Nikon’s flagship pro DSLR, the D4, has arrived, after months of speculation and rumour. It arrives amid a flurry of descriptors: multimedia, a new apex of speed and accuracy, unparalleled image quality, low-light capability and Full HD (1080p) video recording, a multitude of advanced new features and functions, a new standard of performance for professionals and enthusiasts, high-speed response times, and tack-sharp images.
Nikon’s 51-point AF system has been further enhanced for maximum speed in a variety of challenging shooting situations, even at 10 frames per second (fps).
At its heart is a new 16.2-megapixel FX-format CMOS sensor, coupled with the latest generation of Nikon’s Expeed 3 image processing engine. Together, says Nikon, they help produce images and videos with “stunning clarity and colour.”
The camera boasts new 91,000-pixel 3D Colour Matrix Metering III, and an ISO range from 100 to a staggering 204,800.
Ready to shoot in less than 0.012 seconds, the D4 can capture full resolution JPEG or RAW files at up to 10 fps with full AF / AE, or up to 11 fps with AF / AE locked. Immediately before image capture, the camera interprets data from the AF sensor, such as subject colour as detected on the 91,000-pixel RGB sensor.
The Advanced Multi-Cam 3500 AF autofocus system is the next generation of Nikon’s 51-point AF system. Fully customizable, it offers users the ability to capture fast-moving subjects and track focus, or select a single AF point.
The D4 aligns 15 cross-type sensors in the centre to detect contrast data in both vertical and horizontal planes.
In addition to detecting each AF-Nikkor lens with an aperture of f/5.6 or lower, the camera also utilizes 9 cross-type sensors that are fully functional when using compatible Nikkor lenses and TC14E or TC17E teleconverters.
It can also use a single cross-type sensor when using compatible Nikkor lenses and the TC20E teleconverter with an aperture value up to f/8.
Photographers are also able to select multiple AF modes, including normal, wide area, face tracking and subject tracking.
About that RGB 3D Colour Matrix Metering system: Nikon says it meticulously analyzes each scene and recognizes factors such as colour and brightness with unprecedented precision. This data is then interpreted and compared against the D4’s on-board database to implement various settings, resulting in vibrant images with faithful colour reproduction and balanced exposure.
In addition, this new AF sensor now has the ability to detect up to 16 human faces with startling accuracy even when shooting through the optical viewfinder, allowing for correct exposure when the subject is backlit.
As well, the 51 focus points deliver fast and accurate detection down to a -2 EV with every AF-Nikkor lens.
All of this image data is funneled through a 16-bit pipeline and is written to dual-card slots which have been optimized for the latest UDMA-7 Compact Flash cards, as well as the new XQD memory card.
The D4 is the first professional camera to harness the capabilities of this new durable and compact format, which offers superfast write times.
The Nikon-developed 16.2-megapixel FX-format (36 x 23.9 mm) CMOS sensor is said to deliver amazing image quality, brilliant dynamic range and vivid colours in nearly any lighting condition.
Nikon assures us that, by achieving the optimal balance of resolution and sensor size, pro photographers “will realize exceptionally sharp, clean and well-saturated images throughout the entire ISO range.”
The D4’s native ISO range (100-12,800) is expandable from 50 (Lo-1) to an incredible 204,800 (Hi-4). Nikon points to the sensor’s large 7.3µ pixel size with its ability to absorb the maximum amount of light.
Additionally, the sensor’s construction features a gapless micro-lens structure and anti-reflective coating which further contributes to images that retain natural depth and tones with smooth colour gradation.
Oh, yes, those high ISOs are also usable when shooting video.
The new Expeed 3 image processing engine delivers images (still and video) with amazing resolution, colour and dynamic range, says the company. From image processing to transfer, the new engine is capable of processing massive amounts of data, exacting optimal colour, perfect tonality and minimized noise throughout the frame.
In addition to standard uncompressed NEF (RAW) files, the D4 is capable of shooting smaller compressed RAW files to ease storage and speed up workflow. Users are also able to capture even more dynamic range using the in-camera High Dynamic Range (HDR) function to merge consecutive exposures.
For deep contrast and further tonality, Active D-Lighting can be activated during shooting for balanced exposures even in backlit scenes.
