Nikon D4 disappointment? Deal With It.

Sheep at sunrise sandymount hoopers inlet otago peninsula dunedin New zealand

Sheep At Sunrise. Sandymount, Otago Peninsula, New Zealand.

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This was originally posted on Google+

D4 disappointment? Deal With It.

After months of (extremely accurate) leaks, an Earthquake/Tsunami in Japan and biblical grade flooding in Thailand, Nikon has formally announced the D4 to the photographic world.

As with every Nikon digital announcement that I can remember since the D2h, the internet has been awash with Nikon woe.

Comment streams are clogged with whinging ninnies and the ubiquitous switchers-to-be threatening to jump ship. Canon v Nikon spec sheets are being compiled, compared, printed and eaten in fits of despair while the underwhelmed and disenfranchised are proclaiming the end of Nikon and the ascendency of Sony and now Panasonic.

Here on G+ Trey Ratcliff appears to be viewing the D4’s apparently underwhelming specs, lack of ‘innovation’ and archaic SLR form factor as a harbinger of the DSLR’s demise.

Trey has gone into overdrive with a series of provocative posts – we have him in a Robert Scoble YouTube post denouncing the reflex mirror as a ‘DaVinci-esque’ contraption he is hosting an upcoming ‘is the DSLR dead?’ obituary hangout and re-sharing ‘the D4 sent me to sleep’ opinion pieces from equipment commentators that I have never heard of.

To date, I have not sighted a single comment or post from a photographer that starts with “when I shot with the D4 last week X happened…..” – apparently not one of these commentators has even shot with the D4.  It’s all vapour.

I am going to put the ‘DSLR is Dead’ theme aside (until tomorrow) and focus on the Nikon D4.

The general theme seems to be an over-arching disappointment at the lack of ‘excitement’ delivered by the D4.

I’m sorry to rain on anyone’s parade, but the Nikon D4 is not Playstation 5 or a Maserati. The D4 is not an entertainment device – it is a tool aimed at a very select group of professional photographers. If you are not in the D4’s target market you are not really supposed to get excited by it.

For the record, I am not remotely excited (or disappointed) by the D4 for that very reason – it is not my camera – it never was going to be.

In my experience Nikon has a long history of under-promising and accurately delivering with it’s DSLRs. It is seemingly corporate dictum to be out-specced by Canon. It is very rarely actually out-shot by anyone.

You will note that insanely great shots are made by shooters in both camps regardless of spec sheet differentials.**.

The D4 is an incremental iteration of a mature (and possibly dying) camera concept – it replaces a camera that, in many ways, didn’t really need replacing – the see-in-the-dark,10fps D3s.

As I don’t shoot a D3s I will have to defer to a higher power ( +Thom Hogan) who noted some months ago that he had not met many folks wanting to see the D3s go away – it is coveted amongst it’s user base for it’s freakish low-light capabilities, accurate autofocus and overall snappy and reliable performance.

In short – the D3s gets the shot where other cameras can’t – at the outer edges of photographic performance.

The D3/s user base is not going to tolerate any degradation of these features and this is where the difference between the consumer market and the professional market really lies. Consumers will tolerate being Guinea Pigs – working professionals won’t.

Assign a snazzy acronym to any unproven technology, toss it into a mirror-less or point & shoot and someone will buy it and love it.  Problems?  Fix ’em next time round and if it really sucks just tweak it, create a new acronym and roll it out again.

Go mirror-less and whack a brand new AF system into your ‘Flagship’ sports camera 6 months out from the Olympics and you are dead if things go pear shaped. I repeat dead.

Which is where I see a strange role reversal happening. The marketing clout of the ‘Flagship’ camera is greatly diminished in my opinion.

There are numerous consumer cameras that will ostensibly tout ‘better’ headline numbers than the D4/1D X within a year and smartphones within 2 years. Of course they won’t really be better, but try explaining that to anyone.

Barring the entrance of a new player such as Red – I believe that most innovations that were once driven from the ‘top’ of the range will now be deployed in the upper-mid section of the ranges. That is where I perceive that the bleeding edge currently exists – in the pro-sumer and emerging formats.

Winning technologies will be greatly enhanced and moved up the range until they hit the top – but not until they absolutely represent a tangible field-ready and robust improvement to the established user base.

