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Nikon D4s Flagship DSLR: First Look

Nikon D4s Flagship DSLR: First Look

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Performance and Image enhancements abound

February 25, 2014

Nikon today announced its new flagship camera, the professional Nikon D4s, featuring impressive performance improvements...and ISO 409,600!

Nikon D4s

Nikon today announced its new flagship camera, the professional Nikon D4s. Key features include the highest extended ISO ever to appear on any digital camera, and significant improvements in autofocus, video, continuous shooting stamina, battery life, and image processing.

But before we look at the D4s, which will be available from Adorama in early March for $6,496.95, let's briefly review of why so many professional photographers have embraced the D4 since its introduction nearly two years ago.

Jump to: Nikon D4 vs. D4 Comparison

The Nikon D4s is expected to available in limited quantities at first starting March 6th, 2014, and can be pre-ordered now from Adorama. Orders will be shipped as stock arrives on a first-come, first-served basis. Your credit card will not be charged until the order is shipped.

Flashback: The Nikon D4

As Mark Wallace noted in his video review of the D4 for AdoramaTV back in April 2012, the big news with the D4 is its unusually high dynamic range, and its ability to practically see—and reliably focus—in near total darkness. Mark advised that the D4 was a worthwhile upgrade over the D3s, but not the D3.Meanwhile, in his Adorama Blog post about his hands-on experience with the D4, Joe McNally was wowed by the the D4's improved meter and its ability to capture realistic color. In fact, Joe proclaimed, after taking a D4 on numerous assignments, that it was "an entirely new chapter in the history of the pixels," describing the files as "creamy" and "smooth" and displaying great skin tone.

Nikon D4s

And that brings us to today's announcement of the further-refined D4s.  First, let's look at what remains the same.

The Sensor: It's a full-frame 36x23.9mm, 16.2MP CMOS sensor, and it still records 12 and 14-bit NEF RAW files, as well as JPEGs at 1:4, 1:8 and 1:16 compression rates, although Nikon says it's improved over the sensor used in the D4.

Metering is taken via a 91k RGB sensor, although it's been tweaked, as you'll soon see.

The Autofocus sensor is the same, and the 9/21/51/51 AF points with 3D tracking and Auto Area AF are unchanged. But wait. There's more.

The D4s, like the D4, accepts both UMDA 7 CF cards and QXD memory cards.

So, what's different? Plenty!

Nikon D4s vs. Nikon D4

The Big Differences

Now that we've established the key features that haven't changed, let's look at the significant improvements Nikon made to create the D4s.

Nikon D4s

Nikon D4

Image Quality
Image Processing Engine EXPEED 4
ISO Sensitivity Range

100 to 25,600
Lo1 (ISO 50) to Hi4 (ISO 409,600)

Lo1 (ISO 50) to Hi4 (ISO 204,800)

RAW SIZE S 12-bit uncompressed No
Metering System

Advanced Scene Recognition System

Yes - Group Area AF added Yes

Face Priority analysis for viewfinder shooting

On/Off possible with custom setting Always On
White Balance

Spot White Balance when using Live View

Yes No
Preset White Balance 1-6 possible 1-3 is possible
Frame Advance Rate 11 fps with AF/AE 10 fps with AF/AE
Group Area AF

Five AF sensors used as a Group Optimized for subjects located within an area covered by the “Group”

Video Capture

Frame Size and Frame rate

1920 x 1080 60/50/30/25/24p 1920 x 1080 30/25/24p

Multi-area mode Full HD D-Movie with three image area options

Selectable during live view: FX, DX, 2.7X Crop

Not selectable during live view: FX, DX, 2.7X Crop

ISO Auto Control for Manual Exposure

Yes No

Simultaneous recording to memory card and external recorder

Yes No

Selectable audio frequency range

Yes Wide/Voice


Audio adjusted during video recording

Yes No
Wired and Wireless Communications
Wired LAN 1000 Base T Support 100 Base T Support
Other Features

Shape of a grip and details at backside (body form and controls) have been re-designed

Improved over D3 sereies
Dual memory card slots

CF card compatible with UDMA 7
XQD memory card (based on a 32-GB QD-S32E) enables continuous shooting for up to approx. 200 shots (JPEG fine L), approx. 133 shots (12-bit, lossless compressed RAW), approx. 176 shots (12-bit, compressed RAW), or approx. 104 shots (14-bit, compressed RAW)

