Nikon D5 Review – 4k DSLR Camera Series Price, Features and Comparison

by on April 22, 2016

The D5 is Nikon’s new flagship camera in the company’s lauded professional DSLR line. This blazing fast, highly precise machine will certainly meet the expectations of professional photographers and it’s an excellent upgrade from 2014’s D4S. It features a full-frame, FX-format 20.8MP CMOS sensor, up from the 16MP in the D4s. The D5 is also supported by an EXPEED 5 image processor. It’s capable of capturing images at up to 12fps with full-time AF and AE activated and can shoot 4K UHD footage at up to 30fps. It’s an excellent professional DSLR and can hold its own against any other camera on the market.

A major improvement from its predecessors is the D5’s reimagined auto focus system. The new Multi-CAM 20K 153-point system uses 99 cross sensors for impeccable precision while tracking motion or working in less than ideal lighting conditions. While many of today’s high-end DSLRs perform fantastic in perfect conditions, the D5 stands out by maintaining impressive image quality in difficult shooting environments. The D5’s low-light performance is its most significant advantage over its closest competitor, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II.

Although not as extensive as the internals, the D5’s hardware did receive some minor refinements. The camera features a rear 3.2" 2.36m-dot touchscreen LCD monitor great for framing and live shooting. The LCD also provides a great way to navigate the camera's settings. The chassis is constructed from magnesium alloy and, as expected with top-tier DSLRs, it's both dust and weather sealed allowing for use in the most rugged environments.

One of the negatives of the D4s is that for non XQD adopters, there was only one CF slot. This time around, Nikon is taking an odd approach by offering the D5 in two variants. You can pick up the camera with either double CF card slots or XQD slots. Many professional photographers have plenty of legacy CF cards laying around, but if you want the faster speeds it’s worth going with the XQD version. To help with the transition, Nikon will be shipping the D5 with a free XQD card and reader for the first year of sales.

Keeping with Nikon’s tradition with this line, the D5 features a load of customizable buttons across the body. The body is completed with an excellent grip integrated for use in both vertical and horizontal orientations.

The significant improvements under the hood of the D5 make it an appealing camera for professional photographers, especially those in the news and sports fields as it excels in difficult shooting conditions.

D5 2

The Good

The combination of the massive sensor size and wide sensitivity range results in superb image quality and low noise in all types of shooting conditions.

Beyond exceptional image quality, the EXPEED 5 processor also provides a major bump in the D5's overall speed. For example, The D5 can reach a continuous shooting rate of 14fps with the mirror up, or 12fps with full-time AF and AE control. Up to 200 frames can be recorded in a single burst while shooting at 12fps.

The D5 also features a dedicated power aperture button allowing for smooth and continuous exposure transitions when transitioning back and forth from light to dark areas. In addition, Auto ISO can be turned on to help maintain consistent brightness when switching between differently lit environments.

The D5 features a solid ergonomic design. The grips on the front and back have been ever so slightly reshaped to make the camera a little more comfortable in your hand compared to the D4s. Both the grip and overall body design are shaped to benefit handling the camera for long periods of time. It also has easy-to-open card slot covers and most of the rear buttons illuminate for better visibility when working in low light.

Check the Price of the Nikon D5 20.8 MP FX-Format Digital SLR Camera Body on Amazon:

4.7 - 12 Reviews

The Bad

No camera is perfect, and while there is plenty to love about the D5, Nikon also made a few strange decisions which some photographers may not like.

First is the card slots. The D4s featured Sony's faster XQD-card standard, and there was only a single CompactFlash slot. Sure, some photographers may prefer to have double CF slots, but the D4s approach allowed for the versatility of both. Nikon’s approach with the D5 doesn’t allow for this versatility. The company is instead offering two different models with the only difference being the card slots. You can get a D5 with either two CompactFlash or two XQD slots.

While shooting video isn’t the primary focus of the D5, Nikon’s step into 4K makes the D5 a great camera for media professionals in need of a camera that takes excellent stills and 4K video. However, it was disappointing to find out that 4K recording is limited to just three minutes in the D5. This may be a deal breaker for some potential buyers.

