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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!”

Jane says:

on January 7, 2012 at 11:51 am


Give us raw files instead of blogging!

Dave says:

on January 7, 2012 at 11:57 am

Sounds like a great camera, but not worth upgrading fm my D3S. I will wait for the D4X or a higher megapixel count D800 if such is available.

Doug Sturgeon says:

on January 7, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Great images as always Joe & yes you are living the dream! I am so glad I switched from Canon to Nikon last year & have never looked back.

dave@davepiper.org.uk says:

on January 7, 2012 at 12:31 pm

There is so much about this camera that makes me want to sell a limb to ensure I have one.


Mike T says:

on January 7, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Joe, I have come to believe that your shots would look great even if you were using your iPhone but I am sure the D4 is a fine camera.

Nikon D4 says:

on January 7, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Checkout the Facebook Page of Nikon D4

nick says:

on January 7, 2012 at 3:42 pm

hi,i have been toying with upgradeing to a d3s from my d2x now the d4 is here what to do?? i photograph equine events,wich one to go for??

Simon says:

on January 7, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Must acquire $6K. Sell kidney? Nope. Take pictures of weddings? Never done it have one camera, nope. Sell every board that has never been nailed together with THIS particular board on eBay and make 1/3 cent for each one… likely.

Seriously, how am I suppose to find that kind of money when I work for the county? Love illuminated buttons, love native ISO, not so wild about yet another type of storage media, love high eye-point, love ergonomics, love what is likely 10fps at 14bit depth, wishing for a printer that can do more than 300dpi…why not. It turns out that Beggars Can Be Choosers.

Thanks Joe!

David Hancock says:

on January 7, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Very nice pics Joe……but really I’m sick of “gear-nut” stuff too!

John Hall says:

on January 8, 2012 at 12:55 am

No reason to switch from Canon to Nikon they are nothing with the new 1Dx besides they can’t produce my dream, my dream lens is 50 & 85mm 1.2 they are awesome when i tried them :)

muthukrishna says:

on January 8, 2012 at 3:35 am

is there any product shoot with this camera

Tom says:

on January 8, 2012 at 6:53 am

@ Simon. If you lived in the UK, you’d need to have both of those kidneys on EBay. :o

Wagner says:

on January 8, 2012 at 9:21 am

Seriously, the snake and elephant shots?? Avedon is turning over in his grave dude.

6k for 16megapixels?? especially for post-prod is totally unacceptable. in PS we need all the pixels we can get our hands on and this is a camera meant for serious work?? perhaps poster quality???

clearly Nikon is doing a money grab on this one dude. this is a 2-3k camera, nikon must be expecting to make up for losses from the thai floods by charging premium for me-too technology! shameful yo…

mazlan says:

on January 8, 2012 at 10:37 am

Earlier this year my goal to have the D4 among the earliest in this country after satisfied with the D3 and D3S.

Jacquelyn Martin says:

on January 8, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Thanks for the review. Most camera files look great at ISO 200. I’d like to know how it performs pushed to high ISO’s 3200 and higher.

jdub says:

on January 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Where is the D800?


on January 8, 2012 at 6:12 pm


David G. says:

on January 8, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Awesome Joe! Can’t wait to see the rest!

Alberto says:

on January 8, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Nikonrumors can now focus on the D800. And I still don’t get why people want to “wait for a camera with a higher number of pixels”…are we still thinking more pixels on a 35mm frame is better? If you want more pixels just buy an Hasselblad H4D 50. Nikon has a D3x with 24mp which gets the job done, I am actually happy they didn’t come out with a 35mp monstrosity…16mp is great.

Ryan says:

on January 8, 2012 at 11:36 pm

I can wait to try this new camera, it’s big advance in low light focusing!

RobyFabro says:

on January 9, 2012 at 12:34 am

Whaoh, I’ll be looking forward to your next posts, it will be interesting to see how the D4 compares with the D3s…and whose better then Joe to inform us on how the new model performs on the field;).
I count on you for the hands on review!

ben says:

on January 9, 2012 at 1:32 am

Well, what can I say, Joe you wrote one heck of a blog post. Have considered working as a salesperson for Nikon?

Come on man write something using objective terms.

Rich Cave says:

on January 9, 2012 at 3:08 am

sorry over priced, how much of the functionality of the d3 could be improved with firmware. I have a suspicion that you are paying $5500 for better firmware and the rest of the cosmetic improvements costing around $500. Is this a case of the emporers new clothes?

I feel slightly reticent about this, especially when Nikon code has been hacked improving functionality…

Camera manafacturers, camera equipment have a exorbirant mark up

Hedley Jones says:

on January 9, 2012 at 5:43 am

The new age is finally here….and I still love my D3…..but I have to have one…but does anyone know what 16 bit pipeline means?

