All the latest news and reviews from Las Vegas: CES 2012 Special Report
Trying to judge a camera, and particularly a pro-level DSLR, without being able to take some pictures and check out the results is a bit of a futile exercise, but our brief time with the Nikon D4 has given us a good idea of what we can expect from the camera when it goes on sale next month.
Nikon launched the D3 in 2007 and over four years later it has finally updated its professional level, full-frame DSLR - though it did release an update in the shape of the D3s in 2010. And like that upgrade, little has changed in terms of looks. The same cannot be said of specs. The D4 features a 16.2 megapixel full-frame FX sensor, uses the EXPEED 3 processing engine, has ISO range from 100 to 102,800 (or 50 to 205,600 in extended mode) and uses the Advanced Multi-CAM 3500 system to let it shoot in low-light conditions down to -2EV - which is basically moonlight.
We were not able to take any test shots to show you, as the version we saw was a pre-production model so we can't really comment on the camera's image quality or low-light shooting but we can tell a lot about the model based on its specs, design and feel. While the D4 is slightly lighter (65g) than its predecessor, initially it strikes you as very similar to the D3, and this is no bad thing.
Nikon, and its main rival in this space, Canon, have very loyal customers and those using the companies' DSLRs will want to be able to pick up the new camera and feel at home straight away. However Nikon has not totally ignored the design of the D4, making subtle tweaks which should improve the picture taking experience.
First up is the button layout, which has been optimised so that whether you are shooting in landscape or portrait mode, similar button configurations are at your finger tips. Two new joystick controllers are conveniently placed at your fingertips to let you manually adjust the focus position when shooting. This works very well and the new expanded grip along the bottom of the body will help make the camera easier to use for extended periods of time.
The new 3.2in TFT LCD has a 921k dot resolution and Nikon have applied a gel layer to it to help reduce reflections while an illumination detector automatically adjusts the brightness dependent on ambient light. While we were unable to test this out in dark conditions, the screen itself was certainly very bright and sharp. Nikon has also backlit the buttons on the back of the camera for better nighttime use.
The Nikon D4 is the first camera to support a XQD card, a new type of CF card which promises much faster transfer speeds and higher capacities. Sony is the first company to have released a XQD card and Nikon told us that it think this format will become industry standard in time - though CF cards will continue to have a role which is why the D4 also has a CF slot.
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