Latest update: 15th June 2016
Greetings all! This page will serve as the rolling review for the Nikon D5 camera. I have had a tonne of email regarding this highly anticipated machine and it is aimed squarely at the sport, action and of course wildlife gang. Rather than take the eon I normally do to write a concise article after all my testing around my work life I will post a rolling update every few days with my thoughts and discoveries. D500 blog also incoming when I receive mine. Posts below will be in descending date order with the newest at the top. Any questions? Just head on over to Facebook and ask!
15th June 2016 | "Body overview"
Back again! A quick update here and I thought I would go over the camera body itself. The D5 is hugely similar to the D4, D3, F5 and the like, and that's a good thing. Well balanced and ergonomically comfortable. The body feels more refined, just as rugged but little tweaks really help. Let's have a look....
A brief but noteworthy entry to the review. The body is every bit as rugged as the D3 and I really have abused that camera for the last 9 (wow, has it been that long!) years. It has rolled down the windshield of a Toyota Land crusier, eventually resting on the bullhorn bars at the front (200-400 attached) with not even a scratch whilst surrounded by Lions. It has been soaked, dropped and even pood on (badgers will be Badgers) and just works and works. No worries at all about the build quality. I have seen some youtube reviewers/bloggers have put a few very negative reviews up about this camera's (and others) build quality. A quick dispassionate view at their modus operandi reveals they thrive on hits and I guess snarky 'revelations' generates hits? My personal opinion is that the build quality is great and there are no issues, as there haven't been since nikon started making these large bodies decades ago. I might hold one in the hand and moan and moan to camera about it if it gets me hits though. Will that make me seem informed too? Ok, moan over 😉 Long story short, if you had any concerns about this camera 's ruggedness please put them aside. It is wonderful as these top end cameras always are, Nikon or otherwise and I genuinely believe anyone who categorically says otherwise is just trolling for views.
I think that pretty much covers it really. Tough as nails, balances well with the telephotos and just get's on with it. I will cover the raw files a in a little more detail soon and supply some samples for download. I have just started my D500 review blog, swing over to the page and check it out. Lots more tom come on that camera, it is also delivering the good. 2016 does seem to be Nikon's year. Finally, we have a few places left on the 2017 Big Cats Safari workshop taking place in the amazing Masai Mara. If you fancy joining me out in the wilds, working with these amazing animals to improving your photography and field craft skills then head on over to the workshop page and take a look! Thanks as always, Rich.
17th May 2016 | "Just some shots"
Hi. No review updates today so to speak but I thought I would add a couple of images taken during my testing that I have shared on both the Twitters and Facebook. All with the D5 and the 70-200 VR (1st gen). A wonderful Tawny Eagle that just had that look. Great light and wonderful subject...
16th May 2016 | "The sensor"
Hi all, back from the depths of testing and life in general. I am also in possession of the amazing D500 as well now. Review blog starting on that soon with some Little Owls, but back to the D5! I can tell you that this camera is the best I have seen for high ISO image quality, it's insane and especially when you consider we are now up to 20 megapixels (people often forget that when doing their 1:1 comparisons with older models). I'll be covering the high iso stuff in a later post but today I am hitting the low iso. There has been a lot of talk about the shadow pushing ability of this camera vs the rest of the Nikon lineup and I am certainly intrigued. I shot about 3 images out of my back door of the fence and immediately got bored just thinking about those images. To that end I got my muddy weather gear ready and headed over to a site not too far from me for some sunrise tests. The current king of dynamic range and overall sensor quality at low iso is the D810. I have the earlier D800 model which is not too different and thought it worth comparing. All the shots are taken with the same settings. Note they were handheld so there will be minor differences in the perspective. I took many images but this one I feel demonstrates the differences well, all shot in 14 bit raw of course...
So I took the above images and processed them through good old Lightroom. Before the crops here is how the image looked after a very heavy shadow increase, highlight decrease and additional heavy handed exposure boost...
Pretty much the same yes? The focus point was slightly different between the two but not to worry. The next images are 1:1 crops. I have downsized the D800's files to match the D5's for comparisons sake. The image resolution difference is thus....
Interesting! The D800 is still the best for low iso dynamic range gubbins clearly, no doubt there. That sensor is amazing in the sub iso 2000 category (and not too bad above either to be fair). Whilst not as good at low iso, the D5 clearly has the edge at high sos and then some. IT's what it's built for and I will be exploring that in a future post. Hope this helps and puts any 'fears' you may have after reading the forums to rest. Would I like the stellar low iso range in the D5 as I have in the D800? Of course, who woudln't. I can only assume to get the extra megapixels and high ISO gains over the D4s something had to give in terms of the engineering. Assuming that thing had to give I believe they made the right choice. And after all that it still isn't bad, just not quite as good. I also suspect it may have something to do with the readout speed of the sensor in the D5 vs the much slow D800. As well I imagine most wildlife photographers would have both cameras in their bags. One targeted totally at speedy high iso shooting and the other at more considered landscape type work. Better than two jack of all cameras in my opinion. The great thing is the D800 (and now D810) is still a fantastic all round wildlife camera in its own right and the D5 is no slouch at landscapes either so you kind of can have your cake and eat it, you just need to choose which way you want to lean. Until next time folks, keep checking back and thanks for stopping by. I'll post some more images from the shoot over on Facebook. Rich.
