It’s the pinnacle of Nikon’s DSLR range, but what does the 16.2-million-pixel Nikon D4S add to its predecessor, and what might that mean for you? While we test it, professional sports photographer Mark Pain gives his opinion
Nikon D4S at a glance:
- 16.2-million-pixel, FX (full-frame) CMOS sensor
- Expeed 4 image processor
- ISO 50-409,600 (extended)
- Improved AF
- 11fps shooting with AF and metering
- Small raw images
- 3,020 shots per full charge
- Full HD 1920×1080-pixel movies at 60p/50p
- Street price around £5,199 body only
- See sample images taken with the Nikon D4S
- See product shots of the Nikon D4S
Nikon D4S review – Introduction
At a cost of £5,199 body only, the Nikon D4S is a lot of money. For most enthusiast photographers, that sort of money could buy several cameras and lenses. But for sports photographers and photojournalists, the cost must be weighed against the amount of money they might earn during the camera’s lifetime. One well-timed, exclusive photograph could pay for a large chunk of the cost of the D4S, so it is important that it is able to focus and shoot quickly.
That’s as may be, but as an AP reader it is likely that you are an enthusiast photographer and may wonder why we are reviewing a professional-level camera. Well, the Nikon D4S takes the best of the Nikon D4 and improves upon those features that professionals demand most. These are likely to one day turn up in high-end enthusiast cameras, so what you read about here may in two years, say, be in your next camera.
To look at, the D4 and D4S are virtually indistinguishable, but some significant changes have been made to the image processing, shooting rate and autofocus, as well as a host of other alterations that affect the ease of use and handling of the camera.
Nikon D4S review – Features
Nikon’s new D4S features the same 16.2-million-pixel, full-frame (36×23.9mm) CMOS sensor as the original D4, but now it makes use of a new Expeed 4 processor, which has enabled a number of changes to be made. This new processor is 30% faster than its predecessor, which increases the speed of image capture and improves image processing speed and quality.
The improved image processing means that Nikon has been able to increase the camera’s sensitivity from ISO 100-12,800 in the D4 to ISO 100-25,600 in the D4S. The extended sensitivity settings have also been improved, and now a new Hi4 extended mode offers the equivalent of an incredible ISO 409,600.
Speed is the name of the game when it comes to professional DSLRs, and the improvements that Nikon has made here allow the D4S to shoot at up to 11 frames per second, with both metering and autofocus acquisition operational. However, although this is 1fps faster than the D4, it still lags 1fps behind the Canon EOS-1D X. Even at this fastest frame rate, the improved processing speed allows the D4S to shoot up to 200 fine large JPEGs or 104 uncompressed 14-bit raw images with a XQD memory card. To keep up with the shooting rate, there have been a few tweaks made to the AF system to increase its speed and accuracy, including the addition of AF group selection, but more on this later.
Among the smaller features are a new interval timer and time-lapse image capture. Those who want to shoot such footage will be pleased to learn that the battery life of the D4S’s new EN-EL18a battery extends to 3,020 shots, compared with 2,600 for the D4 and its EN-EL14 battery.
As with most professional DSLRs, Wi-Fi connectivity isn’t built-in, though it is available via the Nikon WT-5 wireless transmitter (around £500). Press photographers who want to send their images quickly can make use of the D4S’s new 1000Base-T (gigabit) ethernet socket to transfer images back to a press office.
By utilising the WT-5 wireless transmitter, the original D4 is able to trigger multiple cameras with a press of the shutter. This facility has been taken a step further in the Nikon D4S by allowing one of the camera’s function buttons to fire the remote cameras separately, without actually shooting the commander D4S camera. This saves time, as the photographer doesn’t have to wade through images on the original camera when they only need those from the remote kit. Little touches such as this, and the refinements they provide, may appear trivial to the enthusiast photographer, but they can make a big difference to photographers who are working to tight deadlines.