Every Nikon camera I’ve owned has been the best camera that I’ve ever owned.  If you’ve read the blog, you know that I am provided Canon camera equipment with my full time employment at the Indianapolis Star Newspaper.  I however, have been a long time Nikon shooter and continue to update my personal equipment for my own photographic endeavors which you can see, on the rest of the blog.  In terms of Digital alone, I’ve owned the Nikon D70s, D2x, D300, D700, D3, D3s, and now the Nikon D4.  When the Nikon D4 was announced in January, I was absolutely amped and couldn’t wait to get my hands on one to play with even if I couldn’t own it right away.  There aren’t really a whole lot of em out there at the moment, and really a NPS list/wait list is the only way to get one.  Being an NPS member, I put my name on the list even though I wasn’t sure I could afford it when my name would come up.  If you’re looking for someplace to put your name on a list, may I recommend Roberts Camera here in Indy.  I buy about 95% of all my gear through them, and they are great.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve called them with last minute needs that they have saved my butt with.  Not everything mind you, about 5% of things I get elsewhere, and that’s because they may not have something in stock that I need absolutely immediately, or any number of other low percentage reasons.  Either way, great group there.  With that being said, this blog post is going to be very technical, so if you read solely to look at the pictures then you should know that there’s going to be a lot of gadgetry talk in this one.  Just a warning now.

Every couple of years every camera manufacturer releases an update to their professional body, that is the combination of all the latest greatest technologies they have been developing for the last three or four years.  I’m guessing Nikon has engineers taking feedback on the D4 already, even though there aren’t very many of them out in the wild yet.  When I met the guys NINJA’S responsible for repairing the gear that I tend to break on a regular basis, they were all incredibly friendly and amped about the D4 that I managed to give back without breaking.  I hadn’t even left their sight with it.  Maybe Nikon should start a program where you can get reward points for not breaking stuff?  I’d probably owe them more money for past repairs, so maybe they shouldn’t do that…..

(The New Nikon D4, 900ISO, Nikon 300mmF2.8DII with a Nikon TC20eIII for a total of 600mm.  1/1000th@F8)

Either way, the D4 doesn’t disappoint me in the least.  Nikon has yet again hit this out of the park, and the thousand plus frames that I’ve put on the camera over the last few days has proved it to me.  One of the first things that I did with the camera was set the AF to 3D, and track birds in the trees behind our house.  The Autofocus seems significantly faster and more accurate than my D3s, and I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the D3s.  The shots that I’ve taken with it, (using strobe and not) have been impeccably sharp.  In fact, I would say that the raw files out of the D4 are inherently sharper than those out of my D3s which I used to sharpen immediately in Lightroom or Photoshop.  Aside from the files being sharp, they are every bit as clean as my D3s was; but with a 33% increase in resolution.  A very welcome 4 extra megapixels as anybody who shoots with a D3 series body knows that 12 megs is a great size, but there isn’t going to be a whole lot of cropping going on there….

(The New Nikon D4, 6400ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8VR2@200mm.  1/200th@F2.8 shot in really crappy incandescent arena lighting, kind of like the ones you find in high school gyms.  The frame is cropped slightly from original, because I couldn’t get in as tight as I wanted to the game bench during a Jam when this took place, the crop just cut some excess space off of the left side)

Here is the 100% Crop from the shot above.  6400 is every bit as clean as my D3s was.

I’ll tell you what.  Lets really go for the gold on noise here, and lets crank this puppy up to 25,600ISO and see how useable it is. The shot below is a bird that was sitting on my neighbors roof.  I shot it from my porch across the driveway.  It’s uncropped, and has approximately 15 seconds of photoshop applied to it.  Look for the detail shot below…

(The New Nikon D4, 25,600ISO, Nikon 300F2.8DII with a Nikon TC20eIII to make to 600mm.  1/6400@F9)

(100% view of the shot above.  I would have to say that I only used 25kISO on my D3s maybe once, and that was back when I got it.  I don’t honestly remember it being this clean though…)

Professional Photographers love the extra resolution found in most modern day cameras, but most will recognize that 12 was more than enough.  In many cases, 12 has always been more than enough.  Kodak calculated years ago that 12 megapixels was the optimum photosite density and size to collect light with the least amount of noise.  Shannon and I have a wonderful 16″x24″ print of this superbowl image ready to be hung at home, and it was only 5 Megapixels when I shot it having needed to use the DX mode on my D3 in order to get the moon large enough in the frame for the Double exposure to look correct.  That being said, I am amped about having 4 more; especially since you saw above how clean the files are.  Lots of people are upset that the D4 isn’t about a stop better with noise than the D3s was, but lets be honest here, with the D3s and my 24F1.4 I felt unstoppable, and could hand hold a photo in pretty much any light.  The New D4 can actually autofocus in one stop less light than the D3s.  You’d think that it would feel pretty close in actual handling, but it’s actually a very obvious improvement.  I’ve only made the D4 hunt one time, and it was trying to photograph Tuxedo the black cat in a dark room.  (any camera would hunt in a black cat in the dark, you would hunt with manual focus here…)