Fred Hoogervorst says:

on January 9, 2012 at 10:37 am

Dear Simon,
I am impressed, I work with the D2X for long and since last year also with the D300 S.
Can you tell me what about the (automatic) dust remover, is there any info about that?
Thanks, Fred, based in Trinidad, Caribbean

Andrew Krucko says:

on January 9, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Nice copy Joe!

Bryan says:

on January 10, 2012 at 10:16 am

mmmmm shine new kit

JP Sevillano says:

on January 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Hello Joe.
Thanks for sharing. I can’t believe it’s here. saw it at @MysticSeminars over the weekend. it’s a beauty.

Can’t wait to see the videos!!!

Is there anything on the D4 that you don’t like?
although, what’s not to like.

Louis Dallara says:

on January 10, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I love the shot with the snake, it looks magical and mysterious.

Christian says:

on January 10, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I am usually a Canon-Guy, but this new Nikon Body seems too tempting. Will try it out, once it becomes widespread available

Pete says:

on January 10, 2012 at 6:02 pm

An iPhone would have died already when only SEEING the swamp, let alone being dropped in it …

The D4 has more than enough Megapixels, already the D3S did, but the other improvements over the D3′s it has are way more important.

I would be fine with a D3S already, but the D4 would be the right replacement for my right hand …

Aico says:

on January 11, 2012 at 7:58 am

Hi Joe, guess you’ll have to update the “what’s in the bag” page then… :-)

Dr gp says:

on January 11, 2012 at 9:05 am

Nice shots. Would you say the camera is noticeably better for still photos? Compared to d3s.
- image quality?
- autofocus ?

I read your ‘I likes..’ above but most of this would have also been my comments on d3s.


Marcin says:

on January 12, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Tell as true – are you testing d800 now ? :-)

Anwar says:

on January 13, 2012 at 1:37 am

Wow now if i only had a spare $6,000 around. Amazing photos of course, and great to hear that it exceeded your expectations.

BILL says:

on January 13, 2012 at 11:08 am

Way Cool! I SHOOT WITH TWO D-3′s now I the $$ to pick one up Wow maybe I will pick one up, Nikon just turns me on I keep all my old cameras they take up so my room. What feels better then picking up one of these cameras and shooting. 40 Years ago I shooting film. They got me because life is short I Love cool cameras I pick it up then I buy it!! Hey Guys Thanks!!

Cindy Snyder says:

on January 17, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Heh. Heh. Heh. What’s wrong with a little Florida swamp, Joe? Where’s your sense of adventure? It was only one water moccasin. Could’ve been a group of hungry alligators. :) Ever met Clyde Butcher? He’s a big bear of a man who gets out of the little boat in the middle of the river with his really tall tripod and big box camera while being eyed by hungry alligators (and getting stuck in the muck as it turns dusk and feeding time). I know you’re a match for him! Love the snake and girl shot.

Kim Houmøller says:

on January 18, 2012 at 10:35 am

My D3X is the best camera i have ever own. Make a D4X with 50 megapixel..perhaps! :)

Amitabh says:

on January 19, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Thanks Joe for convincing me to preorder D4 (I will put D700 on ebay after I get mine). i am still looking forward to your lighting workshop

Larry says:

on January 20, 2012 at 9:31 am

Slo-motion Video available like on the Sony lower priced cameras?

Hochzeitsfotografin Irene says:

on January 23, 2012 at 2:53 am

I can’t wait to get my own D4.

Christopher Gray says:

on January 27, 2012 at 10:01 am

Thanks for the info Joe. Looking for more as the days go by.

What I am really looking for is my pre-ordered D4 to show up.

Jasper says:

on January 28, 2012 at 5:47 pm

If I had that location and the amount of lighting equipment, I believe a D3000 could take that kind of photos just as well.

Reno says:

on January 30, 2012 at 10:04 pm

I am thinking of selling one of my kidneys for this Camera. What do you think Joe?

david walker says:

on January 31, 2012 at 2:33 am

Its ball breaking looking at the price of the D4 why is it so expensive. I just got the money together to buy the D3S now the D4comes out. Is t really that much better or as some one said is it better firm wear and a few faffy cosmetic upgrades I ask you.

Love you Joe your my hero Hot Shoe Diaries was wicked

PS bring the price down of your CD language of light

Ronnie says:

on February 2, 2012 at 3:48 am

You still can get picture like that with nikon d3000 or even canon 300D, the diferent is in photographer skills, style & concept, and how you mastering set up light. Without that, even D4 output feels like entry DSLR…

porkopjr says:

on February 2, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Very intreresting post.

Gabriel Hadarean says:

on February 9, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I’m a long time Nikon user and I love Nikon. But I have a big concern: when is Nikon going to address fake skin tones? People are orange when photographed with Nikon. How is it possible to compare full frame cameras with Nikon when the later renders people orange?

Travis says:

on February 11, 2012 at 8:27 pm

How did Nikon create such a great ISO increase with the D7000 and not to the same with the D4?

Teuvo Ropponen says:

on February 17, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Gabriel, calibrate your orange display…;-)

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