The D5 exists to serve the needs of professional photographers that need the ultimate in performance. Because of its bulk, the D5 has room for a large battery and robust shutter mechanism, both of which are big contributors to just how quickly this camera operates.

The D5 is a camera that will be ready when you are, every time. Processed and cropped to taste from Raw. Photo by Carey Rose. Nikon AF-S 35mm F1.4G | F1.4 | 1/8000 sec | ISO 1oo

General performance

Even after you get it set up to your liking and develop a muscle memory for the controls, it will basically feel like the D5 is waiting for you, the squishy biomass behind the viewfinder, to catch up.

Part of that is the imperceptible shutter lag. Part of it is taking three photos of something when you only wanted one, and had accidentally left the camera on 'Continuous High' (seriously, all the time). Part of it is the almost unbelievably quick write-times of XQD cards. And a big part of it is the incredibly short viewfinder blackout, so that even motoring away at 12fps, you can easily follow your subject in the finder.

Continuous shooting

The D5 will shoot continuously at 12fps with minimal viewfinder blackout, or 14fps with the mirror locked up, and it will do so for quite some time with decent XQD cards. I'm not really a fan of mismatched memory card slots, so I was pleased to see you could get the D5 either with dual-CF or dual-XQD cards. After shooting a dual-XQD D5 for some time, I think I've officially become an XQD convert (though I really wish they had come up with a catchier name for them). Here's how the buffer looks with a Sony G series card in the camera.

Quality Burst rate Buffer depth
14-bit lossless compressed Raw + JPEG 12 fps 95 shots
12-bit lossy compressed Raw + JPEG 12 fps 164 shots
14-bit lossless compressed Raw 12 fps 200-shot limit
Extra fine JPEG

12 fps

200-shot limit

It's worth quickly crunching these numbers and noting that even at the highest of the tested settings, 95 shots is almost eight seconds of continuous shooting. The 200-shot limit imposed by the D5 (though the camera will happily keep shooting, just at a decreased frame rate) takes the better part of 17 seconds. That's a lot of continuous shooting, made all the more impressive by the fact that the D5 will motor away at that speed with full autofocus and autoexposure.

Furthermore, with a 400 MB/s XQD card, we would only wait about a second or two after firing 200 Raws for the camera to finish writing all of them to the card. And could check focus at 100% on any shot immediately after shooting any burst, thanks to the camera writing JPEG previews to the card before the Raws. You'll never find yourself waiting with this camera/card combo.

Is it worth shooting at 14 fps without being able to see what you're shooting? That depends on your needs and how the camera is set up. For a non-scientific shoot of a sub-two-second golf swing, the extra two images I got with the higher speed mode didn't really make much of a difference compared to the inconvenience of not being able to see my subject while shooting. In comparison the Canon 1D-X II in its comparable mode can shoot at 16 fps mode while showing you a succession of last-shot images on its LCD, allowing you to follow your subject and re-frame. We wish the D5 did the same.

We are photographers, not golfers. Shot at 14 fps with the mirror up, this GIF takes longer to watch than Barney's swing actually lasted.

The D5 is also capable of continuous, 100% silent shooting in Live View at up to 30 frames per second for 5s. The catch? You'd better be okay with 5MP JPEGs (and rolling shutter), because that's all the camera will output in this mode.

Battery life

So, with 12fps and essentially unlimited buffer depth depending on your settings, the CIPA rating of 3,780 shots for the D5 should be welcome news. Of course, the very nature of such ratings is that your mileage can and will vary, but if you're careful not to chimp the screen too much, it's easily possible to stretch the battery to over 4,000 shots. Indeed, at this writing, our D5's battery sits at 58% with 3,272 shots on this charge so far. This kind of stamina is, frankly, incredible.