Nikon D4 DSLR - school
Brought to you by the photographers at SmugMug

Photos and review by Ivan Makarov, SmugMug's Controller (AKA "Uncle Scrooge.") Thanks to our friends at BorrowLenses.com for supplying the gear for these reviews!

What motivated you to rent this camera?

I rented the Nikon D4 Digital SLR to test out the improved autofocus, low light performance and better frame rate for my son's sports games.

I already own Nikon D800, but it’s not fast enough to shoot sports, in terms of frames per second and low light performance. I wanted to shoot my son’s hockey games where the action is very fast (even though it’s a bunch of 5-6 year olds!), but where the lighting is not very good. Nikon D4 seemed to have been a good tool for that job.

What did you like about the camera?

Nikon D4 proved to be just what I was hoping it would be. It delivered amazing quality of images, even when I increased the ISO past 3200. In fact, I was getting usable and almost clean images as high as 10,000 ISO. Likewise, the quick frame rate helped me capture some moments I wouldn’t have been able to with a different camera - such as when I would notice the player was about to score, or collide with another player. It’s got an amazing auto focus system as well. Shooting the action with 200mm f/2 was easy and fun. There were a few times the focus was working so fast that I had to check my settings to see if it’s even moving - I wasn’t even noticing it!

Lastly, Nikon D4 boasts 10 frames per second rate for shooting, and it sure came in handy when I was trying to capture a goal or a hit or emotion on these kids’ faces.

What didn't you like about the Nikon D4?

The only annoyance with the D4 was that the secondary card slot was for XQD cards. It’s a rare kind of memory card, which also happens to be pretty expensive to buy, so I don't have one. Besides shooting the hockey game, I also using D4 to shoot a wedding, where I usually shoot on two cards as backup. This time  I was unable to do that and had to rely only on one slot.

I’m not sure what Nikon was thinking when they decided to adopt XQD, but as time passed, those cards remained rare and expensive.

Would you buy the Nikon D4?

Most parents don’t need to shoot with the pro camera and lenses to capture good shots of their kids playing sports. I know I don’t. I’ll continue shooting with Nikon D800. Hockey is going to be hard to shoot because of the low light performance, but for outdoors, my existing camera is good enough

. If my son gets more serious about the sport, and more of my kids started playing it as well, I’ll probably splurge and get a pro body for this like the Nikon D4. But I can’t justify the cost right now.

How does the Nikon D4 compare to a Canon 1DX, and which would you choose?

I had a chance to shoot sports with Canon 1DX that I borrowed from my boss Chris MacAskill. If I had to pick between the two and the lenses were not a factor, I would choose Canon’s version, the 1DX over the Nikon D4. The Canon features even better low light performance, and extra 2 frames per second. When I look around who’s shooting with what on the professional sports sidelines, I see a lot more 1DX’s than I see D4’s. That extra performance are the main reasons why.

But as it stands, I’m married to Nikon’s gear through the lenses I invested in, and switching the systems is never easy when that’s the case.


Who's Ivan?

Ivan Makarov is SmugMug controller by day, father extraodinaire, and a renowned image maker. He loves shooting people, portraits, and street photography, particularly documenting his family. 

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