Took My New Nikon D4 Out For A Spin At Night (Before Reading The Manual)
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Watching The Evening Pass  --  Sanjo-Street Bridge over the Kamo River (三条大橋)  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/80 sec, f/1.4, ISO 2000 — map & image datanearby photos
Watching The Evening Pass

As I mentioned the other day on the impromptu portraits post, I picked up a Nikon D4.

説明書を読まずに、買ったばかりニコンD4で夜の撮影遊び。

I actually ordered it the day it was announced, but ended up canceling the order for lack of excitement about what I'd get over the Nikon D700 I've been happy with for years. But despite having canceled the order, the shop shipped one to me a couple of months later when they finally got stock, and well, not ordering is one thing, but returning is another, so here I am with a D4.

I've used Nikon bodies for years, so many of the basics felt familiar, and with that insufficient head start, I took it with me on a late-night outing with Paul Barr, who had just arrived in Kyoto. I slapped on an f/1.4 lens and set the Auto ISO to go as high as 12k, so I hoped that combination would compensate in the dark evening for my lack of experience with the camera.

(I'd done something similar years ago when I got the D700, as seen in “Impossible Photography: No Light, No Tripod, No Hope. D700 and a 50mm f/1.2”.)

Low Tide  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/80 sec, f/1.4, ISO 12800 — map & image datanearby photos
Low Tide

I was to meet Paul on the Sanjo Street bridge (the one featured a few days later in “Kyoto’s Quasi-Annual Flash Flood”), so I just hung around in the pleasant warm evening and snapped whatever went by...

Much Brighter Than Reality though it gives us a peek at the heron that couldn't be seen in real life  --  Sanjo-Street Bridge over the Kamo River (三条大橋)  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/80 sec, f/1.4, ISO 7200 — map & image datanearby photos
Much Brighter Than Reality
though it gives us a peek at the heron that couldn't be seen in real life

Dark scenes kept overexposing, so to maintain a realistic sense of the scene, I had to dial in quite a bit of negative exposure...

Better  --  Sanjo-Street Bridge over the Kamo River (三条大橋)  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/80 sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000 — map & image datanearby photos
Better

This was annoying, and mimicked my experience with the Nikon D700, until I suddenly had an epiphany about exposure that made me feel like a total idiot... something one should learn as the first stop beyond “camera noob”... something that I realized I knew the moment I actually thought about it: the camera attempts to set exposure to create an “average” result, and that works fine in most average situations, but when the scene is particularly bright (e.g. a sunny day over a blanket of snow) or particularly dark (these evening scenes), an overall “average” brightness will be unnaturally dark (resulting in gray snow) or bright (an evening scene that looks almost like day). So, you must dial in some compensation to tell the camera to shoot for an overall brighter or darker result.

I knew this as a textbook fact, and practically speaking I knew to compensate in bright situations, but in my formative years with the D200, it was simply out of the question to take these kinds of evening pictures, so I didn't internalize the textbook knowledge on that side of the scale. When the ability for these night shots arrived with my D700, I remained ignorant, which was simply stupid. Glad to have finally fixed that.

Oops slight backfocus :-)  --  Sanjo-Street Bridge over the Kamo River (三条大橋)  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/50 sec, f/1.4, ISO 12800 — map & image datanearby photos
Oops
slight backfocus 🙂

The D4 has a bunch of different autofocus modes that I didn't know anything about, but I thought I'd play with them before actually reading the manual. The focus miss in the shot above is actually interesting, I think, when you look at the big version... the lawn and path in the background are rendered with such a nice mood.

The next shot (with even more questionable focus) is much darker, perhaps because of the car headlight that had just entered the scene...

Sanjo-Street Bridge over the Kamo River (三条大橋)  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/80 sec, f/1.4, ISO 9000 — map & image datanearby photos

As people walked by while I waited on the bridge, I tried what seemed to be an appropriate autofocus mode for tracking people as they moved nearer. I had mixed results, but this next shot impresses me for the overall feel and exposure in such a dark, complex scene...

