Nikon D5 Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing Nikon D5 image quality to its predecessor, the D4S, as well as to its closest competitor, the Canon 1DX Mark II. We've also included the Nikon D500 and Canon 7D Mark II, since they offer the top frame rates currently available from pro-level Nikon and Canon APS-C DSLRs (~10 fps), as well as the Samsung NX1, which is capable of 15 fps.

NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved, click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Nikon D5, Nikon D4S, Canon 1DX II, Nikon D500, Canon 7D II, and Samsung NX1 -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Nikon D5 to any camera we've ever tested!

Nikon D5 vs Nikon D4S at Base ISO

100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D4S test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D4S test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D4S test image taken at ISO 100
Nikon D5 at ISO 100
Nikon D4S at ISO 100

The 20.7-megapixel Nikon D5 is able to resolve a bit more detail than its 16.2-megapixel predecessor, however noise levels are a touch higher as can be seen in flatter areas. Both cameras apply similar amounts of sharpening which leaves some visible halos around high-contrast edges. Interestingly, the D5 shows a bit more aliasing in the red-leaf fabric indicating it has a fairly weak anti-aliasing filter though the D4S manages slightly better detail in the red-leaf fabric, and higher contrast in the pink fabric. The D5's color reproduction is however more pleasing, with brighter reds and less of a shift to green in yellows.

Nikon D5 vs Canon 1D X Mark II at Base ISO

100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon 1D X Mark II test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon 1D X Mark II test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon 1D X Mark II test image taken at ISO 100
Nikon D5 at ISO 100
Canon 1D X Mark II at ISO 100

Image quality from these two rivals is actually fairly close, with the Nikon producing an ever-so-slightly crisper image in some areas, thanks to a slightly tighter sharpening radius and higher contrast, while the 1DX II appears sharper in others. Interestingly, the 1DX II shows a slightly higher amount of aliasing artifacts, which indicates it has a fairly weak AA filter. Colors from the Nikon are a touch warmer as well, but otherwise image quality is quite comparable here at base ISO.

Nikon D5 vs Nikon D500 at Base ISO

100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D500 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D500 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D500 test image taken at ISO 100
Nikon D5 at ISO 100
Nikon D500 at ISO 100

The full-frame D5 and APS-C D500 produce files with identical pixel count (20.7MP), so it's not surprising both cameras resolve essentially the same amount of detail here at base ISO. Noise levels are however a bit lower from the D5 as can be seen in the shadows, and fine detail in our tricky red-leaf swatch is just slightly better, likely due to stronger noise reduction from the D500, though detail in the pink fabric is better from the D500. Both cameras show some moire patterns in the red-leaf fabric (the D500 has no OLPF while the D5 has a weak one).

Nikon D5 vs Canon 7D Mark II at Base ISO

100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon 7D Mark II test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon 7D Mark II test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon 7D Mark II test image taken at ISO 100
Nikon D5 at ISO 100
Canon 7D Mark II at ISO 100

Canon's top-of-the-line APS-C DSLR offers similar resolution, but again, its smaller APS-C sensor means that noise levels are a little higher at base ISO, which translates to slightly less detail thanks to noise reduction which has to work a little harder to produce similar noise levels here at base ISO. The Canon's image is also not as sharp and crisp as the D5's, due to its stronger anti-aliasing filter as well as slightly less aggressive sharpening and contrast. Color from the Nikon D5 is warmer and more pleasing, without the Canon's shift towards green in yellows and beiges.

Nikon D5 vs Samsung NX1 at Base ISO

100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Samsung NX1 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Samsung NX1 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Samsung NX1 test image taken at ISO 100
Nikon D5 at ISO 100
Samsung NX1 at ISO 100

The 28-megapixel APS-C Samsung NX1 definitely resolves more high-contrast detail here at base ISO, while producing fewer sharpening artifacts. Noise levels are similar with lower luma noise but slightly higher chroma noise. Moire patterns are however much more noticeable in the red-leaf fabric from the Samsung interfering with fine detail, and colors are a bit drab compared to the Nikon.

Nikon D5 vs Nikon D4S at ISO 1600

100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Nikon D4S test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Nikon D4S test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Nikon D4S test image taken at ISO 1600
Nikon D5 at ISO 1600
Nikon D4S at ISO 1600

Similar to what we saw at base ISO, the Nikon D5 continues to resolve more detail in most areas at ISO 1600, but the D4S does better in the red and pink fabrics. Noise levels are similar, however the D5's noise reduction is a bit better at handling chroma noise. Both still generate obvious sharpening halos around high-contrast edges, and colors continue to be brighter and more pleasing from the D5.

