NIKON D4

The D800 and D3200 made the megapixel headlines, but the D4 remains Nikontop professional camera. We asked three pro photographers whether it really is the best...

¦ The 36-megapixel Nikon D800 and the 24-megapixel D3200 may have stolen the limelight recently, but the D4, released in January, remains Nikon s top professional camera. We spoke to three pro photographers to find out why. All three have bought D4s, and all three used the D3s before it-so who better to ask what makes this new 10 frames-per-second workhorse so special?

Why did you choose the 16MP Nikon D4 over the 36MP D800?

¦ Mark Pain: a sports photographer, itthe lOfps shooting. The D8004fps rules it out as a sole-use camera for the sports photographer. And for UK newspaper or magazine use, the D4resolution is more than enough. The D800 doesnhave Ethernet either, which is increasingly important at events like Wimbledon and the Olympics.”

¦ Richard Peters: D4 offers superior weather sealing and is built like a tank. Add to this its exceptional high ISO abilities, incredible shooting speed and buffer and its the perfect tool for the job.”

¦ Adam Duckworth: totally different cameras! The D4 is way, way faster in fps, more rugged and has better ergonomics. The AF is much better and the low-light, high-ISO performance knocks spots off the

D800. The D800 wins on ultimate image quality at lower ISOs, price and portability, but for everything else, the D4 is better.”

So does the D4 offer enough of an improvement over the D3s, a camera that has built a formidable reputation of its own?

¦ Mark Pain: pictures the D3s produces are still fantastic. If the D4 didnexist,

Ibe happy with my D3s. But a replacement had to be brought out for other reasons, including Ethernet and wireless transfer with the new WT-5. Technologies like these drive advances in cameras-itnot just sensor technology.”

¦ Richard Peters: D3s is a modem classic and while die improvements on the D4 may appear modest, when you add them togedier, you get a camera that improves on the D3s in almost every way.”

¦ Adam Duckworth: D3s was-and is-an incredible camera, but it didnoffer full HD video and the resolution was starting to look a little low.”

The D4 has also seen some changes to the controls and ergonomics... ¦ Mark Pain: D4 has fantastic build. Itmore ergonomic than the D3s, but different too, because of the repositioning of the upright AF-On button, for

example. It makes it hard to use alongside a D3s, because in sports photography, camera operation needs to be instinctive.”

¦ Richard Peters: D3s was very comfortable to hold and operate and the D4 takes it on further, with more modern, rounded lines. From die chunkier front grip with more angled shutter release to the new protruding thumb grip for vertical shooting, the D4 screams practicality.”

¦ Adam Duckworth: , I wasntoo keen on the push-button way you blew up images to review them on the rear screen, but I got used to it. And I think the screen looks a bit green, too, compared to the D3s. But I love it!”

Nikon says the autofocus system is much improved over the D3s, but can you tell the difference?

¦ Mark Pain: AF is better in the majority of situations. It seems to track better and focus on things better. Itdifferent to the D3s,

though. Initially you might think itnot as good, but actually itreacting differently and you do adapt.”

¦ Richard Peters: AF improvements almost make it worth the upgrade alone. The improved optics on the focus module have resulted in a snappier response thatless likely to hunt in low-contrast lighting, and also tracks subjects better. This is especially useful if you use teleconverters.”

¦ Adam Duckworth: D3sAF was class-leading, but the D4AF is a significant step again. It acquires focus really quickly. Quicker than the D3s, for sure. I was shocked when I first used it.”

The increase in resolution of the D4 over the D3s could affect its high ISO performance...

¦ Mark Pain: D4 at high ISOs is slightly better than the D3s at high ISOs, but the extra resolution isnworthwhile. Sports pros donneed better quality in this field-they need usability enhancements like extra gadgets, new image transmission tools and faster frame rates.”

¦ Richard Peters: are more pixels to play with, but the same incredible high ISO performance of the D3s. Those extra pixels arena huge leap, but they do mean prints will retain slightly finer detail, and it helps if you need to crop in.”

¦ Adam Duckworth: can notice the extra resolution. Inow occasionally use the DX crop mode to get extra length in shots, whereas on the D3s I wouldn. But itdefinitely not as good at high ISOs! My tests

in a controlled environment show the D4 is slightly behind at every ISO after 400. Istill take more resolution over a slight reduction in high ISO performance, though.”

What about the new XQD-format memory cards the D4 uses?

¦ Mark Pain: mixed formats are a drawback. Irather completely

change-carrying two card readers is a pain. CompactFlash is reaching the end of its life, while XQD is just at the start. XQD is the future!”

¦ Richard Peters: incredible write speeds complement the D4bigger buffer and allow you to shoot faster, for longer. Ita pain to have to

carry two types of memory card for one camera, and two card readers. But now Iused it, Istruggle to go back to CompactFlash.”

¦ Adam Duckworth: bought a 32GB XQD card because the new file sizes mean the 16GB that came with the camera got full pretty quick. So not having a second card slot means I was down to running a one-slot camera! I really do wish Nikon had put two CF slots in it, or two XQD.”

The D4continuous shooting speed is only a modest improvement over that of the D3s. Is it enough?

¦ Mark Pain: is always better. The 14fps mirror-up mode on die Canon ID X would be nice! Going from 9fps on the D3s to lOfps on the D4, you donnotice. But the D4 does let you shoot RAW all the time without worrying about the buffer.”

¦ Richard Peters: higher frame rate is welcome, but itnot a massive leap forward. What is, though, is

the cavernous buffer of the D4. The ability to shoot so many RAW files in a burst (using XQD cards) is simply astonishing. Every single person Idemonstrated this to is blown away.”

¦ Adam Duckworth: havennoticed die increase in shooting speed at all, but itnice to have.

Extra capacity in the buffer is great, though. I used to top out the D3 buffer a lot, but hardly ever in the D3s-and the D4 is even bigger.

I havenfilled the buffer once, and I shoot RAW files for everything.”

The verdict

Our pros rate the Nikon D4...

So is the D4 the best Nikon D-SLR ever? Our pro photographers are unanimous.

¦ Mark Pain: D4 is sensational. The D3s was the best camera Iever used, and in two years of using it there hasnbeen one time itlet me down. When you get a camera as good as the D3s, ithard to improve on it, but the D4 does.”

¦ Richard Peters: D4 is an incredible camera. When it was announced, there were concerns that it was simply a minor update to the D3s. But almost every single part of the camera has been redesigned and improved on.

Ita worthy successor and deserves its position as the flagship camera in the Nikon line-up.”

¦ Adam Duckworth: Nikon. Even better ergonomics than die D3s, and great build quality. I use a D800 for slow, considered editorial and commercial work where the extra resolution is great. But I donlike using it at all compared to the real thing-the D4.”?

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