Straight Out of the Camera (actually, straight out of Lightroom, with only a bit of added noise reduction )  --  Sanjo-Street Bridge over the Kamo River (三条大橋)  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/80 sec, f/1.4, ISO 3600 — map & image datanearby photos
Straight Out of the Camera
(actually, straight out of Lightroom, with only a bit of added noise reduction)
Waiting in Traffic with lots of “negative highlights” in Lightroom to tame the LEDs  --  Sanjo-Street Bridge over the Kamo River (三条大橋)  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/60 sec, f/1.4, ISO 12800 — map & image datanearby photos
Waiting in Traffic
with lots of “negative highlights” in Lightroom to tame the LEDs

There were some other autofocus modes that I tried and it was a total disaster. I got a local tough-guy-poser kid to, well, pose for me, but managed to get only the writing on his sleeve in focus...

Wasted Opportunity  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/400 sec, f/1.4, ISO 7200 — map & image datanearby photos
Wasted Opportunity

After milling around for a while with the camera, Paul and I developed a hearty thirst that required quenching...

To The Rescue  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/320 sec, f/1.4, ISO 12800 — map & image datanearby photos
To The Rescue

We sat at a counter overlooking a little river, with the windows in front of us hinged at the top and opened halfway, leaving the windows as half mirrors in front of the leaves of a tree...

Hazy Self Portrait  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/125 sec, f/1.4, ISO 12800 — map & image datanearby photos
Hazy Self Portrait

I shot a few more “Kyoto Night Scenes” on the walk home...

Typical Gion just past midnight  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/400 sec, f/1.4, ISO 12800 — map & image datanearby photos
Typical Gion
just past midnight
Tidying Up Shop in front of their flower shop, which was still open at midnight  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/400 sec, f/1.4, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Tidying Up Shop
in front of their flower shop, which was still open at midnight
Path To The Chion'in Temple long exposure while propping the camera on a short light post  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/4 sec, f/4.5, ISO 12800 — map & image datanearby photos
Path To The Chion'in Temple
long exposure while propping the camera on a short light post

I've since sat with the camera's manual and tried the various autofocus modes, and have not been able to make heads or tails about most of them, so I'll have to study more.

My biggest impression with the D4 so far is extreme disappointment. The one feature that I was really really really looking forward to, focal-length-aware Auto ISO, is implemented so poorly as to be essentially useless to me, but I'll rant about that another day.


All 5 comments so far, oldest first...

These iSO 12800 shots look amazingly clean. I’m looking at the one with the LEDs and the white area is amazing. Do you find the low light performance is much better than the D700?

You’ve seen the results of my one informal test. Seemed a bit better, but the D700 is really amazing. Stats say the D4 is better, though. By the way, you’re seeing the results from Lighroom 4’s raw converter, which has killer noise reduction. I realize now that I’d used my bulk-develop plugin to apply ISO-specific noise reduction to all the photos, something I do mechanically after each shoot, so in that sense none of these are “straight out of the camera”, so I’ll have to update the one caption. —Jeffrey

— comment by Pablo on July 27th, 2012 at 11:24pm JST (5 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

There was I reading your blog slowly turning green as I noted the D4 tag next to some of your recent shots. Last week I was offered the opertunity to swap my D700 for an 800 (just for a day) and with great pleasure took off across London to play. As with your initial thoughts of the D4, mine of the D800 floated in the disappointment range. While it too is a lovely piece of kit it does not outshine the 700 in any way I would ever need. My optimism of 16mp crop mode and super sized macro just didn’t get away from the ‘nothing special’ opinion chatting to me from my left shoulder. Pleased to say that day saved me a good chunk of cash and your blog just saved a considerable chunk more! Thanks Jeffrey.

— comment by Tim on July 27th, 2012 at 11:59pm JST (5 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

I also noticed a few of your other entries featuring the D4, and thought it was a surprising choice on your part. When the camera was released I noted that most of the feature enhancements seemed to be on the video side of things. Even though I’m not a Nikon shooter, I was disappointed by that. I figure that Nikon’s and Canon’s flagship products generally indicate the trends in photography and push the technological boundaries, so for the D4 (and the 1DX) to focus so heavily on video and not really leap ahead of their previous products on the photography side was a let-down.

