Nikon D4 Digital Camera Review$5,999.95
Ease of Use
The Nikon D4 features an impressive combination of 91k-pixel RGB metering system, 51-point autofocus sensor, and EXPEED3 image processor allowing for fast, accurate photos in the majority of lighting conditions. The camera is certainly not for beginners, and even enthusiast photographers might have trouble knowing just where to begin. The D4 is designed to aid a professional's workflow, to be a tool that can be picked up and adjusted to work and work quickly.
Buttons & Dials
The large body of the D4 allows buttons to be comfortable spaced apart, with both portrait and landscape grips receiving dedicated controls. Both grips benefit from command and sub-command dials, a programmable function button, AF-ON button, sub-selector joystick, and shutter release. The vertical grip's shutter release also has a release lock, and the general layout of the controls is similar regardless of how you're holding the camera, with small differences. All the grip-centric buttons are well-designed, with legible labels and large buttons. The controls don't have much travel, and don't offer much of a haptic response. This keeps things quiet, but sometimes you're left wondering if you fully depressed the AF-ON button, for example.
The menu on the Nikon D4 is just as we've seen on previous Nikon cameras: tabs aligned vertically on the left side of the screen, each housing a long list of options. By default this is a brutal pain, because the multi-selector and sub-selector controls are poor for repeating the same motion many times, as you often have to do to scroll through a menu. Luckily, you can assign menu navigation to the rear control dial, which lets you quickly shuttle down the long lists of camera options. We've sounded this complaint in most of our Nikon reviews, but both Canon and Samsung feature menus that are far quicker to navigate, only calling into sharp relief how cumbersome Nikon's design is.
In totality though, the D4's menu can be customized to limit the effect of this. Nikon allows for menu banks to be savable, with the option to switch between several different banks without having to actually go into the menu. In addition, the camera features a customizable "My Menu" feature, where you can assign menu functions that you adjust often. This is a great place to put the camera's movie settings, as you can assign the sub-selector to bring you directly to this menu.
The printed manual that comes with the Nikon D4 is as extensive as you'd expect from a $6000 camera. The English manual alone is 456 pages long. Nikon also provides .pdf versions that are easier to search on a phone or computer, while the manual itself is pretty straightforward and organized with a helpful index at the back. We do wish the table of contents explained specific use cases a little more clearly. A perfect example of this is the "lens" part of the table, which has information on pages 28-29, 228, 359, and 385.
If you wanted to know, say, what lenses are compatible with the D4, you'd have to turn to page 385, but you may go to the first four references first before you find what you want. A simpler way would just say "Lens...", and then explain what each individual reference was for, as in any encyclopedia. Yes, it'd make the index 2-3 pages longer, but in a 456-page tome, that's hardly of much consequence. What's perhaps worse is that I've been informed by my German-speaking colleague and managing editor of our German site that the Nikon D4's German manual already does this. Wunderbar.
Also available for the D4 are a selection of online learning tools, called the Digitutor (careful, there's sound associated with it). The Digitutor explains the camera's many features, but also goes into depth with some key techniques from professional photographers. It's a useful tool for understanding some of the finer points of the camera, though there's not the same level of explanation that the printed manual gives you.