Long story short I came into a small amount of money and am wondering if I should indulge my longstanding desire to get a professional level camera (D4, or one of the others). I am NOT a professional. I am a hobbyist who derives a great deal of pleasure from photography. My main subjects are sports photography and dogs and other animals.
I currently shoot with the D300 and like it pretty well.
If I were to get a professional level camera, what differences would I see? Is it worth the (rather extremely high) price tag?
The D4 (and its predecessors) is built like a tank and impervious to bumps, jolts, knocks, bangs, and short drops. The f/2.8 zooms and the longer handholdable telephotos are well balanced with the heavy body. That said, heavy lenses on a heavy body make for some arm stress — though I regularly use the D3s with the 70-200 f/2.8 handheld for several hours at a time.
With the D4 you get: • The fastest and most accurate AF that Nikon has to offer • The best frame rate Nikon has to offer • The best high ISO performance
This is THE sports-wildlife-photojournalism body out there.
Jon Kandel A New York City Nikonian and Team Member Please visit my website and critique the images!
Typical subjects are animals (mostly dogs) at rest and in motion, and sports. I also love macro, but have a question in that regard. The D4 has no built-in flash, right? How would I fire my SB-R200 units? Currently I use the built-in flash on my D300 in Commander mode.
Yes! The SB-800 is fully compatible with the D4. In Commander mode it will control up to 3 remote groups. When shooting at macro distances, the SU-800 is a better option since it is Infrared and will not contribute to the exposure. Good Luck and Enjoy your Nikons!
Tue 12-Feb-13 01:03 AM | edited Tue 12-Feb-13 01:04 AM by patriot1123
Thanks, Marty! Ultimately if I do go this route I'll probably get the SU-800 but if I point the speedlight upward maybe it won't contribute as much to the exposure. I was blocking the output from the on-camera flash, when using it as a Commander.
>Thanks, Marty! Ultimately if I do go this route I'll >probably get the SU-800 but if I point the speedlight upward >maybe it won't contribute as much to the exposure. I was >blocking the output from the on-camera flash, when using it as >a Commander. > Hi Anne,
In commander mode on the SB-800 you can set the main flash to "--" which means it will not light the subject itself:
"The “Commander function” in Advanced Wireless Lighting enables the SB-800 to act as a commander unit during wireless multiple flash shooting to trigger remote flash units without firing itself. To activate the “Commander function,” set the SB-800 as the master flash unit and set its flash mode to “Flash canceled (---)”. This operation will normally not affect the correct exposure of the subject, although the exposure might be affected if the subject is close and a high ISO sensitivity has been set. To limit this effect as much as possible, bounce the light by tilting or rotating the SB-800’s flash head."
You can't beat the D4 for sports/PJ. D3s would be a great second. For macro the low noise at high ISO of the D4 and D3s won't come into play (you'll use a tripod, cable release, and MLU, right?), but the extended dynamic range may be a bit help depending on the light, diffusers, and whatever else you may use.
The SB-800 will work great.
If you're looking for a reason to say "yes", well, just go to the head of the class and get a D4.
I use a tripod and cable release, but not MLU - thought it was unnecessary with tripod and cable release. Your question suggests I was wrong. (Off-topic questio So, I'm inferring that I would get even sharper macro images if I use MLU as well?
Every little bit helps. The shutter can jar the camera. It's generally not noticeable except at slow shutter speeds (long exposures). It can never hurt, but can often help. For serious landscape and macro shots I always use it. The idea is to let the vibration from the mirror up slap die out before the image is captured, eliminating camera shake. If you're shooting at 1/4000 you don't need to worry. But at slower shutter speeds it can become an issue.
Hi Anne, I used to have a D300 and now have a D4. The D4 is a machine. You'll see a significant difference in auto focus capability/subject tracking, color rendition and overall image quality (in a marginally larger image size).
Of course, the biggest improvement will be in low light/high ISO capability (and some dynamic range). This camera really sings at ISO 1600-3200, so when coupled with a fast lens, you can literally put away the flash.
On the downside, it is huge and heavy when compared to the D300. I suggest renting one from lensrentals.com before putting down the cash.
Is it a better camera – absolutely! Will you get more keepers in moving and/or low light action—without a doubt! Will your photography improve with the D4—I suppose the answer to this depends on whether or not the D300 was limiting your creative options in some way?
The D4 is just a tool and nothing more. If you found yourself limited in low light situations or wishing you had more firepower when tracking moving subjects, the D4 could certainly help.
Will it make you more creative – well the answer to that is generally no, although low-light shots without unnatural flash lighting to ruin them can certainly open up new doors of creativity—from night photography to photography taken in a dimly lit gymnasiums.
In some cases, the D4 can actually set you back a few clicks before you really get the hang of it, because it’s got a lot more bells and whistles than the D300.
