Described as the most powerful camera in the company’s history, the new Nikon D5 DSLR updates the flagship Nikon D4s model and promises to up the bar for the pro user. So what’s new? Read on to see how the Nikon D5 stacks up against its predecessor.
The Nikon D4s is equipped with a 16.2MP full-frame sensor (16.6MP total), which produces images at a resolution of 4,928 x 3,280. Unsurprisingly this has been upgraded on the D5, with the brand new FX-format sensor holding an effective 20.8MP (21.33MP total). This produces images at 5568 x 3712 as standard although the camera also offers medium and small capture options, at 11.6MP and 5.2MP respectively. Nikon says this sensor has been designed from the ground up to offer improved ISO performance up to ISO 102,400, as well as better colour reproduction.
As with the Nikon D4s the Nikon D5 offers full HD video capture to 50/60p, although the option to record 4K UHD movies has also found its way onto the new model. This captures videos at 3840 x 2160, at a frame rate of 30p for up to 3 minutes at a time, and users can extract 8MP images from footage too. This isn’t, however, the first time Nikon has incorporated 4K video into one of its models – that honour went to the Nikon 1 J5 Compact System Camera, albeit in a slightly restricted 15fps option. The D5 also offers the Flat Picture Profile that was first seen on the D810, as well as the option to record time-lapse footage, which can be output in a 4K resolution.
The D4s sports Nikon’s Expeed 4 processing engine, which featured inside many of the company most recent models such as the D750 and D7200. The new model, however, gains an updated Expeed 5 version, which allows the expanded video functionality over the D4s and is also said to be 25% more efficient than the previous version (see Battery Life below).
One benefit of keeping pixel count fairly modest is that the camera can offers a relatively high ISO settings, and the D5 stretches all the way up to a phenomenal ISO 3,280,000-equivalent in its Hi5 setting to provide “near-night vision capability that’s well beyond the visibility of the human eye”. The standard sensitivity range ends at ISO 102,400 setting (by comparison, the D4s offered a maximum ISO setting of ISO 25,600 as standard and extended settings equivalent to ISO 50 at the low end and ISO 409,600 at the higher end).
Another headline feature is the camera’s new Multi-CAM 20K focusing system. The D5 boasts 153 AF points in total, 99 of these being cross type and 55 in total being available for selection (35 of which are cross type). By contrast, the D4s sported the Multi-CAM 3500FX focusing module with just 51 points, 15 of which were cross type. The new system also promises to be more sensitive to details in poorer lighting conditions, focusing down to -4EV compared with the -2EV figure stated for the D4s.
The D4s handled metering with a 91,000pixel RGB sensor, although this is another feature Nikon has upgraded for its latest release. The D5’s sensor is equipped with 180,000 pixels, which Nikon says provides more accurate results.
While the viewfinders on both models appear similar, there have been slight changes. Magnification on the D5 is down slightly, from 0.72x to 0.70x (when using a 50mm f/1.4 lens focused to infinity) and eyepoint is now at 17mm rather than 18mm on the D4s.
While the 3.2in dimensions of the camera’s rear display have stayed the same as before, the screen’s resolution has jumped from 921k dots on the D4s to mighty 2.36million dots on the Nikon D5. This should provide a noticeable boost to the clarity of images and menu screens.
Nikon has also integrated touchscreen functionality to the camera’s LCD, a first for a pro-grade model in its lineup and still rare among DSLRs of any level. Currently, Nikon’s only other DSLR to feature this is the D5500 released last year (although the technology features widely across cameras at other levels). Nikon claims that it offers a level of responsiveness equivalent to that of smartphones, which, if indeed the case, would certainly be impressive.
Dual XQD/CF slots
Nikon gave D4s users the option to use CompactFlash or XQD cards thanks to a slot for each, although the situation is slightly different on the D5. The new model is to be offered in two flavours, each with with dual slots for either XQD or CompactFlash cards (rather than one for each card).
The D4s offers a fairly respectable 11fps with both auto exposure and autofocus tracking, but the D5 increases this to 12fps. Should you be happy with exposure and focus fixed to the first frame, this increases even further to 14fps, with the mirror locked up. Curiously, this matches the 12fps and 14fps maximum burst rates offered by the D5’s closest rival, the Canon EOS 1D-X.
Definitely a highlight of the model’s spec sheet, the D5’s buffer is said to allow users to capture up to 200 14bit lossless RAW+JPEG files in one burst, when using a fast XQD card. The D4s, meanwhile, is capable of capturing up to 104 14bit Raw files in a single burst, so the improvement is considerable.
3780 shots per charge is what Nikon promises from the D5. Given that the camera employs the same EN-El18a battery as the D4s, where it offered a very respectable 3020 shots, this improvement is credited to the more efficient Expeed 5 processing engine.
While the D4s is furnished with a Hi-Speed USB 2.0 port, the D5 ups this to the SuperSpeed USB 3.0, using a Micro-B connector. This allows for a theoretical data transfer at a rate of up to 5 GBit/sec, rather than the previous 480MB/sec.
Both the Nikon D4s and D5 offer Ethernet connection, although the new model promises transfer speeds up to 1.5x faster.
With its battery and two memory cards in place, the XQD version of the D5 weighs 1,405g, while the CompactFlash version weighs just 10g more. Nikon states a slightly lighter weight of 1,350g for the D4s with a battery and XQD memory card in place, although with an additional card to make the comparison fair there is unlikely to be much between them.