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Nikon D5 Review

Nikon announced that the D5 was in the works to replace the D4S in November of 2015, the company’s flagship single-lens reflex camera (SLR) designed for professional photojournalists and sports photographers.

With the Olympic events taking place this summer, it was likely that we would see something solid at CE in January, and Nikon did not disappoint, unveiling its latest 20.8-megapixel full-frame model at the show in Las Vegas.

The highest increased sensitivity level on the new camera is ISO 3,280,000, which is a little more than three million. Very few people at the press presentation could claim not to have been astonished by this (actually, even 280,000 is quite a lot in ISO terms).

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Nikon D5 Build Quality

Because the control arrangement of the D4S and the D5 are identical, owners of either camera will immediately feel at ease with the other. However, the grips on the front and back of the camera have been redesigned to be more ergonomically sound, making the device easier to use for extended periods without experiencing discomfort.

During this test, I had no trouble holding it for several hours without any discomfort; however, while shooting with a big lens, it might be helpful to use a monopod so that part of the weight is distributed more evenly.

Because it is made entirely of metal and has considerable weather sealing, just like the D4S, the D5 gives the impression that it might be used securely in the harshest circumstances. There is even a waterproof cover for the hot shoe, which keeps the contacts dry when a flashgun isn’t attached. I had no issues shooting in wet situations during our test because of the hotshoe’s cover.

Nikon D5 Performance

The detail resolution of the D5 is inferior to that of the D810, which has 36 million pixels on its sensor. Still, it performs pretty favorably compared to the D750, which has 24 million pixels on its sensor, matching or outperforming it over the entire sensitivity range in our resolution testing. It also beats the 16MP D4S up to ISO204,800, after which the older camera pulls ahead. This is far into the extension range of the D4S, and it is one stop into the expansion range of the D5.

Notably, while shooting in the real world with the D5, you can get far better-looking photographs at an ISO number of 409,600, which is the D4S’s maximum extension value. The pictures are still pretty noisy, and I wouldn’t advocate utilizing this setting regularly. Still, less banding is evident, and it may be an alternative use in really challenging situations.

When the sensitivity is increased to the D5’s highest level (ISO3,280,000), there is a noticeable decrease in the picture’s overall quality. There is very little detail in the raw, or the JPEG files since the low lighting circumstances need such a high setting. Raw files, especially when no attempt is made to reduce the amount of noise present, feature a great deal of chroma noise (colored speckling) and a check pattern of banding that is noticeable at standard viewing sizes.

Nikon D5 Image Quality

The Nikon D4S was already an excellent performer, and the D5 improves on this remarkable history, particularly when it comes to shooting in low light. This is the primary area in which Nikon has enhanced the actual image quality for the current generation.

If you want to, you may take photos at an equivalent of almost 3 million ISO, which is a very high setting. It is unlikely that you will want to do that because the photographs have a painterly quality, are lacking in a lot of detail, and have a pinkish color.

Have a moment to let it sink in that it can fire at such an absurdly high pace, but in the meantime, look at how fast it can shoot. In the same way that you probably won’t ever drive your car at its highest speed, but you do want it to perform well at lesser rates, the D5 performs at speeds that other cameras can only dream of reaching.

I captured good shots over the whole native sensitivity range of the Nikon D5, which is rather impressive. Expanding to Hi1 (204,800) and Hi2 (409,600) gave some useable shots, precisely what the typical news or reportage photographer will be doing with their photographs. In other words, this is a photographer’s dream come true, especially one who isn’t always able to rely on decent light.

The level of detail is maintained exceptionally well over the whole dynamic range, and it doesn’t start to degrade dramatically until somewhere around ISO 102,400, which is the maximum native sensitivity of the camera. If you need to bring back some more detail, you will be able to use the raw format files; however, this will increase the amount of noise in the image. Noise is extremely well managed in JPEG photographs, providing a natural feel that is not too soft.

