Nikon D4x Concept Camera Design

Here’s a concept design of the “Nikon D4x” by San Francisco-based industrial designer Marc Levinson. Levinson tells us,

This was a student project at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. During my research on DSLRs I ran across some interviews of Giorgetto Giugiaro, the designer of the current top of the line flagship model for Nikon. He claimed that his product “has value as a sculptural work” and his objective was “to create a product with a value that everyone can understand at a glance.” Although I greatly respect his objective and the way he executed it, I wanted to try my own rendition making it even clearer, even to the untrained eye, that this was an object of great value and significance.

I broke away from an overly common form that was derived from film cameras and was dictated by the way that the film fit inside. I went through several physical foam renditions to get to a shape that had more to do with ergonomics, comfort and style than tradition. Although this concept is very different from its predecessors, I made sure to still maintain the overall design language Nikon maintains across its brand using color, detailing and surfacing.

The design is unlike anything we’ve seen here before, especially the placement of the mode dial on the bottom of the camera.

Do you see anything in this design that you think is an improvement on existing DSLR designs? What do you like or not like about it?

Nikon D4x Digital SLR (via Nikon Rumors)

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  • Amadeusz Jasak

    Bleh ;) I can't imagine having it in hands! Insanely unpractical and awful! Where are all these buttons? I want them back :-D Have this guy ever handled SLR in hands? C'mon and that lens and mode selector… Any associations with pro DSLR line? Thanks God it is only a concept ;)

  • thniels

    Apart from the fact that this camera is quite obviously not based in the D-series, lacking quick access buttons, but more resembles a Coolpix, there are a few ergonomic issues. For instance the sketches show the release button being operated in a pinch-style manner. Positioned as it is this is probably the only way to operate it, making it very difficult to operate single handed, thus causing problems with off camera flash or large zoom lenses. Placing the mode dial underneath is nifty if you have to look – twist the camera and turn the dial. The intended user, however, would probably not need to look at the dial. I can turn all three dials without looking and I am not particularly nimble. Last but not least, I think he will find it slightly complicated to stick a large aperture tele lens through that balcony-thing below the prism housing. Even more last; it looks more like a slightly outdated Sony than a super modern Nikon. But that is an entirely different matter.

  • Zarli Win

    Why do all of these concept camera designs fail to consider the ability to hold the camera steady and comfortably (especially with a big lens)? there's a reason there's a hand grip people!

  • Confused

    This is design? This is bullsh*t! How on earth can anyone hold such a camera and take a decent pic?

  • George

    The dial underneath looks fine, it's probably usable, since you point the camera donwards to look at the screen. But where do hands go? There's no grip, the body is huge. And that lens looks like a counterfeit mock-up.

  • John Wilson

    That is truly dreadful. Where are they teaching these people ergonomics? And how on earth are you supposed to get a flash gun into that socket – there's no room between the back of the hot-shoe and that weirdly placed viewfinder. And why is the tripod thread off-center – you'll never safely mount that on a tripod! And…and…

    And how on Earth are you supposed to hold it? I second Amadeusz, this guy's never held, much less used, a DSLR.

  • Andy

    This is awful. Why do these people design these if they know nothing about cameras? My wrist hurts just thinking about how to hold it, having a mode dial right at your thumb would be pointless, you would be accidentally changing modes as you hold the camera, and wouldn't your hand cover the top screen when you hold it? Everything about this is wrong.

  • konstantin golovchinsky

    Speaking as a commercial photographer and a design fan, it will never sell.

    1. Angled viewfinder means you won't be able to take pictures at full height.
    2. Mode dial will be impossible to reach on tripod and when shooting from low angles
    3. Shutter button impossible to reach
    4. How do you get the flash on past the eyecup?
    5. How do you reach the aperture dial for AI-S lenses?

    Honestly it looks like Mr. Levinson is ether:

    1. Still in design school
    2. Failed design school
    3. Has never taken pictures with a DSLR
    4. Has never had a product go to market

  • Aaron Patterson


    DSLR's are very well designed as they are. This has no grip for one handed shooting. If, heaven forbid, you have a camera mounted flash, your head is going to be hitting it when you look in the viewfinder. Also, try mounting an extra grip on that and see how that works….. or doesnt.

    I know there is this big push for making things easier to use but removing the easy access buttons was a bad choice. I love my buttons because I get more control quicker.

    Camera's we have now are great how they are.

