This question is for those who own and regularly shoot the D4 and D800. Do you see any difference in their autofocus capabilities? The two bodies are supposed to have the same mechanism. Thanks!
#1. "RE: D4 versus D800 Focusing" | In response to Reply # 0spiritualized67 Nikonian since 28th Feb 2007Fri 01-Feb-13 06:52 PM
Ha, sounds like you’ve been reading too much Ken Rockwell (he basically argues that we’re all being duped into spending more money on high-end Nikon DSLRs, even given that they all use the same internal parts and processors).
Having experience with both, I can confidently tell you that the D4 is much better IMHO. Although my D800 (which I’ve since returned) didn’t have the dreaded left-focus point calibration issue, I found most of the focus points outside of center to be unacceptably soft (tested using a 35mm F/1.4 and 24-70mm F/2.8), whereas my D4 is tack-sharp and spot on. Of course, this could be a calibration issue – and I’m making these statements based on only one test sample (although online user reports seem to mirror my sentiments).
I think the D4 focus is just faster, tracks better, and does a much better job of locking in on low light subjects (The D4 does have amazing low-light sensitivity down to -2EV). And with the recent D4 firmware upgrade, AF-C tracking is further improved.
I suppose it depends on how you’re going to use the focus? If you’re a tripod guy who works in Live View using pro glass, you’re probably not going to see much of a difference. But if you’re handholding or tracking a moving subject (in lower light), I believe the D4 blows the D800 out of the water.
Don’t ask me what magic Nikon uses to tweak their Multi-Cam 3500-FX AF engine, it’s just better on the D4. Technological advantages of the D4 aside, if you add in all the caveats of shooting at the mind-numbing size of 36MP, you’ll generally find a much higher focus keeper rate using a D4. For example, I can shoot at 200mm using 1/250s on a D4 and be completely sharp, whereas the same focal length on a D800 might require 1/500s or higher to achieve similar sharpness. Regardless, I’ll take the D4 focus over the D800 focus any day of the week.
#2. "RE: D4 versus D800 Focusing" | In response to Reply # 1Fri 01-Feb-13 09:26 PM
Thanks for the response.
I do tend to shoot moving subjects (sports, birds, and sometimes kids). In fact, it's a really disappointing performance tracking some wild little ones that got me rethinking this issue. Part of the issue may also have been slow focusing lenses, but there were too many (would be) great shots that were lost for me to feel good about the portrait session.
#3. "RE: D4 versus D800 Focusing" | In response to Reply # 2KnightPhoto Nikonian since 18th Dec 2006Sun 03-Feb-13 11:57 AM
Which camera are you referring to above in your experience?
I regularly shoot a D4/D800E combo and my anecdotal impressions are:
- D4 achieves initial focus faster I believe and handles low contrast subjects better also.
- Once the D800E obtains initial AF, I have occasions where the D800E tracked better than the D4 (although that was before the D4 1.04 firmware). I have this weird feeling that 1.02 D4 tracking was excellent, 1.03 went backwards to very good, and hopefully 1.04 will be exceptional again but I haven't tried 1.04 in the field yet as there were no suitable subjects yesterday, so this 1.02/1.03 feeling isn't a factual conclusion I could make. It's just that up until 1.03 I never noticed tracking errors with the D4 so I thought it was infallible, then I did notice some tracking fails with 1.03 but that may just have been some low-contrast situations or me failing to hold steady on the target, so really hard to say for sure!
- I feel like the slow 4fps of the D800 allows a lot of mirror-down time making for good tracking on BIF. So once the D800 is locked on, I feel it is very good.
- I actually intend to try my D4 in 7 or 8fps mode to see if that improves its tracking vs. 10fps. In so doing I also hope to improve the operator error that seems to occur when 10fps is going full out and I accidentally chop off portions of my subject I have also now installed D4 1.04 so I will be testing 2 variables that have changed. Anyhow I still intend, situation permitting, to compare some 10fps flybys with some 7fps flybys. I know part of the problem could be the operator.
- I am still trying to form a solid impression of D4 vs. D800E tracking myself, and they must be fairly close, as I am having a hard time deciding. I need to shoot both cameras in the same situation, which is hard to reproduce in the wild, especially as my shooting buddy's can be impatient and always ready to move on to search for better opportunities. Like you, I would definitively like to know! I intend to keep trying this comparison as I feel it is vital to know when it is best to use each.
