Jumping ahead of next week’s expected avalanche of product announcements, Nikon has today released details of its latest professional DSLR, the D4.

Designed primarily for sports and press photographers as well as photojournalists, the D4 features a magnesium alloy chassis and robust, durable body that is highly resistant to dust and water, thanks to extensive weatherproof sealing. A thermal shield in the top panel of the body minimises the risk of over-heating for photographers working in hot, sunny conditions. The camera body is optimised for both horizontal and vertical shooting with a second shutter button, control dial and joystick to improve its usability when shooting in portrait orientation.


Front view of the Nikon D4 with the new 85mm f/1.4 lens. The shutter button and front control dial for vertical orientation can be seen in the lower left corner of the camera body


Back view of the Nikon D4


The top panel of the Nikon D4 with the 50mm f/1.4 lens, showing the relocated movie recording button

The D4 also includes a revamped video mode that provides some attractive new features not seen before on a Nikon DSLR. This will undoubtedly increase its appeal to existing Nikon users who shoot video in addition to stills.  Key features of the new camera are as follows:
* The sensor is a 16.2-megapixel (effective) FX-format (36.0 x 23.9 mm) CMOS imager with a native sensitivity range of ISO 100 to ISO 12,800. Sensitivity is expandable to Lo (ISO 50) and Hi4 (ISO 204,800). High ISO noise reduction processing has also been improved. The sensitivity range for video recording is ISO 200-204,800.
* The EXPEED 3 processor, which was introduced  in the Nikon 1 mirrorless cameras, has been optimised for the new DSLR  and supports continuous shooting at up to 10 frames/second with autofocusing or 11 fps when focus and exposure are fixed on the first frame. There’s also an option for 12 fps at 8-megapixel resolution. The camera’s buffer memory will accommodate approximately 200 JPEG frames or 98 NEF.RAW frames.

* Time-lapse photography is also supported and image sequences can be played back as time-lapse movies at normal playback speed.
* The D4 is one the first to support the new XQD Compact Flash memory card format and has twin card slots, one for XQD and the other for regular CF cards. The CF slot supports UDMA 7-compatible cards.
* The 3.2-inch LCD monitor has a resolution of approximately 921,000 dots and features reinforced glass and a wide viewing angle. Close integration of the glass and panel reduces internal reflections. A virtual horizon that shows the sideways tilt (roll) and forward or backward pitch of the camera can be displayed on the monitor and in the viewfinder.
* The D4 claims a power-up time of approximately 0.12 seconds and a release time lag of roughly 0.042 seconds. Its shutter is rated for 400,000 cycles.
* Four image area options are available for shooting still images: FX (36 x 24), 5:4 (30 x 24), 1.2x (30 x 20) and DX (24 x 16). 
* A new Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX autofocus sensor module provides improved autofocusing, particularly in low light levels.  The 51-point system has 15 cross-type points (like the D3s) in the centre of the frame.  All 51 focus points are fully functional when lenses with a maximum aperture of up to f/5.6 are used. In addition, 11 focus points (five at centre with an additional three to each side) are fully functional when lenses with a maximum aperture of f/8 are used. This enables very precise focus acquisition with sports photography. The AF detection range is reduced from -1.0EV to  -2.0 EV.
* Face detection and face recognition AF/AE technologies have been introduced into a professional camera for the first time. The D4 can identify up to 16 faces and will priorities the face closest to the camera by default. (Note: There is no display in the viewfinder that shows when a face or faces have been recognised.)
* The D4 also features a third-generation 91,000-pixel RGB metering sensor which provides improved exposure accuracy for shooting still pictures and video clips.
* White balance is adjustable in units of 10 K and users can select 5-mired steps with the camera’s sub-command dial. Settings can also be specified separately for shooting (white balance applied to images) and monitor display with still-image shooting in live view mode.
* A dedicated video button (illuminated and user re-assignable) is located beside the shutter button for fast and easy access. A function button on the front panel is also customisable. Key button controls are illuminated for ease of use in dim lighting.

