Thursday, January 19, 2012

Nikon D4 and Canon 1Dx


My considerations here are written only from the perspective of my needs and not from a general review viewpoint.

While I own both Canons and Nikons, I would most heavily consider the D4 to replace the D3 if I were to upgrade.

The key words being "if I were to upgrade".

I was thinking about this last night as I thought about the ergonomics of the Nikons versus Canons and also what the D4 would do better. Small differences here and there but nothing that makes this decision a no-brainer.

Looking at the specs, here are the few things that I could really benefit from:
-XQD slot: I love the idea of faster write speeds and thus less dependence on the buffer and less waiting overall.
-better autofocus
-better high-ISO performance: I shoot a lot in low-light situations and would love better performance in high-ISO settings.
-A few more megapixels
-HD video

But the problem is that I already have the Canon to do video. So I should really scratch that from the list. The rest of the benefits are good but only marginally better than my D3.

There is one big problem I see with the D4 and that is the battery is only rated for 2,400 shots. My D3 is rated for 4,300. This is fairly accurate because I can shoot well over 3,500 frames in a day and not drain my battery (still 1/3 left). I would be disappointed to have to change batteries halfway through the shoot.

Which begs the question, "What would Nikon need to release in the D4s for me to upgrade?"

Well first let's go back and briefly check out my D4 wishlist.

It's interesting to look at what I thought was important back then and what I think is important now. More megapixels doesn't make my current list. Wireless tethering? Nice to have, but I tether so infrequently as it stands. And when I tether I'm usually tethering with the Hasselblad. I'm happy with the histogram function now that I trust my eyes and have an additional 200k frames under my belt. Would have really loved a built-in RF trigger but that would compete with Nikon CLS so it was unreasonable to begin with. Sensor-cleaner? Bleh. I like my sensor swabs for that kind of application. Firewire 800? Too slow. Besides with XQD and faster card readers should be fine. GPS geotagging? For what?

But the two things at the top of my list still stand. I would still love to have focus points in the extremities. I would also love better autofocus in low-light situations. I'm glad I put those at the top because they represented the priority that these things have and still have to this day.

One of the things my Canon photographers have trouble with is focusing in my studio. Hell, I have a hard time focusing in my studio with the D3 sometimes. It's even more frustrating with the 5DMII and 7D.

But going back to the hypothetical question about what Nikon would have to release. Currently my limiting factors are simply write speeds, low-light autofocus, and high-ISO performance. And now that I think about it, the D4 pretty much addresses all those issues. But does it address it so much better to warrant the hefty price tag? And at the cost of battery life? The only thing that I might add to the list is better video autofocus, but judging the D4 merely as a still camera the above list pretty much sums it up.

If I really wanted to get philosophical about the upgrade question I'd ask, "What does better gear really add to my ability to create better images?" The answer to that is, "Not a whole lot..." I can think of a few things that I'd like to add to my studio as toys but there isn't any capture-side gear that I can think of that would change the way I do things or really change the quality of my images. Most of the improvements I can think of are skill/talent-related and not equipment-related. At the end of the day improving the photographer is a far better investment than improving your equipment. Unless of course you have more money than you have time and ambition (to improve). In that case, I hear Leica's got some great cameras just for you...


  1. Doesn't sound like a huge endorsement for an upgrade in your case. Slightly better ISO performance is hardly worth giving up battery life/cost. Low light AF maybe..faster write speeds..hmm toss-up.

    I'm sticking with my 5D2/1Ds2 combo..

  2. Forget about a new body, invest on better lights :)

  3. I am thinking about getting an Einstein... but on the other hand, most of my stuff comes out B&W so what's the point LOL :)

    1. Better lights = fast recycle = consistent color = constant (and variable) modeling light = faster sync (if you have the right camera and trigger) = low iso = better focus

      Also don't forget the modifiers. I just bought a pair of Profotos just for the telezoom reflector. The problem is reflector costs more than each light :(

    2. Charles I purchased the Einstein with the PLM and it can be as low as a AB400 or as hot as the white lighting. I have used mine on 1/4 power or less at S200 f8 ISO 200-400 and I found that the camera can't shoot fast enough. I only want to drag around one light so I went this route. I bought the power inverter too for outside shots.

      I am a detail freak and just a little more light helps even if during post I remove the detail on purpose. IMHO It is nice to have it there to begin with.


    3. All y'all with your fancy lights... I'm going to return my AlienBees and go buy some Home Depot flood lights and show you "lighting"! :)

  4. As an event photographer often in very low light situations ( awards, school balls, etc) I can wait to get my hands on the D4. Yes I am paying for the extra video functionality – which I won’t use. But my work will be 10 x better.

  5. I've been using my d90 for three years and while it is a great camera I've been waiting to upgrade to full frame... since I own all nikon glass I will stick with the brand, but now the decision is the D4 vs rumored D800 :)

    D4 will most likely win.

  6. The D800 and the D4 are starting to look more tempting... more as a combination than 1 over the other.

  7. Yes I agree, I would love to have both. D800 for studio and the D4 for situations where I can't control the light. I like the fact you can use the D4 battery in the D800 grip (so I read).

  8. Charles, after seeing the dxo score for the D800 and how close the ISO performs to the D4...would you recommend a D800 or D4 for someone upgrading from a D90 assuming I could only choose one for now. Main focus is portraits and weddings, thoughts?

    Link to dxo:

  9. I don't think the D800 will outperform the D4 in low-light situations. Shooting weddings requires speed. I can't see how a D800 would be more useful!