Nikon Press Event @ CES 2016 - Nikon D5, D500 announced, new “KeyMission 360” actioncam unveiled! (Updated)

by IR Staff

posted Tuesday, January 5, 2016 at 2:52 PM EDT


(Update, 4pm ET: The Nikon press event is now over. Thanks for joining us. Scroll through the story here to re-live the excitement!)

Camera company PR agencies of course always try to hype press conferences as much as possible, to get as many press as they can to attend. Even allowing for that, though, we think Nikon is going to have some significant announcements here. There’s been no pre-briefing to anyone (although the typical rumor sites have turned up a few details about the D5, which Nikon made a terse “development announcement” about late last year.)

We suspect there’s going to be more than that, though, or at least that the tech revealed will be impressive. We’ve been in the business long enough and our coverage balanced and thorough enough that the PR folks are generally pretty straight with us as to how big or small announcements are going to be - and Nikon’s PR has been promising something “that you’ll definitely want to cover” here.

So stay tuned, we’ll bring you all the details as soon as they’re presented here. We’ll also be interviewing some high-level Nikon execs later in the day, and will try to bring you that material as soon as possible as well. (Allowing the usual CES craziness, of course, but we'll do our best!)

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Kicking off, first guest is Senior VP, General Manager of Imaging Division, Nobuyoshi Gokyu. Saying will be the most significant series of announcements for Nikon in years.

"Innovation is what changes the game, defines the standards of the industry, Nikon has been at the forefront of this. Nikon F was first 35mm SLR in Space, became the benchmark for SLRs. Nikon D1 made transition to digital."

But… the imaging space is developed now, consumers are innovating how they communicate with images and video. They’re driving innovation, signals a critical time of transition for the industry, Nikon wants to position itself at the heart of this in 3 ways:

  • Put consumers at the center of our innovation. (Be close to our consumer’s needs, anticipate how they want to use tech in their lives.
  • Develop mind-opening technologies
  • Seamlessly integrate Nikon devices into community spaces

Many have been expecting the launch of the D5, by far our best and most ambitious DSLR.

Will also be introducing another DSLR that will change the game for its class.

DSLR is a space that Nikon is familiar with. It’s critical that we challenge ourselves in new ways. So will be introducing an entry into a new segment for us.

New way to connect our technologies to ecosystem of communication technologies : SnapBridge.

Nikon D5 Announced

"My pleasure to officially unveil the Nikon D5."

D5 is the camera industry has been waiting for. For NIkon, not just about technical excellence, it represents what we’re trying to do for the entire DSLR category - to keep raising the bar on speed, accuracy and image quality, not just a matter of bringing features together. 

True advantage of DSLR is no time lag between action and viewfinder image.

Fast and stable mirror-moving system coupled with optical VF system outruns best of today’s mirrorless systems.

Look at Nikon’s broader approach DSLR segment, we believe it is about how we put all the technologies together to work in harmony together.

D5 is built for speed and accuracy with our most advanced AF system utilizing 153 AF points, 99 cross-type sensors, very wide AF area. Even at 12fps, there is very minimal blackout time and mirror bounce.

New AF algorithms and seamless lens activation mechanisms give extremely reliable and precise AF system.

Nikon has also redesigned the Nikon FX sensor from ground up to drastically improve color reproduction, sensitivity and noise performance. Image quality extends to highest ISO settings, meaning you can crop aggressively, even at high ISOs. The D5 has a native ISO range of ISO 100 to 102,400, but can also be expanded from LO1 (ISO 50) to a shockingly high HI5 3,280,000 ISO equivalent!=

The camera also features first of new generation EXPEED5 image processing engine.

From the press images, the D5 displays impressive, gorgeous images. Nikon has put an emphasis on producing beautiful skin tones straight from camera JPEGs, making this camera appropriate not just sports, but for portrait and fashion photographers.

Focused on workflow in the US, from customizable buttons to improved touch-screen operation. (Showed vids of operating touch screen with gloves)

4K video! (Of course)

Also have in-camera time-lapse shooting, with 4K output. Combine with extreme ISO, opens new possibilities…

Captures better than the human eye. (But lots of cameras have so far.)

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Mattias Hangst, pro sports photographer, with his perspective on the D5:

Working with D5, had a clear idea to create stunning images. Took D5 out into the real world. Heavy rain in a soccer stadium to burning sun in California for water polo shoot. Some challenges that were difficult for the camera (any camera).

First, new AF system with 153 points, new AF area mode, and a new tracking routine. Sounds great, but how does it perform in real-world sports photography? Main challenge of sports photography is to freeze fast-moving objects.

In soccer example, chose low-contrast jersey for main player (so harder to AF on), 600mm lens, wide open. Wanted to make it very challenging. Results were excellent: 25-30 frames in sequence, every one in perfect focus.

