The Nikon D4s is Nikon’s latest flagship camera, with the latest capabilities and highest ISO of any Nikon ever made. This model is built for sports, action, and extreme low-light photography. Think incredible night sky photographs. For speed, it blows away the D7100 and, even more so, the D800(e). Not that either of these cameras are slouches, but the D4s is designed for maximum shooting speed. The D4s is designed to get photographers into and out of the toughest situations and come out shining.
This newer update now shoots at 11 FPS (frames per second). This blows away the glacial 4 FPS the D800(e) shoots at. The automatic and 3 dimensional tracking will keep the subject in focus, no matter how much it moves around. The autofocus, drive speed, battery capacity, and high-ISO abilities overshadow any other non-pro model Nikon makes. It will take a little bit to get the camera programmed for maximum usefulness, but once you do, there is not much that will overshadow it. Only Canon’s 1Dx slightly surpasses the D4s in capability.
As the D4s is a minor upgrade from the Nikon D4, we did not expect to see any new or amazing features, like a new focus system to replace the aging MultiCAM 3500 module. The D4s still can out-focus any other Nikon camera in both sensitivity and speed. If you need to photograph a cheetah running toward you at 70 miles per hour, this is the Nikon body to have. Using a high-performance compact flash card like the Lexar 32GB Professional 1066x UDMA 7, the camera will keep shooting your subject until whatever action ends. With the incredible buffer of 200 shots, I can’t think of many action scenes that would last 18 seconds that I would care to record. Think of that…the D4s can buffer more shots than a 16GB card can hold shots from a D800(e).
The D4 body always feels good in your hands, regardless of if you are shooting landscape or portrait shots. This body feels much better than the D800(e) even though it’s much heavier. I think the only body that felt better in my hands is the Nikon D300s. With the built-in vertical grip, you are not compelled to buy an add-on grip for all of the other small body cameras. If you are shooting fashion, action or find yourself in portrait orientation frequently, the vertical release is the best. With the extra command dials on the D4s in the portrait orientation, it’s easy to still control and command the camera to get things done.
The nice thing about the D4s over the D800(e) is the viewfinder uses a dimming feature on the autofocus (AF) area. This is really useful when you are having a difficult time seeing your subject if the contrast is very low or your subject is far away. This can be really helpful when you are making a composition where you need to see the expression on a subject or their body orientation.
One huge advantage of the D4s over other Nikon cameras is, with the extremely high ISO, is that you can program for automatic ISO and limit the shutter speed based on the focal length and, if you need, let your camera run in a very automatic mode to take your shots. This is very helpful in sports or wildlife situations where the lighting can change dramatically from shot to shot. And, since you don’t want to stop and adjust settings, as you might miss the shot, this is a very handy configuration to have. For me, most of my shots are done with slow moving or non-moving subjects, so I don’t have to worry about this configuration. But it’s nice to know that I can reprogram the camera to come up with something in pressure situations.
The whole point of having a professional camera body is to have all of the dials and switches for the different modes on the camera rather than having the settings buried in the menus. When beginners first pick up these cameras, they are bewildered at the array of buttons and functions available to them. They might say, “All of these buttons are confusing, I’ll just stick with my menus.” That may sound great at first, but when the rare snow leopard runs by and you only have a few moments to reconfigure your camera for the shot, the person with the D4s will have the shot while the person with the menu driven camera will still be fiddling around. In fact, that person might even not see anything because they’re looking at a menu rather than enjoying their subject.
New features from the D4
- The price has increased to $6500. (I don’t think this is a feature, but it’s something to consider)
- The high ISO range is now extended to 25600, one full stop above the D4
- The D4s now sports the Nikon Expeed 4 processor. From Nikon: The processing speed is 30% faster than the Expeed 3 featured in most of the Nikon camera bodies.
- The resolution remains at 16MP, a 4928 × 3280 RAW image. For many things, the 16MP is more than adequate.
- There is now a small RAW image, size 2464 × 1640, about 4MP. This is great if you need to send RAW but small images for instant sports updates.
- The new EN-EL18a battery has more capacity than the EN-EL18. However, Nikon was good enough to make them physically and electrically compatible.