28th April 2016 | "AF tracking 3, African Tawny Eagle"
This time we are here with the Tawny Eagle. Mid sized and erratic. I was choosing to deliberately shoot with a busy background behind to make the test as hard as possible. The Eagle was flying towards me at slight angle and I end the sequence when the bird was too close for the lens. Of this whole sequence we have about 2 or thee slight misses but what is great is that the camera soon recovers and doesn't get confused. Note I have not sharpened these either etc.
25th April 2016 | "AF tracking 2, Barn Owl"
Back with more on the AF. Sorry for not updating quicker but it takes a little time to assemble these sequences correctly and check them. I am fitting this review around work life too of course! As before with the Stella’s Eagle we have our full view/fit sequence and crop version below. This time we have a much smaller and vastly more erratic Barn Owl. Just for extra pain he is flying in front of trees and a moving spectator crowd. Very hard for an AF system to cope with as there are many distractions to contend with. This is where I believe the internal depth map generation the phase sensors create will make a huge difference. Basically it not only looks at the colour but thanks to the two sensors knows what is where in 3D space (much like our brains use the two perspectives from our eyes to judge depth). If you're feeling clever read more about this from Nikon’s engineers at this link. Scroll about a third of the way down. Clever Trevors aren’t they! Here is the sequence, we have about 3 images that are slightly less sharp than the super sharp rest of the sequence but still just in focus and useable. The camera also locked back on quickly. A hugely challenging situation for an AF system and it coped very well.
24th April 2016 | "First test of the AF tracking"
Hi all. First proper day with the D5 yesterday and I am glad to say it really performed. The AF tracking does seem a genuine step up from any other camera I have used. Tested on Eagles, Owls, Falcons and even a Stork the number of sharp shots was very, very high. Don't take my word for it? Fear not I will be posting the sequences here on the review page over the next week. To get started let's look at one of my fav's the Stella's Eagle. A good starting point and testing the AF with the bird flying directly at me in both a linear movement and rocking in place just before landing. Below are some animated GIFs of this 60 frame sequence and every shot was in focus. Fantastic! If the images below don't play or loop in your browser click the image to load it solo. First is the whole frame and then the same sequence at 100% crop....
Impressive and a great sign that the game has been upped for AF tracking! This is all with my 200-400 f4 and with no AF calibration (which I will be testing soon). All points were lit up and initial lock on was made on the Eagle and AF left active for the duration. Buffer is amazing, no issues at all there and I am using a slower, older gen X QD card as well at the moment. Stay tuned for more sequences including the rocket propelled Perigean Falcon. I also took some shadow boosting test images as I know a lot of you are keen to see how it performs given all the web chatter. More on that in the week.
21st April 2016 | "Quick high ISO shot"
Hi. Super quick high iso test last night just at home as I couldn't resist. Proper shots coming soon as I promised. Here we are at ISO 9000....
Note in the full fit version of the image just below I have left all the meta data intact for you except the camera serial number which I have removed. Feel free to download and examine.
Pretty great results if you ask me. There is definitely more detail retained than in the D4s, partly due to the newer sensor and partly due to the higher resolution by my estimation. So we have more pixels, a bit less noise and a measurable increase in retained detail by the looks of it. Great. That's all for now, was just a quick test before bed last night. Proper shots (with animals and everything!!) at the weekend. Questions, comments? Drop to the bottom of the page, head over to the facebooks or tweet me. Rich.
20th April 2016 | "...and we're off"
Hi all! Super thanks to Rob and Artur from Nikon UK as I now have my review D5 in hand and ready to go. I am somewhat tied up until the weekend with regards to a proper workout but will be testing the much (over I suggest) reported low dynamic range issues in the next day or so as I have had a lot of requests to check and verify the forum frenzy on this. Well firstly it is much easier to be able to pick up things from the London Nikon School rater than the Richmond HQ in terms of travel for me. Great vibe in there to with all the latest stuff mixed in with the classic Nikon gear from past decades.
First (very quick) in the hand impressions..
- Feels very confident, definitely an instant step up in feel from the D4 in terms of responsiveness (which is saying something as the D4 was great for this already).
- The D4's buffer was big but this is just ridiculous (xqd). I got bored before the raw buffer filled. It's big enough to chew through anything.
- Layout tweaks (more on this later) feels good with more buttons to setup.
- Removable eyepiece will be a big help if I buy a spare and stick a right angled viewfinder on there. No more mad (un)screwing as an animal runs at me, quick release and done.
