Nikon D4

The annual Consumer Electronics Show was held last week in Las Vegas and it seemed as if there were zillions of new cameras announced.  And while many in many years few of these announcements get more than a yawn from me, this year there were several notew0rthy new cameras.  I’ll start with the Nikon D4.

Nikon’s D3 has been their flagship camera for several years.  It’s the no-compromise professional camera that sits on top of the heap.  It is the camera that Nikon’s entire reputation rests upon.  Coming out with a replacement for it is not a casual thing – this camera will have to be good enough to be king for at least 4 years.  And based on the early reviews of the Nikon D4, it seems as if they have managed to do exactly that.

First, let’s take a look at the basic specs:

  • New Nikon-designed 16.2 megapixel CMOS full frame sensor
  • Burst mode at 11 frames per second
  • ISO speeds ranging from 50 to 204,800 (though the “basic” range is 100 to 12,800)
  • New EXPEED-3 image processing engine
  • 1080p video at 30, 25 or 24 frames per second
  • 720p video at 60, 50, 30 and 25 frames per second
  • Uncompressed HDMI output
  • Redesigned auto-focus modes with 9, 21 or 51 point coverage
  • Two storage card slots – one CF and one for the brand new XQD format
  • Ethernet port and WiFi
  • 921k LCD

And that really just scratches the surface.  Here is one of many sites that has the full Nikon press release.

Some of these things apparently translate into enhanced abilities to control the camera in a tethered set up as well as what’s said to be the best video from a DSLR to date.

Here’s what the great Joe McNally has to say about shooting with the D4:

The D4 is an entirely new chapter in the history of the pixels.

Through it all, I was continuously impressed with:

Skin tone, for one thing.

File detail and forgiveness in the shadows.

Responsiveness of the camera in terms of intuitively good exposures and autofocus.

Video quality and new features.  Wow.  We’re in the final stages of post right now for what we shot.  Check back sometime next week for the full scoop.  It’s a game changer.

New rocker buttons for moving the auto-focus cursor.

Ease of shifting the auto-focus modes.

Size and clarity of the lcd.

The fact that I dropped one and it kept working.

Check out Nikon Rumors for a host of videos showing how the camera operates and performs.  There’s an amazing sample video over at Engadget.  And check out Fro Knows Photo for Jared Polin’s 30 minute walk-through on the camera.

It does seem to be, in short, nothing less than a breath-taking new tool.  The only real negative comment I’ve seen so far is that it is not backwards-compatible in terms of batteries – they’ve come up with a new one for this and it seems to be less powerful than the D3’s.  Oh, and there’s the small matter of price – the Nikon D4 camera body will retail for US$5,995.

Which is the only reason I won’t be getting one.  There’s simply no way an amateur hobbyist like myself could justify that expense (unless my salary was significantly higher or I win the lottery).

On the same day that Nikon announced the D4, they also announced one new lens – an 85mm f/1.8G which will retail for around US$500.  There is little  doubt in my mind that I’ll be buying this.

The question in my mind is when will the D700 replacement come?  The Nikon D700 remains my primary camera and it is not just a great camera, it’s also a great value – the D3’s full frame sensor and other features crammed into a body the size of the D300.  The D700 is about 4 years old now and probably due for replacement.  Clearly the soon-to-be-announced D800 (most likely to be officially announced on February 7th) is not that replacement – rumor has it that the D800 will feature a 36 megapixel sensor and sell for around US$4,000.

What would I want in a D700 replacement?  Video, obviously, though actually I rarely feel the need to shoot video.  I think I’d be looking for improved high ISO performance and whatever benefits come with the new EXPEED processing engine.  But I’m also okay to stick with my D700 for quite a while longer.

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