Nikon D4s: a hands-on review with comparisons to the D4

The Nikon D4s sitting on my studio equipment cart ready to go to work

The Nikon D4s sitting on my studio equipment cart ready to go to work

Nikon D4S: a hands-on review with comparisons to the D4 by Tom Grill (Web | Blog). As aways, click on images for larger view):

The lineage of Nikon flagship models, the D3, D3s, D4, and now the D4s, are absolute workhorses, and best of breed at what they do. In the hands of a working pro, this camera line represents dependability and exceptional image quality under the worst circumstances you can throw at it, qualities that have endeared themselves to Nikon users since the original Nikon F. At first glance, the jump from the D3 to D3s appeared to be a greater difference than that of the D4 to D4s. We seem to be getting to a point in their development where the changes from model to model give us less to shout about. I think this says more about the confidence we are experiencing with the camera we have in our hands than it does about the advancements made to improve it.

At first glance the changes made to the D4s appear slight, perhaps not even enough to justify a new model. I admit to thinking that myself when I first read the specs. It was not until I put the camera to extensive use for two weeks under my typical work load that I began to appreciate the benefits of the changes. While the new D4s may not be taking a leap forward from the D4, it has certainly made important strides in the right direction.

Most of the ads and video previews announcing the new D4s show it in use on high speed sports subjects. Admittedly, this is an area where the new speedy and accurate group AF system will be apparent in the most dramatic way. I chiefly use a camera like this for lifestyle shooting where similar needs apply. The reason for this is that I like to keep my models moving quickly to convey a sense of candid spontaneity in the situations we create. I also tend to use fast aperture lenses at wide open settings and favor strong backlighting. Capturing that one perfect image in such a fluid situation puts a heavy demand on a camera's ability to focus quickly and accurately. A wedding or events photographer might face similar needs while working in dimly lit situations with rapidly changing subjects and little to no control over the actual scene. The Nikon D3 and D4 have been my workhorses for this type of work. The D4s introduces changes that improve things even more.

On the surface the D4 and D4s don't look so different, aside from a redesign of the smaller joystick controls on back, and minor tweaking to both hand grips. The differences are primarily inside.

One obvious difference between the D4s from the D4 is the new sound of the motor clipping along at 11fps. The change in sound is attributable to the redesigned mirror box built to accommodate the faster speed by shortening the mirror travel distance. The other thing that came as a surprise was how long the D4s could keep on shooting and processing RAW files when there was a fast card in the slot. Nikon may have to do a take on the Energizer Bunny ad for the D4s.

Here are some of the important improvements in the D4s over the D4:

- The 51-point autofocus system remains the same as the D4, however it adds a new Group Area AF mode grouping 5 points together to act as one unit to improve AF ability in confusing areas. This may be the most important change in the new model as it allows extremely fast lock-on and follow with any moving subject even under the worst lighting situations.

-  The D4s shoots at 11fps with continuous AE and AF.

- The mirror assembly has been redesigned to accommodate the increased speed to 11fps and has a side benefit of keeping the mirror in its open position for a longer time between shots thereby minimizes the blackout time caused by the mirror in the up position.

- There is a new Expeed 4 processing engine, and while the megapixels remain at 16.1, it has been redesigned to work even better in low light so that a new top extended ISO speed of 409,600 has been added. The full range is 100-25,000 with extended from 50-409,600.

- The D4s takes a new battery, the EN-EL18a, to extend use time out to 3020 shots, up from 2600 from the older EN-EL18 with which it remains compatible.

- There is a new uncompressed 12-bit RAW mode for capturing smaller RAW files that are 1/2 the size of standard uncompressed RAW files. Handy if you want to speed up workflow or save storage space. In addition there is the standard 14-bit compressed and uncompressed files, JPEG, and TIFF.

