Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Nikon D5 - First Impression

Nikon D500 (gripped) and Nikon D5
I switched from Canon to Nikon for the D500. Getting back to shooting after a 6 year hiatus, I was used to 1DMk3 and 1DMk4 bodies but fooled myself into thinking I didn't need a pro body. I bought a 7DMk2 and used it for a day before returning it. I came across the specs of the D500 and jumped in. The switch was costly, but the D500 was what I had before in a smaller body and much better performance.

I've returned to doing photography full time (I still sell RE on the side), the D750 wasn't fitting my needs. I loved the image quality, but I always went for the D500 because of it's speed, responsiveness, AF, etc... Needing a body with a better match, my choices were a D4 variant or go all in with a D5, Nikon's current flagship pro body. I chose the latter.

I found a great deal on a D5 that was bundled with a Lexar 64 gig 2933x XQD card and a second OEM Nikon EN-EL 18a battery from Kenmore Camera on eBay for the list price of the body alone. I phoned them to verify that the bundled items were indeed OEM, and they confirmed that they were. It was my first time buying an item in this price range off of eBay and I highly recommend Kenmore Camera as an authorized Nikon dealer.

It's been a week, so this really is a first impression. My biggest apprehension was the reports of it's low ISO dynamic range. I research extensively before I make a purchase, so this was a concern. It's the most common complaint on the camera. Digging a little deeper, it seems that most of the negative comments on this come from people who don't own the camera.

I don't try to pull three or four stops of exposure in post. That's user error if one needs to do that. I have pushed it two stops and haven't had any issues with shadow noise. I don't have any worries about it. In fact, that's the consensus of most D5 users. We're out shooting, not looking at charts and making hypothetical situations. This is a real world camera for real world usage. That''s about it for the DR issue.

Mounting a lens for the first time, you know this is different from Nikon's current lineup. It sounds like you're opening a bank safe with the ticking as you twist on lens. The body is robust - some call is heavy, because it's metal body is built to withstand the use (and abuse) that a camera takes when used day in and day out for professional use. This is good.

Customization goes another level beyond the D500, which is already extensive. Taking advantage of Custom Shooting Banks allows the camera to be instantly tailored to your intended usage.

The high ISO performance is all that others have praised. I don't need to add to it. The sensor is different than the D500's (obviously) and I'm still working on my "recipe" for post processing (note: Nikon's Capture NX-D does a surprisingly well job, coming from a PhotoShop user since version 1).

Autofocus? I can't add to what's already been written, but it's all true. This is the most sophisticated AF system on the market. Tailor it to your usage and subject and you'll be amazed at the increase of your keepers.

If you need the benefits and features of a pro body, the D5 is a no-brainer. Upgrading? The AF improvements are reason alone to warrant a purchase. The high ISO performance is icing on the cake. I received the camera on a Thursday afternoon and was shooting with it the next day due to familiarity from the D500.

The big question - D5 or D500? The best answer is both. The extra reach of the D500 makes it a valuable tool in many situations. I use the D500 with the 70-200/2.8E FL with the TC 1.4x III for shooting surfing. If I had to choose one, the D5 does it all. I briefly considered replacing the gripped D500 (~$2400 total) with an older pro Dx body (D3s), but decided against it because of the much improved high ISO and auto focus. This is a great compliment to the D500. A D5 coupled with a D500 is a great combination, with both cameras having a place and time. Add in the 1.4x TC III and you have options that give you a great range. Keep in mind, a D500 with a 1.4 TC  on a 400/2.8 gives you an effective 840mm focal length a f4.0, or on the D5, a 560mm/4.0. My go-to sports set-up is the D5 on the 400/2.8G, and the D500 on the 70-200/2.8 VRII. That gives me a 400/2.8 prime and (an effective) 105-300/2.8 zoom. That's pretty strong. Occasionally I'll put a D50 with my Nikkor 14-24/2.8 on my neck for daytime use, but if I can find a way to pick up a 200/2.0 and keep my D750, then all will be good for any situation.

Update 8/10/17: I've been using two D5 instead of the D5/D500 combo. Contrary to Steve Perry's test, I find the crop ability of the D5 to outweigh the magnification of the D500. An upcoming post on this is coming up.

Nikon has really hit it out of the park with the D5 and D500. They're two very similar, but different cameras that work well with each other, and appeal to a market at very different price points.

It's a great time to shoot Nikon.

D5 400mm/f2.8 ISO 12,800 1/1000th