Hi, I’m Angela Nicholson, head of testing for Future’s photography portfolio and today I’m going to reviewing the Nikon D4S, the upgrade to the D4.
Nikon tells us that the Nikon D4S has a new full-frame or FX format sensor with 16.23million effective pixels. The Nikon D4 has 16.25 million effective pixels – so there’s very little difference and the pixel pitch is the same.
Nikon isn’t willing to divulge how the Nikon D4S’s sensor design differs from the Nikon D4’s, but the combination of it and the new Expeed 4 processing engine has allowed the company to increase the native sensitivity range by 1 stop making it ISO100 to 25,600.
The headline grabber, however, is the maximum expansion setting, which has been pushed to a whopping ISO 409,600.
Achieving an image at this setting is impressive, but the results aren’t especially pretty and there’s banding visible even at quite small viewing sizes.
However, it’s worth remembering that this is an expansion setting, so Nikon isn’t intending for it to be used routinely. It’s designed for use in one-off situations when getting an image in near darkness is essential or a huge bonus. It could prove useful to photo journalists working in war zones or disaster areas for example.
Like the D4, the Nikon D4S has a maximum continuous shooting rate of 11 frames per second. However, unlike the D4, the new camera can continue to focus and meter exposure between shots taken at this rate. That’s probably down to a combination of the new processing engine and the decrease in the length of time that the mirror is lifted – giving the camera more time to work.
Another interesting feature of the Nikon D4S is that buffer has been increased in capacity in comparison with the D4’s and this enables huge burst depths. You can shoot up to 200 Fine quality JPEGs, for example or 60 uncompressed 14-bit raw files in a single burst.
If you shoot lots of long sequences in close succession, you’ll notice that the camera’s grip heats up a little bit and I found that the number of shots you can get in a burst can drop off as this happens.
Although it uses the same autofocus unit as the D4, Nikon has tweaked the algorithms and this seems to improve the system’s speed and accuracy.
The peripheral AF points seem more sensitive and the newly introduced Group-area AF mode, does an excellent job of keeping a moving subject sharp. The 9,21 and 51 point Dynamic-area AF options are also still present along with 3D-tracking mode.
The Nikon D4S is quite a beast to hold and use. It’s big and it’s loud, but it does everything it’s supposed to very well. Exposures are generally very good and colours look nice and vibrant straight from the camera. The automatic white balance system also captures the atmosphere of the scene.
Noise is controlled well throughout the native sensitivity range, ISO 100-25,600 and there’s an impressive amount of detail that’s better maintained into the higher sensitivity settings than with the D4.
The most obvious design changes made since the D4 are the change in the shape of the memory card port door, which makes the thumbrest a little more comfortable, and the introduction of a firmer top to these min-joystick style selectors.
The camera feels very comfortable – if heavy – in the hand whichever grip you are using. However, because the vertical shutter release is recessed this ridge make this command dial is a little harder to locate with your finger than the horizontal one.
That’s a minor criticism though and the D4S is a great camera although it’s about time the Wi-Fi connectivity and maybe GPS technology was built-in.
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