Nikon D5 vs Canon 1D X Mark II at ISO 1600

100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Canon 1D X Mark II test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Canon 1D X Mark II test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Canon 1D X Mark II test image taken at ISO 1600
Nikon D5 at ISO 1600
Canon 1D X Mark II at ISO 1600

Again, fairly similar image quality from these two rivals at ISO 1600 apart from color and contrast, though the Canon image appears slightly cleaner in the shadows and dark areas.

Nikon D5 vs Nikon D500 at ISO 1600

100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Nikon D500 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Nikon D500 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Nikon D500 test image taken at ISO 1600
Nikon D5 at ISO 1600
Nikon D500 at ISO 1600

Unsurprisingly, the D500 is noisier here at ISO 1600 thanks to its smaller pixels. High-contrast detail is quite comparable, but subtle detail does suffer from stronger noise reduction, as can be seen in our difficult red-leaf swatch. Still, pretty good performance here from the Nikon D500 for an APS-C camera.

Nikon D5 vs Canon 7D Mark II at ISO 1600

100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Canon 7D Mark II test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Canon 7D Mark II test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Canon 7D Mark II test image taken at ISO 1600
Nikon D5 at ISO 1600
Canon 7D Mark II at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, the full-frame D5 easily bests the APS-C 7D Mark II, with much better detail and clarity, much lower noise with a finer noise grain, and better color.

Nikon D5 vs Samsung NX1 at ISO 1600

100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Samsung NX1 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Samsung NX1 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Samsung NX1 test image taken at ISO 1600
Nikon D5 at ISO 1600
Samsung NX1 at ISO 1600

The Samsung NX1 still manages to resolve more high-contrast detail, but noise is much higher in flatter areas ,with stronger noise reduction artifacts. Color and contrast from the Nikon D5 also continue to be better.

Nikon D5 vs Nikon D4S at ISO 3200

100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D4S test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D4S test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D4S test image taken at ISO 3200
Nikon D5 at ISO 3200
Nikon D4S at ISO 3200

The Nikon D5's resolution advantage is still apparent in high-contrast detail while maintaining similar if not slightly lower noise levels, but again, the D4S does better with subtle detail in our tricky red-leaf swatch as well as in the pink fabric. Colors remain brighter and more pleasing from the D5.

Nikon D5 vs Canon 1D X Mark II at ISO 3200

100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon 1D X Mark II test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon 1D X Mark II test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon 1D X Mark II test image taken at ISO 3200
Nikon D5 at ISO 3200
Canon 1D X Mark II at ISO 3200

Once again, very similar image quality from these two rivals at ISO 3200 apart from color and tone curves, though the Canon does show slightly lower luma noise in the shadows.

Nikon D5 vs Nikon D500 at ISO 3200

100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D500 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D500 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D500 test image taken at ISO 3200
Nikon D5 at ISO 3200
Nikon D500 at ISO 3200

As expected, the Nikon D5 bests the D500 in most respects here, with noticeably lower noise and better detail with fewer noise reduction artifacts. The difference is quite apparent in our troublesome red-leaf swatch.

Nikon D5 vs Canon 7D Mark II at ISO 3200

100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon 7D Mark II test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon 7D Mark II test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon 7D Mark II test image taken at ISO 3200
Nikon D5 at ISO 3200
Canon 7D Mark II at ISO 3200

Unsurprisingly, there's no contest here between the full-frame D5 and APS-C 7D Mark II, with much better detail, lower noise and better, brighter colors from the D5.

Nikon D5 vs Samsung NX1 at ISO 3200

100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Samsung NX1 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Samsung NX1 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Samsung NX1 test image taken at ISO 3200
Nikon D5 at ISO 3200
Samsung NX1 at ISO 3200

While the Samsung NX1 manages to hold onto a bit more detail in limited areas, its much higher noise requires much stronger noise reduction, smudging fine detail as well as leaving more noise behind in flatter areas. Our tricky red-leaf swatch now is heavily smudged, and colors continue to look flat and drab compared to the D5.

