Review: Nikon D4


Specs and Purchasing Information
838794The Nikon D4 has some big shoes to fill. Nikon’s professional line of cameras has been a benchmark since 1959, and it is the next iteration in a line that has seen both revolutionary cameras like the D1 and D3, and relative missteps, like the D2H. It has to compete with Canon’s similarly specced 1D-X (slightly higher in resolution and price). It has to complement and provide unique advantages over the megapixel-monster D800.

But there’s only one real challenge it faces in my book … and it’s not easy. Can it pry my beloved D3s from my hands? I’ve taken 338,378 photos with my D3s’s. They’re worn down to the gunmetal and aren’t slowing down. The D3s is the first camera I’ve ever used that isn’t just good, but something more important … it’s not annoying in any real way. Anyone who’s worked with a lot of cameras on a wide variety of shoots know how profound this is. The things cameras can do these days is astounding, but boy can they also be annoying. The D3s just does its job and gets out of the way, even at crazy-high ISOs, so what can Nikon do to make professional users buy a pricey upgrade?

The most obvious answer is video. The D3s does video … decently. It uses the amazing night-vision chip well for video in the dark, but it’s only 720P, which is below-standard for professional usage, and most of the controls are sort of tacked on. So if you’re looking for a fast-FPS professional Nikon that does great video, you don’t really need to read the rest of the review, just buy the D4. It does 1080p, it has dedicated video controls and a much better live-view screen. Go for it.

But that’s enough of that. This is a camera review. I’ve had video-enabled DSLRs for almost three years now, and … I really don’t care. I’d rather do what I do really well then tack on something else I do decently. The question is how it performs as a photographic tool.

The answer? It is both the best workhorse camera I have ever used and one that I’m ambivalent about.

The good:
Build quality and ergonomics: Every flagship Nikon DSLR has felt incredibly solid, and with more curves and a clearly huge amount of testing, they’ve added little touches of finesse to make this the best one yet. Check out the back:

20120106 nikon d4 backjpeg

Nikon managed to add video controls and two joysticks — one for horizontal operation and one for video — without making the camera feel cluttered. There’s some additional gripping for vertical holding, a lighter but still-powerful battery — just a fantastic overall design. It’s a potential self-defense device as much as a camera.

The screen and Live View: Live View is tied to a camera’s video functioning, which means that in the D3s it works … OK. But in the D4 it’s fantastic. Sadly the D3s Live View only works up to 1/250th of a second, which can leave you hanging in bright situations. But the D4 Live View works at any shutter speed, has a fantastic refresh rate, and allows autofocus that isn’t super-speedy but is surprisingly accurate even in poor light.

You might ask why someone who doesn’t care about video is so impressed by good Live View. Sometimes you want to shoot from angles that aren’t so easy to get your eye in front of:


Or when you don’t want to stare directly into the sun, or into a very close light bulb:


Live View is also an incredibly helpful tool for advanced photography, particularly for someone who likes to manually focus fast lenses. Nikon’s fastest lenses, the 50mm f/1.2 and 58mm f/1.2, only come in manual focus varieties, but the problem is that the optical viewfinder doesn’t show anything like the true depth-of-field of an f/1.2 lens. Live View is almost a necessity to get good focus with these lenses wide-open:


It also comes in tremendously handy for freelensing and even tilt-shift, since it very accurately shows the plane of focus.

But even if you use AF lenses, perfect manual focus comes in very handy for precise situations, such as being able to zoom in on someone’s eyelashes in the dark, with the LCD being much, much more light sensitive than your still-adjusting eyes. That allowed me to know I was getting this image sharp at f/1.4, since the scene was almost completely dark:

Which brings us to:

The great sensor: Like the D3s before it, the D4 is a champ at high ISO. Sadly, while the D3s was a huge step above the D3, which was a GIANT leap over the D2X, the D4 is no better than the D3s in this space. In fact, the D3s is probably very slightly better, but at a given print size it’s pretty much a wash. They’re both fantastic, but the D4 isn’t breaking any new ground.

Of course there are other advantages. Resolution is slightly higher at 16 megapixels, and now it natively goes to ISO 100 instead of the D3s’s ISO 200. In the photo below, to bring down the sky’s exposure and sharpen the foreground I had to shoot at f/14 at ISO 100. With the D3s I’d have to shoot at a less-sharp f/20 at ISO 200.


But the big guy on the sensor block these days is the D800. And it’s true, that thing works magic at ISO 100, with unmatched resolution and dynamic range among DSLRs. But the D4 sensor is clearly designed for sports and photojournalism where ISO 100 is a rare luxury, and according to DXOMark it starts to outperform the D800 in dynamic range at higher sensitivities. As a wedding photographer in New York, I live in dark spaces, so this is worth consideration.

Unlike the 5D3, the D4 deals very well with pushed exposures or dodging.

But a light-sensitive sensor is nothing without light-sensitive…

Autofocus. Sadly the AF system doesn’t correct the one thing about the D3s that is almost annoying — the AF points are clustered too closely together on the FX frame. At first glance it looks exactly the same as the D3/D700/D3s AF system, but it’s rated to be twice as sensitive in low-light, and when you do a lot of work in poorly lit environments you can feel the improvement (even though the D3s is no slouch.) The lighting at this wedding with Sam Hurd was intensely purple, which drove the normally-great Canon 5D3 autofocus a bit bonkers, but it was hard to shake the D4 off its game:


Overall, this and the D800 seem to be the best in class for low-light autofocus. We’ll see if the 1D-X has any tricks up its sleeve.

The Bad(ish):

Honestly, very few things are wrong with this camera (as long as you get one that isn’t locking up). But there are some niggling issues that affected me, and may affect you.

You Can’t Buy Just One: Most of the people in the market for D4s are professionals, and thus need backup gear. If you shoot with two cameras at the same time (like I do), then you’re probably going to want to buy two. The D3s looks and feels so similar that you’ll keep forgetting which is which — until your thumb reaches for a button and you remember that it’s not there. The fastest way to do things with the D4 are via the new joysticks, but that was another thing to remember when I had a D3s slung over the other shoulder. The AF mode switching, the metering selection, there are so many little changes that will frustrate you down the line. If you use a D800 as a second body, not only will your files randomly be vastly different sizes, but you’ll be dealing with three different memory card systems. Which brings me to:

Hybrid cards: Nikon had this right with the D3 and D3s, and now Canon has it right with the 1DX. The best way to implement a dual-card system is with two of the same kind of card. I am constantly switching cards in and out to back up as I go along, and with nothing but CF cards the chain is seamless — all cards are either in the camera or actively being downloaded at any time. But throw in a different sort of slot and it all becomes some sort of strange juggling act that is at best annoying (there’s that word!) and at worst can endanger valuable data by misplacing a card. Honestly, I can’t wait for the D4s where they figure out whether the XQD system was worth it or not. Go all-in or don’t.

