The 16.2-million-pixel D4 professional DSLR is Nikon’s attempt to improve upon its own D3S, one of the best cameras we have ever reviewed
The new 16.2-million-pixel CMOS full-frame sensor of the Nikon D4 seems to have evolved from the 12.1-million-pixel sensor used in the D3S. As well as FX full-frame lenses, DX-format lenses designed for Nikon cameras with APS-C-sized sensors can also be used on the D4, but at a reduced resolution of 7 million pixels. A 5:4 crop format is also available, regardless of the lens being used.
Running the D4 is the Expeed 3 image processor first unveiled in Nikon’s V1 and J1 compact system cameras. It is a more powerful processor than the Expeed 2 unit in the D3S and Nikon claims it will, among other things, help with noise reduction, particularly when shooting HD video.
With the D4’s shooting rate of up to 11fps without AF, or 10fps with AF, as well as HD video capture, the Expeed 3 unit is certainly going to have its work cut out when it comes to processing and saving images quickly.
As with most pro DSLRs, the Nikon D4 has two memory card sockets, one of which is for a CompactFlash card, with the other for the new XQD format cards. Created by Sony, the first XQD card was launched the day after the D4. The new format is able to read and write information at speeds of up to 125MB/s, which is around 25MB/s quicker than the current fastest CompactFlash cards, with even quicker speeds possible in the future. The capacity of the cards can theoretically increase to reach 2TB.
The need for such a highly specified card lies mainly in the huge amount of data generated when shooting video footage, and the speed at which it needs to be saved. However, with the D4 having a maximum continuous shooting rate of 11fps, the new high-speed cards obviously offer an advantage for still photographers, too.
Using a Sony 16GB XQD card, I was able to shoot 70 raw images, 62 raw+JPEG Fine images or 148 JPEG images at 11fps before the buffer was full and the camera started to lag. However, after just a few seconds it is possible to begin shooting another burst.
As a comparison, I used a Lexar 600x UDMA card and shot 60 raw, 58 raw+JPEG and 144 JPEG images, although the buffer took far longer to clear afterwards. Professionals who are going to take long bursts of images should seriously consider switching to XQD cards as there is a clear advantage.
The metering system has also been overhauled, with a new 91,000-pixel RGB sensor. This does more than merely meter the light through the lens. Similarly, the D4 uses an evolved version of the 51-point Multi-CAM 3500FX autofocus module, but more about this later in the test.