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Nikon D4S hits ISO 409600, 11fps

It appeared under glass at CES 2014, but now it has specs, including a top sensitivity of ISO 409600

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
4 min read

While it hasn't been a secret for months -- it debuted under glass at CES 2014 and underwent field testing recently at the Olympics (view some sample images) -- Nikon has finally gone public with the specs for its new flagship dSLR, the D4S. According to the company, the D4S was a "minor update that turned into more": a new sensor and upgrade to its Expeed 4 processor for better image quality and speed, plus tweaks to the autofocus settings, video and workflow features, and controls.

Most of the updates I'd classify as subtle but nontrivial. Although the sensor remains the same resolution, Nikon's reworked it in many mysterious ways; combined with the new processing, the camera's now rated up to ISO 409600, one stop beyond its predecessor. The D4S now has an auto ISO setting to allow for automatically preserving consistent exposures when shooting video or time lapse; you can now shoot up to 9,999 frames in the latter as well. There's also a new 12-bit uncompressed small raw file size. And the battery life jumps if you switch to the new, higher-capacity EL-EN18a battery, though it remains compatible with the D4's EL-EN18. The Ethernet connection gets a speed boost, too, jumping to 1000BaseT.

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The only really visible change to the design is the more durable, textured surface of the subselector and multiselector joysticks. The front grip is slightly deeper and there's a better grip on back for vertical shooting. Nikon

Action photographers get a bump to 11fps burst shooting with full autofocus and autoexposure. To address some of the backfocus complaints of the D4, Nikon has added a new Group Area AF mode, a moveable 5-point clump of AF points that operates as a single focus area, and which the company claims improves focus when shooting subjects against a busy background. AF lock-on (tracking) is now more sensitive, to theoretically better lock focus when something passes between camera and subject. Plus there's a new mirror mechanism with reduced slap and mirror blackout time, and the viewfinder supports the ability to maintain the same relative AF point when switching between horizontal and vertical orientations.

For portrait photographers, you can use face-detection based metering in the optical viewfinder, and the standard Picture Control and white balance have been tweaked to deliver better skin tones.

Nikon's boosted the video operation, adding a 1080/60p codec and the ability to record simultaneously to an external recorder via HDMI and to an internal card. It also adds two audio frequency range recording options (which can be changed while recording), Wide Range and Voice Range.

Canon EOS-1D X Nikon D4 Nikon D4S
Sensor effective resolution
36 x 24mm 36 x 23.9mm 36 x 23.9mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x
OLPF Yes Yes Yes
ISO range ISO 50 (exp)/ 100 - ISO 51200/ 204800 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/ISO 100 - ISO 12800/ISO 204800 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/ISO 100 - ISO 25600/ISO 409600 (exp)
Burst shooting 12fps
(14fps JPEG, with fixed focus and exposure)
(11fps with fixed focus and exposure)
200 JPEG
VF Optical
100% coverage
100% coverage
100% coverage
AF 61-pt High Density Reticular
21 center diagonal to f5.6
5 center to f2.8
20 outer to f4
5 cross type to f2.8
9 cross type to f8
(Multi-CAM 3500FX)
15 cross type to f5.6
9 cross-type to f8
(Multi-CAM 3500FX)
AF exposure range -2 - 20 EV -2 - 19 EV -2 - 19 EV
Shutter speed 1/8000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync (1/8,000 FP sync) 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync (1/8,000 FP sync)
Shutter durability 400,000 cycles 400,000 cycles 400,000 cycles
Metering 252-zone 100,000-pixel RGB 91,000-pixel 3D Color Matrix Metering II 91,000-pixel 3D Color Matrix Metering II
Metering exposure range 0 - 20 EV -1 - 20 EV -1 - 20 EV
IS Optical Optical Optical
Best video H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/50p
H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/24p; 720/60p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/60p/50p/30p/25p/24p
Rated estimated max HD video length at best quality 29:59 minutes
20 minutes 20 minutes
Clean HDMI out No Yes
(8-bit 4:2:2)
(8-bit 4:2:2)
Audio Mono; mic input Mono; mic input; headphone jack Mono; mic input; headphone jack
LCD size 3.2 inches fixed
1.04 megadot
3.2 inches fixed
921,000 dots
3.2 inches fixed
921,000 dots
Memory slots 2 x CF (UDMA 7) 1 x CF (UDMA 7), 1 x XQD 1 x CF (UDMA 7), 1 x XQD
Wireless flash No No
(No on-camera flash)
(No on-camera flash)
Battery life n/a
2,600 shots
3,020 shots
Wireless connectivity Via optional WFT-E6A transmitter ($599) Via optional WT-5A/4A transmitters
($877; $1,000)
Via optional WT-5A/4A transmitters
($877; $1,000)
Wired connectivity Gigabit Ethernet; USB 2.0 100Base-T Ethernet; USB 2.0 Gigabit Ethernet; USB 2.0
Size (inches, WHD) 6.4 x 6.2 x 3.3 6.3 x 6.2 x 3.6 6.3 x 6.2 x 3.6
Body operating weight (ounces) 54 (est) 48.3 43 (est)
Mfr. price $6,799.00 (body only) $5,999.95 (body only) $6,499.95 (body only)
Ship date March 2012 January 2012 March 2014

Not the big advance I'm guessing some folks were hoping for, but pro cameras tend to follow an every-other-generation major upgrade cycle. And ISO 409600? Well, that will definitely make for some interesting pixel peeping.