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Nikon D4 Digital Camera Review$5,999.95
In today's world of multimedia, where every platform and touchpoint is essential to getting your message across, the Nikon D4 stands as a referendum on both camera design and the professionals that use them. With still performance among the best we have tested to date and video that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Canon 5D Mark III, we have to give the D4 top marks.
The more we shot with the camera, the more we were impressed with the ease with which it juggles priorities that, just four short years ago, seemed worlds apart. While there have been some sacrifices made to still control in favor of video functionality, the Nikon D4 is just the sort of still shooting powerhouse that news and sports photographers crave.
At $6000 body-only ($2500 more than the Mark III) the Nikon D4 is not going to be the first choice for most videographers. For the ever-converging world of media, though, it's certainly going to look appealing. That price is going to put it out of reach for many, and for video alone the Mark III is a better buy, but if you need a device that does stills and videos at a pro level with pro-level control, the D4 is as the best we've seen to date.
That isn't to say the D4 is a perfect camera; we found it produced rather soft images with the 24-70mm AF-S Nikkor lens we used in testing, had some white balance consistency issues under artificial lighting, and has a significant setup time even for a professional. That being said, among cameras we have tested it beat out its nearest competitor—the Canon 5D Mark III—by a pretty wide margin.
The most impressive thing about the D4, however, is how well it performed in challenging light conditions. While the Canon 5D Mark III matched it at low ISOs, the D4 surged ahead in every category where mid and high ISO settings came into play. Its 51-point autofocus system and 91k-pixel metering sensor ran laps around the 5D Mark III in low light. In addition, the D4 is extremely responsive, shoots amazingly fast, and offers some of the best dynamic range scores we've seen yet.
There are photographers who will need much more resolution than what the D4 can offer, but for anyone who works in a field where a camera has to be as adaptable as possible, the D4 currently stands alone.
With smart additions such as Ethernet connectivity, a headphone jack, uncompressed HD video output, full-time AF during video recording, automatic time-lapse shooting, and additional portrait grip controls, Nikon has clearly gone beyond the token update.
The Canon 1D X and Nikon D800 both will certainly have something to say before the year is out, but after roundly besting the Canon 5D Mark III, the Nikon D4 is already in the running as camera of the year for 2012.