This is an amazing camera, with a few quirks that will only annoy people who are very set in their D3s-shooting ways. It combines Nikon’s excellent flash system (with upgrades like remembering flash-head zoom positions after they’ve been turned off and on) with a great overall sensor and a world-class body. Is it worth the $6K when the D800 is half the price with more resolution or the D3s is still hanging around at a discount? For most Nikon sports photographers and photojournalists who increasingly live in a multimedia world, the answer should probably be yes.

For people who are counting every dollar? Perhaps, going forward, but ponder this: if I were unethical, I could have written this review without ever touching a D4. Any of these shots could have been taken with the D3s and you’d never know the difference, even with 100 percent crops (the difference between 12 and 16 megapixels isn’t huge). Only the images where I used Live View in the day time provided a clear practical advantage.

But I have loved mine to pieces, and kept turning to it, as these sample photos will show. This is a camera that is built to work:


Buy it here

mike - Reading…learning…smiling : D

JVS - Thanks for the honest review Ryan!

Jonathan Martinez - Extraordinary images produced from that puppy. Thanks for the read!

Chris Aram - I have eagerly been awaiting a “real” review from a photographer whose work I love and trust. Thanks for both the review and the eye candy. Beautiful work!

brett maxwell - great review, but you didn’t answer the question on everyone’s mind: will it be your primary camera (or two) this year?

Ryan Brenizer - @Brett: The answer you seek is in the subtext. I also have the D800 left to test.

nadine - really great photos, ryan :) and thanks for the review. i still haven’t made up my mind about my d4 yet.

Max - So… If I buy one of these, can I take pictures like those?

Steven Mackie - WHO puts a ring inside a light bulb!!?? I mean c’mon ;)That’s crazy how good that looked.

BTW, should that be freelensing or freelancing?

Jeremy - Thanks for the review. The annoying items you listed were enough for me to stick with my d3s…for now at least.

Christian Berens - WOW! Such precise images! The camera is truly great, but the photographer is also… I guess you get a little credit haha.

Tera Nelson - I just nod my head at your mind blowing images.

Reché Rush - Nice…REAL Nice…

Ben Chrisman - Nice review Ryan. I agree completely. The D4 is the best camera I have ever used.

Varun Saran - I’ll save this for a nice through read tonight, but from skimming: I agree with the comments on card slots! Excellent images as always!

Alejandro Carabes - now you making want to go in dept to get this awesome camera.

David {Dig It Photography} - Great hands-on review, thanks.

Matthew - Amazing review and the photos are awesome. Can’t wait to read your D800 review.

Scott - How romantic… Awesome photography!

Daniel Sheehan - Love it Mate – have 2 D4’s myself and see a significant difference between my D3’s (not d3s) – thanks for the review and promoting the canera!!

Diego Tabango - I love my D4 to bits but it hasn’t been my best experiences. It has locked up on me several times, and it appears Nikon has changed the way AF-S/AF-C “focus” priority worked in previous models.

Lukas Gisbert-Mora - So not really a big need for an upgrade from my D3s, D4s could be the one to wait for than. That second to last photo in the Church, amazing, how wide was this?

Zeus - Lovely, lovely work! It’s clear you could make great images with a shoe box and some duct tape. Thanks for sharing! It was a great read! It was also much appreciated that someone finally put into words the whole idea of “less or more annoying” in use.

Great read once again!

Fotograf nunta Iasi - Nice review the D4 is the best camera!

Colton - Any complaints about the green hue on the LCD? I’m diggin’ my D4, but I am having a crazy hard time getting past the fact that every image looks green through the LCD.

Paul Bohman - About the inaccuracy of the optical view finder with wide aperture lenses: Do you have any idea why the preview seems incapable of showing anything wider than about f2.2? Does the camera body close down the lens, or is it an optical property of the prism/ground glass? This is something that has bugged me for a while.

Craig Cacchioli - Looks like a great camera. You certainly have some great shots to show off the dynamic range.

adrienne - Beautiful set of photos and i like your ability catch the moment. Love the choose of the lens: beautiful backgrounds. Congrats.

Jason - I tried reading your review but I kept getting distracted by your images. :) Loving your work as always mate.

melissa - Awesome honest review, thank you, so helpful! I’ve been on the fence… :D Love your work, these photos are gorgeous!

Dmitriy Frolov - I always like to read something interesting from you. This one is no exception!

Doug - Just got mine a week and a half ago, and you’re dead on with, “you can’t just buy one.” The buttons are different enough that shooting with it and the D3s is driving me a bit nuts.

Marctriyandi - Another good review, you can convince people to use this camera from this article.

Serge - I have read around the Net that there are some focusing issues with D4/D800. So here’s a simple test that confirms proper autofocus operation:

Phillip Gao - Spectacular angles for the shots Ryan. The review has got me thinking about Nikon.

Josh Jones - Great review. I definitely agree with you on the autofocus. Definitely the fastest I have used. I just wrote a similar review of my Nikon D4, also from the perspective of a wedding photographer. If anyone wants to check it out they can read it here:

Ben - This makes the choice harder still…. I love my d3 at weddings much more than d700, I wonder if the d4/d800 would be the same> Thanks Ryan!

John Fredy - I jumped from Nikon D600 to D4. I am a pro photographer. I want to share my opinion in using this camera. I am very impressed with the image quality generated by this camera. Great camera in low lighting something I need more than anything. I think spot metering in low lighting works much better than matrix for color rendering and overall exposure work. The focusing is very fast and in low light situation it works great. Love it.

The unit has an incredible dynamic range. The ergonomics are excellent, and weight is less than my D600 with a Power Grip. I have shot images at 12,800 ISO with little or negligible noise, and at 50 ISO images need only minor post. I especially like the ability to Auto bracket at up to 3EV. This is great for HDR’s.

