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Nikon D4s
16 MP FX, 11 FPS, $6,500 (2014-)
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Nikon D4s

Nikon D4S (47.2 oz./1,337g, with battery and card, about $6,500) with 58mm f/1.4G. enlarge. I'm getting mine from Adorama.

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear, especially the old D4.

 

March 2014   More Nikon Reviews   Nikon Lenses   All Reviews

 

Nikon D4s

Rear, Nikon D4S. enlarge.

 

Nikon D4s

Top, Nikon D4s with 58mm f/1.4G. enlarge.

 

Introduction         top

Intro   New   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio
I use these stores. I can't vouch for ads below.

The Nikon D4s is a mid-model refresh of the Nikon D4 of 2012. You can order it now and they should start shipping on 06 March 2014.

"S" models have never been anything about which to get excited; they are the Same thing (why Nikon uses an "S") as the previous model with a few added tweaks which you may or may not find life-changing.

If you already own a D4, you don't need a D4S. It's not that different, unless you don't care about spending money. See Is It Worth It.

The D4S is mostly the same as the Nikon D4, either of which are Nikon's fastest, tightest professional cameras ever made for sports and action photography. It leaves consumer cameras like the D800 and Canon 5D Mark III completely in the dust.

If considering the older D4, even purchased brand-new, don't! While the price difference today is $500, in a few years when you go to sell, a D4 will probably fetch much less than a used D4S, more than making up the $500 price difference today.

 

New in the D4s from the D4

Intro   New   Specs   Performance

Compared   Recommendations   More

The D4S has 30% more computer power than the D4 to allow more noise reduction faster to add a foolish setting of ISO 409,600 (up from 204,800 in the D4), and enough other small tweaks to give 11 frames per second with full autofocus and metering for each frame, up from 10 fps in the D4.

6 preset white balances, up from three. These are for when you have to set a hard manual white balance for weird light, and you can never have enough of these presets.

It now shoots up to 59.94p or 50p video at 1920x1080, up from 29.97p. Audio with video now has a Voice or Music frequency response setting.

RAW S offers a new uncompressed 12-bit mode.

New Group Area AF mode.

Now you can turn off Face Priority AF in a custom setting if you like for regular shooting.

There is now a tweak for LCD color. That's bad news; Nikons never used to need tweaking because they were correct as shipped.

Full-aperture Live View metering.

Intervelometer now goes to 9,999 shots from 999.

EN-EL18a rated for 3,020 shots, up from 2,600.

The old XQD slot problem has not been fixed; it's still an XQD and not a CF or SD slot.

New also is $500 added to the price. Is it worth it? No, but when you go to sell in a few years, I'll gamble that the resale price difference between the ancient D4 and the newer D4S will more than recoup your extra $500.

 

Specifications       top

Intro   New   Specs   Performance

Compared   Recommendations   More

 

Sensor

16 MP FX (24 x 36mm) CMOS.

4,928 x 3,280 pixels (16 MP) native LARGE.

3,696 x 2,456 (9 MP) MEDIUM.

2,464 x 1,640 (4 MP) SMALL.

Also crops of 1.2x (20 x 30mm), 1.5x DX (16 x 24mm) and 5:4 professional (24 x 30mm) from the above.

 

ISO

ISO 100 - 25,600 in in full, half or third stops.

ISO 50 to ISO 409,600 available in stupid modes.

 

White Balance

Auto (2 types), incandescent, fluorescent (7 types), direct sunlight, flash, cloudy, shade, preset manual (up to 6 different settings can be saved and recalled), 2,500 K to 10,000 K in 10K intervals; all with fine-tuning!

 

Frame Rates

11 FPS with full metering and autofocus for each frame.

 

AF

CAM3500FX sensor.

51 AF points (15 are cross-type sensors).

Works with auto- and manual-focus lenses f/5.6 and faster.

11 of these sensors will work with lenses as slow as f/8.

AF range is rated down to LV-2 with any lens. (SLR AF systems have never used the full speed of lenses; they look through anulii equivalent to about f/8 regardless of lens speed.)

 

Finder

100% coverage.

0.7x magnification (50mm at infinity).

18mm eyepoint.

-3 to +1 diopters.

Live-View LCD.

 

Meter

Nikon invented the Matrix Meter, the color meter and the 3D meter, which is what really matters.

For the first time, Nikon is wasting their time by upping the resolution of the meter sensor for marketing purposes to 91,000 RGB pixels.

It also measures flash at this resolution.

 

Shutter

Kevlar/carbon fiber-composite, rated 400,000 shots.

1/8,000 - 30 seconds in full, half or third stops.

Bulb.

X 250 flash sync.

"Silent" mode.

