Review: Nikon D4 – The master of the dark arts (Part 2)

6/5/2012 3:51:03 PM

One of the most impressive features of the D4 is how well its buffer handles sequences of Raw files at ten fps. I've shot several bursts and never had the buffer slow down, meaning I never miss an image. And this is using a U DMA CompactFlash card –  I've not tried out the XQD card yet, which is supposed to be even quicker!

Description: Nikon D4

The 3.2in LCD monitor is pin-sharp and the menu system is comprehensive, yet easy to navigate. However, I do need to calibrate the colours as I've noticed they're not accurate, with the grass having a lime-green appearance. I shoot lots of video for my blog and so I've had a look at what the D4's capabilities are. Video quality is brilliant and I also like the viewing options available by pressing the INFO button. I haven't experimented with the different video modes, but the standard setting delivers excellent video and audio.

The improvement in the autofocus performance is nothing short of amazing. The D3s's AF is excellent, but the new system used in the D4 is more responsive and incredibly quick, whether used to lock on a subject or track movement. Along with the ten frames-per-second motordrive, it's a dream machine for sports pros like myself. If you look at the camera’s menu, you will see there is incredible scope for customisation of the AF system and I'm still trying out the various options.

Description: Nikon D4

An important facility is the Focus tracking with Lock On (Custom Setting a3), which I use to follow players running at speed. I tried using the AF with the same set-up as I had with the D3s and then adjusted the focus tracking to the short and long settings. I settled for the Normal setting. The optimal setting depends on what you're shooting - a colleague of mine regularly shoots motorsports and uses the 'Short' setting. With the first set of games I've covered, I have used the 'remote' camera with wide-angle lens, located behind the goal, set to single-point AF. In the next couple of games I'm going to try it with nine AF points active to see if this gives any improvement.

The camera's AF tracking is brilliant and I've tried shooting sequences of up to 20 frames to see how well the camera tracked the players. I've found the D4 has an 85-90% success rate on average, which is excellent. To be honest, the Nikon's Matrix metering is so accurate that it's rare to notice any major situations where it struggles. So although the D4 has a newly developed system using 91,000 pixels, I wasn't expecting to see any huge improvements. However, I have noticed that it copes very well with high-contrast lighting, which is the norm when shooting floodlit games at night. The metering uses a system where it identifies the - in the end after some experimentation colour of the subject and I've noticed it has helped with backlit shots of players and with afro-Caribbean and African players.

One of the Custom Settings I've set up is the Multi selector center button option (Custom Setting f1), which when previewing an image, allows me by pressing the zoom button to immediately magnify the area where the AF point has focused, so I can instantly check if the image is sharp or not.

I've not had a chance to experiment with the ethernet or the WT-5 WiFi unit yet. However, I'm looking forward to the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley as this venue has the facilities to try out the high-speed connections. I'll also be relying on this at this summer's European Championships and, of course, the Olympics. I'm also hoping to try Nikon's wireless transmitter with the camera behind the goal as it can transmit images direct to the wireroom.

Dickie Pelham

Chief Sports Photographer, The Sun

Dickie Pelham is regarded as one of the UK's leading sports photographers and covers all the world's major sporting events for The Sun. He has won several prestigious awards, including Sports Photographer of the Year and Photographer of the Year. During the football season you'll usually find him pitchside covering the games, as well as shooting the Premier League's leading players in the studio. Dickie's current outfit includes: two Nikon D3s bodies, Nikkor AF-S 400mm f/2.8G ED VR, Nikkor AF-S 600mm f/4D II, Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G, Nikkor AF-S 16-35mm f/2.8G, Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED and several accessories including wireless remotes, flashguns and an Apple laptop.

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