When it was announced, back in September 2008, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II was the game-changing DSLR that helped start a filmmaking revolution. But how many of you recall that Nikon was the first camera manufacturer to release an HD-enabled DSLR? The D90 was announced in August 2008 (it's still in production), but unlike the 5D Mark II, the D90 only recorded 1280x720 resolution compared to the 5D Mark II's 1920x1080. While Nikon has upped the resolution to 1080 in recent models, another strike against their system was that you couldn't shoot in full manual mode (the ability to manually control your shutter speed, exposure and ISO settings). As a result, Canon has cornered the DSLR filmmaking market while Nikon struggles to keep up.
Earlier this year, Nikon announced the D4, their flagship full-frame DSLR that offers much improved video and sound capabilities for DSLRs. For still photographers, the D4—which is primarily targeted toward professional news and action photographers—has some impressive specs, including a new 16.2-megapixel FX-format CMOS sensor (36x23.9mm) that contains the latest EXPEED 3 image-processing engine, a 3D Color Matrix Metering III system with a new 91,000-pixel RGB sensor and an improved 51-point AF system that can keep focus even at 10 fps. One feature where Nikon has always excelled is low-light performance. The D4's native ISO ranges from 100 to 12,800, but is expandable to an astounding ISO 204,800 (Hi-4).
Along with the D4, Nikon has just released the highly anticipated D800, which takes their very popular D700 to the next level. The D800 doubles the D4's resolution with a 36.3-megapixel FX-format CMOS sensor, a 3D Color Matrix Metering III system with a new 91,000-pixel RGB sensor, an Advanced Scene Recognition System, a 51-point AF system and many other great features. For still photographers, the new CMOS sensor (35.9x24mm) has 7360x4912 resolution, but still maintains a wide ISO range of 100-6400 and is expandable to 50 (Lo-1)-25,600 (Hi-2). Some still photography experts say the D800 image quality exceeds even high-end medium-format cameras.
One feature that separates the D800 from most DSLR systems is its sound capability. Both the D4 and D800 contain a dedicated stereo microphone jack, as well as a headphone jack in order to monitor sound levels. With microphones that contain just a mini-jack output, sound levels can be adjusted at up to 20 steps of sensitivity. This isn't as ideal as an XLR input, but it's an improvement.