In no way am I trying to talk you out of the D4. I think it’s the best “all-around” camera Nikon has ever built. But it’s not without its limitations and caveats. As long as you know what you’re getting yourself into and why, then the D4 is a no-brainer.
Thank you so much for a wonderfully informative post. I love natural light photography and it sounds like the D4 will pair up nicely with my (legendary) 85 mm f/1.4 and also my 105 mm VR f/2.8. Both better low light performance, and better performance tracking moving subjects, are things I would really like to have, as well as the greater FPS and the large buffer for repeated shots. I don't think I'll mind the extra size and weight - I use my D300 with the MB-D10, and it's possible that the extra size and weight of the D4 will have diminishing marginal significance. I'm leaning toward it.
I had a D700 with battery pack to replace a D3S with a more-versatile setup (I could remove the extra grip). The D3S has better handling - so much better that I loaned my D300 to my sister and bought another new D3S. Your milage may vary.
A friend of mine has a quick evaluation, "Are you looking for a reason to say 'yes' or a reason to say 'no'? It sounds like you are looking for a reason to say 'Yes!' so my advice is buy and try. The resale on a used DLSR is lower but to really give it a try you need to use it for a month or two. The lower resale is still better than the cost of renting for that long. Renting is just teasing yourself and a waste of money if you are truely looking for a reason to say 'yes'.
I loved my D300 but the newer cameras handle a LOT better in darkness. The D3S ISO is awesome. The D4 focuses better in darkness so I'd go directly to the D4 if price isn't an issue.
Anne... I owned the D300, D700,and recently moved up to the D4 and haven't regretted a minute of it. Big and heavy but well worth the inconvenience. I live on the West coast and do a lot of surf photography. When I have the D4 in burst mode, firing 10 frames per second is the same sound you get when you fire up a Ferrari...it's fantastic. The images are stunning and the auto focus works like a charm. I would highly recommend the D4, you won't be disappointed...ibpbob
I had a D200 many years ago, which was my first DSLR (I had used an SLR since the mid '50's). I had a lot of fun with it, but eventually I wanted to do more indoor work and the D200 didn't really cut it. So I got a D3.
It made a huge difference, both in my photography and in my enjoyment thereof. It was a large pain in the wallet, particularly since I went for a new set of lenses at the same time, 14-24-70-200 all f/2.8.
It's not that I take great pictures. The camera doesn't do anything for my color sense or compositional skills or lack thereof. But the pictures were less noisy, the high ISO capacity made the system much more flexible.
The D300 is probably much better than the D200, but the D3 is better than both. And the D3S is better than the D3.
My D3 disappeared a few months back. I used the D200 until the insurance company sent me a settlement. I went out and bought a D4. I did not consider that I had any other choice. And I'm glad I did. Going from a D200 to a D3 was a great experience. Going from a D3 to a D200 was not.
Sorry to impose my story on you, but I'm not a professional. I just like to use the best tools I can afford. And, as expensive as most people consider the D4 + lenses, I think it's worth the investment (it's not a cost). I have a friend that bought a boat. I don't know what it cost him, but it was probably in the $25-50K range. I have another friend who travels to exotic spots to fish and/or hunt. He probably blows $10K on a trip and has only fish stories (and maybe a couple of meals) to show for it. I figure my investment is in the $10K range for the D4, lenses, peripheral equipment, computers, software, backup drives, etc. To me, it's worth it.
The only downside to going for a D4 is that you'll never go back. You'll be using pro gear forever. But then, that's not much of a drawback.
PPS: Now that I think of it, the only other problem with being a D4 owner is that there are very few threads about the D4. 99% of them seem to be about either the D600 or the D800. So you have to do a lot of searching to find something interesting to you on these forums.
Sat 16-Feb-13 04:10 PM | edited Sat 16-Feb-13 04:13 PM by dwight200
>...looks like I have a lot to learn! > > Nothing better than learning something on a good tool. Have fun.
Another PS: The D4, like many other pro bodies, can save all your settings to the memory card. Unfortunately, when you reformat your memory card you lose the settings. So, buy a couple cheap memory cards and save your settings on them. Best if you buy a really small card (less than 1GByte) although they're hard to find. If you have a really small card you won't be tempted to take pictures on it so you won't want to reformat it. Paint it red or something.
One thing that I did NOT see in reference to your question was the issue of LENSES. Depending on which lenses you already HAVE with your D300 (DX, FX, "film-era"...), you may be in for additional expenses with a D4. My first "quality" DSLR was a D200, and I purchased a few DX lenses. Of course, I still had a number of "legacy" Nikkor FILM era lenses. When I purchased a D3 (and just upgraded to a D4), I found that while you can "use" the DX lenses on a D3 or D4, it comes at a SIGNIFICANT reduction in resolution (MP drop from 12-->~5). So, I eventually upgraded to primarily FX lenses. Of course, you can do this "incrementally"; but you need to realize that (unless you have a lot of 35mm AF lenses) using your current DX lenses will not be a satisfactory long-term solution.
