Johnnie Behiri tries out a pre-production Nikon D4 and gives his first impressions

By Johnnie Behiri

Recently I was lucky enough to have a Nikon D4 (pre production model) for 24 hours. My original plan was to shoot a short feature with it and by doing so check its strength and weaknesses, but the short notice left me no choice but run a very simple test (one that might not satisfy all…)

I’ve divided the test into night and day shots. Neither video is colour-corrected. I wanted to share exactly what I got out of the camera with the community. To my eyes, up to ISO 1000 the camera produces clean video images. Also, please take a look at “24h in25p”-night, 0:49min. Surprise – the “rolling shutter” effect is almost a thing of the past!

Obviously, having the camera for such a short time did not allow me to master it. I truly hope some of the shortcomings I discovered are due to my lack of Nikon experience and are not really shortcomings after all.

I chose to shoot mainly with 2 prime lenses, in part to see how useful and functional the crop function is. So everything you see (but the Capoeira shots) was done with the Nikon 20mm+85mm lenses.

24h in 25p-day Shot with Nikon D4 from Johnnie Behiri on Vimeo.

What’s to like about this camera?

I liked what I saw, though hoped I could get a slightly sharper image. I would love to experiment more and get even better results if possible.

– Audio quality: Very nice. I dare to say that the D4 is producing a cleaner sound than my Tascam DR-100 audio recorder.
– Needless to say, having a headphone socket is a real treat.
– Crop factor: I can’t say enough good things about this function. Simply put: AMAZING! Nikon representatives told me that the best video quality produced by the camera is at the 2.7 crop factor setting. You are able to toggle between full screen and 1.5 crop factor as a second option.

Things I would love Nikon to review and hopefully change in a firmware update if possible:

-It is unfortunate, but sound levels can not be adjusted after starting recording.
-When switching the camera on in video mode, there is ALWAYS a need to press the LV button BEFORE being able to actually shoot video.
-Clear HDMI output is great but when an external EVF is connected, there is a need to see some information there. I couldn’t find a way to “overlay” the info in my Cineroid EVF for comfortable shooting.
-Also, when shooting with an External EVF connected to the camera via HDMI, I could not find a way to turn the camera LCD off. At times I don’t want others to be able to see what I’m shooting, or would just like to save a bit more of the battery life.
-In some occasions, there is a delay after pressing the record button between the LCD screen and the external EVF. The EVF will go blank for a second or two before you see what you are recording.
-There is a way to assign two front buttons for a smooth aperture control [power aperture]. This is a nice feature. The problem is that the changes are so quick that I ended up pressing the button in steps so the end result was like using a “clicked” aperture ring on a manual lens. It is a welcome feature, but I wish it had a “slower response”.
– Crop factor changes: As amazing as this feature is, there is no way to operate it “on the fly”. There is always a need to fiddle within the menu to access and change the settings. This feature should definitely be more accessible.
-WB settings: There is no way to see the WB settings on the LCD screen, only down at the battery pack compartment window.

One more point: my Cineroid EVF showed 1080i signal before hitting the record button and 720p right after pressing it. So I guess clean 720p signal can be out put to an external device if you are interested in recording HD ready resolution while simultaneously filming into a memory card.

24h in 25p-night Shot with Nikon D4 from Johnnie Behiri on Vimeo.

All footage was shot in natural picture profile setting in1080/25p

Equipment used:
Nikon D4 pre production model with firmware 1.0
Lenses- Nikkor 20mm f/2.8, 85mm f1.8, 14-24mm f2.8, 70-200mm f2.8
Rig-O’Connor (apart from a Vocas handle)
Tripod-Sachtler DV8 SB
Camera bag- Kata DR-465i and FlyBy 76
Filter – Light Craft Workshop Fader ND

A special thanks to my trainee assistant Claudia for helping during this long day! Also, a big thank you to professor David and his team for performing a short Capoeira theme for us. Find out more about their school here www.suldabahia.at

Johnnie Behiri is a BBC freelance cameraman operating from Vienna, Austria.
When not working for the BBC, Johnnie films documentaries, commercials, music videos, and testimonial/marketing videos for other broadcasters and clients.

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