Image © Nikon Corporation

Speed of operation is obviously a key consideration with any camera developed for capturing action. In the D4, we are not just talking about the capture rate which can be up to 11 frames per second, but also the under the bonnet aspects.

Expeed 3 for example is the new generation of in cameras image processing introduced with the D4.

It is responsible for analysing the data off of the cameras new sensor FX CMOS sensor, refined in terms of capabilities and performance speed. So this part of the process has become faster than ever. Nikon are talking in terms of being ‘significantly’ faster than the D3s and that was a benchmark.

These behind the scenes aspects are important not just when you are shooting at such fast capture rates when you need to keep the cameras buffer processing images quickly, but when writing too card and viewing aspect time is also critical.

While this is not crucially important too most potential D4 users maybe, but defiantly for some big numbers shooting action. Expeed 3 is also being highlighted in its noise reduction and Active D lighting performance.

One other aspect of Expeed 3 is that it can take the power from the new EN-EL18 battery even though it has a lower capacity than the battery for the D3 series (more on that in another upcoming post), and work at better efficiency so more shots.

Image © Nikon Corporation

And while on the subject of speed, I thought it a nice touch that Nikon have opted to stay with a conventional CF card slot. We all have legacy cards if we have shot with pro Nikon’s, that will continue to work well in the D4. But it is also the first camera to be compatible with the new XQD format. This is being spoken about in glowing terms in relation to its speed increases and as the standard going forward. So card slot 2 is CF compatible, but slot 1 takes the new XQD memory card.

And yes, I realise that means new cards, but personally I look at it that being able still to use those I already own is a bonus, that will make up for that outlay and most of my needs are not for rapid sequences so they will do just fine. It would have been a decision to decide though on this as say two XQD slots would probably look better say two years down the line as the format gains a hold.

But if you are shooting at speed, the new AF Area control button looks very good. Changing the AF sensors is quicker now as the action is unfolding.

Image © nikon Corporation

As for the quoted data transfer time with those XQD cards, the D4 can under test conditions, transfer data at 125mb per second making it the fastest camera currently in the industry. In frame terms, we are looking at 98 RAW (Compressed) files in approximately 10 seconds (under test conditions). I think that will suit most.

A couple of other aspects of ‘speed’ to touch upon. The maximum ISO equivalent rating is 12,800 ISO in the normal working range. This can be shifted to higher (H) settings, that may not meet the same standard, but as with all manufacturers these are given this special designation.

At H4 the quoted ISO equivalent speed becomes approximately 204,800 ISO.

At the other end of the scale, I was pleased to see an equivalent 100 ISO return as the base line and normal setting. This can be down-sampled to ISO 50 (L1).

Having, as many have, learned the craft in film days, it has always been hard to shift the idea mentally that 100 ISO was not the optimum, even though 200 ISO is the correct answer for the base line setting in most and recent digital cameras.

But this lower setting makes more sense for bright conditions among others, And yes, as I explain on my courses, you can down rate from 200 to 100 ISO on many cameras, but thats not quite the same thing in a technical sense as having a native 100 ISO standard.

Image © Nikon Corporation

On the D4 of course, you can still shoot at 200 ISO as the norm if you want. You will not be disappointed from what I have seen.

Another area of sensitivity improvement, is in lowering the maximum aperture needed for the cross hair sensors of the AF module to operate.

Nikon have been leading the way compared to competitor products when it came to the number and location of the cross hair AF sensors that could operate as the effective light loss of longer lenses and teleconverters kicks in.

Some cameras loose parts of their AF sensitivity as maximum effective apertures fall below a certain point. But on the D4 things move on another step.

For example, with the extremely popular AF-S 70-200 f/2.8G Nikkor, add the TC-20E III Teleconverter, to get an effective autofocusing 140mm-400mm f/5.6 lens. All of the cameras 51 AF points are operational.

Put on an AF-S 400mm f/2.8G Nikkor with the same converter, then you have an 800mm f/5.6 optic, with all 51 points of the AF system operating. This if it works in practice is impressive stuff.

Image © Nikon Corporation
Even with the AF-S 600mm f/4 Nikkor, the AF system with the TC-20E III then becomes a 1200mm f/8 lens with 11 single AF points and one Cross AF sensor operating.

So now as Nikon now put it, this camera will now sense (AF down to -2EV) and shoot in the dark, with say just moonlight illumination when you utalise the ‘H’ ISO settings.

No change in shutter speed scope which remains at 1/8000th sec down to 30’ sec plus Bulb. I can actually see the need for an even faster top speed, which Minolta for example achieved in the past, but only for limited situations. Guess we can’t yet have everything.

Last couple of ‘first thoughts’ coming soon, but of course, that is not the end of it.

End. (11/01/12).