Just wanted to make sure that you understood the LENS issues with going from DX format (your D300) to FX format (D4).
That's good advice - I did get the D4, and love it, but did not realize until afterward that a DX lens would yield unsatisfactory results. Fortunately, and probably fortuitously, I only have one DX lens. The others are all high-quality FX lenses.
>...I did get the D4, and love it, but did not realize until afterward that a DX lens would yield unsatisfactory results.
IMHO, DX lenses don't yield unsatisfactory results as a rule. They are generally good optical performers, but they will vignette at maximum aperture on the D4's FX sensor. If you set your menu to "Auto DX Crop" (Page 85 of the English language D4 manual) (you can do it manually as well), when a DX lens is mounted, you won't see the vignetting, just a smaller image inside a masked viewfinder.
With a D4 you will have a much heavier camera and much heavier lenses. You may gain in image quality but it depends greatly on your subjects. With people and sports and dog photography it is not going to make a visible difference in any prints you have made.
I shot weddings for a couple years with the D3 and the D300 and the benefit I got from the D3 was primarily the ability to shoot with the 14-24mm f2.8 lens to get the ultimate picture angle and image quality combination possible. At the telephoto end I would use the D300 to take advantage of the 1.5 crop factor using the 70-200mm f2.8 during the ceremony and the lighter and smaller Sigma 50-150mm f2.8 lens during the reception. The D3 was used with the 14-24mm f2.8 and 24-70mm f2.8 lenses for wide to normal perspective shots.
There are benefits to using top quality DX lenses or even FX lenses with a DX camera. A Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 lens on a D300 or D7100 is going to produce better pictures than the usual 16-85mm or 10-200mm DX zoom lens. Same applies to using one of the 70-200mm f2.8 lenses instead of the 70-300mm f5.6 zoom.
I have seen visible differences between images taken with the D3 and the D300 with the same wildlife subjects and using the same telephoto lenses. The D3 provided better color fidelity and captured nuances that were lost in the images from the D300 (both cameras having 12MP sensors and shooting both with 12-bit RAW capture.
Getting a D600 camera is only the start. You need to add top quality FX lenses as well.
>With a D4 you will have a much heavier camera and much >heavier lenses. You may gain in image quality but it depends >greatly on your subjects. With people and sports and dog >photography it is not going to make a visible difference in >any prints you have made. >
I'm puzzled by this response. Make no mistake: I'm not taking snaps. I'm trying for very high-quality dog portraits, candids, and action shots worthy of a coffee table book or the high-end calendars. So far, the superior high-ISO performance, faster focusing in low light, and higher fps has resulted in massively better shots. Plus the lenses aren't "much heavier," as they are the same lenses I was already using. And the camera itself isn't particularly larger or heavier than the D300 with MB D-10 that I was using before. I'm really happy with the D4.
My last two cameras have been professional models with the d3s and d4. I have owned dx cameras including the d300. The d4 just lets me go and shoot images and just gets out of my way. I live in western Oregon and we have a lot of dark, cloudy and rainy weather. I need high iso's when shooting my 500mm lens sometimes with converters. The d4 runs circles around any dx camera and is Nikons best camera for shooting at high iso's. Very little post processing on most images especially for much noise reduction and frame speeds I need for my bird photography. Yes once you own a professional griped camera it would be hard to go back. I tried out the d800 by renting one for 10 days, sent it back and got the d4 and haven't looked back.
The color transition in the d4 is smooth and is much better than the d3s, the auto focus is top of the line.
I had a D3 and skipped the D3S since it appeared to be a small incremental advance. When I got the D4 I found that although the ISO performance of the D3S and D4 are pretty much the same, the difference from the D3 is really significant.
My shooting is largely photojournalistic and documentary. I do find that I tend to work a lot in poorly lit places so I really value the ISO performance of the D4. Particularly coupled with the improvement in autofocus performance in low light.
Outdoors I tend to shoot at ISO 400-800 or less, but indoors I use 3200-6400 a lot. Minor noise compensation in Lightroom. ISO 12800 not really a problem, just a bit more post work. ISO up to 50,000 can generally be made usable. I find that I can get good pictures at ISO 200K, but only if I could have gotten the picture at ISO 50K. Using Hi3 and Hi4 requires a LOT of post work. The colors start to get funky up there. I tried it all just because it was there, but I probably will never use anything above 50K again. In fact I really only rarely need anything above 6400.
I used to use the 24-70/70-200 in low-light venues. With the D4 I can now use the 28-300, a slower lens, but more versatile. When I need the best IQ, though, I go back to the 24-70/70-200.