Does the New Nikon D4s Really Make Sense?


Below is the press release from Nikon that came out today. Following that is the answer to my question, “Does the New Nikon D4s Really Make Sense?”

Featuring the latest EXPEED 4 image processor, the new D4s is 30% faster than its predecessor and takes the top spot in Nikon’s professional DSLR lineup. Working with an updated full-frame 16.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, it can shoot with a native ISO up to 25,600, or up to 409,600 with ISO expansion, resulting in crisp, clean imagery in low light conditions as well as improved overall quality and a variety of feature updates, including full HD video at 60 fps.

Shoot 200 full-size JPEGs at 11 fps, and offload them via a speedy 1000BASE-T Ethernet port. The new RAW SIZE S file type provides a new smaller RAW option for streamlining the workflow while maintaining excellent post-production editing possibilities.

Fast autofocus is possible with Group Area AF, which uses 5 sensors for optimized focusing within an area. Additionally, time lapse and interval shooting has been revamped with the ability to record up to 9,999 shots as well as use exposure smoothing to eliminate flicker from your final product — you can even set it for up to one week later. The D4s has also received a new EN-EL18a lithium-ion battery for up to 3,020 shots on a single charge.
Video shooting can implement Auto ISO Control during manual exposure as well as simultaneous recording to both the memory card and an external recorder, while also maintaining live view. And, FX, DX, and 2.7x crop modes can be chosen while in live view. Audio can sound even better with a selectable frequency range between wide and voice, and the new ability to change settings while recording.
Body only: $6,496.95

Okay, so there it is in all it’s glory. It’s impressive, no doubt. But Does the new Nikon D4s really make sense in today’s market of smaller, more capable cameras?

For those in the world of indie video, $6,500 buys a lot of “camera.” In fact, for the money, one might even be able to walk out of a store with all new equipment, including a camera, batteries, a lens and possibly even some accessories for around that same price tag.

But what about the picture hunters? How does this pro body fare in the world of image-driven commerce? Would a 16.1 megapixel frame do a better job than its younger brother, the D800, offer with it’s 36.1 megapixels? Does the idea of the D4 flagship model having a more capable processor and better focal field of sensors really offer the benefits assumed in the price margin? And which professionals are actually in the sliding market to purchase one of these behemoths when a younger, fresher face is willing to climb up to the middle of the Himalayas to shoot the snow leopard for the cover of Outside Magazine?

The point is, because of the changing face of technology, it’s getting harder and harder to justify lugging bricks of gear through the jungle when we can walk away with comparable imaging with higher tech and not risk a slipped lower vertebra in the process.

I know, I know: my readers will look through all of what I’m saying and feel sure that I am just too novice to know the difference between carrying the bigger DSLRs. But in fact, I have been doing this for the last ten years, and I have, until very recently, been an outspoken defender of the power that these bodies pack within them.


From knowing for sure that your image will look the way you want it, to having the security that your tried and trusted camera will take the beating that the road doles out, are very good reasons to eschew the newbie competitors on the market.

But what of the rising stars? What about the companies that have been keeping pace with the technological demands in the face of also maintaining their oldest, most dedicated customers? These bodies are made by companies that must cater to the widest range of the image-making community. And yet, Nikon seems to be playing the safe game, sticking to what has worked in the past.

To date, the best still camera I’ve owned was my D700. The following purchase of the D800 was the game-changer for me. The image quality, the ability to record cinematic quality video, the solid, form-fitted feel of Nikon’s signature construction: it’s all still solid gold for me – don’t worry.

But what I am talking about here is longevity.

Nikon has long since made me scratch my head at their lack of interest in the changing horizon of photo/video enthusiasts. And I have been on this particular train since the beginning. As a digital nomad, I have kept watch as Canon has rushed the competition with an imposing wave of bodies which has ultimately defined their pack-leading MKI’s, IIs and IIIs. And all the while, Nikon has floundered right at the confluence of these two worlds – and right at the time when they were poised to go neck-and-neck with their greatest contender.

I’m not attempting to tackle that age-old question of who is better between the two giants. I suppose I am just asking the question of whether or not Nikon is really playing the “right” game by playing the “safe” game. And in doing, are they unraveling the meshwork of ties they’ve worked so hard to maintain to the world of visual technology.

Being one of their biggest fans, I hope they turn things around.


One thought on “Does the New Nikon D4s Really Make Sense?

  1. I think that the smaller body Nikon DSLRs are getting closer and closer to the “pro” D4/D4s line. I’m sure they could pack a 16 mp sensor in a smaller rugged body, and still offer the same performance, auto- focusing and 10+ FPS, as the D4s, at half the price. If you compare the D3X with the D750, the D750 is far superior to the D3X in just about every way but body durability and shutter life, all at a 1/3 of the cost! The only thing that really stands out with the D4s is the higher ISO performance (i.e. smaller sensor) and faster continuous FPS shooting. The D750 is maybe 1+ stop under the D4s in ISO performance, but this is with a 50% higher resolution sensor. So you loose a stop or so but gain significantly in resolution. I believe the stats show that the overall IQ of the D750 is also higher than the D4s. The D750 also has the same auto-focusing system as the D4s. So what’s left? The D4s has a 4 FPS advantage, and a bigger buffer, than the D4s. If that is critical and essential for someone’s shooting, then right now you have to spent another 3-4K for the D4s. My overall impression is that you don’t have to have a body that is that big and costs as much as the D4s, to have it’s features. Bottom line, the size, weight, and cost of the larger “pro” bodies will soon be a thing of the past. To me, they are starting to look like, “Look how big my DSLR is, and guess how much it cost? 6.5K! That means I’m a real PRO”.

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