When utilizing the default picture style, colors come out looking lovely and brilliant straight from the camera; nevertheless, there is a possibility that they are slightly oversaturated. If you want your photos to have a more subdued appearance, you may choose a different picture style to shoot in, while the raw format produces flatter images, providing more room for editing in post-production.

There are three automated white balance presets that you may choose from, and each caters to a different aspect of your aesthetic. There is a standard, a variation that maintains cooler tones, and a third variation that supports warmer tones.

The standard option does a decent job of achieving a good balance between the two; however, the warmer setting errs on the side of yellow tones when photographing under artificial lights, but it preserves warmer skin tones and natural tones when shooting during natural daylight.

Nikon D5 Specs

Body typeLarge SLR
Body materialMagnesium alloy
Sensor
Max resolution5588 x 3712
Image ratio w:h1:1, 5:4, 4:3, 3:2
Effective pixels21 megapixels
Sensor photo detectors21 megapixels
Sensor sizeFull frame (35.9 x 23.9 mm)
Sensor typeCMOS
ProcessorEXPEED 5
Color spacesRGB, Adobe RGB
Color filter arrayPrimary color filter
Image
ISOAuto, 100-102400 (expandable to 50-3280000)
Boosted ISO (minimum)50
Boosted ISO (maximum)3280000
White balance presets12
Custom white balanceYes (6 slots)
Image stabilizationNo
Uncompressed formatRAW
JPEG quality levelsFine, normal, basic
File formatJPEG (Exif v2.3)Raw (NEF, 12 or 14 bit, lossless compressed, compressed, uncompressed)
Optics & Focus
AutofocusContrast Detect (sensor)Phase DetectMulti-areaCenterSelective single-pointTrackingSingleContinuousTouchFace DetectionLive View
Autofocus assist lampNo
Number of focus points153
Lens mountNikon F
Focal length multiplier
Screen / viewfinder
Articulated LCDFixed
Screen size3.2″
Screen dots2,359,000
Touch screenYes
Screen typeTFT LCD
Live viewYes
Viewfinder typeOptical (pentaprism)
Viewfinder coverage100%
Viewfinder magnification0.72×
Photography features
Minimum shutter speed30 sec
Maximum shutter speed1/8000 sec
Exposure modesProgramAperture priorityShutter priorityManual
Scene modesSingle-frameContinuous lowContinuous highMirror-up
Built-in flashNo
External flashYes (via hot shoe and flash sync port)
Flash X sync speed1/250 sec
Drive modesSingle-frameContinuous lowContinuous highMirror-upQuiet shutterSelf-timer
Continuous drive14.0 fps
Self-timerYes (2, 5, 10, 20 secs)
Metering modesMultiCenter-weightedHighlight-weightedSpot
Exposure compensation±5 (at 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)
AE Bracketing±5 (2, 3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)
WB BracketingYes
Videography features
Resolutions3840 x 2160 (30p/25p/24p), 1920 x 1080 (60p/50p/30p/25p/24p), 1280 x 720 (60p/50p)
FormatMPEG-4, H.264
Videography notes1.5X crop mode with DX lenses
MicrophoneStereo
SpeakerMono
Storage
Storage typesDual CompactFlash or dual XQD
Connectivity
USBUSB 3.0 (5 GBit/sec)
HDMIYes (mini-HDMI)
Microphone portYes
Headphone portYes
WirelessOptional
Wireless notesRequires WT-5A or WT-6A
Remote controlYes (wired, wireless, smartphone)
Physical
Environmentally sealedYes
BatteryBattery Pack
Battery descriptionEN-EL18a lithium-ion battery & charger
Battery Life (CIPA)3780
Weight (inc. batteries)1415 g (3.12 lb / 49.91 oz)
Dimensions160 x 159 x 92 mm (6.3 x 6.26 x 3.62″)
Other features
Orientation sensorYes
Timelapse recordingYes
GPSOptional
GPS notesGP-1A

Nikon D5 Verdict

The Nikon D5 will keep professionals satisfied with its excellent burst-shooting and low-light performance; yet, it isn’t as compelling an advance over the D4S as it could have been because of a few tiny construction flaws.

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