And so it Begins… Nikon D4 HDSLR Announced!

I recently wrote “..if you thought 2011 was an important year for cameras, photographers and  filmmakers…you ain’t seen nothing yet!” Well we’re only 6 days into the new year and one of the most important cameras of 2012 has just been announced…the Nikon D4! 

Here’s a look at the key specs:

General Specs:

  • 16.2 effective (16.6) megapixel full frame (36×23.9mm) Nikon FX CMOS Sensor            (7.3µ pixel size, gapless micro-lenses with anti-reflective coating)
  • New Expeed 3 Processor (14 bit A/D signal processing)
  • 10fps RAW/JPEG stills with full AF/AE (11fps with AF/AE locked).
  • ISO100-12800 (stills) expandable to ISO 50-204,800
  • ISO 200-12800 (movies) expandable to ISO 200-204,800
  • Newly developed Kevlar/carbon fiber-composite shutter unit rated to 400,000 shots
  • New 91,000-pixel 3D color matrix metering system with face recognition
  • Next generation 51-point autofocus system offers “fast and accurate detection down to -2 EV with every AF-NIKKOR lens (F8 & faster).”
  • New 921K dot, 3.2 inch LCD screen with auto brightness option.
  • Illuminated buttons
  • Ethernet – with FTP/HTTP support for instant uploads
  • Exposure bracketing 2 to 9 frames in steps of 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 or 1 EV
  • In camera HDR
  • Dual-axis electronic virtual horizon
  • XQD and Compact Flash Slots

Video Specs:

  • H.264 MPEG 4 AVC video recording
  • 1080p @ 24/25/30 FPS 720p @ 50/60 FPS
  • Maximum recording time 20:00-29:59 mins depending on frame size/rate & movie quality
  • Full manual exposure control of shutter speed, aperture & ISO while recording
  • Full time continuous contrast detection AF while recording (normal, wide area, face detection, subject tracking) or manual focus
  • Full Frame, 1.5x & 2.7x crop modes @ 1080p (2.7x = 1:1 pixels)
  • Uncompressed 8 bit 4:2:2 clean HDMI output (with simultaneous output to D4′s rear monitor)
  • Dedicated video recording button
  • 46x zoom on rear LCD to check critical HD focus
  • Stereo headphone socket (30 step output adjustment)
  • Stereo mic socket (20 step input adjustment)
  • Dedicated time-lapse menu offers frame rate, shooting interval, playback rate & in camera movie creation & export.
  • Video recording can be triggered remotely
  • Full remote control of all key parameters from and live video streaming to an iPad
  •  Optional WT-5 Wireless transmitter offers HTTP and FTP connection modes.

Initial Thoughts

Firstly, although I have shot extensively with the Nikon D4‘s forerunner, the D3s (which I consider to be the best DSLR currently available), I have yet to see or shoot with the Nikon D4, so, at this point I am interpolating based upon my experience with the former and what I know of the latter. That said, prima facie, the announcement of the Nikon D4 appears to be something of a watershed moment, because whilst there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that it is a no compromise flagship stills camera, designed to meet the demands of professional photographers who are at the top of their games, it also seems to offer an extensive amount of features that HDSLR filmmakers have been begging for, ever since the release of the Canon 5D Mark II.

Chief amongst these features is a clean, uncompressed 4:2:2 HDMI feed with simultaneous output to the D4′s rear monitor. One caveat here is that the UK (but not the US) press release for the Nikon D4 states this output is 1080i. Let’s hope this is a typo, because a clean uncompressed 1080p output would be MAJOR news, both in terms of what the Nikon D4 can offer filmmakers and because it could force Canon to reverse its decision not to provide a clean, uncompressed HDMI output on the 1D X. In fact, it could mean, dare I say it, a clean, uncompressed HDMI output on the Canon 5D Mark III…as and when it arrives.

The ability to fully remote control the Nikon D4 with an iPad, to which the camera’s output is streamed, is another key feature and one of equal significance to both stills and motion picture photographers. The dedicated video button, headphone socket and selectable frame rates are all good news, though it’s a shame that 50p & 60p are only 720p not the full 1080p.

The D3s is the current benchmark for both high ISO performance and autofocus. Despite increasing resolution by a third, Nikon say the D4′s ISO performance is a stop better than the D3s’. This coupled with the D4′s stated ability to autofocus in ‘illumination’ as low as -2EV is frankly astounding. Lighting will never be the same again.

The crop modes are very clever. The 1.5x crop is, essentially, a built in tele-converter, whilst the 2.7x crop is a mega teleconverter that enables one to take advantage of the inherent physical properties of wide angle lenses, to achieve deep focus in ‘run and gun’ situations with all the benefits of 1:1 pixels.  Of course, if the Nikon D4′s full time continuous autofocus works as claimed, the need to choose between deep focus, having subjects amateurishly fall out of focus, or employing a skilled focus puller, would be mitigated.

Currently there is no mention of  waveforms, vectorscope, zebra patterns, live histogram, focus peaking, or aspects ratios other than 16:9, though that’s not to say that these couldn’t be added in a firmware update, if enough people request them. Nor is there any mention of timecode.

Whilst I have high expectations and high hopes for the Nikon D4, the devil is in the details and I have yet to see all of the details, or to shoot with one. I will, therefore, reserve judgement until I have. One thing’s for sure though, with the Nikon D4 being released in February & the Canon 1D X being released in March, ‘Best Camera’ just became an olympic event.

