Wednesday, May 25, 2016

REVIEW: Nikon D5 – Part I of II featuring burst mode testing on video

Nikon D5 Rear View
Nikon D5 Rear View

I’ve had the Nikon D5 for a couple weeks now and have been gaining a lot more insight as to what it’s like to live with this camera on a day-in / day-out basis. Initially my rose-colored glasses were so thick, I couldn’t find any faults but that was because I tested it in ideal conditions and my love for the D4s gave me a slight bias that this camera was going to be even better than its stellar predecessor.

Like all my reviews, this review isn’t for the fan boy looking for validation for plunking down a bundle for one of these cameras or those looking for a reason to move up to a D5. Instead, it’s an honest opinion of what I loved and hated about this camera during an extended test period, along with my final verdict.

While I am a Canon 1D X shooter, I’ve never hesitated to say that the D4s is a superior body to what I shoot with. In fact, going into this review I was very serious about purchasing a D5 as my primary sports body and taking a pass on the 1D X Mark II. You’ll have to wait until the next part of my review to find out what I will do, but it’s a big expense to switch platforms so this camera wouldn’t have to be just great – it would have to be game changing on a level greater than the stellar D4s.

A Video Tour of the D5

I despise editing video but it’s always fun to see a video that shows off the burst mode of sports cameras, so I decided I’d include one here. As I set up to do the video, I figured I’d give a tour of the body while I was at it. The tour is geared for both existing Nikon shooters as well as those who haven’t held a Nikon body before:

Visit YouTube to see the 1080p version

Go to the 7 minutes and 40 second mark in the video if you are only interested in the burst mode testing.

Burst Mode

For my burst mode testing, I recruited a physically fit young man who ran a series of routes repeatedly so I could try out various settings and compare the results.

53rd frame of this 56 shot RAW+JPEG series

At first things seemed VERY promising as I used continuous focus with a single AF point – which is what I do with my 1D X and my preferred choice with previous D series Nikon bodies.  I managed to get 56 frames before my subject reached my minimum focus distance of the 70-200 lens. These were all done with active matrix metering mode and shot in uncompressed RAW + JPEG, and the results were similar to what I saw with my son in my First Look article – every frame was in focus. Click the image above to see the beginning of the series and feel free to download and examine the shots to validate my claim, but please delete them when you are done with your inspection.

Please note that all images featured in this article and on this blog are copyright Ron Martinsen or their respective copyright holders, and all rights are reserved. You may not edit, print, or use these images for any purpose beyond visual inspection while viewing this article.

D5 autofocus is very good, but definitely not infallible

Would single point AF be the only way I could get this level of accuracy? Check back for part II of this review to learn more about what other settings and scenarios I tried and what lessons I learned about the D5 autofocus system.

Beware Highlight Spot Metering

As a Canon shooter, I shoot in evaluate mode and almost never change it. Issues with exposure are never a problem so every time I review a Nikon I struggle a little bit to get used to how it meters a scene. Eventually I learn that for most shots spot or center-weighted metering is the way to go. With that said, I made a mistake and accidentally chose highlight spot metering (which has an icon like spot but with a asterisks).

For better or worse, I quickly discovered this mode does in fact do a good job of spot metering based on the highlight in the frame and NOT area around your AF point (which is what my definition of spot metering is). Consider these three photos:

Highlight Spot Metering chooses to expose for the highlight on the floor

Highlight Spot now appears to meter for the bright spot of the column behind the baby

Highlight Spot finally gets it right when my son's head blocks the bright spot on the floor

Notice how the scene is roughly the same but there are three radically different results?

Click here to see the manual for the D5 to learn more about its metering modes.

Real World Shots

I already posted some real world shots in my article entitled Nikon D5 First Look, but here are a few more:

f/2.8 @ 135mm for 1/1000 sec at ISO 640

In random shooting where I didn’t know what to expect from the model,
I was able to get a reasonable number of focused shots

f/2.8 @ 200mm for 1/125 sec at ISO 180

In evenly well lit scenes, matrix metering worked similar to what I’m used to seeing from Canon

f/11 @ 92mm for 1/160 sec at ISO 100

In harsh lit scenes, matrix metering actually does an ok job but the highlights were a tad more harsh than I would have liked from a metering mode that looks at the entire scene

f/2.8 @ 135mm for 1/1000 sec at ISO 1600

Normal spot metering behaves like you would expect by metering on your AF point

f/4 @ 200mm for 1/200 sec at ISO 100

Spot highlight metering chose to meter for the trees in the background instead of the brightest spots around the AF point like I would have expected / hoped

f/2.8 @ 98mm for 1/2000 sec at ISO 1800

Sometimes matrix metering did exactly what I wanted the camera to do

f/2.8 @ 200mm for 1/2000 sec at ISO 2500

For those who plan to do other things besides sports shooting with this camera, you’ll be very pleased that this sensor is still capable of some very nice bokeh even as the ISO starts to climb

Visit the gallery to see my latest uploads both now and after the final review is published.

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 see my conclusion in part II

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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1 comment:

BR said...

AF is not infallible, especially when AF sensor is not quite on the subject, which is the case in your image.:-)
High lights spot metering is effectively misnamed by Nikon. In fact it's a matrix highlights priority measure. The measure is wedged on the highlights of the image, where they are.