I’m no Joe McNally – and accordingly, I don’t get paid to shoot with Nikons and don’t yet have a D4. As close as I can come is reading the same spec sheet you do. If you look at ALL my posts about new cameras, you’ll see that I always say the same thing – I’ll reserve final judgment until I use it for a while. But, there’s no denying that lots of buzz about Nikon’s long-awaited D4 has infiltrated the interwebs. On paper – the camera looks really good. It doesn’t appear to me to be any sort of revolutionary step up – just an evolutionary step. But that’s just based on the specs. Here are some of my initial observations based on looking at sample video and stills, reading comments sent to me by Nikon’s ad agency and then looking at the public news releases and other early reviews by the few chosen who have actually seen the camera.

1. It has a 16.2 MP CMOS sensor, with new EXPEED 3 image processor. Canon typically uses two processors in such a camera. The Nikon’s EXPEED 3 configured with this new sensor is untested by 99.999999% of us. It’s PROBABLY amazing. But we need to shoot the camera over a week or two to find out. The sample pics look good.

2. The camera has a new bright LCD – should be amazing. We need to see how it works in sunlight.

3. The new Nikon has an updated and untested autofocus system. It autofocuses with lenses as slow as f/8 which gives it an on paper advantage over the new Canon 1DX. But the 1DX has more cross-hair sensors spread further across the frame. Advantage nullified.

4. The D4 will likely be the new high priest of those who practice the “Religion of the low-light.” Nikon has held about a stop advantage in low light performance for years over Canon and there’s no reason to expect that won’t continue here – but at some point – just like megapixel madness (Which USED to be the religion that most photographers practiced) we will have had enough with great low-light performance and be hoping the camera companies come up with other or additional enhancements.

5. The video on this camera looks to be substantively improved. Again – I want to test for myself, but the samples I’ve seen are impressive. I think it’s safe to say that Nikon and Canon are now neck and neck in this department. Canon had the lead for a long time, but it seems that Nikon is FINALLY taking video seriously. The addition of H.264/MPEG4 format is important as are  longer clip durations, the HDMI port and faster XQD memory card standard. These make the D4 potentially very attractive for video shooters. We also see Nikon at least TRYING to get the audio right – External mic input with manual levels and a headphone jack for audio monitoring.

6. Interface refinements including backlit buttons – it took a camera manufacturer THIS LONG to copy Apple’s idea??? Should have happened long ago.

7. 10BaseT Ethernet wired networking. Okay – not sure how I feel about this. I guess some folks will think this cool but my reaction was “Hey Nikon 1998 called and wants its wired network back.” How about WIFI? Anyone? Anyone? Yes you can add the WT-5 but why not build it in? I asked the same of Canon back in October when they announced 10BaseT on the 1DX.

8. The new battery isn’t rated as high as the old D3 battery and is not backwards compatible. I don’t get this one.

9. The price is $1000 higher than I paid for my D3s bodies. Why? Because they can. The ship date promised is February. I’m skeptical of the ship date and also wonder if both Nikon and Canon haven’t potentially priced themselves out of at least a portion of the market with the steep price on such cameras.

I have no doubt, that barring some bizarre problem we can’t know about until there are lots of these babies shipping, this will be an amazing camera. I would have preferred more actual innovation, but with the problems caused by recent natural disasters in Japan that may be unrealistic. Regarding the shipping date – you can bet that photographers credentialed for the Olympics in February will have these cameras in hand to test before the Olympics. I seriously doubt they’ll be widely available anywhere else for at least another month or even MANY months after that. In other words, don’t hold your breath.

We can’t know if ANY new camera will perform up to the specs, but I think it’s safe to say the Nikon faithful will be excited about the D4. I don’t see anything in the D4 that is likely to cause Canon shooters to want to jump ship and likewise, I don’t see anything in the 1DX that will seduce Nikon shooters. Only time will tell.

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