Nikon D5 Review
|Full model name:||Nikon D5|
(35.9mm x 23.9mm)
|Viewfinder:||Optical / LCD|
|Native ISO:||100 - 102,400|
|Extended ISO:||50 - 3,276,800|
|Shutter:||1/8000 - 30 seconds|
6.3 x 6.2 x 3.6 in.
(160 x 159 x 92 mm)
|Full specs:||Nikon D5 specifications|
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Body Only (CF Version)
- Amazon for $6,496.95
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The Nikon D5 captures excellent images, but its 20.8-megapixel sensor trades low ISO dynamic range for excellent high ISO performance. What it doesn't compromise on is autofocus and speed with 153 AF points and 12fps continuous shooting for up to 200 images, respectively. The bulky, but well-designed body screams "pro" camera, as does everything else about this DSLR. Are its few compromises relevant to you or not? Find out by reading our in-depth Nikon D5 review.Pros
Excellent image quality; Excellent high ISO performance; Fast 153-point autofocus system; Fast continuous shooting speeds; 4K video recording; Pro-quality camera body; Outstanding battery life.Cons
Large and heavy body might not be right for all; Loud shutter; Underutilized touchscreen; Low ISO dynamic range not as good as predecessor; Extended high ISOs not very useful; Sluggish Live View AF.Price and availability
The Nikon D5 began in March 2016 for the suggested retail price of US$6499.95 in a body-only configuration, and in either dual-XQD or dual-CF card versions with no difference in price.Imaging Resource rating
5.0 out of 5.0
Nikon D5 Review
by Jeremy Gray, Zig Weidelich and William Brawley
Preview originally posted: 01/08/2016
03/28/2016: First Shots posted
04/18/2016: Performance posted
05/17/2016: Gallery images posted
05/17/2016: Field Test Part I posted
06/02/2016: Field Test Part II posted
08/05/2016: Image Quality Comparison and Print Quality Analysis posted
08/05/2016: Review Conclusion posted
Nearly four years ago, Nikon released the D4. Two years later, they gave it minor upgrades with the D4S. Now, Nikon is poised to change the game yet again with their new flagship DSLR, the D5. While you could be forgiven for not noticing the subtle changes to the camera body itself, the internal changes are extensive, including a brand-new sensor, autofocus system, image processor, and an expanded suite of video features.
Performance and Autofocus
The Nikon D5 utilizes a brand-new, 20.8-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor and a new, faster EXPEED 5 image processor. This new higher-resolution sensor -- up from the 16.2MP chip of the D4-series -- includes an optical low-pass filter and also includes an anti-reflective coating to minimize ghost and flare.
In conjunction with the EXPEED 5 processor, the Nikon D5's sensor has a native ISO range of 100 to 102,400. While that in and of itself is already impressive, the D5's extended ISO range is 50 to a whopping 3,276,800 (!) equivalent, making it the widest ISO range on a Nikon camera ever. Compared to the D4S, the D5 not only has a 4.5 megapixel increase, but also a native ISO range improvement of 2 EV and an expanded ISO sensitivity improvement of 3 EV. Along with a new sensor and processor, the Nikon D5 also uses a new noise reduction system. The D5 is designed to, as Nikon's press release says, "Conquer the Dark."
Additional low light performance improvements couple the improved ISO range with a new autofocus system that can acquire focus in as little as -4 EV. The D5 is the first Nikon camera to utilize a dedicated autofocus processor. Its Multi-CAM 20K AF sensor module (shown on the left) brings with it 153 autofocus points, of which 99 are cross-type sensors, which is three times the amount found in the D4S. Fifteen of the autofocus points are also functional at up to f/8, perfect for when using teleconverters. Of these 153 AF points, the user can select from 55 AF points/35 cross-type points. You can select either 153, 72, or 25-point coverage when using the camera's continuous autofocus mode. Selectable autofocus modes include single-point, dynamic area, auto-area, 3D-tracking, and group-area.