 (The New Nikon D4, 100ISO, Nikon 85F1.4D.  1/160th@F2.  Nikon SB900 zoomed to 70mm with a 1/4CTO on a stand bounced out of a 42″ umbrella to above camera right set to 1/16th power.  Nikon SB900 zoomed out to 14mm set to 1/2 set on a shelf in the ER Trauma room with a Full CTB to separate the ER from Debra here.  Both Speedlights controlled and fired with a Nikon SU-800 Speedlight Commander in the D4’s hot shoe. File just about straight out of the camera, as shot for this weeks Careerbuilder special section in the Indianapolis Star.)

It’s no secret that I love my 85F1.4D.  What’s not to love?  It’s awesomely sharp, it’s got a very sahweet bokeh, and it only cost me around $900 when I bought it on ebay, as opposed to the G version (which I’d love to own, but never will due to the price), which costs $1699.  My D3s tended to make mistakes with it sometimes though, but thus Far the D4 hasn’t hickuped once; and trust me this was something I was looking for.  If I’m going to talk autofocus though I should mention the new implementation of the “Quick Switch” AF Button on the front of the camera.  When I Autofocus I use 9pt Continuous focus all the time.  Sometimes, I want 21pt, or the 3D Autofocus, but I never switch to them because on my D3s and D3 I always had to go through the menu.  Not anymore.  I hit the button, scroll the front command dial, and on the top LCD and the viewfinder tells me what focus mode I’m switching too.  It’s brilliant.  I can now switch focus modes on the fly, without having to hunt through the menu’s to find it.  One of the other really nice things about the D4 is that you have the option to automatically rotate the AF points in the camera with the camera itself.  Wait, what?  Yes.  When shooting basketball, or Roller Derby, I usually have the cameras 51pt AF system set to only let me select 11 of the points.  It’s just easier to get around the frame that way.  Well, when I shoot I use one point above the center point because I want to focus on someone’s face.  The D4 allows you to set it to automatically rotate the AF point selection with the cameras on-board accelerometer that is used when the Virtual horizon tool is on the screens.  So when you go from turning the camera horizontal to vertical, you don’t have to change the focus point because the camera automatically selects the point in an equivalent position to the one you were using at the other orientation.   To make a long story even longer short, you basically don’t have to change AF points when you change the cameras orientation; it does it for you.  Brilliant Nikon.  Absolutely Brilliant.

(New Nikon D4, 2500ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8VR2@145mm.  1/250th@F3.5.  Single Elinchrom Quadra A head set to 2/3 power with the standard wide reflector on a stand about 70′ from the track triggered by a Pocket Wizard Flex TT5, from a Pocket Wizard Flex TT1 on the cameras Hot Shoe). 

So I most certainly need to address this new XQD Card thing that came with the D4.  I’m torn.  On one side I love the card and how fast it is.  Really I never have to wait for the card to write.  (not that I machine gun the camera all that often because I don’t).  When the 5D Mark II came out, we discovered at the newspaper that even 133x memory cards were fast enough to handle the bandwidth needed to shoot video.  That was great since at that point 133x cards were relatively inexpensive. (not like they are now, but a 32gb 133x card back then you could get for about $75).  This XQD Card doesn’t even sweat when the camera wants to write to it whether it’s video, or 10fps RAW files.  Doesn’t flinch.  Plus, something that I really LOVE about the card is something that has absolutely nothing to do with the card itself.  Because it’s a separate kind of writable media, I can now download the CF card and the XQD Card to my computer at the same time!  Seriously!  I’ll come home from a major event like a wedding  and have 3 or 4 CF Cards that I need to dump, and it takes forever one at a time.  Now I can plug them both in and have everything downloaded in just a few minutes!  That sounds stupid, and in all actuality it is stupid; but hey I’ll take any help I can get at saving a few minutes…  The cards seem relatively well built, but I’m still not sure I’d be ok running one through the washer.  I’ve run (by accident) many CF Cards through my washer and dryer and they all still function as good as the day I bought them.  SD Cards I haven’t been as lucky with, and even though the build quality on the XQD Card seems good, it doesn’t seem washer sturdy.  It does however seem sturdy enough to store quite a few photos.  Whether those photos are Pulitzer prize winners, or a crappy slightly yellow photo like the one below, the read and write speeds are phenomenal. 

