Martin Mojzis / Fine Art Photography and Graphic Art Atelier.



Nikon D4.

The Nikon D4 is not a camera I would look forward to. My new D3x is, when I omit image quality, fully comparable medium format systems, usable up to ISO 16oo and in CH mode shoots 5 - 8 frames per second. And that's for my occasional reports perfectly sufficient. But given the new layout controls should most likely take over the D8oo, and probably also D4x, I'm starting to feel uncomfortable.

Nikon D4 from behind

Nikon D4 – rear view with altered layout of controls.

The problem is the current idol of marketing and finance departments camera manufacturers: video in professional DSLRs.

The Canon 5D Mark II was the first camera with a size sensor of 36 mm film, which allowed you to record video in HD resolution. And connection with quality photographic optics and the possibility to use small depth of field, until then available only to professional movie cameras owners, has become the dream of most amateur and semi-professional filmmakers. And that is a dream available, after all, the price (now, in January 2012, approx. 2000 USD including tax) is only a fraction of the price of a professional movie camera.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II – rear view.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II – rear view.

However, on the body of the 5D Mark II, in the layout of the controls, there is none revolution against 5D did not take place. If you want to create movie with an DSLR, you set this in the menu and when you switch to Live View mode, you have active video recording. Then just press the Set button. It is simple and user friendly. Everyone chooses what suits them and there is no need to think about it further.

Canon EOS-1Dx

New reportage digital SLR from Canon – EOS-1Dx.

In the fall of 2011, Canon introduced the new 1Dx report DSLR. It has the ability to shoot video too, yet none of the controls marked and intended only for this and above all no dial needed for photography has not been replaced by any "video button". Personally, I really like 1Dx and consider it a way in the right direction, including slightly enlarged rear display. However, only provided that Canon he is not completely insane and is not trying to, as he claims in the press release on 1Dx, impose on studio photographers as a replacement for 21 Mpix 1Ds Mark III ...

You may wonder, why I devote so much space to Canon, when the topic of the article is the new Nikon. But it's Canon, who Nikon has decided to catch up with and overtake. There would be nothing special about it, if he did not decide to lose and deny himself.

The new D4 has therefore undergone relatively fundamental changes. The changes, that force photographers to leave the existing ones, in the D3X and D3s, practically, down to a few details, brought to the top ergonomics. Changes, that will force the photographer to continually struggle with elements, that serve only and exclusively those, who will be shooting video with the D4.

New controls.

New controls on the Nikon D4, which are here at the expense of photographic functions. Their task is to encourage cameramen to buy. They are useless to photographers and, moreover, they interfere. You really do we like it?

The biggest problem is replacing the AF mode switch with (left on D3x) with the switch between taking photographs and recording videos (right on D4):

Comparison of switches.

Left: Focus area mode dial on Nikon D3x. This important driver has been replaced by the video-photo selector on the new D4 (right).

Due to the completely trouble-free and highly intuitive operation of the automatic AF point selection, I very often use this mode. However, there are situations where you need to select the AF point manually. To switch to manual AF point selection mode, you need just that time-tested switch, which Nikon has now lightly replaced with a fashion fad.

So - to be precise - the AF point selection method switch did not completely disappear from the body. He just moved, probably to the worst place possible. It is connected to the focus mode dial, ie the autofocus, manual or continuous focus switch.

AF - M switch.

Focus mode dial, Nikon D4. When the center button is pressed, it should work similarly to the removed focus-area mode dial. Notice the headphone output on the right - another treat for cameramen.

This selector has been criticized many times for his awkward placement, small size, and overall very poor handling. On the other hand, I understand that it can't be bigger, otherwise it would bother to rotate the rings on the lens, and since the motor drive disconnects the focus of older lenses from the camera body, its placement on the bayonet will also not be an end in itself. If you don't use continuous focus and only have new AF-S lenses with the AF-MF switch (which is not my case), you can set this switch to the S position and safely forget about it. So - if you don't buy a new D4 ...

New controls.

Left: Space around the shutter button on the Nikon D3x. For the new D4 (right), a red button has been added to start video recording. It will only interfere with the photographer.

This button is the result of further coercion with cameramen and a spit in the face of photographers who have allowed Nikon to stand on top of 35mm SLR manufacturers for decades. In addition, the intruder between the Mode and +/- buttons is completely useless - as with Canon, it was possible to use the center button on the multi selector to start video, or leave it to the owner to sacrifice the Fn button or depth-of-field control button.

To date, I do not yet have an English manual for the D4, so I do not know if this red button can be set to other functions. If so, I might find some use for it, but I'll probably always have a weird feeling.

Finally, a few brief considerations:
- Accreditation at larger social events is usually divided into either photo or video. Photographers with hybrid SLRs will either violate their accreditation and expose themselves and their employer to the risk of significant financial penalties, or gain (and often pay dearly) accreditation for video, or simply will not use video in D4 and the above elements will be to play or to rage.
- At Canon, which has been making professional camcorders for years (although Sony's gear is more popular with cameramen), I would understand a similar somersault and it wouldn't surprise me too much. At Nikon, I expected at most the division of the reportage series into two models, one focused more on photography (D4) and the other more on video (D4c = cine).
- if the controls criticized above also appear on the successor to the D3x, I would really like to know, what professional, mostly studio photographers, will use it. Some will probably switch to a medium-format system or Canon, if it keeps its hybridization in check as well, as before.
- the creation of quality movies is significantly more demanding in terms of production than photographic production. You need sound recording, camera cranes, lighting team, actors, catering, production, facilities ... Even for smaller projects. Do you really use a DSLR as a camera, where by the way you need a complex tube system for this purpose to improve its ergonomics, or a professional HD movie camera, which, among other things, has a much larger number of practical controls on the body?

I don't know who (and if at all) the creators of D4 asked if this change is the fundamental thing that photographers lack. Many would probably appreciate a higher resolution (at least 18 Mpix), a user-removable low-pass filter or, at best, a sensor working on a different principle than using a Bayer mask. The fact is, however, that superficial people and fools are usually the most heard. Therefore, apparently also now, dazed by the expectation of skyrocketing profits, their cries were heard. Maybe the D5 will have an LED video light instead of the shutter button, and the center button in the multi selector will have only one function: facebook.

I'm no old lover, I like technical development and new things, as long as they are meaningful and beneficial for people, not just for a few profitable individuals. The problem is, instead of costly improving image quality, Nikon has embarked on a cheap grafting of popular and marketable features. It was the concept of cheapness, that no one would associate with Nikon's professional technology until the introduction of the D4.

In the area of consumer cameras, the trend undercutting customers by fashion waves is to some extent understandable. However, with professional cameras it can not be tolerated.

© Martin Mojzis.
Prague, January 2011.

Photographies: © Nikon Press, © Canon Press.

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