We heard the rumors. And the other rumors. And the slightly more official rumors. But now, more than two years after Nikon released the D3s, the company has officially announced the D4, its new flagship DSLR. The new full-frame shooter will be available in February for $5,999.95 in the US,
£4,799.99 £5,289.99 in the UK, and €5,658 in Europe. The latter two territories will get the D4 on February 16th, the same date as Japan, so it sounds like a good day to circle on US calendars as well.
Externally, it's a slight ergonomic tweak and build-quality upgrade to the D3s, with an improved vertical grip, backlit buttons, a slightly larger 3.2-inch LCD, an inclined shutter release, and a control layout that closely mimics the D7000. There's also an Ethernet port on the D4, which can be used to tether the camera to a computer — you can also attach the new WT-5A wireless accessory, which lets you transmit images wirelessly via FTP, or control the camera remotely. Nikon says it's working on native apps for iOS and Android to let you control the camera with your smartphone, but the camera's web interface has also been tailored to work well on the iPad and iPhone.
On the inside, the DSLR is a much larger upgrade. There's a 16.2-megapixel FX format CMOS sensor inside, measuring 36.0 x 23.9mm. It has a native ISO of up to 12,800, higher than was originally rumored, and is expandable to 204,800. The camera is faster than ever, too, thanks to Nikon's new Expeed 3 processor — reps said the D4 will boot in .012 seconds, has .042-second shutter lag, and will shoot at 11 frames per second, one faster than the D3s. The Expeed 3 processor also improves autofocus performance, which still has 51 points but can use phase detection in even worse lighting conditions. (The autofocus system upgrade also now supports any Nikon lens up to f/8, which is pretty much all of them.) The RGB metering sensor has been bumped up to 91,005 pixels, which makes metering far better, particularly on small subjects. Live View and Movie mode autofocus have both been improved as well — which any D3s user knows is not a moment too soon — though it's still contrast-detect autofocus.
Video performance in general was clearly high on Nikon's list for the D4's functionality. The new shooter captures 1080p30, 1080p24, and 720p60 video, and Nikon has added smooth aperture adjustment as well as three different crops for video, up to 2.7x — that means you can shoot 1080p video, and give it the appearance of being zoomed a long way without any special optics. There's a new 20-level audio metering system, plus a headphone jack with 30-level adjustment so you can monitor straight from the camera. Apparently Nikon had some processing power to spare, too, because you can stream a full, uncompressed 720p signal out of the camera through its HDMI port, and view it on the camera simultaneously.
Nikon also introduced a new lens to its lineup today, the AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G. It offers internal focusing, silent motors, and a 7-blade diaphragm. Its minimum focusing distance is surprisingly long, at 2.5 feet, so it's definitely a specialty lens. It'll be available in February, for $499.95 — that is, if you have any money left after spending six large on the D4. To learn even more about the Nikon D4, check out our hands-on preview.
Update: Nikon has let us know that the UK price quoted here is inaccurate, and that the D4 will cost £5289.99 when it launches — an increase of £490, or around 10 percent. However, pre-orders placed before March 24th will remain at the original lower price.
See a comparison of the D4 against the D3s, D3x, Canon EOS-1DX, EOS 5D Mark II, and Sony Alpha A900 right here.