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Nikon D4 Digital SLR Review

The new Nikon D4 shoots at up to 11fps and can shoot 199 shots continuously from the 16 megapixel full frame sensor. Joshua Waller finds out if it's as good as they say in our full review of the Nikon D4.

| Nikon D4 in Digital SLRs

Nikon D4 Digital SLR Review: Nikon D4 Front Lens On
Nikon D4 Front Lens On

The new Nikon D4 Digital SLR is Nikon's flagship professional model and updates the D3, D3s and D3x. It features a new 16.2 megapixel full frame sensor, 11fps shooting, Full HD video and a number of unique features.

The camera has been designed after listening to photographers needs and promises to offer performance better than the D3s in low light, with an increased pixel count, lower noise at high ISO settings and increased dynamic range. The camera features improved subject detection and tracking with a new AF system.

Nikon D4 Features

Nikon D4 Digital SLR Review: Nikon D4 Front Angle Large
Nikon D4 Front Angle Large

The Nikon D4 also offers the best video output of all Nikon Digital SLRs to date, with Full HD recording, 20 level adjustments for the microphone in port, a headphone out port with 30 level adjustments, visual sound level monitoring and professional level sound recording with the ME-1 microphone.

ISO200 to ISO204,800 is also available for video recording and it's possible to take a live frame grab whilst recording video at 2 megapixels. Video is recorded as H.264 with B frame compression and the camera provides a clean HDMI out at 1080/720 with no compression allowing video to be recorded to an external device beyond the 29 minute limitation recording internally. Index marking is available to assist with editing. Multiple frame sizes are available FX, DX and a pixel matched 1920x1080.

Key Features

  • 16.2 megapixel FX Full Frame Sensor (Brand New)
  • 11fps Shooting, 10fps Continuous AF/AE
  • ISO100-12800, expandable to ISO50-204,800
  • 3.2inch 921k dot screen, improved colour range
  • Full HD Video, 30/25/24fps
  • Slow motion 60/50fps in 720p
  • New AF system, 51 AF points, focus and take picture in moonlight (-2EV)
  • AF with teleconvertor up to f/8
  • Illuminated buttons, back, side, top LCDs
  • 10/100 Ethernet - with FTP/HTTP support for instant uploads
  • IPTC can be added in camera, GPS GP-1 compatible to update time from GPS signal
  • Newly developed Kevlar/carbon fiber-composite shutter unit rated to 400,000 shots
  • Active D-Lighting, HDR, Picture Control, variety of retouch menus
  • Uncompressed HDMI output
  • Dual-axis electronic virtual horizon, also visible in the viewfinder
  • XQD and Compact Flash Slots
  • Create time-lapse videos in camera
Nikon D4 Digital SLR Review: Nikon D4 Top
Nikon D4 Top

Nikon D4 Handling

Nikon D4 Digital SLR Review: Nikon D4 Rear Angle
Nikon D4 Rear Angle

Handling - The Nikon D4 has a solid body with a magnesium alloy core and is weather sealed. It certainly feels solid in the hand and extremely ergonomic and comfortable in use - the grip when used in landscape mode is deep and has an excellent grip. The comfortable handling seems to aid in making the camera feel lighter / smaller than it actually is and it doesn't feel unwieldy or overly large despite having a built in vertical grip, although the weight of the camera is noticeable if coming up from a smaller DSLR.

Nikon D4 Digital SLR Review: Nikon D4 Side Ports Angle
Nikon D4 Side Ports Angle

The camera has a wealth of ports on the side, including: flash sync terminal, 10 pin remote terminal (both on the front), accessory port, USB, headphone, microphone, Ethernet and HDMI. The ethernet connection supports HTTP or FTP uploads so that you can upload shots straight to the internet, a useful feature for sports photographers at the Olympics, who will be provided with network connections. The camera can also support the new WT-5 wireless adapter - which allows the camera to be controlled through a web interface (see our video here).

Buttons on the camera have been redesigned, with a new AF switch and button that allows you to change the AF mode without taking your eye away from the viewfinder. Vertical shooting has been improved with a mirrored layout whether using landscape or portrait shooting. There is a dedicated movie record button, a vertical function button and a re-designed shutter button position with a "more comfortable" 35 degree angle compared to 28 degrees which is designed to be more comfortable for extended periods of shooting.

Menus - Menus are clearly laid out and the screen is extremely clear with excellent viewing angles. The screen has an improved colour range which is said to be very close to sRGB. It features a built in illumination sensor to automatically adjust brightness, contrast, saturation and gamma depending on the environment. Although using live view in bright outdoor conditions it was occasionally difficult to see the screen.

