Nikon D4S Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Excellent, tank-like build quality
  • Same great ergonomics you know from the D4
  • Big, bright viewfinder with 100% coverage
  • Dual card slots
  • Excellent overall image quality
  • Outstanding low-light capabilities
  • Very good dynamic range
  • Superb performance
  • Even faster burst speed with continuous AF/AE than the Nikon D4
  • Fast, confident autofocus
  • New Group AF mode helps with moving objects, and point position moves automatically with orientation
  • Burst depths noticeably improved over D4, especially for JPEG and losslessly compressed raw
  • Fast AF with very low shutter lag
  • Excellent battery life, slightly improved over the D4
  • Default JPEG images are punchier, with higher saturation, contrast and sharpening, as well as more effective noise reduction than the D4
  • Extremely configurable / customizable to your tastes
  • Doubles as a powerful 60p Full HD video capture device
  • Clean, uncompressed HDMI output with simultaneous in-camera capture
  • Only slightly higher pricetag than the D4
  • Fairly minor upgrade of the D4, especially if you only shoot RAW files and aren't a movie shooter
  • Large, hefty body (but that's par for the course in a pro camera)
  • XQD card format hasn't been widely adopted (but you can still opt for CompactFlash cards if you want a more broadly-accepted format)
  • Raw image quality unchanged from D4 (advances at high sensitivities are in the in-camera JPEG processing)
  • Newer, more "consumer-friendly" default JPEG processing may turn off some pros
  • Slightly below-average hue accuracy in JPEGs
  • Warm Auto and Incandescent white balance under tungsten lighting

Given its heritage and flagship status, it was clear coming into our Nikon D4S review that the question we'd be looking to answer wasn't so much whether this was a great camera, as how great it might be. From our time with the earlier Nikon D4 -- and our experience of Nikon's professional cameras to date -- we were fully expecting to enjoy shooting with the Nikon D4S, and we certainly did.

The Nikon D4S' greatness, we realize, depends somewhat on your perspective. If you're coming from an enthusiast-grade camera, and you're prepared to accept the added heft of a pro shooter with a body that could hammer in tent pegs, you'll doubtless find it to be a spectacular upgrade. The D4S pairs truly great image quality with superb performance.

There's no question about it: This really is one heck of a camera. It can't make you an instant pro, but once you've become familiar with it, the D4S can give you the same shooting experience pros demand, and let you focus on your images. (Of course, that's a double-edged sword: There's no blaming your camera if you miss the shot with gear like this!)

If you're coming from the Nikon D4, though -- already a great camera in its own right -- then the upgrade to the D4S is more modest, as befits its name. Yes, it's a noticeably better camera in quite a few areas, but in most of them it's clearly an evolution, not a revolution. And its image quality upgrade is really only of relevance to JPEG shooters, with raw image quality little-changed from the earlier camera.

As a pro looking to step up from the D4, if you absolutely need every last scrap of performance, you routinely shoot in JPEG, or you need its movie capabilities -- as many pro photographers do these days, being expected to turn in video for the client alongside your bread-and-butter stills business -- then it's a no-brainer upgrade. If not, though, you may well find the modest upgrade means you're better off sticking with your D4 for the time being.

But that's no knock at all on the newer model -- it's more an acknowledgement of how great a camera the D4 already was. And as great as it was, the Nikon D4S is even better. It's a truly spectacular camera, and one which should be just as home shooting events like weddings as it is shooting sports. Unless resolution is your primary goal, this is the Nikon to go for if you're in the market for a new professional DSLR -- and there's really no question that it's a very worthy Dave's Pick!

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