An Amateur Review of the Nikon D4

I haven’t done many product reviews, or reflections about camera equipment, but now might be the right time to start tracking what I like and dislike.

I woke up on Friday to one thought: today, I get to play with the Nikon D4. The Nikon flagship that shoots 10 frames per second with continous auto focus and buffers over 100 RAW images in rapid succession. It gave me goosebumps just thinking about it.

I’ve always wanted to own this camera. When I battled with buying my first professional level DSLR, I struggled between the D7100 and D800. But there in the back of my mind was the D4, always tempting me. Of course, new, it was a very, very, very expensive camera and there was no way I was ever going to get it. It’s like justifying purchasing a Porche 911 before you’ve even driven a car with over 200 horsepower, or taking an advanced cardiorespiratory physiology course before taking anatomy. You don’t just jump into it.

Nikon D4 with Sigma 35mm 1.4 1/8000 f/1.4 ISO 800

Before I go any further, I must write a quick disclaimer about the particular camera I shot with; I attached my Sigma 35mm 1.4 to the D4 and realized that the lower right corner of (almost) every frame was extremely blurred. This isn’t due to chromatic abberation or lens distortion because the Sigma 35mm Art is a total bad-ass of lens, so I must think there was something dirty on the sensor.

Now, a few thoughts on my short experience.

Nikon D4 with Sigma 35mm 1.4 1/2500 f/1.4 ISO 200

Pros

While holding it, the D4 makes you feel unstoppable, like how Frodo felt when he held the Ring or how Luke had a moment of ecstasy when he unleashed the lightsaber. It’s a heavy camera, weighing in at 2.6 pounds, without a lens. But despite its massive size, it felt easy to sling it around the shoulder.

I have pretty small hands, which makes reaching the top of my iPhone frustrating, however, when shooting, I prefer larger DSLRs because it makes me feel more grounded. I also find it easier to manuevur the larger DSLR for composition in my videos and photography than lighter mirrorless cameras. The ergonomics in landscape shooting feels great, even though it took some time to get used to the button layout (despite being very similiar to my D800).

For fun, I fired as many RAW photos in succession as possible, only to fill a quarter of my 32gb card with nonsense, but it was worth it. The buffer barely lagged, which makes me think this would be perfect for a variety of occasions.

Nikon D4 with Sigma 35mm 1.4 1/6400 f/1.4 ISO 100

Cons

I was disappointed once I turned the D4 on its side to hold it by the vertical grip. It felt small, like getting no rice or chicken with your Chipotle burrito. I couldn’t do my one-handed portraits without feeling like I would drop it instantly, and the aperture dial also felt awkwardly out of place.

I opened up the aperture to f/1.4 and fired away. Yet, I came away pretty disappointed. With the camera’s AF on continuous, it was extremely easy to miss focus on my subject and suddenly have 15 frames of blurred madness. Sure, I could’ve put it on a lower shooting mode, but where’s the fun in that?

Nikon D4 with Sigma 35mm 1.4 1/640 f/4 ISO 200

In Conclusion

After all the hype over the last few years, and a thoughtful debrief of my hands on experience, I decided that I wouldn’t want to own a D4, or any high frame-rate flagship, right now. Sure, they’re fun cameras with awesome image quality and razor fast autofocus, but the D4 isn’t the camera for me. As I continue to grow my experience with photography, I am learning to slow down my creative process. And right now, the D4 is a little too fast for me.

Is this a conclusive review? No, actually in many ways it’s left more questions than answers actually. I didn’t have enough time with the camera, nor able to put it in situations outside normal shooting. I didn’t share DxoMark scores or do image quality tests. I just wanted to share what I thought about a camera I held so highly. I wasn’t disappointed in the camera, but learned that it wasn’t a camera I enjoyed using as much as I thought I would. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s a great piece of photography equipment that’s continued to push the evolution of the DSLR.

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