Next was gymnastics. Indoors, often horrible lighting. Went to soccer arena and set up a gymnastics competition, but kept light low deliberately. Shot between 6400 and 12,800. Challenging, very fast, unpredictable moves by athletes, low, flat lighting. Men’s vault, man appears above the horse very briefly, then is gone. So AF system needs to be able to capture the subject in a brief moment.

Woman’s balance beam. Start with woman’s face not visible initially because she’s facing away - but need to nail focus on the face when she flips. Need fast and accurate.

Water Polo - a photographer’s nightmare, why? Most action occurs under water, lighting is usually super-harsh and contrasty, since they’re typically held outdoors, under direct sun. Need very fast acquisition for when players come out of the water, need to be able to track them but don’t want the camera to lose focus and be distracted by water drops. So it’s very challenging for AF.

Now about image quality, back to the gymnastic shots. ISO 12,800, but absolutely no banding in the black background, detail in flying chalk powder, beautiful color.

Soccer: Setting sun, tons of dynamic range, bright red and yellow jerseys, and what about harsh sunlight on player’s faces, what happens to their skin tones? Difficult “red looks red” - and importantly, going from bright sun to dark shadow, the hue stays consistent. Bright yellow looked good, and skin tones held good detail. Also green grass in deep shadow still held good detail.

Water Polo (amazing close-up of guy swimming). 600mm wide open at f/4, so DOF was just a few centimeters. Focus was absolutely *nailed*, eyelashes, single hairs on the nose. (Truly, an amazing shot)

Another water polo shot, backlit by setting sun. Missed ISO, think it was 12,800. Full-frame, no cropping. Called attention to the water drops, great detail in the faces, despite incredible dynamic range.

(We’re not sure if we’ll get these images as part of the press kit, but will absolutely show you if we do; they were pretty incredible!)

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Nakayama san back on stage, asked Hangst what he likes about the D5, how it changed his work?

Hangst: As sports photographers, we’re like athletes ourselves; we’re all competing against each other for the best shots. The camera can be a game-changer in letting me get the shots I need. The thing that was most impressive was the AF system. If I can just count on the AF system, I can forget about it, not think about it, and focus on my shooting and creative process. The tracking of the fast, erratic moves was brilliant. The very brief mirror blackout also made a difference, made it easier to track the subjects.

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The long-awaited D300 successor is unveiled: Nikon D500

New slide headline “I am condensed power”

(more dramatic video footage of photos shooting with the D5, and the images they captured. Some great shots, including photographer dangling from ropes off a cliff face, shooting someone slacklining.


(FINALLY, the long-awaited successor to the D300!)

Marries Nikon imaging innovations with smart connectivity.

Has same 153-point AF and EXPEED5 processor. (Nice!)

Continuous shooting also enhanced, approx 10fps, for up to 200 shots in RAW file mode (!!!)

Brought D5 quality to APS-C.

BUT, cameras today aren’t just photo takers. Comes with Nikon’s  latest innovation in connectivity. We produce the highest-quality images, but that’s nothing if you can’t share them with your friends, the family, and the world.

The camera is now part of a much larger image ecosystem of connected smart devices.

AND, consumers have become much more discerning in terms of image quality.

Goal is to make the highest-quality images ALWAYS ON.

First camera to feature new Snap Bridge offering. While photographers in the US might be familiar with an earlier version of Snap Bridge, what we’re announcing today is the next step in letting cameras and smart devices communicate seamlessly.

Using Bluetooth Low Energy for always-on connectivity. Snapping and sharing will be a single process. Photographers no longer need to establish connections between camera and smart device as they did before. Our plan is to make software as integral to our product roadmap as hardware.

SnapBridge creates new efficiencies in communicating with images. Transports the audience into the thick of the action. Just as the smartphone has made inroads into the imaging space, we look at cameras as emerging as communication devices.

Connection between cameras and smart devices will reshape how consumers communicate with each other.

SnapBridge will be a standard feature in most Nikon cameras from today on. So Nikon imaging devices will move closer to the center communication ecosystem.

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“ONE MORE THING” -- KeyMission 360 action VR camera

Gokyo san back on stage.

Name: KeyMission 360, waterproof to 30m/100ft, shockproof 2m/6.6ft

Interesting looking gadget, little square box with bulging lenses on each side.

Entering the action segment is a significant milestone for Nikon. We believe this is the breakthrough that the action category needs right at this moment. It allows us to redefine this area, and the very spirit of adventure. (Really, pretty big goal :-)


Have been some discussions on how action needs to move into the virtual reality space. This is precisely the reason why Nikon is making this strong entry into the action segment.

Our flagship action model is none other than a 360, offering the possibility to put virtual reality not just in the hands of a few, but in the hands of every action enthusiast.


