In today's multimedia world, where many professional photographers have to be comfortable shooting stills or video, the Nikon D4 stands as a referendum on both camera design and the professionals that use them. With still-image performance among the best we have tested to date and video that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Canon 5D Mark III, we have to give the D4 top marks.
The more we shot with the camera, the more we were impressed with how easily it juggles priorities that, just a few years ago, seemed worlds apart. There are certainly better (and cheaper) options if you just want to shoot video, but the D4 is able to capture both video and still shots in light conditions most other cameras simply can't.At $6,000 body-only ($2,500 more than the Canon 5D Mark III) the Nikon D4 is not going to be the first choice for most videographers on a budget. For the ever-converging world of media, though, it's certainly going to appeal to those who need to get their message across multiple platforms. Simply put: if you need a device that does stills and videos at a pro level with pro-level control, the D4 is the best we've seen to date.
The Nikon D4 joins a crowded 2012 release schedule for full frame cameras—professional-quality interchangeable lens cameras that capture images with a huge sensor that's about as big as 35mm film. These expensive cameras typically only get updated every three years or so, setting benchmarks for camera performance for years to come.The D4 is likely to be a favorite among news and sports photographers who need a fast, adaptable camera with heaps of control. We found the D4 was one of the fastest cameras we've ever tested, with a shot-to-shot rate of around 12 frames per second and a shutter that responded almost instantly.
The most impressive thing about the D4, however, is how well it performed in challenging light conditions. The Nikon D4 is able to produce bright, albeit noisy, video in light levels so low your eyes can barely see. When shooting stills, we found it focused quickly and accurately in every condition we needed it to.While the full frame Canon 5D Mark III often matched or beat it in bright conditions, the D4 surged ahead in every performance category where low light or speed came into play. Whether you need a camera for covering sports, news, a warzone, or surveillance, the Nikon D4 can perform better than most.There's still plenty of room for improvement—puzzlingly, some basic video controls are missing and its images aren't as sharp as other cameras—but the Nikon D4 is a big step forward for the company's professional lineup.
The competition is also quite fierce, as the D4 still must go up against the new Canon 1D X, as well as its own upstart full frame model, the 36.3-megapixel D800. We'll have a full review of the 1D X and D800 as soon as they're available, but for the time being the Nikon D4 sits as the king of the DSLR hill.