Last week one of the most respected camera review sites, DxOMark, listed the brand new Nikon D4 as the best digital DSLR camera to date. The D4 ranked so well that it was actually the 2nd best digital camera period falling behind only by the Phase One IQ180. Today both those cameras fall to a shocking competitor..the much less expensive Nikon D800!
Can we say we were completely shocked? After conducting our own Fstoppers Nikon D4 Real World Tests, we knew the Nikon D4 was a great camera but that it didn't raise the bar the same way the D3 did when it replaced the D2xs. Even the D3s had a much more significant jump in raw image quality from the previous camera than the Nikon D4 displayed. But what no one thought was that the $3,000 Nikon D800 with its 36 million "small" pixels could actually out perform the $6,000 Nikon D4 Flagship camera. Well according to DxOMark it has on almost every criteria!
You can read the full findings over at DxOMark's website but here are the basic results between the the latest Nikon DSLRs:
As many suspected, the Nikon D800 isn't quite up to the high ISO standards the D4 has set but if you read the details the real reason the Nikon D4 wins that category is because of it's super high ISO starting at 12800. Even at the D800's top ISO Limit, it competes really well with the D4 and shows major improvement over the already great Nikon D700. As a wedding photographer who shoots with high ISOs often, I must say I've never pushed a camera past 6400 with results better than a slightly lower ISO and a bit of bounce fill flash. But if shooting in extremely dark places with no flash is your desire, then the D4 could be your dream come true.
In all fairness to the Phase One, the biggest reason it falls short of the D800 in this test is because it fails miserably in low light. We expected that though since it's primarily a studio camera that usually requires strobes and slower lenses to produce the best image quality. This test does make me question my decision to buy the Nikon D4 over the half as expensive D800 especially since I don't shoot sports and have yet to go past ISO 12,800 in my career. Having two cameras for the price of one is especially important to me because having a backup for weddings is crucial and if you hire assistants or second shooters it's best to have many cameras to make everyone's life easier.
Let's face it, the image quality in today's DSLRs is beyond what anyone really needs for practical purposes, and conventional wisdom tells us that future cameras are only going to improve upon noise, resolution, and speed slightly. We can all get excited to see our own images improve in quality with these new cameras but at the end of the day no camera advancement will overshadow vision, creativity, and a well executed photoshoot. As these cameras capable of producing beyond-professional quality files begin filtering down into the advanced amature market, the only thing clients and art directors will continue to care about is YOU and what's between your ears :)