- You definitely get that 'if I miss the shot it's my fault' feel with this camera and that's what it's all about. Instant response to my commands.
Ok, not much to go on for now but keep checking back (here and on facebook) for more day by day reports as I test. I have a big birds in flight AF session at the weekend (report on Monday onwards) to come and knowing England this will test the high ISO capability as well. Plenty of sample images of course. Just to re-iterate here are some disclaimers that I feel are important to state...
- This is a temporary loan from Nikon. I don't get free gear to keep.
- There were no conditions attached to the loan other than I return it in working order. No presumption of a good review, no presumption of skimming over any bad points I may find and I am not afraid to do so should I find any.
- I buy and use my gear to create my work and income not to look good online and I therefore evaluate it accordingly. Whilst I am usually able to buy most gear if I judge it beneficial I do not have a vast pit of money to throw around on upgrades simply because it's the latest thing. I still use my D3 (non S) because it produces results up to scratch (it really does).
- Please note the lack of ads on my site. No financial gain from hits here and no click bait headlines. If I say something it is my genuine opinion. My business does not hinge on review clicks, selling myself as a social media hipster camera gear news reporter, making crazy blanket statements and all the usual that seems to be the norm today. I adore wildlife and take photos of it which happens to put me in contact with cameras.
Sorry to be so 'bullet-pointy' but I get disheartened sometimes with people seeming to put more stock in camera news blurb than photography portfolios these days. I'm all for an opinion, which we are all entitled too but always look to see it backed up with actual work. Lastly, I have nothing against Canon or any of the other brands. I just feel Nikon offer me the best tools to get the job done given my style. Does the D5 continue this trend??? We shall see, stay tuned! Rich.
6th April 2016 | "First impressions"
Hi all. I had a quick session with the D5(xqd) yesterday and have a loaner coming from Nikon for review shortly. Given the level of interest thought I'd chip in as I know some of you are eager to buy or not as the case may be.
My initial impression is very good. I have a D500 on order already as I could do with the reach for most of my burst shooting so that was a no brainer given the speed leap there from the 7200. Whether I want to plump for a D5 upgrade vs the D4s is a harder choice and I wanted to wait till I had put it through it's paces and it is a lot of money even for working professionals that already have a high end speed camera in their bags.
I'll of course reserve my own purchase decision until after I have had a couple of weeks with the loaner but my hunch is that it will be worth it for those who shoot any genre of action.
High iso is great, we basically have slightly better than (the amazing) d3S per pixel noise performance with almost double the pixel count. Remember that now the high iso camera has almost the resolution of the old low iso resolution king, the D3X. That's a pretty big achievement if you ask me.
Again I only have had a quick go so far but the whole shadow noise thing doesn't seem like it will effect me. I'll be doing a direct comparison but lifting the shadows on by tests (lightroom) doesn't reveal anything overly nasty so far, certainly no worse than the D4s at higher isos and not that bad down with lower levels. Definitely not "much, much worse" as a lot of people have been saying. I will reserve full commentary until I can say one way or the other with confidence after some proper shooting with it.
The D800/810 is still the quality king and imho the sweet spot for resolution/dr/noise performance for the current generation of tech. If you're style's needs are mainly dependent image quality at sub iso 1600 levels and you don't need mega speed then the D810 will be a better fit for you.
I can only presume any additional noise in the low iso shadows is a trade off to bump the rest of the D5's (impressive) specs and a good one in my opinion given the cameras target user base. Of course it would be better to not have to make trade off's at all but most engineering tasks don't work like that. The D5 & D810 make the perfect combo for pretty much any shooting situation. I am very much looking forward to seeing what Nikon have in store for the 810's replacement in that area.
AF seemed more confident and certainly it's locking on a holding worked very well but needs proper testing. I do think that the dedicated AF processor will do for tracking what GPUs did for gaming graphics. This development is very underplayed and of huge importance imho. Very much looking forward to a proper run through with it on the long lenses.
I guess what I am saying here is that if you are keen to upgrade but on the fence I wouldn't worry, it's a great camera and that is very clear even with a few hours of use. If I didn't have the luxury of a test one coming shortly I probably would have gone and picked one up today. It feels like a genuine improvement for anyone needing the faster performing camera around and I suspect the new AF combined with the buffering will be the highlight that pulls it ahead of the competition.
If you would only be upgrading for improved image quality, well that is a lot of money for the modest increase in resolution but as I mentioned I don't think the sensor is the biggest headline in this camera although it is certainly the easiest aspect of a camera to test and show in places like this, hence it getting poured over meticulously.
If you don't need the shutter/buffer/af improvements for your style of photography then the D810 level of cameras is a far better choice and you shouldn't be worrying about the DX cameras at all.
As soon as I have some good shots with the D5 I'll post them up with commentary. There will be plenty of reviews doing the rounds soon that cover the usual areas but if anyone want's me to test some quirky esoteric aspects of the camera which often get overlooked please just ask and I'd be happy too report back.