Is this the best DSLR ever seen? Find out in What Digital Camera's Nikon D4 review…
Nikon D4 review – Image Quality
Tone and Exposure
With the 91,000 pixel metering system, there’s the choice of either 3D Color Matrix Metering III (the latest generation of Nikon’s multi-zone metering system), Centre-weighted or Spot.
The 3D Color Matrix metering coped very well under a range of lighting conditions – the system is clever enough that when shooting a backlit portrait, it’ll balance the exposure, giving prominence to the face.
Tonal range of images is very good, with smooth graduations in colour. There’s also a dedicated HDR mode (JPEG only), with the choice of 1, 2 or 3 EV exposure differential, as well as Auto.
White Balance and Colour
The Auto White Balance delivered pleasing, neutral results. If results are too neutral however, then there’s a secondary Auto White Balance that aims to keep warm lighting colours. As well as these two Auto White Balance modes, there are a host of presets to choose from as well: Incandescent, Fluorescent (7 types), direct sunlight, flash, cloudy, shade and preset manual (up to 4 values can be stored).
If you want to alter the intensity of the colours, then there’s a choice of Picture Controls – as well as Standard, there’s Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape. For each Picture Control, you can adjust Sharpening, Contrast, Brightness, Saturation and Hue, as well as being able to save those changes and use later.
Sharpness and Detail
The D4 uses a new 16.2MP full-frame CMOS chip that deliver files that are 4928 x 3280px in size – this roughly equates to being able to print an A3 print at 240ppi without the need to upscale. The D4 also has 3 additional crops modes – 5:4 (4096 x 3280 – 13.4MP), 1.2x (4096 x 2720 – 11.1MP) and 1.5x DX mode (3200 x 2128 – 6.8MP).
Detail from the new sensor is excellent, especially at the lower ISOs when the resolving power of the sensor is very impressive.
The D3s set the benchmark when it came to high ISO performance. With the increase in resolution from the D4, there could be concern that this will suffer. From looking at our resolution charts, this is not the case – the D4 performs very well. Image noise is very well controlled, only really becoming noticeable at ISO 3200. Above that, and as you’d expect, image noise is more prominent, though even ISO 51,200 displays reasonable amounts of detail. Hitting the upper limits of the ISO range and it should only be used as a last resort, but no other camera offers this kind of sensitivity range at the moment.
Is it better at high ISOs than the D3s? It’s very close – the D4 just nudges it thanks to the benefit of the extra resolution provided.
The NEF Raw files from the D4 can be read in Photoshop Lightroom 4, while Nikon’s all-in-one software package ViewNX2 is bundled with the D4 to get you started if you haven’t got any alternative software.
As you’d expect, the JPEG files direct from the camera show some levels of image noise control, while there’s also a boost in the colours. Raw files, especially at higher ISOs, display greater levels of detail.
The movie mode on the D4 is quite a set-up in terms of quality and features over the D3s. The output at 1080p looks very good, at up to 24Mbps. The ability to be able to monitor audio is a real bonus, can great to see.
While it’s probably not enough to make Canon videographers make the leap over to Nikon, it will certainly wrestle away Canon’s dominance in this sector.