- An auto-ISO feature has been added and works when the camera is in manual mode. I find this handy when I want to lock in a specific shutter speed and aperture combo and let the ISO float a bit to keep the exposure consistent, as sometimes needed with time-lapse photography. This feature will also help video photography where the light is changing while the camera is recording. The aperture can stay fixed while the ISO changes seamlessly to adjust for the variations in light.

- Addition of a 1080/60p video recording for up to 10 minutes at 42Mbps or 20 mins at 24Mbps




Testing for low light:

I found that the upper practical limit of the D4s without much, if any, correction for noise is about 6400. This always depends upon the type of lighting situation, of course, but I suspect the ISO can be pushed even higher in certain situations so long as you are willing to massage the image somewhat in post-processing.


Download a high res version of this image by clicking here.

The image below shot at ISO 51200 demonstrates this. I applied some standard improvements, as I normally might, to the noise and detail using Adobe Camera Raw before taking the image into Photoshop.


This is an image shot at ISO 51200 with post processing corrections applied. Download a high res version of this file by clicking here.

The new top extended ISO of 409,600 (as opposed to 204,800 on the D4) might make for attention getting copy in a press release, but I don't see much use for it from the results I've seen.

This is what an ISO 409600 image looks like from the D4s -- flat, ultra noisy, with color casts. The ultimate usage is going to have to be very small for the photo to be usable at all, even after applying some corrections.

This is a full size crop from the image above it to show how the noise level from ISO 409600 appears (click for larger view). Have fun fixing that!

Putting the D4s to work:

The most obvious use of a camera like the D4s is fast-paced sporting events and wildlife photography. My own commercial work is different from that and consists mostly of lifestyle photography, over 90% of which I currently do with a D4, often shooting over 4000 frames per day. I prefer working with available light and like to keep the models constantly moving to add a feeling of spontaneity to the resulting images. The excellent low noise and low light capability, superb auto-focus system, and super fast 11fps motor make the D4s an absolutely perfect choice for this type of shooting. The situations are similar to what a wedding photographer might face in candid shooting, or an events photographer working in low light. With this in mind I decided to test the D4s over four different lifestyle shoots with varying available light. Some of the results are below.

The image sequence above shows what a camera is up against in a fast moving lifestyle scene that leads up to the finished image shown below. In this scene the D4s was shooting at 11fps. There are 12 shots in the sequence so it took only a hair over 1 second to photograph. The scene is entirely back lit from a window and no fill from the front. The 85mm lens was set to an aperture of f/2. At this close distance that left zero tolerance for depth of field. A continuous focus point was placed on the model's eye and had to keep changing the distance as the model's head moved forward towards the camera and her hand came up to further block the view. Although the model's face only moved forward four or five inches, with the distance of the lens, the focal length, and speed of action that is considerable. There were actually 118 images in the entire sequence of the model laughing and rocking her head back and forth, and every shot remained in focus.

Not only is the couple scene above back lit, but I am shooting past some out-of-focus foreground glassware to create the softness surrounding the models. As always, I instructed the models to keep moving and had to follow with a continuous focus point placed on the woman's eye.

It wasn't bad enough that this scene above was lit only by the window behind the model, I decided to add in a tungsten lamp to create a flare and flatten the contrast on his face even more. The 85mm lens was set to f/1.8 and focus placed on the right eye with plenty of obstructions caused by the foreground computer screens.

To obtain a shallow depth of field along with the blur motion in the person walking I put a variable ND filter on the 85mm lens set to f/1.8 and turned the filter until it gave me a shutter speed of 1/20th second to create the blur. The foreground model was instructed to hold her pose and not move. This scene was taken in a very dimly lit room with light coming only from the windows behind the models.

We staged this guitar scene in the studio just to test the auto-focus performance of the D4s. The guitarist is entirely back lit with the tungsten lamps in the background, smoke was added to add a layer of haze, and the rest of the room was blacked out for darkness. The camera was set to ISO 1600 with the 85mm f/1.4 Nikkor lens. Blazing away at 11 fps, the D4s almost never missed its focus on the guitarist's face.

