Which is Better the Nikon D810 or the D4s?

The D810 and D4s are two of the most popular cameras in Nikon’s current lineup of “professional” DSLR cameras due to their excellent image quality and robust build quality.   Introduced in 2014, the D810 is an incremental upgrade to the D800, while the D4s is the upgrade to the existing D4 camera.  Although incremental upgrades to previous Nikon cameras, both cameras offer significant improvements to the D800 and D4.  The D810 and D4s have both been well received by advanced amateur photographers as well as professional photographers due to both cameras’ excellent results!

The Similarities

The Nikon D810 and the D4s share a number of significant similarities including autofocus points, viewfinder, build quality, LCD, video capabilities and a variety of other less significant similarities.  In both cameras, the photographer has the ability to select up to 51 autofocus points in the camera’s viewfinder.  These points are responsive and accurate in use and are well distributed in both cameras bright viewfinders, which provide 100% coverage.

Both cameras offer excellent build quality, which is a characteristic of “professional” grade cameras.  In addition to a full magnesium case, both the D810 and the D4s offer extensive weather sealing to prevent moisture and dust from penetrating the cameras.  The D810 and the D4s are both at home in the field under harsh conditions, as well as in the studio!

The D810 and D4s both have a rear LCD display that is fixed and measures 3.2”.  The display is used to navigate both cameras’ menu system, as well as to compose images using “Live View” and preview still or video images.   In both cameras, the display is bright and easy to read even in bright sunlight conditions.

As with most DSLR cameras today, both the D810 and D4s are capable of shooting exceptional wide in a variety of formats including full HD, which has a frame size of 1,920 x 1,080 at frame rates up to 60 frames per second.  Video is stored as MOV files in both cameras.

Other similarities include the lack of built in WIFI and GPS units in both cameras, although these features are available as accessories on both cameras.  In addition, both the D810 and D4s shoot in manual, aperture priority, shutter priority and program modes.  Still images are captured in JPEG or RAW format in both cameras, while shutter speed range is between 1/8,000 and 30 seconds.

The Differences

While the D810 and D4s share a number of similarities, they also are quite different in several ways including resolution, ISO range, memory format, frame rate and their physical size and weight.  As far as total effective megapixels are concerned the D810 has an amazing 36.3 megapixels compared to the D4s’ modest 16.2.  Although the difference is significant, the image quality in both cameras is excellent, with differences between the two cameras being noticeable only when the images are enlarged.

The D4s has a higher native ISO range of 100-25,600 compared to the D810’s 100-12,800.  Both cameras have the ability for the ISO range to be expanded downward to a LO-1 setting with the D4s pushing to ISO 50 compared to the D810’s ISO 32.  On the upper end the D810 can be pushed to HI-2, which results in ISO 51,200.  The D4s can be pushed even higher to a HI-4 setting, which results in ISO 409,600!  Images taken at reasonably high ISO settings are relatively noise free, however it is hard to image situations where extreme ISO settings would be necessary.

Both cameras have two memory slots, with the D810 using a single CF card in one slot, with the second slot holding a SD, SDHC or SDXC card.  In the case of the D4s a single CF card is used in one slot, while the second slot holds the newer XQD card, which is not as widely used as CF or the various SD style cards.  In both cameras the second slot can be configured in a number of ways to record images, including backup of the first card, dedicated video and RAW image storage.

Frame rate is another area where the two cameras vary greatly, with the D810 being capable of a reasonably fast 5 frames per second compared to the D4s, which can shoot at 11 frames per second.  Images are quickly processed using the EXPEED 4 processor that is found in both cameras.  While both cameras are suitable for sports and action photography, the D4s is clearly superior in this type of photography.

The D4s is significantly larger in terms of size and weight compared to the D810. Part of the reason for the difference is the built in vertical grip found on the D4s, which also holds the battery, resulting in a size of 6.3” x 6.2” x 3.6”.  On the other hand, the smaller D810 measures 5.8” x 4.9” x 3.3”.  The D4s weighs 41.6 ounces compared to the D810’s 31.6 ounces.  Both cameras handle very well, although the D4s can be a bit tiring to carry for extended periods of time with a heavy NIKKOR zoom lens.

The Pros and Cons

As one would expect, there is no such thing as a perfect camera and the D810 and D4s both have a number of positive and negative characteristics even though they are among the best cameras Nikon has ever offered.

In the case of the D810, the biggest “pro” of the camera is that it is relatively affordable for such a versatile camera. While $2,799.95 is certainly a lot of money, the D810 is worth it for a camera of this caliber and will check most of the boxes for people looking for a high end, high resolution “professional” grade camera. For the latest discounts and prices. It is hard to complain about a camera with 36.3 megapixels, frame rate of 5 frames per second and weatherproof sealing for under $3,000!

The main “con” of the D810 is the lack of the U1 and U2 settings found on Nikon’s other full frame and cropped sensor cameras. These settings, which are very useful, allow the photographer to save custom user-defined settings in the camera and recall them by simply turning the top dial.   Nikon has eliminated them in the D810, as well as the D4s, while incorporating them in the cheaper D7000 series of cameras, as well as the D610 and D750.  One has to wonder why Nikon eliminated this feature on a more expensive camera!

