Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Nikon D5 First Look

Nikon D5 DSLR Camera
Nikon D5 DSLR Camera

I’ve been a fan of the Nikon D series pro bodies going back to the D3, and the D4s was one that I loved so much that I almost sold my 1D X to switch to the Nikon camp. As a result, when I heard the D5 announcement I quickly made arrangements to review it even before the Canon 1DX Mark II. Would this be the one that makes me switch camps? Read on to get my initial thoughts.

The AF system is scary good and the range at which you can move your focus point across the 55 physical points (but the system has 99 cross-type points for tracking). What this means you can easily put your AF point where you want it – especially at all rule of thirds points where most cameras fall short – and once you are in continuous mode the AF system will track your subject extremely well.

The touch screen support is pretty comical as its primary value seems to be in playback mode for swipe and pinch to zoom. In live view you can tap the screen to move your focus point, but it doesn’t actually focus until you press the shutter button. As a result, I don’t see much value in the touch to focus point feature other than the fact it might save a millisecond or so.

Thankfully the body is an evolution over its processor in that it offers more programmable buttons without removing all of the features D series bodies users have come to love. A fast 1000 Base-T (Gigabit) Wired LAN port, USB 3 and HDMI port (for the 4K UHD 3,840x2,160 / 30 fps video support) means its well equipped to interface with your accessories, but wireless still requires the optional  WT-6A Wireless Transmitter.

I haven’t tried out the ISO 3,280,000 yet, but I was playing around when I unboxed it and got this ISO 14,400 shot that impressed the heck out of me given how crazy low the noise was as well as how readable the text was – handheld in low light at 200mm standing about 6 feet away:

f/2.8 @ 200mm for 1/400 sec at ISO 14,400

Normally I’d delete a garbage shot like this, but this is definitely an impressive case of real world performance of the in-camera noise reduction being very impressive.

Here’s a better real world shot where ISO 5600 is as clean as some cameras minimum ISO setting:

f/2.8 @ 130mm for 1/2000 sec at ISO 5600

I was also aiming at Kai’s left eye when he jumped and the AF did a good job of staying focused on his eye despite his arm creating a distraction that would trip of older AF systems.

Automatic AF Fine Tune Feature

I was planning on doing a video on this feature but this one on YouTube was very good so I decided to point to it instead:

In theory this is how things are supposed to work, but in practice it was finicky and difficult to make it happy enough to get the shot with the 70-200mm that I’m testing with. I finally got it to work with the camera body on a firm surface on the floor pointing at a Datacolor SpyderLensCal Autofocus Calibration Aid, but that wasn’t as easy as what you see in the video. Granted, I was indoors so I’ll do more testing outdoors on a sunny day and see if that helps.

I’m very excited about this feature as AF microfocus adjustments are a pain even with some of the advanced software that’s out there like Reikan FoCal, so this is a game changing feature I hope they can perfect with firmware updates. In the meantime, FoCal, is still the way to go!

Real World Shots – A Walk In The Park

This is just a tiny sample of what’s to come, so check the gallery to see my latest uploads both now and after the final review is published.

These photos were taken during a casual walk through the park with my kids at the end of a sunny day. While the target demographic for D5 is sports photographers, any parent can confirm that keeping up with the kids will show the flaws of even the most advanced pro camera bodies. As a result, I’m impressed with what I’m seeing so far:

f/2.8 @ 200mm for 1/200 sec at ISO 280

At first you might be thinking, why are you showing me this fat baby shot?
The answer is because I pushed the stroller and let it roll on a flat surface, then I raised the camera and took the shot pointing at her left eye WHILE WALKING – at 1/200 sec!!!
I quickly saw the AF system was good, but this was ridiculous – I’ve never had a camera pass this test – until now.

f/2.8 @ 78m for 1/2000 sec at ISO 5000

Kai was hyper and jumping off the rocks, but it was no problem for the D5
as every frame I took came out with sharp focus

f/3.2 @ 80mm for 1/2000 sec at ISO 900

As a Canon shooter, I always struggle when I do my D series reviews at first because the metering doesn’t work the way I’m used to it performing with the Canon bodies. As a result, the images were darker than hoped, but you see 14 frames starting here that came in perfectly focused while shooting RAW+JPEG. I did this test 5 times and got identical results each time – all in focus.

f/3.2 @ 200mm for 1/2000 sec at ISO 1800

Same with the running test where I repeatedly got 42 shots in focus time and time again – also shooting RAW+JPEG. This indicates a very big and fast buffer to keep up with 14 frames per second even with the dual CF option I chose over XQD.

f/2.8 @ 200mm for 1/2000 sec at ISO 3600

Kai is unpredictable so when he randomly decides to jump on a swing the wrong way and gives me a funny shot like this, I was delighted that the D5 nailed it before I even knew what was happening. This is true point and shoot!

All of the shots featured in this article are unedited and come from the in-camera JPEG, but RAW’s were taken at the same time. No processing (not even cropping) has been performed on these images.

All images are copyright Ron Martinsen and may not be used in any way beyond viewing in conjunction with viewing this article. Downloading, printing, copying, editing, linking, etc… is prohibited.


Click here to check out my review.

Where to order

Click here to learn more or order on the B&H web site. I opted for the dual CF version, but an XQD version is available at no extra charge.

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