I recommend this camera for professional photographer. I mean that Nikon has created a camera that does all the things a camera in this category should at this point in time with no glaring omissions. It is definitely a new benchmark for Nikon.

I chose amazon for this purchase because of the great customer service I have gotten in the past, and this was certainly the case this time.

Ashley - Great review, although i probably go with the 800 was good to read up on the d4 also. thanks

Peter Kalogeropoulos - Great review as usual!!

Simon Young - I use the D4 alongside the D810 and find myself turning to the D810 more and more. It seems to get a better Auto white balance and has more “Wiggle room” at low ISO. For indoor and sports shoots, the D4 is still my first choice but if I am realistic about print sizes, either camera will now do pretty well any job. Si.

Just … trust me.


Sometimes photography requires a good deal of trust. The coordinator from the New York Botanical Garden stood in front of me and said “We have transportation, and you have access to all the wonders and beauty of the gardens at your disposal. Where would you like to go?”

“Well … I saw a really great patch of unmowed grass. Can we go there?”

Trust can pay off.

Lens: Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6
Camera: Nikon D4

mike - Extreme angle!

Stefan Hellberg - Photographer Switzerland - Sweet!

Two questions, did you use a speedlight or reflector to cast some light in their faces?

Are you sponsored by Sigma? It’s pretty. Ice someone your caliber is only(?) rocking it on sigma, especially with all sigma haters out there…

Thanks for an awesome share, have a great one!

// Stefan

Ryan Brenizer - I wish Sigma would sponsor me! But you have to shoot with their cameras, too, and I don’t like those as much. ;-)

Jeffrey Benzon - Agreed. My couples are always happiest when I skip the venue’s recommended spots and get them to trust me for stuff like this. This is awesome Ryan. I see you have been shooting the 12-24 a lot lately. Do you like it better than the 14-24 for this kind of work?

Craig Cacchioli - That wide angle is awesome. Almost feels like you dug a hole to get that low! Do tell… speedlite to illuminate the faces?

rich - i will never see unmowed grass the same. super beautiful shot!

Rebeca Irene Sierra Mauga - love your work, this is gorgeous!

Eric Kotara - Great review Ryan, with some lovely work to back it up!!!

Nicole Chan - I LOVE this!

Street-Level Love

Fun times yesterday with Beatriz and Ramon.

Lens: Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6
Camera: Nikon D4

Elissa - Oooooh I like this one a lot.

Kimo Okimo - bella work..

mike - Love those shadows.

Blanca Martínez - Impresionante foto!!

Joel C Adelaide - Cool framing.

JPanda - Beautiful shot!

Max - Love it!

Deanna Dusbabek - Love this!

Anton Chia - Sugoi! Love the silhouette and the mystery.

Craig Cacchioli - Loving your work as usual Ryan

Steven Young - Really, really nice Ryan!

Coming Soon: Nikon D4 review


I’ve run this puppy though its paces, and know what I love and what I don’t.

Here we have literal shot in the dark — ISO 6400, f/1.4, 1/15th — from a wedding where my buddy Sam Hurd had me help out and test new gear along the way.

Lens: 24mm f/1.4
Camera: Nikon D4

Justin Wright - Video light on the couple?

Craig Cacchioli - Fantastic use of light, or more specifically lack of!

Glen Island Harbor Club Wedding: Ketrin and Phillip

I’ve said it before: I always love weddings for fellow Fordham alumni, because they always know how to party. What I didn’t know was that Phillip is one of humanity’s nicest guys, and that Ketrin must have some sort of Red Bull-powered V8 engine in there somewhere, because she never stops moving or laughing — she beat the car back from the evening portraits because she decided it was easier to just sprint back to the wedding! Take a beautiful day at the Glen Island Harbor Club, sprinkle in some Albanian traditions, and you have a recipe for an excellent day. Sadly they weren’t allowed to light things on fire and throw them around. Funny, that.

Thanks to my buddy Zack Delaune for assisting.

mike - Love those dance shots.

Dacia Rolando - What a fun wedding! I love the shadow of the bride on the wall in the reception image with the groom getting a hug. Great timing. Congrats to the couple!

heather nan - The blossom portrait is perfection… and the Groom’s shot sequence is hilarious. Stellar work Ryan.

Kelsie Taylor - These are awesome! Love the first wedding dress and the shot with the veil movement is gorgeous!

Tee - you do amazing work with the reception photos. The picture with the pink blossoms is very stunning!

Brandyn Fidel - The shoe photo was VERY clever!

Tyler - the shot of them in the reflection of the car. amaze.

Anni - What a beautiful wedding – the third photo down (silhouette) is especially breathtaking.

Fotograf nunta Iasi - I’m me or spring also brings a note of these wonderful photos?

JPanda - As always, great series of photos. I learn something new from your shots every time :)

Thanks again for posting and sharing these wonderful moments with us!

kong wai - The shoes and ring shots are very special. Love it

Seba - Great work as usual. Love the 3rd one, my favorite by far.

Matt Stanton - Stunning ceremony room, the black and white shot of it shows it’s beauty and grandeur well. Excellent coverage, creative and well captured as ever.

Janet Palmer - oh that cherry blossom shot is divine..
amazing work as always Ryan

Nick - you sir are so frickin’ good!

Bryan C - omg that one where they are taking shots haha! really great work!

David Childers - Those two shots of the bride twirling her dress are out of this world. I also love all of your “getting ready” shots from this wedding, great stuff as always Ryan.

Martin Hambleton - Those two silhouettes during the bridal prep are awesome. Especially with the hairspray mist. And what a ceremony room! Love the black and white shot from the back of the room.

Tracey Robinson - Stunning Work – just stunning : )

Deidra Photo - How awesome is that one shot with the MUA and the mist? So cool, great shots!

Craig Cacchioli - Can you please stop being so annoyingly good :)
Lots of shots that I love here. It would be unfair to pick some and not all of them!

marcusa - Awesome work this – some of the most entertaining and interesting wedding photography I have seen in quite a while.

As a genre it is prone to repetitiveness and lack of imagination but this work is fresh and artistically vibrant.

I like it!

Eric Kotara - The shoe shot wins!!! Amazing work as always Ryan.

