Nikon D4 Review

 
Camera Reviews / Nikon Cameras / Nikon D i Initial Test

Nikon D4 Performance


Timing and Performance

Generally excellent speed for a pro SLR, though autofocus is somewhat sluggish for its class.

Startup/Shutdown
Power on
to first shot
~0.3 second
Time it takes for camera to turn on. (Very fast, difficult to measure.)
Shutdown
~0.2 second
How long it takes camera to turn off before you can remove the memory card. (Very fast, difficult to measure.)
Single-shot clearing times
Buffer clearing time
Large Fine JPEG
~1 second
(after 20 frames)
Worst case buffer clearing time. -- This is the delay after a set of shots before you can remove the card. Some cameras won't shut down until the buffer is cleared. (*See note about memory card speeds at bottom of table below.)
Buffer clearing time
14-bit RAW
(Lossless compressed)
~1 second
(after 20 frames)
Buffer clearing time
14-bit RAW
+ L/F JPEG
~5 seconds
(after 20 frames)
Continuous mode buffer clearing times
Buffer clearing time
L/F JPEG
~2 seconds
(after 20 frames)
Worst case buffer clearing time. (*See note about card speeds below.)
Buffer clearing time
14-bit RAW

(Lossless Compressed)
~10 seconds
(after 20 frames)
Buffer clearing time
14-bit RAW + L/F JPEG
~29 seconds
(after 59 frames)
Buffer clearing time
14-bit RAW + L/F JPEG
~20 seconds
(after 62 frames)
125MB/s XQD
*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB 100MB/s UDMA 7 CompactFlash card unless otherwise noted. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Startup and shutdown times were fast, difficult to measure. Buffer clearing time depends on the image size and quality, burst length and the speed of memory card used, but was generally pretty good with a 100MB/s CompactFlash card. Using a faster 125MB/s XQD card reduced buffer clearing times by almost a third, and also increased burst length slightly.

 

Mode switching
Play to Record,
first shot
~0.2 second
Time until first shot is captured.
Record to play
~0.7 second
Time to display a large/fine JPEG file immediately after capture.
Display
recorded image
~0.3 second
Time to display a large/fine file already on the memory card.

Mode switching was quite fast.

 

Shutter Response (Lag Time)
Optical Viewfinder
Full Autofocus
Single Point
(Center) AF
0.208 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture using optical viewfinder. All timing performed with Sigma 70mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro lens.
Full Autofocus
51-point Auto Area
0.254 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture using optical viewfinder.
Continuous AF
Release Priority
0.043 second
This mode usually shows no speed increase with our static subject; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects.
Manual focus
Optical Viewfinder
0.043 second
For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "prefocused".
Prefocused
0.043 second
Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.
Live View
Full Autofocus
1.497 seconds
Time to capture, after half-pressing shutter button, waiting for focus confirmation, then fully pressing shutter button in Live View mode.
Prefocused
0.197 second
Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button in Live View mode.

In terms of the Nikon D4's ability to determine that it's properly focused when shooting the same target multiple times (with no change of focus setting between iteration, to remove the impact of lens AF speed), its speed was a little slow for professional model. The D4 required 0.208 second using single-area center AF mode, and 51-point Auto Area AF lag measured 0.254 second. Some consumer SLRs are actually faster in this test.

In Continuous autofocus mode with release priority, shutter lag was extremely fast, at only 43 milliseconds. We measured the same lag when manually focused, or prefocused, which is very good.

As expected, the Nikon D4's Live View mode adds considerable AF shutter lag. We measured 1.497 seconds for full autofocus which is pretty slow, though faster than previous models. Nikon has eliminated the faster "Hand-held" phase-detect AF mode found on older models, relying on contrast detection (or face detection) autofocus in Live View mode.

Once prefocused, shutter lag in Live View mode was 0.197 second, which is pretty good but still quite a bit slower than using the optical viewfinder.

