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Nikon Exploring 4K Video for Future DSLRs

01.26.14 @ 7:12PM Tags : , , , , , ,

Nikon-D4s-CES-2Nikon took a huge step forward in video quality with the release of the D800, but their flagship D4 was a bit disappointing in that department (even though it did have better low-light capabilities). With Canon pushing into the 4K DSLR space with cameras like the 1D C, and Panasonic including 4K in its next GH camera, it’s really only a matter of time before Nikon jumps into the ring. Click through for more on a possible 4K future for Nikon.

Over on TrustedReviews, Zurab Kiknadaze, a European Product Manager with Nikon, said:

It is a bit tricky, it’s not something that we are purposefully excluding from our cameras; however we need to approach it carefully.

There are high-end cameras that produce this but it just puts such a load on the equipment.

For us, because consumers are demanding it we are aware of this and will be looking into it for the future.

Nikon is the only major Japanese camera maker that doesn’t also have a dedicated video line, and as I’ve said in the past, they can either get into the video camera market, or produce the best video DSLRs out there because they won’t be hurting the upper end. Even though Nikon Rumors suggests the new D4s revealed at CES may include 4K video, I don’t think Nikon is ready yet based on the comments above. That product line certainly makes the most sense for having those higher-end functions, but based on how poorly resolved video was on the previous D4, they really should make sure that the 1080p looks good first, before worrying about 4K.

I know the Japanese companies tend to be very conservative with these product releases, but if Nikon really wants to blow the market away, they should make one of these cameras record 4K RAW. It would give far more options than highly compressed 4K, even though the results from the Canon 1D C brought down to 1080p can look great. The company will never put something like ProRes into their cameras because of licensing, and they’re not going to go through the trouble of creating their own high-quality 10-bit codec, so 4K RAW might actually be the easiest to implement as RAW is less processor intensive.


Now, since Nikon has a QXD card slot in the D4, and will have one in the D4s, they could eventually implement some of these higher recording options without the cards being an issue. Unfortunately, the QXD cards aren’t quite fast enough for uncompressed 4K RAW, but they could be in the next few years as those speeds are in the QXD spec. What Nikon could do is come up with a compressed RAW like Blackmagic is planning on doing with their 4K camera. If they could make that work, and keep the components cool, they might be able to use current QXD cards to record depending on the compression ratio.

2K RAW would also be fantastic, similar to how the C500 can do both 4K and 2K. I just don’t see them doing that, because photographers wouldn’t really benefit from it. That’s really the other reason why 4K RAW (or 4K in general) makes sense on a DSLR, because it’s possible to pull stills from the video. While you may need to mess around with shutter to get clearer photos, with a camera of this size, getting stills and video in one go is much more realistic, especially as photographers like to handhold.

If Nikon did include 4K in a similar way as the 1D C but for essentially half the price, it would still make a lot of people happy, but if they had RAW video support internally it would literally fly off the shelves (even faster with 2K/1080p RAW support). Either way, we’ll know soon enough if the D4s will include 4K, as it should be announced sometime this year.

Link: Nikon hints future cameras will add 4K video recording — TrustedReviews

[via Nikon Rumors]


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Description image 82 COMMENTS

  • David Andrade on 01.26.14 @ 7:19PM

    I like the last paragraph. Don’t bother with the 4k just because “that’s what the people want”. Ok, maybe. I mean, cater to the customer (“customer is always right”). But why? Why are we chasing 4k? A lot of people want it and don’t know why they want it.

    • I want 4K because all the companies are telling me I want 4K!

      Seriously though, beyond 720P, I hardly notice a difference. I’d take 2K 4:4:4 over 4K 4:2:0

      • Brooks Reynolds on 01.26.14 @ 7:33PM

        Better color space would be a way bigger fix for me also.

      • I agree with that

      • Actually, you can get 2K 444 from 4K 420, all the information is there

        But yes, I can’t see 4K either. Recent test I ran at home:
        * take a screenshot from a bluray (in my case, The Social Network)
        * downsample to 540p, then upsample to 1080p
        * toggle between those two images on your current 1080p screen: at what distance do you stop noticing the difference?
        In my case, it’s just a bit farther than my standard viewing distance: 330cm (11 feet) away from a 52″ TV. That means that at that distance 540p starts to -just barely- not be good enough. Therefore I would need a 100″ screen for 1080 to start to -just barely- not be good enough.

        In any case, even if 4K for delivery makes no sense, 4K for acquisition is a different thing. But yes, I would rather have better DR and codec first.

