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Nikon’s 2013 Rumor: Nikon D4 sensor in a D800 body?

By Matthew Saville on December 24th 2012

Next up on the possible rumors for 2013 is Nikon’s next DSLR.  At this point the rumor is not nearly as likely as Canon’s highly probably 14-24 f/2.8 L and 35mm f/1.4 L mk2, however in my opinion it is still “possible”.

Basically, imagine a Nikon D800 (36 megapixels, which equals huge files and slower shooting speeds) …with the 16 megapixel sensor of the D4.   This is exactly what Nikon did for the D700; they basically took the D3 sensor and put it in a D300-like full-frame camera body.

Those who are speculating on this rumor fall into two main categories.  First, the ones who say “Nikon won’t do this, because it would cannibalize their D4 and other sales” Second, the ones who say “It just makes sense to come out with an affordable version of the D4; the true D700 replacement that fills a gap the D800 cannot.”

Obviously, I fall into the latter group.  I think it is only a matter of time until Nikon creates such a camera.  Why?  Because sales are sales, and volume sales are king.  Whatever loss of D4 sales Nikon might suffer by making such a camera will be far outweighed by the sales of another pro-grade camera in the $3,000 range.   Of course I don’t personally know Nikon’s profit margins or sales figures, but I think this is a pretty safe assumption.

The real questions are: 1.) What would it cost? 2.)  Would people actually buy it, instead of a D800 or D600?

1.)  The price of a D800+D4 offspring is difficult to predict, because Nikon already has the D600 at $2100 and the D800 at $2999.  And those prices are falling fast.  The way I see it, Nikon has a couple options.  Either way, they need to push the D600 as far down as they can, and settle around $1800-$1900 as soon as possible.  Then, the D800 price either needs to also drop like a rock, towards $2600 or so new, so that the “D800+D4″ can cost around $3-3.5K,  …or the D800 will stay where it is around $3K, (the $200 rebate expires in a week) …and the “D800+D4″ will come in at around $2500-$2600.

Either way, to be honest this whole pricing situation is the biggest argument that an “affordable D4” just isn’t ready for market yet.  There isn’t much room for it, price-wise.  If it costs more than the D800, people will laugh and say “who on earth is going to pay more for a camera with fewer megapixels?” (Then again, the Canon 5D Mk3 initially cost $3,500, and many people still bought it!) On the other hand if it costs less than the D800, well, that’s just in such a pinch between the D600 and D800 that executives might be afraid it wouldn’t sell.

2.)  Would people buy an “Affordable D4”, if they can buy a D600 or D800 instead?  Possibly.  Never underestimate the power of, well, speed and power.  Just imagine a 16 megapixel D800, with 6-8 FPS full-frame, and slightly better image quality than the D4.  The D800 is currently limited to 4 FPS full-frame, and only 6 FPS using DX crop mode and a vertical grip with certain batteries.  Not to mention the enormous files sizes with no “mRAW” option.  An “affordable D4” could be much better at competing with the likes of the 5D mk3 in this respect, which has 6 FPS and “mRAW” file options to save space for those who don’t want to always shoot all 22 megapixels.

In short, on the one hand the differences seem to be minimal however so many photographers are holding onto their D700’s for things like event photojournalism and action sports, because the camera has such faster shooting abilities and smaller filesizes.  So it may not seem like such a camera has a place in the market, but I predict that if Nikon does decide to combine the D800 body with a D4 sensor, the camera would sell very well.


Here’s to hoping!

Purchase the Nikon D800 (for $2796) from Amazon by clicking HERE, or from B&H by clicking HERE, or from Adorama by clicking HERE. (The current $200 rebate ends December 29th!)

Purchase the Nikon D600 (for $1996, with the 24-85 VR!)  from Amazon by clicking HERE, or from B&H by clicking HERE, or from Adorama by clicking HERE.  (The current $700 in savings ends December 29th!)


Click HERE to read our complete D600 review!

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Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Rafael Steffen

    Great coments, but Nikon is not making a new D700 with a Nikon D4S sensor.

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  2. Dan

    I was a D90 owner wanting to jump to a FX body and was anxiously waiting for Nikon’s D700 replacement. When the D800 was announced I immediately preordered one but later canceled it after considering what a 36MP workflow would be like and reading the manual recommendations about tripod use and steady hand technique. I still held out for the D700 replacement. Then the D600 was announced and I thought that was going to be my FX body, but after all of the posts about censor dust and the insanely small focus point area I again bypassed another new Nikon offering. Then in March I went ahead and purchased a used D700 off of eBay figuring it was going to be at least another year for a “hopeful” D700 replacement. I love my D700, but it is a little long in the tooth compared to the newer sensors, but it blows my old D90 away, especially in available light situations. With 8FPS it holds it own for sports photography too.