To minimize the effect of different lens' focusing speed, we test AF-active shutter lag with the lens already set to the correct focal distance. We also use the same Sigma 70mm f/2.8 macro with every camera (on all platforms except Four Thirds/Micro Four Thirds and Nikon consumer models lacking an in-body focus motor), to further reduce variation, and because our tests showed that focus-determination time with this lens was close to the fastest, across multiple camera bodies from different manufacturers. Being an older design with a non-ultrasonic motor, it wouldn't be the fastest at slewing from one focus setting to another, but that's exactly the reason we measure focus determination speed, which is primarily a function of the camera body, vs focus adjustment speed, which is primarily a function of the lens.

 

Cycle time (shot to shot)
Single Shot mode
Large Fine JPEG
0.41 second
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.
Single Shot mode
14-bit RAW
0.39 second
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.
Single Shot mode
14-bit RAW + L/F JPEG
0.39 second
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.
Early shutter
penalty?
No
Some cameras refuse to snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.
Continuous Hi mode
Large Fine JPEG
(Optimal quality)
0.09 second
(11.1 frames/sec);
20 frames total;
2 seconds to clear*
Time per shot, averaged over buffer length or 20 shots, whichever came first.
Continuous Hi mode
14-bit RAW (Lossless compressed)
0.09 second
(11.1 frames/sec);
20 frames total;
10 seconds to clear*
Time per shot, averaged over buffer length or 20 shots, whichever came first.
Continuous Hi mode
14-bit RAW (Lossless) + L/F JPEG
0.09 second
(11.1 frames/sec);
59 frames total;
29 seconds to clear*
Time per shot, averaged over 59 shot buffer.
Continuous Hi mode
14-bit RAW (Lossless) + L/F JPEG
0.09 second
(11.1 frames/sec);
62 frames total;
20 seconds to clear**
Time per shot, averaged over 62 shot buffer using Sony 125MB/s XQD card.
Flash recycling
n/a
Flash at maximum output.
*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB 100MB/s UDMA 7 CompactFlash card except where otherwise noted. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Single-shot cycle time performance was good for a pro SLR model, at about 0.4 second per frame no matter the file type.

Continuous Hi-speed modes were very fast. We measured a consistent 11.1 frames per second, a little better than Nikon's 11 fps spec. Note, though, that AF and AE are locked from the first frame in a burst in this mode. Nikon claims up to 10 fps with AF and AE, however we didn't test that as our target is static.

Buffer depths were excellent. While we didn't keep testing to see what the buffer limits were for just JPEG or RAW files, with worst-case RAW + best quality JPEG frames, we got 59 frames before the camera began to slow with a 100MB/s CompactFlash card. This increased slightly to 62 frames with a Sony 125MB/s XQD card. Buffer clearing can be lengthy with such deep buffers, though. We measured 29 seconds after the maximum length RAW + JPEG burst with our 100MB/s CompactFlash card. This reduced to 20 seconds after 62 frames with our 125MB/s XQD card. Like other recent pro-level SLRs, the Nikon D4 makes good use of very fast memory cards.

 

Download speed
Windows Computer, USB 2.0
10,809 KBytes/sec
Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-770=USB 2.0 Low;
More than 770=USB 2.0 High

Download speeds were quite fast, fast enough that you probably won't feel the need for a separate card reader.


Bottom line, the Nikon D4 is extremely fast in most respects, with very fast frame rates, deep buffers for long bursts, and very low shutter lag. Full autofocus speed was slower than average for a professional model, though. Keep in mind however that our AF tests are with static subjects, and we have no way of objectively testing the D4's autofocus acquisition and tracking performance with real-world subjects. Despite the slower-than-average full AF test results, we strongly suspect the D4 performs very well shooting active subjects and sports in the field, as previous Nikon professional models have shown.

Battery

Battery Life

Excellent battery life for a professional SLR.

Test Conditions
Number of Shots
Lithium-ion rechargeable battery,
(CIPA standard, Optical Viewfinder)
2,600
Lithium-ion rechargeable battery,
(CIPA standard, Live View LCD)
Unknown

The Nikon D4 uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, and comes with both a single battery and charger. The CIPA rated 2,600 shots per charge using the optical viewfinder is excellent for a pro SLR, but keep in mind the D4 does not have a built-in flash which is normally fired for 50% of shots when tested using the CIPA standard. Unfortunately, Nikon does not seem to publish battery life results for when Live View mode is used, but it's a safe bet that it's considerably shorter.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of on fully-charged battery, based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))

 

Nikon D4

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