        • When I was a little boy – and that goes way back to the late 1960′s – I followed a World Hockey Championship on my grandparents 9″ B&W TV set. Nowadays, I probably sit closer to my 55″ TV than I did way back then in their living room/bedroom. It’s more enjoyable, my poor eye sight notwithstanding.
          PS. A couple of years ago, when the front projectors were coming down in price every other month, I saw a photo from Taiwan, where a young gentleman was sitting in his bathtub – which itself was located in his sole room – and watching a gigantic wall size display off his 1080p projector. The screen size had to be ~ 4 meters diagonally. And that gives a nice retrospection on the history of TV’s. The CRT’s went up in size from a 5″ to 9″ to 13″ to 17″ to 20″ to 23″ to 25″ to 27″ to 32″ to 35″ (and I even saw a 43″ IDTV from Sony that weighted 300+ lbs, IIRC) over the decades and then the Pear Projection took over in the late 80′s with 40″, 45″, 50″, 60″ and then 70″ boxes. If one follows these trends, a wall size screen similar to that kid’s in Taiwan is coming soon. Vizio, a line of “affordably priced” sets demoed a 120″ Rec. 2020 model at the recently concluded CES. And, just as the buying public moved up in TV size preference over the last 60 years, they’ll move up again.

          • Very nice. Bring the 200″ screens. *THEN* 4K.

          • Sony has a 4K projector out already. Tested by the nice folks at Projector Central, the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. $15K retail though. I am sure there’ll be 4K projector by the 2014 CEDIA (September) at under $10K Visio has a 120″ Rec. 2020 flat panel expected to ship right around that time too. No idea about the price yet.
            PS. I meant “Rear Projector”, obviously, not “Pear” … mmmmm, pear.

  • What would you even do with 4K? Let’s get real 1080p with 13 stops of dynamic range and good color depth first!

    • Yep I agree with that too.

    • Yea, uh… that exists. They’re the Blackmagic Cinema Cam and Pocket Cam.

      • Yeah uh those are not full frame cameras. With the exception of the 5D mark 3 hacked.

        • VinceGortho on 01.27.14 @ 3:10AM

          Now you can’t use a camera that’s not full frame? Who shoots full frame anyways. Super35 is pro.

          • But pro S35 lenses are very expensive, whereas I can get great FF glass for cheap. That’s why I want FF with 13 stops of DR: so my lenses can be used as they’re supposed to be used; I can stop them down to f/5.6, no need to get ultra-shallow-DoF all the time.

          • Full frame’s niche for me is shooting low light, and secondarily for extreme wide-shots. For everything else cameras with 35mm to 16mm sensors are more than up to the task.

          • What is the advantage of using full frame lenses on a full frame sensor over an s35 sensor exactly? I’d very much like to hear why, genuine interest because ive heard others say similar but not why.

          • I have a set of vintage lenses for the Leica-R mount (24+35+50+90+135+180). They were designed for FF. If I use them on an APS-C sensor, I have to add something on the wide angle side of things, because 24*1.5=36mm is not wide enough. It can be a very expensive lens for the Leica-R mount, or something more modern with a very different look. I’d rather have a FF sensor and use my lens set as it was supposed to.

            Also, everything else equal (a condition which is almost-never met), with these lenses I would get a sharper image on FF than on APS-C:

        • Oh yea, forgot… audience don’t want to watch anything shot on sensors below FF. I can’t believe so many people are fooled by s35mm film and cameras like the Alexa. They’ll probably have all the awards and Oscars taken away once people find out…

      • The Nikon D4 is 13 stops of dynamic range and has 422 output. Its a bit soft but hopefully the D4s fixes that. But it is 13 stops full frame and 422.

        That 13 stops was measured independently by the EBU (European Broadcast Union) I doubt the BM cameras would fair as well tested independently.

  • Nikon cant even get the video they have now right. Zurab Kiknadaze just basically said Nikons hardware could not handle 4k…. Does Nikon have engineers working for them or is it outsourced?

    • The raw power of the D800′s processor is bigger than the processing power of the 1Dc…
      Nikon engineers everything themselves btw. They proved with the D800 that they can get outstanding video with fairly low compression.
      Canon on the other hand says they won’t even go beyond 8bit for their dslr video recording (used to shoot canon and frequently talked to my rep over there).

    • Nikon has been doing very very well lately with video on their DSLRs. The D5200/D5300/D7100 for instance completely outclasses any APS-C DSLR from Canon, and can hold its own against even the 5DmkII/mkIII cameras.

  • Stu Mannion on 01.26.14 @ 8:40PM

    Seriously? 4k raw would be a nightmare for anyone other than a tiny niche of high-end productions.

    Much more useful and possible would be h264 4k that could be turned into great 1080p in post. Can you have 10 bit in the h264 spec? Maybe in h265?

  • It’s great that they are not worried about video that much & I get that they are sticking by their roots… But man, they could own both. Their lenses are amazing, their stills are amazing, and they don’t have to protect anything.

  • This is all moot if Nikon keeps users handcuffed by not allowing them to change the video ISO manually.

    It is always auto.


    • What? thats not true.