Metering has also been improved with the introduction of a new 180K pixel RGB metering sensor and Advanced Scene Recognition System. Building upon the D4S' facial detection capabilities, the D5 adds a watch area menu option. Further, Nikon has added a new 'Keep White' white balance option when using Auto White Balance, to achieve more natural color reproduction.
There are also improvements made to the camera's speed. The Nikon D5 gives high-speed shooters an extra frame-per-second with full AE and AF capabilities, bringing it to 12fps. However, with the mirror up and exposure and focus locked, the D5 can capture images at 14fps. The buffer depth has been increased from 133 shots when using XQD to up to 200 shots. And speaking of XQD memory cards, the D5 is available in two flavors: dual XQD slots or dual CF slots.
Usability and Battery Life
The Nikon D5 has increased slightly in size, gaining a couple of millimeters of width, a millimeter of height, and just over two ounces in weight (59 grams). The rear display has remained the same size, 3.2" diagonally, but dot count has increased from 921k to 2,359k and the D5's display gets new touchscreen capabilities for playback and text input. Additionally, the viewfinder has seen an improvement in magnification from 0.7x to 0.72x and the eyepiece adapter is now detachable. The viewfinder is not just larger, however, it also has shortened blackout time and reduced image blur compared to the D4S' viewfinder.
There are a handful of changes to how the camera body handles as well, with slight changes in ergonomics, button layout, and the addition of two more function buttons (one is on the front of the camera and one is to the left of the rear display). The Nikon D5 also introduces a quick settings ability, which allows for the release mode setting to be changed while shooting through the viewfinder by holding the release mode button with your left hand and command dial with your right hand. Also, like the D4S, the D5's buttons are illuminated for easier shooting in low-light conditions.
Of course, the D5 is compatible with Nikon's new radio-frequency capable SB-5000 Speedlight flash, of which up to 18 can be controlled remotely without a direct line of sight at a range of up to 98 feet (30 meters) by a WR-R10 wireless remote controller attached to the Nikon D5 via a WR-A10 adapter.
As durable and rugged as ever, the robust, weather-sealed body also has a new shutter and mirror sequencing mechanism which "nearly eliminates blackout time and mirror slap," for a bright and consistent image through the viewfinder when doing high-speed shooting. This new shutter is rated for 400,000 actuations as well, so you'll be able to enjoy its higher quality for a long time.
With a more efficient image processor, the Nikon D5 is able to squeeze additional life out of its EN-EL18a rechargeable Li-Ion battery. The D4S' impressive battery life of approximately 3,020 shots is now eclipsed by the D5's approximately 3,780 shot battery life.
High-speed shooting and efficient capabilities are only useful if the camera can handle and offload files quickly, too. The Nikon D5 is up to the task with its built-in LAN capabilities. With an improved 1000 Base T Ethernet port, the D5 can transfer files at up to 400Mbps, which is 1.5x faster than the D4S' transfer speeds. And the USB port has been upgraded to SuperSpeed USB 3.0, which supports up to a 5Gbps link compared to 480Mbps for the D4S' Hi-Speed USB 2.0. Wireless speeds are also improved from 30 to 130Mbps when using the new WT-6A Wireless Transmitter. The WT-6A supports the IEEE 802.11ac standard and has a connectivity distance of 656 feet. The device can transfer images to an FTP server or computer, and when in HTTP mode can be used to operate camera controls, begin Live View shooting, or start/stop HD video recording.
If you opt for the dual-XQD variant of the Nikon D5, you'll enjoy up to 35% faster read and write speeds compared to CF. If you want to make the camera even faster, you can have the D5 record small or medium 12-bit, uncompressed RAW files.
Along with the newly-announced Nikon D500, the D5 is the first Nikon DSLR capable of capturing 4K Ultra High-Definition video. Thanks to its EXPEED 5 image processor, the D5 can capture 4K video (3840 x 2160 resolution) at up to 30fps. The Nikon D5 can record up to three minutes of 4K video at a time and can also record video either in-camera to its memory card or simultaneously to an external recording device. (Update: Firmware v1.10 has since increased the D5's 4K video recording limit to 29m:59s by recording across multiple 4GB files which can be concatenated using software, and has also added Electronic VR for movies.) From the D810, the D5 also gains uncompressed HDMI out, simultaneous live view, and headphone/microphone connections. In addition to the microphone connection, the Nikon D5 has a built-in stereo mic with twenty levels of user-selected sensitivity.
