Why the Nikon D4 excites me…please don’t let me down!

Read more in my full ethics statement here. 

I have been using Nikon DSLRs longer than I have Canon ones. I shot my first DSLR video with the rather poor video function of the Nikon D90. I have bought the D3s for its (still not beaten) low light video function, the D7000 and D5100 and been disappointed each and every time. But I am very optimistic this time.

I know I am late to the party in writing this blog post, but work has gotten in the way. I have been shooting in Dubai for the past ten days and had very little free time. So it’s catch up time. I won’t go into all the things it does, especially with stills. I am interested in video and below is what excites me. I am hoping to get some time with the camera in the next two weeks so I can report back on if it’s good or not. I have also not had any time with the new Canon 1DX which also looks interesting. Love to try that too!

It’s the first full frame DSLR with full HD video from Nikon AND it also can crop in video mode to 1.5x or 2.7x. If this is implemented without image artifacts, this could be incredibly useful. Given us three different focal lengths off of one prime. Very useful for fast doco shooting that I do.

This is what excites me…

We are promised next to none of that nasty moire and aliasing we all hate from DSLR video.

A HEADPHONE JACK! I know, basic, but this is the first time there is such a crazy science fiction feature on a DSLR! 🙂 Finally we can monitor the audio we record. Basic, but HUGE!

Clean 8 Bit 422 out of the HDMI. No more H.264 nastiness if we don’t want it. Couple it with an AJA KiPRO mini, Atomos Samurai and away you go. A first for a DSLR. BUT I understand you cannot record on the CF cards at the same time. One or the other.

Incredible low light performance due to the reasonable MP count. This should be better than the D3s which was usable at 50,000 ISO!

So I have not shot with it or seen it yet, hopefully I will very soon. As soon as I do I will report back. Below is Dan Chung’s video of Nikon’s James Banfield going through the camera and an official D4 video from Nikon which looks terrific!


      1. Indeed, as it turns out, the quote that EOSHD used to come to that conclusion about line skipping was based off of an answer to 4:2:2 subsampling. He took it way out of context. Seems that his article is getting around the net though…

      2. Hah! Yes indeed. I like a lot of what Andrew writes, but he’s completely misunderstood the interview with the Nikon rep here. If you read the Q&A itself it’s very clear that:

        * The HDMI output is 8-bit, 4:2:2 sampling. Absolutely standard stuff, there’s nothing abnormal about 4:2:2 in this context.

        * Nikon are not revealing, at this time, how the camera downsamples from sensor resolution to 1080 lines. Which is a little odd, but perhaps reflects nothing more than the firmware not being finalised as yet, and their being over-cautious.

        It’s certainly possible that the D4 line-skips and hence suffers moire as badly as the earlier Canon and Nikon DSLRs do, but it’s also possible it’s doing something more clever in software, like the GH2. At the moment we simply don’t know.

        The D4 could be a winner – the low-light performance could be astonishing and with the multiple-crop feature and clean HDMI it could be both a versatile and high-quality camera. But until we see how it copes with fine detail it’s clearly premature to heap either praise or scorn upon it.

  1. I know it is a DIFFERENT beast but IF all your expectations become true don’t you think the camera could be a reasonable challenger to the FS100 ?
    (I know the FS100 is a proper video camera and has all the options and menus and stuff but what if the D4’s video mode can compete with it ?)

    Oh and has always with Nikon products : I love the design ! (I know it is very subjective but I always felt Nikon’s cameras looked better than Canon’s or Sony’s)

  2. Hey Phil,

    Welcome back – glad you threw the D4 up in here. This is really exciting, especially since I can remember the D90 so ‘fondly’ 🙂 Nikon is really bringing out the big guns here – also absolutely love that it will be available 1 month after launch – not 6 months later like errr….who might that be?

  3. As someone who recently switched from Nikon to canon I can honestly say that this camera has not made me regret my decision. I’m excited for Nikon that they are getting it together and some of the improvements they have made really show that they are listening and moving their camera forward. I have seen the sample videos and been impressed by the low light ability of the camera but for me it comes down to one personal feature that is totally unscientific….the look of the image. When I shot my first photo and video on the 60d it was the first time that what I shot looked like what I saw in my head. The Nikon video image has a certain “look” to it for me, it feels very real and factual, but a canon image to me feels more surreal and dreamy, like the creamy center of a candy bar. It’s completely personal to me, so no amount of features or upgrades will make me regret my move.

