Nikon D4: Performance

December 28, 2012 by Theano Nikitas Reads (3,512)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 10
    • Features
    • 10
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 9
    • Performance
    • 10
    • Expandability
    • 9
    • Total Score:
    • 9.60
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10


As expected, the D4’s performance is stellar. From start-up to capturing an image, the camera’s response is almost instantaneous. There’s virtually no shutter lag and the D4 makes almost every other camera seem a little sluggish. Okay, that’s an overstatement and the Canon EOS 1DX is a powerhouse, too, but I think you get my drift.

Shooting Performance

In continuous shooting mode, the D4 isn’t much faster than the D3s — 10fps versus 9 fps — but considering that the D4 is pushing more pixels than its predecessor, the speed increase is pretty impressive and is possible, in part, because of the D4’s updated Expeed 3 processor. While up to 10fps (JPEG, NEF/RAW, TIFF) can be captured with full autofocus and autoexposure enabled, the D4 can also capture up to 11fps, albeit with focus and exposure locked at the first shot.

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Canon 5D Mark III 0.10
Sony Alpha SLT-A55V 0.16
Nikon D4 0.18
Pentax K-7 0.29

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames Framerate*
Sony Alpha SLT-A55V 17 10.8 fps
Nikon D4 10.4 fps
Canon 5D Mark III 6.1 fps
Pentax K-7 19 5.3 fps

peak brightness 456 nits
dark 0.49
overall contrast ratio 930:1

The camera is equipped with a new 91,000 pixel 3D color matrix meter and a revamped autofocus system. Since the D4 maintains the 51 AF points of the D3s, you may not notice a change in its already responsive and accurate autofocus. But there is an improvement in how the AF responds when using slower lenses since the implementation of cross-type sensors is no longer restricted to f/5.6 or faster lenses. While you still need f/5.6 or faster lenses to take advantage of all 15 cross-type sensors, 9 of those sensors are available with lenses and converters up to f/8.

Video Quality

Nikon made a lot of improvements to the D4’s video functionality. Not only does the camera now shoot full HD video at 1920 x 1080 at 30/24fps (the D3s maxed out at 720p), but like the D800, offers uncompressed output via HDMI with simultaneous viewing on an external monitor and Live View. A wired LAN port is available for Ethernet connections and the camera is compatible with the WT-5A for wireless. There’s also an HTTP mode where you can operate the camera (and start/stop video capture) from an iPhone or iPad, among other options.

While the camera records monaural sound, a stereo microphone jack is available with up to 20 levels of sensitivity. A stereo headphone jack has been added for monitoring audio levels with output adjustable in up to 30 steps.

Nikon is, as far as we know, the only manufacturer to consistently provide an interval timer function on its cameras. Now, with the D4, images captured with the built-in intervalometer can be automatically combined into a 1080 stop motion video in-camera.

Video quality is excellent, especially when compared with the D3s’ 720p output. Full manual controls, autofocus, the ability to use the camera’s high ISO and the new features mentioned above shows Nikon’s dedication to DSLR video.

Image Quality

Still image quality is excellent and while I can’t say that the D4’s images trump those of the D3s (for the most part, the two are pretty similar), but the jump from 12 megapixels to 16 megapixels may appeal to a broad section of D3s users.

While some may complain that they’d prefer 21 megapixels but considering the camera’s exceptional low light/high ISO capabilities, which can now be expanded to a low of ISO 50 and a maximum equivalent of 204,800, 16 megapixels seems to be a solid compromise. I tend to depend on RAW files and post-processing in Adobe Camera Raw, especially for higher ISOs and I think it really pays off. Otherwise I tend to keep the in-camera noise reduction turned to off or low for the best JPEG results. But test images were relatively clean up to about 12,800 with only a little softening and can be pushed up to about 25,600 without a huge loss in quality. However, how far you push the ISO is dependent on conditions and, more importantly, output. It’s not a problem to shoot in almost total darkness but there will certainly be a point beyond which you may not be willing to compromise image quality.

Nikon D4 Sample Image

Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light


Nikon D4 Sample Image
ISO 100
Nikon D4 Sample Image
ISO 100, 100% crop
Nikon D4 Sample Image
ISO 200
Nikon D4 Sample Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Nikon D4 Sample Image
ISO 400
Nikon D4 Sample Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Nikon D4 Sample Image
ISO 800
Nikon D4 Sample Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Nikon D4 Sample Image
ISO 1600
Nikon D4 Sample Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Nikon D4 Sample Image
ISO 3200
Nikon D4 Sample Image
ISO 3200, 100% crop
Nikon D4 Sample Image
ISO 6400
Nikon D4 Sample Image
ISO 6400, 100% crop
Nikon D4 Sample Image
ISO 12800
Nikon D4 Sample Image
ISO 12800, 100% crop

Exposure accuracy and color reproduction are generally spot on, with colors rendered naturally but nicely saturated. Because the D4 has so many fine-tuning options, image parameters can be tweaked to your personal aesthetics.

Additional Sample Images?

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