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.
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 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.
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 Top
Nikon D4 Handling
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 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 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 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.
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo
Shot to Shot (without flash)
Shot to Shot with Flash
Continuous Shooting (JPEG)
105 shots in 10 seconds
139 before slow down
105 shots in 10 seconds
118 before slow down
Continuous Shooting (JPEG+RAW)
64 shots before slow down
59 shots before slow down
Continuous Shooting (RAW)
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.
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
2 year warranty
16GB XQD card and reader included
Greatly enhanced video recording
Full printed manual
Rechargeable 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