Nikon D4s: Thoughts, Test Shots, and Quick Review

Nikon D4s: Thoughts, Test Shots, and Quick Review

Court Leve is a sports, wedding, portrait, and pet photographer. His work has been published in National Geographic Adventure, Powder, Ski, Skiing, Freeskier, Parade Magazine, ForbesLife Mountain Time, Spirit Magazine, Southwest Art, and more. He is a regular contributor to the BL Blog.

Nikon D4s: Thoughts, Test Shots, and Quick Review
by Court Leve

Like most new iterations of Nikon’s pro bodies, the D4s is yet another leap forward in imaging. In my case, coming from a D3s to a D4s ,the improvements are quite noticeable. If you are a current D4 user, the differences will be more subtle but still noteworthy especially for those shooting video.

It’s hard to believe a camera can make the D3s feel somewhat antiquated but the D4s does just that. While the D3s is more than capable for just about any situation, the D4s ups the ante yet again. The main areas of improvement are autofocus, low light capabilities, faster frames per second, and better handling.

First is the handling of the camera. The added sub buttons are a welcome addition. The reach is shortened and response time quicker when selecting autofocus points.  The body has a few different tweaks and has a great solid feel. The new autofocus is simply amazing, extremely fast and accurate. While shooting a free skiing event I was capturing athletes coming towards me blind over a jump. I was able to instantly capture the skier in mid air while traveling towards me using my 80-400mm at 400mm and achieve nearly a 100% focus accuracy rate. Also helpful was the improved frame rate of 11fps and a nearly non-existent blackout time while shooting. This allows for an almost unobstructed view of your subject while shooting.

Image quality is what you would expect. It’s again a bump higher in just about every aspect from previous bodies. Images look crisp with great depth and details in the shadow area. Auto white balance is spot on and high ISO images are quite impressive. The amount of detail and colors retained at 128,000 and even up to 256,000 is amazing. In post using Lightroom, I was amazed at the latitude of adjustments from saturation, exposure, and shadow details at higher ISO’s.

Unfortunately the batteries for the D4 series are not compatible with the D3 line. It’s a small area of complaint but I am using my D3s along with a D4s and while traveling this means yet another brick charging unit and making sure when I’m out in the field I have a spare battery for both cameras if needed.  Not to mention I have a number of extra batteries for my D3s. I realize this is a small complaint but for someone who travels frequently keeping gear and weight to a minimum is key.

On the subject of XQD, I feel like I’ve stepped back to the VHS/Beta debate. While the XQD format may be superior on paper to Compact Flash, it hasn’t made it to prime time yet. The cost of the XQD cards are currently about $100 for a 32 GB card while a two pack of 32 GB 800X cards are running about $130.00 right now. Lexar has discontinued making XQD and my searches only showed Sony cards available. What does this mean? Prices will most likely stay high, availability low, and standardization by camera manufactures unlikely. I foresee see using the D4 series camera for the next 3-5 years and it seems like there will be an obsolete card slot in my camera. Perhaps videographers will benefit from this the most but for still photography, the XQD is lost on me. Not to mention yet another card reader to pack (or forget to pack) while traveling.

Battery and XQD complaints aside, the camera is totally and completely amazing. Here are some sample images to check out but I recommend you try it out for yourself!


ISO 400

unnamed (5)

ISO 400 at 100% crop


ISO 12800

unnamed (6)

ISO 12800 at 100% crop

USASA Nationals

1/2000th of a second shutter

USASA Nationals

1/3200th of a second shutter


ISO 20000


ISO 20000

Rent the Nikon D4s today and don’t forget to reference our Nikon comparison guides featuring the Canon 70D vs Nikon D7100 or the Nikon D7200 vs D7100 to assure you’re finding the right gear for you!

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Alexandria Huff's photography and lighting tutorials can be found on 500px and her blog. She is a Marketing Coordinator for and also writes for SmugMug. She learned about lighting and teaching while modeling for photographers such as Joe McNally and has since gone on to teach lighting workshops of her own in San Francisco. Previously, she shot motorsports for X-Games, World Rally Cross, and Formula Drift. See her chiaroscuro-style painterly portraits on her website.

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