Typically in a scene like the one above I would have a difficult time achieving focus on the model's eye. The D4s consistently found the spot and kept the eye -- in this case the eyelashes -- in focus even while working at a lens aperture of f/1.6.  And in the scene above the model was not sitting still, but constantly moving about.


On paper the differences between a  D4 and D4s appear so tame you begin to wonder why Nikon would even bother introducing a model change. But the D4 series is the workhorse cornerstone of many pro photographers, me included. It probably isn't a question of whether or not the changes are needed. Rather, it is more a question of whether or not the changes improve your workflow. For me, moving from 10 fps to 11fps is overkill. I still find the 9fps of the D3 more than sufficient. But there are photographers shooting fast action sports and wildlife for whom this improvement would be significant.

Working as I do in low light with high speed aperture lenses, my chief concern was with the improved AF of the D4s. This is one of the reasons I tested the D4s over several lifestyle shoots with dim back lighting. In these situations I know I am going to lose a large percentage of the take to missed-focus so I always overshoot the scenes as a way of bracketing the focus. The D4s was considerably better at delivering in-focus results in these situations, so much so that by the fourth lifestyle shoot I began feeling comfortable enough to cut back on my normal focus bracketing. At the end of the shoot I ended up with 25% fewer frames than I normally would have taken. That reflected the instinctive confidence I had in the D4s AF ability.

I also appreciated the faster write speed to high speed memory cards. This allowed me to keep on shooting as long as the models continued to deliver the action. Having to ask the model to stop and wait while the buffer is transferring to the memory card is can be disruptive to the fluidity and mood of a scene.

Bottom line question is: Based on the improvements, would I trade in my D4 for a D4s?  If there were enough life left in my D4, I would say probably not. The new conveniences of the D4s, while nice, are not something I absolutely need. If my D4 were older, then I would do the trade even though the newer D4s model is priced around $500 higher at $6496.95. The extra cost would most likely be made up down the road when the Nikon D5 comes out.

Since writing the above paragraph, I have gone back to shooting my D4 Nikon in similar lifestyle situations. When looking the images over afterwards I realized that the D4s had been delivering a higher percentage of images that were in proper focus. I might have to rethink my position about trading in the D4 on the D4s to sooner rather than later.

Bottom line here is that while the D4 has exceptional low light capabilities, fast and accurate auto-focus with tracking, is incredibly durable in the worst of conditions, and an absolute photographer's dream to use, the D4s is even better. Are you ready to spend what it takes to upgrade now to enjoy the improvements the D4s can deliver? The improvements are not such that it is a slam-dunk kind of decision. It is going to come down to our individual needs from a camera, how it will impact our workflow, and whether the effect on our bank account is worth it. Sounds like we're all going to have a fun time deciding on this one.

If you have an interesting idea for a guest post, you can contact me here.

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  • first commenter


  • Delmar Mineard Jr

    Great comparison and very useful. Can’t wait to see this new AF system work it way down the line.

  • koenshaku

    There will always be a better cam if your job requires the absolute best and you make enough to justify the purchase I don’t see why you wouldn’t upgrade.

  • One of the better comparisons I’ve read on here — Nice. I love all the different pain in the ass lighting situations used to test it out — that’s what so many reviews seem to miss.

    • David G.

      Real-world pain-in-the-ass situations nonetheless!

  • Maji

    Great instructive piece. I think instead of a “brick wall” type of comparison, these real life comparisons are more instructive.

    • AM I Am

      However, there are some who rather would wait for DxO Mark scores.

      • mikeswitz


      • Jay Pike

        True… but they aren’t serious buyers anyways… just talkers…

        I tend to side with Thom Hogan’s thesis that we’ve reached an amazing time in digital photography where we’re not going to see massive technological jumps any more… just subtle ones like the changes detailed here…

        For me personally, this review does a TON more justice than any other one I could find out there… that sequence of 110+ shots all in focus at 11fps is so enlightening after fighting similar situations many times in the past!

