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Reader Wonders About Nikon D4 High ISO Performance

I reviewed the Nikon D3s in DAP, and I found its limpid image quality absolutely stunning. I still consider it as having the best sensor on the market, though the Nikon D4 and Canon 1D X could change that. Will the Nikon D4s maintain that image quality while providing extended high-ISO performance and video and 33% more resolution?

Reader Steve S writes:

Love your work BTW. I try to keep up and read everything you write even when I don't shoot that particular gear. Your image samples, compare features, and your comments about what conclusions you draw from them (very important feature BTW) on your website are simply fantastic!

With regard to your D4 review I am extremely KEEN to get your thoughts. I have ordered the D4 (coming from a D700) for its low light ability. The two Nikon ISO 6400 samples (Speed Skater, Wrestlers) look good, but they only made available some middling-size jpegs so I can't make a meaningful analysis from them. So we are currently in a bit of an information vacuum. I tried processing a RAW from that Romanian guy who posted samples on the net but these are muddy and noisy and not sharp and to be honest scare the crap out of me (they don't look near as good as any D3S samples I have processed in the past).

For the D4 I'm interested in ISOs 3200-12,800 and in particular how they will compare to the D3S. I'd want them to be at least as good, else I'd have to seriously consider a D3S instead. But I love all the subsystem improvements (particularly AF) and video capability of the D4 so am pretty worried right about now ;-)

DIGLLOYD: One should not evaluate camera noise with JPEGs because JPEG compresses away noise unless the compression is minimal; it acts like noise reduction.

I think it's reasonable to expect D3s-like noise from a D4, possibly even better— sensor technology moves forward. What has me more concerned is whether we'll get the same gorgeous color and limpid image rendition as in the Nikon D3s.

But I see the D4 as a strategic camera for Nikon— having lost badly to Canon in the video realm (think 5D Mark II), the D4 had better deliver the goods if Nikon wants to be taken seriously in video. This suggests to me that image quality will have to be very high, along with other camera functions, and of course the D4 is a flagship camera, to be followed presumably by a D4x.

Images below at ISO 3200 or higher equivalent, Nikon D3s.

Mushrooms on forest floor
Nikon D3s + 105/2.8VR @ f/8, 1/100 sec handheld, ISO 1600 + 1.66 stop push
Glistening boulder
Nikon D3s + 105/2.8VR @ f/4, 1/40 sec handheld, ISO 3200 + 1/3 stop push
White Mushroom and leaves
Nikon D3s + 105/2.8VR @ f/8, 1/60 sec handheld, ISO 3200
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