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Nikon D5 Review

We review the new Nikon D5, with high speed shooting, 4K video and ISO up to 3.2 million!

| Nikon D5 in Digital SLRs

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The Nikon D5 is Nikon's top of the range high-speed professional Digital SLR, with up to 14fps continuous shooting, 4K video recording, a new 20-megapixel full-frame sensor, and an ISO speed that goes all the way up to 3.2million! The Nikon D5 updates the Nikon D4s, which was released 2 years ago, and features a built-in ethernet connection for rapid image transfer.

Nikon D5 Features

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The Nikon D5 is Nikon's latest flagship Digital SLR, updating the Nikon D4s, the high-speed full-frame DSLR, features a new focus unit with 153 focus points, with 55 selectable. The Nikon D500 also features the same focusing system with 153 focus points.

The Nikon D5 offers 12fps continuous shooting, with minimal viewfinder blackout and continuous AF, and a video of this in action can be found here, or 14fps continuous shooting with mirror lock-up a video of this can be found here. A new buffer allows up to 200 NEF (RAW) images to be captured.

The Nikon D5 offers a live view silent shooting option, which enables an electronic shutter for silent shooting. 

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Handling is improved with an improved handgrip, and illuminated buttons can be found on the camera, making it easy to see buttons and controls when shooting in dark conditions. The camera can focus in -4 EV, and has an ISO range of ISO100 to ISO1,024,000, which can be extended to ISO50 to Hi 5 ISO3,280,000 equivalent. These ultra high ISO speeds are designed for specialist use, such as surveillance or security applications.

On the back is a high-resolution 3.2inch touch-screen with 2,359K dots, an impressively high-resolution screen, although the touch screen features are for playback or live view only, and you can't use the screen to scroll through the menus. The camera is the first to introduce the new EXPEED 5 image processor which is designed to be more efficient, and give authentic skin tone reproduction, as well as improved noise performance.

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Cinema ready 4K UHD (3840x2160) video recording is built in, and there are a long list of video options, including a number of picture controls so that you can use a flat profile for later processing. The camera uses a smaller (cropped) area of the sensor for 4K video recording, so that there is clean video recording. The camera has headphone and microphone sockets for higher quality audio recording and monitoring.

The menus are split into seven different sections, including playback, photo shooting, movie shooting, custom settings, setup, retouch and MyMenu. To view all of the menu options available, have a look at the ePHOTOzine YouTube channel

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The camera comes with the choice of 2 XQD card slots or 2 Compact Flash card slots, so you have to make sure you choose the one right for you when buying. Quicker read and write performance is available when using XQD cards. Battery life is rated at a staggeringly impressive 8160 shots, from a single charge, although the CIPA rating is lower at 3,780 shots. 

The closest competitor to the Nikon D5 is the Canon EOS 1D X Mark II, which we have compared here, as well as the Leica SL, so we have provided a quick comparison showing the main differences between these three cameras:

Canon EOS 1DX II Nikon D5 Leica SL
20.2mp 20.8mp 24mp
3.2inch, 1620K, Touch 3.2inch, 2359K, Touch 2.95inch, 1040K, Touch
0.76x magnification 0.72x magnification 0.8x mag, 4.4m dots EVF
ISO409,600 max ISO3,280,000 max ISO50,000 max
61 points, 41 cross, 21 support f/8 153 points, 99 cross, 15 support f/8 49 focus points
-3EV -4EV -4EV
16fps (mirror lockup), 170 buffer 14fps (mirror lockup), 200 buffer 11fps, 75 buffer
4K (CINE) video at 60fps, mono mic 4K (UHD) at 30fps, stereo mic 4K (CINE) at 24fps, stereo mic
1210 shots 3780 shots 400 shots
GPS built in Optional Wi-Fi built in
1340g 1405g 847g
£5199 May £5199 March £5050 body only


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Key Features

  • 20.8 megapixel FX full-frame sensor
  • 153 focus points, 99 cross type
  • Group AF, Tracking AF
  • 12fps with AE/AF tracking
  • 14fps continuous shooting with mirror up
  • EXPEED 5 image processor
  • Improved colour and noise performance
  • ISO100 to ISO102400, extends further to ISO3,280,000 (Hi 5)
  • 3.2inch Touchscreen, 2359k dots
  • 100% coverage optical viewfinder, 0.72x magnification
  • -4 EV Low-light sensitivity
  • 4K UHD Video, 3840x2160, Cinema ready
  • In camera 4K time-lapse creation

Nikon D5 Handling

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The Nikon D5 is extremely well built with a solid metal construction, and is weather-sealed making it suitable for shooting in all weather conditions. The handgrip feels extremely solid, with a large rubber grip stretching from the front, all the way round to the back of the camera. On the back is a good sized thumb grip making it possible to have a firm grip of the camera. The vertical shooting grip provides a deep grip and a comfortable recess for your middle finger. You'll also find a large thumb grip on the rear that provides additional purchase.