 

Flash

1/250 flash sync.

i-TTL flash control using the 91,000 pixel RGB sensor with the SB-910, SB-900, SB-800, SB-700, SB-600 and SB-400.

Won't meter flash with other flash guns.

 

Lens Compatibility

Built-in motor and AI coupling feeler, so all AF lenses work, as well as classic AI, AI-s and AI-P manual-focus lenses all work as well as they do on all of Nikon's better DSLRs.

 

File Formats

JPG.

NEF 12 or 14 bit, uncompressed, or lossy or lossless compressed.

NEF + JPG.

TIFF.

Video: H.264/MPEG4 stored in .MOV files.

New RAW SIZE S mode, allows uncompressed storage thereof as well.

 

Storage and Data

One CF slot (UDMA 7), and one XQD slot. (NOT two CF slots). XQD cards are bogus.

USB.

HDMI (mini-C).

RJ-45 Ethernet.

 

Wireless

WT-4 or WT-5A/B/C/D.

 

Video

All of these variations have two different file size (quality) options:

1,920 × 1,080 (full or cropped) at 59.94p, 50p, 29.97p, 25p and 23.976p.

1,280 × 720 at 59.94p, 50p, 29.97p and 25p.

640 × 424 at 29.97p and 25p.

H.264/MPEG4 stored in .MOV files.

24–36,000x time-lapse mode.

 

Audio

Mono internal mic.

3.5mm jack for external stereo mic, with power.

Auto and manual level control.

Linear PCM recording.

3.5mm stereo output jack.

New music or voice selector for audio recording.

 

LCD

3.2" (8cm) LCD.

921,000 dots.

Auto brightness control.

Live View.

 

Power

EN-EL18 battery.

MH-26 charger.

Optional EH-6b AC adapter and EP-6 connector.

CR1616 lithium coin cell for the clock, rated 2 years. This is new for Nikon; Nikon used to use a more expensive internal, permanent rechargeable battery that never needed to be changed.

 

Size

6.3 × 6.2 × 3.6 inches.

160 × 156.5 × 90.5 millimeters.

 

Weight

47.165 oz. (1,337.2 g), actual measured with battery and card and lugs, but no strap or lens.

Nikon specifies 47.3 ounces (1,340 g or 2 pounds, 15.3 oz.) with battery and XQD memory card.

Nikon specifies 41.6 ounces (1,180 g or 2 pounds, 9.6 oz.), stripped naked.

 

Serial Number

Laser-engraved on plate on bottom.

 

USA Version

Delineated with a yellow Nikon USA sticker inside battery chamber.

 

Environmental

0 ~ 40ºC (32 ~ 104ºF), operating.

85% RH or less, non condensing.

 

Included

D4s body

Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL18a

Battery Charger MH-26a

USB Cable UC-E15

Camera Strap AN-DC11

Body Cap BF-1B

Accessory Shoe Cover BS-2

Eyepiece DK-17

Battery Chamber Cover BL-6

USB Cable Clip

HDMI Cable Clip

Connector cover for stereo mini plug cable UF-2

ViewNX 2 CD-ROM

1 Year Warranty

 

Announced

08 January 2014 as a "development announcement."

Nikon said nothing else other than it will have new processors.

 

Introduced for Sale

25 February 2014.

 

Promised

06 March 2014.

 

Price, USA

$6,500, February 2014.

 

Performance         top

Intro   New   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

Overall   Resolution   Audio Notes   High ISOs

Autofocus   Finder   Metering   Ergonomics

Rear LCD   Power   Data

 

Overall       

The Nikon D4s is for full-time professional news, sports and action photographers. You guys know who you are. The D4s belts out the shots like nothing else if you're a pro, but if you don't know what you're doing, all you'll get are ten off-color, fuzzy and mal-exposed shots per second just like any other camera. If the light looks crappy, the D4s can't do anything more about it than any other camera.

It's easy to let the 11 FPS hum of the D4s lull you into a false sense of confidence; just like a 750 horsepower car, you still have to drive it carefully to avoid crashing. The D4s is invincible, but it's only as good as the man driving it.

In the hands of the pro for whom it's designed, it will crank out more great photos faster than anything. It won't make you a pro if you're not already.

Yes, the Nikon D4s excels at computer hobbyists' technical tests for high ISO noise and resolution as you'd expect, but far more important is how the D4s allows the professional photographer to get in, get the shot and get out long before anyone else knows what happened.

The D4s blazes away at 11 frames per second, with every frame in-focus and perfectly exposed as your subject moves around. The D4s' speed is much more than just its 11 frames-per-second specification; it's all the other things like its metering and auto white balance and face-recognition autofocus and focal-length tracking Auto-ISO systems that all work twice as hard and fast as other cameras to keep those ten-point-five frames per second all looking great. I worry about getting there and pointing the camera in the right direction, and as I preset my D4s, it takes care of the rest.