Capable of recording video at ISO 100-3,276,800, the Nikon D5 can use nearly all of its expanded ISO range and provide photojournalists near night-vision video recording. When shooting 4K video, you can also save a still frame as an 8-megapixel image file, providing even more versatility for multimedia photographers. Additionally, the D5 includes the following new video features: Flat Picture Control, a dedicated movie shooting menu, Auto ISO (from ISO 200 and up), and smooth exposure compensation. Carried over from the D4S are zebra stripes display option and power aperture control.
With Multi-area D-movie, the Nikon D5 offers selectable image areas for recording video. 4K video is only available in one image area size, but Full HD video is available in three different options: FX-based movie format which uses the full width of the FX field-of-view, DX-based which crops in 1.5x, and 1920 x 1080 crop which crops in even further. The 4K movie image area (3840 x 2160) is almost the same as the DX-based crop.
And the little things…
It isn't always about the big new features and improvements; the Nikon D5 has numerous small feature improvements as well. For photographers that are often burst shooting, the D5 allows you to select the first or last frame of a burst to check immediately after concluding a burst. You can also play bursts automatically or use the touchscreen to advance frames with the "frame advance bar."
The ISO button has been relocated to be near the shutter release button, which allows you to control all of the exposure-related controls with just your right hand. More buttons are now illuminated, including the release mode dial and playback/delete buttons.
Image quality and compression options have now been combined into one menu screen, and the custom control assignment menu has been optimized specifically for stills and movie shooting.
Multiple exposure mode, which combines up to 10 frames to create a single image, now includes "lighten" and "darken" modes. Lighten mode selects only the brightest pixels in each exposure, and darken mode, as you might guess, selects only the darkest pixels.
When autofocus fine-tuning is required, you can now use the Nikon D5's new auto fine-tuning option. All you have to do is achieve focus in live view, make a few selections in the menu, and then let the camera automatically acquire the appropriate AF tuning value for your camera/lens combination.
The Nikon D5 shown with the new SB-5000 Speedlight. The WR-R10 Wireless Remote Controller and WR-A10 Wireless Remote Adapter are also shown.
Availability and Pricing
The Nikon D5 began in March 2016 for the suggested retail price of US$6499.95 in a body-only configuration, and in either dual-XQD or dual-CF card versions with no difference in price.
The Nikon SB-5000 Speedlight and WT-6A Wireless Transmitter also became available in March for suggested retail prices of US$599.95 and US$749.95 respectively.
Nikon D5 Field Test Part I
Impressive performance helps the Nikon D5 hit a home run
The D5 is Nikon's latest flagship camera and it promises to deliver top-end performance across the board. Designed from the ground up for professional photographers who demand extreme reliability and agility in all conditions, the Nikon D5 offers an improved autofocus system and a class-leading ISO range.
I will be doing two field tests for the Nikon D5 and this first one focuses on the camera body, autofocus performance, and technical performance. The second field test will focus on image quality, low light performance (although there's some of that here), and video performance.
The Nikon D5 handles very well
A professionally-oriented DSLR has to be many things including fast, powerful and reliable. It also has to be comfortable to use for an extended period of time and have all of the important controls at your fingertips. There's a delicate balance to be struck between giving photographers everything they demand without giving them too much and actually slowing them down. The Nikon D5 strikes an excellent balance between control and usability.
Nikon D5 Field Test Part II
Excellent low light performance, robust video & a great user experience
In the first part of my field test for the Nikon D5, I discussed the camera body's design as well as autofocus and high-speed performance. In this second installment, I will be covering the new image sensor, overall user experience, low light performance and video before giving a final wrap-up of my experiences with the Nikon D5.
