Nikon D4s – First look video review

Before I start, a short personal word.
Usually my preferred way of conducting a “video review” is to put the camera in a real world documentary situation and see how it works for me. Unfortunately, the original video review that was planned with the new Nikon D4s was cancelled at the last minute so my alternative was to shoot this short “morning scene”…


Two years ago I was lucky enough to test the Nikon D4, a pre production model  (24h in 25p -night24h in 25p – day and “The University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna-image video”) so when the opportunity to test the new Nikon D4s came, I was very excited to see if Nikon’s engineers listened to user requests and made the camera (much) better than before. My expectations were high as Hiro Sebata, professional product manager at Nikon UK, said:  “For moviemaking in diverse conditions, D-Movie offers broadcast-quality video in multiple frame formats”.

In reality some things did change for good:
• Full frame video image quality got a bit better (but it’s still not as sharp as we would like it to be).
• Audio level control is now available during recording.
• Quick autofocus can be activated before and during video recording with good results.
• 1080 50/60p was added!
• HDMI secured cable for a safe connection between an external recorder and the camera was added to the package.
• Moiré and aliasing reduced.

Controlling audio-Nikon D4s                     Quick autofocus button-Nikon D4s

0J8K5594    0J8K5593

Functions/features/sensor behaviour that stayed the same as in the original D4 model:
• Full HD crop mode video quality is very sharp just as on the D4!
• Clean HDMI output for an external recorder.
• Severe rolling shutter.
• Assign “PV” and “FN” buttons for almost smooth aperture control.





One more feature that Nikon is very proud advertising is the “three sensor crop formats” (Full frame/APS-C/Native crop). In theory this is truly a great feature as it might allow you to use one lens in a variety of shooting situations but practically the video quality difference between those crop modes is too big and certainly can not be advertised as “broadcast quality” (FX and DX modes).

Another obstacle preventing  the user from getting the most out of the crop mode feature is the way the navigation for those modes is implemented in the menu. Totally senseless!

All in all, working with this camera left me with the same feeling I had when testing the original model. Nikon can certainly make great VDSLR cameras (see the video quality coming out of the D5300) but it will either cripple its usability (no full manual control modes) or, allow full control but cripple video quality performance.

The question remains open. Nikon WHY?

Camera settings used for this video:
• 1080 25p
• NL picture profile

• Edited on Adobe Premiere pro CC.
• 30% sharpening was added in post.
• Filmconvert plug in for slight color correction.

Music: Morning light by Johnathan Johns

Johnnie Behiri is a freelance documentary cameraman/editor/producer working mostly for the BBC and other respected broadcasters. He is also co-owner of

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Derek Hudson March 21, 2014

I waited and I waited and in the end I waited no longer to buy a new video/filmmaking/stills camera and so I ended up with Canon, somewhat against my wishes, and I’m not alone.

Nikon! Why is it apparently SO difficult for you to produce an equivalent to say a 5D3 and much better still with all the skills and all those Nikon-ites who have been waiting for you to get your act together? And here you are again with a very under par camera for video when today you know that a massive number of pro photographers not only desire but are required to shoot video alongside stills. Talk about fall short of the mark!

Johnnie Behiri March 21, 2014

My first VDSLR was the Nikon D90 just when it came out.
I still remember the talks about the “updated firmware” that will unlock the full potential of this camera when it comes to video (in other words, manual controls).

Nikon is one of the only camera companies that has no higher market to protect and also employing people to be in contact with user like us and gather feedback about our needs and wishes. What is un clear to me is, why the engineers in Japan are translating that information to products that are just not good enough of good but crippled functionality wise. Maybe the up coming GH4 will wake them up. For many, it is simply too late.

Reply March 23, 2014

You have the moves like Jagger.

Kepano Kekuewa August 1, 2014

Johnnie – good review as always. Like you, I jumped at the D90. Sold our Canon gear and switched to Nikon. Sadly, Nikon just never seemed to really nail video. As you say, they have no video market to protect, so why haven’t they done a better job here?

The Nikon Df, to me, says it all. Some b.s. about pure photography. Like Kodak hanging on to film while having developed digital imaging, Nikon was first out the gate with a video capable DSLR, yet they maintain this fantasy of pure photography while the world has evolved to mixed media. And even then, Nikon can’t pull off the nostalgia game well. Hat tip to Fujifilm for beating Nikon at the retro cool vibe.

The D3s is likely my terminal Nikon body. 12mp is plenty in a world where photons are replacing ink. The pace at which Nikon has introduced video improvements is just shameful – DSLR video should/could have been Nikon’s market to own. Instead, Panasonic (and Sony more recently) have iterated far more rapidly. Even Canon have evolved with their cinema line.

Thankfully, Nikon glass is easy to adapt. My GH4s and A7s (GH2s before that) have extended the life of my Nikon glass collection. It’s rare that I bring a Nikon body on jobs these days. In fact, that original D90 recently went to B&H for their A7s trade-in promo. Our remaining Nikon bodies may follow similar fates soon.

Nikon, if you’re reading this, know that I’ve tried to remain in your ecosystem. Panasonic, Sony and Fuji are winning my business these days.