Nikon D5 Review – Is It Worth It?

Nikon D5 Review - Is it Worth It (1 of 1)

I recently rented the Nikon D5 from LensProtoGo to spend a few days with the camera for two different photo shoots I had scheduled.  It was fun to really put it to the test and see how the camera performs.  Now, of course at a $6,500 price tag – we’d assume its performance would be spectacular so the real question I was wanted to answer was – who really “needs” a $6,500 camera and how does it’s performance compare to the next level down – $2,000- $3,000 full frame camera line up?

A quick run through of some of the standout specs:

  • 20.8MP FX-Format CMOS Sensor
  • EXPEED 5 Image Processor
  • 3.2″ 2.36m-Dot Touchscreen LCD Monitor
  • 4K UHD Video Recording at 30 fps
  • Multi-CAM 20K 153-Point AF System
  • Native ISO 102,400, Extend to ISO 3,280,000
  • 12 fps Shooting for 200 Shots with AE/AF
  • 180k-Pixel RGB Sensor and Group Area AF

Now lets hop into my review of this camera…

Disclaimer: if you want super “techie” reviews with graphs and statistics about how the camera performed, this is NOT the review for you.  This is a very big picture, real world, camera review based on my actual experience using the camera.

Overall Feel

When taking the camera out of the box it shipped in from LensProtogo right away you can see and feel the bulk of this camera.

Is it rugged? Oh yes.
Is it heavy? Oh yes.

Nikon D5 Photo

It didn’t feel bad in my hands, it was plenty comfortable and form fitting, it was just heavy and that was with a 50mm Sigma 1.4 Art prime lens – I couldn’t image having my Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 attached to it!

Why so heavy?  Well it’s because it has the built in battery grip to make it easy to shoot both in landscape and portrait orientation.

I am sure both in studio portrait photographers and sports photographers will love the feel of this camera with that built in battery grip, as would wedding photographers, however, us wedding photographers usually are trying to lighten the gear not add weight.

Autofocus Performance

I was really impressed with how snappy the auto-focus was and also how accurate it was.  I’ve never had issues with my D800 auto-focus so expected to have at least the same performance but the Nikon D5 was actually much faster with my timed focus tests.

Nikon D5 Review - Portraits (1 of 1)
(Weston Boucher photo-shoot from Weston Boucher Fit)

Definitely a solid improvement with Nikon’s newly designed 153-point AF system.

I will say though, the 153 points aren’t very functional or useful.  I was hoping for significantly more coverage with AF points through the viewfinder as I actually prefer manually moving the AF point within the frame and coverage to the outside edges would have been a very nice change – but no, the end to end coverage within the viewfinder left much to be desired.

Low-Light / High ISO Performance

As a wedding photographer, this is the #1 area that I am most interested in when considering camera upgrades.  The Nikon D5 can shoot up to a boosted ISO range of 3,280,000!  Pretty darn crazy right?

Well, it was.

As expected – the photos taken at that ISO are garbage.  It’s so bad that Nikon should be embarrassed to even use that spec as a marketing gimmick, because it really is just that.

Note – for a detailed high ISO performance image gallery, look at the bottom of this post.

Now, while the extreme edge if the ISO range was garbage, the overall high ISO performance was amazing.

Nikon D5 Review - ISO 2000 (2 of 2)
(Tan Your Tush – Rounder Towels/Blankets Photo-shoot, photo above at ISO 2000!)

In fact, even shooting up to native ISO range of ISO 102,400 gave very decent images with nowhere near the amount of grain as you’d expect at that ISO level.  I was very impressed and can see where that could really come in handy in certain unique situations like very dimly lit wedding church ceremonies and receptions or even indoor sporting events or concerts.

Here’s a photo below at 102,400 with noise reduction added in Lightroom – not bad aye?!

Nikon D5 Review - ISO 102400 with noise reduction (1 of 1)

Dynamic Range

One noticeable difference from when I upgraded from my D700 to a D800 was the significantly better dynamic range with the RAW files in terms of how much tonality can be captured within an email and even how much “recovery” is possible when editing in Lightroom.

While I don’t have any graphs or tech data to prove or disprove my statements, I can tell you that it appears the Nikon D5 wins another category here as I was able to capture so much tonality in images and even recover both shadow and highlight detail without the image turning to a noisy mess!

Dynamic Range

Bonus Features

A couple of the features that are worthy of mentioning are the 4K resolution for recording videos and also the touch screen LCD.  The touch screen likely wouldn’t get much use from me, but is pretty fun to play with (but I’d never buy a $6,500 camera so I can swipe on the back of the screen).  The 4K resolution on video recording would get lots of use though and is a very awesome feature!

Nikon D5 Review - Beach Shoot
(Tan Your Tush – Rounder Towels/Blankets Photo-shoot, photo above at ISO 100 with Costa Haze preset applied)

Want to try the camera (or ANY camera or lens) for yourself?  I recommend renting from LensProtoGo!  You can use the promo code COLECLASS to save 10% off your order 🙂

Is the Nikon D5 Worth It?

As much of an amazing camera as the Nikon D5 is, I really don’t see it being better “enough” to warrant the $6,500 price tag for about 95% of the photographers out there.  Truth is, there are a lot of amazing cameras out there at the moment at really good prices relative to how great they perform.  In the Nikon line-up I’d look at the D500 & D750 – both under $2,000 and amazing cameras. Heck, the D500 even shares some of the same components as the D5 for less than 1/3rd of the price.

Nikon D5 Review - ISO 2000 (1 of 2)

Who is the D5 for?  If budget is no concern at all and you just want the best of the best (and weight isn’t an issue) than get the Nikon D5.  Otherwise – the super high ISO range will be overkill and not ever really needed just about all of the time you’re shooting with it – so save your money and buy some extra lenses!

High ISO Performance Image Gallery

All the images below are unedited with no noise reduction applied at all.

ISO 6400:
Nikon D5 Review - ISO 6400 (1 of 1)

ISO 25,600
Nikon D5 Review - ISO 25600 (1 of 1)

ISO 102,400
Nikon D5 Review - ISO 102400 (1 of 1)

ISO 204,800
Nikon D5 Review - ISO 204800 (1 of 1)

ISO 409,600
Nikon D5 Review - ISO 409600 (1 of 1)

ISO 819,200
Nikon D5 Review - ISO 819200 (1 of 1)

ISO 3,276,800
Nikon D5 Review - ISO 3276800 (1 of 1)