sweet baby gumby, the nikon d4

 straight out of the camera

straight out of the camera

So at the beginning of this year, I decided that it was time to up my camera game.  My trusty D300 that I bought back in 2008 has taken me far, but wanted to start getting into doing some video as well, and the D300 doesn't do video, and my little hand-held video camera just wasn't cutting it.  So when Nikon announced their new professional-standard D4 camera, rumoured to have amazing high-definition video capabilities that rival Canon (I love you, Nikon, but Canon has been really kicking your ass when it comes to video), I decided to bite the bullet and pre-order this beauty.  To be clear, this is more than I have ever spent on any camera in my life (or honestly, a few cars that I've owned), but I figured since (a) it was time that I went to a pro-level camera, (b) photography is a large part of what I do for a living, I sent my money to a Large Online Camera Store that will remain nameless (*cough*B&HPhoto*cough*) and prepared to wait.  This was back in January.

By May, I hadn't seen any sign of this camera.  I was getting pretty impatient, to say the least.  It is true that the tsunami in Japan had delayed the manufacturing and shipping of the D4, but rumours were that the cameras had begun shipping, but I hadn't received any updates as to when my camera would actually ship.  Every now and then the Large Online Camera Store would send an email out saying, "I know you're frustrated, but we don't know when you're getting your camera," so I sat and stewed.

Finally, in June, I got an email from Large Online Camera Store, saying in essence, "Hi, I know you're frustrated, and yes, it's true, we've started shipping the D4s, but it is violation of our confidentiality policy to tell you where you are in line, so please don't even ask.  We promise we'll ship it as soon as we get to you."  At this point, I was pretty apoplectic.  But I was afraid to cancel my order, in the event that all camera stores were suffering the same fate, and I didn't want to find myself worse off.

As it happened, around 4 weeks ago, I had to pop into my local camera store, Houston Camera Exchange, to pick up some other camera supplies.  While I was there, I met Larry, one of the salesmen who works at HCE, and a really talented photographer in his own right.  I've worked with Larry a few times before, and he's a great guy.  We got to talking, I lamented how much I was longing to get my D4.

"You should have bought it here," he said.  "You'd have already had it."

"Wait, what?"  I was incredulous.  "You mean, you guys have already received D4s?"

"Well, yeah!  I mean, we don't have any in stock now, but we've been delivering them since March."


"Yeah.  I mean, if you want to put down a deposit, we'll contact you when it's here.  It shouldn't take too long."


"Oh, you're kidding.  Yeah, you'd only have to put down a deposit of about $500.  In fact, you'd be third in line if you did it."

At this point, I swooned.  "Third in line.  You'll even tell me where I am in line ..."

"Well, of course we would!"  said Larry, shocked.  "Why wouldn't we?"

I went home, and called Large Online Camera Store, and pressed buttons on my phone until i got a live person.  "Hi," I said, "You have all my money.  Can you tell me when the D4 will be shipped?"

"I'm sorry, I really can't," said the friendly guy at the other end of the line.  "We don't know when they'll ship."

"Well, can you at least tell me where I am in line?"

"No, I can't.  It's against our confidentiality policy."

"Huh.  Can you explain to me how it violates anyone's confidentiality, just to tell me what number I am in line?"

The guy sounded flustered.  "Honestly, I don't know," he admitted.  "I just know that's what management has said the policy is."

"Ah.  Okay.  Then can I have my money back, please?"

"Of course!"  He was very cheery, and immediately refunded my money.  The next morning, I went to straight to Houston Camera Exchange, and plopped down my $500 deposit.

Three weeks later -- last Wednesday, in fact -- my cell phone rang.

"Karen?  It's Larry."


He started laughing.  "It's here," he said.  "I'm holding it as we speak."

I almost started weeping.  I decided, however, that rather than rushing to get it on Wednesday, I'd wait until my birthday to pick it up -- that way, no matter what happened, my birthday would be a good day.

So today, as soon as they opened, I rushed over to Houston Camera Exchange.  Larry was there.  He grinned.  "Let me go get it from the back."

He disappeared for a moment, and came back with the box.  I opened the lid, and this was staring at me:


That Larry.  He's a consummate salesman, isn't he?

After he showed me around this beautiful thing, I paid for it, took it home, charged up the battery, and these, friends, are the very first shots that I've taken with the camera.  It's just gorgeous:  it goes up to a ridiculously high ISO (204,800 -- how insane is that?  In fact, the photograph I shot above of the Happy Birthday note was shot at ISO 5000 -- it was practically pitch dark in my kitchen at the time, and it still is bright and beautiful and sharp).  The photos of the flowers I shot in our garden are just perfect, requiring minimal processing.  For example, the photograph at the top of the page is straight-out-of-the-camera, and the following is after post-processing:



Similarly, this shot is straight out of the camera ...



... and here it is, photoshopped:



I've only shot the images above, and I can already tell I'm going to love this machine with a white, hot passion.  I haven't tried the video yet, but oh, honey, I certainly will.  Stay tuned for lots of shots with this camera, and video to boot, and I'll let you know what I think as time goes on.

But for now, I'm off to get ready for my birthday dinner.  And you can bet I'm taking this baby with me.

(P.S.  The moral of the story?  If you have a local camera store that you trust, stick with them, even if your purchase is a big one.  Also?  If you live in Houston and are looking for any camera-related equipment, for God's sake, be sure to go to Houston Camera Exchange.  Better still, ask for Larry.  Tell him Karen sent you.)