CF card compatible with UDMA 7 XQD
XQD memory card (based on a 32-GB S32E) enables continuous shooting for up to approx. 170 shots (JPEG fine L), approx. 92 shots (12-bit, lossless compressed RAW), approx. 92 shots (12- bit, compressed RAW), or approx. 76 shots (14-bit, compressed RAW)

Playback Magnification

Can be selected from multi-selector 50%, 100% or 200%

Can be selected from multi-selector

Change Focus point size in Live View Movie

Yes Normal-area

Fine tune LCD color Yes No

Full aperture metering during Live View for stills

Yes No
Live View - Image Area

Can be selected while in Live View for stills and movies


Interval timer / Time lapse movie

Increased number of exposures (up to 9999), setting until one week later is possible. Exposure smoothing has been added

Up to 999 possible

Batter/Energy Efficiency

One EN-EL18a Rechargeable Li-Ion Approx. 3,020 shots (in Single-frame mode, based on CIPA Standards)

One EN-EL18 Rechargeable Li-Ion Approx. 2,600 shots (in Single-frame mode, based on CIPA Standards)

Time-lapse Interval Timers Exposure Smoothening

Yes No

Nikon D4s

More Details

Speed and performance: Enhancements through the entire workflow

D4S builds on the success of D4 with 30% faster image processing and substantial energy savings, allowing users to capture up to 3,020 stills on a single charge—an extended standard ISO range (100-25,600) with enhanced noise reduction, and improved tonal range and smoother gradations. Shoot 11 fps for approx. 200 shots at full resolution with AE and AF functionality. For faster initial subject capture, use five AF sensors as a single focus point with the new Group Area AF setting. Transfer files 10x faster than the D4 with new 1000 Base-T (Gigabit) wired LAN, and increase that speed further by shooting a new smaller RAW SIZE S format.

Image quality

An improved 16.2MP FX-format CMOS image sensor is paired with Nikon's spectacular new image-processing engine, EXPEED 4. The combination achieves outstanding ISO sensitivity, faithful, vibrant color, natural depth, subtle nuanced tones from pitch black to snow white and smoother gradations in both stills and videos. Nikon's proven 51-point AF system and 3D Color Matrix metering III with a 91,000-pixel RGB sensor provide fast, accurate autofocus and metering. Enhanced Picture Control tone curves deliver more depth and clearer color rendition in "Standard" mode. For viewfinder shooting, a new custom setting lets you toggle Face Detection on and off as the situation requires for improved exposure bias around your subjects. You can even measure White Balance against any point in the frame.

The D4s's increased ISO range is enhanced by giving photographers a choice of five image area modes while shooting stills in Live View: FX, DX, 1.5x, 5:4 and 1.2x. A new RAW SIZE S setting allows for shooting 12-bit uncompressed Nikon NEF files that are smaller and more easily manageable—speeding up the entire workflow. When you're racing a deadline at a major news or sports event, D4S can transfer images up to 10 times faster than previously possible with its 1000 Base-T Ethernet.

Nikon D4s

Smoother Video

D4S has a higher framing rate to capture smooth 1080/60p video. You can shoot scenes with tremendous depth and sharpness as well as with shallow depth of field or bokeh—and even capture 2MP stills simultaneously while recording video. For video, 2.7x Crop Mode extends the reach of lenses and produces outstanding video quality and detail. D4S adds real-time audio adjustments during recording, selectable sound ranges like Wide Range and Voice Range and improved wind noise reduction on the internal mic. Adjust color settings on the camera's LCD to better match an external monitor. Capture smoother Time Lapse sequences with reduced flicker and improved interval control (up to 9,999 shots), and even simultaneously record to internal CF or the latest high speed XQD cards and an external recording device.

Conclusion and Recommendation

If the D4 was designed to capture the wide dynamic range needed to photograph weddings and had the speed and processing power to please many sports shooters and photojournalists, the D4s promises to accomplish these tasks even better and faster with improved image transfer speed. With a maximum extended ISO of 409,600 it is likely to be a beast in low light. If you hesitated to upgrade from a D3s to the D4, now may be the time to reconsider. The Nikon D4s should be a very worthwhile investment for a working professional photographer.


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