        • zoetmb

          I disagree. I think that there will be continued advances with resolution improvements, dynamic range and focusing accuracy in DSLR cameras.
          We’ve seen some patents where auto-exposure can be controlled pretty much on a pixel-by-pixel basis. I think we’re going to see tons of improvements in the future, but companies like Nikon will be slow to make them because they take such a conservative approach to development and because they’re afraid of alienating traditional DSLR photographers.

          But I also think we’re going to see completely new form factors and user-interfaces, but those will take place in mirrorless and other alternative form factors.

          As just one example, while a lot of traditional photographers don’t like touch screens, there are times when being able to set the focus point via touch screen would be a huge advance over the dial approach we use today.

          But I think there’s also going to have to be vast improvements in electronic viewfinders.

        • As much as I see your point, I think that what you say applies to SLR photography rather than digital photography as a whole. Take mirrorless, for example: It is an obvious step forward away from the largely unnecessary and complex mechanics of the prism and the what in this day and age appears to be an almost Rude Goldberg-esque mirror/shutter mechanism that has to flip at 11fps and has a lifespan limited to several hundred thousand actuations. This is an obvious performance bottleneck compared to mirrorless which can burst at over 100 fps (with caveats, obviously).
          Once the horrific “live view” focussing gets itself sorted out and viewfinders are able to render an image at natural looking resolutions and clarity with a full colour gamut, the need for a dedicated viewfinder path with all its complexity and thus propensity for mis-focussing, will lessen.
          If these advances are not enough, lets discuss revolutionary signal processing techniques and technologies in the wings like the light field camera which captures an image and can actually apply focussing and “aperture” in post, purely using mathematics.

        • Rob

          I think that’s a pretty short-sighted view on what’s to come. There are already better sensors in design, we’ll be seeing increases in better ISO, better dynamic range, size and weight improvements, Nikon to actually use touch screen finally, wifi to be in all cameras as standard, LED lighting to take over the world, distortion and vignetting in lenses to be improved upon, and Sigma to turn the entire lens market upside down and shake it about!

  • Scott M.

    Very well done!
    Compelling reasons to purchase. Thank you!

  • Bill Ferris

    In the D4s showpiece video, “Making of Dedicated,” there’s a great sequence detailing the value of the auto-ISO feature. There’s a shot in which a motocross racer wheels his bike from a darkened garage, outside into bright sunlight and up a ramp into the back of a truck. The auto-ISO performance during this single, continuous shot is amazingly smooth. This feature, alone, should make the D4s of interest to videographers needing a camera that works well in difficult lighting conditions.

    • David G.

      I found the sequence you’re describing :

    • Auto ISO is the sort of thing that video cameras have been doing for an age. It’s sad that such an obvious and standard function is considered worthy of mention, along with Manual Auto ISO, considering the $6000 door charge for the 4s. The D4 with expend 3 could clearly handle this, but it’s just another feature held back to entice us to but the latest and greatest.

      You will notice that certain other minor features will be “deprioritised” so that they can be “reprioritised” in later models at further $500 premiums.

      • Bill Ferris

        “Auto ISO is the sort of thing that video cameras have been doing for an age.”


        • erm… Yep. Video cameras have had auto “ISO” since analogue.

          DSLRs have had auto iso for years. Crikey, my D7000 had auto ISO, and I’m not egocentric enough to believe that I just happened to purchase the world’s first camera to do that.

          • Bill Ferris

            Video cameras have had auto iris (aperture) adjustment since analog. That is completely different from auto gain (ISO in DSLR parlance). Gain adjustment in video cameras is stepped, typically in 3dB increments. Auto iris in dedicated video cameras is awful. No professional striving to do quality work would have usde it. The constantly varying iris produced a strobing effect that can only be described as hideous. Even modern fully professional video cameras look awful when iris is adjusted on-air. Quite simply, none of the auto features in analog video cameras were anything close to being usable for professional work.

