Nikon D5 review

Nikon D5 review:

Though not entirely convincing, its performance quality is great and attractive for pro photographers.

The Nikon D5 is Nikon’s flagship and fast action camera featuring a 20.8MP full-frame sensor. Though the compact body makes it seem less attractive, as photographers were expecting from a Nikon D4S upgrade camera.  Pros would be glad they have seen a camera with excellent shooting speed. It is very comfortable to use, thanks to its excellent grip and its 153-point autofocus system is a very welcome addition.

Introduction and Features:

A complete use of this camera according to our field report, tells you that Nikon actually improved on the sensitivity performance, autofocus and burst speed of this camera. Its maximum ISO sensitivity, of ISO3, 280,000 has taken up most of the attention and headlines. Even Canon’s Canon 1D X Mark II does not compare to it. Canon 1D X Mark II has a maximum expansion setting of ISO409,600.

See also: Nikon D3400 Review

Sports photographers are very excited at these camera thanks to its ability to perform excellently in low light situations. At low ISO values, this camera is able to perform excellently. Also, its autofocus system is very good, boasting an excellent 153-point autofocus (99 cross-type sensors, the central point is sensitive down to -4EV) that is second to none to most of its rival DSLRs. Also, its autofocus system options are very impressive coupled with the new 180,000 pixels RGB metering sensor upgraded from 91,000, helping to connect with the white balance and AF system.

NikonD5: Fast action and Sport Camera

Nikon has been able to deliver an excellent and cute camera (the D5, top of the FX line) for pros and sports photographers. One thing that gets pros and sports photographers excited about this flagship camera is its reliability and excellent burst speed performance, coupled with the improved sensitivity performance (up to ISO3, 280,000), especially in low-light conditions.

Speaking of the excellent burst shooting, it shoots up to 12fps. It is able to perform at this thanks to it being boasted by EXPEED 5 processing engine. This has further been improved, you can continue shooting at 12fps for up to 200 raw files, writing on an XQD card.

From the Nikon D4S perspective, Nikon has successfully upgraded this camera. This is seen in the improved image quality and better noise control at common ISO ranges (ISO100-102,400), an ISO range used commonly by sports and fast action photographers.


• 20.8-million-pixel FX-format CMOS sensor
• 12fps burst, max. 14fps.
• ISO 100-102,400 (expandable to ISO 50-3,280,000)
• 153-point autofocus system with 99 cross-sensors and 3D-tracking
• Expeed 5 processing engine
• 3.2-inch, 2359k-dot TFT screen
• 4K video recording
• Dual XQD or Compact Flash (CF) slots
• CIPA battery rating of 3,780 shots per charge using the same EN-EL18a battery.

The 3.2-inch, 2359k-dot TFT screen, touch-sensitive at the back side of this camera is also an addition. While it records 4K video, it does that for only three minutes. This was not expected by photographers actually, but at three minutes, you could still record some video. That is certainly not enough for vloggers and videographers. It records full HD video at 1080p and employs a native crop for better image quality, eliminating pixel binning. You could also connect an ext. monitor using the HDMI output.

The Nikon D5 comes in two forms. There is D5 with two XQD card slots and a D5 with two CompactFlash (CF) card slots. The difference and edge though is that XQD guarantees an excellent and better buffer performance. This is good news for professional sports photographers as it allows you to choose from lots of frames. You can also shoot in “Raw S”, but this will give you small sized files, while at the same time increase continuous shooting.


Nikon D5 comes with an added relaxed and happy feeling when handled. Nikon has been able to improve the ergonomics and design of this camera. There have been some adjustments on certain buttons and controls. Like the ISO button is now located just behind the shutter button unlike under the LCD on the D4. There is additional Fn button, about four. Three is located around the lens and one at the back. They are usually used for different functions. The shutter buttons are double, both located at the vertical and horizontal grips each.

The small joysticks very fitting and close to your thumb are mainly used to select AF points. They could also be used as AE Lock buttons. Apart from the joystick, I found out that there is a controller just beneath the joystick that could be used to set focus points.


You also will notice that you can now flip autofocus area modes with AF-ON. This allows you to instantly change focus modes by programming AF-ON to many controls. This is particularly unique with the D5. You can use the thumbstick to both control and select AF-ON. Speaking of the AF-ON button, it is usually used for back-button focusing and is two.