- The rear LCD now has adjustable colors. This is handy if you need to shift the hue to match the type of shooting you are doing.
- Like the D800(e), the D4s now can output uncompressed video out of its HDMI port. However, unlike the D800(e), this model can output 1080/60p video. Hopefully it performs better than the D800(e) with respect to aliasing.
- Memory cards: 1 CF + 1 QXD
- Group AF mode – The camera still uses the Multi-CAM 3500 with 15 cross-type points, but the Group AF mode can use a smaller sub-set of points to track a subject rather than the 9 points available on the D4 and D800(e).
The body is expected to begin shipping on March 6, 2014. This camera will be a fun tool to have at the FIFA world cup event. It was odd that Nikon came out with this camera after the Sochi Winter Olympics, but sometimes that happens.
16MP sensor on a 24 × 36 silicon plate, CMOS type
- 4928 × 3280 pixels full size, LARGE 16MP
- 3696 × 2456 pixels, MEDIUM 9MP
- 2464 x 1640 pixels, SMALL 4 MP
- Regular: 100-6400 in 1/3, 1/2 and full stops
- High-sensitivity mode: 50-25600
- Ultra-high uncalibrated: 409600
- 11 FPS with full autofocus and metering in each frame
- Self timer of 2, 5, 10, 20 seconds
- Interval recording
- Quiet mode
- Automatic, cloudy, direct sunlight, flash, fluorescent, incandescent, manual, shade, all with 12 extra steps of adjustment
- Gigabit ethernet
- USB 3
- HDMI-C (mini)
- 1/8? headphone
- 1/8? microphone
- Strobe Sync socket
- 10-pin Nikon release
- Multi-CAM 3500
- 51 total points, phase detect
- 15 cross points, clustered in the center
- 36 vertical points, spread horizontally from center
- AF range down to EV -2
- All sensors work with lenses as slow as f5.6
- 11 sensors work with lenses as slow as f8 (think 2x teleconverter)
- Live view contrast detect
- Automatic, Single-servo (AF-S), Continuous-servo (AF-C), Full-time servo (F), Manual (M)
- 100% coverage
- 0.7x magnification
- Adjustable from +1 to -3 diopters
- 18mm eye relief
- Display screen: 3.2? with 921,000 pixels
- LCD diagonal angle of view: 170°
- Aperture priority, shutter priority, programmed auto, manual
- Range: EV -1 to EV 20
- Mirror lockup
- Matrix metering
- Color metering
- 3d metering
- Center weighted average, programmable coverage
- Spot metering
- Exposure compensation: -5 EV to +5 EV (in 1, 1/2, 1/3 stop increments)
- Shutter speed: 30 seconds to 1/8000 seconds
- Bulb mode (for those really long shots)
- Silent (I like to call stealth)
- Mirror lock-up
- Flash synch: 1/250 sec
- High FP shutter sync above 1/250
- No built-in pop-up flash (better weather sealing
- Matrix metering and i-TTL with CLS compatible with: SB-910, SB-900, SB-800, SB-700, SB-600, SB-400
- Manual metering required for all non-compatible strobes
This camera works with every lens Nikon has made, from the latest 600mm f4 VR II to the old but venerable AI-s lenses.
