Nikon D4S Field Tests

Nikon D4S Field Test Part I

Unexpected swans

by Eamon Hickey |

A full-on professional camera like the Nikon's D4S presents a dilemma for a reviewer. Its primary target customers — pro photographers — are already extremely knowledgeable and don't need much help from me. Plus, their concerns are often very specific to their type of shooting. It would be great, for example, if I could prove whether the D4S is the best, or second best, or third best DSLR for autofocusing sports, but that's not gonna happen. To even take a stab at testing such a thing would require several experienced pro sports photographers, a truckload of equipment and months of shooting a wide variety of different top-tier sporting events. Is the D4S the best war photographer's camera or wedding camera or aerial camera? Again, even if I was qualified to judge these things, testing them is beyond the scope of this report.

But pro shooters are not the only photographers who buy pro cameras. Many advanced amateurs buy them, and many more wonder what they might gain if they took the plunge. So I'm approaching this shooter's report partly from that angle: what would you get if you “moved up" to a Nikon D4S from your mid-level or advanced amateur DSLR?

Handling. Well, one thing you get is weight. Even though I knew what to expect, I still groaned when I dragged the Nikon D4S out of its box. Obviously, this is just the price you pay for supreme ruggedness, a full-featured integrated vertical grip, an abundance of connection ports, a high-capacity battery and more, all wrapped up in a full-frame DSLR. My brain understands that, but my shoulder isn’t thrilled. In the same box was an also hefty AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED and an AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G. Nice.

Read on for more thoughts on the Nikon D4S in the first installment of my Field Test!

Nikon D4S Field Test Part I

Nikon D4S Field Test Part II

Doing what it's made for

by Eamon Hickey |

I mentioned in Part I of my Field Test that I would not be trying to settle the question of whether the Nikon D4S is the very best camera for any particular kind of professional photography, be it sports, weddings, or anything else. But it would be a crime if I didn’t use the D4S for some of the things it was born to do, just as it would to use a Ferrari only to fetch the groceries. So I've photographed a lot of sports with the D4S, and also used it to shoot an evening literary event -- an environment not too different from a wedding reception.

In seven different outings, I used the Nikon D4S to shoot flying birds, running dogs, soccer (or football, if you prefer), American-style touch football, sprinters, bicyclists, and semi-pro basketball. Nikon was smart enough to supply me with pro-level lenses to match the camera, including an AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II to go along with the AF-S 24-70mm and AF-S 50mm optics I already mentioned in the first Field Test blog.

I'll start by getting the easy stuff out of the way. In my shooting of what I'll call "single-player" sports with relatively constant motion -- runners and bicyclists, primarily -- I could not stress the Nikon D4S enough to really test it. It ate everything for lunch and asked for more. I have numerous 30 and 40 shot sequences of bicyclists, shot at 11 frames per second with the AF-S 70-200mm lens wide open or at f/4, where every image is sharp. In the "bad" sequences, 90% are sharp. With sprinters, I got a few more soft frames but not many.

Click the link below to find out how the Nikon D4S performs when it's really in its element!

Read Field Test Part II

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