Derek Martinez - Love your eye for details Ryan, and your portraits as always are stunning!

In the Fairy Kingdom of Manhattan…


Seriously, who knew?

PS: If you like shooting Brenizer Method images, you’ll want to watch this blog in the next couple weeks. Trust me.

Camera: Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: 28-image “Brenizer method” panorama with the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 (equivalent of 27m f/0.44 according to Brett’s calculator)

JPanda - Beautiful image!

and 27m f0.44!! lol quite a focal length & aperture :D

Seth - Kapow! Love the DOF and your use of the location. Lighting is perfection.

Max - Awesome, one of my favorite brenizer method pics! I struggle so much with the OOF parts… I need to practice it a lot more, be more organized, are you doing a tutorial???

Anil Fernandes - I’ve been trying hard with the method but never got such DOF :(.
Hope you would disclose the aperture used that you use for these type of photos.

Elissa - Goodness, that is spectacular.

Kimo Okimo - amazing..

Allen Gresham - This is one of my favorite of your Brenizer’s yet!

Ashley MacPhee - What one can only wish someday to do.

mike - Spectacular indeed.

Aragian Marko - wow

Steve Philips - Stunning Ryan, love this!

Mary Stoyles - amazing!

David G. Whitham - Seriously, this has to be the best one yet.

Craig Cacchioli - Love it – dreamy

kenny - totally dreamy, esp like the hints of cherry and blackcurrant bokeh lurking amongst the minty green and ash greys

Martins Kikulis - Stunning shot this!

Kevin Mullins - What an absolutely gorgeous image.

Dmitriy Frolov - This is something beyond reality. Just a big-big WOW!

Joel C - Awesome framing and bokeh, but I can’t help but ask: Why’s there a chunk of his head missing?

Ryan Brenizer - @Joel: Nothing’s missing, that’s just a highlight and a part of the hair.

Micah G Robinson | Nashville, TN Wedding Photographer - Well done! Can’t wait to see what’s coming

Brian - Fantasy meets creative genius. This is brilliant stuff Ryan!

Lukas Gisbert-Mora - The resolution of that photo is breath taking, is there a certain D4 responsible for that or could you have done the same with the D3s?

Fotograf nunta Iasi - Awesome bokeh, this is beautiful image.

Emi L. - So well captured. This is one of the best wedding I’ve seen lately. Every photos just ” its own “.

Cheryl-Ann - Our story book fairy-tale coming to life!! Thank you a million times over for everything!

Mark Andrew - Ryan, this is your best one yet. I’m inspired and plan on trying this with my couple this weekend as they want to do something a little different!

Pauline - what a breath taking picture!

Pauline Lee - what a magnificant and gorgeous picture of the soon to be husband & wife!

Christian Berens - wow! you are GREAT! They better have that photo on a 36″+ canvas! WOW!

Tracey Robinson - What a gorgeous photo!!

Neil Redfern - Absolutely stunning. A magical image

ithackermike - Ryan, I noticed in a recent Framed episode that you’re using the Nikon 85 1.4g. Did you switch back?

Ryan Brenizer - I keep switching tele primes because I keep breaking and losing them. I’m on my 10th I think.

Tribeca Rooftop Wedding: Kathryn and Mark

It seems like just last wedding I was at Tribeca Rooftop, but I’m showing them back-to-back to make a simple point: Venues give flavor to a wedding day, and Tribeca Rooftop is a fantastic place to have one, but what gives weddings character and structure are the people involved. You could have 50 weddings in a row in a featureless room and each one would be reflections of very different stories.

Especially with a couple like Kathryn and Mark. There’s not much I can say about their personalities that isn’t amply visible in the photos, but here’s a taste: They decided to have a dry-run for the wedding on top of a volcano in Nicaragua — and then they sledded down the obsidian slopes at literally breakneck speeds. Sadly I wasn’t there for that part.

This wedding brought a lot full-circle for me. I shot my first wedding many years ago as part of a long-term documentary I was doing with the International Center for Photography under the incredible Andre Lambertson. In January I decided to do a week-long intensive refresher to kick-start my year, and we connected on a different level. To my delight and surprise, he offered to shoot some weddings alongside me. I was honored and a little bit terrified (seriously, check out the resume), but more than anything I love a challenge, and we worked together extremely well, with further assistance from Taylor Hide. I can’t wait for future collaborations.

Congratulations, Kathryn and Mark. It was a pleasure to be at this fantastic wedding, and to relive it through making this post.

Sully - That looked like a really great couple who thoroughly enjoyed their day. Great captures Ryan!

Elissa - Aahh I want to be friends with this couple! They seem so cool!

Paul - This. Tilt shift pano awesomeness. Looks like their day was incredible.

Martin Ker - It’s always uplifting to see your work, Ryan even if it makes me realise how far I have to travel on the road; always in a good way though. Keep inspiring us and I’ll keep chasing, ha ha. Once again, great stuff. You do have to watch these Scots though :-)

Daniel K Cheung - Male upskirt? You’ve got my vote!

Spotlight moment is mental.

Brian - Excellent! Excellent! Excellent! I don’t know who took which photo, but I don’t care…it’s really good. Made me smile this morning!

Emily - I really love the portraits (especially the panorama), and the spotlight photo is soooo awesome!!!

MAY - Love every single one! Very candid like shots, amazing work Ryan.

Anushe Low - Fabulous work Ryan!

Anton Chia - I simply love your use of shadows. I looked at the pictures three times!

Jessica Schilling - So stunning! I love the way the groom laughs with his whole body and his head thrown back and how many great shots you captured of that much emotion. Looks like an amazing day.

Leo - Can’t say too much about this that hasn’t already been said, but your work, more than most, always reflects the actual feeling of the wedding day so beautifully, with its genuine emotions and moments, not to mention this ( that’s just ridiculous. Seriously awesome.

Alberto - hi Ryan, if it’s not a secret can I ask you in shot like this one on the left what technique did you used? a strobed flash, a multiple exposure (maybe the function of the 5dIII) or you shot through some sort of prism (maybe the border of a mirror or a some glasses). thanks in advance and compliments again! :)

James Curle - Amazing.

Adam Padgett - Dope. Looks like it would be a very tough place to shoot but you made it look so easy!