- I use teleconverters a lot, on an f/4 500VR, in oftentimes low contrast situations and D800 has trouble achieving first focus. This is TC14E f/5.6 and TC17E f/6.7. Overall I don't feel like the D4 hesitates pretty much ever, but I have rarely had an opp to try D4 in exact same light/target so my caution about anecdotal comparisons. But for sure the D800E can and does hesitate, where sometimes I must point the rig onto a higher contrast target at similar distance, point back at my subject and then achieve focus. Mostly I think this occurs with TCs and low contrast in order to provoke this behaviour. If one was never using TCs, I am not sure if I would notice this, but it is noticeable with TCs on an f/4 lens.
- In low-light theatre, I obtain good focus with both cameras.
- In low-light theatre at ISOs 6400 and 8000 I prefer the D4 results, maybe an even battle at 3200, and prefer the D800E at lower ISOs for that high res crystal clarity. My use of D4 with 70-200 f/2.8 and D800E with 24-70 in theatre is working out to be a very good balance I think, that optimizes the strength of each camera.
- My budding impression is I think I prefer the D4 for portraits as the D800E is too high res for normal human beings. Absolutely, on a photo-shoot, with professional make up staff and professional models, I'm sure the D800 is the better portrait tool, but on real people I spend too much time with NR in post removing blemishes etc. Now if one is showing off fabric and hair etc. the D800 is the better tool, but I feel it must be matched with some selective skin softening. Anyhow, I intend to use the D4 for a head-shot today and not pull out the D800E.
I should close with they are both great cameras and I could probably make do with either just fine. Or I could for those who like to shoot two identical cameras, two of either would be great too! Because I have both I am actively seeking out where each is better for me and for what I do.
If you are interested, I shoot both with video too, and they both have their strengths, favouring the D800 for wider shots in FX mode in good light and the D4 for telephoto work in CX mode in lower light.
Best regards, SteveK
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#4. "RE: D4 versus D800 Focusing" | In response to Reply # 3Mon 04-Feb-13 01:15 AM
I wasn't very clear there; I'm shooting a D800. Sometimes it focuses well, sometimes it doesn't. I have done comparisons on still subjects with my D700 (great camera!) and found that the D700 is sometimes able to lock on when the D800 can't, and that's very disappointing.
I've read a lot over the last day or so, and I'm convinced that I need to try again with different settings. I repost when I have some results.
Focusing aside, the D800 has many virtues. The tonal range is unbelievable, and the reworked auto ISO feature is terrific.
Thanks for the response.
#5. "RE: D4 versus D800 Focusing" | In response to Reply # 0
I feel like I have multiple personality disorder on this subject. Some days I think the D4 is just faster and more accurate in acquisition and tracking, and other days I feel like there is little difference.
I've shot now thousands of shots with both cameras at the same events, used one after the other, with the same set of lenses (changing around a bit). I will say I never had the impression the D800 is faster, but some days I feel them to be able the same, some days the D4 just seems MUCH faster.
Both cameras (but more the D800) will take a series of shots (whether a burst or just single shots close in time) and have (say) 5 in great focus, and one just wacky out of focus. I'm convinced there is more inconsistency in both than in my old reliable D300. Personally I think it's in their new fancy tracking algorithms, and I find myself most consistent when I use fewer focus points (provided it's enough to keep on the subject if moving).
The D4 is VERY impressive that it will focus and track and do so quite well at 10FPS, with so little mirror down time. Very impressive. And it does really a spectacular job of that. Is it better than the D800? Depends on your definition -- the D800 does a similar job I think, but at 4FPS.
I also have a much better track record with the D4 for "grab" shots, where there's no focus ahead of time, just point and fire because something happened. So I'd say initial acquisition seems faster and more consistent (or a different algorithm, since it does provide 4 options on release priority vs. the D800 three).
If pressed I'd say the D4 is better. Ask me tomorrow I might say neither is "better". They are different however -- the cameras are different enough you can't really consider the focus completely in isolation (e.g. burst mode tracking).
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