Will the new Nikon D4s bring us what we want?

I consider the current Nikon D4 to be the best professional DSLR out there at the moment, followed closely by the Canon 1DX.
Now, the Canon 1DX has somewhat better specs on paper, such as a faster shutter speed and a better autofocus system, and most people prefer dual CF card slots over the 1CF+1XQD of the D4. But the D4 just has this much better viewfinder, where eyeglass wearers can still see the whole image, and that bullseye-shaped eyepiece that fits much better against a pair of eyeglasses than the plastic attachment of the 1DX. There are other things I like about both cameras, but I’ll leave that for a future post.

image courtesy of Nikon USA

Now back to the D4s, why would I want one?

There was this one small sentence in the product pre-announcement from Nikon that caught my eye: improved AF performance. This is actually an area where Nikon always used to be better than the competition, but was recently trumped by Canon with their state-of-the-art AF system in the 5D Mark III and 1DX, featuring 60 AF sensors, spread over a wide area of the frame, 41 of which are superior cross-type sensors.

Nikon’s D4 on the other hand only features 51 AF points and only 15 of them are cross-type. Definitely something they could have improved on coming from the D3s, but I guess they didn’t see the need to do that, since the competition had a much worse AF sensor layout.
But of course, time has changed and more AF points is generally better (especially for subject tracking), and also AF accuracy becomes much better once you have cross-type sensors. So I really hope that Nikon will not only improve their AF algorithms on the software side, but use the occasion and make the D4s a really interesting camera by featuring a completely new AF module that can rival the one of the 1DX.

This is not to say that the AF algorithms should not be improved, they definitely should! The D4 is often hunting a little before acquiring focus, it’s like it is trying to fine-tune the plane of focus, but it’s really annoying and not nearly as snappy as the new AF system of the canon pro bodies. AF just needs to get snappier and more spot-on, not only with f/2.8 zooms, but also with f/1.4 primes.

Another thing that the D4s could fix is the dual card slots issue of the D4. It is always more convenient for the photographer to have to bring only one type of card reader and one type of memory cards. CF is becoming faster and faster, so I would be happy if they’d go for 2CF slots, but in principle the XQD cards are better, because they don’t have any pins that could bend during card insertion, so dual XQD would also make sense. With 1CF+1XQD though, it’s just not consistent, although I can see people being happy if they can use their old CF cards and don’t have to buy into the XQD system, which is still quite expensive…so here it’s more difficult to make everyone happy.

During the next few hours, we will hopefully see a more detailed announcement from Nikon, fingers crossed that the D4s has what I would like to see, especially in the AF department on both software and hardware sides.
If not, I am definitely more likely to skip this iteration of their flagship and wait for the D5, which should come out in about 2 years…

Hit me in the comments with what you think of the D4s announcement, which things you are looking for in that new camera and whether you plan to go for it or wait for the next big thing. I am looking forward to your opinions!


  1. Roland – You goofed….
    D4 has 51 focus points, not 39.

    1. Thanks for catching this!
      I had probably looked at the specs of the Nikon Df for too long… 😉
      I fixed it in the post.

  2. […] also where they are falling short and where there are areas for improvement in future iterations. My last post serves as an example of what I intend to write about on my blog, featuring the highly anticipated […]

  3. […] Nikon is definitely listening to their customers. One thing they didn’t change though are the memory card slots. We still got one CF plus one XQD, so I guess Nikon is still counting on XQD being the future […]

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