Lauren Kinde - Looks like a fun wedding! The dancing pictures made me smile. :)

heather nan - Loving the head back laugh of the groom, not once, but twice. The energy of this wedding is infectious. The bride’s reception dress is stunning too! Wonderful work Ryan.

Gabby T - Awesome job ryan, love the couple portraits and setting

Mark Couch - @Martin Ker – just an FYI mate, we’re not Scots we’re WELSH… those aren’t Scottish Kilts but rather Welsh Cilts. Only one type – St. David’s Tartan… not the various little dragons and the gold on Black cross of St. Davids.

Thanks for all the positive comments everyone – and Ryan, thanks again mate.

Christopher Smith - Bloody marvellous! Great, awesome pictures – some of the wedding celebrations are now coming back to me!

sarah black - It’s all gorgeous, atmospheric, incredibly observant and totally fun. But then I see the shot looking down over the ceremony from directly overhead, and the curls + bokeh, and we are in a whole new ball game. Stunning. And lol @Daniel on the upskirting.

Heather K - The gorgeous work here is like icing on the love-humor-and-good-times cake. What a fun couple!!! Thank you for capturing their day so beautifully and faithfully, so that we could smile along with them. :D

mike - Amazing work, Ryan.

Kellee Walsh - I nearly died laughing at the upskirt shot! Brilliant work as always Ryan :)

Tyler - genuinely inspired by your work. always makes me look twice. love it, ryan.

Tyler Branch - great job capturing their fun relationship!

Sachin Khona - Yes dude! love your ceremony coverage!

Ryan Brenizer - @Alberto: That was shot through the edge of a mirror. Thanks!

Richard Davies - Great Job Ryan especially the one of a dead Jones outside Puffy’s.

Kevin Wesley - Great photos of a great evening.

Richard Davies - Excellent photos, brings back some great memories.

Thomas Lester - The boys look like they were a handful. Great work. Looks like a fun night.

Alun Bishop - Absolutely brilliant!

Johanna - Always at the top of your game. I’m trying to figure out which one is my favorite, but every time I scroll back up and down, I find something new. :)

Harvard - You can’t beat kilts with red lanterns. Love the spotlight shot.

David Hamilton Jones - Amazing work! Although that is more than I want to see of my brother’s upskirt

Tenielle - Lucky the shadows were very deep on that lying down kilt shot. Ryan every post of yours is an insanely massive joyful, celebration, just how it should be. Now sing it with me.

Nathan Gilmer - I bet you had to be careful not to accidentally get any “up-kilt” shots huh? Great job on this man. Looks like a blast of a wedding.

Veronica Varos - Always wonderful.
Looks like a super fun group!

Clara brashears - Wow! These photos are truly amazing! What a wonderful job you have done!

Patricia - It was a great night and you captured the energy in every photo. Beautiful.

Lukas Gisbert-Mora - No better way to tell a story, amazing photos…

Derek - Gorgeous work as always Ryan, you told their wedding day beautifully through your images.

Dallas and D.C. Workshops review

I love teaching. I came back to NYC with dreams of being a teacher, filling minds with all the power that good photography and journalism can possess, the way I’d done as a student newspaper advisor in Northern New York. But I realized that one of the few things I love more than teaching was constantly getting out there and creating art, honing skills, testing and challenging myself. I still haven’t left that phase, and my blessedly full shooting calendar keeps me from teaching more than a few workshops each year. In fact, my upcoming May 19 workshop might be the last U.S. workshop I can fit in my schedule for the rest of 2012. But when I was approached by my friends and fellow photographers Lynn Michelle and Bill Millios to teach workshops in Dallas and D.C. respectively, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

My pedagogical background always comes out when planning a workshop. Lots of people will pay lots of money for workshops from well-known photographers, but I’m deeply results-oriented, and I’m always trying to thread the needle on workshops’ Catch-22: Anything that will really change your life as an artist and a businessperson forever isn’t something you can reliably be expected to learn in a single day of group instruction. Real, lasting success comes from staying energized and focused so that you can undertake a lifetime of hard work without it feeling like hard work, or to have the endurance to continue on when it does feel like hard work. What I hope to do in a day is find those things that will light a spark, tools and techniques that might open new pathways, help you see solutions to problems in new ways, and give you perspectives on what works for me in a way that will easily let you see how to adapt it to your needs.

It’s never about being more like me. It’s about you.

One big piece of the technical aspects of these workshops is learning to overcome bad situations. Of course, when you’re shooting in a gorgeous space like the Marty Leonard Chapel we have to be creative to even find bad situations, such as pulling intimate moments like these…

… out of the Men’s bathroom:

(and yes, I have run into situations where the Men’s room was the least-bad location to shoot in on a wedding day.)

Thank you guys all so much for coming, and especially to Lynn and Bill for their hard work and general awesomeness. Now onto May in NYC! We are just about sold out, but there’s always some variation around the edges, so at this stage e-mail to check if spots are available instead of just paying the deposit first.

mike - Love the creative uses of space throughout.

Brian Di Croce - Very excited to attend your workshop in May! You + NYC + other photographers = a helluva of a weekend to me! :p

Elissa Rïnehart - Valerie seriously has one of the most stunning faces I’ve ever seen in real life. <3 Thank you for coming to Texas!

Chris Thomas - I would love to attend the DC workshop. Please let me know the details!

John W. Buckingham Jr. - Are you planing any workshops in Atlanta in 2013?

Brian Powell - nailed that close-up of Valerie.. very nice.
hey did you leave the light mod and hand in that chapel flash composite image on purpose?

Akeno Lopez - I had the privilege of being at one of Ryan’s workshops at Adorama last year and would love the opportunity to attend on of his full day work shops. Please let me know the details for the DC and NYC workshops.

I live in NYC, so the NYC workshop is my first option. If there is no space at that workshop, DC will be just fine.

Once, Twice, Six Times Fearless

One of my favorite wedding photography organizations around is Huy Nguyen’s growing Foundation empire, from the hard-core Foundation Workshop I’m excited to do in January, to the Foundation Conference I’ll be at in November to the best-known aspect, the Fearless Photographer contest.

