Our pick: Nikon D5

20MP full-frame CMOS sensor | 12 fps burst shooting | Professional build quality

What we like:

  • High-speed still shooting
  • Excellent AF system has top-notch subject tracking
  • Ultra-tough build and excellent handling
  • Superb battery life

What we don't:

  • Relatively low pixel count
  • Raw dynamic range doesn't match other full-frame Nikon DSLRs
  • 1.5x crop when shooting 4K video
The D5 is Nikon’s current flagship DSLR, with a provenance that goes right back to the 1950s. Despite its lineage, there’s nothing old fashioned about the D5, which features blazingly fast 14 fps continuous shooting and the best phase-detection autofocus system on the market. Optimized for durability, speed and sensitivity rather than pixel count, the D5 is designed to withstand professional use in tough environments, where other cameras wouldn’t be able to cope.
The D5 is among the toughest models on the market and should withstand years of use and abuse. As you’d expect, this equates to a large, heavy camera. A vertical grip is essentially built into the D5’s body, which is covered on almost every surface with large buttons and dials that invite full manual control, even with cold or wet hands. The D5 offers illuminated rear controls for use in low light, and also has touch-sensitive rear screen. Both of these features greatly aid handling in some conditions.
The D5 is optimized for high-speed capture in sub-optimal conditions
Perhaps the main selling point of the D5 is its state-of-the-art autofocus system. The 153-point multi-mode system (including 99 cross-type points) is fast and uncannily accurate and - crucially for a professional camera - it can be fine-tuned via a suite of custom functions for optimal performance across a range of parameters. In 3D AF tracking mode, the AF system works together with a 180k-pixel RGB metering sensor. In this mode the D5 is downright spooky in its accuracy, and offers performance currently unmatched by any other camera on the market when we reviewed it in late 2017.
As far as image quality is concerned, the D5 is optimized for high-speed capture in sub-optimal conditions. As such, JPEGs are crisp and detailed across the span of its native ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 102,400 and a lot of detail can be extracted from Raw files. Where the D5 falls short is Raw dynamic range, offering less than any other current full-frame Nikon camera. Whether this matters to you or not depends entirely on what (and how) you shoot, but the D5 would not be our first choice for high-contrast landscape shooting, for example.
In addition to high-speed stills capture, the D5 offers decent Full HD video, with 4K UHD as an option in a cropped mode.
Overall, the Nikon D5 is a workhorse camera, which delivers excellent images in almost any situation, while not able to offer the resolution or dynamic range of DSLRs lower down Nikon’s lineup.

Studio Test Scene | Specifications Compared

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