Nikon D4 Digital SLR Review: Nikon D4 Bottom Angle
Nikon D4 Bottom Angle

Battery Life - The camera gives better battery performance despite the new battery being smaller than the battery in the D3s. A new law recently introduced means they can't use the D3s battery. The camera is rated as providing 5,500 frames in continuous shooting mode or 2600 in single frame mode. We took 2595 shots with a mixture of continuous, time-lapse, and single frame shots with the battery showing plenty of life left. This is excellent performance and the camera comes with a double battery charger.

Nikon D4 Digital SLR Review: Nikon D4 Memory Compartment
Nikon D4 Memory Compartment

Speed - We tested the camera with XQD and CompactFlash to see what difference it made to how the camera performed with the various continuous shooting options. We also tested focus speeds, switch on time, shot-to-shot time, etc. and have posted the results below. To test this we took 6 or more shots and calculated the average, so that consistent results were produced.

Nikon D4
Shutter Response <0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.1
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 0.15
Shot to Shot (without flash) 0.1
Shot to Shot with Flash N/A
Continuous Shooting (JPEG) XQD*
105 shots in 10 seconds
139 before slow down
105 shots in 10 seconds
118 before slow down
Continuous Shooting (JPEG+RAW) XQD*
64 shots before slow down
59 shots before slow down
Continuous Shooting (RAW) XQD*
72 shots before slow down
66 shots before slow down

* Test with 16GB XQD Sony Card, ** Tested with Lexar Professional 1000x 32GB Compact Flash UDMA 7 (the fastest available CF card)

Shutter response, focus, switch on time and shot to shot time are all excellent. This is a really fast camera. Continuous shooting is extremely quick, and in addition to the 11fps shooting mode, it's possible to shoot up to 199 shots at 9fps in JPEG Fine mode without slowdown. There was some benefit shooting with the XQD card, allowing more shots to be taken without slowdown.

Nikon D4 Performance

Here are a number of photos taken in a variety of situations, both in our studios and outdoors. Further sample photos are available in the Equipment Database, where you can also add your own reviews.

Nikon D4 Sample Photos

Sample Photos - In camera HDR creation is possible, tested here using the +3EV option, the camera takes two photos and produces a HDR JPEG image. Another HDR example can be seen in the EQDB, merged using Adobe Photoshop and 8 images using exposure bracketing from +/- 4 EV.

Nikon D4 Lens test images

Lens Test Images - The camera appears to cope very well with bright scenes, and is resistant to over-exposing shots. The fourth shot above has the sun in the frame and the camera has coped extremely well producing a good exposure. The camera provides excellent dynamic range with images giving an excellent level of recoverable detail in shadow and highlight areas.

Nikon D4 ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - The camera has a default range of ISO100 to ISO12800, then a further ISO range of ISO50 (Lo1) up to ISO25600 (Hi1), ISO51200 (Hi2), ISO102400 (Hi3) and ISO204800 (Hi4). Noise is very low at ISO50 to ISO400, with some noise creeping in at ISO800 and ISO1600, although detail is very good right up to ISO3200 and ISO6400. Detail starts to drop off at ISO12800 and above. At ISO25600 colour starts to drop off, and at ISO51200 noise becomes much stronger but the camera is still capable of capturing the coloured squares correctly. At ISO102400 the noise becomes much more destructive and darker colours begin to disappear into the background. At ISO204800 the images show excessive levels of noise, however it's impressive that the camera can take a photo, and this could be useful in extremely low light levels.

Nikon D4 ISO

ISO Additional shots: Showing noise reduction options of: Off, Low, Medium (default), High. There is a subtle difference between these shots with the most noticeable difference visible in the darker shades of blue, red and purple.

Nikon D4 White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto white balance (AWB) performance under fluorescent lighting is very good, with the fluorescent preset giving a magenta cast. AWB performance is decent under tungsten light with a slightly warm result. Using the tungsten preset there is a slight improvement. The camera has options to keep a warm colour when using AWB.

Nikon D4 Digital filters

Colour Modes - The camera has six different colour modes as shown above, these can be customised individually with the camera letting you set the sharpening, brightness, contrast, saturation and hue.

Video - Video options include: Full HD at 30/25/24p, 720p at 60/50/30/25p FX format, DX, Full HD crop format, auto flicker reduction, microphone socket (20 levels of adjustment), headphone socket, uncompressed video output from HDMI, time-lapse photography auto video creation, live frame grab, power aperture, and time-line marking. Another video can be viewed on the ePHOTOzine Youtube channel. A time-lapse video example can be viewed here.

Value For Money

The £4799 Nikon D4's most direct competition is the £5299 18 megapixel 14fps Canon EOS 1D-X, and to a lesser extend the £2999 22 megapixel 6fps Canon EOS 5D Mark III. At this price point you would expect Capture NX 2 to be included in the box, but instead ViewNX2 is included to view and save RAW files. Other alternative full frame Digital SLRs include the new Nikon D800, although continuous shooting isn't as quick as the D4. You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Nikon D4 Verdict

The Nikon D4 shows a good level of detail, excellent colour, low noise, and offers extremely rapid focusing and continuous shooting. What's even more impressive is the cameras ability to keep on taking high speed photos and when set to 9fps it will shoot 199 shots at 9fps without slowing down when shooting JPEG! This is extremely impressive and this camera would make the ideal sports or wildlife photography camera. While noise may seem high at ISO3200 and above, the camera has a number of options enabling stronger noise reduction and using the RAW files noise appears lower. Detail remains good at up to ISO3200 and ISO6400 and the camera certainly delivers high quality results with impressive dynamic range and colour.