  • dijea

    I doesn't look comfortable and the nobs are not where I have easy access. I'd have to say BOO on this one. I'm a die-hard Nikon girl, but I'd rethink my brand if this was my optino.

  • Lee

    No convenient way to hold it. I would never buy this camera.

  • Christopher

    After about 2 minutes of research I'm thinking this was a school project and not something actually being considered by Nikon. Having said that, I give it a D. By calling this a D4 he's insinuating that his target audience is professional photographers. The thing they do the most is change shutter speed or aperture. Any pro camera needs to be able to do both of those fast, intuitively, and with the left hand on the lens. This camera has only two controls where the right hand would reside while shooting, the shutter button and the almost-useless-in-the-middle-of-a-shot-which-is-why-it's-on-the-left-hand mode dial. The design has numerous other apparent failings, but that one problem indicates that no research was done on how a professional camera was used before this was “designed”.

  • Don

    Ugghh. Let me guess, the designer has never actually used an SLR before? This is horrible design, at least functionally speaking.

  • Dan

    Adding to the other already mentioned problems:

    Strap attach will put the strap in the way of the shutter release

    The mode dial shown does not belong on a pro level camera

    How am I supposed to put anything on the hot shoe mount and then not hit it with my head when looking through the view finder

  • Rnee

    When I was in Architectural school, my professor saw one of my designs for a home and said “Listen to People”. He said this because my design and layout obviously ignored what the homeowners wanted.

    When I was first learning to surf, my instructor told me “Watch and Listen to the waves”. He told me this because I was not having luck catching any waves.

    I hope the designer, finds the time to talk to and listen to actual photographers for their feedback. Listening is the only way to make a design that works for photographers.

    Wouldn't it be interesting to see what Giorgetto Giugiaro, the actual Nikon Designer thinks of this prototype?! haha.


  • nick

    Obviously this guy has never handled a camera in his life.

  • JessicaLum

    Anyone notice the tank sketched amongst the conceptual drawings?

  • QuBe

    Sometimes what appears at first glance to be absurd, actually winds up being revolutionary.

    In this case however, I would agree that young Lev needs more first hand time with cameras before hitting the sketchpad.
    His first assumption is not correct. Current camera form is not dictated by a film legacy, but by the nature of capturing light on a flat plane, combined by the requirements of human ergonomics. There's also the need to balance between weight, size, durability and ease of interaction with the range of system components.

  • Lucas Galli

    The first 0.000002 second looking at this weird thing made me think: “WOW! So Nikon guys are really developing a medium format camera?”
    But when I noticed the lens attached to that bulky, oddly-shaped brick, the position of the hotshoe (ARGH!), viewfinder (AARGH!), mode dial (AAAARGH!) and shutter release (AAAAAARRRGH!!!), I thought: “nah… this is just another internet prank”.

  • felipe c

    All you new designers, don't fix something that isn't broken. Go back to the drawing boards, and start out by understanding how a currently well designed dslr actually works. Use one for awhile. It would avoid messes like this in the first place.

  • Miles

    Looks like changing lenses would be supremely awkward with that overhang. The way a camera feels and operates in your hands is more important than how 'sculptural' it is.

  • thniels

    “The first 0.000002 second looking at this weird thing made me think: “WOW! So Nikon guys are really developing a medium format camera?””…

    But wouldn't that be great?!! I seem to remember someone at Nikon saying that medium format would be outside their niche, but wouldn't it be great (provided they consider the design very carefully, of course) ?

  • aguy

    Looks like a pentax 645 with a Nikon logo combined with the worst of 90's camera design.

  • Rafael

    think this idea is pretty cool. To me this is an excellent example of what Nikon should consider when creating new cameras. sometimes its a mistake to use tradition as a basis for a successful and practical design.

  • Carole

    So, you've never used a pro DSLR, have you?

  • Ken

    I think you need to have your doctor dial back that medical marijuana prescription a little bit and then maybe go out and get a real camera and try taking some pictures. The ergonomic design of most cameras was developed to fit the hands of the user as well as for the film canisters. The lack of film doesn't change the need for hands to hold the thing!

  • Brian

    It looks like a Nikon E-Series DSLR camera from the 90s. They were big and heavy, this looks the same. My Nikon E3 does work, but it is a beast.

    Back to the Drawing Board.

  • CDC

    I tried to take a vertical picture with this camera (in my mind). It slipped out of my hand and splattered on the floor.