Using the Nikon D4s for wildlife photography by Aaron Baggenstos

As a professional wildlife photographer who spends over 100 days a year in the field working with clients and leading workshops I require the highest standards from my camera equipment. I’ve been shooting with the new Nikon D4s for several weeks now and am continually amazed by its remarkable capabilities.

I’ve demonstrated my 3 favorite new features in the video below including Nikon’s new group area auto-focusing mode, video shot at 1080p 60fps, and time-lapse photography created with the aid of exposure smoothing:

Since shooting this video I had a chance to photograph wild raptors (owls, eagles, and hawks) alongside clients on my annual Raptors of Eastern Washington Photo Tour. Here are a few images from this weekend (see attached images):

Nikon D4s, Nikon 500mm f/4 lens, f/8, 1/2000, ISO280, group area autofocus

Nikon D4s, Nikon 500mm f/4 lens, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO1100, group area autofocus

Nikon D4s, Nikon 500mm f/4 lens, f/6.3, 1/2000, ISO160, group area autofocus

Nikon D4s, Nikon 500mm f/4 lens, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO900, group area autofocus

After spending a few weeks with this camera I'm convinced that Nikon has created the ideal camera for wildlife photographers.
Whether you shoot stills, video, or time-lapse, this camera does it all.

Again thank you so much for your consideration and sharing. I'm working on a few other Nikon projects and I'll keep you first in line. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you.


Aaron Baggenstos is an Award-winning professional nature and wildlife photographer from Seattle who specializing in the Pacific Northwest, Canada, and Alaska. His photographs have been featured on television newscasts, in magazines, newspapers, and numerous web articles. He has also written and had published two books about wildlife. In the Fall of 2011 Aaron co-hosted two episodes of the popular PBS television Series “Wild Photo Adventures” with Doug Gardner which is currently airing nationally on PBS.

More of his images can be viewed throughout

Along with guiding tours and instructing photography workshops, Aaron also enjoys public speaking and presenting slideshows. To date he has spoken at multiple Audubon chapters and birding groups, National Wildlife Refuges, book stores, and other local interest groups.

Through his work Aaron hopes to inspire others to photograph, enjoy, and take action to protect, local and worldwide ecosystems.

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

This entry was posted in Nikon D4s, [NR] Reviews and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • Alex

    Is it much better than the D3s?

    • bratvlad

      I have a same question, what D3s could not do what D4s does. Probably 1080video and maybe focusing improved. I honestly happy 100%with focusing on D3s, for me its more of a lack of subject in the wild life than having the latest and greatest gear really.

      • desmo

        probably a lot of things ?? 😉

  • fjfjjj

    How does “exposure smoothing” do what it does? The D4s manual explains nothing.

    • Heard of Google? 😉
      The first hit gives a short explanation!
      My search phrase: Nikon D4s “exposure smoothing”

      • fjfjjj

        The first hit explains nothing about *how* it works. The second hit is now this page, with your non-answer. Congratulations, you’re making the interwebs a better place.

        • Right.
          It only explains what it does. (Short explanation)
          Maby it’s due to some patent stuff.
          ‘The D4S also offers a new exposure smoothing function for time-lapse movie recording. This function smooths exposure between frames for less flicker in resulting movies.’

          You did see the 😉 right?
          Looking forward to reading here about how it works.
          #Follow 😉

          • fjfjjj

            Maby? What are you 12? You do know that patents are by definition public, right? Do your parents know you’re using the computer?

            • copterview

              Funny, how someway that can’t spell maybe, wants to talk trash!

    • n11

      I believe its when you’re recording video, the exposure doesn’t “jump” between stops ,but rolls right through them giving you a nice smooth change of exposure.For videography, smooth exposure changing is a must if your shot is to include from going indoors to outdoors. As to how, I’m guessing better algorithms that change the aperture (or depending what mode you’re in) at a very quick and steady pace, same deal with the ISO most likely.

      Best answer I can give without looking at the technical details or owning a D4s.

      • fjfjjj

        I doubt it’s by changing the aperture. Nikon’s whole problem is that it lacks fine aperture control because of the obsolete control by mechanical lever. This might even be why Nikon needs “exposure smoothing” and nobody else does.

        • n11

          My current D800 can do it with aperture changing. I just set it to shutter priority mode, manual ISO, and let the Aperture go up and down.

  • Bob L

    As an owner of the D4s I totally agree with his assessment. It also performs spectacularly in low light conditions. I have got excellent results at ISO 12,800 … with the right software, any noise is easily removed to give a clean, sharp image.

    • Bret Michael

      Bob, what software would you recommend to remove noise?

      • Brian

        I use Topaz Dnoise 5 which I think is tht best.

        • Nikon

          Yes, I agree…Topaz De-noise 5 gives the best results. It may not be the fastest but it will maintain the pleasing qualities that the eye see’s with the right settings.

    • Nikon

      Totally agree…the low light capabilities are stunning. I have a picture of a Hummingbird taken at ISO 18000 and with a bit of luminance noise reduction in PS and Topaz denoise 5 it is hard to tell that it was taken at such a high ISO. Here is a link to show the results.

      • Paul

        that is a great shot. many shots on your page, in this series were done at <5000 ISO. why 180000 for this one? just testing limits?

        • Nikon

          Thanks Paul. Part of the reason for the extreme ISO is that fact that where I was shooting the hummingbirds, the sunlight was blocked by forest, so I had to contend with a whole lot of shade. Also, hummingbirds are extremely hard to follow and capture and only sit still for a fraction of a second most of the time. I needed to keep my shutter speed in 1/2000 sec area to be able to fully capture these little guy’s in their native speed. You blink once and they have moved to 4 different spots. The high shutter speed combined with the lack of light (I don’t use flash) causes the ISO to jump drastically. Use of auto ISO is generally my favorite choice in these situations as it allows me to concentrate on other camera settings in the moment…as I do shoot in manual mode. The D4s is so good at low light that I’m not concerned about the ISO in these situations. And Yes…I did also want to test the limits of what the D4s can do in low light. I must say I am very pleased with it. I also have taken a few shots at ISO 25600 with stellar results too. In my photo stream, there is a crow taking a bath with water droplets all over him. That one is ISO 25600.

          • copterview


  • Plug

    Nikon need to roll out this level of autofocus to some other bodies, but I suppose that not doing so is part of their process of differentiation between bodies.

  • Brian

    Group area autofocus is amazing for isolated subjects, however for something sitting in a tree or brush for example it can then be problematic by grabbing other areas to focus. I then switch to single point focus.

  • jk

    when can we get a mini D4s ? I prefer the D610 sized body but with better AF of the D7100 and sensor from the D4s. I need an ultinate lowlight compact D-SLR, if Nikon does not want to give us something I mentioned above , then I would have to get the Df but I want proper video at least as good as the video mode of the D5300,which is actually the Nikon’s best video to date. In fact, I fount the D610 actually a great body and I prefer it over my D800E but I still cannot forget my bad experience with the D600 and the bitter memory with it really preventing me from buying another cheap Nikon body. I think buying anything lower than D800E from current Nikon(under President Godai management) is quite risky.

  • willliam

    have anyone worked with promote and d800e for focus stacking

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