Adding a touch-sensitive display in the D5 is an interesting step for Nikon to take in a professional grade DSLR. Maybe this will become the standard in the future, but for now I’m sure plenty of professional photographers will raise an eyebrow at this addition.

Final Thoughts

Nikon had the foresight to realize many potential D5 owners will be upgrading from the D4S. In the D5, the company has kept the camera size, shape and functionality nearly identical to the D4s. So, if you are thinking about making the switch from the D4S you’ve been using for the past few years, rest assured moving to the D5 will be a smooth transition. You will get all the new advantages of the D5 and be able to keep everything you loved about the D4s, sans card slot versatility which I’d consider only a minor inconvenience.

For photographers coming from other cameras, the D5 is the best DSLR Nikon has to offer, and it certainly won’t disappoint. Using Nikon’s DSLRs are relatively easy to pick up so the transition won’t be difficult.

D5 3

  • Lens Mount: Nikon F
  • Camera Format: Full-Frame (1.0x Crop Factor)
  • Pixels: Actual: 21.33 Megapixel, Effective: 20.8 Megapixel
  • Max Resolution: 5568 x 3712
  • Sensor Type/Size: CMOS, 35.9 x 23.9mm
  • File Formats:
    • Still Images: JPEG, RAW, TIFF
    • Movies: MOV, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
  • Memory Card Type: XQD or CF (separate models)
  • Focus Type: Auto & Manual
  • Focus Mode: Continuous-servo AF (C), Manual Focus (M), Single-servo AF (S)
  • Autofocus Points: Phase Detection:153, 99 cross-type
  • ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100-102400 (Extended Mode: 50-3280000)
  • Shutter:
    • Type: Electronic & Mechanical
    • Speed: 30 - 1/8000 second
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 6.3 x 6.2 x 3.6"/160.0 x 158.5 x 92.0 mm
  • Weight: 3.11lb/1415g with battery and memory cards

The D5 will require either a XQD or CF memory card depending on the model you pickup. I’d recommend going the XQD for the speed.

Sony 64GB G Series XQD Format Version 2 Memory Card is probably the best option. It’s designed to boost workflows of professional working with 4K video content and RAW images. This card features data read speeds of up to 400 MB/s and write speeds of up to 350 MB/s.

The D5 comes with an EN-EL18a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that is CIPA-rated to last for approximately 3780 shots per charge in single-frame release modes.

Best Lenses for the D5

You can’t get started shooting with the D5 without a compatible lens. Here are the a few I recommend.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR Lens

The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR Lens features Vibration Reduction image stabilization and is a versatile wide-angle to short telephoto lens. The lens also features Nano Crystal and Super Integrated Coatings which allow for exceptional image quality by reducing lens flare. The result is fantastic contrast and color accuracy. Fluorine coatings on the front and rear elements protect against dust, moisture, and smudging.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Lens

The AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Lens from Nikon is an FX format lens that features a broad zoom range from wide-angle to super telephoto perspectives. Its also able to close-focuses down to 18" at every focal length. The Silent Wave Motor autofocus system creates smooth autofocus action, which is especially helpful for cinematographers. M/A focus mode switch is a unique and helpful features that allows the photographer to quickly switch between manual and AF modes for precise focusing.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Lens

The AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Lens from Nikon is an ultra wide-angle zoom lens with a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture. This lens is a favorite for professional Nikon shooter and delivers edge-to-edge sharpness and high contrast. Its Nano Crystal and Super Integrated Coating help improve light transmission and reduce the effects of ghosting and flare.


153-Point Multi-CAM 20K Autofocus System: Probably the most impressive feature of the D5 worth highlighting is the new 153-Point Multi-CAM 20K Autofocus System. This system features 153 total phase-detection points, including a whopping 99 cross-type sensors. To complement the massive number of focusing points, the D5 includes a dedicated autofocus engine. It allows for quick response times perfect for tracking fast and random motion.

Another highlight of the autofocus system is the availability of up to seven different AF-area modes. Different modes can be selected depending on the various types of shooting environments photographers regularly shoot in.

The D5 also feature an AF lock-on function which can be used to improve motion tracking. By enabling this function, the AF performance can be optimized for various types of motion.

