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Nikon D4s DSLR Review

Read our full review of the high speed Nikon D4s, with improved noise performance and shooting speed.

| Nikon D4s in Digital SLRs
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Nikon D4s DSLR (4)

The new Nikon D4s Digital SLR is Nikon's flagship professional model and updates the D4. It features an updated 16.2 megapixel full frame sensor, 11fps continuous shooting with AF/AE, Full HD video and a number of unique features, including the promise of improved image quality. Video has been updated to record full HD at 60p. A new EXCEED 4 image processor has been introduced for improved image processing, compared to the EXCEED 3 found in the Nikon D4.

AF performance has been improved with better tracking of subjects at 11fps, and there is a new group area AF mode. The ethernet connection has been updated to a Gigabit adapter supporting 100/1000TX transfer speeds for quicker transfer of images. 

Nikon D4s Features

Nikon D4s DSLR (15)

The Nikon D4s offers improved video recording, with Full HD recording at 60p and 50p, as well as an improved ISO range from ISO200 to ISO25600. There are 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.

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 crop.

Key Features

  • 16.2 megapixel FX Full Frame Sensor (Revamped)
  • 11fps Continuous shooting with AF/AE
  • ISO100-25600, expandable to ISO50-409,600
  • 3.2inch 921k dot screen, improved colour range
  • Full HD Video, 60p, 50p, 30/25/24fps
  • Slow motion 60/50fps in 720p
  • Updated AF system, 51 AF points, focus and take picture in moonlight (-2EV)
  • AF with tele-convertor up to f/8
  • Illuminated buttons, back, side, top LCDs
  • Gigabit 100/1000TX Ethernet - with FTP/HTTP support for instant uploads
  • IPTC can be added in camera, GPS GP-1 compatible to update time from GPS signal
  • Kevlar/carbon fiber-composite shutter unit rated to 400,000 shots
  • Active D-Lighting, HDR, Picture Control, variety of retouch menus
  • Spot White Balance metering
  • 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 D4s DSLR (13)

Nikon D4s Handling

Nikon D4s DSLR (12)

Handling - The Nikon D4s like the D4 before it 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, and the size of lens attached will play an important part in the overall weight.

The controls and grip have been updated slightly, to give better grip in adverse weather conditions with the small joypads having a better texture compared to the D4, and the rubber thumb grip area at the back of the camera has been extended. In addition, the front grip has been redesigned slightly to give a better middle finger rest and a smoother grip.

Nikon D4s DSLR (18)

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 (100/1000TX) 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, for example. The camera also supports the WT-5 wireless adapter - which allows the camera to be controlled through a web interface (see our demonstration video here).

Menus - Menus are clearly laid out and the screen is extremely clear with excellent viewing angles. The screen has a 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. In low light the camera's buttons can be illuminated by turning the on/off switch all the way round. The colour reproduction of the monitor can now be adjusted - you can adjust both the colour balance and brightness.

The optical viewfinder is large and has a good size round rubber eye-piece. On the side is the dioptre adjustment knob which will help for those that don't have perfect eyesight. Surrounding the frame you can see shooting information as well as exposure compensation. A grid can be switched on and off in the menus if required. 

Nikon D4s DSLR (16)

Battery Life - The camera gives better battery performance than the D4, with a new EN-EL18a battery. The camera is rated as providing 3,020 shots in single frame mode. This is excellent performance and the camera comes with a double battery charger.

Nikon D4s DSLR (17)

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

  Nikon D4s
Shutter Response <0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.1
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) 9.9fps (199 shots)
Continuous Shooting (JPEG+RAW) 10.1fps (42 shots)
Continuous Shooting (RAW) 9.7fps (59 shots)

* Tested with Sandisk Extreme Pro CompactFlash 32GB 90MB/s UDMA 6 card, tested with 16-35mm lens.

Shutter response, focus, switch on time and shot to shot time are all excellent. Continuous shooting is extremely quick, whether shooting with continuous AF or single AF we were able to shoot at roughly 10fps for up to 199 shots, when shooting JPEG fine images without slowdown. 

Nikon D4s 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 D4s Sample Photos

Sample Photos - Photos from the camera are well exposed with good levels of detail and colour saturation. Skin tones are good and colour is pleasing for portraits with the camera performing well even with light levels dropping. In camera HDR creation is possible, where the camera combines two photos to produce a HDR JPEG image.

Nikon D4s Lens test images

Lens Test Images - The camera copes very well with bright scenes, and is resistant to over-exposing shots. The camera provides excellent dynamic range with images giving an excellent level of recoverable detail in shadow and highlight areas, particularly when processing the raw files. The camera has a number of distortion correction options built into the camera so that you can get the best results from your Nikon lenses, these options include: vignette control, and automatic distortion correction. There is a wide variety of FX / Full-frame lenses available to choose from and we were impressed by the image quality delivered by the Nikon lenses we used with the camera, and even using a relatively old 50mm f/1.4D lens, focus remained quick. 

Nikon D4s ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - The camera has a default range of ISO100 to ISO25600, then a further ISO range of ISO50 (Lo1) up to ISO51200 (Hi1), ISO102400 (Hi2), ISO204800 (Hi3) and ISO409600 (Hi4). We left the camera's High ISO NR setting on Normal, and the options are High, Normal, Low and Off. Dynamic range is less when shooting at the Low 1 setting equivalent to ISO50.