            With the D4s and newer bodies, Nikon’s auto ISO feature smoothly and naturally adjusts sensor sensitivity – without changing aperture and, by extension, depth of field – in real time as lighting conditions change. It looks great and that’s a game changer.

            • I see what you mean and I stand corrected, thank you. Doesn’t auto Iris == Auto aperture? Or is it some off plane iris separate from the Aperture Diaphragm? That would create some hideous depth of field issues if it were.

  • wonderingPI

    Well… if you need video then sure.

    Otherwise d3s will do the exact same thing. It also get 4200 shots standard.

    new isn’t always better tbh.

    • Martin

      You seem unaware of some other minor differences, aside from video:
      – The AF in the D4s is way faster the in the D3s, much faster focus acquisition, much more reliable tracking
      – The new group AF mode of the D4s is awesome at tracking
      – The D4s (and the D4) have way better image quality at lower iso, better DR, very noticeably better detail
      – The AF in the D4s (and the D4) is a couple of stops more light sensitive, very noticeable difference in bad light
      – The D4s (and the D4) has a much improved vertical grip
      – The D4s (and the D4) has a much better wifi solution, and ethernet jack for good measure
      – The D4s is 2 fps faster (11 vs 9 fps) compared to the D3s
      – And a long laundry list of small details …

      I use a D3s (and a couple of old D3) for my daily work, but has tried the D4 extensively, and had five days with a loaner D4s. There are very noticeable differences …

      • Eno

        Yes I agree, “There are very noticeable differences …” especially in price 🙂

      • Fiod

        I have D3s, D3x, D4, D4s and:
        1. D3s have best low light iso.
        2. AF is the same in D3s, D4 (have problems with BF and FF), D4s.
        3. Group AF: at 10 shots 5 with BF
        4. D4 and D4s have crap battery life, 2700/3200 vs 4200 on D3s.
        5. D4 and D4s have crap AF button module, now you must press button and scroll the wheel, in D3s only change button.
        6. D4, D4s have better vertical grip with buttons.

        D4, D4s have backlight, more megapixels worse batery life and worse low light isos, image quality is negligible,
        definitely not worth the money.

        • Martin

          1. The difference in high iso/low light is very small, but the D4 is a smudge better then the D3s (slightly better skin tones for example).
          2. That claim tell me you actually never have used the cameras in question 🙂
          3. Huh?
          4. If you compare CIPA values yes, if you compare real life performance, and particularily in cold conditions, the D4 actually is better then the D3s. And the D4s is better still.
          5. Aside from the stupid choice of button, I prefer the new system, particularly with the D4s where you can tweak the list of modes to walk through.

          Try again … 🙂

          • Fiod

            1. Nope, you are wrong
            4. looooool
            5. Sure, more buttons, more task, too slow to shoot

          • wonderingpi

            Well I prefer.using better glass that’s where I see the difference,
            IE 300 2.8 or 400 2.8.
            Improved vertical grip on d4s really? You know they went back to an
            Apple is good at it also 🙂

            • They’ll be back this way again in the tick tock cycle of function inflation and ablation to sell us more of their products with minimal possible improvements:
              Behold the D4b: about the same but with 30% better battery life than the 4s. That’s what happens when there is only one -or when considering lens lock in- no competitors.

  • longzoom

    One of the few shooters in the World (me included, hah!) who’s tests images are fully functional! Congs!

  • El Aura

    Regarding the sRAW: It is demosaiced, it has the tone curve (gamma) applied and is compressed (look at Iliah’s posts in this thread: and it is only 1 MB smaller (13.1 vs 14.1 MB) than an equally 12-bit, equally compressed in a lossy way (though a different procedure) than a full-size 12-bit lossy compressed raw. It thus saves very little in storage space. It can save processing speed in the raw converter.