When I started out, I used to enter and do very well in a number of contests such the WPJA, but after a while I started getting more and more focused on the work that I had yet to do, instead of the work that I’d already done, and I cared less and less about contest results. As I go on as a photographer, I feel more and more deeply that the metric I care about is both simple and maddeningly difficult — to constantly keep getting better than I have been before, to continually feel that at any time I am currently turning out my best work. I’m energized and inspired by the great work my photographer friends are doing, but on a shoot I don’t give them a single thought, I just think about how I can push myself forward.

But a couple contests kept grabbing my eye, such as Junebug’s annual curated list and Fearless in particular, just because the work was so consistently great. So, (after a few rounds of missing the deadlines), I submitted some of my work, and I got six Fearless awards, which I think ties me for first this round with some really fantastic photographers. This is really exciting for me just because of how great I think the Fearless/Foundation organization is, and because of how incredibly strong the selected photos are over all. This is a club worth joining, even if they have me as a member.

Here are the six chosen photos:


nadine - Congrats Ryan :) Well-deserved!

Steve Mackie - Epic. Your work inspires me to pick up a camera Ryan. Thanks for sharing.

AmyPunky Photography - This last photo is crazy!!!

Brendan - Well-deserved, each one.

mike - Congratulations Ryan!

Tara Welch - Thanks for getting Lionel in my head. Jerk. : )

Jeanette LeBlanc - Simply fantastic! Love the first image so much. And, as you’ll be in Phoenix next fall I simply insist that we’ll have to do a Vegas repeat on my turf (with less walking around looking for parties) :)

Max - I love the one of her sitting on the sink… I had not seen that one!!

Congrats all around though!

Mario - The first pictures is amazing. Is this a reflection shot?

Anton Chia - Congrats Ryan, all stellar images and the one sitting on the sink had always impress me.

Craig Cacchioli - That last shot made me laugh :)

Tribeca Rooftop Wedding: Heather and Peter

One of the reasons I love my job so much is that it’s different every day.

Really, you say? You seem to spend a lot of time hanging out with women in white dresses. True, but the people, the personalities, the nuances, everything is changing and different and new, always. It’s pretty easy to see that with a South-African/Persian wedding, like Heather and Peter’s fantastic day at Tribeca Rooftop. One second elegant and gorgeous, and the other with the groom showing that he does, indeed, have the moves like Jagger.

Always new, always exciting, and with a day like this doubly so.

Thanks to Jake Whyman for assisting; he did a fantastic job.

Max - As usual Mr Brenizer, this wedding is full of awesomeness!

Bogdan Sandulescu - Nicely done, as usually.

Martin Hambleton - You had me with the first silhouette; then I came to the shot of the bride against the sky. Oh wow. And it just kept getting better. Superlative work.

Paul Rowland - Can’t help but smile when seeing the reception pictures and how happy everyone is. Image on the right is awesome.

Anton Chia - Wow lots of great moments and wedding photojournalism. Epic portraits and lighting too. Bar none!

dan - amazing as always, love the shot of the couple sneaking a kiss off in the corner.

nadine - Love. I love the first black and white one, and also some amazingly unique portraits in here, Ryan!

mike - Masterful work, Ryan.

Craig Cacchioli - Oh yes. Another clutch of amazing photos. Lots of shots here that are making my head hurt trying to work out how you did them!

JPanda - Another set of amazing photos! Your wedding shots are so full of energy! I love it! ^^

Kyle - These photos are INCREDIBLE! You’ve outdone yourself Ryan.

Avelaine - No words. Bangin’. Well maybe that one.

Heather - LOVE all of these! They are incredible as always.

Lyn Ismael-Bennett - Beautiful photos as always, Ryan!

porter - love the energy in all these shots, but your portraits are AMAZING, killed it ryan, awesome work

Matilda Beezley - Oh Ryan, I LOVE the shot of them lying on the blue spotty stairs! Such a beautiful wedding once again! Yep, you’re the man.

Brittany - There are no words except Amazing!

Amber Hughes - This is another one of those situations where I couldn’t name a favourite if I tried. Seriously loving all the moments and portraits!

Tall - Always everywhere. Always at the right time. Fantastic.

Mark Higgins - Great work as usual.

shipra - Those South African Persians sure know how to throw done an incredible party. So much life and substance to these images, Ryan! And the way you see and use light is always so inspiring.

Neil Redfern - Wow – your work never fails to impress. So inspirational. I love the shot of the couple kissing on the dancefloor!

Martin Price - Absolutely stunning work, fantastic!

Shella - Such beautiful work! Just stunning x

Anil Fernandes - I’ve noticed in some pictures, the shadow areas become patchy with grains. Is it because of the low quality of jpgs for web?
or something to do with your style?

Derek Martinez - Gorgeous work Ryan. You tell a wedding story beautifully through your imagery.

(Provisional) Review: Fuji X-Pro 1

Specs and Pricing

120413 162659 35mm f1 4C35mm, f/1.4, 1/1700th, ISO 400

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Fuji releases a delightful camera that’s not quite like anything else out there, but it comes with all sorts of quirks.

A lot of you will remember that the same thing could have been said about the X100, but honestly you can say the same of all of Fuji’s professional digital camera line-up, going back more than 12 years to the “frankencameras,” S1 and S2 Pro, which had great technology at the time but also felt like welded-on digital backs for the Nikon F60 and F80, respectively. They’re weird, they’re wild, and generally I love them for it. I ground the S2 Pro into fine dust from overuse, and the S5 Pro helped see me through the dark days of Nikon bodies with terrible high-ISO quality.

So now Fuji has merged its dormant line of professional interchangeable lens cameras with the aesthetic of the X100. It brings the retro styling and — most importantly to me — the fantastic hybrid viewfinder that turns from optical to EVF with a flick of a switch, and allows you to use a variety of lenses. Fuji released three at launch, the wide-angle 18mm f/2, the “normal” 35mm f/1.4, and the telephoto macro 60mm f/2.5 (the sensor is DX-sized, so each lens is cropped 1.5x the focal length equivalent to a 35mm frame). It’s a nice high-level kit, made even more interesting with the lenses coming down the pike. f/2.8 ultrawides? f/4 constant aperture zooms with IS? This all shows a focus on making an advanced compact kit with a great deal of versatility — in contrast to, say, the Sony road map, which is dotted with variable aperture zooms. They also have an adapter for M-mount lenses, and companies are now coming out with third party adapters for all sorts of other lenses — versatility that is an advantage of any sort of interchangeable mirrorless system.