- Compact Flash
- XQD (this is a shame. A dual CF would be better. XQD is fast, but readers are rare, no computer have them built-in, SanDisk or Lexar don’t make them)
- WT-5A/B/C/D and WT-4
- JPG, Size or quality priority, Fine, Medium, Basic
- RAW (Nikon), 12 or 14 bit depth
- Movies: MOV, MPEG-4, AVC/H.264, audio recorded in Linear PCM
- NTSC, PAL
- 1920 x 1080p, Full High-Definition
- Aspect ratio: 16:9
- 1920 x 1080: 60 fps, 50 fps, 30 fps, 25 fps, 24 fps
- 1280 x 720: 60 fps, 50 fps
- 640 x 480: 30 fps, 25 fps
- Variable quality options
- Exposure: Manual, shutter speed, aperture, ISO auto
- Autofocus: Auto, manual, Continuous auto
- Video clip length: 29 min, 59 seconds
- Audio: Built in mic, voice memo mic
- External 1/8? stereo jack, with Voice memo
- 1 EN-EL 18a, 10.8VDC 2500mAH, rechargeable Lithium-ion battery pack
- AC Power adapter, EH-6b (great for astronomy, science)
- 6.3 x 6.2 x 3.6? / 160 x 156 x 90 mm
- Weight: 2.65 lb / 1.2 kg
- Rated 32º F – 104º F (0º C – 40º C)
- MH-26a battery charger
- 1 x EN-EL18a rechargeable lithium-ion battery
- UF-2 connector cover for stereo 1/8? jack
- UC-E15 USB cable
- AN-DC11 shoulder strap
- BF-1B body cap
- BS-2 hot-shoe accessory cover
- BL-6 battery cover
- Nikon ViewNX 2 software
- 1 year warranty paperwork
As the D4s is the next in line after the D4, one can only expect great performance out of the camera. This is designed for sports, travel, adventure, fashion, and action photographers. In the right hands, the D4s will be able to render consistent, beautiful shots. This is a lot of camera and unless you are willing to put the time in, a lesser model would be a better introduction.
Consider that although the camera can crank out 200 frames of high-quality JPG shots, do you really want to do that? Even at 11 FPS, there is the very real chance you will miss your shot. Why do you miss a shot even when they are taken at less than 1/10th of a second? Because there are some things that just require timing. Say someone photographing a baseball pitcher. Even at that frame rate, you are only guessing at the possible shot you are going to get. This camera will not make you better than you are. Only classes and practice will help that.
In the era of 41MP cel phone cameras, 16MP seems rather paltry. That is, until you really look at a photo or you have to do something more significant that posting the photo to Facebook or Instagram. Because the image processor on this camera is so fast, color controlled and the sensor sites are huge compared to that microscopic cell phone sensor, you will get massively clear pictures down to the pixel level. If you really care about your shots and having them look good, then a real camera with a real sensor is the only way to go.
For as good as this camera is, the exact color matching will never be correct. Each and every body needs exact camera calibration if you are shooting products or people. When I photograph things like golden south sea pearl earrings, if I don’t calibrate the color with my D800(e), I end up with a copper color rather than golden color pearl. As my clients don’t want to have copper earrings, I have to make sure to color calibrate my entire workflow, including the camera. The only way to do this is to start with an X-Rite passport and i1 Display Pro. Even if I calibrate the RAW camera files coming into Adobe Lightroom, I still will not have accurate color until I calibrate the display on my Macbook Pro Retina.
This is just the nature of commercial photography. Even with a $6500 Nikon D4s, I will still need to run a color calibration against not only the body but the body with each and every lens I intend to shoot with.
I wish, how I wish that my D800 body had the audio notes ability built in. Do you need to take notes on the person you are photographing, where that bear is, or what the name of the interesting business you just passed by? Just press the button, speak into the microphone in the back, and you’ll have it. No more having to take out your phone and type something in while you’re trying to pay attention to what you’re shooting. The nice part of this is that you can be rather discreet about making your notes. Anyone who sees you speaking while photographing will just think you’re talking to yourself, so no one will probably bother you.
Hopefully Nikon did not introduce the matrix metering programming from the D800(e) into the D4s. That would be a complete disaster. Unlike the now very old D300s which metered perfectly every time, the D800(e) matrix metering is dependent on which autofocus sensor you are using. This is a throw-back to the D90 days. It was awful. Even my D200 which desperately underexposed everything to avoid blowing out the highlights was easier to manage. We will have to stay tuned and find out. Based on the performance of the D4, I doubt Nikon would make this kind of mistake.
With the advent of the D800(e)‘s virtual viewfinder horizon, you no longer have to take your eyes off your subject to see if your camera is perfectly level. Before, I had to put on a two-axis camera level on the hot shoe. That was annoying. Then, there was the Live-view virtual level which looked like an aircraft horizon. Pretty cool but again, I had to take my eyes off the subject. Now, hopefully, Nikon will have built in the LCD virtual level. I program my function button to activate this and, pretty accurately, I can see if my shots are level when I can’t see a definitive horizon. This tool is invaluable for nature, landscape, and architecture photography.
