Photography News 07

Camera review


ISO performance

Perhaps the biggest talking point of the D4 s is the astounding ISO range, extendable to the equivalent of ISO 50-409,600. We tried the full range to see the image quality in Raw files processed in Nikon’s ViewNX 2 software. As you might expect, the top sensitivity is less of a usable setting than an indication of capability at lower sensitivities. Images are high quality all the way up to ISO 1600, at which point there’s the slightest loss of contrast that reduces detail. This becomes more much more significant by ISO 6400 if you’re looking at images full size. That said, all the way through to the Hi1 setting, equivalent to 51,200, noise is well controlled and there’s not much grain – if you’re using pictures at a smaller size, they’re perfectly acceptable, and considering the light levels that require such settings, this is quite a feat.

ISO 100

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

ISO 51,200

ISO 12,800

ISO 25,600

ISO 102,400

ISO 204,800

ISO 409,600

per-second, now the D4 s can reach 11. If you make a living from shooting action, this extra frame could be the difference that puts the dinner on the table, but whether or not an enthusiast photographer, even of action, would benefit enough to justify the cost is another matter. If this kind of speed is what you’re looking for, then it’s also worth pointing out that Canon’s equivalent camera, the EOS-1D X, is still one frame faster at 12 frames-per-second. The autofocus system in the D4 s uses the same basic AF module as the D4 and D800, but it’s been tweaked. There are still 51 AF points, with 15 cross- type AF sensors, but acquisition is said to have been improved. In practice, it’s mostly as quick as you’d expect, but the peripheral non-cross-type points sometimes struggled. Tracking has also been improved, and there’s a new Group Area AF to help track fast-moving subjects. To help you track your subject better, there’s also a new mirror mechanism that reduces the blackout time in the viewfinder and increases focusing time between frames. A big hand Just as the insides of the D4 s are finely tuned for professionals, so the handling is optimised for use in the situations that sports, nature and press shooters find themselves in. It’s built to withstand hefty knocks and harsh conditions, with an all-metal weather-sealed body. It’s seriously big too – besides the obvious moulded vertical grip, it’s wider and deeper even than the already chunky D800. This gives you plenty to get hold of, although I thought it was a little too big for comfortable operation while hand-holding. The vertical ergonomics didn’t work for me either – there wasn’t enough to get your fingers round beside the lens mount, and reaching the back command dial in this orientation means a journey for your thumb to the ‘wrong’ side of the grip. None of this is such a problem if you’ve got the camera on a tripod or monopod because you don’t need to provide support while making adjustments.

RIGHT One rare scene that needed negative exposure compensation with the D4 s – Matrix metering dealt with almost every other lighting. Literally every control you can think of is directly accessible at the touch of a button, and there’s plenty of flexibility – functions can be assigned to various buttons, both for a single press or in combination with the dials. It all means you can change your settings in a flash. Tucked away behind the locking compartment on the right are dual memory card slots, one for CompactFlash and another for XQD as in the D4. An interesting decision, since the XQD format isn’t compatible with any other camera and card manufacturers haven’t widely adopted the format, but it offers extreme transfer speeds and allows the D4 s to take a continuous burst of up to 200 JPEG files at top speed – impressive.

The verdict

£3000 less. Even the D610 might suit more sedate subjects better, and that’ll save you nearly £4000. There are other things to consider here too. If you really need such speed and focusing performance, then the Canon EOS-1D X still has a one frame- per-second advantage as well as an arguably more flexible AF system, and it’s the better side of £5000. And while the D4 is no longer available as new, the launch of the D4 s will create a substantial second-hand market for its predecessor – if you’re not pushing it to its limit to earn your living, then this could be a way of getting performance that’s almost as good at a lower cost.

As you’d expect, the D4 s put in a brilliant performance in just about every area. It’s built for power, performance and speed, and that’s what it delivers. But perhaps its spectacular specifications and extreme price point make it all too easy to get swept away with the glamour of it. Like any other camera, it’s best suited to certain types of photography, and if you’re a sports or nature photographer, then there’s no Nikon camera that will do a better job for you. But if you’re a landscape or portrait photographer, for example, the D4 s is simply not the best choice, even if money is no object. The D800 will give you more than twice the resolution, and it costs more than




What hasn’t it got? HANDLING It’s big PERFORMANCE



Very little to fault VALUE FOR MONEY 23/25 Obviously expensive, but it depends on what you need or want it for



Pushes the boundaries as it should

PROS Low-light performance, metering, continuous shooting speed CONS Big and heavy, price

Issue 7 | Photography News

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