Nikon D4s Review

on Sunday, November 23, 2014
Exactly after two years since the Nikon D4 announcement, Nikon made the D4s public at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on January 6, 2014. Although the camera was not ready for a full announcement, Nikon wanted to have something to show at the CES, so it only hinted about the development of the camera and its intentions to preview it. The camera was officially announced at the end of February and the first units started to ship shortly after in March. The Nikon D4s is a modest upgrade over the D4, with very slight ergonomic changes, expanded ISO range, faster image processor, faster wired / Ethernet speed, improved battery capacity and a bunch of new firmware options. As an incremental update, the Nikon D4s basically solidified the already superb D4 and made it even better.

Although I had plans to review the D4s earlier this year, my hectic summer schedule and work commitments kept me too busy and I was not able to get it published. I wrote some notes from using the camera when I had it for a few months, then went back and added more again after getting my hands on the camera again later. Since my time with the camera was rather limited, I requested our wildlife gurus Thomas Redd and John Lawson to use the camera and provide their feedback on what they liked and did not about the camera. Thus, this review is yet another collective effort from our team, which hopefully makes it more balanced and objective than if I were to solely do it by myself.
NIKON D4S @ ISO 1600, 1/250, f/11.0
Without a doubt, the top-of-the-line Nikon DSLR line is the most feature-rich, responsive and most capable cameras, and the D4s is not an exception. While the exterior of the D4s is practically identical to the D4 (more on ergonomic changes on the next page), the inner core is where the camera got the most upgrades. The 16.2 MP sensor got a boost in native sensitivity range, going from ISO 100 to 25,600, which is a stop higher than what the D4 had. The camera’s metering and white balance systems got tweaked with more features. The autofocus system was improved with more features and faster shooting rate of 11 fps with full time autofocus (versus 10 fps on the D4). While these might look like very small incremental changes that are not worth upgrading for, even slight improvements in autofocus performance might pay the price of the camera for a working professional. And that’s where the Nikon D4s delivers. Thanks to the new EXPEED 4 processor that is 30% faster than its predecessor, the camera can handle data much faster, giving a significant boost in overall performance. And this is not coming from Nikon’s specifications or data sheets – our team immediately noticed the camera to be faster and more responsive in autofocus operation, particularly in continuously tracking fast-moving subjects. The faster processor also allowed Nikon to push more data for capturing high definition video and the D4s is now capable of recording HD videos at up to 60 frames per second. Along with the ability to pick different crop modes, full exposure control, uncompressed HDMI output and the ability to record videos to both internal memory and external recorders, the Nikon D4s is also a very capable camera for videography needs. Sadly, despite the industry’s push to ultra high resolution 4K video, the D4s still lags behind when compared to other manufacturers like Sony and Panasonic.
NIKON D4S @ ISO 800, 1/250, f/11.0
However, all these nice changes come at a cost – at $6,500, the D4s is not a cheap camera. It is the second most expensive DSLR in Nikon’s history after the ridiculously expensive D3x (which was priced at $7,999 MSRP when it was announced and still currently sells for $6,999). If we roll the date back to 2007, we can see that the original D3 was priced at $5K. When the D3s came out in 2009, Nikon raised the camera’s price by $200 to $5,199. Three years down the road, the new and shiny D4 comes out with a $6K price tag attached to it – an $800 increase. And finally, the D4s gets another $500 increase on top. Compared to the original D3, that’s a $1500 price difference! If we adjust prices for inflation since 2007 (without taking into account currency conversions), the D4s should have been around $5,700 – $800 lower than what Nikon wants for the camera. Nikon knows that those who own their top-of-the-line cameras will want to continue upgrading when new models come out. Plus, by intentionally crippling lower-end FX camera bodies and holding off on high-end DX line, Nikon has been trying to get as many people as possible to move up to the D4 line. I also suspect that the Nikon D4s pricing was increased in response to Canon’s $6800 price on its 1D X camera, since they are the same class cameras.
NIKON D4S @ ISO 12800, 1/1600, f/6.3

1) Nikon D4s Specifications

Main Features:
  1. Sensor: 16.2 MP FX, 7.3ยต pixel size
  2. Native ISO Sensitivity: 100-25,600
  3. Boost Low ISO Sensitivity: 50
  4. Boost High ISO Sensitivity: 51,200-409,600
  5. Processor: EXPEED 4
  6. Dust Reduction: Yes
  7. Shutter: Up to 1/8000 and 30 sec exposure, self-diagnostic shutter monitor
  8. Shutter Durability: 400,000 cycles
  9. Camera Lag: 0.012 seconds
  10. Storage: 1x Compact Flash slot and 1x XQD slot
  11. Viewfinder Coverage: 100%
  12. Speed: 11 FPS
  13. Exposure Meter: 91,000 pixel RGB sensor
  14. Autofocus System: Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX with 51 focus points and 15 cross-type sensors
  15. AF Detection: Up to f/8 with 11 focus points (5 in the center, 3 on the left and right)
  16. LCD Screen: 3.2 inch diagonal with 921,000 dots
  17. LCD Screen Calibration: Yes
  18. Movie Modes: Full 1080p HD @ 60 fps max
  19. Movie Exposure Control: Full
  20. Movie Output: MOV, Compressed and Uncompressed
  21. Wired LAN: Built-in Gigabit RJ-45 LAN port
  22. WiFi: Not built-in, requires WT-5a and older wireless transmitters
  23. GPS: Not built-in, requires GP-1 GPS unit
  24. Battery Type: EN-EL18a
  25. Battery Life: 3,020 shots
  26. Weight: 1,180g
  27. Price: $6,499.95 MSRP


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