Nikon's pro-level speed shooter just keeps getting better
In the Field
Like all cameras in this class, the D4 is built to withstand abuse. Its magnesium-alloy body is weather-sealed and riddled with buttons so that all essential settings can be changed quickly. Some of those buttons, such as the ones for zooming in or out during playback, have been moved around, so veteran Nikonians should make an effort to acquaint themselves with the camera’s layout before using the D4 for a critical shoot.
The body also has a couple of firsts for Nikon. One is the XQD card slot—the first in any camera. This fledgling memory card format is poised to succeed the CompactFlash card (the D4 has a CF slot, too). Currently available only from Sony, the XQD cards we used performed flawlessly in our field tests. We became enamored of their rugged feel and their satisfying click when inserted into the camera or Sony’s MRW-E80 XQD reader ($45, street).
But if you use dual slots, prepare to spend big. Street prices are still high for XQD cards ($130 for 16GB, or $230 for 32GB), and very large-capacity cards don’t exist yet. As this changes over time—if the card format finds its way into more camera bodies—we look forward to more XQD.
The D4’s other new feature, an Ethernet port, will be of more importance to photographers who tether to a computer. Since Ethernet is a standard format, it also opens the door for third-party accessories that may not have been otherwise possible.
The D4’s new 51-point autofocus system proved very quick and sure in both our lab and field tests, focusing in less than a second all the way down to moonlit darkness of –1 EV. At –2 EV, it focused in an impressive 1.1 sec. That’s a little slower than the D3s, but still quite fast. Furthermore, Nikon’s 3D focus tracking performed like a champ, keeping up well with the camera’s 10-frame-per-second burst rate. If your shooting situation lets you lock exposure and focus, the camera can capture 11 frames per second.
The D4’s most notable upgrades are for video: This is the first DSLR to allow an uncompressed video feed. You do this by setting the camera’s HDMI output to leave out the usual overlaid info. We were unable to obtain a video recording device for our test, but live footage viewed on an HDTV looked wonderful. Plus, video footage captured to memory cards in the compressed formats looked as good as any we’ve seen from a DSLR yet.
The camera also offers a headphone-out for monitoring audio, along with audio-level controls. And, although cinematic 24-fps diehards won’t care, for those who prefer a more videocentric spec, the D4 can capture at 30 fps as well.
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