Nikon D4 Review with Sample Videos
The Nikon D4 aced our video tests, putting up the best numbers we've seen from a video-capable DSLR.
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The Nikon D4 may be marketed towards professional photographers, but the camera’s video features are no joke. The camera aced our video tests, and its extensive set of recording options and manual controls in video mode make it one of the best video recording devices we’ve ever reviewed. Of course, it also costs $6000 bucks (body only) and it comes in a bulky package that isn’t conducive for shooting hand-held video.
Motion & Sharpness
The Nikon D4 renders motion beautifully, with very little trailing or signal interference, and little visible artifacting in the image. It produces a nice sharp image that just barely out-renders the Canon 5D Mark III for sharpness. The video below shows off Full HD video captured with a 30fps frame rate with the D4. The scene was recorded on an overcast day in Program mode.
See our full motion performance review, including video clips.
We were also pleasantly surprised by the Nikon’s ability to keep the rolling shutter effect from hurting the D4 all that much. Too often we see very wobbly footage shot with large sensor DSLRs, but the D4 didn’t succumb to this fate. Sure, there was a noticeable wobble when we panned back and forth quickly, but it wasn’t as bad as the rolling shutters we’ve seen on most video-capable DSLRs (including the Canon 5D Mark III).
The Nikon D4 was able to render 700 lw/ph vertical and 600 lw/ph horizontal sharpness in our test video under bright, 3000lux shooting conditions at 1080/30p. In the cropped 1080/30p mode the lens produced a more narrow field of view while we found that sharpness improved slightly, but still wasn’t able to render more than 700 lw/ph in either direction. For comparison’s sake, high-end consumer camcorders in the $1000 and up range are often able to produce 900+ lw/ph of sharpness, though without the benefit of narrow depth of field.
The D4 also has a significant advantage over camcorders when it comes to low light sharpness. As you can see from the sample videos below, the D4 was able to render sharp low light images with far less light than even a professional camcorder would normally require. Read our full sharpness performance review.
To put it completely plainly: the Nikon D4 can see in the dark. In our low light sensitivity test we shoot a standard white/black target and use a waveform monitor to detect at what lux level the camera produces an image of less than 50 IRE. With our lux meters reading 0 lux (with our eyes still able to see the chart), the D4 still produced an image of 70-80IRE. Human vision is limited to around 0.3lux and the image did bottom out once we turned the lights almost completely off. With the option to shoot video at the extreme ISO speed of 204,800, these results aren’t a huge surprise, but it’s still an incredible showing from the D4.
The D4 brings out its best in dimly lit rooms like a bar or night time street scene. The videos in the clip below were captured at dusk, with the room illuminated only by window light. The D4 made the scene look perfectly bright, and it did so without cranking the ISO too high (there’s very little noise in this clip). At the end of this video is a short clip recorded by an iPhone 4S under the same lighting conditions.
The sample video below was not shot at dusk, but at 11pm at night. The only light source being that of a cloud-covered moon and the few light bulbs emitting from houses and street lamps. You can clearly see noise in the video, especially as the camera’s high ISO settings kick in, but it’s still amazing that the D4 was able to produce an image at all under these lighting conditions.
Read our full low light sensitivity performance review.
We shot some great stuff with the Nikon D4 in daylight, and we were impressed with the camera's exquisite depth of field control, but the real benefits of the camera shine through in low light situations. With its large sensor and ridiculous ISO options, including a max of ISO 204,800, the Nikon D4 was able to produce shockingly good video in low light (even when shooting with our f/2.8 lens we used for testing). In nearly pitch-black situations, the D4 was still able to render an video image, albeit the noise did start to become very distracting as the ISO approached its maximum setting.
Still, in moderate low light the Nikon D4 was incredible (as the sample videos above can attest). Scenes shot at dusk with the camera looked vibrant, and even scenes shot indoors with the aid of a single diffused light bulb were perfectly bright (and noise wasn't much of an issue). The D4 doesn't have as many dedicated video controls as you would find on a professional camcorder, but it does have a slew of recording options including a Full HD crop mode, 24fps and 30fps shooting, uncompressed HD output via HDMI, and 720/60p record mode. The camera makes it fairly easy to control aperture, shutter speed, and ISO in video mode, although other video features require you to do some digging into the D4's menu system.
One of the D4's few weaknesses in video mode is its inability to continually autofocus while recording. This is a problem with all video-capable DSLRs, however, and the D4 does have a fairly quick autofocus adjustment system that can be used during recording (it just requires you to press the focus button whenever you want to reset the focus).
In all, this is the best DSLR for video we've reviewed so far. At $6000 it's roughly the same price as a mid-range professional camcorder, but you're likely to pay even more for a pro camcorder with an interchangeable lens system. The D4's body isn't designed well for shooting video, though, so you need to take that into consideration if you're looking for a product that is primarily going to be used for video recording.
To read our full conclusions for the Nikon D4 including analysis of the camera's video handling and audio options, plus see sample videos and photos, visit the full review at DigitalCameraInfo.com.
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