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DXO Mark: Nikon D4s no better than D4

The D4s.
The D4s.

Nikon recently announced the D4s, the top of the line dSLR in its lineup, which builds upon the 'multimedia' D4, announced back in 2012. The individual areas of improvements over its predecessor are small but, according to Nikon, together, they were enough to warrant the creation of a new model. So, is the D4s (priced at $6500) worth the cost of an upgrade?

Well, according to DXO Mark, the answer is 'no' on the image quality front.

At announcement, there were high hopes for the D4s thanks to a tweaked sensor and a new processor. In the same strategy, Nikon was able to milk extra performance out of the D3s as compared to the D3. Not this, time, though as DXO Mark has just tested the D4s and found the results to be virtually identical to the D4.

As for specifics, the D4s actually appears slightly worse in terms of color sensitivity. The good news: the drop only equates to around a -1/3 of a stop, which isn't much of anything at all. On the other hand, performance has improved in dynamic range to the tune of about a +1/2 stop improvement over the earlier model. Again, this isn't much. High ISO performance a concern? There’s a marginal improvement here as the D4s dumps from the D4's 2965 to 3074, which is essentially the same.

To keep readers from getting depressed, DXO reminds readers that all of these scores are exceptionally high in the greater scheme of things.

So, for people looking to buy a D4s for a perceived miracle sensor, you're out of luck. On the other hand, there are some improvements that could make a D4s worth a look for the right person.

Nikon has improved the AF system. As a base, Nikon used the proven Multi-CAM 3500 FX AF sensor incorporated in the D4 but has recalibrated the AF algorithms for even faster, more accurate focus. As something new, the D4s has a Group AF mode that utilizes five AF points to assist the main point in achieving focus. This improved AF (along with processor) was one of the reasons that Nikon decided to up the continuous drive at full-frame to 11fps.

Outside the camera, workflow speed can be an issue, and is one that Nikon has addressed with the D4s. Feeling bogged down by massive RAW files? Well, no more with the D4s as Nikon has included a Small RAW option wherein one can shoot RAW pictures at approximately half the full resolution. File transmission speed an issue? When connected via LAN, users can now transmit files using Gigabit Ethernet (1000 Base-T LAN), which promises a huge boost in transfer speed. As an added plus, Nikon has reworked the D4S to be remarkably power-efficient. Thanks to the development of a new EN-EL18a Lithium-Ion battery, the D4S can go up to 3,020 shots (CIPA rating) shots in single mode and 5,960 shots (Nikon testing) in continuous mode on a single battery.

On the video front, Nikon has been hard at work as well. For starters, the D4s is capable of streaming uncompressed video via HDMI at up to the new rate of 60fps at 1080p HD. Additionally, the D4s can simultaneously stream to an external recorder via HDMI and record on its memory card at the same time, too. In the past, Nikon has allowed for shooting video with a crop mode, but only now has the company created a setting to view (in Live View Mode) the actual view as will be recorded by the camera. For anyone liking to do time-lapse videos, Nikon claims the D4s can do the transition from one shot to the other with extreme smoothness.

As for mechanical touches, the D4s has been tested to 400,000 shutter cycles and the mirror mechanism has been redesigned to minimize viewfinder blackout, too. Lastly, the LCD has the ability to auto adjust its brightness for a given amount of ambient light.

So, is the D4s worth it?

My advice here is to look at what kind of photography you do as even all pros won't be needing these new features. If you will be using your camera to make a living, ask yourself a question: will the new features on the D4s help me make money? If yes, consider buying. If no, don't bother. AS for all the rich hobbyists out there, with there being no revolutionary changes, I'd save up and wait for the D5.

Want one? The D4s is already shipping, but good luck finding it in stock anywhere. My advice: preorder yours today.

For more info:
DXO Mark

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