While the D5 is very impressive for fast-paced continuous shooting, it is also very good for slower-paced work and is excellent for low light photography. It is also the first flagship FX Nikon camera to include 4K UHD video recording.
Nikon D5's 20.8-megapixel sensor delivers good results
The Nikon D5 comes equipped with a new 20.8-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor, which was developed in-house by Nikon and is designed for capturing images with better quality at higher ISOs. This engineering for higher ISOs comes at a slight cost to dynamic range at lower ISOs, though. With that said, it still does have a very respectable dynamic range of 12.3 EVs, according to DxO Mark's review. At the begining of the ISO range, the D5's dynamic range starts at a lower level than other full-frame cameras, but it also stays higher for longer as ISO is increased. At higher ISOs, from roughly ISO 1600 onward, the D5's dynamic range surpasses that of the earlier D4S and D3S.
Nikon D5 Image Quality Comparison
Head-to-head competition amongst fast, flagship speed-demon cameras
Here we have 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.
Nikon D5 Print Quality Analysis
A new champion for 8 x 10 prints at higher ISOs!
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 some stunningly large print sizes. You'll be 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 even at ISO 51,200. The last useable ISO for prints is 102,400, but cranking the ISO even higher results in images too much noise and not enough detail for an acceptable print to our eyes.
Nikon D5 Conclusion
Pro workhorse delivers high-quality images, 4K video and fantastic AF
We put Nikon's latest flagship camera, the D5, through its paces and came away very impressed. The D5 is designed to excel as a professional workhorse, and it shows in every aspect of the camera. From the Nikon-developed 20.8-megapixel full frame CMOS sensor to the new autofocus system, which offers an impressive 153 autofocus points, the D5 delivers exceptional performance across the board.
Nikon D5 body is big and heavy but very user-friendly
You know you're using a pro-oriented DSLR the second you pick up the D5. Its bulky, durable body impressed us with its refinement and comfort, but this is not the camera for you if you're looking for something compact and lightweight -- not by a mile. Weighing in at over a whopping three pounds, this beast is far from small and light.
With this size, however, comes excellent ergonomics and many external controls. A very welcome change on the D5 is the placement of the ISO button near the shutter release. All of the exposure-related controls are now in reach of your right hand. Regarding the viewfinder, magnification has been increased from 0.70x to 0.72x compared to the D4S and mirror blackout has been reduced. Overall, the camera body handles very well, despite its size.
In the Box
The Nikon D5 retail box ships with the following items:
- Nikon D5 DSLR Camera (Body Only, Dual CF Slots or Dual XQD Slots)
- EN-EL18a Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery (10.8V, 2500mAh)
- MH-26a Battery Charger
- UC-E22 USB 3.0 Cable
- AN-DC15 Camera Strap
- BF-1B Body Cap
- BS-3 Accessory Shoe Cover
- USB Cable Clip
- HDMI Cable Clip
- DK-27 Eyepiece Adapter
- DK-17F Fluorine-Coated Finder Eyepiece
- BL-6 Battery Chamber Cover
- Network Guide
- Warranty Card
- Large capacity XQD or CompactFlash memory cards (depending on model)
- Extra EN-EL18a lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack for extended outings
- Large capacity CompactFlash and XQD memory cards. Given the high resolution and large file sizes of the D5, 32GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity. If you plan to capture high-definition or 4K movie clips, shoot image bursts, or shoot in RAW format, opt for the fastest cards you can afford.
- External shoe mount flash (SB-5000, SB-910 AF, SB-700 AF), macro light (R1C1, R1), wireless commander (SU-800) or other accessory flash
- EH-6b AC adapter with EP-6 power supply connector for studio shooting
- ME-1 external stereo microphone or other mic with 3.5mm stereo or mono jack
- WT-6A Wireless Transmitter
- UT-1 communication unit
- WR-1 and/or WR-R10/T10/A10 wireless remote adapter set
- Medium to large camera bag
Buy the Nikon D5
Your purchases support this site
Body Only (CF Version)
- Buy from Amazon for $6,496.95
- Buy from Adorama for $6,496.95
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