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back to article Nikon D4 DSLR review

If you thought the Nikon D3s was the ultimate DSLR for photojournalism, sport and low light photography, then think again. The Nikon D4 is not only the D3’s obvious upgrade and replacement but also Nikon’s attempt to redefine, yet again, professional imaging standards. Nikon D4 full-frame 16Mp DSLR camera Top shot: Nikon's D4 …

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WTF?

How much?

For as long as I can remember Nikon's professional cameras have been just about unbeatable; the Nikon F3 was a big leap forward in 1980 when it was no longer an all manual camera; they did it again with the F4 in 1989 when they brought autofocus and built in motordrive to the range. Now to me the problem is cost of the D4 is putting it beyond the range of many pros unless they work for a big agency or national. The F4 in 1989 was about £1200 or about £1900 today. More than five grand for the D4 seems astronomically expensive - there's no doubt you're getting the Rolls-Royce of professional equipment but the return on that investment strikes me as being extremely difficult to justify.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How much?

Do we really still need to point out the many advantages and cost-savings of digital photography - in 2012?

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Facepalm

Re: How much?

Well you just going to have to get the cheaper model then arent you. Canon 1D counterpart isnt cheap either.

The question is whether you need or want it. The 11 fps shooting is amazing but it depends to what type of photography you do. You wont need it for portrait, landscape, weddings , etc. Journalism , sport and animal would of course benefit . So grab the D800?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How much?

Er yes, because there are many professionals out there who still use film.

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Megaphone

Re: How much?

To be honest, that might hold true for consumer level cameras, but £5k pays for a lot of film and processing. Not to mention the fact that hi-end DSLRs have a much shorter service life than pro film cameras used to, due to the rapid march of technology.

Film vs digital costs are notoriously difficult to compute as the variables are complex, but I'l wager the savings aren't as large as you think and much of the cost of digital is up-front. In addition, digital has extra costs related to post-production that can be difficult to sell to a client, for many of whom "digital = cheaper".

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WTF?

Re: How much? @Glesga

"digital has extra costs related to post-production that can be difficult to sell to a client,"

To be honest thats a ridiculous statement. There is no reason why you need to do post processing on digital any more than you do on film. The reason why you tend to do post processing on digital is its easier and cheaper giving you the ability to give a photo a big lift with 5 mins of work while you probably wouldnt have bothered on film.

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Re: How much?

But you are discounting that you are ALSO getting a video camera, of high enough quality to shoot feature films with. So if you do the film comparison, then you also have to add the cost of a 16mm film videocamera as well.

There are still pros using film, and I think that large format is enjoying a resurgence. I was in the darkroom for the first time in years last week, and I was amazed at how less offensive the chemicals had become, how easy multigrade papers made things, etc. But that is just an aside - I think Nikon will sell all that they can produce of the D4.

Once again, a great review from Catherine!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How much?

"The F4 in 1989 was about £1200 or about £1900 today"

Not sure about those figures, using the calculator here:

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-1633409/Historic-inflation-calculator-value-money-changed-1900.html

£1200 in 1989 looks more like £4000 today - much closer to the price of the D4

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Re: How much? @Glesga

Oh, but there is a need to do post. While film tends to have a character of its own, the digital files (in pro cameras at least) try to be as neutral as possible, leaving you more latitude for post, which is exactly why you HAVE to do post (even if it's just a general curves, saturation and sharpness adjustment).

I know that in most cases, I fine-tune the exposure manually in post (Yes, I'm the kind of loser who's often off by 1/3 of a stop, if not more. I know, I wouldn't last a day back in the, erm, day.), then just apply a nice curve/sharpening/sat preset of my own making, and well, Bob's your uncle. Not a lot of work required, but FAR more control than with film.

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Silver badge

Re: How much?

It's not just 5k, remember we usually have 2 or three bodies with us and another two backups in the bag.

Some pros still shoot film, they do this because film is different, not better or worse in general. They like the advantages of film, others like the advantages of digital.

If you look at the components that go into a pro film slr against a pro dslr you may understand the price difference.

My own figures for film vs digital are a little off because I souped my own film but the chemicals usually run between 50p and 1.50p (b&w and e6 at either extreme, c41 is in the middle) per roll of 10 shots. Figure on an 8 hour wedding using 80-120 rolls. Then you have 2 days of processing the film and scanning it (a processor is about 2k for a jobo, another 10k for a half way decent used scanner).

If you wanted to have them souped for you, its maybe 5-6 pounds per roll, scans vary hugely in cost, anything from a few pounds a roll to several hundred per neg.

