Nikon D4s First Impressions Review
It's been two years since Nikon introduced their flagship SLR, the D4. While that camera has undoubtedly stood the test of time, Nikon has decided that it's time for a refresh. That camera is the D4s which, on the surface, doesn't look much different than its predecessor. That's because, by and large, the major changes to the D4s are inside its magnesium alloy body.
The biggest changes on the D4s are its processor (now covered by the Expeed 4 standard), wider ISO range (topping out at 409,600), group area AF feature, and slightly faster burst speeds. Nikon has also reduced viewfinder blackout time, made transitions more 'smooth' when shooting time-lapse, and added 1080/60p video recording. Movie aficionados will also enjoy the ability to use Auto ISO when using manual exposure, audio range and level adjustment, and the ability to output uncompressed video over HDMI while simultaneously recording to a memory card.
Nikon D4s key features
- 'Newly designed' 16 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor
- Expeed 4 processing
- ISO 100-25,600 (expandable to ISO 50 - 409,600 equiv)
- 51-point autofocus system (same as D4)
- Group Area AF allows for more accurate subject tracking with less 'distraction'
- 11 fps continuous shooting with continuous AE/AF
- New 'small' Raw size (approx. 8 megapixel)
- 1080/60p video for up to 10 mins at 42Mbps or 20 mins at 24Mbps
- Smoother transitions when shooting interval or time-lapse stills/movies
- CompactFlash and XQD card slots
- Gigabit Ethernet port, in addition to support for WT-5A wireless transmitter
- EN-EL18a battery provides 3020 shots per charge (CIPA)
In addition to those features, there are numerous small changes that have been made, with the Expeed 4 processor having a lot to do with it. Probably the biggest benefit of Expeed 4 is a wider ISO range, which now tops out at a whopping 409,600 (this is the Hi4 setting). The processing system has also increased the top burst rate to 11 fps (with AF). And speaking of increased speed, the D4s' mirror has a shorter travel distance, which reduces viewfinder blackout times.
There have been subtle changes to the camera's exposure system, starting with the ability to use face detection to determine metering while using the OVF. Exposure changes when using live view, interval shooting, or time-lapse movie are now less abrupt. Speaking of interval shooting, you can now take up to 9999 shots per sequence. The Active D-Lighting feature now has an 'Extra High 2' setting, though Nikon says that will look pretty 'artsy' at that point.
Another small change worth mentioning is the camera's ability to use the Auto ISO feature while in manual exposure mode. This allows you to choose a shutter speed and an aperture setting and let the camera decide on the necessary ISO. And, because the D4s has an Exposure Comp button as well as two control dials, you can apply exposure compensation so that you get your chosen image brightness, when working this way.
The D4s uses the new EN-EL18a battery for power, which allows for an incredible 3020 shots per charge (CIPA standard). Those who own EN-EL18 batteries can use them as well.
Compared to D4
Below is a quick comparison of the major differences between the D4 and D4s:
16.2MP FX-format CMOS
|Processing||Expeed 3||Expeed 4|
|ISO range (standard)||100 - 12,800||100 - 25,600|
|ISO range (expanded)||50 - 204,800||50 - 409,600|
|Group AF area||No||Yes|
|Maintains focus point when changing orientation||No||Yes|
|Continuous shooting w/AF||10 fps||11 fps|
|Top Active D-Lighting option||Extra High||Extra High 2|
|Top movie resolution||1080/30p (24Mbps)||1080/60p (42 or 24Mbps)|
|Interval shooting limit||999 shots||9999 shots|
|Batteries used||EN-EL18||EN-EL18a, EN-EL18|
|Battery life (CIPA)||2600 shots||3020 shots*|
|* with EN-EL18a battery|
As you can see, everything on the D4s is an improvement to the D4 - at least on paper.
The biggest news, in terms of autofocus, is the D4s' ability to continuously focus at the camera's highest frame rate (a feature limited to 10fps on the D4). Another way of looking at the 'decreased viewfinder blackout' that Nikon is promoting is: 'having the mirror in the position that allows AF, for longer.' As such, we suspect the redesigned mirror mechanism plays more of a role in allowing the extra 1 frame per second focusing, as the camera's more powerful processor. What it certainly hasn't changed is the AF sensor itself, so it's mostly a case of making the most of what's already there, rather than radically overhauling the camera's capabilities.
Although it doesn't detail or quantify the changes, Nikon promises that the autofocus algorithms have been tweaked and improved - which could prove to be the most significant change. The only example of this given is that the AF lock-on is now slightly less easily distracted by objects crossing in front of the intended subject.
Beyond this, there are a couple of small feature additions, but no claims of any fundamental re-thinking. The D4s now includes a focus point mode in which the AF point will switch to the nearest comparable position, as you rotate the camera - jumping to the top left position in portrait orientation if you'd selected the top left point while the camera is in the landscape orientation, for instance.
There's also a Group AF mode, in which the user can specify a cluster of five points to focus on, rather than having to choose a single point. The existing system did allow you to specify the number of surrounding points that the AF system would consider, but the new mode gives much greater weight to the four points adjacent to the selected AF target. As with many of the AF behavior tuning options in cameras at this level, we suspect the benefit of this feature will be specific to a certain shooting situation, and its value will only be revealed when applied to that situation.