By comparison, the D800 looks like a true photographer’s camera. That Nikon provides it in a version with the anti-aliasing filter removed seems to emphasize that (although in all the shots I’ve examined, I really can’t see a difference in detail between the AA-lacking D800E and the D800). The resolution jump makes it seem more like a specialty camera than a standard shooter, though… but then I guess that those of us using DSLRs are already using “specialty cameras” compared with what most people shoot with.

Rambling aside, I would have thought that you would take a D800, and possibly pair it up with your D700. Are you thinking of trading the D4 for a D800?

No, not interested in the D800. To quote what Emperor Joseph II said to Mozart, “Too many pixels.”. The D4 at least has a stop better low-light performance than the D700, which I find appealing. And voice memo, so I can remember stuff when taking a bunch of shots for a post. But I’m not nearly as jazzed about the D700→D4 jump as the D200→D700 jump, which was monumental. And I’m really disappointed in the D4’s Auto ISO “enhancements”, a subject of a rant soon. —Jeffrey

— comment by David K. on July 28th, 2012 at 9:24pm JST (5 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

I have just got my D4 , as u say quite a disappointment bout it. The af-s mode no longer allow to set AF point assist like in AF-C mode. So the AF-S mode focus is slower than D700(I’m d700 user)
Another fact that I discovered , D4 focus point will affected by the AF beam from the SB 900/Sb910 . As it didn’t focus right on center but a little upwards where the AF beam indicated . But nothing like this happen in D700.

— comment by Clarence on August 16th, 2012 at 9:56am JST (5 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Burlington ON Canada, 02:00 2013 11 29, outside temperature 01 degress Celsius, 4 cm snow on ground. Jeffery, it has been some time since I viewed your site. In my own life a year ago purchased a small 900 square foot bungalow in an unusual condo setting. The houses are seperate as the only common ground being lawns , driveways and related. Have my own flower garden and rear deck. The house was gutted and rebuilt to my specs with gas range, full Ikea kitchen and Canadian
dark maple flooring throughout. Also attached garage with inside entrance for winter. My Honda Ridgeline truck just fits inside, and have a full basement with a nine foot ceiling. My Mac computers live there along with my office. After much deliberation and after borrowing a Nikon D600, a D800E and a D7100 for various periods, have ordered a used D700 from B&H in NYC. For me the cost of colour slide processing is getting just a wee bit stupid, a roll of Provia 100, plus processing here in Canada can cost upwards of $50.00, (and take upwards of four weeks to process) which makes each of those little two inch squares rather expensive, moreso whene the discard rate can be high at times.
And the newer Nikon full frame
cameras are far more daunting to me, as much as the D7100 with far too many options to mess me up.
My question then, what brand and size of CF cards are you utilizing? Have a copy of Lightroom 4
on the big 27″ iMac which shall be used for photo manipulation. Also have some 35,000 colour slides awaiting my review, time to weed the collection and either scan for on-line sales or give some to like-minded friends, many of whom own neither a computer nor a digital camera. When you’ve been doing photography for over 55 years , all slides, it can be difficult to shift modes of rendering the image.

Best to you and your family. Have enjoyed the family photographs of your journeys in Japan as well
as back to your parent’s home in Ohio. Your son soon to be twelve?
Cheers,

Bryce Lee

Nice to hear from you again Bryce… it’s been a while. When I use CF cards with my D4, I use a Lexar 64GB UDMA7. Unfortunately, I didn’t use it on a 2.5-hours-each-way trip I just got back from because I forgot it, so 5 minutes after arriving the camera and lenses all went back into the trunk of the car. )-: When I used a D700, I used 8GB cards from SanDisk, Lexar, and Transcend, though with this firmware upgrade you can now use 64GB cards (but not 16GB or 32GB cards, so take care). Officially, Nikon USA still lists only up to 8GB cards (here). I found that two 8GB cards were plenty for me for one day. Anthony is 11 with an attitude going on 15. I can still best him in soccer, but that won’t last. —Jeffrey

— comment by Bryce Lee on November 29th, 2013 at 4:11pm JST (4 years ago) comment permalink
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