Digital is an unfront cost, and the quality is there, but the aesthetic is different. It also takes a lot of time out of post unless you are crap and need to correct a lot or have a style that depends on heavy post. Having said that, you can outsource post, quite a few decent togs do.

Also pro bodies seem expensive compared to consumer bodies but the shutter can easily last 4x as long, making the cost per shot a lot more attractive.

The d4 is well priced on balance.

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Silver badge

Re: How much?

You'd think it pays for a lot. It doesn't get you much pro developing and scanning. Honeslty, the cost to soup and scan a roll of 120 would make you cry, thats why many of us soup our own. I'd rather do it myself in an environment I control rather than drop it off at the chemists and trust a random minilab machine.

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Re: How much?

Most other calculators give £2,330.00 using the retail price index. When I've tried http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-1633409/Historic-inflation-calculator-value-money-changed-1900.html I get £2,532.00. Compound inflation since 1989 is approx. 110% which pretty much substantiates the doubling of price.

I can't help but feel there is significant price inflation on Digital SLRs compared to 35MM SLRs and it runs counter to prevailing economies in that they should actually get cheaper. From a business point of view the depreciation seems to be accelerating; the old 35MM Nikon "F" series were current for about ten years before replacement, the gap between the D3 and D4 is only five and the D3S was only three years ago.

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Silver badge

Re: How much? @Glesga

When high quality scanning became sensibly priced quite a few togs switched to a hybrid system of scanning negs. A nikon scanner would do half decent scans for a few thousand, good enough for proofs anyway. This allowed film aesthetics and digital post.

Unless you have a style that relies on heavy pp effects, you shouldn't be spending more time in post than you did shooting. A 4 hour shoot is 4 hours in post max. I mean this in the nicest possible way but spend time learning to get it right in camera. We had to when we learnt with film. 10 years ago I would have killed for that ratio. Unless you outsourced everything and paid heavily for that, you were often shooting 1-2 gigs a week. Now you can shoot 2 a day. 10-10-10, I shot 4 weddings and coordinated a 5th, all the proofs were online inside 24 hrs. There are plenty of togs who do way more routinely. You just could sustainably do that with film unless you had a team of people doing all the sales and post and print for you.

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Silver badge

Re: How much? @Glesga

I agree re them being neutral but its literally a case of applying a curve, sharpening is done when the outputs decided as it varies. Calibration for the camera is done at import. You should have nailed exposure in camera. Unless you get stuff pretty wrong in camera it's down to your style. Nail the exposure and the dof and you are 90% there, the rest is fluffing.

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Re: How much?

>To be honest, that might hold true for consumer level cameras, but £5k pays for a lot of film and processing.

Ok, and where do you get ISO 6400 c41 film capable of 16 Megapixels?

And better make it bulk film, we wouldn't want to pause every three seconds, would we?

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@Not to mention the fact that hi-end DSLRs have a much shorter service life ...

And the high servicing cost of digital through the camera's life with forced expense due to the sensor, anti alias filter and overall complexity.

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Silver badge
Meh

Jesus

The Rolls Royce of cameras?

Is it good plated and if not why not!

Because in a year it will be half price when the update it but at least gold will hold its value better.

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Silver badge

Re: Jesus

Erm, no. The update cycle for major updates on top level bodies is about 3 years. There have been exceptions for updates such as canons 1d mk2n etc, however these are rare exceptions and have been around the 18 month mark. They have usually also come at the demand of pro photographers who have 10's of thousands of dollars invested in the cameras being replaced.

They also hold their value very well on the used market. Go check keh or adorama and see. For a commercial photographer these are solid investments. It might not make financial sense to the wife when you want one for holiday snaps but to somebody with 50-60k a year capex they make sense.

I have stood on a beach in a torrential storm shooting a wedding because the bride HAD to say her vows at a specific time. If you don't deliver you either don't get paid or you have to enforce your contract which creates bad blood. Why not just pay for decent equipment that gets the job done. Look at how expensive toughbooks are, now go tell an engineer in the field he's being ripped off and he should be using a consumer laptop at half the price. Now see how long the cheaper laptop lasts when it has to do more then check facebook from the garden bench.

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Trollface

Too expensive for most

It's going to be hard for most photographers to justify the price of the D4. For just a little bit more (£5300-ish) you could walk away with a D800, and some very sweet lenses (Nikon's 24-70 and 70-200 spring to mind).

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WTF?

Re: Too expensive for most

Not to mention you can get a decent (ish) 2nd hand car for 5k !!!

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Silver badge

Re: Too expensive for most

But it's not meant for most.

