Nikon D5 Review – Real-World Video Samples & First Impressions

Update: Nikon just released an important firmware updates that allows to shoot more than 3 minutes in UHD 4K. After the update, the limit is the normal 29 minutes and 59 seconds that we have gotten used to from DSLR and smaller interchangeable lens cameras. Another interesting improvement is the introduction of Electronic vibration reduction (VR). Read more about it here. To download the latest firmware, please click here.

Back in January 2016, Nikon announced the introduction of two new cameras—the professional flagship Nikon D5 and the “advanced Joe” Nikon D500. The first one is currently shipping to selected customers and will soon be available for everyone. As the new Nikon D5 will be competing head to head with the new Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, I was curious to see how well it behaves in the field and how good the video quality is. 

Nikon D5 (1 of 1)-2

Before I continue with this review, here is a bit of nostalgia. I miss my Nikon D90, the first DSLR that could shoot video. Back in the day, it was a lot of fun. Okay, let’s move on.

For years, Nikon was in the shade of Canon when it comes to the video capabilities of DSLR camera. Then, the pulley turned around, and Nikon started emphasizing the video functionality in their cameras by producing almost artifact free (moiré and aliasing), exceptional HD video quality. Now that the trend is moving towards 4K, I’m very pleased to report that Nikon is continuing with their tradition, and the Nikon D5 is no exceptional when it comes to 4k (UHD) video quality.

As always with Nikon cameras, I have to divide my experience between the video quality and camera functionality when shooting video.

The video quality in 4k (UHD) mode is very satisfying. With a data rate of 125 Mbit/s, the H264 video in MOV container is very pleasing to the eyes. There is alway something aesthetically pleasant to Nikon’s video quality. It’s the ergonomics and the operational side that leave this camera with a lot to be desired. In so many cases you need two hands to complete a single task (punching zoom is an example of this). The re-rooting/assigning of buttons is very limited and after pressing the REC button, some essential functionalities like punching zoom to assure correct focusing is not possible. I can only dream that the day will come and Nikon, a company that has no video department to protect, will take their colour science and overall video quality and pack it in a “video operator user-friendly housing”.

The above video was shot simulating a documentary situation work, but I honestly think that the Nikon D5 will do better in a controlled environment. One of the primary reasons is the absence of a proper autofocus function in video mode. It’s sluggish and unreliable. The touch screen will allow you to choose a focus point, but then you need to press the shutter button half way through—and hope that the camera will not hunt for the desired focus point. If you are a single operator like me, I guess that working with a gimbal with this particular camera won’t be possible. While autofocus is not really an option when shooting video with this camera, the LCD screen is very sharp and makes manual focusing a breeze. I attached a Kinotechnik LCDVF to it and never had an issue pinpoint focusing.

Nikon D5 (1 of 1)-3

To succinctly represent my experience, I’ve listed the Pros and Cons I found when working with the camera (in no particular order):

Nikon D5 Pros:

  • Exceptional, sharp, and good looking 4k (UHD) video quality at 125 Mbit/s
  • Very clean high ISO picture. You can comfortably shoot at ISO 6400. Higher then that there is noise but still at a usable video quality
  • Flat picture profile (to my tired eyes that FL picture profile looks a bit strange and not flat at all but when applying an LUT to it, it works)….
  • The Nikon D5 is being sold in two flavours, equipped with either XQD or CF cards slots
  • Almost entirely smooth aperture control of electronic lenses via assigned buttons
  • “Highlights protection” which acts like a Zebra pattern. (function is limited as you can not choose different values)
  • Built in “time-lapse movie” function (not tested)
  • Multiple REC buttons options on the camera body
  • You can assign a button to quickly change between FX (FF), DX (crop) and x3.0 modes
  • Can record 4K (UHD) externally and on the camera card internally simultaneously
  • Good battery life
  • Headphone and Mic sockets
  • Audio levels can be controlled during recording
  • World camera with a large variety of resolutions and frame rates up to 4K/30p

Nikon D5 Cons: 

  • Limited 3 min recording time per clip in 4K (UHD) mode  (Fixed)!
  • Limited 10 stops of dynamic range according to our lab test (a full lab test review is coming soon)
  • Dual card slots but only for photo functions
  • Low bitrate in HD mode (21 Mbit/s)
  • No peaking
  • Limited re-rooting and assigning button functionality
  • 1.5 cropped 4k (UHD) image makes it an APS-C camera for 4K recordings
  • “Thin” audio quality when connecting an external microphone
  • No way to adjust headphones levels after pressing the record button
  • No way to magnify zoom after pressing the REC button
  • The video resolution and frame rate can not be changed in “Lv movie mode”. One needs to set Lv to photo mode in order to do so first and then switch back to video mode
  • Touch screen for assigning focus points but not to drive the lens motor to go there
  • Strong rolling shutter. Equivalent to the Sony a7 family
  • No articulated screen