It's not just ten frames or more; the D4s can keep this up longer than you can, running for up to twenty continuous seconds, making 210 full-resolution images in a burst. The D4s cheerfully rips away at 11 FPS, and hiccups not once writing all this to your card, even if the bursts run a hundred shots. Run just a few seconds at 11 FPS, and you'll be recording dozens and dozens of frames at a time, while the D4s never misses a beat.

I've never had any reason to run more than 9 seconds at a burst, and the D4s should calmly just writes 95 frames to my card in the background while I keep on shooting the next burst.

The D4s just shoots and shoots and shoots. It's unstoppable. It grabs ultra-high ISOs automatically as needed if it gets darker without anyone having to stop and set anything (I set my ISO at AUTO ISO, focal-length based auto-control of slowest shutter speed set one click faster than usual for sports).

The D4s feels great; its sculpted body fits a man's hands far better than the plasticy D800, whose grip is just too tiny for comfort.

The D4s' viewfinder is years ahead of consumer cameras like the D800 and Canon 5D Mark III; the D4s uses magic auto-dimming LEDs to show the AF areas without covering anything, just like the Canon EOS 3 of 1998, while the D800 and Canon 5D Mark III use black LCD AF area indicators that cover the subject. Sadly the D4S still lacks the mind-control AF point selection of the EOS 3.

The D4s of course has a built-in vertical grip with two total shutter releases (each with its own separately programmable function button), two sets of command dials, two AF-ON buttons, and two new Canon-inspired thumb controllers.

Even if you don't need the insane frame rate or clairvoyant autofocus system that sets itself, the D4s has more external controls to give portrait, nature and landscape shooters faster access so we can adjust our cameras more quickly.

Forget the D800 if you're a working professional; the 16MP of the D4s is more than enough for anything. I usually set my D4s down to its Medium resolution to speed up my post processing and still have more than enough resolution to spare.

 

Resolution        performance    top

16 MP is enough for anything, no news here.

 

Audio Notes         performance    top

Who's in that picture? What does the editor need to know about the guy in red? What's each girl's phone number? What's the name of the Maître d'hôtel who let you in? Baby's first cry out of the womb? (OK, baby sound from my D3 in 2008.)

With the D4s, just press the MIC button (next to WB on the back), and speak. You can do this with the camera to your eye, quietly and unnoticed.

The D4s records a WAV file with the same file name (but with .WAV suffix) as the photo to which it's attached.

 

High ISOs        performance    top

The D4s works great in low light and at high ISOs, but ISO 409,600 still looks like garbage. Don't expect to use it for anything other than bragging rights.

 

Autofocus        performance    top

Nikon ditched most of the external autofocus mode controls in favor of putting video controls there, but the great news is that the D4s' autofocus system is so clairvoyant that you rarely need the controls anyway.

I set AFC and AUTO for anything that moves, and my D4s magically ignores distractions, finds the subject's eyes, and always nails perfect focus. It doesn't get any better than this.

As introduced on the D7000, there is now but one AF button, which has to be held while spinning two knobs and looking at an LCD to set what we used to be able to set with two dedicated levers — and no need to look at anything.

I dislike having to take my eyes off my subject to change this. Worse is that we can't delete the options we don't use from the selections (as we can on the Canon 5D Mk III), making it longer to sort through them while we're trying to shoot, but as I said, the D4s' AF system is so magically brilliant in just doing what we want it to do all by itself that I'm not really complaining.

For manual focus, there are three " > 0 < " indicators for a precise null.

 

Finder        performance    top

The D4s' viewfinder is wonderful.

I've already covered its far superior AF area indicators.

The compensation bar graph is also superior. It runs vertically, outside the image on the right, as it should be. This is far better than the dopey little things along the bottom of amateur cameras' finders. The bar appears only when compensation is active, and it indicates in third stops (the D800's finder graph no longer can show third stops!)

The laser-cut matte field ("ground glass") is optimized for lenses of f/2.2 and slower. Lenses faster than f/2.2 won't appear any brighter, and you won't completely see the effects of depth-of-field for apertures larger than f/2.2.

 

Metering        performance    top

I find that just like my D800 and D800E, I usually get the best results at -1/3 stop compensation.

No meter is perfect; you have to know how to use it.

The Meter Mode (pattern) switch is gone, which is good, because I've never used these. I've only used Matrix metering since it came out in 1984 on the Nikon FA.