    • Putting the camera into “Manual” gives you manual control of ISO.
      It’s only the automatic modes where ISO is adjusted automatically.

    • VinceGortho on 01.27.14 @ 3:13AM

      buy manual lenses. If you don’t have manual lenses, why would you use the click stops during shooting anyways?

    • Sooo much misinformation about Nikon video is being spread about :-/

      Which is sad, as Nikon is kick as video.

    • Rob Manning on 01.30.14 @ 4:31PM

      @ Doug, on the D7K, which bested Canon at 20 minutes recording time, the settings for ISO could not be changed mid stream, nor is there live view histogram (best method on the fly for exposure).

      The D800 changed that, all settings are manually adjustable in record and info button gets scrolling overlays for leveling, histogram etc.

      I’m not sure as to later releases, D7100 etc. but since we shoot fine art pieces both stills and video doc, until there is a significant upgrade beyond the 6400 native ISO (say for 60fps) changing from a 36MP stills body makes no sense and even at 2MP (all HD enabled DSLRs) the footage in post is decent as long as good practice is employed during the shoot.

      The Flatt profiles, add additional advantage regarding opening up blacks and controlling highlights.

      The D800 will be in the locker for a long, long time.

  • As many have said, give as first RAW or at least some better codec with 4:2:2 10 bit, whole frame downsample and some video-friendly features like focus peaking before going to the 4K madness.

  • I loved my D800 (and Kirk Neff shoots some fantastic stuff with his, and his D600s – surprised you haven’t linked to that seminar yet). Just a beautiful image with awesome DR.
    But once you’ve shot RAW out of a DSLR package you can’t really go back so I’m now a happy ML RAW customer.
    If Nikon added RAW to its lineup, in either 1080 or 4K, I’d be very motivated to move back. Honestly, I can’t imagine them doing it. Their entire rep is based on being bulletproof – the data overheads would be right at the limit for component failure due to heat.
    But we can dream :-)

    • Hypothetically speaking, D4s could probably handle a pretty decent 2.5/2.9K a la Alexa, which is about half of the bandwidth required for 4K and sufficient for the video shooters for the time being. Just market it as “Half 4K” and be done with it (Sharp has their Quattron TV line, which does some sub-pixel multiplying, claiming a superior picture quality visavis a regular 1080p … Nikon could do something similar)
      As to codec, they should be able to use a licensed version of either JPEG 2000 or H.264 (or H.265/HEVC at some point) with or without a proprietary wrapper. The video quality on D7100 and D800 is fairly reasonable, considering how compressed it is. Nikon should be able to up the bitrate at the very worst. In 4K, 100 Mbps/200 Mbps would suffice at this level. Sony gets there in a similar size package and may get there with even smaller Alpha 77 or 99 replacements.
      PS. My idea was for Nikon to partner up with someone like Samsung or JVC, who don’t have a high end camera (or camera line at all) and provide the majority of the electronics for that prosumer/semipro unit. Otherwise, they risk a major lag in their production lines. Soon, 4K will be everywhere – including the point&shoots, much like it is already in smart phones – and Nikon needs to have a good reason not to include it. With the low end market dying, 4K at least seems a viable option for the next decade or so.

      • Nikon never gives anything good in firmware updates. As cool as it would be if they updated my D800 with a better codec it will never happen. Wish I had gone with another system.

  • I dont want 4k, i want 120 fps at 1080p.

  • A new major firmware upgrade for Canon 1D C is planned around March, all 1D X updates and fixes will be integrated and some additional features will be added.

    • VinceGortho on 01.27.14 @ 3:18AM

      It wont be 12 bit color would it? No.

      • It is stuck in 8-bit recording land but the whole is greater than the sum of it’s spec’s, not unlike the C100 and C300 are. It’s a great camera, just not at it’s current price point.

  • Lets all forget about DR, compression, color science, higher frames rates and just stamp 4k and sell the next batch of cameras.

  • well it was nice that they incorporated video for all the press shooters, but seriously,
    its time to split the two up again and make cameras that are purely for photography and
    film/video respectively!

  • Sorry guys. 4K is here to stay, it is not a 3D fade.

    • Tulio,

      It’s easy to see 4K is here to stay and isn’t going the way 3D-for-tv. The difference between 4K and 1080p is noticeable even when viewed on a 19″ 2K computer monitor. While people on the internet deemphasize 4k there are camera companies that have already moved on to 6K and 8K. And I am certain there are higher K’s than that on the way.

      • “The difference between 4K and 1080p is noticeable even when viewed on a 19″ 2K computer monitor.”

        Probably because the person’s eyes are a couple of feet from the screen. DVD still outsells Blu-ray. My opinion is almost no one will run out to buy a new TV because it is 4k.

        • people working in the filmindustry will.

