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Nikon D4 — the Ultimate Low-Light camera?

B&H Photo has the Nikon D4 available for pre-order.

While Leica makes the 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH, that’s only 1.1 stops faster than f/1.4.

And yet my guess is that in terms of usable image quality, the new 16-megapixel Nikon D4 will offer at least 3 stops superior noise performance. As I consider the Nikon D3s perfectly pretty up to ISO 3200 and usable to ISO 12800, one can hope that the new Nikon D4 will perform even better. Which I will ascertain soon, as I expect the D4 to show up for review this month.

Because 16 megapixels is right near the “sweet spot” of resolution vs noise, it is likely to be all the camera most shooters will ever need. Seriously. Yes, 36 megapixels is intriguing, but a go-anywhere-shoot-in-any-light camera, the D4 looks to have nailed it perfectly.

The 4-lens ultra low light kit

Below is the f/1.4 4-lens kit to get for low-light shooting with the Nikon D4. See my handy Nikon gear page with in-stock color coded prices (scroll down a bit for Nikon lenses). All 4 of these lenses are excellent; I own all of them. and have reviewed all in DAP.

To save some money, opt for the 50mm f/1.8G (reviewed in DAP), and the 85mm f/1.8G (to be reviewed soon), but those two are 2/3 stop slower (less bright).

There is also the venerable, but less optically persuasive Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AI-S; it is an “artistic” lens with loads of uncorrected aberrations. Buy it only if your intent is shooting at f/1.2 for the special look it provides.

To go all in on superfast lenses, add the 105mm and/or 135mm f/2 DC and the AF-S 200mm f/2.0G ED VR II.

Nikon’s f/1.4 lens lineup

Alternate lenses at f/1.8, also excellent

Two-thirds of a stops slower, f/1.8 is a reasonable compromise for cost, size weight while losing 2/3 of a stop of brightness. Both the 50/1.8G and 85/1.8G cover a full frame sensor. The 35/1.8G is a fine lens, but it covers only the DX sensor.

Two excellent Nikon f/1.8 lenses

Reader Comments

Carsten B writes

I just read your post about The 4-lens ultra low light kit, consisting of the 24/1.4, 35/1.4, 50/1.4 and 85/1.4 Nikkors. I have all these lenses and like the 24, 35 and 85 a lot. However, for low-light applications I think the Sigma 50/1.4 easily beats the Nikkor of that focal length. The Sigma is sharper wide open (which is of no great concern to me as the Nikkor is doing perfectly well in that respect) and offers superior bokeh (which is important to me) and far less fall-off at the wider apertures. Still, I wish Nikon (or maybe Zeiss) would make a really great 50, something in the league of Leica's 50/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH.

DIGLLOYD: I have not reviewed the Sigma 50/1.4 on Nikon, though I did so on Canon. It’s tricky to talk about sharpness without understanding the wavy field curvature found in all 50mm lenses, as well as where and how a lens is sharp (optimized for center, more uniform sharpness, etc).

As for bokeh, the Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4 SL-II likely beats out either the Nikon or Sigma.

As far as something world-class like the Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH, it’s not designated APO, but it uses exotic and utlra expensive glass types, which even as raw unshaped glass almost certainly costs more than a finished Nikon 50/1.4G!

The one missing lens for Nikon is an AF-S 50mm f/1.2G. I am sure that Nikon could make a much higher performance lens than the 50/1.2 AI-S.

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