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Nikon D4 vs D800

The Nikon D4 and the Nikon D800 are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in January 2012 and February 2012. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The D4 has a resolution of 16.2 megapixels, whereas the D800 provides 36.2 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Nikon D4 versus Nikon D800
Nikon D4 Nikon D800
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
16.2 MP, Full Frame Sensor 36.2 MP, Full Frame Sensor
1080/30p Video 1080/30p Video
ISO 100-12,800 (50 - 204,800) ISO 100-6,400 (50 - 25,600)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.2 LCD, 921k dots 3.2 LCD, 921k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
11 shutter flaps per second 4 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
2600 shots per battery charge900 shots per battery charge
160 x 157 x 91 mm, 1340 g 146 x 123 x 82 mm, 1000 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D4 and the Nikon D800? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D4 and the Nikon D800. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Nikon D4 vs Nikon D800
Compare D4 versus D800 top
Comparison D4 or D800 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D800 is notably smaller (29 percent) than the Nikon D4. Moreover, the D800 is markedly lighter (25 percent) than the D4. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can compare the optics available in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the D4 gets 2600 shots out of its EN-EL18 battery, while the D800 can take 900 images on a single charge of its EN-EL15 power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the D4 has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the D800, Nikon provides the MB-D12 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

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Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life 1
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch 2
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Nikon D4 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1340 g 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999i
 
Nikon D800 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 1000 g 900 Y Feb 2012 2,999i
 
Canon 1D X 158 mm 168 mm 83 mm 1551 g 1120 Y Oct 2011 6,799i
 
Nikon D850 146 mm 124 mm 79 mm 1005 g 1840 Y Jul 2017 3,299 i
 
Nikon D5 160 mm 159 mm 92 mm 1415 g 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499i
 
Nikon D4S 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1350 g 3020 Y Feb 2014 6,499i
 
Nikon D810 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 980 g 1200 Y Jun 2014 3,299i
 
Nikon Df 144 mm 110 mm 67 mm 760 g 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749i
 
Nikon D610 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i
 
Nikon D600 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 Y Sep 2012 2,099i
 
Nikon D800E 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 1000 g 900 Y Feb 2012 3,299i
 
Nikon D3S 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199i
 
Nikon D700 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999i
 
Nikon D3 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The D800 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 50 percent) than the D4, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Nikon D4 and Nikon D800 sensor measures

With 36.2MP, the D800 offers a higher resolution than the D4 (16.2MP), but the D800 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.88μm versus 7.29μm for the D4). It is noteworthy in this context that the two cameras were released in close succession, so that their sensors are from the same technological generation.

The resolution advantage of the Nikon D800 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D800 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 36.8 x 24.6 inches or 93.5 x 62.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 29.4 x 19.6 inches or 74.8 x 49.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 24.5 x 16.4 inches or 62.3 x 41.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D4 are 24.6 x 16.4 inches or 62.6 x 41.7 cm for good quality, 19.7 x 13.1 inches or 50.1 x 33.3 cm for very good quality, and 16.4 x 10.9 inches or 41.7 x 27.8 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Nikon D4 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 12800, which can be extended to ISO 50-204800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D800 are ISO 100 to ISO 6400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-25600.

D4 versus D800 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the D800 has a markedly higher DXO score than the D4 (overall score 6 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.6 bits higher color depth, 1.3 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.1 stops of reduced low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
 
Nikon D4 Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589
 
Nikon D800 Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.314.4285395
 
Canon 1D X Full Frame 17.9 5184 34561080/30p23.811.8278682
 
Nikon D850 Full Frame 45.4 8256 55044K/30p26.414.82660100
 
Nikon D5 Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388
 
Nikon D4S Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/60p24.413.3307489
 
Nikon D810 Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.714.8285397
 
Nikon Df Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280none24.613.1327989
 
Nikon D610 Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594
 
Nikon D600 Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.2298094
 
Nikon D800E Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.614.3297996
 
Nikon D3S Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382
 
Nikon D700 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2230380
 
Nikon D3 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2229081

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/30p).

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The D4 and the D800 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), as well as the same magnification (0.70x). The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D4 and Nikon D800 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
(000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
 
Nikon D4optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
 
Nikon D800optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/8000s 4.0 Y n
 
Canon 1D Xoptical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 1/8000s 14.0 n n
 
Nikon D850optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 1/8000s 9.0 n n
 
Nikon D5optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 1/8000s 14.0 n n
 
Nikon D4Soptical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
 
Nikon D810optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n
 
Nikon Dfoptical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5 n n
 
Nikon D610optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/4000s 6.0 Y n
 
Nikon D600optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5 Y n
 
Nikon D800Eoptical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/8000s 4.0 Y n
 
Nikon D3Soptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
 
Nikon D700optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 Y n
 
Nikon D3optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D800 has one, while the D4 does not. While the built-in flash of the D800 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The Nikon D4 and the Nikon D800 both have an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.

