UPDATE: Click here to read our first impressions of shooting with a the D4 (including samples)

Like its predecessor, the Nikon D4 looks as if it’s going to be an incredibly impressive camera. Nikon has looked to its professional user-base and tried to work out what it needed to add or adjust on a camera that just a couple of years ago represented the best they were capable of. The result is a camera with few big changes but a extensive series of small improvements.

The biggest change is, of course, the improvement in video capabilities. Given the increasing demand for video footage from professional photographers, and the incredible success of Canon’s 5D Mark II in the professional video market, it was inevitable that Nikon’s pro flagship would need to offer a more compelling feature set than the existing models.

Beyond this, the changes to the stills-shooting specifications are relatively modest – there’s a higher-resolution, 16.2MP, full-frame CMOS sensor and the ability to shoot at 10 frames per second with autofocus, but that’s about it. The new chip's capability has prompted Nikon to offer an ISO range from 100-12,800 that can then be extended to 50 – 204,800 (Hi4). The significant changes, beyond video, are a profusion of smaller tweaks, additions and improvements to what was already a well worked-out camera. These include a carbon fiber shutter rated to 400,000 actuations that can fire at up to 1/8000th of a second.

The biggest technical changes are the addition of a 91,000 pixel ‘metering’ sensor, replacing the 1005 pixel example used up until now. This sensor is used for much more than just metering, playing a key role in subject tracking, white balance and 'Active D-lighting' (a trick Canon seems impressed with, given the appearance of a similar system in the 1DX). The higher-resolution sensor allows the camera to offer face detection when shooting through the optical viewfinder.

Then there are the ergonomic changes to the camera’s body. Again like Canon’s 1DX, moves have been made to make the ergonomics of portrait-orientation shooting more closely resemble those of shooting in landscape format. The camera no longer features a dedicated AFL button, instead gaining push-button joysticks for both the vertical and landscape shooting orientations. An additional rubberized lump has also been added to provide a better grip in the vertical orientation and an additional function button added next to the vertical shutter button.

Key Specifications:

  • 16.2 effective megapixel, full-frame sensor (16.6MP total)
  • 10fps shooting with AF and AE, 11fps with focus and exposure locked, 24fps 2.5MP grabs
  • 91,000 pixel sensor for metering, white balance, flash exposure, face detection and active d-lighting
  • ISO Range 100-12,800 (extendable from 50 – 204,800)
  • MultiCAM 3500FX Autofocus sensor works in lower light and with smaller apertures
  • Two sub-selector joystick/buttons for shooting orientation
  • 1080p30 HD video at up to 24Mbps with uncompressed video output
  • New EN-EL18 battery (21.6Wh capacity, CIPA-rated at 2600 shots)
  • Twin card slots - one Compact Flash and one XQD

Click here to read page 2 of our Nikon D4 Overview