Test: Nikon D4s – a Performance Monster

The two-year-old Nikon D4 has been updated with a faster and better version-D4s. Camera looks almost the same, but has many small improvements that are both smart, critical and time-saving for the hard working sports-or press photographer with high performance requirements.
There are actually correct make new things to look at in the appearance of the Nikon D4s. The parts that are new are more inside the camera, and appears instead of the photographer when using. That is why it is easy to be fooled that it hasn’t happened so much since Nikon D4 – for it has many small Updates and., and for a photographer that is not fully initiated into the sport or press photographer weekday, these news are perceived as conservative.

The sensor is new, but still has the same resolution as the Nikon D4, with 16.2 megapixels. On the other hand, Nikon honed image handling, updated image processor and now provides the ability to shoot up to iso, where the entire scope of 409600 because is between 100 and 25600 iso. Burst shooting has increased from 10 to 11 images per second with working auto focus and light metering, the video features have been improved, and many other little things that affect professional use have been refined.

Small differences

The appearance of d4s, we know right away again from the model D4.Only small differences can be detected, such as a slightly more drawn-out top of the grip, the new structure on some buttons and a slightly larger rubber surface for improved grip. A minimal improvement, but sure, it’s slightly better.

What makes the whole is rather small improvements on many levels. The camera feels extremely direct, and always reacts with lightning speed on what you want it to do. It simply feels fast to work with, as the detail that the af-on button become more sensitive and easier to press down. I like changes.

Difficult to measure is also the increased frame rate with working auto focus and light metering, which increased from 10 to 11 frames per second. The difference is not so great, but a step forward.

The big stride forward is in place the elements that have to do with the auto focus. Increased processing power generates faster analysis of image, which increases reliability to make it right. And the fact is that it is consistent with the experience of Nikon D4s.

Sports photography is something that requires a lot of force on the part of the camera, for many reasons. Information from the autofocus will be processed in order to make the right decision, and in between time to object it wants to capture the image to move.

New at D4s is the squad-based autofocus, where you can choose four AF points working as an area, which extends the size of the single-point auto focus. When I tested this on, for example, low-flying birds, it was actually easier to keep the focus where it has a larger area to lock focus. This feature is really useful, and one may wonder why it has not been already.

When shooting such as bandy player, I know from experience that it can be tricky when player runs in front of it you want to photograph, changing direction and so on. This has always been the problem that the autofocus never kept up with fast enough, but many times needed» re-grip «focus in order to get to that. Actually, I must say that Nikon D4s is best so far on this – I can use focus tracking with lock on the object and the following example a player really well. Despite the players in front, similar to players at the same distance, so the camera seems to cling to the right object. This is how it should work, and the fact is that it works really well.

Even in low light and high ISOs are getting camera performance to feel. Although it was really dark out so put the camera focus quickly and safely, which also means that you can not only shoot when it’s really dark – you can get to the sharpness of your images without having to use manual focus. Really good is also the new opportunities to manage focus points by rotation of the camera. Through a menu selection you can change so that the camera saves the selected focus point for orientation, which means that upper right corner AF point t this point remains whether photographs portrait or landscape pictures. These are details that determine how the image will be when time is of the essence.

About the same think we find with the ability to return to a saved location of the focal point when the multi button is pressed. In this way, I prepare an image slicer on a target, photographing someone completely else with a AF point for example, in the Middle, while when it is», «target location so I can quickly get the AF point to jump to the left to get the focus point there instead. This is the type example of professional functions which are small – but makes a difference.

Another detail is also that of D4s can clear the settings with the buttons on the options that you do not use, for example, hide the focus point modes or AF modes you are not using. In this way, you can quickly switch between the two settings without fear that it will be wrong. Smart.

At large is autofocus performance a major upgrade from its predecessor the D4, and it bears the biggest difference between the two cameras. The small additional improvements are a natural development that is oriented toward sports and press photographer speed requirement, and here I think Nikon has succeeded quite well.

The difference between 10 and 11 images per second may not be the most important thing for users of Nikon D4s, but even more important is the ability to quickly scoop pictures in series. That’s why Nikon has gained a bigger buffer that now holds 44 14-bit nef images. With a fast xqd card you can take well over a hundred images in raw form in the series. When we tested with a Sandisk Extreme Pro cf card at 90 mb/s we could take 52 images in 14-bit raw formats, and 200 pictures in jpeg large/fine setting.The latter will give 11 images per second in 16 – in up to 18 seconds, which is a pretty long time to capture a sequence of 16 megapixels. Clearly pleasing for sportfotografen.

