilliant AF-Mode switch that only took a single finger to operate without even looking. The D4 / D7000 design uses an outer collar that rotates to select auto or manual focus, and selects the AF mode when the center of the selector is pressed while the command dial is rotated. Honestly almost all D7000 owners I have met dont even know how to use the combo switch. I don't even have my D4 ordered yet but I already miss old style AF-Mode switch.
At least they didn't touch the AF-On button!
Nikon D4 brochure link:
More Nikon D4 info:
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