If the body of the D4s really hasn’t changed from the D4, it will be great. The one big problem is the video record button is where the mode button should be, just like on the D800(e). It is a shame that Nikon made it impossible to reprogram the video record button on the D800(e) like you can on the D4 and presumably the D4s. When I’m recording video, I’m never looking through the viewfinder because that’s impossible anyway. I’d much rather have a programmable button, as the video record button is always in the way of the mode button.
The body is nice and chunky, so this should not feel like a Canon. Only their pro bodies have felt decent. As the D4 was a bit quieter than the D3, I doubt there will be any increase in disruptive shutter actuation sounds coming from the camera. Even though the camera does sport a quiet mode, the D4s is likely not going to be any quieter than the Canon 5D Mark III. There is no quieter camera than than that Canon.
The control LCDs on the top and back of the camera will still be lit with the nice cyan backlight rather than the primitive backlight of the D800(e) and other Nikon bodies. For some reason, it is difficult to see the green backlight compared to the cyan backlight. Perhaps because human eyes are most sensitive to green that it makes the D800’s backlight look a little bit harsh in the night.
The introduction of the new Autofocus interface with the D800(e) made me cringe. I missed my M/S/C control switch that I could set with a flip of my left index finger. At first I dreaded and really hated the little built-in push button on the D800. But then I discovered that when I programmed the camera properly, it actually freed me from having to look at the top LCD to change the focus mode. All of the sudden, I loved the interface on the D800 and now, when I need to make a significant change, dislike my D300s a lot.
The ability to see all the different modes by throwing around both the thumb and index finger dials make me struggle a bit, but now I can switch between 9, 21, and 51 point AF-C modes quickly and without taking my eye off the viewfinder. Although it was initially very annoying, I found I can no work just as fast, if not faster, than when I was shooting primarily with my D300s.
I can hope and only presume Nikon has included this and more interesting displays in the D4s. As the AF control button only has two positions, there is no logical alternative that Nikon might have made.
I’m not sure what is up with the D4 or D800(e)‘s rear LCD, but the color is way too green off of neutral. I’m not sure what Nikon was thinking when they chose that color balance. A nice 5000k neutral white balance would have been far better. Now there is no way to know if my colors are right when I shoot. Why don’t I shoot in RAW and deal with this later? Well, I want to make sure there is no strange color cast that I will not be able to correct out later without major effort. That rear LCD is just not cutting it. I loved the color on my D300s – it was nearly perfect. Even if it looked a little warm or cool, that’s way better than green. The only worse thing I could have been was magenta tinted.
As with the D4, the file sizes for JPG for large should run between 5 MB and 8MB, depending on the complexity and edges found in the image. As JPG is an edge detection algorithm, taking photos of a flat blue sky will render very small files while a photograph of grass will render a comparatively large file. This is something I take advantage of in my Intermediate and Advanced photography courses to help people understand what they’re getting and why they end up with what they have. Also, it’s a great tool to figure out the relative sharpness of lenses when the camera is programmed correctly. This is also something I teach in my photography courses.
You cannot completely customize the photo names in the D4, D800(e), and presumably the D4s, as you can with other manufacturers. Also, once the file number rolls over, you will end up with duplicate file names. I have created an Automator action to rename files as they come out of my cameras immediately, that way I don’t end up with duplicate file names. Although Lightroom handles things quite well, having five files named DSC_0110 is a real annoyance.
If you need sports, action, ultra-low light for astronomy or the toughest body Nikon makes, the D4s will be the camera for you. Fashion shooter types will also like the built-in vertical grip. This camera will definitely perform and shoot better than the D800(e) and certainly will blow away the the D7100, the not-so-successor to the D300s. Although some people say that the D4s won’t take better photographs than the D7100 for the relatively same resolution, I submit that is not the case. With the superior processing and speed options available in the D4s, I will always be able to take shots better than someone struggling to get their the D7100 to focus in a low-light situation, to keep up with moving people and animals, and to be able to reconfigure on the fly.
If you’re not a full time pro but have the budget, this is a great camera to have. However, if you need a resolution monster, the D800(e) is still king of the heap. Even the D800(e) exceeds the D4 in dynamic range which is not an insignificant consideration if you are shooting landscapes or constantly in situations where the tonal range of a subject exceeds 12 stops.