Nikon D4 (Body Only) review: Nikon D4 (Body Only)

Down the left side of the LCD sit the menu, Picture Control, zoom in, zoom out, OK, and info buttons. The info button brings up the onscreen display with direct access to some less frequently changed settings, such as choosing from the shooting and custom settings banks (four each), custom button programming, noise-reduction settings, and Active D-Lighting options. On the right side are the AF-on button, programmable joystick (the subselector), and eight-way rocker switch (multiselector) with a button in the middle and lock switch below. When you rotate to vertical orientation there's a duplicate AF-on button and subselector.


The multiselector -- the big 8-way rocker switch with the button in the middle -- remains one of my least favorite Nikon controls. It's just too annoying to operate precisely.

Nikon doesn't deliver as consistent a horizontal and vertical experience as some. You've got the two programmable buttons between the lens and the grip while shooting horizontally but not vertically, and instead have a tiny button by the shutter that feels just slightly in the wrong place for using in conjunction with one of the command dials. Because of the new location of the autofocus-area control, it's hard to operate while vertically oriented. And some of the seemingly duplicate controls operate differently in the different orientations. For instance, the horizontal subselector can be programmed as an AE lock, but the vertical one can't -- because it's not a subselector! It just looks like the same control, when in fact it's a duplicate multiselector. Are these deal killers? No. But this is an expensive camera and you have the right to be cranky about small design issues.


The battery cover separates from the battery.

On the other hand, there are two subtle design tweaks that are really nice. When you touch the shutter button (or any of the other controls, for that matter), all the buttons and display backlights illuminate. And the new battery design separates the battery-cover latch from the battery itself.

As with other Nikon pro models, I love the viewfinder: it's big and bright, with a nice grid overlay and the appropriate information displayed. But the display LCD has a slight greenish tint that makes light colors look washed-out when they're not and white balance incorrect when it's not. You can manually adjust the display hue, however.

Under rubber covers on the left side of the body live various connectors: peripheral (such as wireless transmitters), USB, headphone jack, mic input, HDMI, and Ethernet.

  Canon EOS-1D X Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III Nikon D3S Nikon D4 Nikon D3X
Sensor (effective resolution) 18mp CMOS
(2-line, 16-channel readout)

14-bit
21.1mp CMOS
14-bit
8-channel readout
14-bit
12.1mp CMOS
12-channel readout
14-bit
16.2mp CMOS
n/a
14-bit
24.5mp CMOS
12-channel readout
14-bit
36mm x 24mm 36mm x 24mm 36mm x 23.9mm 36mm x 24mm 35.9mm x 24mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x
Sensitivity range ISO 50 (exp)/ 100 - ISO 51,200/204,800 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/100 - ISO 1600/3200 (exp) ISO 100 (exp)/200 - ISO 12800/ 102400 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/100 - ISO 102400/ 204800 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/100 - ISO 1600/6400 (exp)
Continuous shooting 12fps
38 raw/180 JPEG
5fps
12 raw/56 JPEG
9fps
n/a
10fps
n/a
5fps
n/a
Viewfinder
magnification/ effective magnification
100% coverage
0.76x/0.76x
100% coverage
0.76x/ 0.76x
100% coverage
0.70x/ 0.70x
100% coverage
0.70x/ 0.70x
100% coverage
0.70x/ 0.70x
Autofocus 61-pt High Density Reticular
21 center diagonal to f5.6
5 center to f2.8
20 outer to f4
45-pt
19 cross type
51-pt
15 cross type
51-pt
5 cross type to f2.8
9 cross type to f8
51-pt
15 cross type
AF exposure range -2 - 20 EV -1 - 18 EV -1 - 19 EV -2 - 19 EV -1 - 19 EV
Shutter speed 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync
Shutter durability 400,000 cycles 300,000 cycles 300,000 cycles 400,000 cycles 300,000 cycles
Metering 252-zone RGB 63-zone TTL 1,005-pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering II 91,000-pixel RGB 3D Color Matrix Metering II 1,005-pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering II
Metering exposure range 0 - 20 EV (est) 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV -1 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV
Image stabilization Optical Optical Optical Optical Optical
Video H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/50p
None H.264 AVI
720/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/30p/ 25p/24p
None
Rated estimated max HD video length 4GB
(29m59s)
n/a 2GB 4GB
(29m59s)
n/a
LCD size 3.2 inches fixed
1.04 megadot
3 inches fixed
230,000 pixels
3 inches fixed
921,000 dots
3.2 inches
921,000 dots
3 inches fixed
921,000 dots
Memory slots 2 x CF
(UMDA mode 7)
1 x CF (UDMA mode 6),
1 x SDHC
2 x CF (UMDA mode 6) 1 x CF (UDMA mode 7),
1 x XQD
2 x CF (UMDA mode 6)
Wireless flash No No No No No
Battery life (CIPA rating) 1,120 shots
(2,450mAh)
1,800 shots
(2,300mAh)
4,200 shots
(1,900mAh)
2,600 shots
(2,000mAh)
4,400 shots
(1,900mAh)
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 6.4 x 6.2 x 3.3 6.1 x 6.3 x 3.1 6.3 x 6.2 x 3.4 6.3 x 6.2 x 3.6 6.3 x 6.2 x 3.4
Body operating weight (ounces) 54 (est) 45 (est) 43.7 (est) 48.3 43 (est)
Mfr. price $6,800 (body only) $6,999 (body only) $5,199.95 (body only) $5,999 (body only) $7,999.95 (body only)
Ship date June 2012 November 2007 November 2009 January 2012 December 2008