  • mikeswitz

    Really terrific piece. Thoughtful and informative. One question. What is lifestyle photography and who are your clients? Great pictures, just not sure where they are used.

  • Sycotek

    Traded up to a D4s from a D4 – zero buyers remorse – the small changes they made have a massive impact.

    And for the record shooting a fashion week recently got a single battery all the way over 10K shots and it still had 15% charge left.

    And if it missed a shot that was my fault not the cameras.

    Worth it ? If you use the D4 for what it was intended for – big massive yes to upgrading to a D4s.

    • wonderingpi

      This is all in your head seriously great that you don’t have buyers remorse but we did a photography gig last week at a horse track lots of fast action and lighting was crappy, there were two d3s camera’s four d4’s one d4s…. ZERO DIFFERENCE certainly not worth upgrading a d3s to d4s for 3500 and d4 to d4s is not worth 1k or 2k, and d4 and d4s both need battery swaps while all three d3s’s stayed around the 40% mark.

      • mikeswitz

        The difference is Tom gives real world examples that we can see. You just generalize.

      • Martin

        If you see ZERO DIFFERENCE you need a new pair of glasses 🙂

    • Over 10000 photos on a single battery? Seriously?

  • Good write up Tom. You articulate very well what I have experienced as well. The AF improvements ARE the reason to shell out. Out in the field is where I have really seen it rock…. and pay for its self!
    Also very nice images. As both examples of the D4s abilities and yours! Thanks for taking the time to do the comparison and write up.

  • JosengSisiw1

    This is how i work with my D800, manual mode & auto ISO. Is this not in D4 yet and only now in D4S? Just clarifying?

    • Also tremendously surprised at this. I find tremendous value in Auto-ISO on every Nikon I’ve had. Why was this not included in the D4?

      • Dave

        It is, just not with video.

      • lol

        yeah, it’s just been added for video. really proves this author is willing to BS when he doesnt know exactly what he is talking about. i stopped reading right there.

  • According to the EXIF data, the D4s file at the top, shot at ISO 6400, is actually from a Nikon D4.

    • tg1

      Shot the scene on both cameras but uploaded the wrong one. Sorry. It is corrected now. – t

  • guest

    Stepford models.

    • mikeswitz

      Even if that were true what the f**k does that have do with anything. Stepford post.

      • He’s probably referring to the stiltedness of the woman sitting at the computer. I did find her pose somewhat unlikely, if not robotically unnatural. Besides that shot, I can’t see anything else.

        • mikeswitz

          That’s “lifestyle photography” for you. Mayb the clients were robots. The post was about comparisons between D4 and D4s. Unless one of those cameras made the model look like a robot, guest’s post was completely inane.

  • Michiel953

    Very informative story. Thanks!

  • Very informative, but the sample images are very much post-processed with a washed-out look that doesn’t really show the accuracy of the amazing sensor.

  • EdGeePhoto

    Thanks for your in use comparison. Could you please explain how you focus bracket while using auto focus?

    • tg1

      Instead of holding the shutter button down continuously and allowing the camera to track, I repeatedly release and re-hit the button after several exposures. The idea is to force the camera to stop and then re-start its focusing, and interrupt any false tracking that might have been going on. I may be completely off base with this technique, but it has seemed to help. – t

    • I think he’s using the term “focus bracketing” to mean take a number of continuously focussed shots… Some will be naturally slightly front focussed, others rear focussed and in between should be some pin point focussed ones.

  • Ryofu Pussel

    I don’t understand Tom’s statement “had to follow (the moving model) with a continuous focus point placed on the woman’s eye” – does this mean single point or (5-point-)group-area focus or (9-point-)dynamic -area focussing… in continuous AF-mode?

    • tg1

      In this case, on the eye, it was a single point in AF-mode.

