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Nikon D4

Field test

I would have not thought that we will test D4, Nikon’s cutting-edge DSLR camera in this issue. A colleague at Nikon Ltd informed us that the new camera body had arrived and ready to be tested. We got the camera to use for a week, so we had the chance to check it out in several different situations. Besides the camera body we also received a Nikkor f/2,8 70-200 mm VR, an f/2,8 400 mm and f/2,8 24 mm lenses. We threw ourselves into the testing process with my colleague János Szekeres who is a Nikon user.
Photo: © Tamás Imre

Nikon D4, Nikkor 400 mm f/2.8 1/4000 sec f/5 ISO 1600

Technological novelties

The soul of Nikon D4 is a 16.2-millionpixel Nikon FX format sensor. This is a very important innovation in the history of the company as there has not been such high resolution full frame sensor at such high speed in Nikon’s palette so far. The extremely fast data processing can achieve a speed of 10-11 picture/sec. In the box of the camera body we got 32 GB capacity Sony XQD memory card and a Sony card reader as well. Nikon”s representative told us that such speed could be achieved with the usage of Sony memory cards. Of course, the fastest SanDisk cards are also able to exploit the potential of the camera. In the continuous high speed mode you can expose even hundred RA W pictures sequentially. That’s quite something, this way I guess it will be hard to miss any event. For this speed the improvement of the shutter was crucial, so you can put even 400,000 exposure to the camera without any breakdown. The body is recommended for professionals, so the weatherproof magnesium alloy frame was designed to be a bit more lighter on the drawing board. The first obvious change is the elimination of the auto focus switches which hitherto used to be at the back right side. A new button was built in to AF-M switch applied at Nikon D7000, so it can be selected at once which focus options are preferred by us: automatic, one, nine, twenty-one, fifty-one points or 3D.
At this switch we can also select from AF-S and AF-C controls. To select focus points quickly and comfortably two extra joysticks and two AF-ON switches were built in. We found them very useful and used them frequently during the test to take sharp pictures. Lighting buttons are also a novelty, we took advantage of them twice during the testing, in the bird photography hide tent and during night photography.
Photo: © Tamás Imre

Nikon D4, Nikkor 400 mm f/2.8 1/500 sec f/4 ISO 800

The test

We challenged the camera in several situations. I met my colleague János Szekeres on the second day at 5 am. We travelled to the Duna- Ipoly National Park for bird photography from a hide tent. It partly successful as early spring is not the busiest period for birds, perhaps a month later it will be better. However, there were one or two actions in the morning backlight, small songbirds landed on the feeder. I our experience for backlit subjects the one focus point selection is the most optimal. Therefore we used that and it produced the most sharp pictures in burst mode. I set sensitivity up to ISO 2000-3200 just for trial, while my friend János could not take shots with his Nikon D2x as he had not had enough shutter speed for sharp pictures. As early morning lights passed the small birds gave up visiting the feeder and the hide so we left thinking about any further good test opportunities. On the next day o the test period János took the camera for a night star photography near Esztergom and showed me the results the day after. Seeing the pictures we agreed to meet the next evening at Herceghalom to find a lonely tree for the ISO test. And so it happened. We met at 6 pm and after a short driving about we selected our subject and wait for the night sky. We had a little excitement as before dusk a smaller stripe of clouds came in but to our great luck later the sky became entirely clear. For a correct ISO test I turned off both the long exposure noise reduction and the high ISO noise reduction. We took pictures within the range of ISO 400 - ISO 12,800. The results as follows: at ISO 100 - ISO 200 excellent.
ISO 400 - ISO 1600 fantastic, no noise at all, good quality. ISO 3200 - ISO 6400 still provided good quality but the noise came in, at ISO 12,800 it was very noisy, it was not suitable for the starry sky. But do not forget that we use the camera for nature photography and we wanted high-resolution, good quality prints. Naturally, for a low-resolution press photo even ISO 12,800 can produce excellent results. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that over ISO 1600 we have barely had the chance for good quality night sky photography so far. That’s why we checked out the camera this way. . The next morning János Szekeres took the camera for an all-day landscape photography and was very satisfied with the quality of the images. When he gave the camera back to me he said that there was only one problem with Nikon D4: sadly it was not his.
Photo: © Tamás Imre

Nikon D4, Nikkor 400 mm f/2.8 1/4000 sec f/4.5 ISO 1600
I was curious whether the camera could meet a harder challenge in terms of AF and speed so on the last day I use it for lateral but backlit bird action photography. At dawn mallards can be found in the lake of the City Park (Városliget) of Budapest and I found them suitable for testing. As spring was approaching the birds were very active in mating. I selected the AF-C track priority and the 3D main focus point priority. In this case you select one focus point and need to focus on the subject and the camera will find the main subject according to the contrast ratio and if the subject moves it tracks the movement. The duck was swimming in backlight and I started to shoot and I took 16 pictures until it flew up - none of these pictures were blurred! It is a very good result, the exposure lasted only for one and a half second. We have never achieved such a good result with Nikon camera so far, even with D3S. The stress is on the backlight as it is the hardest thing in auto focus. Action photography can be reinterpreted. Summary: Nikon D4 is a fantastic highresolution FX-sensored DSLR with excellent ISO sensitivity. The improvement of the AF system, the lighting buttons and the incredible speed: these are the dreams of every Nikon user nature photographer. We recommend it to everybody who can afford to fulfill his dreams. We would like to thank you for the long test opportunity to Nikon Ltd.
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