The Nikon D5 is one of the heaviest full-frame digital SLRs available, weighing 1405g, more than the D4s it replaces (1350g), as well as more than the 1DX and 1DX Mark II (at 1340g). You can hold the camera with one hand, but it isn't recommended, and instead using two hands is a good idea, giving a firm grip. If you're coming from a smaller Digital SLR then the D5 will seem particularly large, however, this will be of benefit if you use larger lenses. 

Illuminated buttons can be found on the camera, making it easy to see buttons and controls when shooting in dark conditions. The mode button is now on the top left of the camera, and the ISO button has been moved to be closer to the shutter release button, which makes it quick and easy to change the ISO speed. There are three customisable function buttons on the camera, (labelled as Fn1, Fn2, and Fn3), and you can also customise the Pv button, as well as the AF-ON button and the (unlabelled) vertical function button nearest to the shutter release button. 

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The focus system is configurable in 153-point, 72-point and 25-point coverage settings in Continuous AF mode. All 153 focus points are compatible with AF NIKKOR lenses with an open aperture of f/5.6 or faster, and 15 central focus points work with an effective aperture of f/8. Focus works down to -4 EV, and there are 99 cross-type focus points. 

There are options to adjust how the AF performs, with focus tracking options letting you set "blocked shot AF response (quick to delayed)" as well as "Subject motion (erratic to steady)". The camera also features 3D tracking face detection, 3D tracking watch area, and predictive focus tracking is automatically activated according to subject status. There aren't as many options or "case scenarios" as Canon EOS cameras. 

The optical viewfinder is large, and clear, and there is a good overlay of focus points so you can clearly see what the camera is focused on when shooting. You can easily remove the eyepiece adapter by pressing in the two release buttons, and the glass in the centre is fluorine coated. 

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Menus – The Nikon menus are clearly laid out with different (colour coded) sections for each set of options, including playback, photo shooting, movie shooting, custom settings, setup menu, retouch menu, and my menu. My menu lets you put your favourite options for quick access. You can press the i button on the back of the camera to get a quick menu on screen, and there is built-in help available to explain options. 

The screen on the D5 is excellent, with a very clear display and an excellent resolution. Viewing angles are excellent, and it's easy to view even in bright sunlight. Unfortunately, you can't use the touch screen to scroll through the menus, and the touch-screen can only be used in live view or in playback. If you do shoot in live view, you can use touch screen to change the focus point to any area of the screen. You can also acquire preset Spot White Balance data, based on the selected area.

Nikon D5 Review: Sony XQD Memory Card
The Nikon D5 is available with either 2x XQD memory card slots, or 2x CompactFlash memory card slots. The D5 we are reviewing is the XQD version, and came with a free 32GB Sony XQD memory card, and USB3 reader.

Battery life - Battery life is rated at 3,780 shots (CIPA) shots according to Nikon / CIPA test results, which is excellent, and an improvement over the 3020 shots provided by the Nikon D4s. Nikon has also tested the number of shots, and without using the CIPA testing standards were able to get up to 8000 shots! 

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Photographs taken using the Nikon D5

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josa 11 25 Czech Republic
11 Apr 2016 9:51PM
Battery life 4000-8000 shots? Amazing!
themak 9 1.1k Scotland
12 Apr 2016 12:49AM
Well it's big enough to house a car battery.Wink
dannyr 13 47 United Kingdom
13 Apr 2016 10:58AM
8000 shots!!!

(Puts battery for mirrorless camera back on charge and starts weeping)
annettep38 11 221 43 Luxembourg
13 Apr 2016 2:39PM
Have you tested it in serious action I.e. birds in flight or sports? Would like to know how it compares to the d4 there?

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