  • Theodoros Fotometria

    What stroke me most out of the review was the phrase:
    “We seem to be getting to a point in their development where the changes from model to model give us less to shout about.”
    It seems that development in the latest generation cameras IQ-wise has topped to a level that makers will have a hard time beating significantly in the future… It clearly seems that many people will have much less reasons to upgrade their latest cameras with future generation products.

    • Martin

      Actually, this has been going on for a few years now. Which is one (out of many) reasons the cameras sales actually has dropped in the past years.

      Unless there is a radical new sensor design, performance will only change marginally in the next few years. Resolution will keep slowly increasing, overall speed (fps, responsiveness, ability to to things in parallel) will increase.

      Back in 2009 when the D3s was released it reached a QE of around 60%, and there sensors pretty much seem to be stuck. Which mean there is not much more signal to be gathered from any given exposure. Even if manufacturers by some magic managed to increase the QE to a unrealistic 90%, that is still just half a stop more of signal.

      In short: DSLR has after 15 years of very rapid improvements reached a level of technical maturity from which it becomes increasingly difficult to make any drastic jumps in performance.

      Sure, we will see improvements in processing power, and we will probably see a gradually increased resolution (which is most obvious at low iso). But don’t expect any radical jumps in DR, high iso until we switch sensor technology.

  • ShaoLynx

    Yo Peter,
    Care to speculate some on any future specs?
    Let me open by stating: huge increase in DR: that will be the new battle ground between the brands. SLog2, anyone?

  • Kawai

    Please when the D4S RAW will be recognise by Apple and by extension, APERTURE ?

  • marketer

    In conclusion:

    The D4 had “amazing” focusing and low light capability.

    The incremental update D4S has even more “amazing” focusing and low light capabilities.

    So now we have to revise the first statement. The D4 had [aversage/adequate/good] focusing and low light capabilities advertised as “amazing”. The customers got duped.

    If they want the “amazing” […] and “amazing” […] they have to get the D4S now. All better now.

    Just remember when the next incremental update is out, your D4S will no longer have the “amazing” this or that. It will not be good enough to squeeze out that absolutely amazing photo in the impossible conditions. Only the very latest model on the market has this capability.

    • D100 Here

      That’s why I’ve still got my trusty D100

  • MRomine

    Excellent review! Thx!

  • KnightPhoto

    Thanks, enjoyed the images, description of your environment, and your thoughts. It seems these S models tend to hit a really nice space in terms of features, IQ, and well-rounded capability. It would be nice to get on the S bandwagon and for example have gone D3S and then D4S. But then again buying at the D3 and D4 stages gives one such a jump forwards in features it would be hard to wait the 2 years for the S model to come out. If I could get in and out, selling my D4, for let’s say less than $1,500 difference a D4S would be very tempting. But as a semi-pro (theatre/concert) shooter, combined with the $1,000 price increase here is Canada, the buy/sell price difference is probably around $2,250 at least for the moment. Still, the D4S looks like a great camera, thanks for your thoughts and keep us posted what you do!

  • Mike Lyons

    This is a great write up! Thank You. One nagging question in my head is this: Some of these improvements could be done through a firmware update. Auto ISO being one of them. So, Nikon, Why not put that out there for your current owners? Now this would be an interesting discussion.

    • TeaBreak

      This isn’t interesting. The answer is obvious: Nikon wants to earn money which is reasonable and a unobjectionable approach.

    • Bill Ferris

      At some point, a digital camera manufacturer will jump headlong into the 21st century and produce three bodies around sensors of different resolution: 16, 24 and 32 MP. Each will have a base price with the option of adding upgrades from a menu including ISO, frame rate, autofocus, video, weatherproofing, color…you name it.. They’ll probably offer bundles designed to make things easier for customers who want the manufacturer to decide for them what they need. But there is absolutely no reason not to bring this level of customization to digital camera purchasing

      • Weatherproofing firmware upgrade… LOL.

        • Bill Ferris

          Who said weatherproofing would be a firmware upgrade?