The D4 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or XQD cards, while the D800 uses Compact Flash or SDXC cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.

Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Nikon D4 and Nikon D800 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
 
Nikon D4YmonomonoYYmicro2.0---
 
Nikon D800YmonomonoYYmini3.0---
 
Canon 1D XYmono-Y-mini2.0---
 
Nikon D850YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYY
 
Nikon D5YstereomonoYYmini3.0---
 
Nikon D4SYmonomonoYYmini2.0---
 
Nikon D810YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--
 
Nikon DfY----mini2.0---
 
Nikon D610YmonomonoYYmini2.0---
 
Nikon D600YmonomonoYYmini2.0---
 
Nikon D800EYmonomonoYYmini3.0---
 
Nikon D3SYstereo---mini2.0---
 
Nikon D700Y----mini2.0---
 
Nikon D3Y----mini2.0---

Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.

Both the D4 and the D800 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D4 was replaced by the Nikon D4S, while the D800 was followed by the Nikon D810. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon website.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D4 and the Nikon D800? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Advantages of the Nikon D4:

  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (2600 versus 900) on a single battery charge.


Arguments in favor of the Nikon D800:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (36.2 vs 16.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 49%.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (6 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.3 EV of extra DR).
  • More compact: Is smaller (146x123mm vs 160x157mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 340g or 25 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (50 percent cheaper at launch).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D800 is the clear winner of the contest (8 : 3 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

D4 03:08 D800

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D4 and the Nikon D800 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D4 or the D800. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.

Expert reviews

This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

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Review Scores
  Camera
Model
camera
  labs  
dp
review  
ephoto
  zine  
imaging
resource
photography
  blog  
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Nikon D4....4.5/5..4.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999i
 
Nikon D800+ +82/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2012 2,999i
 
Canon 1D X....4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2011 6,799i
 
Nikon D850+ +89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jul 2017 3,299 i
 
Nikon D5..89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499i
 
Nikon D4S....4.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2014 6,499i
 
Nikon D810..86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2014 3,299i
 
Nikon Df..81/1004/54/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749i
 
Nikon D610+ +87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i
 
Nikon D600+ +87/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099i
 
Nikon D800E..84/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2012 3,299i
 
Nikon D3S..89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199i
 
Nikon D70089/100+ +4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999i
 
Nikon D3..+ +5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Nikon D4:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D800:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.

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    Specifications: Nikon D4 vs Nikon D800

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Nikon D4 Nikon D800
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date January 2012 February 2012
    Launch Price USD 5,999 USD 2,999
    Sensor Specs Nikon D4 Nikon D800
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 23.9 mm 35.9 x 24.0 mm
    Sensor Area 860.4 mm2 861.6 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.2 mm 43.2 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 16.2 Megapixels 36.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4928 x 3280 pixels 7360 x 4912 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 7.29 μm 4.88 μm
    Pixel Density 1.88 MP/cm2 4.20 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/30p Video 1080/30p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 12,800 ISO 100 - 6,400 ISO
    ISO Boost 50 - 204,800 ISO 50 - 25,600 ISO
    Image Processor EXPEED 3 EXPEED 3
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 89 95
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 24.7 25.3
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 13.1 14.4
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 2965 2853
    Screen Specs Nikon D4 Nikon D800
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.70x 0.70x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.2inch 3.2inch
    LCD Resolution 921k dots 921k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D4 Nikon D800
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 11 shutter flaps/s 4 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy400 000 actuations200 000 actuations
    Time-Lapse PhotographyIntervalometer built-inIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF or XQD cards CF or SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D4 Nikon D800
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 3.0
    HDMI Port micro HDMI mini HDMI
    Microphone Port External MIC port External MIC port
    Headphone Socket Headphone port Headphone port
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Nikon D4 Nikon D800
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type EN-EL18 EN-EL15
    Battery Life (CIPA)2600 shots per charge900 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 160 x 157 x 91 mm
    (6.3 x 6.2 x 3.6 in)
    146 x 123 x 82 mm
    (5.7 x 4.8 x 3.2 in)
    Camera Weight 1340 g (47.3 oz) 1000 g (35.3 oz)

    Did you notice an error on this page? If so, please get in touch, so that we can correct the information.

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