My D90 has just about given up the ghost and this morning I'd decided to bite the bullet and get a D7000 tomorrow then I see this article and remember how I felt when the D4 was released and started to drool again. I quickly reigned myself in. This is a pro camera, there is absolutely no use me spending that amount of money (plus losing my dangly bits when the wife found out the price) on a camera. For those it's aimed at it will be worth it.

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Bronze badge
Go

Drool....

If you're a pro, then seensible tax planning makes the cost less problematic.

Unless you've got the wrong accountant.

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Thumb Up

Incredible quality

Those ISO 3200 samples have less noise than my compact camera has at ISO 200. Blimey.

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Re: Incredible quality

Yep. I got a Canon 5D MkII , so not too shabby but the level of noise on that Nikon is rather good and leave my 5D standing.

In low light conditions, regardless of the ISO, noise starts to get pretty noticeble on the 5D. That dusk shot on the beach at 200 ISO is increndibly clean. Perfect even. Impressed.....

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Silver badge

Re: Incredible quality

I wouldn't expect any noise at ISO 200 from either the D4 or your 5D MkII or my more modest D300 either. That's native ISO. There should be no amplification to cause the noise. If you do have noise at native ISO either someone has lied about the native ISO of the sensor, or you've got a fault.

To be honest I was looking at the 3200 and 6400 ISO shots (dark regions) and I wasn't as impressed as I thought I would be. I'm sure I've seen far better from the D3S, then again, they might have had some PP.

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Stop

Re: Incredible quality

Disagree. It totally depends on the light.

On my 5D MkII , in good light at high ISO speeds there is very little noise. But in low light levels, like dusk etc , even at ISO 200 there is plenty of noise (obviously even worse at high ISOs)

But that dusk shot on the Nikon has no noise which I think is impressive.

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Silver badge

Re: Incredible quality

Low levels of illumination in a scene will certainly show noise more than higher levels across all ISOs. It's down to bits per pixel decreasing with each stop of underexposure. Which is why it's important to try to expose properly. To my eye there really isn't anything special about that ISO200 shot. I've just looked at a few of my raw files also shot at native ISO 200 (I do a lot of night shots) and there really is no difference noise wise - as it should be. I don't do any noise reduction on camera, I save that all for post.

The real balls of a sensor shows when the ISO gets higher, and although those ISO 3200 and 6400 shots are good, they don't look as good as the article lead me to expect. I remember the D3S's shots being more impressive.

Now I've got to go find some good side by side ones to compare!

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Silver badge

Re: Incredible quality

Found a side-by-side review.

http://mansurovs.com/nikon-d4-vs-d3s-vs-d3-iso-performance-comparison

Not much to choose between the D3s and D4 in the high ISO battle. I think the reason I was a little disappointed is because the D3s was such a huge improvement over the D3.

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Bronze badge

Re: Incredible quality

It's not true that amplification is the sole (or even major) cause of noise. There are, of course, sources of noise introduced by electronics such as quantisation noise, thermal effects and so on. However, even if these can be eliminated, photon shot noise can not be. That's a noise source that is inherent in the discrete nature of light with the SNR varying to the square root of the arrival rate.

So, even at base ISO, noise is still present in the very nature of light. That effect will be proportionately at its worst in the darker areas where the fewest photons are received, even if every single one was converted to an electron and the electronics introduced no noise of its own.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Incredible quality - really?

noise on 5D: only relevant if you're comparing them using the similar lenses. using the 85mm f1.2 on a 5D MkII i rarely have noise in low light conditions (moonlight, evening, city at night). It helps not shaking the camera (I use often a monopod for portability and short movies).

The performance of the movie in this review is not as good as the 7D (subjective opinion) with the 70-200 L IS II USM.

Maybe you have dust on your sensor, or a layer of fat on your lens (lateral light problem) or you're moving too much.

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Trollface

Disappointed

10 comments so far, and still no obligatory "Well, this doesn't even come close to my Hasselblad."

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Pirate

Re: Disappointed

It doesn't come close to my Gandalfi Universal 4x5 when wet scanned, for pure resolution per frame. Happy now? Of course, I count quarter hours per frame, rather than frames per minute when shooting... :-)

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Yeah, I had one of these...

...for about 24 hours.

I had ordered a Canon 5D MKIII but the shop dispatched one of these Nikon thingies. The first thing I did was check the price on-line (wow!), which was more than double what I'd paid. My friends suggested I sold all my Canon glass and bought Nikon gear but I decided to phone the shop and let them know of their blunder.

They sent a courier to my door to exchange prisoners the very next morning.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yeah, I had one of these...

I've got one of these, it arrived covered in finger prints and drool... ;-)

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Silver badge

Re: Yeah, I had one of these...

Did you notice the colour cast on the screen? It's not mentioned on the review that I could see, but I noticed a distanct cast on the lcd.