A final impressive feature to mention regarding the AF system is the D5's unique fine-tuning function. This function allows the user to get the best possible focus for a mounted lens. It works by letting you first precisely set focus manually, and then the AF system will calibrate itself to the focus position to correct front and back focusing issues.

Scene Recognition System: The D5 also features an intelligent Scene Recognition System with 3D Color Matrix Metering III. This system utilizes a 180,000-pixel RGB sensor to evaluate everything within a scene, including colors, brightness and contrast. It then quickly determines accurate exposure and white balance levels appropriate for the scene. Another crucial feature to this system is that the data captured is checked against reference images to ensure consistency across images for exposure, white balance and subject-tracking AF performance.

AF/AE Textured Joysticks: D4s users will be familiar with this feature, but there are two textured joysticks which you can use to select an AF point or to lock AE. There are two joysticks on either side, so one is always available no matter how you are holding the camera. They fall right under your thumb when holding the camera and the joysticks are an intuitive, quick way to change the focus point you need.

4K Time-Lapse: One highlight feature in the video recording area is the D5's ability to capture time-lapse footage for up to 9999 consecutive frames for a period of up to one week. Time-lapse video can be captured at the D5's peak 4K/UHD resolution up to 30fps.

D5 4

Check the Price of the Nikon D5 20.8 MP FX-Format Digital SLR Camera Body on Amazon:

4.7 - 12 Reviews

Overall Performance

The quality of the D5 of course starts with it's 20.8MP CMOS Sensor and EXPEED 5 Image Processor. The CMOS sensor teams up with the EXPEED 5 image processor to produce high sensitivity, gorgeous images at a ridiculous speed.

Although it’s true there are sensors with much higher pixel counts on the market, like the 42.4MP found in Sony’s A7R II, many professionals will likely welcome this relatively modest megapixel count. More pixels means bigger file sizes, which is a drawback to photographers working in the field. Increased pixel counts also lead to more noise in low light environments.

The D5 makes up for the megapixel count with some magic in the camera’s ISO range. The camera supports a native sensitivity range from ISO 100-102400 which allows photographers to experiment in a wide variety of lighting conditions. But the magic is when the ISO is pushed further to the expanded ISO range of 50-3280000, allowing the camera to handle any environment you throw at it.

The D5 is more than capable of holding it’s own as a professional machine for both still images and video footage. It is one of only two Nikon DSLRs that can shoot 4K video, the other being the Nikon D500. The D5 can shoot at resolutions up to 4K UHD video (3840 x 2160) at 30, 25 and 24fps. The camera can either record compressed footage internally via in-camera memory cards or uncompressed footage externally using an external recorder via HDMI out, a necessity for many professional filmmakers

The D5’s massive range of ISO sensitivities is also available for shooting video. Again, the expanded ISO 10-3280000 is excellent for those low and bright light environments. A nice touch to the D5’s video capabilities is the video-optimized Flat Picture Control mode. You can turn this feature on during recording to flatten the contrast curve which will give you more control during post-production and color grading.


The Nikon D5 DSLR is available for a suggested retail price of $6,499.95 and, as mentioned above, is available in two different versions. You can either pick up a D5 with dual XQD card slots or dual CF card slots.

Check the Price of the Nikon D5 20.8 MP FX-Format Digital SLR Camera Body on Amazon:

4.7 - 12 Reviews

  • Easy to Use
  • Intelligent Scene Recognition System
  • 153-Point Multi-CAM 20K Autofocus System
  • EXPEED 5 Processor
  • Full-frame, FX-format 20.8MP CMOS Sensor
  • Limited 3-minute 4K Recording
  • No Model with Dual CF/XQD Card Slots
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Bottom Line

The D5 is an exceptional DSLR for any professional photographer. Whether you’re coming from a D4s or elsewhere, the D5 is a worthwhile upgrade. It is especially ideal for capturing motion and low-light media. If you are in a field that requires this type of use, you can’t get much better than the D5.

Check the Price of the Nikon D5 20.8 MP FX-Format Digital SLR Camera Body on Amazon:

4.7 - 12 Reviews

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