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Shooting the D4!

Jan 6

In Equipment at 1:15am

It’s here, officially. Which I’m sure is bringing a smile to the face of many just as wide as Little Joe Lastie’s here in this picture. Shot in Preservation Hall, with the Nikon D4, 24-70mm lens, ISO 200, and several speed lights. We’ve been involved with the prep for this camera for several months, and been shooting with it for the last few weeks. And, man are we happy to be able to finally talk about it.

Whew! Done. It’s out. We can officially say that letter and numeral together. Out in the field, as a team, we just referred to our cameras as the Millennium Falcons, One and Two. It’s come through rain, wind, weather and all manner of natural calamities to be real, and here, on our doorstep. Here’s one of my first questions. What are those wonderful fellas over at Nikon Rumors gonna do now? I mean, how to fill up the time? They’ve been bulldogging this camera now for months. I suggest they all go out, have a nice meal, and get hammered. Their work is done. At least until the D5. Which is a helluva camera, by the way. I’ve been shooting the prototype.


I have no need of a D5. When the D3 came out, honestly, I thought I was done. Okay, I thought, this is the camera they gently fold my lifeless fingers around when they dress me in a nice suit and send me away for a long nap. There were plenty of pixels in that camera to keep me company, and they all seemed to behave quite well. I was raised on transparency film, and the D3 settled forever any nostalgic issues about going back to slides. But this camera makes the reverential memories of Kodachrome 25 fade like an old color print.

The D4 is an entirely new chapter in the history of the pixels. It arrived in a nondescript box. We all stared at it, like it was something that got sent from a sci-fi movie, and if we opened it, we would find the still beating heart of an alien life form.

We were, of course, expecting the box, having been involved in the discussion of the camera for over six months. We knew it was on the way. We knew it was gonna be cool. We just didn’t know how cool.

We hammered our prototypes, honestly. Showed them no reverence whatsoever. First stop was the swamps of Florida. About a day into that adventure, I told Drew that if I ever mentioned working in the swamps again, he could just go ahead and shoot me—with a gun. First location we showed up at was highly desirable from a photo point of view. Less so after we noticed the large water moccasin curled up right about where I would have put a tripod. The ranger commented, “They’re pretty territorial, and aggressive. He probably thinks this is his location.”

I thought about giving the snake the camera and having him shoot the job, but, seeing as I’m the one with the opposable thumbs, and (theoretically) a larger brain, we continued our search.

We found our way to a picture, through the muck and the mud. And, right off the bat, I was impressed with the file. It was, in a word, smooth. I know that’s not a techy description, and there’s some folks out there right now counting every pixel, but I was impressed by the detail and the creaminess of the pictures. No sharpness of contrast, and harshly defined lines of demarcation between highlights and shadows. Smooth, in a word, and great skin tone.

We had a ball, quite frankly. We took the camera from the swamps of Jacksonville to the studios of New York, and back down again to a circus in Florida, and then to the music scene in New Orleans. Through it all, I was continuously impressed with:

Skin tone, for one thing.

File detail and forgiveness in the shadows.

Responsiveness of the camera in terms of intuitively good exposures and autofocus.

Video quality and new features.  Wow.  We’re in the final stages of post right now for what we shot.  Check back sometime next week for the full scoop.  It’s a game changer.

New rocker buttons for moving the auto-focus cursor.

Ease of shifting the auto-focus modes.

Size and clarity of the lcd.

The fact that I dropped one and it kept working.

Plus, none of us had tried to light an elephant with an SB-910 and a Lastolite tri-grip before.

Cora, our wonderful elephant, is 9600 pounds. Mike Grippi is back there trying to put a catch light in her eye. Awesome!

For the next couple of weeks, we’ll be reporting on field adventures with the D4. Stay tuned for stills, video and BTS stuff. For now, I think I’m going to get some sleep. More tk….

288 Responses to “Shooting the D4!”

Colormetric says:

on February 19, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Do any of the new features of the D4 enhance the CLS system?

Joe McNally says:

on February 19, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Yes, absolutely. The in camera meter’s better, so that makes the flash perform better as it liaises with the camera. And….big thing to me…..it separates the components of flash and ambient exposure. You know how now if you program in minus 2 EV on the camera, it becomes a global command that influences the flash output as well? No more. You can separate the two values and work their math independently. Very helpful….best, Joe

Phil says:

on February 21, 2012 at 7:54 am

Joe I am currently shooting with a D300 my only pro lens is the 24-70 2.8.