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MJI
Silver badge
Thumb Up

35mm size chip

Expensive but the correct chip - none of this APS nonsense

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And where's the Canon 1Dx?

Annonced well before the D4 yet still unobatinable. TechRadar has just got their hands on a production unit while Nike has announced the D4/D800/D800E and shipped tens of thousands all from a plant badly damaged by the Tsuamai (Their factory is in Sendai).

I have a D800 and it is mind blowing when compared to the D700 I used previously.

The D4 is well outside my price range for a body but I don't need the FPS that the D4 gives me. I'll still use the D700 for the times I need 7fps.

I borrowed a D4 for a day a couple of weeks ago. I felt really nice. Probably a bit better balanced then the D800 with my 70-200 F2.8. I'd say that the image quality is slightly better than the D800 at 6400ISO (i needed to shoot with that high an ISO as we were inside a Railway workshop).

Overall, Nice, very nice indeed. Now is I were to win the Lottery I'd buy one in a shot.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And where's the Canon 1Dx?

Saw a Japanese photographer in London recently taking photos of the torch arriving at the tower of London with one. Had a zoom lens like a telescope too.

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Go

You got me with WIFI access by a Laptop

a Pro photographer needs TV sized viewfinder, remote access to all camera functions, wireless access to flash units and fill lamps...

Nikon D4 DSLR comes close, but not a home run, non standard memory cards ( they are at least NIKON ), and not streaming raw data as pix is taken...

The sad truth is the mirror needs to get lost ( still a DSLR ?? )... the viewfinder needs to be a video signal...

this is the start of a new generation of NIKONS... the reuse of 35mm lenses is not really a selling feature... IMHO

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Love me some Nikon. A bit too expensive and bulky but well-worth it for the quality.

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why do people have to go on about film...

It slightly bugs me that someone has to put the film ore in... Film is lovely but for anything with a deadline digital is the only way... how much of the Olympics is being captured on film? I’m guessing none.. When it matters and your rent money depends on getting the shot i know which one i would chose.. when it comes to the cost, you paying for a very solid, very reliable camera with the backup of Nikon at most major events, if it doesn’t pay your rent or you don’t have the spare cash don’t moan… another consideration above where the light lands is the camera performance, the camera metering AF and latency will leave the film camera's far behind. I started life on film with my first pro body being the Canon EOS 1n and I have just added the Canon EOS 1D X and trust me it’s fantastic… where is the review…

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And the rest?

Interesting review. To me, a lot of the sample images are focussed in odd places (not on the eyes, at least); I don't know whether that's the AF system or the photographer. I've mostly heard bad things about the video on the D4, apparently because the downsampling algorithm introduces unnecessary softness (the 1:1 crop mode is okay, however, but why use a D4 for that?) The D800, which probably just throws lines away, is apparently much sharper. Interesting that there's no mention of the new AF switch position, which is already annoying me on my D800E. I'm not sure that mapping the AE-lock to pressing the joystick is an improvement, either. I'm sure grid lines were available in the finder on the D3s - I've always used them on my D700 (and they help me keep my horizons straight).

This is obviously a camera with a purpose: it's a work horse for high speed, low-light shooting. Journalists and sports shooters will love it. It's not a consumer camera, or a megapixel monster, so comparing it to a 'blad (or a D800) is pointless, as is talking about the price - the right image can sell enough newspapers to justify it, and the price is still lower than many pro lenses (and almost exactly the same as the 200-400 f/4 shown in the review). Consumers shouldn't feel they're missing out if they can't afford one and have to settle for a D3200 instead; each tool to its own place. So no more "how much?" comments, please.

And film? It does have its place, but its place isn't in low-light, high frame-rate, fast turn-around shooting. I have, and use (mostly for flowers that look better on Velvia than digital), an F5, but I'd be mad to try to take on a D4 (or D3) with it for the tasks it was originally designed for. Pros do still use film - but more often in a cheap camera for portability and travel, in a Leica for subtlety (those who haven't spent D4-money on an M9), in medium format for quality or in large format for the ability to fill a wall with a sharp image. Even my Pentax 645 isn't going to get much use now I have a D800, though a Mamiya 7 or a 5x4 (on my shopping list) would be another matter; for what they're good at, they'll smoke a D4 - but then so will a D800. Photojournalist use of film died with the D1 (and especially the 1D), which is why the F6 is so different from the F5 and aimed at prosumers, and nobody's updated a film camera with a modern autofocus system. Shooting through rose-tinted spectacles results in poor images. Someone was using large format at the Olympics to get some interesting images, but I'd be astonished if any pros were using 135 film, at least in an SLR.

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