Nikon Ambassador Corey Rich to talk about his experience with the KeyMission 360. Corey Rich is an action photographer, director, and producer all rolled into one.

(Video by Corey Rich - Resolution looked OK, rolling shutter was visible, but surprisingly low, given how much movement there was in some of the scenes. Promising!)

Corey Rich on stage:

"To be honest, I’ve been pinching myself a lot lately, feel really privileged to have been tapped for this project. Dream project - Mexico, California, Utah, kayak, climbing, etc. But I have to be honest, I’m really a skeptic about new technology; we may be impressed, but will society adopt it?

360 degree VR has been used a lot, but has generally been clunky, expensive, one of a kind software, etc. Now, one camera is easy to operate to create virtual reality. (Editor's note: It’ll be interesting to see how it compares with the Ricoh Theta S.)

Shooting virtual reality takes a lot to wrap your mind around. The camera sees everywhere, there’s no such thing as “behind the camera”, there’s no more hiding behind the camera. It’s all new, there’s no guide for how to shoot like this. 

Did a lot of experimenting in the field, stuck the cameras everywhere, on the ends of poles, outside of gear, etc. Tried to hide the shadow of the supports. Was lots of fun to experiment.

Kayaker in Mexico was a video gamer, big on tech. After first run down the river, he said “this is pretty cool, dude, it lets you make a self-conducted guide down the river” “Alec ‘got it’” Alec: “This is rad!” :-)

As I continued to work with, I ‘got’ it more and more. It’s rare in history when the technology is way ahead of how to use them. We as consumers can share topics that are most important to us. Imagine when what's possible is to help people care by showing vs just telling. KeyMission 360 allows for an immersive experience. Broad paraphrasing, but lots of ideas about letting people see and experience things out in extreme nature, walk glaciers with scientist, etc. 

Key question is how *you* will use it, for your own life and own mission?"

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Nakayama san back on stage with Corey Rich: "Before diving into 360, could you share your experience with using the camera for this last month?"

Corey: One thing that was clear was this wasn't just a new camera, it’s new technology, requires new ways of thinking about how you use it. 4K UHD video, waterproof, connected.

Nakayama: How has the introduction of 360 changed the way you capture your adventures and share them with the world?

Corey: That’s a good question. Usually when I go on an adventure, I choose what the audience will see, because I’m behind the lens. But now the audience can choose what they want to see. It’s a whole new paradigm. Because KeyMission 360 is small and affordable, I’ll bring it on all my adventures going forward.

Nakayama: How does the KM360 differ from other action cameras you used?

Corey: I noticed right away that the image was really sharp, the lens was very much a Nikon lens. Internal IS was really incredible. Finally, I was really blown away by the quality of the microphone, even in/out of the water.

Nakayama: If it’s not confidential, where will you take the KM 360 next?

Corey: Big month - Oregon, Africa, Texas, Thailand. Can’t talk about specifics, but if the smile on my face is any indication, there’s some really interesting stuff ahead!

(Seems like this is the end of the presentation - we’ll fill in with more photos, and info from the press kits whenever we get them.)


Clearly a huge day for Nikon! 

  • D5 is out, apparently amazing AF and high ISO capabilities
  • D500 is announced(!!), might be most long-awaited camera in Nikon’s history (original D300 was first announced Aug 23, 2007). Same AF and powerful EXPEED5  image processor as the D5, different sensor, but presumably similar level of technology
  • Nikon enters the Action Camera segment, bypassing conventional wide-angle action cams, and going directly for 360 degree VR.
  • We need to see what the UI and connectivity look like but arguably one of the biggest announcements today was SnapBridge. What consumers need is *really* seamless connectivity. We’ve said for a long time that what’s needed is for images to be immediately accessible on your phone, as soon as you’ve snapped them on the camera.
  • They don’t necessarily all need to be transferred to the phone, but you need to be able to access and upload them to FB, Instagram, Twitter, etc as soon as you’ve shot them. No intermediate steps. We’ll see if this is what SnapBridge delivers, but the encouraging note is that Nikon seems to have really gotten the message that connectivity is of primary importance.

We applaud Nikon’s new focus on connectivity. Further advancements in speed, AF, ISO, dynamic range, noise levels, etc are of course important, but the truth is the abilities of most cameras these days are more than sufficient for a majority of consumers. What’s lacking is for the cameras to become natural, transparent extensions of the image-connected world. Props to Nikon for recognizing this, we wish them well on their implementation!

For more info, see our Nikon D5 and Nikon D500 previews.

(And of course, we can’t wait to get our hands on all these goodies! Stay tuned, we’ll naturally update all of you with all the details and both real-world and laboratory sample images as soon as we get any of these cameras!)

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Q & A Time from the audience...


Questions from the crowd: What is the sensitivity of the AF points?