        • Right now the price of 4K tvs is high. But when they come down in price equal to 1080p tvs I’m pretty sure people will choose 4K since by that time there will be a lot of 4K content. All game boxes are going to 4K, if they aren’t already at 4K. Gaming may be the biggest clinching sales point for 4K tvs.

          • Based in what you are afirming that? I worked in the game industry, they barely made the switch to full HD, do you think it would be easy to real time render things with 4x pixels? We are at least a couple generations away, there will be a lot of upscaled stuff on these 4k tvs in the next years, thats the truth.

          • Wow, here’s Marcus again. But you’re not stalking me, right?

          • Sorry Joe, it’s not my intention to pick on this person, I tend reply to misled and uneducated comments, and unfortunately it happens to be from him most of the time, I think he’s overacting, I find it weird that on his anonymity he can’t put up with a normal forum discussion and not even reply with information to sustain his beliefs and prefer to pull this stalking thing. Anyway he’s entertaining.

          • FWIW, here’s a review of a brand new 4K VPL-600ES projector from Sony. The Projector Central folks are top notch reviewers and are running a very reputable site. Some of the arguments that had been had here are broached in the article as well.

          • @DLD They lost me when I read “we watched several 4K films including A Few Good Men, The Amazing Spider-Man, Battle: Los Angeles, and Salt.” For the record I worked on The Amazing Spider Man and Battle: Los Angeles, these film’s output were in 2K, Holy upscale rip off. That’s what is going to happen quite a lot, people buying 4k tvs and watch HD upcaled material, the same as selling 28 Days Later in Bluray.

          • @Marcus, they did compare the upscaled 1080p with a “natural” 4K and they consider both to be an improvement over a natural 1080p. FWIW, I agree that, at first, a consumer will be exposed to a lot of the upscaled 1080p material. The most important bit was that they did consider 4K to be a superior viewing option, even with the Rec.709 color space.
            PS. According to rumors, GH4 will be officially announced on February, 7th. I expect a flurry of similar announcements prior to or during the CP+ in the middle of February.

  • Shaun Fontaine on 01.27.14 @ 9:50AM

    Seems everybody is worried about making 4k cameras these days, it’s like, if it’s not 4K then it’s not OK. We haven’t even got a really decent 1080p camera that shoots to a decent codec. I’m not talking about Blackmaigc, I just mean a decent DSLR or something.

    Putting 4K in DSLRs is not the answer to getting a better image. We need a DSLR with a quality video codec, shoots at least 10 bit 4:2:2, And possible even built in ND and dare I say. Global Shutter.

    I would be blown away if A DSLR came out with a global shutter for video. That would be much more useful. 4K just doesn’t matter on a DSLR I think at this moment because they can’t even get decent 1080p.

    • Of course you don’t have decent 1080p in a stills camera. If you are still looking at dslr’s in 2014 for video after the revolution has ended, your options will just be the gimmicks. Don’t complain when there are video cameras that are dedicated to video that do everything you ask for.

  • Dear Nikon: you don’t need to give us 4K to be the market leader. Just dump 2K RAW into fast cards, like the 5D3+RAW does, and you’ll get everybody’s love. It’s just a firmware update, and it would turn the D800 into a video monster that records full frame RAW with 14.33 stops of DR.

    • You can even charge $500 for that firmware update, I’d still be really happy about it.

      • if they have to face the either Raw or 4K option, then most likely they’ll go for 4K on new cameras. It’s just more marketable these days. D800 will probably need a processor upgrade to handle higher resolution. Nikon dropped their Fuji made chips a few years ago in favor of ARM based and these are developing nicely for them. A dual Expeed 6 should give 4K and very high FPS (rumored to be 12) on D4s. Oh, well, we might know more in a couple of weeks.

  • “The company will never put something like ProRes into their cameras because of licensing…”

    Would it be that much more of a burden than whatever licensing is necessary with H.264?

    • Yes it is, most of these companies don’t want to deal with Apple for all sorts of reasons.

      • Rob Manning on 01.30.14 @ 4:35PM

        Wouldn’t it be a cool-coup if Nikon partnered with CineForm though, as it’s endemic to the GoPro post suites? Not practical but if one is smoking someone elsespipe dream, why not?

        • Yeah that would be nice, if they partnered up with GoPro on something like that, because their products don’t really overlap.

  • which camera shot this…
    nikon 800
    nikon 530
    nikon d4s
    red one
    red 6k
    bmpc 4k

    • Rob Manning on 01.30.14 @ 4:39PM

      I love questions like yours, reminds me of working music retail and someone said Pro Tools, some else said Nuendo and I said go outside, wait at the stop light and tell me which program was used to record the music being played in the cars as you go through the crosswalk. : -)

    • I want to say D800 because of the nice highlight rolloff and detail.

  • I really like it whenever people get together and share ideas.
    Great website, continue the good work!