Perhaps the biggest surprise to us is how little the D4s has gained in terms of movie functions. The headline change is that the D4s can now shoot 1080 video at frame rates of 60p and 50p (at bitrates of around 48Mbps), but beyond that, there's not much that's changed. There's been no improvement in whatever limited the D4 to 20 minutes of video recording: the D4s hits a similar limit, with high bitrate 60p restricting the camera to just 10 minutes of footage capture.
The D4s can now adjust audio volume as it records, but there are no additional features to support movie capture: no focus peaking or zebra, and no additional high bitrate settings for the frame rates already offered by the D4. Unlike existing Nikons, the D4s can now simultaneously output uncompressed video over HDMI and record to internal memory cards.
Overall, though while the D4s makes sense as a camera head - buried in a rig with external monitors and recorders bolstering its capabilities - it's hasn't taken any big steps towards being the modern photojournalist's stills and movies all-rounder. This isn't to say the D4s isn't a credible camera for using video; just that, after years of manufacturers insisting on the importance of video as a tool for working photojournalists, we're surprised to see so few changes or additions have been made.
|"Witherslack Hall" steam locomotive at Orchard Crossing, Worcestershire, England. by cjf2|
from My Best Photo of the Week
|Peruvian sweetness by VickyGo|
from street life
It's not always easy to find marble, wood or concrete surfaces on demand. Enter Replica Surfaces, small tiles designed to replicate popular photo surfaces and backdrops.
Lensrentals Founder Roger Cicala set aside some time to take apart Canon's new 50mm F1.2L RF lens and in doing so revealed a number of interesting discoveries.
Google is cracking down on unsupported video files being uploaded to its Photos platform and taking up free storage space.
With a nickname like 'bokeh master,' we had to see what the Sigma 105mm F1.4 was all about. Take a look at our gallery of samples shot with the Sony a7R III.
The Nikon Museum in Shinagawa, Tokyo has an exhibition showing off some of the most rare and unique prototype lenses Nikon ever developed.
VSCO has announced it will stop selling its film emulation presets for desktop programs March 1st, 2019.
On their latest models the two smartphone manufacturers have replaced the dreaded display notch by a design that features a circular hole for the front camera in the display.
With the latest version, Adobe Camera now lets you import Raw files from the newest iPhones, Pixel devices, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Nikon Z6 among others.
The Nikon Z6 may not offer the incredible resolution of its sibling, the Z7, but its 24MP resolution is more than enough for most people, and the money saved can buy a lot of glass. Find out what's new and notable about the Z6 in our First Impressions Review.
Sigma says its 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport lens is set to hit shelves by the end of December 2018 at a retail price of $1,499.
DxO PhotoLab 2.1 brings a collection of new features to MacOS and Windows users alike.
The new 'Elegant' lens series includes entirely manual F2.4 lenses in 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm and 90mm focal lengths.
A feature alerts pilots visually and/or verbally when their drone is approaching airspace that is unsafe or areas where drone flying is not permitted.
GoPro announced Monday morning that it plans to move production of United States-bound cameras out of China, citing tariffs concerns.
The Sigma 56mm F1.4 combines a sensible sub-$500 price tag and excellent performance, providing a portrait-friendly 85mm equiv. view on Sony's APS-C mirrorless cameras.
Azriel Knight of the YouTube channel This Old Camera explains the history of DX encoding.
The 250mm F4 is Fujifilm's longest lens for its medium-format system. It's equivalent to about 200mm on a GFX camera, and we put it to work on some portraits as well as some scenes around Seattle's waterfront – take a look.
Sony has removed the ability to download firmware version 2.0 for its a7 III and a7R III mirrorless cameras from its website.
Handing out awards for the best gear of the year is a big job, so we called in some reinforcements from Calgary to help us.
A new patent from Canon lays out the schematics for a speedbooster-style adapter for mounting Canon EF lenses onto EOS M cameras, but with a variable baffle to reduce the risk of flare.
The Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board has started a campaign asking visitors to stop geotagging their specific locations when visiting Wyoming's national parks.
Film simulation app Filmborn has been updated with new presets, features, and overall improved support on Apple's latest mobile operating system and devices.
The Colorado Tripod Company has introduced what it claims is the world’s first titanium tripod system, with a funding campaign on Kickstarter.
We've been shooting with the LX100 II both in and out of the studio, as part of our ongoing review. We're pretty impressed, so far, with the revised JPEG color and addition of a touchscreen both noticeable improvements.
An upcoming Xiaomi smartphone might use a 48MP sensor for pixel-binning, high-quality digital zooming and other algorithm-powered imaging features.
It's not cheap, but you may soon be able to get your hands on peel apart film once again thanks to ONE INSTANT.
Skylum's Luminar 3 arrives on December 18 with the long-awaited ability to manage your photo library. However, it won't be a full DAM (digital asset manager); the company plans to roll out features throughout 2019 and won't charge for updates from Luminar 2018 during that time.
Hasselblad has released an update to its Phocus post-production software that brings new and updated tools, as well as updated native lens support.
Nikon's IPTC Preset Manager, a tool for creating predetermined sets of metadata, has received an update. Version 1.1.0 no longer uses Microsoft Silverlight, sheds the network connection requirement, adds extended language support, updates support for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, and ends support for Windows Vista and Windows XP.
Insta360 has launched a software update for its One X 360-degree camera and announced a camera bundle exclusively available on Apple.com.