Canon and Nikon have always had their single digit models at the top level of performance. From the original D1, bringing a professional digital camera to the world that didn’t require a separate backpack for a processor, to the D3, Nikon’s first ever full-frame body, this series of cameras has pushed the envelope of what a camera can do. The Nikon D5 not only pushed the boundary, it has demolished any previous limitation that I have found in a camera.
I don’t believe that better gear makes better images. It certainly helps, but only if you know how to use it properly. I’m certain that any professional photographer could take a better photo on a low-end DLSR than any amateur with the latest and greatest ultra-high resolution full-frame. It comes down to technique. However, there are some situations where certain cameras just can’t perform. Sometimes, there isn’t enough light to find focus, much less produce a clean, noise-free image. The D5, however, can seemingly conquer everything. From the incredible dynamic range (as great as I’ve ever seen from a digital sensor) to stunning clarity up to ISO 51,200, I never found it to not be enough. In fact, it’s capable of far more than most photographers will ever ask of it.
I’m going to keep this short preview of the camera focused on one instance that I used it for. I had the camera for just a weekend, so this is no longterm review, just a glimpse. I decided to really put the low light focus and noise performance to the test with one of the worst lighting situations possible: an EDM show. A couple DJs, some bright spotlights here and there, and an overall very dark club make for an interesting set of circumstances. While there was no motion fast enough to really put the focus speed to the test, the focus accuracy was my big concern in such a dim environment. This turned out to be an unfounded worry, however. Out of a little over 1,000 shots, I only missed focus on 20-30 frames. A lot of those were my fault too: I misplaced the focus point before lifting the camera over my head to take a crowd shot.
Let’s take a look at the low light performance. Because of the changing light, I was shooting at anything from ISO 1600 up to 102400. I left the camera on auto ISO for the night. Here's a shot at ISO 5600:
That’s entirely reasonable quality for journalism, sports, or concert photography. Sure, for fashion or portrait work, it won’t cut it, but why are you shooting portraits at that level of sensitivity to begin with? Here’s another shot at ISO 6400:
The D5 is absolutely incredible. For the photographers that need it, it will absolutely perform. I would venture to say that it’s a game changer for the photo world. Below, I have included more images that I shot at the concert. Most of these images were shot above ISO 12800. The black and white images were processed using the Mastin Labs Ilford film presets, so there is grain added in post. Overall, the camera is certainly capable of shooting in conditions that I never thought possible. The battery life is substantial, the build is world-class, and the speed is unlike any other. If you’re considering the D5, you won’t be disappointed. Pick one up here.