    The other thing I can’t get past is price, for this and the rumored d800, they just feel like they are moving out of my price range at Nikon. I was a d100,200,300 shooter and the $1500 price range is my budget, but $7000 and $3500 cameras are just not an option.

    For me, it’s about the personal connection to the look of the image, and the canon image just for me feels better. Let’s just hope canon pays attention to these we features for the 7dmk2?

  4. I love the sound of all those specs, particularly the HDMI out and the awesome noise performance based on the D3S (and the fact the D3S had really film like noise). My worry is that the Why video looks just like a 5D video, even in terms of resolution, it looks soft, when it first came out on Vimeo the 1080P version was available to download and I did (they’ve since taken that away)and it definitely doesn’t look as detailed as a GH2, FS100 etc. I’m not talking about compression here, this is resolution and in comparison with other Vimeo videos. I hope I’m wrong but it looks like Nikon have taken three steps forward and two steps back. The 1DX is crippled in annoying ways but it makes a point of not line skipping so hopefully it’s a pretty detailed image. I guess we can only wait and see…

  5. Nikon D800 should also come in about 3 weeks. Expect less spectacular high ISO performance than D4 but hoping for same video features and quality.

    Really wouldn’t mind going back to Nikon as my main system.

    1. Not quite sure yet if there won’t be some image quality surprises though. There is some weird info circulating on the way it downscales the image from the sensor which still sounds a bit like line-skipping… Guess we’ll see soon enough.

  6. It looks a great camera and my mate (who sold his D2 ages ago and has been desparately waiting for Nikon to step up to the mark on video) is daring to get excited again after the disappointment of the D7000 foibles. Couple of niggles, well about 4800 of them. Its too much camera both in spec and size for enthusiast like me and my mate. Its the same issue with the 1DX. They are too niche to benefit from the “photographer subsidy” like semi-pro models like the 5D and 7D. So my friend is pinning his hopes on the D800 and praying they are not too savage on the spec when downsizing.

    I don’t have any Nikon glass so the D4 is something I don’t have to worry about not being able to afford. I do welcome its arrival though. For all their claims about listening to customers, nothing spurs the adding of new features to a Canon camera than it appearing on their arch rival.


  7. Philip,
    great listening to that! This also excites me a lot!
    Actually I’m a huge fan of Canon; the 5DMkII is a dream that came true.
    But Canon has video and now cinema divisions and because of that I’m thinking that they will not want kill these divisions launching a perfect 5D Mk III; it certainly would kill the most of the cameras now a days just solving some very knowing issues of this great camera… They could solve theses issues relatively easily, but because their other divisions I think that they wouldn’t do that… so I’m resigned that we’ll not have a perfect 5D MK III… and it’s a shame but in other hand considering that Nikon has “only” photo division in imaging segment I think they will invest a lot to do a prefect HDSLR… (they will not worry about killing his video or cine divisions…) Did you understand the point?

    Nikon was lagging behind in the HDSLRs segment but for this main reason I think that Nikon will win in the near future in the HDSLRs segment.

    (I’m saying that even without ever touching a Nikon camera… but now I’m reviewing my concepts about…)

  8. I’ve literally been checking everyday day since I saw the “Why” documentary to see if you have posted your thoughts about it. I am glad to hear that the D4 excites you. I’ve had the 7D for over two years now and I’m ready to change cameras soon, and clean 422 to a Samurai interests me. Do you think it will be worth investing in something like this right away if there is the potential for Canon’s 5DMIII to be announced later this spring?

  9. I knew there was a good reason to buy so much Nikon glass for my GH2.

    Full frame moire/alias-free video with clean HDMI-out and manual, monitorable LPCM audio? They sure know how to fill the check-marks… seriously challenges even the AF100/FS100 at that price point

  10. I am no professional, but the Nikon D4 video named WHY looks much sharper in YouTube and is free of what I call the jaggies that I am seeing in VIMEO. Not sure why it uploaded that way on VIMEO. I projected the video of the D4 on my 14’x7′ screen and it is so detailed it gave me goose bumps. Talk about cinema cameras, I believe this camera could be used to make a big screen production. Philp, you may want to put this one in your arsenal.

  11. At last weeks CES I was able to spend time with both the Canon and Nikon flagship cameras running through the menus and pushing the buttons. Both are top rate and will make their respective supporters very happy. I am a Canon guy and cannot wait to shoot stills with the new 1DX if, for no other reason, to hear that cool graphite shutter fire off at 12fps! Chicks dig high frame rate cameras.