Nikon D5 (1 of 1)-4

Conclusion:

The Nikon D5 can produce beautiful imagery but is let down by a limited 3 minutes per clip recording time in 4K (UHD), alongside ergonomics and functionality that would frustrate any user who would expect smooth & direct access to some of the camera features. I can only hope that the upcoming Nikon D500 will retain the same video quality of the Nikon D5 with the ability to record longer video clips—at a much more affordable price it has the potential to become a real winner and put the flagship camera to shame.

Nikon D5 (1 of 1)

About the above video: 

Shot in 4K (UHD)/25p mode. Picture profile-FL. ISO setting, from 100 (outdoor) to 1600 (Indoor). The audio in the interview in this video was recorded internally on the camera.  Edited in Adobe Premiere CC and colour corrected with FilmConvert D800 profile.

Music supplied by Art-List. Tracks:  Everyone’s Here by Alon Ohana – The Band Is BackSpark For Love (Instrumental) by Elvis D PreacherLikes by Lady Lane

A special thank you to Karin, Jannah and Daniel for participating in this video. Click here to learn more about their Immerland project

Leave a Comment

You are not subscribed to this post. Follow new comments

Login to comment

 Tommi Kivimäki Reply
Tommi Kivimäki April 7, 2016

I forgot to pixel peep how the Nikon looks. It was such a great story once again. Thanks Johnnie! My first impression is that the image quality is better than with previous Nikons, but I need to re-watch it.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri April 8, 2016

Hi Tommi.

Thank you for taking the time watching the video and commenting.

Johnnie

BOUNCE Reply
BOUNCE April 8, 2016

Great story. Crushed blacks. A bit underwhelming for the price point imo.

 Janne Tompuri Reply
Janne Tompuri April 9, 2016

Thanks for the review and the mini documentary! You are right about the Nikon flat profile being nothing but flat. However, I’ve been testing other profiles such as Flaat, Cineflat and one mimicking Sony Slog (https://m.reddit.com/r/cinematography/comments/3uqfbn/i_tried_and_made_a_flat_profile_for_nikon_to/) with better results in high contrast scenes with Nikon D750. I think you can tease out more dynamic range with these options than with the Nikon flat profile.

 Dmitri Tsitelauri Reply
Dmitri Tsitelauri April 9, 2016

I watched the entire video and totally forgot that I was suppose to evaluate the footage… All the elements of good story telling are present so it sucked me right in. Great job Johnnie!

 Demetris Diakoumopoulos Reply
Demetris Diakoumopoulos April 10, 2016

Excellent filmmaking as always. Not particularly impressed by the camera though, kind of high contrast and reddish images but this is probably the color correction. I have to watch again more carefully because on first look I’m always taken by the story. Thank you Johnnie.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri April 11, 2016

Guys, thank you all for taking the time watching the video and commenting.

Let’s see how the D500 will do…

Thank you.

Johnnie

Reply
Emil H April 12, 2016

Quick question: when you say there’s a limit of 3 min per clip in uhd, do you mean that it continues to film for x amount of time then splits the whole footage in 3 min clips or that the max recording time is 3 min and then you have to repress the rec button to continue recording ? Thanks

Reply
Johnnie Behiri April 12, 2016

Hi Emil

Recording time is 3 min and then you have to repress the REC button to continue recording.

Thanks!

Johnnie

Reply
Kepano Kekuewa April 12, 2016

As usual, I, too, got lost in the story and forgot to look at the footage critically. That said, I think we are really at a point of video sufficiency today from all the major manufacturers, at least so far as the casual viewer is concerned. Looks like the D5 (especially with a recorder) would be good enough for most video destined for the web. Unfortunately, the market is pretty saturated with cheaper, more competitive options.

I also had a D90 – the promise of HD video on a big sensor with SLR glass was huge. Itʻs too bad Nikon hasnʻt pursued the video market more aggressively. I continue to use Nikon DSLRs for stills photography, but Panasonic and Sony have won my video dollars. Itʻs been six years since I purchased my last Nikon body (D3s) which does decent looking 720p – but then I bought a GH2 and never looked back.

I still have a stable of Nikon glass, so Iʻd be the first to line up for a great video camera from Nikon. Unfortunately, the D5 is the wrong set of trade-offs for me.