THE NIKON D4 is aimed at meeting the needs
of press, sports and wildlife photographers requiring a mix of ultra-fast
performance and high image quality. It replaces the D3s, which has proven incredibly
popular with professional sports photographers in particular and boasts several
enhancements and improvements to keep it atthe cutting edge of this highly
competitive sector of the market. To ensure we gained a real expert opinion on
how it performs, we asked The Sun's Chief Sports Photographer Dickie Pelham to
machine: The Nikon D4 is built to survive the rigours of pro use and boasts an
updated AF system and a 10fps motordrive.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: I've only had the Nikon
D4 for a fortnight and have only used it in anger a handful of times, so I'll
need more time to thoroughly put it to the test. But, that said, there isn't
more of a baptism of fire then using the camera 'straight out of the box' to
shoot the fast-paced action of Premier League football teams battling it out. I
received my Nikon D4 on a Tuesday morning and after charging the battery for a
few hours, I was straight on to the M25 heading to White Hart Lane to shoot an
FA Cup tie between Tottenham Hotspurs and Bolton.
As it turned out, the match ended before
half-time due to the tragic circumstances surrounding Fabrice Muamba's cardiac
arrest on the pitch. It was terrible watching the medical staff working
effortlessly at reviving the Bolton player before rushing him off to hospital.
Everyone in the stadium was in shock, but along with all the other press at the
game, I had to maintain my professionalism and take pictures. I avoided taking
any shots of the player on the ground and focused instead on the onlookers. The
most effective image was one of Bolton manager Owen Coyle, taken using the 60mm
f/4 telephoto lens wide open so that the resultant shallow depth-of-field threw
everything but the manager out of focus.
Since this game. I've used it to cover a
further four premiership games and a couple of press conferences and
interviews, so I've had the opportunity to fire off a couple of thousand frames
- that's certainly enough to gain a decent first impression of the camera!
When the D3s arrived, I wondered how Nikon
could better the D3 and I was very pleasantly surprised. The D3s is a
formidable bit of kit so I wasn't expecting any major improvements on the D4
but, again, Nikon has raised the bar still further.
There are no surprises in terms of the
build quality - the D4 is beautifully made and very tough. Some of the guys in
the office who have picked up the camera have commented that they find its
weight is balanced to the right side, but I think this helps the overall
handling of the camera when used with a heavy fast-aperture lens.
All the controls are a good size and most
are in their usual position, although a few have new locations to improve speed
of use - the new position of the second AF-On button being a real bonus. When
shooting with the camera in the upright position, I can rest my thumb against a
small but pronounced ridge, knowing that I only need to move it slightly to
press the AF-On button to activate the focus. It's a simple little change of
position, but with sports photography, it really helps improve the rate of
success. Adding an extra joystick also helps speed up camera operation.
On the D3s, I was regularly knocking the
LiveView/Video button, but this has been redesigned so that it's far more
secure. The AF button on the front has also had a redesign to prevent the AF
mode being changed accidentally. These are subtle changes but make a big
difference to the handling and speed of use of the D4.
A mode that has been retained from the D3s
is the Quiet Mode, which allows for discreet shooting. While primarily aimed at
wildlife and surveillance photographers, it's a useful function for me when I'm
shooting players that are being interviewed by a Sun journalist. A shutter
rattling away in the background is a major distraction to both parties, but by
using the Quiet Mode, I can keep shooting without causing a problem.
$7680 (Guide) / $7680 (Street)
FX-format CMOS (56x25.9mm)
Image resolution: 16.2-meqapixels
LCD: 5.2in TFT (921,000 dots)
Storage: CompactFlash and XQD
1,180g (without battery and card)