…and sometimes you get the horns (first bout with the Nikon D4)

So, I bought the Nikon D4 last week.  Compared to what I had been shooting, this is like a Lamborghini… in the sense that I know it’s better than what I had, it can do more than what I had, and when I figure it out it’ll be way more impressive than what I had.  Except right now, I can barely get it in gear or park it.  So I decided last night that I would shoot the whole bout with it.  Get the high frame rate burning out of my head, figure out how it works, etc.

I am not impressed with myself (the camera is awesome) but I learned a lot.  My thanks, and apologies, to ARRG and Bleeding Heartland for being unwitting guinea pigs and probably not getting results up to my usual standards. :)

The good:

  • Much lighter and ergonomically better, although I did have to find some controls again because the button placement is different.  Shouldn’t be a problem once I get used to it.
  • IPTC presets and a lot of other conveniences will speed workflow up, especially at tournaments.  I can preload the IPTC info for the day and then switch to it as need be.
  • Video is cool, although it will take some learning.
  • Using the XQD slot for backup JPG of each shot.. should have done that at the start, would have saved shots from the card that got eaten.

The bad:

  • I thought a series of shots had some spots on them.  It turns out that it was just something that got on the mirror somehow.  Weird.  It’s gone now but I wonder what it was and where it went off to.  Might be hitting the inside of the camera with my puff blower thing later.
  • I don’t know if this affects all D4 but the monitor had a definite color cast when in AWB mode.  It looks like this was limited to AWB mode, because when I switched modes it was more accurate.  I am not going to be like some of the Internet people and wail that this is a mortal injustice that will destroy my life (mostly crappy wedding photogs) but it would be nice to see that corrected in firmware someday.
  • Autofocus will take some getting used to.  I noticed that I was consistently framing low because I was distracted by the AF indicator, or rather, for some reason I was trying to center it even though I intentionally placed it high for better AF on faces.  Weird.
  • Pocket Wizard MiniTT1/FlexTT5 HSS/FP sync does not work on the D4 yet.  I am sure they will adjust their timing and all that in an upcoming firmware upgrade but for now, if you set your shutter speed above sync speed you get no flash in your exposure.  I did not really use this feature much anyway so I am not torn up about it and I am sure that they will fix it.  Manual levels seem to work.

The ugly:

  • Burning frames all night led to a lot of useless crap on the card, thousands of shots to go through, and nothing that I think I am going to really like.
  • The lighting in the St. Louis venue is uneven and gross and that’s why I like to use speedlights in there.  Shooting most of the bout at ISO 4000, 1/640 shutter and f/4 or so led to results that would probably work for a newspaper but aren’t going to be stunning on screen.  But it was a learning experience.

Lessons learned:

  • You have to continue to follow the shot by panning and possibly reframing with zoom during  high speed bursts, or you are going to get junk.  I got much better at this as the evening went on and was able to use it to my advantage.
  • Trust that the AF will work instead of chasing the point in the finder, because otherwise it will be distracting.
  • I need to shoot in Cl at about 4fps to do what I am used to doing with lighting.  This gives time to release the shutter and avoid multiple shots, but can fire off a smaller (but less comprehensive) burst if need be.
  • Run the lights in St. Louis and don’t worry about the high frame rates.  Results will be better.  Venues with more consistent light and not crappy gym lights, outdoors, etc might be a better fit for high frame rates.

As a side note, here’s the video I recorded.  Need to learn the focus and exposure but hey, it’s video!

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5 Responses to …and sometimes you get the horns (first bout with the Nikon D4)

  1. Marc says:

    The color cast you are seeing on screen is actually correct I hate to say. (Especially if it’s on AWB only…) The D4′s screen along with the D800′s are the first to be color calibrated to the sRGB Colorspace. So in essence, when you think you have a funky colorcast, you actually have a more correct one as compared to your D700. Yea, takes a second to sink in, but basically your old camera is wrong; not the new one.

    You should call me later, and we will talk about what AF Settings that you use, it took me a long time between the D3, D3s and the D4 to figure out what I was doing. It’s seriously almost like Rocket Surgery….

    • mcwheely says:

      I had done some reading on the color cast. I guess I can see how AWB might mess with things. It is hard to set white balance in that venue. You can actually see the lights shifting color, they do it so slowly. It looks gross, to be honest.

      • mcwheely says:

        I need to get outdoors and do some daytime sunlight shooting. There was a stupid dog parade at the end of the block today, I should have walked down and done that just to get some test frames without having to worry about lighting or anything.

    • mcwheely says:

      Hrm, after the firmware update it looks a little different.

  2. mcwheely says:

    As a followup, I ended up getting a second XQD card and two Sandisk Extreme Pro 16GB cards. This should at least address the memory issue. I’m gonna keep an eye on the screen issue. :)

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