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Nikon to add new flagship pro DSLR to range

January 8, 2012: Nikon has released details of its latest professional DSLR, the D4, immediately prior to the CES technology show in Las Vegas.

The Nikon D4 will be released in February. Local pricing was not supplied. Scheduled for release in February, the D4 will be available before Canon’s EOS-1DX, which goes on sale roughly a month later.

Designed primarily for sports and press photographers as well as photojournalists, the D4 features a magnesium alloy chassis and durable body that is highly resistant to dust and water, thanks to extensive weatherproof sealing. A thermal shield in the top panel of the body minimises the risk of over-heating for photographers working in hot, sunny conditions. The camera body is optimised for both horizontal and vertical shooting with a second shutter button, control dial and joystick to improve its usability when shooting in portrait orientation.

The D4 also includes a revamped video mode that provides some attractive new features not seen before on a Nikon DSLR. This will undoubtedly increase its appeal to existing Nikon users who shoot video in addition to stills.

Key features of the new camera are as follows:

The sensor is a 16.2-megapixel (effective) full frame (36.0 x 23.9mm) CMOS imager with a native sensitivity range of ISO 100 to ISO 12,800. Sensitivity is expandable to Lo (ISO 50) and Hi4 (ISO 204,800). High ISO noise reduction processing has also been improved. The sensitivity range for video recording is ISO 200-204,800.

The EXPEED 3 processor, which was introduced  in the Nikon 1 mirrorless cameras, has been optimised for the new DSLR  and supports continuous shooting at up to 10 frames/second with autofocusing or 11 fps when focus and exposure are fixed on the first frame. There’s also an option for 12 fps at 8-megapixel resolution. The camera’s buffer memory will accommodate approximately 200 JPEG frames or 98 NEF.RAW frames.

Time-lapse photography is also supported and image sequences can be played back as time-lapse movies at normal playback speed.

The D4 is one the first to support the new XQD Compact Flash memory card format and has twin card slots, one for XQD and the other for regular CF cards. The CF slot supports UDMA 7-compatible cards.

The 3.2-inch LCD monitor has a resolution of approximately 921,000 dots and features reinforced glass and a wide viewing angle. Close integration of the glass and panel reduces internal reflections. A virtual horizon that shows the sideways tilt (roll) and forward or backward pitch of the camera can be displayed on the monitor and in the viewfinder.

The D4 claims a power-up time of approximately 0.12 seconds and a release time lag of roughly 0.042 seconds. Its shutter is rated for 400,000 cycles.

Four image area options are available for shooting still images: FX (36 x 24), 5:4 (30 x 24), 1.2x (30 x 20) and DX (24 x 16).

A new Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX autofocus sensor module provides improved autofocusing, particularly in low light levels. The 51-point system has 15 cross-type points (like the D3s) in the centre of the frame. All 51 focus points are fully functional when lenses with a maximum aperture of up to f/5.6 are used. In addition, 11 focus points (five at centre with an additional three to each side) are fully functional when lenses with a maximum aperture of f/8 are used. This enables very precise focus acquisition with sports photography. The AF detection range is reduced from -1.0EV to  -2.0 EV.

Face detection and face recognition AF/AE technologies have been introduced into a professional camera for the first time. The D4 can identify up to 16 faces and will priorities the face closest to the camera by default. (Note: There is no display in the viewfinder that shows when a face or faces have been recognised.)

The D4 also features a third-generation 91,000-pixel RGB metering sensor which provides improved exposure accuracy for shooting still pictures and video clips.

White balance is adjustable in units of 10 K and users can select 5-mired steps with the camera’s sub-command dial. Settings can also be specified separately for shooting (white balance applied to images) and monitor display with still-image shooting in live view mode.

A dedicated video button (illuminated and user re-assignable) is located beside the shutter button for fast and easy access. A function button on the front panel is also customisable. Key button controls are illuminated for ease of use in dim lighting.

The D4 is the first FX camera to support Full-HD 1080p video recording with selections for 30p and 24p frame rates. HD capture at 720p with frame rates up to 60p is available for slow-motion shooting. Video is recorded with H.264/MPEG-4 AVC compression and b-frame encoding, which prevents image break-up by more accurately reconstructing the image data in between frames. Maximum clip length is 29 minutes 59 seconds

The camera includes an external microphone socket. The camera also offers a headphone connector that supports stereo headphones. A new sound level indicator also allows for microphone sensitivity adjustment during recording, with a visual indicator of sound levels.

The D4 provides includes new functions that support a more efficient workflow for professional photographers. Among them are built-in copyright embedding facilities and the ability to add IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council) information to images.

The camera’s integrated Ethernet port supports WTSA wireless control (IEEE 802.11a,b,g) using the optional Nikon WT-5 wireless transmitter (see below). Wired LAN support is also available (IEEE 802.3u (10 Base T and 10 Base TX).

Released concurrently with the D4 is a new compact Wireless Transmitter (H062). Powered by the camera, the H062 also supports the new IEEE 802.11n (1 x 1) standard, enabling data transfer at twice the speed possible with the WT-4 (which can also be used with the new camera).

The camera’s HTTP server mode can be used to display a list of images stored on the memory card. It also enables basic camera control, live view and movie recording using the Web browsers on portable devices (laptops, tablets and smart-phones).

Synchronised release (H062 only) mode enables synchronised shutter release of up to 10 cameras (D4 cameras, each with its own H062) with the D4 used as the master controller .

Margaret Brown, Photo Review

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