I’ve played briefly with all of the lenses, but I’ve gotten to use the X-Pro 1 with the 35mm for a while now thanks to B&H. My friend Sam Hurd had me come along with him to a wedding, which gave me the opportunity to test this camera in ways I couldn’t do as a primary shooter. I have more than enough information to write a review as it is now, but from the start I need to make two caveats:

1) Virtually no third-party software, not even Adobe, supports the X-Pro 1 RAW files yet. I don’t know why the delay is so long. I can open the files in Fuji’s recommended Silkypix, but Silkypix is, in a word, terrible. Every company needs a RAW converter that at least will open up a file that looks like the JPEG the camera took, but in Silkypix out-of-the-box the files look much, much worse than the camera’s JPGs, so most of these are edited JPG files.

Luckily, the camera takes phenomenal JPEGs.

2) Fuji is becoming known for releasing half-basked cameras and then fixing problems in firmware. I know they’re already working on solutions to the biggest problems. But given that it took a full year to make the X100’s autofocus better, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

The body:

RKB 5175

As you can see, the X Pro-1 is significantly larger than the X100, but much, much smaller than my normal big, honking’ DSLRs. In fact, it’s almost exactly the same size as the Leica M9, which is full-frame (but also in a complete other price class). It’s also much larger than the camera that competes most with it on specs, the Sony NEX-7.

In practice, while you’re not sticking this in any sort of pocket, it feels quite nimble. The ergonomics are great for a square body, with a nicely modeled grip, and the exposure compensation wheel is extremely easy to nudge with your thumb without taking your eye away from the viewfinder. In aperture mode, the EVF will mimic the proper exposure, so you can very quickly and easily use the exposure compensation dial to expose your photos just the way you want to even in changing light. X100 shooters will be frustrated that they’ve flipped the OVF/EVF switch upside down, but that takes approximately 30 seconds to get used to. The shutter and aperture controls are the same retro dials as the X100, and a pleasure to use.

It’s much easier to change settings on the XPro 1 than the X100 in general, since important things like auto-ISO can be customized to not be so deeply buried in menus and a “Q” button brings up pretty much any setting change in two clicks that can’t be found on a top dial.

It’s a good looking camera, but it definitely needs some styling on the top plate. Put on a plastic red Leica dot and quadruple its cost, perhaps?

Battery life was decent as long as you don’t use the back panel or continuous focus all that much. It lasted me through a wedding and well into another shoot (though it wasn’t my only camera).

I love the viewfinder and use that about 95 percent of the time, but it’s nice to have the option to quickly switch to the LCD display live view, giving angles that are not always easy to get, like the lively legs of this father-daughter dance:

120413 201419 35mm f1 435mm, f/1.4, 1/125th, ISO 1250

And a 6 fps mode allows you to quickly capture action and the perfect moment, although after any use it throws the buffer into overdrive:

120406 155848 35mm f1 8D


Autofocus is a mixed bag, particularly in low-light. With a fast lens it could lock on to targets even in terrible lighting, but it takes a while at all times. Operation is a little faster in continuous focus mode, but it’s annoying to hear the camera constantly whirring away, and probably not great for the battery.

It’s not as responsive as is ideal, and I often felt like I was struggling against it instead of working with it, but as you adapt it can work well in a variety of situations, including strong backlight and at distance:

120413 154114 35mm f235mm, f/2, 1/450th, ISO 800

120413 163734 35mm f1 435mm, f/1.4, 1/850th, ISO 800

The images:
Even though I can’t use a proper RAW converter yet, the images from this camera are phenomenal for a DX sensor. First of all, noise is extremely well-controlled. This is ISO 12,800 in an extremely dark restaurant:

120410 224125 35mm f1 435mm, f/1.4, 1/100th, ISO 12,800

But better yet, Fuji has always had a keen understanding of color, and skin tones in particular. That’s what makes the JPEGs out of this camera so good. Without any tweaking you can get great portrait tones right out of the camera:

120406 144623 35mm f1 635mm, f/1.6, 1/60th, ISO 2000

The best thing I can say for it? When Sam saw me looking over the photos after the shoot, it took him a while before he realized they were from X-Pro 1. He thought they were the shots I took with the $6K full-frame Nikon D4.

One Big Problem and provisional conclusion

As has been reported many other places, the XPro 1 chitters like an Ewok when you point it from dark to light or vice-versa. This is a huge problem for my usage. I want this camera to be as silent as possible, not call attention to itself, and allow me to make people comfortable more quickly than I can with a giant DSLR. I can’t do that when it’s clicking like a spider-monkey. It’s audible, and it’s annoying. Now, this won’t really affect casual usage, vacation shots, even most street photography, but it does affect what I do. I know they’re working on a fix in firmware right now, and I’m eager to see what happens with that (and with RAW support), because I love the files from this camera so much. In the meantime, my X100 is working better than ever, because despite their quirks, Fuji has shows that they do care about continually improving their existing products and customer experience. That goes a long way.

Click here to buy the Fuji X Pro-1
Click here to buy the Fuji X 35mm f/1.4

More sample photos:

120413 184403 35mm f235mm, f/2, 1/350th, ISO 400

120413 133433 35mm f1 835mm, f/1.8, 1/1100th, ISO 800

120411 173844 35mm f1 435mm, f/1.4, 1/640th, ISO 400

120411 183637 35mm f235mm, f/2, 1/480th, ISO 800

120413 195332 35mm f1 635mm, f/1.6, 1/60th, ISO 2000

120410 144634 35mm f1 835mm, f/1.8, 1/60th, ISO 200

35mm, f/1.4, 1/52nd, ISO 800

35mm, f/1.6, 1/52nd, ISO 320

35mm, f/1.4, 1/125th, ISO 1000

Click here to buy the Fuji X-Pro 1
Click here to buy the Fuji X 35mm f/1.4

Paul - “chitters like an Ewok”. Is that the technical term for it? ha. Excellent review.

JPanda - X1-Pro is a camera which is near the top of my list of “wants” at the moment.

I have X100 right now and I LOVE this camera, small and quiet and VERY portable. The images straight out of the camera is very nice too. I use D700 and use X100 as a sub but it seems X100 is getting more use these days.