    I have a friend who was shooting a D300 and he just sold all of his Nikon equipment and went to the 5D Mark iii. That is the camera I want Nikon to replace the D700 with. A D800 body with the 18MP D4 sensor. I have too much money invested in glass to justify moving to Sony right now. Hopefully the Nikon execs are seeing all of the great press and rave reviews around the 5D Mark iii and are working on a version of their own. High ‘usable’ ISO in the 12-20K+ range, dual card slots, 1080p video, 6-8FPS, 100% viewfinder, great dynamic range, 18MP, and a D800 body all in a <$3K price tag. Its what we dream of from Nikon, at least what I dream of. If Nikon would come out with something like that I will be one of the first in line to pre-order.

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  3. Tom

    I’m currently a D3 shooter who has friends that shoot both Nikon and Canon. My best friend shoots both a D700 and a new D4, and might I just say that the D4 is truly amazing. That camera is just about damn near perfect for everything I could ever possibly want to do, sans price. I just can’t do $6K for a camera when I’m not a working professional and I think this is a place where Nikon has really missed the boat. The D4 in a D800 body would absolutely rule the same way the D700 did. I personally don’t need 36 megapixels for anything I do, and I find it actually harder in most instances to get really sharp images out of a D800. Couple that with the left side focusing debacle (well chronicled on Thom Hogan’s site) and Nikon’s crappy customer service, and it definitely left me on the sidelines when it came time to upgrade. Next, the D600 comes out with phenomenal sensor reviews, but it has a less than robust body, is too small without a grip, has only 1/200 flash sync and the autofocus sensors don’t reach the rule of thirds. Their all in the dang center! All this to say, there is a great big unfulfilled need for a truly professional full frame rig that is a great all-around camera at the semi-pro price point. The D600 is nice, but not professional. The D800 has tons of resolution, but is a workflow nightmare amongst other issues. Nikon has left me wanting and staring across the way at the 5DM3, and I’m probably not the only one. Nikon claims they want to be the market leader, but these two releases has shown me otherwise. Hopefully a D800s or something like it is in the works for their sake and mine.

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  4. Jenny

    This is exactly what I’m waiting for….

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  5. Lynne Hall

    Totally agree. After holding out for a Nikon for several years I’ve “resigned” myself to staying with Canon, probably for good. I prefer Nikon’s sharper image and like high MP but I NEED clean ultra-high ISO in stills AND video AND a truly quiet shutter. Canon’s 5D Mark III is the only camera on the market to offer all of this in a body size I can cope with. Just waiting for its price to come down a bit more and for Canon to hopefully fix a few problems, primarily the lack of individually illuminated focus points. Only the announcement of a forthcoming mini D4 would change my mind. There’s a HUGE market for it and has been for a few years. Nikon have the technology to blow away the 5D Mark III if they would but use it…preferably before Canon bring out the Mark IV!

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  6. Butzik

    It would definitely make a phenomenal wedding photography rig! I currently use a pair of D700’s and am in no hurry to get rid of them. If this “affordable D4” does happen, I might consider selling one of the D700’s to put towards the cost.

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  7. John Deir

    Do not count out the mirror-less camera wave. I expect pro lines coming this coming year. Just look at the Panasonic GH-3. I’m keeping my dollars in my pocket and waiting.

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    • Graeme

      What! And have Uncle Bob saying he’s got a better camera than the pro’! I don’t think so!

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  8. brother7

    I wish I would have waited to buy the D600. Would have saved $200 plus gotten a new lens Buyer’s remorse :(

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  9. Snowsurfer_101

    I think there is a HUGE market for a camera like an “Affordable D4″!! Myself and other wedding photographers do not like the D600 or D800. The D800 file size is just TOO BIG for event photography. I would only buy the D800 if I was a landscape photographer or shooting for a billboard. And I am not liking the D600 because why down grade from the D700? I think taking the D700 off the market was a big mistake for Nikon. I am not sure why they did not come out with a D700s or something? 

    I am holding off on buying a new Nikon until they come out with something like Canon’s 5D mk3. I just got to shoot with Canon’s 5D mk3 and to say it is perfect for weddings photography, and any other photography I shoot, is a HUGE understatement!! It has just the right number of megapixels and the ability to shoot with a high ISO is amazing. I was shooting with 20,000ISO and the images still looked amazing! I was even thinking of selling off all my Nikon gear and going to Canon because I am over the megapixel war between the two. I just want the perfect camera and right now Canon has it.   

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    • TomStills

      I agree with you at 100%. I have a D700 and only reason why not to sell all the Nikon gear and stick with Nikon is I prefer Nikon’s control logic over the Canon’s. D700 with 16Mpix sensor and video capability with changing aperture while shooting video will be the perfect D700s and I would just die with this camera.

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    • Delaney

      If this camera came to fruition, it would be my dream!

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    • ted tedsen

      why worrey about file size on the d800 you can go Down on image siz and use less pixels did you now that ? 36-22-11 it is Your to decide

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