• Full HD (1080p) video recording: Users have the choice of various resolutions and frame rates, including 1080p 30/24 fps and 60 fps at 720p. By utilizing the B-Frame data compression method, users can record H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC format video with unmatched integrity for up to 20 minutes per clip. This format also allows for more accurate video data to be transferred, thereby requiring less memory capacity. The sensor reads image data at astoundingly fast rates, says Nikon, which results in less instances of rolling shutter distortion.
• Full manual control of exposure: Shutter speed, aperture and ISO can be changed while recording video to adapt to lighting and alter depth of field.
• Uncompressed output / simultaneous Live View: By using the camera’s HDMI port instead of the CF or XQD card, users can stream an uncompressed Full HD signal directly out of the camera. This footage can be ported into an LCD display, appropriate external recording device or routed through a monitor and then to the recording device, eliminating the need for multiple connections.
• Audio recording for professionals: The D4 features a stereo headphone jack for accurate monitoring of audio levels while recording. Output can be adjusted in up to 30 steps for precise audio adjustment. The D4 offers high-fidelity audio recording control with audio levels that can be set and monitored on the camera’s LCD screen. The microphone connected via the stereo mic jack can also be adjusted with up to 20 steps of sensitivity for accurate sound reproduction.
• Multi-area Mode Full HD 1080p videos / FX/DX, and 2.7x crop mode at 1080p video modes: Whether shooting for depth of field in FX-format mode, or looking for the extra 1.5x telephoto benefits of DX mode, the high resolution sensor of the D4 allows videographers to retain full 1080p HD resolution no matter which they choose. With the 2.7x crop, users can experience ultra-telephoto benefits in Full HD resolution at 16:9 aspect ratio.
• Simultaneous Live View output without display / simultaneous monitor: Shooters have the option to send the display signal directly to an attached monitor via the HDMI port. This signal can be viewed on the camera’s LCD screen and external monitor simultaneously. Additionally, the image data display can be cleared from the screen to remove distracting data or when feeding a live signal.
• Full-time AF: In addition to manual focus, four modes are available, including normal, wide area, face priority and subject tracking, which uses fast contrast detect AF to accurately focus while recording video and in live view.
• New LCD screen: The large high-resolution 3.2-inch LCD screen includes auto brightness adjustment. Users can also zoom in by up to 46x to check critical HD focus.
• Time-lapse shooting: As new feature, it combines a selected frame rate and “shooting interval” in a dedicated time lapse photography menu. Playback can be achieved with a wide variety of speeds from 24x to 36,000x while producing a fully finished movie file output for faster multimedia workflows.
• Remote shutter operation: Using dedicated Movie Custom Settings, recording can be set to engage by the shutter release button, and users can now use a variety of remote accessories to trigger movie recording.
As might be assumed, the chassis of the D4 is built with magnesium alloy for maximum durability and reliability. The body of the camera incorporates gaskets for resistance to dirt and moisture, as well as electromagnetic interference.
The bright optical viewfinder offers 100 percent frame coverage. The viewfinder is coated with a new thermal shield finish which works to resist overheating during prolonged use.
The shutter has been tested to withstand 400,000 cycles for maximum durability.
Sensor cleaning is employed by vibrating the OLPF.
The self-diagnostic shutter unit also encompasses a mirror balancer to minimize the residual “bounce” to enhance AF and extend viewing time.
The overall controls and operability of the camera have also been engineered with a renewed emphasis on speed and functionality. Users will appreciate refined button layouts with improved ergonomics, such as a quick AF-mode selector placed near the lens mount for fast access on the fly. A new joystick style sub-selector is also placed on the rear of the camera for AF point and option selection, while vertical controls have been enhanced for improved operability. Key control buttons on the back of the camera can be illuminated.
Users are now able to automatically generate IPTC data for their images and image sets, making organizing and chronicling images easier for both photographers and their editors.
A wired Ethernet port is utilized so a user can shoot tethered and transfer images easily and quickly to clients.
In addition, Nikon has introduced the new WT-5A Wireless File Transmitter, to transmit via FTP server or computer. The device can be set to transfer either automatically or manually selected images. This device also allows for remote operation of the camera using Nikon’s Camera Control Pro 2 software.
A mobile application is in development to control the camera using this accessory, which will include the ability to trigger the shutter and record video.
The Nikon D4 is scheduled to be available at retail on Feb. 16, at a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $6,299.95.