There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of reviews about the Nikon D4 online. Some would say writing a review two years after the launch is like writing a health and safety report after the Titanic has sunk!
But, pretty much all those reviews are "Technical" rather than "Practical" and I am focused on what its like to live with a Nikon D4.
So you know where I am coming from... I shoot around 50 weddings every year with my partner.
Every wedding is an all day event from Groom's preparations to first dance, which is a long day.
our work is very stylised and on our wedding photography location shoots we can fine ourselves anywhere from the obligatory beech to the wilds of the Brecon Beacons.
Until now we used the Nikon D3 and never went through the tedious and expensive process of getting drawn in to upgrading to the D3s or the D3X. The D3 ticked all the boxes, but having done 198,000 clicks it was time to think about semi-retiring the D3's and moving on. So we bought D4's and put the D3's to use as second cameras.
Here are the key things we've noticed about the Nikon D4 since using them:
ISO and Grain
Pretty much all of our wedding photography relies on natural light, in fact its our preference. Therefore we want a camera which has high film sensitivity and low grain noise as we expect to produce many of our images up to 30x20 inch Fine Art prints.
The Nikon D3 was great up to around 1600 ISO, very little grain, great for those darker locations and twilight images.
Just a practical side note - the way to get the best out of a high ISO situation is to make sure the image is bright so that it's about half a stop overexposed. So if ISO 1250 gave you a perfectly exposed image, I would tend to use ISO1600 and keep the settings and allow more light into the image. This helps reduce noise by pushing the red noise to the stopped up shadows where its easy to deal with in post production.
The Nikon D4 has an incredible ISO/Noise relationship. This weekend I photographed a ceremony in a barn lit by candles and a a single door. We shot at 6400 ISO and the noise was the equivalent of 1600 ISO on the D3.
We're not the only ones to notice this MASSIVE shift in noise reduction. While other manufacturers have been focusing their time on ramming pixels onto chips getting 20, 30, 40 megapixel chips, Nikon has devoted its self to getting quality from its pixels and so out performs cameras with double the megapixels. So much so that the world famous wedding photographer Gerry Ghionis dumped his Canon for the Nikon D4!
That's not something you do lightly when you have been the face of Canon for Wedding Photography, but it all came down NOT to how many megapixels, but the quality of finished image and noise.
For some reason Nikon has moved the AF button location on the Portrait view. Having used the D3 for 5 years it took a bit of rethinking to fine the button every time, especially as I tend naturally to photograph landscape and so I rotate the camera and have to physically look where the AF is to freeze the focus point.
Now you may think this is no big deal but it took me three months to get used to it and now swapping between D3 and D4 its irritating. Maybe Nikon thought that when you upgrade you chuck away the old, but I come from a generation where you use it until it falls apart. The D4s are now our principle cameras now but we still use our D3s regularly every wedding and this tiny change has been a big pain.
When I upgraded to the D4 is also upgraded my Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 lens to the new VR II and my partner has my old one for her D3.
I thought the focusing was good on the D3, its light speed on the D4 and much. much more accurate for sharpness. The VR system has also meant I can lower my speed. With such a long heavy lens shooting unsupported I seldom went below 1/200, occasionally 1/160. Now if can shoot comfortable at 1/125, that's a lot of extra light.
Just a note that the D4 hunts for focus in a way the D3 didn't. Therefore when we're shooting a first dance at first it seems to struggle finding focus in a very dark room with flashing lights. The trick is to focus on contrast as between white shirt collar and black coat then it locks on instantly.
Memory Card Door
On the D3 when the card door was shut it was well locked down. On the D4 they have changed the mechanism to accommodate alternative memory cards, which means you only get one slot for compact flash. You do get the new XQD slot which is great for video streaming. However the card door always feels as though its about to open, it never feels quite secure and I find myself checking it a couple of times every wedding. It has never come open, it just feels insecure.
Being a skinflint I have lots of 8 gig CF cards and in the D3 I used to load the two slots and I'm done for the day, now with only one CF slot I have had to buy additional 16 gig cards.
One thing I did notice was that the D4 did not like the Kingston 133x CF cards we use in the D3 and so I had to buy 16 gig Extreme Scandisc cards for the D4, which work fine as do the new Kingston 600x cards.
The Nikon D4 is a lot of money and if you are an occasional wedding photographer or a serious, serious amateur then probably the Nikon D600 would be fine at a third of the cost.
The D4 is a powerful work horse that is robust, can withstand all kinds of weather, rain, wind, snow and once in a while sun.
It consistently delivers outstanding quality and rises to any low light challenge you care to throw its way.
It does not brag about how many megapixels it has it simply says to its competition "Its how you use them that counts" and Nikon use them to great effect out performing cameras with double the megapixels.
Looking for a camera for every conceivable wedding photography event... look no further than the D4.