Photography · 15/08/2012

Nikon D4

The Nikon D4 is Nikon’s fastest, tightest professional camera ever made for sports and action photography. It leaves consumer cameras like the D800 and Canon 5D Mark III completely in the dust.

Yes, the Nikon D4 excels at computer hobbyists’ technical tests for high ISO noise and resolution as you’d expect, but far more important is how the D4 allows the professional photographer to get in, get the shot and get out long before anyone else knows what happened.

The D4 blazes away at 10 frames per second, with every frame in-focus and perfectly exposed as your subject moves around. The D4’s speed is much more than just its 10 frames-per-second specification; it’s all the other things like its metering and auto white balance and face-recognition autofocus and focal-length tracking auto-ISO systems that all work twice as hard and fast as other cameras to keep those ten frames per second all looking great. I worry about getting there and pointing the camera in the right direction, and as I preset my D4, it takes care of the rest. (copy my personal NCSETUP9.BIN file to a card, pop it into your D4, then MENU > SETUP > Save/Load Settings > Load Settings > OK and your D4 will match mine — and erase your settings.)

It’s not just ten frames; the D4 can keep this up longer than you can, running for up to twenty continuous seconds, making 200 full-resolution images in a burst. The D4 cheerfully rips away at 10 FPS, and hiccups not once writing all this to your card, even if the bursts run a hundred shots. Run just a few seconds at 10 FPS, and you’ll be recording dozens and dozens of frames at a time, while the D4 never misses a beat.

I’ve never had any reason to run more than 9 seconds at a burst, and my D4 calmly just writes 90 frames to my card in the background while I keep on shooting the next burst.

The D4 just shoots and shoots and shoots. It’s unstoppable. It grabs ultra-high ISOs automatically as needed if it gets darker without anyone having to stop and set anything (I set my ISO at AUTO ISO, focal-length based auto-control of slowest shutter speed set one click faster than usual for sports).

The D4 feels great; its sculpted body fits a man’s hands far better than the plasticy D800, whose grip is just too tiny for comfort.

The D4’s viewfinder is years ahead of consumer cameras like the D800 and Canon 5D Mark III; the D4 uses magic auto-dimming LEDs to show the AF areas without covering anything, while the D800 and Canon 5D Mark III use black LCD AF area indicators that cover the subject.

The D4 of course has a built-in vertical grip with two total shutter releases (each with its own separately programmable function button), two sets of command dials, two AF-ON buttons, and two new Canon-inspired thumb controllers.

Even if you don’t need the insane frame rate or clairvoyant autofocus system that sets itself, the D4 has more external controls to give portrait, nature and landscape shooters faster access so we can adjust our cameras more quickly.

Forget the D800 if you’re a working professional; the 16MP of the D4 is more than enough for anything. I usually set my D4 down to its medium (9MP, 3,696 x 2,456 pixel) resolution anyway to speed up my post processing.