(This crappy photo is a FULL SIZE 25,600ISO  file. Click to ULTRA BIGGIFY) 

(The New Nikon D4, 25,600ISO, 1/500th@F4.  Nikon 70-200F2.8VR2.) 

Speaking of video.  This camera was obviously developed primarily with video in mind.  There is a lot of scrutiny on the internet about how the Files aren’t as 100% as clean as the Nikon D3s, which I suppose depends on how each individual view them.  Either way, the video aspect of this camera is phenomenal.  I was assigned a few weeks ago to shoot a promotional video for the Naptown Roller Girls, for which Shannon and I used my Nikon D3s, her Nikon D7000, and for a brief minute attempted to use a Canon 7D for the 60fps capabilities.  The video turned out really nice, but the D3s always had  a few problems with video.  The video on my D3s always seemed like an afterthought, or like something that was bolted on to make the camera better.  Not with the D4.  The live view screen on the back for editing seems like you’re looking at a 60fps live feed video.  There is very little rolling shutter (although it is possible to produce as it is for any digital camera taking video, but you have to really try to get it).  One of my favorite features is the ability to shoot video as an FX, DX, or 2.7x crop mode.  You can film primarily in FX and DX using ALL of the cameras available recording modes, but the 2.7x crop you can only shoot at 1950×1080 because that is the exact number of pixels you’re using on the sensor; it’s not being sampled down.  Why are FX and DX important?  At last weekends Naptown Roller Girls bout vs Dutchland I was hired to do some filming for a video spot to advertise for the NRG bout in the Bankers Life Fieldhouse on April 20th, 2012.  I took all kinds of lenses in my bag to shoot to get hard hitting action, skates, faces, and other miscellaneous details.  My 70-200VR2 was the primary lens for the day, and in fact I only had it off of my camera one time when I needed my 28-70 for something.  The DX crop mode was fantastic, when shooting video of the action because I was then hand holding, or balancing a 105-300F2.8 instead of having to mount a tripod or monopod to a Massive 300F2.8DII that I brought with.  I can’t post the video yet because it’s not done yet, and it’s not yet approved by the Agency requiring it, but sometime soon I will for sure.  Instead I’m going to post this video of a bird across my driveway.  Shot it at 60fps (primarily because that’s what my D4 was set to when I went out there).  Sorry its a little wobbly, 60omm in DX mode on just a monopod leaning against the railing which just wasn’t as sturdy as it should have been…


So wow.  Am I blown away by the D4?  Yes.  The files are every bit as clean as my D3s was.  Lots of people on the interwebz here are complaining that the D4 isn’t at least a stop cleaner in terms of High Iso and you know I guess it’s sort of a tradeoff.  I felt unstoppable with my D3s, and I took lots of great (and even more crappy) photos with it so I find nothing wrong with the ISO capabilities of the new D4 since it is completely on par with the D3s.  I think it’s a completely fair trade personally, with the trade being really no big jump in image quality towards 200,000ISO, but the extra 4 megapixels instead.  Really if you want to complain about the image quality, then shoot some photos and resize your images to 12 megapixels from 16.  Then you’ll get the extra stop of sensitivity that you’re looking for.  Nikon usually does a pretty awesome job with their cameras.  Their focus is and always has been image quality, and while I’m not really an official product reviewer by any stretch, I am an official photographetizer, full time professional photographer.  Maybe someone will decide to loan me a D800, 5D Mark III, or 1D-X to give everybody a good comparison, but anybody reading this shouldn’t hold their breath.  I am absolutely stunned at this new chapter in professional cameras, and I greatly look forward to seeing what the next few years of producing images with this camera yields.  Speaking of which, how does the D4 hold up in the studio?  Fantastic; just as it should.  More Soon.

If you’re not on the list for the D4 anyplace, go do it at Roberts.

Not interested in a D4?  How about a D800 or a 5D Mark III?  they take care of those too….

(The New Nikon D4, 200ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8VR2@200mm.  1/200th@F8.  Shot in the Star Studio as a Carpenter Realtor Promotion, Single Photogenic head in a 36″x36″ softbox to above camera right set to 1/2 power, Single Dynalite 4000XL shot through two wesctott 6’x2′ screens onto the background set to 1/2 power, a Single Dynalite 4000xl bounced out of a 32″ umbrella to camera left.  All lights triggered by a single Pocket Wizard Plus II transceiver plugged into one of the dynalites, from a Single Pocket Wizard Plus II transceiver on the D4)