My main reason for buying the Nikon D4 was for low light concert and event photography. Now I have been really happy with my Nikon D700. I believe that the Nikon D700 is probably the best camera that Nikon ever made and that includes the D4, the D3 and the D800. This is because the Nikon D700 gave me more bang for my buck than any camera before or since. It took a fantastic sensor (the same one in the D3) and gave it to me in a body that cost $2000 less.
So why did I decide to buy the D4. Two reasons: None of the cameras that I have shoot video and I believe that being able to produce HD video is an important part of a professional photographers toolbox, and I needed another camera body that will be as good or better than the D700 in low light. The specs on the D4 are really impressive but what happens when the camera is used to shoot a real concert. In short…. it’s a dream.
I have now shot a couple of concerts with the D4. Everything from a bar to big outdoor amphitheatre. And other than some user errors, the camera has performed flawlessly. The best part is that I use it with the Nikon D700 and it’s great to have two bodies with two lenses to work with. My usual setup has been the D4 and the D700 with the 24-70mm on one camera and the 70-200mm on the other. I try to figure out which focal lengths will be getting the most use and match that lens with the D4. For example, when I shot Mana I knew I was going to be trying to get some wider angle shots of the stage and went with the D4 / 24-70mm and the D700/70-200mm combination . When shooting the Channel 933 Summer Kickoff concert, I figured I would be trying to get more closeups and matched the D4 with the 70-200mm and the D700 with the 24-70mm.
The key it to make sure that both cameras are setup correctly at the start so that it doesn’t matter which one is in my hands the controls are the same and the settings are the same.
Nikon D700 1/640 second f/2.8 ISO 1600 70mm
Nikon D4 1/400 second f/2.8 ISO 1600 70mm
Both these photos of the band Gym Class Heroes were taken moments apart. Depending on where the band members are positioned and how I want to compose the image will determine which camera setup I pick. Before I leave the house, I make sure that both cameras are setup the same. The are both set to manual mode, high-speed continuous advance, ISO 1600, fresh battery and formatted memory cards. The other thing is to set the main and sub dials on the cameras to work exactly the same.
The main dial on the back of the cameras controls the shutter speed. Rotate the dial to the right and the shutter speed increases. Rotate the shutter speed to the left and the shutter speed decreases. This is the same on both cameras and the dial on the front is set up the same way to control the aperture. ( I don’t adjust the aperture much, I prefer to keep it wide open and adjust the shutter speed and aperture).
There is one more setting that needs to be setup the same between the two cameras and that is the internal clock. I try to get them to be as close to each other as possible, it makes sorting the image in order a whole lot easier.
I don’t shoot much in a studio where I have time to set things up to get the shot. I work in a photo pit where the camera I grab needs to do the job. Right now the D4 and the D700 both do an amazing job, but if the D4 was only as good as the D700 I could have saved a bundle and just bought a second D700. The D4 has some serious advantages over any of the other cameras and that is in the speed of the XQD card, the size of the buffer and the ability to shoot 10 frames a second. These are all things that the D700 can’t handle. Add to that the little touches, like the ability to switch focus modes without having to take your eye away from the viewfinder and the camera remembering which focus point to use in landscape compared to portrait modes makes the D4 just that much better. That isn’t to say that the older cameras can’t shoot in low light… I used to use a Nikon D2x to shoot concerts, it’s just easier with the D4 allowing for more time to be spent on composition than worrying about settings.
Nikon D700 1/320 second, f/2.8 ISO 1600 45mm
D4 1/500 second, f/2.8 ISO 1600 155mm
More to come…