    If the 5DIII is as good of an improvement over its predecessor as these then 2012 should be a very good year to be an indie shooter.

  12. Wow, Looks like Nikon has really upped the ante! The slow mo was terrific!

    Sliders, Jibs and Heli shots. Not to mention the very best Nikon Glass. I wish I had that stable available to me.

    Hey, Philip T-minus 1 day on Red Tails! Yeah!


  13. Pretty cool video features.
    Though, I believe the output will be 10bits. Or at least it should if it’s real clean output, since the sensor captures at least 12bits, HDMI supports 16bits and even more, and Atomos Ninja and others can also record 10bits.

    It is huge improvement from 8 to 10 bits, specially shooting indoors, low light conditions or dark backgrounds. Also when editing the footage.

  14. Wow!, les images sont vraiment belles! On dirait que le rendu ressemble à la C300…Je suis reellement impressionné! Merci Phil! J’apprécie ce que tu fais. Saches que je te dois beaucoup. Si tu passes à Montréal, n’hésite pas. http://www.ovizion.ca

  15. This is my first post on your website I’ve been following it for years! lol. Nevertheless I couldn’t help but mention the ability of the nikon to shoot full frame and crop mode together, that literally blew my mind.

    I was under the impression that the D4 just shot in crop, even though it was a full frame camera, so whew thank god for that.

    I currently own a Nikon D7000, despite some of its let downs in comparison this Nikon D4 is rather attractive in terms of it’s rich features, head phone jack…. my God that alone is simply awesome!!!!

    6 months after I graduate from film school I’ll be wondering what camera to get into a serious loan for, this might be one of them. Clean 8Bit stuff excites me, after using the Red Camera in post and watching various things you can do with colour correction this is a God send! with that said I dunno what the Canon 1Dx is like in that department.

    With that said I like the colour from Nikkors and the Nikon department, but thats personal taste talking. Definitely looking forward to seeing a vid from you regarding D4’s operation.

  16. Lovely movie (Why) and great to hear Ronald Jenkees ‘Stay Crunchy’ from 3:31.

    Can’t understand why these new cameras are still recording 50/60fps at 720p rather than 1080p (even the Canon c300 is only 720p for this frame rate).

  17. Phil, when you do test the D4: What is its native DR? What is the HDR DR? Can the HDR function play to HDMI video out? What sort of monitoring options are there when the HDMI is used for capture device?


  18. Unfortunately it seems most external recorders like Atomos don’t support 1080 60p. For example the samurai will record in DNxHD or ProRes but, neither of those seem to support 1080 60p. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    1. Not really that interesting, there are always people who set their expectations too high on whatever product for whatever manufacturer. There are just as many or more people excited about the D4, and wish the eventual D800 was more similar to it.

  19. Of course. What was I thinking. Now let’s hope that there is enough loveliness coming off that sensor and carrying over to the likes of Pro Res. Interesting times. When I heard about the C300, its specs and price tag, I thought that it might not bode well for more DSLR (motion) innovation from Canon: why charge 16K for a motion dedicated 1080 and then put out a great stills camera with 1080 for half the price?
    The D4 might be a compelling enough reason for Canon to push even harder?????

    Get on it Phil, I have yet to find a decent assessment of this camera’s video ability/quality.

  20. VIMEO is a pain in the royal behinds… 😉
    In Germany, clicking on HD will render the movie unplayable. At least on the 5 locations where I access it.

    Youtube used to be Shid… But today, it beat the living H out of Video.

    Anyone who fancies his audience to have a smooth experience shouldn’t bother to use VIMEO !

  21. Can’t believe how short we are of demo footage only a couple of weeks from launch. Such a drag. It would be great to see something that really demonstrated the moire and other image characteristics at the various crops, but I guess it’ll be up to the first few brave buyers to create that stuff for the rest of us. 😉

    The Nikkor lens lineup leaves a fair bit to be desired from a video shooter’s standpoint. Where are the fast, short zooms with image stabilization that would make running and gunning possible in those DX and 1080 crop modes? They just don’t seem to exist. I’m loving the apparent versatility of the camera, it just doesn’t seem to be balanced with a versatile lineup of video lenses. That seems to be a big part of Canon’s edge (although even there it would be great to see IS appear in some of the shorter L-series zooms).

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