I want to preface this by saying that I am only going to show off one noise test that was photographed in my apartment against a wall – every other image will be on location, in various types of light, at various ISOs. This is very important because I’m not reviewing it based off of a chart or numbers from a chart, I’m reviewing it based off real-world use as a wedding, event, and portrait photographer. I also wanted to add that no video features will be reviewed, mainly because I'm a photographer and has no interest in video.
While the D5 and the D750 are most definitely not in the same ballpark in terms of price and overall level (Nikon categorizes the D750 as enthusiast level and the D5 as pro level), I’m mostly comparing the two for any photographers that are on the fence about whether they should trade in their D750 for a D5 or add a D5 to their arsenal.
That being said, here are my thoughts after 4 weeks of continuous use - enjoy!
The first time I had a D5 in my hands, I held the ISO button down and just started spinning the command dial. Seeing the actual numbers display on the mini-LCD screen was oddly satisfying – it’s almost funny that you have to double check whether you’re shooting at 6,400 or 64,000.
While most of the reviews you read will uniformly agree that the D5 doesn’t shine at low ISOs, it most definitely shines at high ISOs. But, just because you can shoot at 64,000 ISO doesn’t mean there won’t be noise. Heck, there’s almost as much noise at 10,000 on the D5 as there is on the D4s. What really makes the high ISO performance shine though is the color rendition & flexibility at anything past 12,800 compared to the D750.
As you can see, when boosted 3 stops, the D750 & D4s files fall apart and are riddled with color banding and gross noise. While the D5 still has noise, it’s a lot cleaner and color banding isn’t even present until pushed almost 3.5-4 stops @ 16,000 ISO.
I chose to compare 16,000 ISO on the D4s & D750 because they were both ISOs I have realistically used in the past to grab a necessary shot in low-light. It's definitely not the highest ISO, but again, I'm going for pure usability here, not numbers. The D5 is very impressive, even at upwards of 81,275 ISO. Realistically, I would say the highest I would go on the D5 for a paid shoot would be 64,000, which is still absurdly high, especially compared to any other DSLR currently on the market.
PS: please forgive the uneven horizon - I wanted to keep the images as SOOC as possible without any type of cropping so image quality loss wouldn't be an issue.
Size, Weight, & Feel - Comparison
As you can see, the D5 is one hunk of a camera, weighing in at 49.6 ounces (with battery & 2 XQD cards). In comparison, the D4s weighs ~48.2 ounces (with battery & cards) and the ungripped D750 weighs ~29.6 oz (with battery & 2 cards). While the D5 and gripped D750 are relatively the same size, the photos really don’t do the comparison of the D750 justice – the D5 almost makes the D750 look (and feel) like a toy.
Comparing the feel of the D5 to the D750 – the one word that comes to mind is that the D5 feels rugged. It’s solid, the buttons are firm (yet the joystick surprisingly is much more responsive than the D750), and it just feels professional. The D5 also has the similar deep grip that the D750 has, which makes it a lot more comfortable to hold than the D4s.
Comparing the feel of the D5 to the D4s - they are very, very similar. Some differences would be the D5's deeper grip, slightly thicker body, more responsive buttons (especially the multi-selector button & sub-selector), and extra textured grip. They feel like they weigh about the same.
Even though the D5 is considerably more heavy than the D750, it's not something that will be a deciding factor for me, as I used the D4s extensively without any problems in the past.
Autofocus (lowlight & accuracy)
The autofocus system is what ultimately sold me on this camera. Speaking in numbers, the D750 and 6D both focus in -3EV, and the D4s/D810/5D III focus in -2EV. The D5 has the ability to focus in -4EV, which is insane. Using this the first time in a dimly lit church & in natural darkness on a dark beach, I was blown away by its ability & quickness to lock on and accurately focus on what I wanted without missing a shot. The AF is snappy, quick (as soon as you touch the AF button, it finds what you need to focus on and almost instantaneously locks on), and makes this the best camera I have ever used - far better than the D4s's autofocus system.
When I jumped ship from Canon to Nikon, one of the things I missed the most was the gorgeous skin tone & color hues I could achieve with my 5D Mark III. While I did manage to create a preset that gave me good color tones and make skin look good for Nikon, I always haven’t been 100% satisfied with the D4s and especially the D750.
Similar to what others are saying, the D5 gives you fantastic colors & skin tone straight out of camera. The green & blue hues are very Canon-like and the skin has a fantastic look to it that has me finally satisfied with how my edited files are looking after post-processing.
It’s not that I can’t get beautiful tones with the D750, it’s that the majority of the time, it's harder to achieve and requires a lot of tweaking to get the result I want. And as someone who spends quite a bit of time on the computer - the less time wasted on post-processing, the better.
Similar to other Nikon cameras, it has great highlight recovery when you produce an overexposed file. Without looking at any charts, it seems that the file’s data is spread out & distributed more evenly between the highlights and shadows, versus having most of the image’s data in the shadows like most Nikon cameras with Sony sensors do. The D5, and most of Nikon’s flagship cameras are made with Nikon sensors, so they definitely behave a bit differently than Sony sensors.