* The D4 is the first FX camera to support Full-HD 1080p video recording with selections for 30p and 24p frame rates. HD capture at 720p with frame rates  up to 60p is available for slow-motion shooting. Video is recorded with H.264/MPEG-4 AVC compression and b-frame encoding, which prevents image break-up by more accurately reconstructing the image data in between frames. Maximum clip length is 29 minutes 59 seconds
* The Multi-area Mode Full HD D-movie movie recording function is capable of recording Full-HD movies at 30 fps. Three crop factors are selectable to provide extensions in effective lens focal lengths: FX (full frame), DX (1.5x crop) and CX (2.7x crop). When a DX lens is attached, DX-based format is automatically selected. Movies are recorded with an aspect ratio of 16:9 regardless of the format selected, except with the lowest resolution, which defaults to 640 x 424 pixels with a 3:2 aspect ratio.
* Contrast detect AF and smooth aperture control for video recording. The addition of a los-pass filter to suppress moire and aliasing for video recording. (Details of these features were not provided at our briefing on the camera.)
* Using the Apple ProRES codec, the D4 can deliver uncompressed video recordings directly to an external recording device via its HDMI port. The camera also includes an external microphone socket. The camera also offers a headphone connector that supports stereo headphones. A new sound level indicator also allows for microphone sensitivity adjustment during recording, with a visual indicator of sound levels.
* The D4 provides includes new functions that support a more efficient workflow for professional photographers. Among them are built-in copyright embedding facilities and the ability to add IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council) information to images.

* The camera’s integrated Ethernet port supports WTSA wireless control (IEEE 802.11a,b,g) using the optional Nikon WT-5 wireless transmitter (see below). Wired LAN support is also available (IEEE 802.3u (10 Base T and 10 Base TX). 
* Released concurrently with the D4 is a new compact Wireless Transmitter (H062). Powered by the camera, the H062 also supports the new IEEE 802.11n (1 x 1) standard, enabling data transfer at twice the speed possible with the WT-4 (which can also be used with the new camera). The camera’s HTTP server mode can be used to display a list of images stored on the memory card. It also enables basic camera control, live view and movie recording using the Web browsers on portable devices (laptops, tablets and smart-phones). Synchronised release (H062 only) mode enables synchronised shutter release of up to 10 cameras (D4 cameras, each with its own H062) with the D4 used as the master controller .
Scheduled for release in February, the D4 will be available before Canon’s EOS-1DX, which goes on sale roughly a month later. Features common to both cameras include their sensitivity ranges (ISO 50-204,800), shutter durability (400,000 cycles) and shutter speed ranges (tbc), along with support for face detection AF/AE and face recognition. Both cameras have 3-inch high-resolution LCD monitors and LCD data displays on their top panels. Their viewfinders are full pentaprism units with 100% field of view coverage.

 Key differences between the cameras are shown in the table below. (We’ll fill in the blanks as information becomes available.)


Nikon D4

Canon EOS-1D X

Effective resolution



Image processor


Dual DiG!C 5+

A/D processing

12 or 14-bit (NEF.RAW)


Storage media

Dual slots for XQD Compact Flash and CF cards

Dual slots for CompactFlash cards (Types I & II, UDMA compatible)

Still image file formats



Video formats

MPEG-4 (Video: H.264 B frame compression)

MPEG-4 (Video: H.264, Audio: Linear PCM) with support for ALL-1 and IPB encoding

AF sensor array

51 points with 15 cross-type points operational to f/5.6; 9 centre points to f/8

61 points with 41 cross-type points operational to f/4; 5 centre points to f/2.8

Sequence shooting

Max. 10 fps with AF/AE; 12 fps at 8-megapixels

Max. 10 fps with AF/AE; Max. 14 fps with mirror lock-up (JPEG only); 12 fps for CR2.RAW files

Buffer capacity

200 JPEGs or 98 NEF.RAW frames.

120 frames (tbc)


91,000-pixel RGB 3D Colour Matrix Metering II

100,000-pixel RGB AE sensor plus DiG!C 4 image processor dedicated to AE


3.2-inch LCD with 921,000 dots

3.2-inch Clear View II LCD Screen with 1.04 million dots


100% FOV coverage, 0.70x magnification

100% FOV coverage, 0.76x magnification


Integrated Ethernet

Gigabit Ethernet with RJ-45 wired networking jack

Dimensions (wxhxd)

 160 x 157 x 91 mm

158 x 163.6 x 82.7 mm


 1340 grams



February 2012

March 2012