Read. Learn. Return.

Nikon D4s vs D4 high ISO *UPDATE*

*Updated now Lightroom support added* Having spent a couple of weeks with the new Nikon D4s, I promised myself not to get too geeky with it, and indeed for the most part I shot real world subjects. But the ‘improved’ ISO performance was nagging at me. It was good, but with my D4 also by my side, I wasn’t sure if it was BETTER. So, I did a more controlled test.

First, please remember, noise reduction software is very good these days. In fact, I mostly shoot with the D800 now which is noisier than the D4. But, Lightroom is very good at removing it. As such, don’t put all your main importance of upgrading to a new camera on the noise handling alone. Most camera’s these days are very capable – especially compared to where DSLR’s started! It took me a long time to get myself out of the ‘no noise’ mindset.

EDIT: I’ve now posted my full Nikon D4s review

The Nikon D4s and older D4, side by side

The Nikon D4s and older D4, side by side

But equally, it’s nice to know what the performance is capable of with these camera’s, so a little geeking never hurt anyone once in a while (and it’s been a while for me!).

THE TEST

I only tested three ISO’s, 6400, 12800 and 25600 as I was only interested in the higher end of the usable range as the lower end I have no issues with (and I didn’t want, nor have the time, to turn this in to a million sample exercise). But with the D4s having a new sensor and reading reports of over 1EV better performance in higher ISO’s, my real world shooting wasn’t convincing me. I needed to check a little more carefully.

The test image

The test image

Test was simple. I placed my D800 on the fireplace in the bedroom. Set my 70-200 up on a tripod using it’s foot, drew the black out blind and pushed the door shut, but not closed so some light could come in through the frame. I didn’t want the room well lit, as the whole point of high ISO (generally) is to shoot in low light.

D4s vs D4 ISO 6400

D4s vs D4 ISO 6400

I took each ISO shot together. E.G. I shot the ISO 6400 image on the D4, then immediately took it off the lens and attached the D4s and took an image with identical settings. I then moved on to the next ISO setting and did the same.

Noise Reduction was OFF for all shots, all in manual set as follows:

ISO 6400, 1/2s, f8
ISO 12,800, 1/5s, f8
ISO 25,600 (and HI 1), 1/13s, f8

Nikon D4s vs D4 ISO 12,800

Nikon D4s vs D4 ISO 12,800

Images were then opened in Nikon Capture (come on Lightroom, give us the support update! see further below for Lightroom comparisons) and I clicked Noise Reduction off again, as Capture has a habit of ticking it on when you open RAW files.

Saved to TIFF and opened in PS to supply the crops.

Nikon D4s vs D4, ISO 25,600

Nikon D4s vs D4, ISO 25,600

In the case of ISO 25,600 vs HI 1 – I found the older D4 to produce a BETTER file in my experience. Lots of white dots to be found in the D4s at it’s native ISO!

D4 ISO HI 1 vs D4s ISO 25,600

D4 ISO HI 1 vs D4s ISO 25,600

UPDATE 10th APRIL 2014:
Now that Lightroom has added support for the D4s, I imported these files and had another look at them both with and without Noise Reduction applied. To my eye, rather than the D4 looking better, the D4s now just comes up a notch to be on par with it. If there wasn’t a label on the photos telling you which is which, you’d be hard pressed to pick them apart.

The images below are quite large. If you’re on a low resolution screen, you’ll be able to drag them around inside the window they open in.

Lightroom Import with no Noise Reduction

Lightroom Import with no Noise Reduction

Lightroom Import with Noise Reduction

Lightroom Import with Noise Reduction

Interesting viewing of which I will let you draw your own conclusions. However, again I must stress, the real world use is where it ‘really’ counts, and I’ve enjoyed shooting with the D4s, as you’ll find out in due course 🙂

REAL WORLD USE

I’ll post more real world images in due course (plus at the time of writing, Lightroom still doesn’t support the D4s files) once my obligations for the loan of this camera have been fulfilled. Here’s a teaser though…

Red Kite over the UK countryside, taken with the Nikon D4s

Red Kite over the UK countryside, taken with the Nikon D4s

27 Shares

About the author

Richard Peters is a Surrey based professional wildlife photographer, Nikon Ambassador, and one of the few British photographers to receive the accolade of European Wildlife Photographer of the Year. He is known for a style that often favours dramatic use of light, runs wildlife photography workshops and, from camera clubs to big industry events, holds talks about his work.

If you'd like to know about Richard's latest blogs, workshops and more, all designed to help you improve your photography, join the newsletter today.

menu