Noise is very low at ISO50 to ISO1600, with some noise creeping in at ISO3200 and ISO6400, although detail is very good right up to ISO12800. Detail starts to drop off at ISO25600 and above. At ISO51200 colour starts to drop off, and at ISO102400 noise becomes much stronger but the camera is still capable of capturing the coloured squares correctly. At ISO204800 the noise becomes much more destructive and darker colours begin to disappear into the background. At ISO409600 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. The camera gives much improved noise performance with cleaner results at ISO6400, ISO12800, and better retention of detail, compared to the D4. The camera also delivers less noise in images compared to the Nikon Df

Nikon D4s White-balance test images

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

Nikon D4s Outdoor images

Focus performance is impressive when on high speed continuous shooting mode and continuous auto focus is active, with the camera capable of tracking and maintaining focus on the ball in these shots of people playing volleyball. 

Nikon D4s 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.

The retouch menu lets you set d-lighting, red-eye correction, trim, monochrome (black and white, sepia, cyanotype), filter effect (skylight, warm filter), colour balance, image overlay, NEF (RAW) processing, resize, straighten, distortion control as well as perspective control.

Video - Video options include: Full HD at 60p, 50p, 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.  ISO200 to ISO25600 is available, this is improved over the highest ISO setting of ISO12800 on the Nikon D4. There is also an option to select the sound range (wide/voice), and reduce wind noise when recording with the built-in microphone. A time-lapse video example can be viewed here.

Value For Money

The £5199 Nikon D4s most direct competition is the £4845 18 megapixel 14fps Canon EOS 1D-X, and to a lesser extent 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 includes the previous model, the Nikon D4, the Nikon D800, although continuous shooting on the D800 isn't as quick as the D4s. 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 D4s Verdict

The Nikon D4s is an incremental update to the Nikon D4, and adds a number of enhanced features, including quicker continuous shooting with AF/AE, increased speed ethernet, as well as improved video recording. Where there is the most noticeable improvement is in the increase in image quality and specifically noise performance, which gives excellent results right up to ISO25600 and even ISO51200. The improvements have meant the camera's video mode will also shoot at ISO25600, and stills photos can be taken at a whopping ISO setting of ISO406900, giving the camera the highest ISO setting of any Digital SLR available. 

Like the Nikon D4, the D4s shows a good level of detail, excellent colour, reliable exposure, excellent dynamic range, very 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 shooting 199 shots at 9.9fps without slowing down when shooting JPEG! This is extremely impressive and this camera would make the ideal sports or wildlife photography camera. 

Build quality is very good with a solid magnesium weather sealed body, with the camera featuring a slightly improved handling and design. While there is a 2 year warranty provided with the camera, we would expect the camera to last much longer than this, thanks to a shutter life rating of 400,000 shots, providing further value for money when it comes to such a large investment. The Nikon D4s is an extremely advanced camera with an extensive range of features and options making it highly desirable, as long as you have the money available to invest in the camera.

  The Nikon D4s delivers exceptional image quality with extremely rapid performance and advanced features that should keep the professional extremely happy.

Nikon D4s Pros

Auto shutter speed control for auto ISO (based on lens)
11fps continuous shooting speed with AF/AE
Excellent 3.2 inch screen
Excellent weather sealed build
Excellent noise performance and expanded range
400,000 shot shutter rating
Deep buffer
2 year warranty
Colour adjustable monitor
Improved video recording, 60p, 50p
Improved battery life
Full printed manual

Nikon D4s Cons

Capture NX2 not included
Loud shutter


Nikon D4s 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 - 409600
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 FPS60, 50, 30, 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, EN-EL18a
Battery Life (CIPA rating)3020shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsRechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL18a, 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 D4s

Starlin Squabble..GandalfI have the powerOn to a hard placeIn controlThe big StretchEnjoying the sunsetThe Tracy GirlsLooking after her boysHarley QuinnCaptain Scarlet group VehiclesTree top challengeJuvenile Greenfinch.Watching the SunsetEarly hours walk in fairground

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AlanWillis 13 67 England
9 Apr 2014 12:43PM
Quote: and stills photos can be taken at a whopping ISO setting of ISO406900, giving the camera the highest ISO setting of any Digital SLR available.
The new Sony A7S has the same ISO, I know it's not a DSLR but a mirrorless camera, with amazing low light ability. The A7S also has 4K video.
ChrisV 16 2.3k 26 United Kingdom
14 Apr 2014 10:53AM
In the RAW tests I've seen, there is negligible if any difference in the highest ISOs [over the D4]. The new top-out is just that bit more unusable than the previous 200k ISO - which was pretty much worthless. In fact I can't see any huge leap in highest ISO performance over what the D3s was capable of - which in its time was astounding. All that appears to have been done since then is a bit of fiddling with JPEG processing and an additional two stops of signal boost in camera. Pushing the top sensitivity of the D3s by a couple of stops would probably yield similar grainy, splotchy messes.

CaNikon are in the process of turning their top specification figures into numbers which can only be regarded as a bad joke. Is anyone really taken in by any of this?

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