More info:

Nikon D4 Announcement

Nikon D4 UK Press Release

Nikon D4 US Press Release

Nikon D4 Brochure

 

 

 

 

 

© 2012, Paul D. All rights reserved.

About Paul D

Paul D is a multi award winning director & producer who makes music videos, documentaries & feature films. His recent 'Toadlickers' promo for multi Grammy nominated artist, Thomas Dolby, won Gold in the W3 Awards, Gold in The Davey Awards, was nominated for 2 Webby Awards, reached #18 in YouTube's 'Most Watched' Chart and was broadcast on The BBC. http://bit.ly/eruHnO
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  • http://www.paul-d.tv/blog Paul D

    During a live Q&A between Imaging Resource & Nikon, it was confirmed that the HDMI output from the Nikon D4 is 1080p (so long as no cards are in the camera).

    http://pauld.tv/xyz1fY (scroll down to the Q & A)

  • http://www.paul-d.tv/blog Paul D

    During a live Q&A between Imaging Resource & Nikon, it was confirmed that the HDMI output from the Nikon D4 is 1080p (so long as no cards are in the camera).http://pauld.tv/xyz1fY (scroll down to the Q & A)

    • Tobyloc

      I’m very excited about clean HDMI out and probably even more excited that it might push Canon into doing it for the 1DX, it’s taken Nikon 3 years and as many attempts to make their video mode better than the 5D and if Canon can’t beat it in the same time then they should be seriously embarrassed, protecting the C300 is such a poor mentality and a slap in the face to the 5d generation of film makers who bought it becuase it was affordable. The only thing I’m worried about specs wise is that the Why video looks AS soft as 5D and the 1DX makes a point of not line skipping so I expect it to be really detailed, I hope I’m wrong as I want Nikon to be a really strong contender to break this cycle of crippling cameras to protect other cameras. Both seem good on rolling shutter because of their faster readouts which is also awesome.

  • John

    Paul,

    Thanks for this post. What’s the difference between the two bit references quoted below (both from Nikon’s site)?

    Thanks,

    -John

    Its massive, high-speed 16-bit image processing delivers smooth gradation and abundant tone and detail that can be applied to image integrity for a diverse range of usages.

    Incredibly clean images with smooth gradations even at high ISO sensitivities can be realized thanks to the optimized noise-reduction design and 14-bit A/D conversion built into the sensor.

    http://imaging.nikon.com/lineup/dslr/d4/features01.htm

  • http://www.paul-d.tv/blog Paul D

    John,

    As far as I am aware A/D conversion is 14 bit, but internal processing is 16 bit, which explains the difference between those two quotes.

    Paul

  • http://teapartynews.us David H Dennis

    That WiFi feature looks fantastic, but for a measly $875-odd for the WiFi adapter it had better be. Considering that today’s $200 cameras are gaining WiFi, this seems a bit greedy of Nikon.  

    I think they should have included GPS and WiFi with the camera … I’m very disappointed with such a high price for a much-touted feature.

    People seem to be doubting whether the image quality at extremely high ISO (my  reason for being interested in the camera) will be as good as the D3S.  I visited a local camera store and really loved the D3S, so we will just have to see.  Also, Canon has better specifications in every respect, but I’m a bit leery considering that they haven’t allowed sample shots to leak out yet.D

    • http://www.paul-d.tv/blog Paul D

      David, I agree that it would be nice to see WIFI & GPS built into all cameras. I disagree that ‘Canon has better specifications in every respect’.

      Canon only has one comparable camera, the 1D X, which looks like a worthy competitor, but unlike the D4, it does not have clean HDMI out (at this stage), so clearly it is NOT better, in at least one respect.

      The Canon 1D X does have a higher quoted maximum ISO, however, specs are specs and I suspect that Nikon are being deliberately conservative in the ISO figures they quote. The D3s has a well earned reputation as the king of high ISO and I find it inconceivable that Nikon would bring out a successor that isn’t as least as good as the D3s.

      Nevertheless, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and both cameras will be available to eat soon.

  • John

    Paul,

    Thanks for your response. If this follow-up question requires research on your part, please ignore, as I know I can find answer online.

    First, I don’t care about this as a feature in the sense of producing a better image (at least discernibly so, e.g. the equivalent of a pixel peeper) or in the sense that the camera is flawed because it doesn’t synchronize the channel bandwidth, I simply want to learn more about the bit channels in DSLRs, and perhaps you know the answer.

    If capture file format uses A/D conversion 12 or 14-bit, yet processing channel is capable of 16-bit, is the supported capture file format not taking full advantage of the Expeed processor? Specifically, would an ideal scenario be 16-bit A/D conversion and 16-bit processing? Or are these apples and oranges regarding specs and tech, but the terms simply creates potential confusion by comparing them?

    Kind regards and thanks for your patience,

    -John

    • http://www.paul-d.tv/blog Paul D

      John,

      Your are correct. 16-bit A/D conversion and 16-bit processing would be preferable to 14-bit A/D conversion and 16-bit processing, as the greater the bit depth of the A/D conversion, the greater the captured tonality & dynamic range (in theory – though the quality of the A/D converters is also a factor). However, all HDSLRs currently only offer 12 bit or 14 bit A/D conversion.

      Medium format digital cameras tend to offer 16-bit A/D conversion and 16-bit processing. However, 16 bit is certainly NOT the gold standard. As technology advances, we can expect to see greater bit depths for both A/D conversion and processing.

      Regards,

      Paul

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