What is It?
The Nikon D5 is Nikon’s flagship camera, the top of the FX line. And of course, the FX line is their top line.
The single digit D’s are Nikon’s camera oriented specifically to pros, and particularly to pros who demand rugged reliability, speed of shooting, and low light capability over things like pixel counts. The D3, D4 series, and now D5 are found in the bags of Nikon-shooting photojournalists and sports shooters because of those three basic elements. It doesn’t hurt that Nikon pours all their formidable technology development into this flagship camera, either.
For example, the single digit D’s have always been the place where Nikon has unleashed new metering and focus capabilities, and the D5 is no different: it’s all new in the core technologies compared to the D4s that preceded it.
While the D5 looks an awful lot like the D3/D3s and D4/D4s that it takes over from, a lot is different. A whole lot.
Let’s start at the sensor. The D3/D3s had Nikon’s first FX sensor, which checked in at 12.1mp. The D4/D4s came five years later with a 16.2mp FX sensor that was arguably better at all things. The D5 now comes with a 20.8mp FX sensor that’s better at, well, certainly at high ISO performance, video, and a number of other things, but not so much at low ISO capability. I’ll deal with this in the performance section below, but if the D5 had any disappointment when it was introduced, it was that the ISO 100 dynamic range was worse than the D4s it replaced.
The sensor can manage 4K (2160P) video at 30 fps. Video on the D5 is a little tricky: 1080P is full frame, 4K is 1.5x, and there’s an option to shoot 1080P in a 3x crop, as well. As usual these days, Nikon outputs uncompressed 8-bit 4:2:2 on the HDMI port if you want something other than the internal H.264 compression. The H.264 compression has been upped to 48Mbps from 24 at High Quality, which puts the D5 pretty much right at the low end of the broadcast standards.