The $US6000 D4 will replace Nikon’s flagship D3S and our current favourite top-end DSLR in late February, and upgrade it in just about every way. Here are the basics: It comes in with a 16.2 FX-format CMOS Nikon-designed sensor with pixels at 7.3 microns and an Expeed 3 processor.
It’s got a 91k pixel 3D colour matrix meter and an ISO range from 100 to 204,800 — a stop beyond the D3s on both ends, and taking the range where you can expect a clean shot up around 12,800. Cray.
To start, it’s light. Significantly lighter (2 pounds 15.3 oz. with battery) than the D3S (2.7 lb without battery). It’s very noticeable when picking it up, and didn’t come at the expense of build quality: the D4 has the same magnesium alloy chassis build, just trimmed down in areas where it could afford to go on a diet.
The list of features is pretty staggering. On top of standard RAW, the D4 also shoots compressed RAW files to lighten storage and processing burdens. It’s got a 3.2″ 921k dot LCD (up from 3″ on the 3S) and an Ethernet port for better connectivity (wire reporters take heart).
Recording and fine-tuning audio while shooting is way better too. The D4 has 20-level adjustment (visible on the LCD) and an onboard stereo mic, with support for stereo output to headphones, all processed on the camera.
In addition to the typical FX and DX multi-area modes, the D4 also has a new 2.7x crop mode that crops your video to exactly 1080 pixels across. That gives you an ultra-telephoto effect, while keeping you in “full” HD 16×9, and has the splash benefit of giving your captured pixels a 1:1 ratio with your output. The HDMI-out port also lets you use the live view to stream your live view to either a monitor or an external storage device, completely uncompressed if you remove the memory card. That mode also lets you use power aperture buttons on the front of the camera to avoid unwanted sounds.
Ergonomics and usability have improved some, too. There are now two AF buttons for when you’re shooting in portrait, and all buttons are backlit, for better usability in the dark. AF also retains its orientation when you change from landscape to portrait, so your focus won’t shoot off to the corner. Autofocus in general also gets a bump, down to -2EV, a full stop slower than the D3S.
The D4 has two memory card slots, which are optimised for standard cards as well as the new CompactFlash XQD memory cards, making it the first pro camera to adopt the new format.
It’s good to see Nikon taking aim at videographers who have felt a little out in the cold in refreshes past.