Before we throw down our money, we need to ask ourselves: What kind of camera does a wedding photographer need?
We need everything and we need it lightning fast. Amazing image quality for our clients. Focus accuracy that does not falter. Focus speeds in milliseconds. High ISO ranges which you’ll be confident shooting in.
There are no re-dos in wedding photography. We need a camera that does not compromise. The D4 delivers.
The new Nikon flagship, the D4, is aimed at working professionals who are out in the wild using their gear on at least a weekly basis. Although the camera is aimed at action and sports shooters, many wedding photographers will be choosing between the D4, the D800, and maybe even the D600 for their DSLR upgrade. We’ll be focusing our attention in this review on what the D4 can offer for professional wedding photographers: image quality, focus speed/accuracy, and ISO quality.
Mega Pickles: I’ve found that 16-mp is my sweet spot at this technological point. I couldn’t imagine shooting wedding after wedding with a D800, only to have my storage drives fill up. I simply do not need large files and neither should you. Even the 12-mp of my D700 were enough to handle large print requests from clients. 20”x30”? No problem!
FPS: The Frame Rate of the D4 is 10, but you can reach 11 if you turn off AF (I can’t ever see me doing this). Ten FPS is actually a bit overkill for how I work. It’s probably in your best interest to keep your camera in a single or low FPS setting. Nothing is worse than an annoying photographer at a wedding. It totally kills the mood and everyone will think you’re a douche bag. The only time I crank my cameras up to the maximum FPS rate is when the groom is popping that champagne cork, because, you know, that’s a cool picture.
Silent Mode: On the topic of not being annoying, this handy feature can be a lifesaver during the ceremony. I’m always conscious about how I am perceived by guests and my clients. Wedding photographers should always go out of their way to respect the events at a wedding and to allow the guests to enjoy the special moments. The D4’s regular shutter sound is fairly quiet; far more quiet than my D700, but the silent mode really takes it a step further for ceremonies and stalker/PI photography. Note that while you’re in Silent Mode the auto-focus beep is muted.
Image quality is what you expect from a flagship product. Although not as incredible as the D800’s IQ, the D4 is more than enough for anyone looking to print smaller than 40”x60”. If you’re printing larger than 40×60, definitely pick up the D800.
Overall, I’m very pleased with image quality. My first shoot with the D4 was this Bridal Session at Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation. My bride that I was shooting had the absolute most beautiful eyelashes. It wasn’t until I was in post when it really dawned on me how incredible this camera was. Her eyelashes popped with incredible detail and life. No sharpening, contrast, or clarity was needed at all to enhance her eyes.
Sample from bridal session:
Additionally, I’m able to pull far more information out of my shadows and highlights. With my D3 sensor, I always noticed some peach-colored tinting when bringing my highlights down. The D4 sensor brings highlights down very cleanly. As for shadows, it looks like we’re seeing about 3 stops worth of pulling without noticing any noise/artifacting. I’m really excited about this because sometimes I like to shoot 1 or 2 stops darker to ensure that I have cloud detail or dress detail. It’s wonderful bringing those darks up without any detriment to the image quality!
Coming from the D3/D700, this new focus speed is too fast. I’m shooting about 33% more images during weddings now that I have the D4. It’s so fast that I’m able to grab those shots that otherwise I’d miss. This is fantastic while shooting, but my post-editing side hates sifting through all the images. The good news is that I’m getting more shots and more shots in focus. This is the reason I purchased the D4.
Ever been shooting a wedding in a dark reception venue and just couldn’t quite grab that tiny eyeball from the bride popping over her new husband’s shoulder fast enough? I definitely have. I never want to miss those moments. This is why I upgraded to the D4. According to Nikon, this new camera is able to focus with less light required. They never quantified this, but said “able to focus in moonlight.” I’m not really sure what that means, but I have noticed that I’ve been able to focus faster than my D3/D700. The accuracy is about the same, but the speed has been increased. Less hunting and less hesitation.
How do you focus? Auto? joystick your single focus point? Center point + adjust? I’m always curious how photographers use their auto focus! Let me know below in comments how you use yours!
I’ve always been confident shooting at higher ISO’s with my D3/D700, as Nikon has always held a conservative view with noise. Technical specifications for the D4 difference in ISO noise difference state about 1 stop better than the D3 and about equal to the D3s. I agree with this finding. My comfort level on my D3/D700 was 2000 ISO. I’ve now found that my comfort for the D4 is 4000. I love this sweet spot because the colors still pop, yet if I want a B&W, the noise looks like beautiful film grain.
The noise has improved from the D3 to the D4, but what has not has been the clarity. As you select higher and higher ISO settings the detail of the image lessen. I am noticing that at higher ISOs (2000+) the amount of detail is still quite muddy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still beautiful and I’m ever so grateful that I can even shoot at these ridiculous settings. It’s just not quite an improvement for detail from the D3/D700.
Wedding photography (and sports) is really pushing the limits of high ISO. The ability to hand our clients clean shots for every event of their wedding day is the holy grail for wedding photographers interested in absolute quality. The ISO performance of the D4 is more than one small step for mankind, but it isn’t a giant leap.
How did this pass testing, Nikon? Totally blows my mind how this could possible pass any review phases. When viewing your images, it looks as if you shifted the Green/Magenta white balance to around +5 to 10 to the green side. The files themselves look fine; it’s solely the screen. I hate this because I often work with differing color temperatures within the same image, so I rely on the screen to have at least a somewhat accurate display of what’s going on. Additionally, it’s very embarrassing to show people what I just shot.
Many owners report that their camera does not have this green tint, and a Nikon firmware update (1.02) supposedly fixes this. However, I upgraded to this version and I am still noticing the white balance is off. If anyone knows what is going on with my version, I’d be happy to hear from them!
Fix (Update) :
I sent my camera in to Nikon and mentioned that I’d like them to look at/fix my screen issue. They had stated that the camera was “working as intended” and that “the new screens look different because they more accurately display the proper RGB values.” I was given option to revert the LCD screen back to how the D3/D700 screens looked and I agreed to make the change. After receiving my camera back, the colors on the LCD finally are true to what I see in real life and are indeed working similar to how the D3/D700 screens operated. The process to have the screen changed is $30 and it will cost approximately $70 to ship your camera to Nikon (freight + insurance). Overall, I’m pretty irked that I had to lose my camera for 3 weeks and spend $100 to fix something that Nikon is too stubborn to admit is incorrect. However, it is operating how I like it to and I am pleased.