Nikon D5 vs. Nikon D4S, Canon 1D X Mark II, Nikon D500, Canon 7D Mark II and Samsung NX1

100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D4S test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Canon 1D X Mark II test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Nikon D500 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Canon 7D Mark II test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Samsung NX1 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D4S test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon 1D X Mark II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Nikon D500 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon 7D Mark II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Samsung NX1 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Nikon D5 test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Nikon D4S test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Canon 1D X Mark II test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Nikon D500 test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Canon 7D Mark II test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Samsung NX1 test image taken at ISO 6400
Nikon
D5
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon
D4S
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon
1D X Mark II
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon
D500
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon
7D Mark II
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Samsung
NX1
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. High-contrast detail is also important, pushing the camera in different ways, so we like to look at it, too. Here, all the 20-megapixel cameras in this group do well at base ISO, though the Canons have lower contrast. As expected, the 16-megapixel D4S doesn't quite resolve as much fine detail in the lines, while the 28-megapixel Samsung NX1 is able to resolve a bit more detail, however its contrast is the lowest. As expected, the full-frame models hold up the best as ISO rises. The D5 does do a bit better than its predecessor thanks to its higher resolution, but its not quite as crisp. The Nikons offer the highest contrast of the group, with surprisingly little difference between the full-frame D5 and sub-frame D500. The 7D Mark II trails the pack at higher ISOs, in both detail and contrast.

 

Nikon D5 Print Quality Analysis

High-quality prints up to 30 x 40 inches from ISO 50-800; Nice 8 x 10 inch prints all the way up to ISO 51,200; and a 5 x 7 inch print just squeaks by at ISO 102,400.

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageISO 50/100/200/400/800 images are all amazingly detailed and show little to no noise, even at ISO 800. Despite the 20MP full-frame sensor, the D5 can make prints up to 30 x 40 inches at these ISO levels. That's pushing the resolving power of the sensor at this size, with some minor pixelation upon close inspection, but given the full dimensions and the typical viewing distance for a print of this size, a 30 x 40 inch print looks very good.

ISO 1600 prints still display amazingly low levels of noise and lots of fine detail. At this ISO, there is a bit of visible noise now, which limits prints to a very respectable 24 x 36 inches. Noise is, however, minimal enough that perhaps with careful post-processing a 30 x 40 inch print could be doable.

ISO 3200 images top-out with impressive 20 x 30 inch prints. Noise is understandably a bit stronger now, but at this size it's not much of an issue. Fine detail is great, and colors are still vibrant and pleasing.

ISO 6400 prints look great up to 16 x 20 inches. Stronger noise and a decrease in some fine detail prevent us from calling any larger sizes acceptable. That being said, you might be able to get away with a 20 x 30 inch print for less critical applications.

ISO 12,800 images have more visible noise, but there's still enough detail to make pleasing 13 x 19 inch prints.

ISO 25,600 prints display rather strong noise now, with noise reduction processing also taking its toll on fine detail. But, we can just squeak by with an acceptable 11 x 14 inch print at this ISO.

ISO 51,200 images display a remarkably low level of noise for such a high ISO. Here, the D5 can print an excellent 5 x 7 inch print, but noise is minimal enough that we think an 8 x 10 is usable here as well. Simply impressive!

ISO 102,400 prints just get by at up to 5 x 7 inches. Noise is quite strong now and has a noticeable effect on detail if you attempt to print larger.

ISO 204,800/409,600/819,200/1,638,400/3,276,800 images are all simply too noisy and lacking in detail for any sort of usable print. Particularly on the three highest expanded ISOs, noise is so strong that prints are completely unusable, even for less critical shots.

With a new 20MP full-frame sensor, the flagship Nikon D5 does an outstanding job with prints. Even up to ISO 800, the camera manages clean, crisp prints up to a whopping 30 x 40 inches. You're pushing the resolving power of the sensor, that's for sure, but detail is sharp and pixelation isn't much of an issue, especially at typical viewing distances for prints of this size. Going way up on the ISO scale, the camera still manages to impress us with rather large prints, such as a 16 x 20 at ISO 6400 and even an 11 x 14 at ISO 25,600. The D5 is also our new 8 x 10 champion, offering a usable print up to ISO 51,200. To date, no other camera has offered that kind of performance. The last useable ISO for prints is 102,400, which makes a decent 5 x 7. Cranking the ISO even higher results in images with too much noise and not enough detail for an acceptable print to our eyes.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageTesting hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)

 



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