As for the D4s, the biggest “pro” is the speed of the camera, which is extremely fast at 11 frames per second, as well as the equally fast and accurate autofocus system.  The D4s is more of a specialty camera and is targeted more towards sports or motorsports photographers, who demand fast frame rates and equally fast and accurate autofocus systems, where fractions of a second can make the difference in capturing the image or missing the shot.  Another “pro” of the D4s is the ability to produce excellent images even at very high ISO settings.  This is something that many cameras attempt, but very few succeed!

The cost of the D4s is the cameras biggest negative feature.  At a price point of $6,499.95 for the body only, the camera is very expensive, with few photographers being able to afford the camera.  Add in several NIKKOR prime and zoom lens and a photographer will be making an investment of $10,000 plus, which is a lot of money.  One has t wonder what a camera that falls between the D810 and D4s would look like!

Just the Facts, A side-By-Side Comparison

While most serious photographers look at image quality over technical specifications, many feel that the specifications are equally important.  The Nikon D810 and the Nikon D4s both have excellent image quality, as well as technical specifications, which are shown in the table below.

Item Nikon D810 Nikon D4S
Year Introduced 2014 2014
Format Full Frame Full Frame
Megapixels 36.3 16.2
Sensor Type CMOS CMOS
Processor EXPEED 4 EXPEED 4
Image Format RAW or JPEG JPEG, RAW or TIFF
Sensor Size 24mm x 35.9mm 23.9 mm x 36.0 mm
Sensor Cleaner Yes Yes
Auto-focus Points 51 With 15 Cross Type 9, 21 or 51
Modes Aperture Priority (A), Manual (M), Shutter Priority (S) and Program (P) Aperture Priority (A), Manual (M), Shutter Priority (S) and Program (P)
Metering 3D Color Matrix Metering III 3D Color Matrix Metering III
View Finder Coverage 100% 100%
Live View Yes Yes
Frames Per Second 5 11
ISO 64 – 12,800 100 – 25,600
Lowest / Highest Expandable ISO Lo-1 (ISO 32) and HI-2 (Up To ISO 51,200) LO-1 (ISO 50) and H1-4 (Up To ISO 409,600)
Shutter Speed Range 1/8000 – 30 Seconds 1/8,000 – 30 Seconds
Built In Flash Yes No
Card Slots 2 Total; 1 CF And 1 SD, SHC Or SDXC 2 Total; 1 CF And 1 XQD
Card Type CF, SD, SDHC or SDXC CF and XQD
LCD Size 3.2” 3.2”
LCD Fixed or Swivel Fixed Fixed
Video Yes Yes
Video Format MOV MOV
Video Type Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 / 60 FPS; HD Format As Well Full HD 1,920 x 1.080; 24-60 FPS.  HD and VGA Formats As Well
Internal Autofocus Motor Yes Yes
GPS Optional Accessory Optional Accessory
Wireless Optional Accessory Optional Accessory
WIFI Optional Accessory Optional Accessory
Battery EN-EL 15 EN-EL 18a
Unique Features High Resolution, Quiet Shutter, Dust and Moisture Protection, Magnesium Alloy Shell, Ability to Use Older Nikon Lenses, No Optical Low-Pass Filter Magnesium Alloy Body, Weather Sealing Against Dust, Moisture and Electromagnetic Interference, Ability to Use Older Nikon Lenses
Size Without Lens 5.8” x 4.9” x 3.3” 6.3” x 6.2” x 3.6”
Weight Without Lens 31.1 Ounces 41.6 Ounces
Manufactured In Thailand Japan
Body Only or with Kit Lens Sold Either Way Body Only
Included Accessories Camera, Battery, MH-25a Charger, DK-5 Eye Piece Cap, DK-21 Rubber Eyecup, UC-E17 USB Cable, AN-DC14 Camera Strap, BM-14 LCD Cover, BF-1B Body Cap, BS-1 Accessory Shoe Cover and a NikonView NX2 CD-Rom Camera, Battery, MH-26a Battery Charger, UC-E15 USB Cable, AN-DC11 Camera Strap, BF-1B Body Cap, BS-2 Accessory Shoe Cover, DK-17 Eyepiece, BL-6 Battery Chamber Cover, USB Cable Clip, HDMI Cable Clip, UF-2 Connector Cover For Stereo Mini Plug Cable, NikonView NX 2 CD-ROM
Cost, Body Only $2,799.95 (Check out the latest prices and discounts.) $6,499.95 (Check out the latest discounts and prices.)
Cost With Kit Lens (Lens Varies) Varies Depend On Lens Selected N/A

*Information from Nikon USA’s website, including pricing.

My Overall Recommendation

The Nikon D810 and the D4s are two of the best cameras in Nikon’s “professional” series of cameras and are capable of capturing outstanding still and video images.   While they share a number of similarities, I prefer the D810 as it fits my needs better given the type of photography that I do, which is primarily landscape and street style photography, that typically involves a great deal of walking around for extended periods of time.  The size and the weight of the D4s, which is a terrific sports camera, is simply too much to carry around all day, especially with a large NIKKOR zoom lens attached.  Another factor in my preference is the cost differential between the two cameras, with the D810 being significantly cheaper at $2,799, which will allow me to purchase 2-3 excellent NIKKOR lens, as well as the camera for the same price of a D4s body.

It all comes down to the type of photography that you engage in when determining, as to which of these cameras is best for you.  If you shoot primarily sports and action, the D4s is superior to the D810.  However, if you do not primarily shoot sports, the D810 would be an overall better fit.  Either way, you will have a great camera that will last for years!

The Camera Guide Team
 

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