PROS: Thanks to solid autofocus, ergonomic controls and rapid continuous shooting, this camera is great for capturing images of fast-moving subjects.
CONS: This camera is large and expensive, making it impractical for many shooters.
The D4S is somewhat of a specialty camera. For professionals shooting high-intensity subjects on a daily basis, it’s fantastic. Shooters in less-demanding situations may prefer something more portable and feature rich.
In pursuing your DSLR photography, it’s important to select the right tool for your intended application. Street photographers, for example, tend to prefer smaller, less-intrusive cameras to capture candid expressions on their subjects’ faces.
Weighing in at a hefty 41.6 ounces, the 4DS is by no means a lightweight. In fact, it’s exactly 10 ounces heavier than average DSLR camera. Although it’s heavy, the D4S is a force to be reckoned with; it captures nearly 11 frames per second, boasts unmatched low-light performance and features deep shooting controls that are equally usable in landscape or portrait orientations. For these reasons, the Nikon 4DS beats out its lighter-weight competition and emerges as our Top Ten Reviews Silver Award winner.
The D4S features a large 35mm sensor – that’s similar to its peers in that it provides excellent performance. However, where this camera differs from its competitors is that its images are lower resolution. Although someone looking to print their images on a billboard may be disappointed, at 16.2 megapixels, your images are still going to be enormous.
This sensor performed well in third-party tests undertaken by the technicians at DxOMark, and bested averages across the board.
Color depth measurements came in at 24.4 bits, just barely scraping over the 24.35 category average. With results like these, it’s apparent that the D4S is able to accurately reproduce colors.
In dynamic range, the D4S matched the class average of 13.3 Evs, well above DxOMark’s excellent threshold of 12 Evs. This means that this camera is well equipped for capturing details in the darkest shadows and brightest highlights.
Low-light performance, however, is where the D4S truly shines. In this category, no other camera in our review performed quite as well. This is perhaps attributable to its lower megapixel count, which means larger individual pixels and, often, reduced noise. Whatever the reason, the D4S was rated at an incredible 3074 ISO.
Video performance for the D4S is good, but fairly standard amongst Nikon’s best professional DSLRs: 1080p at up to 60 frames per second. If you’re seeking a professional DSLR for video, however, you will probably be better suited with something smaller – perhaps something with an articulating display.
The D4S is Nikon’s ultimate performance DSLR. Specializing in sports or action photography, it’s designed to shoot quickly, reliably and with precision. To accomplish this, it offers a solid autofocus system, ridiculously long battery life and impressively fast continuous shooting.
The battery in the D4S lasts for an astounding 3,020 shots per charge, much higher than the category average of 1,165. This means more time to capture the shots you need, less time changing batteries and less space for packing spares.
This camera is also one of the fastest continuous shooting professional DSLRs available and shoots at up to 11 frames per second. It does this all while maintaining focus and accurate metering for each individual image. With specs like this, it’s almost difficult not to get the shot you were trying for.
Although other sports-oriented cameras offer more focus points, the Nikon D4S is still a solid performer when it comes to autofocusing. It sports 51 points total, 15 of which are cross type.
While its total number of autofocus points is above average, the D4S lags behind a bit in its number of cross-type points. Cross-type points focus more accurately on both vertical and horizontal planes and therefore can be very useful. Unfortunately, at just 15 points, the D4S offers significantly less than the category average of 23.
The D4S is, even by professional DSLR standards, a massive camera. It’s also heavy, weighing 41.6 ounces. Although it doesn’t offer much in the way of additional features, it features comprehensive physical controls that require a larger body.
Its controls are built around a dual orientation grip that’s usable whether you’re shooting in landscape or portrait format. For natural shooting in portrait orientation, you can also enable a secondary shutter release button and exposure adjustment dials.
Much like its performance, the design of the D4S facilitates rapid shooting at the cost of a large and heavy body. For most applications, something smaller, like Nikon’s D750 or Canon’s 5D Mark III, will more than suffice, but when the pressure is on at a high-intensity shoot, nothing captures high-quality images more reliably.
As with many professional DSLRs, there’s no built-in flash. In this case, it makes sense: The D4S is the pinnacle of Nikon’s professional DSLRs, and a built-in flash is simply not a professional feature. While they can be useful in some circumstances, for occasions that require the use something like a D4S, a built-in flash is simply not very helpful.
As is the case with most professional DSLRs, the D4S features dual memory card slots. One houses your typical compact flash cards, and the other, a newer XQD card.
XQD cards are better than SD and CF cards in almost every way, though that doesn’t necessarily make using them a no-brainer. They’re faster, offer a larger maximum capacity and are sized somewhere between the two. Unfortunately, they’re expensive, not widely supported and with current video and still resolution standards, don’t really afford any considerable benefit.
The D4S is relatively bare when it comes to additional features. Firstly, there’s no built-in Wi-Fi or GPS. These features are far from expected on this type of camera; in fact, the overwhelming majority of professional DSLRs don’t. If you need these features, look into the Nikon D750, Canon 6D or Sony A99.
There are also not many creative exposure options, a feature that’s not typically used by professional photographers anyway. Although there is an integrated HDR mode, you’ll have to do panoramas in an external photo editor.
Help & Support
Nikon’s help and support for the D4S is the same as any of its other pro-grade DSLRs. To get you started, it comes with a one-year warranty and a user manual. For users seeking further information Nikon offers an online knowledgebase as well as phone and email support.
The Nikon D4S is the ultimate professional DSLR for sports and action photography. It offers excellent image quality and performance in a body that facilitates capturing images quickly and with precision. Although there are cameras that offer better image quality and more features, when it comes to capturing the right image at the right moment, nothing bests the D4S.