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
Build and Handling
At a glance, the Nikon D4’s body looks largely the same as that of its predecessor. Both are made of magnesium alloy and have built-in grips and shutter buttons for horizontal and portrait-orientation shooting. However, there are some slight changes intended to improve the overall handling.
The first is that the shutter button is now at a more inclined angle than on the D3S. Nikon claims this to be more comfortable to use, but while I did notice a difference between its position on the two cameras, I could not really say which one I preferred.
The most useful of the D4’s new build and handling features are the two directional control sticks. These allow the AF point to be quickly repositioned, and pushing the stick in acts as a button for AF-L.
The reason for two control sticks is that they can be used when shooting in either portrait or landscape orientation. As you rotate the camera to change the orientation, the relative position of the shutter button, front and rear control dials and the control stick remains the same. I found this really made a difference when switching back and forth between landscape and portrait formats, and again, it will be useful for professional photographers requiring such changes to take place quickly and smoothly.
Switching orientation is made even easier thanks to the D4’s ability to save a different default AF point, depending on whether the camera is in shooting in landscape or portrait mode. For example, without this ability, if you were shooting a portrait using an AF point close to the top so that it is over the subject’s eyes, when switching to take a landscape image the AF point would be on the far right.
However, the D4 can be set up so that its built-in accelerometers will detect the camera’s movement and then, when it is rotated, the AF point is switched to a suitable pre-selected AF point – in this case one that is at the top of a frame when in landscape format – so that focus will remain on the subject’s eyes at all times.
One of the D4’s most useful features is also one of the simplest: the buttons on the camera are now illuminated. Like other Nikon professional and enthusiast DSLRs, the on/off switch has a third setting that illuminates the camera’s LCD panels. On the D4, this also lights up all the buttons so they can be seen in the dark. This is clearly useful when shooting at night, but should also prove popular with concert photographers, who can usually be seen tilting their camera to all sorts of angles to try to find the button they need.
Control of the AF has also been changed. The three-way switch on the front of the D3S has been replaced with the simple AF/M switch with a central control button, similar to that found on the D7000. Flicking the switch between AF and manual focus, and then pressing the button allows the front and rear control dials to be used to switch between single or continuous AF, and the number of AF points in use. The reason for the switch is that it allows all the AF functions to be set through the viewfinder, with the aim of making it quicker.
As you would expect from a camera costing around £5,300, the D4 has a tough magnesium-alloy body with all the direct controls you would expect on a professional camera body. Those who have used the D3 or D3S will find that, for the most part, the bodies of the two cameras are largely the same.
As stated earlier, the D4 is physically akin to the D3S, but with a few significant new features. I quickly grew accustomed to the new changes and they made the D4 very fast to use, particularly as you can alter the AF settings without taking your eye from the viewfinder.