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Camera Reviews

Nikon D4 review

Martin Turner (Martin Turner)

Keywords: nikon, d4, camera, bodies

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The D3 and then the D3S were the undisputed kings of the high ISO world. The D4 delivers excellent ISO 6400, decent ISO 12800, and four extra stops of boost. You can do the calculation yourself: 25,600, 51,200, 102,400, 204,800. That's correct. At it's highest setting, the D4 delivers the equivalent of more than 200,000 ISO. Actually it's pretty grainy at that point, and you probably won't want to use it very often. But it means you can shoot in near darkness with a 500mm lens and not get shutter shake, you can shoot in true darkness with a wide-aperture lens, and, in effect, you will never need to use a flash-gun ever again to cope with insufficient light (though you'll still want them to control light).


Grainy at max ISO


Grainy at max ISO Make no mistake the extreme ISO of 204,800 (+4) of the D4 comes at a price. If you need it to get the shot, go for it. Otherwise, keep it 'down' to 25600 (+1) (second image), which at the equivalent of the maximum boost on the original D3, is easily smooth enough for most available-light applications



Making light of difficult darkness This old British phone box in dazzling sunshine on the left and shadow on the right gives a good picture of how well the D4 handles difficult lighting. This was shot at ISO 4000, which, on the D3, would have meant enough reduction in effective luminosity depth to have put a rough grain on the most deeply shadowed areas. The D4 image is pristine.
D4, ISO 4,000, 1/1600, 500mm Reflex, manual focus



The real winner is — manual focus

Video and ultra-ISO are great, but the single thing which really annoys me about the D3 is how hard it is to shoot in manual focus. The focusing screens on autofocus cameras are generally not well adapted for the tasks that old-fashioned matte and split field screens were designed for. I haven't been able to reference this anywhere, but there is something different about the D4 focusing screen. You can just about see it in some circumstances where it appears to be ridged in some way. But the result is that it is much, much easier to focus the near-impossible Nikon 500 mm reflex mirror lens. Shooting with the D4, I was able to quickly and accurately focus on moving objects and fleeting images, capturing far more than I ever could before. If you rely on manual focusing with difficult lenses, this is probably enough to sell you the D4 on its own.


Manual Focus perfection This was a snapshot point and focus. Not a difficult task for any camera, except that this was with the 500 mm Nikkor Reflex — a mirror lens with a depth of focus of less than half a centimetre at this proximity, and no possibility of autofocusing. Shots like this were simply impossible on the D3, because it took too long to get anywhere near focused. The focusing screen on the D4, though subtle, gives enough speed and confidence to make this image possible.



Front focusing? The review model had the slightest tendency to front focus — note the narrow band of in-focus grain on the wood, rather than on the cufflinks where it should have been. This is no reason to send it back to Nikon: you can adjust the focusing characteristics yourself through the menus.

(4 Votes )
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Originally written on April 16, 2012

Last updated on December 31, 2020

Martin Turner Martin Turner (Martin Turner)

Expert professional PJ & PR photographer Ribbon awarded for his valuable contributions to the Articles section and the Wiki

Zaventem, Belgium
Moderator, 4986 posts


Don Butt (Donbutt) on March 6, 2014

I'm delighted with my D4, upgraded when it was first announced, but still have the D7000 and D300 in reserve. They haven't been touched since the D4 arrived. It's great in low light with boosted ISO, even to the max. Love it for large rooms where flash doesn't cut it. Odd how one doesn't mind the weight when the machine and results are so great. Most all needs are met with the Nikkor 17-35 and the 28-300, but have a new Tamron 150-600 on order.

Bruce Randall (EYEBALLER) on December 7, 2013

I have had my D4 for about 4 months now and I love it! What really amazes me about the D4 is the detail that it captures in the highlights and shadows, this camera does not miss a thing. You can see the pours in one's skin and every little hair. The focusing is much quicker and accurate than my D700 and D300s. The D700 has an iMAC computer inside while the D4 has a MAC PRO inside, meaning that the D4 has more and better features and options. Also the D4 does better in low light, the images are cleaner and it gives you one full stop more of light and shutter speed in tests that I performed comparing the D4 to the D700.

Skip Ahern (ahernskip) on April 17, 2013

I just switched from a D300 and love it. However, Capture NX2 and View NX2 don't work with my D4 produced RAW images??? What's up with that? I have upgraded both programs to the latest version but all of the controls are greyed out! HELP!!

Rick Spehn (PSAGuy) on November 29, 2012

I don't get the comment "will be obsolete in 4 years when Nikon introduces the D5". What does that mean ? Is my D3 "obsolete" right now ?? I hardly think so. No, the camera will be FAR from obsolete. It will still be a fine tool for craftsman everywhere. What t won't be is the "latest greatest".....and that's OK. This D4 looks like a winner to me.....and is on my acquisition list for 2013.

User on October 10, 2012

Good review, must say I am delighted with mine.

Les Hollander (Les7) on September 18, 2012

Upgraded one month ago from a D300. I just can't believe how this camera has improved has improved my shots. My dream was a D3 and when Nikon came out with the D4 I just went for it.

Hardin Stradford Jr. (Dirty6) on September 1, 2012

Love the D4, upgraded from the d 700. I've only had a chance to use it to shoot an antique car show, I used a 24-70mm 2.8 lens so the shots were awesome. My camera club shoots a lot of sporting events so in September I will give it a real work out at the bicycle races and the boxing matches. Hope you all are enjoying your new D4 as well. I will keep my D-700 and my D-300 as back ups.

Dallas Dogger (DallasQld) on August 30, 2012

A great camera, better than my D3, easier to hold than a D800!

kelly borgman (kellyb) on August 8, 2012

I just bought one, jumped from a D300s to a D4. I love it !

John Cramer (d3scameraman) on August 8, 2012

For all round photography i find my d3s very hard to beat,the video mode is awesome in the D4, if and when i purchase a second body i would like a D800.

J. Dennis Thomas (rivercityrocker) on May 17, 2012

As for the "L" button, that button served as an aperture or shutter speed lock depending on your shooting mode. In Shutter Priority or Manual mode your shutter speed is locked, in Aperture Priority the aperture is locked. In Programmed Auto there's no effect I found it quite handy at times, especially when shooting motorsports or concerts.

User on May 8, 2012

I have played with the D4 and it's a beautiful camera but I want Nikon to make it smaller! As a petite woman I find it very hard to hold especially over the course of a wedding day!

Paul van Jaarveld (kalemanzi) on May 6, 2012

Dang. I want one. My D3 is still wonderful, but I wished on so many occasions that it could record Full HD video.

Paul van Jaarveld (kalemanzi) on May 6, 2012

Dang. I want one. My D3 is still wonderful, but I wished on so many occasions that it could record Full HD video.

Michael Cunningham (drmike1) on April 27, 2012

This article was helpful in highlighting new areas to explore in the D4. I've had my D4 for two days, and did two jobs with it, shooting a play and a lacrosse game. The D4 did a better job than my D3 in the low light of the theatre. The contrast was excellent even at 1 candle power. While shooting sports action, I was impressed with the speed of the D4. But I think I will reserve the 10fps speed for the finish line of the Ky. Derby. Too many photos to review following an hour-and-a-half game!

Mike Orr (Nitehawk5169) on April 21, 2012

I am pleased with my D4 and the differences that it offers over my D3S/D3Xs. I will keep them as backups but I plan on using the D4 for my future needs.