 

Ergonomics        performance    top

Just like the D3, the D4s feels great in-hand. It fits just right, far better than the dinky, shrunken plasticy grip of the D800.

I prefer the feel of the D3 in vertical mode, but not enough to worry about it. New in the D4s is a second Function button next to the vertical shutter. It can be programmed separately, so it's like getting another free function button.

Here's the real reason I prefer the D4s to the D800E: the D4s lets me program its otherwise useless Video Rec button by the shutter button to my choice of ISO, Image Area (crop/digital zoom), SHOOT bank, or Shutter/Aperture Lock (CUSTOM SETTING f16). By setting it to SHOOT bank, I can optimize my resolution and color parameters quickly as I snap people or things. On other Nikons except for the D7000, I have to spend at least five clicks to do this. Sadly, the only way to see what you're setting is to stop shooting and look at the top LCD (or wake-up the INFO screen), but it's still much better than the D800E. The bums at Nikon excluded this from the D800's menu system so pros can't cheap-out with the D800.

The worst thing about the D4s is that Nikon put a video record button where the exposure mode button belongs, and moved the exposure mode button out of the way, further to the left of the shutter button. It matches the D800 and D800E, but matches no other Nikon. I never use the video button, and now the mode control is a stretch.

The MIC (note recording) button has been moved so it's now a stretch to reach while shooting. With the D3, it's easy to speak notes as you're shooting quietly, but even with my big hands, a long stretch with the D4s.

The Advance Mode dial is the same crummy old one that's been around since the Nikon F5 of 1996, not the better one of the D800 and D800E. Even the D7000 has a more legible advance mode dial.

The Quiet mode isn't any quieter than the regular mode. The Canon 5D Mark III is far quieter and faster in its quiet mode. In its Quiet mode, the D4s merely disconnects the cycle after the shot's taken, and waits with the mirror up and a black finder until you remove your finger from the shutter to let the mirror back down and recharge the shutter. The 5D Mark III or LEICA M9 is far better at being quiet, and so is the D7000's quiet mode.

This said, the D4s is quieter than the D3.

I use my function buttons to select the cropping (Select Image Area), but these are ignored while the shutter is half-pressed.

The two black-and-white control LCDs are backlit with cyan (blue-green) electroluminescent (EL) panels which are far more visible than the crummy green LED side-lighting of the D800 and D800E.

 

Rear LCD Monitor        performance    top

Better than the yellow-green LCD of the old D4, the rear LCD is reasonably accurate.

 

Power        performance    top

As expected, the D4s runs for thousands of shots on a charge.

This is over ten times the life of the Nikon D1's battery.

 

Data        performance    top

LARGE JPG BASIC files average about 3 MB, as I shoot them set to OPTIMIZE QUALITY.

MEDIUM JPG BASIC files average about 1.5 MB, as I shoot them set to OPTIMIZE QUALITY.

AUTO ISO reads to ISO 12,800 in Phase One Media Pro.

There is still no "_" character selectable for custom prefacing file names. You can set the first three characters as you wish.

 

Compared         top

Intro   New   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

The D4s is slightly faster and somewhat lighter than the D3, but the D4s removed most of the external AF controls and instead added video features.

There is no comparison to the amateur D800, D800E and Canon 5D Mark III, which will only become apparent as you draw the D4s and shoot it for yourself in the field. Paper specifications don't show you how the D4s has such a superior finder and AF system, how it feels so much lighter than the D3 and D3s it replaces, how everything just flies at professional speed, how much more legible are the backlit buttons and EL LCD backlights, and the ability to take audio notes about what you're shooting in the first place.

 

Recommendations         top

Intro   New   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

If you're a full-time pro, all the the little things about the D4s add up to make getting a couple of D4s a no-brainer. I whine about the loss of most of the external AF controls (buttons and spinning dials do not replace dedicated levers), but the new AF system already knows what I want it to do, so no big deal.

If you're not a full time pro, or the price of a new camera matters, then no, you'll do just fine with a used D3. The D4s won't take pictures any different than a D7000, which has the same resolution; the D4s just does it faster. See Is It Worth It for more.

If you own the older D4, you don't need the D4S. It's not that different, unless you don't care about spending money. See Is It Worth It.

If you were considering buying a D4 today, get the D4S instead simply because the future resale value of every and any D4 just dropped by more than the extra $500 for the D4s. When you go to sell in 2 years, you'll get an extra thousand dollars for a D4s as compared to the older D4. It doesn't matter when you buy a D4; any D4 just became the old model even if bought in June 2014.

 

More Information         top

Intro   New   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

Nikon's D4S page.

Nikon's press release (release for sale) 25 February 2014.

Nikon's press release (development) January 2014

 

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January 2014