For someone who loves x100 and most likely be using 35mm (FX equivalent) mostly with X1-Pro, do you think it’s worth the upgrade to move from X100? (I will have to sell X100 if I were to get X1-Pro). Oh and I will always have a FX DSLR in my gear line up.

Thanks in advance for any input ^^

mike - Solid review, Ryan. Between your and Zack’s, I feel I’ve got a good handle on the camera.

David - Great review and stunning pictures as always. I’m sure they will iron out the quirks, in particular the RAW file support and the noisy nature of the camera. Looks like a winner and definitely has its place for wedding photography. That 12800 ISO example is just amazing!

Brad - Those are some beautiful shots! I have really enjoyed my x100 and glad to see Fuji coming out with more great products. Now for some firmware updates!

Nessa K - Awesome review! I take my DSLR with me everywhere, but I was talking to someone who wanted something smaller, nicer, and easier to control in manual than his current camera. I’m glad I have something informative to share now!

Also, Ewok chittering and clicking like a spider-monkey made me smile. :)

Eduardo Suastegui - Nice review, Ryan. Sounds like the XPro-1 is just not quite there, but the images are really terrific. Hopefully Fuji will make it right, and hopefully other manufacturers (like Nikon and Canon) will feel obligated to offer their own versions.

MikeD - As a professional photographer for more years than I like to count, I have been through about all of the gear that Canon and Nikon have to offer. Now strictly in auto racing, I first bought the X100, then added the little X10, both great in my estimation, now, after adding the XPro1, I can’t imagine Fuji doing any better. Just one longish zoom though, please. GREAT tools!

Marco - Hey Ryan! Lovely images as always :)

I have been using the X-Pro 1 for 5 weeks now and have pretty much the same experience as you with the camera. A year from non (after 5 FW updates) it’ll be nearly perfect. But for now we have to work with its quirks.

One thing I found a bit strange in your review was the reference to the huge focus point in AF-S mode. When you are using the EVF you can push the AF selector and turn the command dial to increase or decrease the focus point size. I use the smallest one with good results.

Marcus - I have the camera and all three lenses and really love it as an alternative to my D3 bodies – so much less to lug about!

I am still getting to grips with getting the best from it (and to shooting JPEG, which I never do with my Nikons) but when I get it right, it is spectacularly good.

Agree completely re the chattering blades: very annoying and I hope that they fix it and improve AF a bit too.

There are a number of other minor fixes I would like to see, including the menu actually showing when you press the menu or Q button, even if the rear screen is set to ‘off’! Also, a menu option to limit the 60mm from focusing closer than say 3m or so might speed up performance with that lens as it hunts quite a lot.

Overall, a great camera – although the card slot should have been put on the side, not in the battery area if you were being picky about the ergonomics!

Charles Le - Excellent review of this camera and excellent photography that shows that the camera is quite capable of capturing fleeting moments when in the right hands.

Howard Lucas - Thanks for posting this, it’s great to see some more ‘in the field’ use images. It’s the way forward and as has been mentioned once it’s had a couple FW updates it’ll really excellent.

t tapp - great review

Justin Ashton - Love the double exposure shot. I rented this camera for a week. I think it takes you back to the days where you really need to think about a shot. One thing I learned from the cam is if you push down the shutter in one motion and not stop halfway for it to focus it is much faster. The same work for the x100. There is about 1/4 sec delay but 9/10 pics come out crisp. I def going to pic up this cam for along side my d800 and d700 and can’t wait to try it at some weddings. Awesome shots with it by the way!

Erica - Thank you so much for the review and the gorgeous shots. I love the moments you captured, that split second when it all comes together, and the emotion is evident. You really do wonderful work. I particularly wanted to know whether this camera is capable of getting those shots, as that is what I like. My Canon 5D Mark III almost always gets it right, but I was hoping for a smaller, lighter, more discreet alternative. I love that you showed how Fuji renders skin tones and Bokeh. Have you gotten a chance to process RAW yet? And I’m wondering how you think the X-Pro compares to the M9? Particularly in terms of image quality. Thanks!

roland hale - An Ewok chittering spider money. Enough said.

David Clem - Could you please tell me what film simulation mode you used in these shots. Wonderful!

Thank you.

V. - The Image Quality from this reviewed encouraged me to give the X-Pro 1 a try, I now shoot them exclusively. They are brilliant for wedding documentary work, things keep getting better with Fuji’s firmware updates!

Coming Soon: Kathryn and Mark’s Tribeca Rooftop wedding

120330 182703 12mm f5 6

Sometimes it’s the simplest frames I love the best. Little worlds; unadulterated joy.

Lens: Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6
Camera: Nikon D3s

rich - what a beautiful capture! so much joy!

JPanda - fantastic capture!

I almost feel ‘happy’ for him! ^^

mike - Loving the panoramic feel here.

Andy Holland - I love the photos, its look like you had a really good time taking them

Rob Tobin - Joy for the couple . CAPITAL J O Y
rehire attendants – I’ve had more interest from student assistants – only just !

Craig Cacchioli - If only the guests were paying more attention! Otherwise, a lovely wedding photo.

New workshop announcement: NYC on 5/19

120320 145041 85mm f1 4

Amber Wilkie and George laugh it up between two vans in a “terrible location” demonstration at my March DC workshop

I’ve been around the U.S. with workshops this spring, but it’s time to take it back home to NYC. It’s going to be another year filled with lots and lots of wonderful weddings, so this may be the only NYC workshop I have time for in 2012, and possibly the last in the U.S. at all. Given that, I want to create an especially great experience for intermediate to advanced photographers who are looking to take their work or their business to the next level. This will only be for a small group, and will include a get-together on Friday night to kick off networking.

Read more on the workshop page!

Paul - For those on the fence about attending, you should definitely do so. What is taught is applicable to a variety of different genres of photography. As a wedding photographer, being able to take portraits / interesting pictures in less than ideal locations / situations occurs frequently, and no one does it better than Brenizer. Hearing his thought process when looking at a crap location is just awesome. Highly recommend.

Andrew Jones - is this a work shop for weddings.

Jolene Oldham - Rats. The one workshop this year I could get to and I’m going to be out of the area. Have a great one!

Tara Welch - Amber’s pretty dirty, she loves a good vanning! hahahah! I kid, I kid……..

adrienne - Gud job ! i love this all

Simon Dewey - Do you plan on doing any in the UK?