The Nikon D5 made quite the impression when it was announced, with chief upgrades over the previous D4S being a new 20.8MP FX-format sensor, 4K video and a 153-point AF system that contains an impressive 99 cross-type points.
The latter feature was one of the main surprises, and it’s particularly welcome to find that it performs to a standard very much befitting a camera of the D5’s class. Together with a super-responsive shutter, images can be focused on and captured rapidly - but it’s when tasked with moving subjects where it really shines.
The system does an impressive job of quickly identifying and adhering moving subjects, even fastmoving ones that don’t occupy too much of the frame. Even when set to its maximum 12fps burst mode, focusing between frames is maintained and many bursts show an excellent hit rate. You can also notch this up to 14fps with the mirror locked up, but without AF. The camera’s grip feels slimmer in the hand than the EOS-1D X II’s, and some with larger hands may find this lacking. Still, there’s practically nothing of any significance to fault about its build quality. Furthermore, the manner in which controls are arranged does make certain tasks easier than on its rival; buttons are clearly marked and have good travel, although the small size and unyielding nature of the multi-selector pad on the back may irk some.
The LCD is bright and very clear, and a side-by-side comparison with the EOS-1D X Mark II shows its touch functionality to be a little more sensitive. The viewfinder is big and bright, and its exposure information cleverly adapts in brightness as the scene changes.
The camera’s mammoth ISO range, from settings equivalent to ISO 50-3,280,000, is perhaps the other most-discussed feature of the D5’s feature set. Sadly, while performance is strong in the commonly used range - and just slightly better than the EOS-1D X Mark II’s - results at the highest few settings show Nikon hasn’t found a magic formula to make these usable. Still, there’s plenty to enjoy about image quality elsewhere. The camera’s metering system, while generally fine, leans a little towards underexposure, although this does keep highlights in check. In comparison with the brighter files from the Canon, this approach also shows colours to remain a little bolder. Also impressive is white balance, with just a handful of scenes showing minor shifts between images taken in quick succession.
Video quality is excellent, with crisp details and with plenty of control over recording. The sensitive touchscreen makes focus-point selection easy, while the large, virtual, touch-sensitive play button that appears on the screen when reviewing videos makes initiating playback easy. The camera smoothly transitions when adjusting exposure while recording, although without a system equivalent to Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF, focus changes while recording are a little less fl uid by comparison.