The perfect lead-in to the annual CES/PMA shows, Nikon has announced its latest top-of-the-line camera, the D4. Built around a newly designed, full frame,16 megapixel CMOS sensor, the pro-level D4 offers speed, extreme low light capabilities, and notable enhancements to its video capabilities.
In addition to a new CMOS sensor, with native ISO settings from 100-12,800-expandable to a whopping 204,800 and a low of ISO 50-the D4 utilizes the Nikon's latest EXPEED 3 processor, promising even better low light performance than the D3s and that's saying a lot.
Also new is a 91,000 pixel 3D color matrix meter and a totally revamped AF system. Although the D4's Advanced Multi-Cam 3500 AF system maintains the 51 AF points of its predecessor, the implementation of its cross-type sensors is no longer restricted to f/5.6 or faster lenses. Granted, you'll need an f/5.6 or faster NIKKOR lens to gain the advantage of all 15 of the cross-type sensors, but you'll have the advantage of 9 cross-type sensors with compatible NIKKOR lenses and converters up to f/8
Physically, the D4 is built for hard core professionals, with its magnesium build and weather sealing. It's a little lighter than the D3s, but not by much and its control layout has undergone minor changes, with easier access to features via external controls such as a Picture Control button and a new movie record button on the front. Other controls can be customized so you'll spend less time scrolling through menus. AF controls are similar to the D7000's, with a new joystick and an AF mode selector near the lens mount. Some of the control buttons on the rear panel can be illuminated for better visibility in the dark. The camera also sports a large, 3.2-inch, 921,000-dot LCD.
Other notable attributes include dual card slots: one slot supports UDMA-7 CompactFlash cards, the other accommodates XQD media cards-the first pro camera to make use of this new (and fast) format. The camera boasts shooting speeds of up to 10fps (JPEG or NEF/RAW) with full autofocus and autoexposure. Burst shooting of 11fps can be achieved, but AF and exposure are locked at the first frame.
Multiple bracketing options are complements by a 2-shot HDR feature. Nikon's Active D-Lighting is also available to balance out high contrast and backlit scenes.
While there are a number of other enhancements-including the ability to load IPTC presets, a wired LAN port and wireless (the latter via the new WT-5A) -Nikon has really stepped up the D4's video capabilities. Full HD 1080p video at 30/24fps or 720- at 60fps is available, utilizing B-Frame compression and H.264/MPEG-4AVC format. Video can be captured in up to 20 minute clips.
Additional flexibility is available by shooting FX, DX or in a 2.7x crop mode at 1080p. With DX mode's 1.5x and the 2.7x crop factor, user's benefit from the extra telephoto range while maintaining full HD resolution.
Full manual exposure control is available in video mode, with access to the D4's extreme ISO range. Separate settings for video and for still can be maintained, for seamless switching between the two modes.
Manual focus is, of course, available in video mode but so is full-time AF-normal, wide area, face detection and subject tracking, thanks to speedy contrast detect AF.
Although the camera records in monaural, stereo sound can be recorded via an external microphone, with up to 20 steps of sensitivity. More importantly, the D4 is equipped with a stereo headphone jack to monitor audio levels during recording, with output levels adjustable in up to 30 steps.
Even more impressive is the camera's ability to bypass the media cards and output uncompressed video directly via the HDMI port. This allows the user to stream the footage to a monitor and/or direct it to an external recording device.
Stop motion video has never been easier than with the D4. In addition to Nikon's standard time lapse feature, the camera will now produce a full, 1080 stop motion video in-camera. You can't choose the individual frames of course, but a few capture and playback options are user selectable.
While in many ways, the D4 goes head-to-head with the more expensive Canon EOS 1DX, it's clear that Nikon has pushed this camera to meet the needs of pros who-by choice or necessity-have expanded their image capture into the world of video but want to maintain excellence in speed and quality for still imagining as well. We're excited about shooting with the D4 and will give you the full scoop once we get our hands on a test unit.
Pricing and availability
The D4 will be available in February for $6,000. Also be sure to check out the new NIKKOR 85mm, f/1.8 lens-perfect for portraits, this affordably-priced, $500 lens will be available in March.
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