The Nikon D5 was announced way back in November 2015 as the flagship SLR of the company that was aimed to provide all the functionality needed for professional photographers. It has a 20.8MP full-frame sensor and, although it has an aspect that is similar to the previous D4S, it comes with many new improvements such as a new autofocus system and an ASIC computer unit dedicated to the AF.
There are two D5 models, one which comes with two CompactFlash card slots and another one with XQD cards. If you are looking for burst depth then the QXD model is what you want as the other one has half the speed.
The newly designed sensor stands out with a maximum sensitivity of ISO3,280,000 which is a huge number and aside from this, they also improved the image quality and the noise control at the ranges of ISO100 to 102,400 which are used a lot more often.
The autofocus which we mentioned offers a 153-point system with 99 cross-type sensors and a central point that has the sensitivity of down to -4EV. 55 or 15 of the points are selectable individually and the system can be determined to work in single-point, 25, 72 or 153 points of dynamic area AF, with 3D tracking, group-area AF or auto-area AF.
The ASIC unit is dedicated to the AF system so that high performance is ensured all the time and they also improve the tracking system of the camera compared to the previous models. To work efficiently, the AF was paired with the EXPEED 5 processing engine which allows the D5 to shoot up to 12fps with full autofocus and metering. You can keep this up for up to 200 raw files on an XQD card and you can even reach a shooting rate of 14fps although in this case the focus and exposure are fixed at the beginning of the sequence.
The battery life has been improved for the D5 with the EN-EL 18a and that is definitely needed since it can shoot 12fps. The CIPA rating is of 3,780 shots and it is one of the great things about this camera, making it a clear winner when it comes to choosing something for a long expedition. The drawback though is that it weighs 1405g (over three pounds) but this is since it is made of a very tough magnesium-alloy shell that makes the entire camera really resistant to any kind of external factors.
The video capabilities might be one of the drawbacks for some as the D5 can record 4K videos (3840×2160 resolution) but it does so for up to three minutes internally so if you are looking for serious video recording then this camera might not be the best choice.
As Nikon realized this was something that put some people away from the camera they fixed the problem through a firmware they released afterwards which extended the recording time to up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds. You also get a new Electronic vibration reduction option that uses software to make the recorded video more stable and thus this was somewhat a problem of the past.
You can use native crop on 4K recording so the image quality will be improved and you can obviously connect the camera to an external monitor through a HDMI output.
Handling and Design
Compared to the D4S, the D5 has a shape that is more comfortable to use for a long time but in general everything should feel about the same. As the entire body is made of metal and it is weather sealed you don’t have to worry about using the camera in any weather conditions and the cover of the hotshoe is weatherproofed too so the contacts will remain dry when you don’t have the flashgun mounted.
The D5 has a mini joystick which sets the AF point and it is easy to use in some conditions but not so efficient in others, such as when you are holding the camera with a horizontal grip. You get three buttons next to the horizontal shutter release and only one by the vertical button so you have to adapt your actions according to the camera instead of the other way around and this isn’t something everyone is thrilled about.
The LCD is 3.2 inches and has 2,359,000 dots with touch-sensitivity but you only use the touch to scroll images and zoom in. The fact that you cannot go through the menu or make settings through touching the screen makes it kind of awkward for someone who is used with a smartphone.
At a resolution of 20 million pixels this isn’t one of the top cameras in that regard but it really stands out through the sensitivity range it has. The results are better than the previous models and than many other cameras at ISO204,800 and as we mentioned it can go up to much higher sensitivities but the image quality will definitely suffer. Whether you take those pictures in raw or JPEG at ISO3,280,000 you will see very little details but it isn’t very frequent that you will probably need to use such a high sensitivity.
The readout speeds are extremely fast and but the JPEG processing doesn’t retain as much detail as you might have hoped for, especially at high ISO yet the results are better than they were for the predecessor. If you may find some problems with the details of the JPEG they do stand out through the impressive colors which are a joy to look at.
If you require a camera that responds easy and can shoot pictures in very low light then this is an extremely good choice. It was built for professional photographers and thus it wants to be a top of the line and its 12fps continuous shooting range, very fast autofocus, impressive sensitivity range as well as its very robust build all vouch for this.
Some of the drawbacks may be the control which has been improved from the D4S but still isn’t perfect for some situations and the video recording can prove insufficient for some even with the firmware upgrade.