The one fly in the ointment is the price, with the camera's RRP being more than when the D3s was announced, although compared to the Canon EOS 1D-X, the Nikon D4 is around £500 cheaper. Build quality is very good with a weather sealed body, although we have not been able to perform extensive testing of this feature due to limited time with the camera, so as to how long the camera will last, we may have to wait a few years to find out. If the 4-year-old Nikon D3 is anything to go by, then the new Nikon D4 should last just as long or longer, providing further value for money when it comes to such a large investment. The Nikon D4 is an extremely advanced camera with an extensive range of features and options making it highly desirable.

  Nikon D4 Digital SLR Review:
  The Nikon D4 is an extremely rapid performer and has a number of advanced features that should keep the professional extremely happy.

Nikon D4 Pros

Auto shutter speed control for auto ISO (based on lens)
11fps continuous shooting speed
Excellent 3.2 inch screen
Excellent weather sealed build
Deep buffer
2 year warranty
16GB XQD card and reader included
Greatly enhanced video recording
Full printed manual

Nikon D4 Cons

Capture NX2 not included


Nikon D4 Specifications

Effective Magnification1x
Image Sensor
Pixels16.2Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4928
Pixels (H)3280
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor SizeFull Frame
Sensor Size (width)36mm
Sensor Size (height)23.9mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3.2in
Screen resolution921k dot
Touch ScreenNo
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Spot
  • Face Detection
  • AF Tracking
  • Multi
  • Centre
  • AF Fine Tuning (Micro Adjustment)
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/8000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Bulb modeYes
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • TTL
  • Centre Spot
ISO sensitivity50 - 204800
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Flash
  • Bracket
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Shade
Exposure Comp+/-5
MagnificationNo Data
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting11fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
Video FPS30,25,24
Stereo SoundNo
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationNo
Card Type
  • CF
  • XQD
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeLithium Ion
Battery Life (CIPA rating)2600shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsRechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL18, Battery Charger MH-26, USB Cable UC-E15, USB Cable Clip, Camera Strap AN-DC7, Body Cap BF-1B, Accessory Shoe Cover BS-2, Mic Stereo Input Jack for Stereo Microphone ME-1 UF-2

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Photographs taken using the Nikon D4

Kestrel....againOn the moveKestrelwha't's  that?KestrelKestrelKestrelKestrelKestrelKestrelKestrelIn the reedsMotocross MadnessAfrican DarterGreylags

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Chaitanya 13 15 1 United Kingdom
21 Mar 2012 4:05PM
Thanks for quick review. a great camera indeed.
paulashby 14 10 1 United Kingdom
21 Mar 2012 10:03PM
The weather sealing will have to prove itself as there have been problems with this on the D3 letting in water and Nikon not repairing the fault under warranty, buyer beware.
21 Mar 2012 10:53PM
These prices are just ridiculous. Can not believe there are so many suckers out there...
Just bad that the tsunami was not selective which has killed all these innocent people, and not instead these camera factories....
Gwalion Junior Member 11 1 Morocco
22 Mar 2012 7:12AM
Clearly a superb piece of kit - but I wouldn't expect less at that price. Justifiable for some no doubt, simply affordable for others and dream stuff for most.
22 Mar 2012 12:09PM
I'm having difficulty understanding why you say it is a D3X replacement. D3 and D3s replacement, yes. But surely D4X with same sensor as D800 + Video etc will be proper D3X successor.
contco 11 United Kingdom
26 Mar 2012 1:34PM
ERROR In The Above:

You Say: In camera HDR creation is possible, tested here using the +3EV option, the camera takes one photo and produces a HDR JPEG image.

This is incorrect. The camera takes TWO images, the difference between them being either 1,2 or 3 EV. The camera then merges them, producing only one image file.

I have used this extensively (in the few days I've had it) and there are a couple of downsides. The major one is that it will NOT take HDR in RAW, only jpeg.

The second issue is that, even though it takes the two images so rapidly that it sounds almost like only one frame has been taken, if there is any camera movement it shows up in the final merged image. Especially when you choose the 3EV option, as the slower of the two captures can easily be a longer than expected shutter speed.

However, it is a terrific feature, and even skin tone looks reasonable.
joshwa Plus
12 927 1 United Kingdom
29 Mar 2012 10:34PM
Thanks for the feedback and comments, we have updated the article.

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