I chose the XQD model. I personally think XQD cards are the future of DSLR memory, and with the recent price drop, there’s no reason you shouldn’t go with the XQD model. I chose the Lexar XQD 2.0 cards because of the price & write speed - $99 for a 64gb 440mb/s card.
Dynamic Range At Base ISOs
The most controversial characteristic of the D5. To be completely honest with you, I was crushed when my D5 was on the way to me and I saw the charts on its lackluster performance. But numbers aside, with a little work, the files look absolutely fine pushed ~2.5 stops or less. Being that it recovers highlights a little easier than other cameras, I found the files to be very flexible when I needed them to be. I mean, let’s be honest, do I really need to have ~5 stops of flexibility in Lightroom with dynamic range? Well, yes, which is why I’m keeping my D750. But is only having ~2.5 enough to warrant a return? Absolutely not.
FPS & Buffer
While having the ability to shoot 12-14 FPS is something I will honestly almost never use, the correlation between high FPS and a great buffer means that I won’t ever have to worry about my buffer for weddings again (I’m looking at you, D750). The amount of times I got the “r00” buffer on my D750’s screen was one time too many and something that caused me to miss shots on more than one occasion. On one particular use, I remember shooting a bride walking down the aisle, and after firing off a burst of images, the camera locked up and wouldn’t allow me to shoot until I pulled the battery out. And once the battery was pulled out and placed back in, all the images I just previously shot chose not to write to the SD card. Now that was a nightmare that I didn’t want to ever happen again. After using it heavily for the last 4 weeks, I can confidently say that the buffer will definitely not be a problem for me.
File Size Comparison
Even though the D750 has a slightly larger file 24.3mp VS 20.8mp, the D5 still produces equal, if not larger files. I have no idea why that might be, but taking an educated guess, it probably has to do with how each camera uses compression and/or the color rendition.
While I first thought this was a bit gimmicky, I quickly changed my mind after the second day of use. Not only can you swipe images, use pinch-to-zoom, and double tap to go 100% - you can hold your finger on the bottom of the screen and "scrub" images from throughout the day. It's extremely fast and efficient and definitely my new favorite way to find an image I'm looking for on the fly.
Auto AF Fine Tune
This feature is simply awesome. Instead of putting your camera on a tripod, shooting a target, and then either making a guess or putting the numbers in manually to a calculator in order to properly calibrate your lenses, the D5 can automatically do everything via live view. Before heading out to a shoot, I calibrated every one of my lenses in about 5 minutes, and in the past, one lens could easily take me 5-10 minutes a piece. To do this, you enable live view, use the center point on an object that has high-contrast (like black writing on white paper), and, while holding your camera very still or using a tripod, hold down the AF-mode button & movie record button simultaneously. Boom, done!
+Amazing low-light auto focus.
+Canon-like color rendition & tones.
+Usable high ISO.
+Solid feel; durability.
+AF auto fine-tune is incredibly convenient.
+1/8000 shutter speed.
-Dynamic range at base ISOs is the lowest out of any professional Nikon camera (but, who cares).
-Expensive (you can buy 3 Nikon D750s and loads of SD cards for the price of 1 D5).
-Heavy (again, this isn't a huge issue for me and I'd rather have a solid camera able to perform in any condition).
In summary, I will definitely be replacing my D4s with the D5 for the superb autofocus, low light focusing, & colors/tones. I'll be keeping my D750 as a second camera for dynamic range, lightness, the swivel-screen, & as a travel camera since it's so small and compact. I definitely recommend the D5 to any professional looking to maximize their potential with the best auto focus on the market & a Nikon camera that replicates Canon colors.
Please let me know if you'd like any more examples or information I haven't provided! :)
While most of these won’t be enabled from factory default, a few settings might be – I forget which were and which weren’t enabled right off the bat, so I’m just going to write down the important features that you might also want to use in your set-up.
Image review: on
After delete: show previous
Auto image rotation: on
Rotate tall: off
Photo Shooting Menu:
Image quality: raw
Long exposure NR: off
High ISO NR: off
Custom Settings Menu:
•A1. AF-C priority selection: release
•A2. AF-S priority selection: focus
•A7. Store by orientation: focus point
•A11. Focus point wrap-around: off
•D1. Continuous shooting speed: continuous low speed 7
•F1. Custom control assignment:
-Preview button: Highlight-weighted metering
-FN1 button: viewfinder grid display
-FN2 button: preview
-FN button for vertical shooting + main-command dial: ISO
-FN3 button: rating
-Sub-selector: focus point selection
-Sub-selector center: select center focus point
-Main selector for vertical shooting: same as multi selector
-Movie record button: choose image area
•F2. Multi selector center button:
-Shooting mode: reset
-Playback mode: zoom 100%
-Live view: zoom 100%
•F4. Customize command dials:
-Menus and playback: on
Beep: volume 1, pitch L
All other menu options were left to the factory defaults.