          • How else would you add weatherproofing from the menu as suggested? No, I am just kidding… the reason I’m laughing is because the iPhone had a fake waterproofing iOS upgrade that some people fell for.

            • Bill Ferris

              Menu, as in choose one from column A, one from column B, etc. In other words, when you place the order online for the camera, you add the options you want to the base level body and go from there.

    • With Wifi connectivity, they could offer an in camera “App store” where a purchase would release or download the firmware updates. Lower price for base model, with the option of downloads and higher price one, “full on; maxed out” with all the firmware tweaks in place. But personally, I know that the ASP would increase using this model, so I don’t want to go there.

  • broxibear

    Quick Instagram video of the D4s bts at London Live…

  • d800e_shooter

    After this review, I actually think it might be worthwhile to wait for the D800S (or D810 if nikon choose to name it that way) that’s likely to have the same group AF version. Alongside RAW-S the D800S would be a great low light machine if 9MP is sufficient for ones’ use….

  • Aldo

    lord eels is taking notes for his future poser comments…

  • John_Skinner

    If you’re in a D3(s) with resale you would be getting $3500.00 so add the difference between the $5,900 they’re asking. A D4.. $4,500.–. So if these minor tweaks are justifiable for the $1,500 minimum.. Jump on it.

    These are pixel peeping perks that would on;y wet the whistle of someone shooting full-time. It’s not really an upgrade… I don’t care how many people on the web say so.

  • Dan

    Re: Auto ISO
    My old D40. Is this a feature that was engineered out of later models of Nikon?

  • Thank you Tom for this insightful review of the two cameras. I love your compositions, they look far more natural and spontaneous than the majority of the mediocre stock I see online. I will have to try adding more motion to my own “lifestyle” work and work more with the backlighting rather than against it. Your compositions really bring out the airy spaciousness in the daylit scenes.

    It puts the two machines into perspective and confirms that advances in the camera itself are really a very small part of photography.

    What I bring home from this is that the camera is a workflow enabler rather than a photograph enabler. The correct camera allows one to achieve the same results with less effort and worry than would a lesser model.

    This succinctly written piece has also clearly showed me that my rather more controlled sports work would not benefit enough from the D4s to justify one over a used D4, which I have been considering for a couple of months.

    NR: This is the type of article I want to read. Real cameras used in real situations. Very useful. Stuff like this gets me coming back here day after day. Excellent choice.

  • 50 1.4G on D4S ?
    Nice joke. Next news please.
    ( and you use an XT-1 just to show your gear. Wow. u got time and money to waste )

  • I am using the D4 and I think it’s a wonderful camera. You can look at my photos to see how well it focuses even in very dim light, here is my website:
    What I really wish is that Nikon would finally make an update to the viewfinder, it needs to be bigger, like the F3 used to be. Another update that is very much needed is to spread the focusing points. Who cares if they keep adding more focusing points that are all cramped together. It would make more sense to increase the focusing area instead. So until Nikon comes up with some real improvements I will absolutely not upgrade my D4.

  • Gavan Caldwell

    I have just bought a D4s having owned a D3s and also had the loan of the D4 – Before I bought the camera which I mainly use for motor cycle racing pictures I knew fully well that I was not buying the ultimate dream camera that would produce consistant super sharp photographs.
    My current camera was the Nikon 7100 which is brilliant all round work horse but just lacks in those vital split seconds for high speed work.
    I have only used my D4s a couple of times but was really taken back when the camera struggled to focus on high speed race bikes.
    If the camera hesitated to focus the picture was lost.
    Yes I was able to to lock on focus immediately and got real good sharp images but I really had to work at it.
    I contacted Nikon who advised me to set my autofocus to focus only mode – which certainly did not work for me!!
    I am going to try the release focus option as it will allow the camera to lock on to the race bike and hopefully will focus after a couple of more shutter releases.
    I really don’t see any improvement in the D4s for high speed photography and if you already own a D3 D3s or D4 then you should hire a D4s before you part with your cash.

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