(EV -4 for central point, EV -3 for peripheral points. Both are improved 1 stop from D4)


How does wireless connectivity improve the workflow for the photographer?

(I would like to talk about the evolutions the new SnapBridge is providing for the D500. The key tech is the BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), because of that, you don’t have to connect separately. Because of BLE, you’ll have connectivity to smart devices in the vicinity. By default a small-sized image will be transferred.)


All your photos are transferred right away. How is the company developing software for people to make use of the photos on your device. Generally don’t want all 400 images on your device?

(I understand the case you’re talking about, for the people who take 400-1000 photos. I just explained that the default setting is to transfer all of them, there are other modes that will let you choose what photos to transfer. Developing software for iOS and Android that will do this, they are SnapBridge applications. Also situations where you power the camera off, and then want to transfer the images later.)


When will the D5 and D500 be available in stores in Europe?

(The idea is March of this year, although the final decision and details will be determined by the sales companies in each area._


On the D5 and D500, can you use the touch screen to select AF points, like on the D5500?

(Two different answers. For D500, yes, we have an AF touch function, for D5, the main point of the development of the D5 was to speed up the workflow, so the answer is no to the specific function you mentioned, but there is a place where you can choose the playback in high speed.)


Wondering why moving into the action camera space, why you decided to go into the 360 degree area, vs just an action camera?

(First, I’d like to mention some facts. The 360 degree video is a feature we’ve chosen for the flagship model in the line, others in the line may not have 360 degree. Why 360 degree? We think about missions that people have, both for consumers and others. We wanted to support people sharing their missions (paraphrased)



RDE question: what’s fundamentally different about the sensor in the D5 and D500, to allow such a significant jump in ISO, particularly in extended ISO? Is this a backside-illuminated sensor?

(I’d like to answer in two parts. First why we chose to go so high in ISO, with 102K and 3,280K. Sometimes when people need to use this camera, you’ll be in dark places or your lens isn’t very bright (no surprise). For the second half of your question, about what kind of technology we used to implement this. In order to improve the image quality under high ISO sensitivity, we know that we need to control the light, increase the signal and improve the noise. Therefore, we implemented two innovations: One is about maximizing the amount of light we can collect on the microlens, the other is the color filters, to maximize the transmission of light. Also, on the other side, on the image processing engine, we reduced the noise. The type of NR we’ve implemented is the type that doesn’t interfere with the resolution - resolution isn’t impaired by the NR operation.)

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End of Q & A session. 

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More Q&A, this time from the foreign press:

Why so long since the D300, why did you choose to release the D500 only now.

  • Wasn’t so much a deliberate choice on the timing, but we recognized 4K was very important (Ed. note: this is what most observers had pointed to as the reason for the delay). Also we felt that announcing it in coordination with the D5 made sense.)


Why did you skip D400, and went straight to D500? 

  • For the naming, you’re right, we wanted to align D5/D500


Understand that it’s dual media, SD and XQD? (for D500)

  • For the media, we wanted to offer XQD to maximize the performance of the camera, and wanted to offer SD for compatibility with photographers memory cards.


What is the timing for the KeyMission 360, and does it have SnapBridge on it?

  • “Spring” this year, and yes, it does accommodate SnapBridge


What other areas of non-traditional photography is Nikon looking at?

  • In terms of our strategy of how we announce cameras, it’s in the press release, it’s in three bullet points:
    • The consumer at the center
    • Mind-opening capabilities
    • Integrate into the ecosystem.
  • We feel the KeyMission 360 is at the heart of these three pillars. CES is the start of Nikon’s goal to launch cameras into many markets and industries, anywhere there is a need for images.


What were the challenges of developing a VR camera, and also with regard to the 4K UHD spec, does that relate to the frame, or to the whole image?

  • Three challenges. First is my personal opinion - it’s the small size, shock/waterproof capabilities. You need the camera to be very light, for stable wearability and handling.
  • The second is stitching the images from the two separate cameras on each side of the body, and doing so while also doing IS
  • The third is the IS and making sure the image doesn’t shake and get blurred
  • Regarding the 4K spec, it’s regarding the format of the recording. With a VR camera, it’s different, with VR and 360, it’s about the whole picture and the spherical image. The resolution we talked about here is related to that. (Does that mean that 4K is wrapped around the entire sphere?)


With the 360, how do you think you’ll be able to sell these to consumers. Do you think they’ll be quick to adopt it, or might sales be slow?

  • We are leveraging with YouTube, and are also making plans on integrating with Facebook as well. We believe we’ll be able to steadily and for sure introduce these to consumers.


Question about introduction timing: I think for the 360, answer was sometime between March and May.


For the 360, how much are you going to sell it for?

  • Sorry, but this isn’t the time for us to disclose the price yet