This will be bewildering to many consumers and gear freaks – but the simple fact is that most working pros that I know care far less about their camera specs than most enthusiasts do. Pro’s like myself care about reliability, ergonomics, weight, spectacular glass and image quality.

Working photographers are simply too busy making images (and money) to be worried about this crap.

Is the D4 perfect?  No way. Once again Nikon failed dismally to learn from apple (sorry android) by omitting any sharing and distribution features onboard. They have yet again eschewed standard connectivity such as Wifi and GPS (just unacceptable).

There will of course be numerous other niggles but overall the D4 will be a killer camera for those that need it and know how to use it.

Will I buy one? No way – I have no need for the D4’s capabilities at present and I don’t like lugging ‘full body’ cameras these days.

I am waiting for the D800 – I can’t wait to hear what is wrong with that ;-)

Tune in tomorrow for when I publish my prequel to Trey’s Is the DSLR Dead? hangout.

(Not Yet Baby – Not Yet)

*surely the first time I have seen negative connotations applied to Leonardo DaVinci’s work.

** I shoot with both systems – in the vain hope of becoming the world’s best photographer.


4 comments on “Nikon D4 disappointment? Deal With It.

  1. Hi Todd,

    I don’t know if I can agree with your post or to bash it around. I’m pretty much in the middle!!

    Sure Nikon has tried to play it really safe by not hurting anyone and listening to everyone, by making their D4 an “all comprehensive” DSLR. It’s a digital photo-camera and a video-camera. I just don’t get why the FUCK can’t people just buy a camcorder if they are into videos and not ruin the camera industry by shoving video crap into the photo cameras!?! It’s just beyond me to be honest.

    Coming back to the D4, sorry about the rant there I couldn’t help myself (lol), I thought to myself that the D3s was IT. I wouldn’t need anything else – ever! Unfortunately, man is seldom content… I love how it is and everything about it, but the 12MP count just doesn’t do it. I am into landscape and frankly, landscapes demand more than that – atleast 16 if not 24 like the D3x (but then Nikon had to ruin the D3x with low ISO).

    I know I will never use the movie feature of the D4 (or any camera), and at the same time I am inclined to it for the MP it has to offer. So help me out – what is the golden path?!


    • Hi Ali.

      There is no golden path in my opinion.

      Photography is an exercise in trade-offs. If you value low light capabilities the D3s/D4 cameras appear to be the bomb (I have never shot them myself). If you value resolution the (far too expensive) D3X is Nikon’s only offering at present. The D800 will be 36MP and I suspect it will be crap above ISO 400 or 800 like the D2X was. The laws of physics dictate that signal noise will increase as pixel density increases, 16MP apparently represents the current engineering sweet spot for Nikon in this trade off between noise, resolution and FPS.

      Most big time pros will carry a low light body such as the D3s D700 and a high res body – different tools for different jobs.

      It depends upon what you want to shoot. I skipped the D3/s, D700 generation because I too wanted greater resolution for my work – hence the canon 5dmkii entered my life. Now I have the D7000 and frankly the files of this are so good when shot at base ISO that I can’t really see a significant difference to the 5d files when printed large.

      Forget about the video capabilities – it is a marketing side show and it doesn’t compromise the stills capabilities of the camera in my experience. I never use it.

      Cheers – Todd

      • Hey, thanks for coming back for me!

        Yes I kind of feel that the movie buff is more a marketing side kick… and as you said wouldn’t damper with the still capability of the camera (well hopefully so … lol).

        In this regards, the D4 it is then… just wondering, how big can one go with print sizes when shooting with the D4?! I know the “math answer” but how big have you gone with your D7000?


        P.S. do check out my last post here … quite a hefty list I’ve managed to make :)

  2. Hi Tiger Claws – I haven’t pushed my D7000 prints yet but they are spectacular at double native res at 300DPI.

    12MP files from my old D2x look great printed on canvas up to 1.4 metres wide when viewed at correct viewing distances. I have 30 inch wide D2x photo prints that are also magnificent viewed up close.

    It all comes down to getting a super sharp file to begin with – heavy tripod, mirror up, and plenty of sharp contrast points, specular highlights etc really help a file print big.

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