The D5 comes with a new Multi-CAM 20K autofocus sensor module, like earlier said.  It boasts an excellent 153-point autofocus (99 cross-type sensors, central point is sensitive down to -4EV), a very dark situation. That is second to none to most of its rival DSLRs and a notable improvement on the D4S. Shooting at dark -4EV seems to not trouble photojournalists and photographers. This is because  this camera quickly locks onto your subject and still give out good images. Also, its autofocus system options are very impressive. You could choose the Single-point AF, 25-, 72- or 153-point dynamic area AF. The 3D tracking, group-area AF or auto-area AF, and coupled with the new 180,000 pixels RGB metering sensor upgraded from 91,000, helping to connect with the white balance and AF system.

See also: Nikon D850 Review

On the whole, there is no much difference between the D5 and D4S and D500 as they all have the same control layout and arrangement. Nikon has better shaped the D5 from the D4S, with the front and rear grips made to more safe and comfortable on the hand when using over long periods.


Away from the handling and feel of this camera, Nikon has equipped and protected this camera with a metal (magnesium-alloy) body and better weather sealing covering. Hence you can safely shoot in varied weather conditions without having to worry about the safety of your camera.

Also, the D5 weighs 1405g, it is built strong to withstand knocks and hits, thanks to its metallic and magnesium-alloy body. The battery is CIPA-rated at 3,780 shots which is super impressive and very efficient. Nikon has been able to give sports and fast action photographers something very efficient. They can now spend hours shooting with guaranteed and better battery performance. This is very impressive considering the improvements on its AF system, shooting speed and image quality/resolution from the D4S.


The 3.2-inch 2,359,000-dot screen of this camera is touch-sensitive and used to browse through your images, zooming in. unfortunately, you don’t use it to make selections and select AF point or to navigate your camera menu.

You can only do that by pressing the info button. Also thanks to the 3.2-inch 2,359,000-dot of the screen, there is better resolution and sharpness of images. I am of the opinion that the screen brightness and illumination should be controlled to eliminate the problem of images looking brighter than they should be. Images were a lot brighter and too shiny. I usually check out my histogram to observe my images.

Live View:

When shooting in Live View, you can also set your autofocus points using the screen. This is done by switching to Live View on the screen and then tapping the screen at the direction you want the point to be located.

The Live View button has two options, the movie live view and stills live view. There is also the “silent live view”, and as the name suggests, you can shoot silently if you don’t want to create attention or disturb your subject. The only problem though is that resolution seems to be reduced and you cannot use the raw format while shooting in the silent live view, but the Live View quiet mode allows you to shoot with higher resolution and raw format, you only have the shutter sound to worry about when you shoot.

Speaking of the info button, it displays when pressed, various arrays of setting like the quick menu on most cameras. There is the ‘I’ button which shows you features that can be selected for adjustment. Some of these features include the Custom control assignment and the Color space.


The Nikon D5 comes with a 20.8MP FX-format CMOS sensor, a unique improvement on the 16.2MP of D4S. This saves you lots of data when shooting in 12fps burst speed. When shooting with this camera, you really don’t need to worry much about the sharpness and color rendition. For ISO sensitivity and performances, it betters the ISO204, 800 of the D4S. The ISO3, 280,000 allows it to produce sharper and higher resolution images and is a fantastic addition.

ISO Performance:

On resolution testing, the D5 JPEG files when compared with D4S and Canon 1DX Mk II shows that it competes well with the Canon 1DX Mk II and even gets ahead of the D4S, though the canon camera gets a little edge over it. This was notably visible at high sensitivity settings. Also, the RAW files followed a similar trend, stepping up on the D4S and revealing often more detailed images than the Canon 1DX Mk II at high sensitivity settings.

See also: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Review

Even at native ISO sensitivity of ISO 100-102,400 pushed up from 100-25,600 or 51,200, as might be expected, images are still good, with obviously little or no noise. I noticed this is the best ISO range to maintain as on comparison above this, there was a marked reduction in image quality. When test run at ISO409,600, a high value and D4S highest extended ISO, there was lots of noise in the images. On the whole it was far better than images on the same setting when shot with D4S.

At the cameras maximum setting of ISO3,280,000, obviously, you would be let down by the image quality as your image is filled with noise effect all over. When this was tried in areas of darkness and low light areas, we found little or no detail in our images, even after editing and post-processing, images were soft, smoother with magenta banding, strong colors, but at the same time, almost dark, unrecognizable and filled with noise (chroma) and visible banding.