I am awaiting delivery of a D4 and the 70-200 mm 2.8 fx lens. I am currently watching everything on you tube just can’t wait. In the response you gave re compensation are you saying when you switch from aperture priority to manual the -ev setting which wolud normally be ignored by the camera will now also be ignored by the flash. Picked this up from one of your books and it has become a bit engrained.

Love your work and everything I do with lighting has been learned from your books. Keep them coming.

Phil says:

on February 21, 2012 at 10:56 am

When people get so conserved about megapixels. For most of my work I wolud not want to be creating such large file say a wedding no point. If the quality of the sensor and pixel size is as good as it is predicted then image quality will be wonderful from the D4. The D800 minus a grip etc etc. just does not come close to the specification simple. In a few years time everything will change but for now concentrate on what you are going to photograph and trust the camera to do its job.

Ravi says:

on March 9, 2012 at 7:33 am

Hi Joe,

Any chance of you coming to Australia in the near future to conduct workshops?



Stefon says:

on March 20, 2012 at 7:17 am

Hi, did you play a bit more with ISO on both side of the range? And what do you think about the new AF?

Raph says:

on March 20, 2012 at 10:43 am

1- love these photos !
2- The D4′s sensor has been benchmarked and it seems that the D4 low-light performance has not improved over the D3s while DR and color depth did. (I have analyzed the test results of the d4 sensor review : http://www.photographydailynews.com/2012/03/nikon-d4-sensor-review/. Did you you notice that ?
3- I shot in December with a preprod D4. JPEGS looked about 1EV cleaner than the D3s ones. Do you agree ?
4- Re love these photos!

Gunnar Laak says:

on March 26, 2012 at 11:10 am

Really enjoyed Your presentation today at Kumu, Tallinn, Estonia.
Thanks for inspiration boost! :)
Best of luck!

Jose Sepulveda says:

on April 10, 2012 at 10:59 am

I recived my D4 and want to now If you can recomend If needed do some change of the settings that helps us to have the bests results from this new camera.
Any sugestions is welcome for me is a big change from working several years with my D2x and D200 for weddings and portraits but I new that I did the best desicion in pre-order this camera.

Nikon D3200 says:

on April 21, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Fantastic images!!! Can I ask what the ISO levels are on this camera? After working with an older professional level DSLR (Fuji S2 Pro) and finding that images at ISO 1600 were just about unusable, I’m wondering how the D4 handles low level light?

Chas Manahan says:

on May 2, 2012 at 3:05 pm

It looks to me like the eephant has a green tint rather than grey. Anyone else see this greenish tint? Even the fog behnd the elephant is a tad green.

michael anthony murphy says:

on May 22, 2012 at 7:02 pm

for years i’ve been a canon shooter. when the d4 and 1dx were announced, i had to make a decision. i’ve always had a man crush on nikon although it seemed too late to jump ship, having so much canon gear. well, i made the big decision and decided, since i would be making a very large order that this would be the best time to make the move. i ordered the d4, not because of price, trust me, i had to invest in all new glass for this baby. i made the order back on january 20th, 2012, about a week or so after the announcement. i cried and cried, waiting for this new system to show up. day after day, week after week, nothing. i continued to call and harass the pro camera shop i ordered from. NPS members would receive theirs first. i had no chance of becoming a member since having a certain amount of pro nikon gear was a prerequisite. this would be my first nikon. just a couple days ago, on may 18th, 2012, the call came in. it was finally here. i’m sure you’ve all read every spec and detail about this camera but i’m not going there with all that crap. all i could say is that it is one badass, sexy animal! only been in my hands for a couple days and i’m in love, true love. the glass just as beautiful. some say people experience buyers remorse after large purchases. i too fall into that category. as for the d4 arrival, zero buyers remorse! zero! did i mention true love? this is a beast among beasts. king of the whatever. thanks nikon. thanks joe.

April Pinsonneault says:

on July 7, 2012 at 10:46 pm

How do the D4 and D3x compare?

Da Durban Darren says:

on July 20, 2012 at 3:36 am

My 1st Digitail Nikon D-70 solid,than i got Nikon D-200 really good! than i got me the D-300 really really good! and now the D-4………………….The BEST EVER!! worth the wait!! High Speed Shutter!! ISO unreal, Full Frame, The Video is Boss…now i have to stop babying it and really push it the envelope…thank u Nikon much aloha

Leon H. Ritchie says:

on August 8, 2012 at 11:23 am

#1 If you were at a camera shop an a sales person said to you that the D3x, and D800 were not pro cameras, what would you say to that.
#2 What isyour professional openion of the new D800?

Eduardo says:

on February 25, 2014 at 11:11 pm

Joe, hos does this compare with the D800, which I believe was launched after the D4 but has better dynamic range? What about the new D4s, who do you recommend should go for that?

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