As for features, it's probably easier to say the D4 isn't missing much I can think of -- support for time code in video is one of the few things that spring to mind -- than to enumerate what it does have. Unlike the 1D X it does support simultaneous HDMI out and Live View display, with a suppressed information display. It uses H.264 B-frame compression for video, though that's not nearly as interesting as Canon's support of I-frames; bipredictive compression reduces file sizes, but intraframe-only compression delivers better quality. It supports 1.5x and 2.7x crop modes in movie capture, for extended zoom with a given lens, though it doesn't have a direct 1,920x1,080 mode for pixel-for-pixel video capture.

Its unique Live View Silent mode bursts 12fps or 24fps for 5 seconds at a low-resolution 1,920x1,080 with what I'm presuming is electronic rather than mechanical shutter, since it really is silent -- although I could hear what I think was the aperture clicking.


The D4's Ethernet connection allows for surprisingly full-featured tethered shooting via a browser, rather than having to use Nikon's proprietary software.

Other features it has that the 1D X lacks (as far as I can tell) are a time-lapse mode and TIFF output. Like the 1D X it introduces silent power aperture shooting -- you can program the two buttons on the front for widening and narrowing it -- as well as multiple exposures. Plus, there's an exposure delay mode, which postpones the shutter release for up to 3 seconds after the mirror lifts in order to minimize vibration. Wireless connectivity, flash, and GPS remain add-ons, as is common for this class.

For an exhaustive rundown of the D4's features and operation, you'll have to download the PDF manual.

Conclusion
As I haven't tested the Canon EOS-1D X yet, I can't really draw any comparative conclusions, but I doubt it's so much better that it's worth tossing all your Nikon lenses and changing systems. Similarly, it's unlikely the D4 is worth putting all your Canon gear on eBay and jumping the fence. But those are pretty mundane conclusions.

Unless you really need the speed and resolution boost, improved video, or better connectivity, I don't think the D4 is a must-have replacement for the D3S. And the D800 delivers equally good or better photos at low ISO sensitivities and better video quality for a lot less money, even when equipped with a battery grip, though the D4 remains seriously faster. But overall, the D4 is a well-executed update to Nikon's professional camera line that's worth the admittedly hefty investment if you need its talents.

Shooting time (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Raw shot-to-shot time  
JPEG shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim light)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Nikon D4
0.2 
0.2 
0.2 
0.2 
Nikon D800
0.1 
0.3 
0.3 
0.4 
0.2 
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
0.3 
0.4 
0.3 
0.4 
0.2 
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV
0.2 
0.5 
0.3 
0.5 
0.2 
Nikon D3S
0.2 
0.5 
0.3 
0.5 
0.2 
Nikon D300s
0.3 
0.5 
0.4 
0.7 
0.3 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Digital camera type SLR
  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 16.2 Megapixel
  • Optical Sensor Size 23.9 x 36mm