AF Performance:

Nikon has really added a thing on the AF system of this camera, following up from a strong AF performance of the D4S, there is an additional 102-point in the number of AF points. This has led to better AF performance, very distinct from its predecessor and performs better in speed. Also, this improved performance is partly attributed to the addition of the 180,000-pixel metering sensor. Nikon has moved AF operations to a dedicated AF processor on the D5.

The D5 focusing is good, thanks to the -4EV sensitivity on the D5, it is capable of focusing excellently in low-light areas. This is an improvement on the -2EV seen on the D4S.

3D Tracking:

The 25-and 75-point Dynamic-area AF points seem better than the active AF point. This is because  it is preferable for subjects moving around, keeping track often. The 3D tracking for dynamic-area AF points uses color contrast to note the movement of focus sensor and between the subject and background, but on the general, 3D tracking seems a good option but often slows down. It not really a problem when tracking single subjects as it easily keeps track with a very successful hit rate.

It also works so well in low light, dim and smoky conditions.  The problem is when using the automatic AF point selection, it slows down in low light. For the dynamic-area AF points, all you just need to do is to ensure the dynamic-area AF size is small enough so it never leaves your subject. With the D5, you are able to select your AF point and still get a very focused and sharp image which is what impresses most sports photographers.

There are other AF points like the Group and Single Point which is also very fast, and uses closest subject priority across a selectable pattern of diamond, horizontal line, or vertical line). The D5 seems to be the camera with the best autofocus system, even after three years.

There is a preferred option instead of choosing an AF point and following your subject. By initiating autofocus with a single point, the D5 then keeps track of your subject around the frame using the 153 AF points. This is done by shifting your choice AF point to stay on your subject.

Battery Life:

The battery is CIPA-rated at 3,780 shots which is super impressive and very efficient. This is partly thanks to the excellent and better buffer performance and the 12fps shooting speed. Nikon has been able to give sports and fast action photographers something very efficient. At proper management of the battery, it is able to last up to 4000 shots. Photographers can now spend hours shooting with guaranteed and better battery performance.

Verdict and Conclusion:

Sport and fast action photographers are grateful to Nikon for providing this camera. As earlier stated, the D5 is able to perform excellently in any situation and event. It is a very fast camera capable of shooting in the low light area. It is built to be strong thanks to its strong body and can resist bad weather conditions. There is the touchscreen for easy review of your images.

The pixel has been increased to 20.8 following from the 16MP of the D4S. This makes able to capture more detail than the D4S.  Thanks to its excellent and very fast AF system, sensitivity range, battery life, continuous shooting speed, and metering system, it is a very good upgrade on the D4S. Wait a minute, I think that is left for you to answer that. Is the D5 actually an upgrade and a professional fast action camera?

Some issues we have with this camera is not much of a problem, but we will point them out. The AF controller isn’t in the same place with the grip. Hence as you shoot and swap from horizontal to upright, you might end up pressing the wrong button. Also, most D4S users looking to upgrade to the D5 will have to make do with this and get used to it.
The Nikon D5 has some issues on the 4K video recording. Nikon has indirectly exempted most photographers shooting video and still life out as they can’t be able to do much with it.

Generally, Nikon has made the D5 out of the D4 especially in terms of the build and handling and features. We expected to see some slight improvements.


Also, a closer look with these two cameras will show you that some controls and features are not located at the same place on these cameras. People expected that these features on the D5 be more visible and easily located.
Also, the shutter sound on the D5 seems to be loud, but this is not a big problem as a photographer should get used to that easily, also you can switch to the silent live view or better still get used to it.

Finally, the D5 rated at nearly $6500 definitely does not come cheap although this should not come as a surprise to D4, D4S, D3 users.

On the whole, and in conclusion of the D5 review shows that it is certainly one of the best all-around, fast action cameras, and I think it is worth the price. As you know, the D5 comes in two versions; the one with dual XQD card slot and another with dual CF card slot. You could choose to switch the cards but it comes at a price of a few bucks. Generally, both card options are good, but I stand with the XQD card option.

The D5 is valued at $6496.95 on Amazon.

Here is a video review:


Author: Arinze

A Photography enthusiastic. I work with a group of other professional photographers to provide you tips on photography

About Arinze

A Photography enthusiastic. I work with a group of other professional photographers to provide you tips on photography

View all posts by Arinze →

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