Extra positive is that Nikon has now taken their mind to catch and actually listened to the criticism about not being able to save the image in the raw form with lower resolution. Now, there is the option to save images in a small 12-bit uncompressed small-raw, which means faster, smaller photos in nef format with a lower resolution of 2464×1640 pixels (4Mp) whose files will be around 13 MB big. This is good news for those who must quickly get high quality images to an editorial, which still need the ability to adjust the picture on a high-quality wise after the event, for example, which would lift the shadows or adjust the white balance.

The feature is worth applauding for, for there are many professional photographers who will want to have this feature. And sure enough, it works really good, fast and simplifies the workflow for those who are looking for speed. But what really puzzles me is why you chose this size alone, even if it’s a good balance. Naturally for a press photographer had instead been able to choose among several resolutions, both minor and major, or to generate both a full size image and a really small – in raw form — at the same time. However, the feature is winning.

Smart shortcuts

Nikon has also ripped into a bunch of shortcuts in the camera, which can sometimes be difficult to find if you don’t know about these. One of these is, for example, that you can change the primary memory card slot with two button presses, fine-tune the white balance in the quarter-step, adjust the white balance of your monitor for increased fidelity results, spotmäta white balance in liveview mode, but also in the camera’s menu choose what fn button on the lens with such buttons are supposed to do.

Another thing is both good and important is the updated setting for image viewing. How many times have you not been cursed when you spun on a lot of wheels, pressed a lot of buttons and tried to see the image at 100% in order to check the sharpness? Have you done as many times as you can now be satisfied with you to choose 50, 100 or 200 percent viewing the image when you press the Center button. This speeds up the work for the ivrige press photographer who want to see the image sharpness of the captured image.

And browse around among many photos so you can now choose to browse 10 or 50 images at a time by spinning the front wheel. Finally an end to torment the spin.

Even here we see small, small changes and refinements that increase the possibilities for faster workflow.

For video journalists or cinema buffs have Nikon now also improved controls on the use of external equipment. It is evident that once again flirts with video segment by offering a smart solution to output high resolution full hd video at 60, 50, 25 or 24 frames per second in 4:2: 2 format via the hdmi cable, for example an external recording source – while you can record on a memory card or connect two external monitors – at the same time.

Also the video bitrate increase has been increased to 42 megabits per second. This is really good for those who seriously want to produce motion-based content, and the quality is also high, even when scaling to, for example, the dx mode – something of D4 gave a somewhat reduced sharpness.

In addition, Nikon have increased control over the sound, with the option to select the recording frequency of speech, thus increasing transparency – it gets better if you want clearer speech. Also the volume can be adjusted during recording.

Image quality

Image quality, it has not happened so far. Images Nikon D4s produces is in class with those we find in Nikon D4 when we check out the photos in raw form regarding the high iso values, or dynamic range. On the other hand, we see that jpeg images are better, especially at higher iso sensitivities, where probably the image processor plays major role. The pictures are cleaner, less noisy regarding both the General noise and color noise, and yet contain details and looks really good. If you shoot directly to jpg, this absolute winning, because the pictures out of the camera looks really good on such as 25 600 iso. Also 51 200 is useful.

For real blue light photographers maybe even a picture taken in 409 600 iso can be worth posting, or in any case better than no picture at all, if you ask an image editor.



Nikon have really succeeded with the new D4s, and it’s hard to find something that is really poorly or ill-considered. It is a really good camera, one of the best in its genre, and indeed the fastest tested systems camera for its purpose. Also the improved images at high sensitivity is really good, as well as the improved properties for working with video.

Competitor Canon 1 d X seemed slightly faster than, for example, Nikon D4 when they met each other in a duel, but now Nikon again slightly faster with D4s regarding use of law. The reason for this is primarily the improved auto focus, but even the smaller details that makes the camera’s full to a faster experience in demanding situations.

I have received many questions about how to think about when it comes to upgrading from previous cameras in the Pro class. Have you, for example, Nikon D4, it’s still a difference between the cameras, but probably not worth it to run to the store to instantly upgrade. Have you worn it out so is D4s the obvious choice to upgrade to if you’re sport-or press photographer, otherwise you may not need all the features.

Are you thinking about upgrading from the D3s as is improvements right tangible, and the motivation to go directly to D4s is great.