An event photographer’s brief review of the Nikon D5 DSLR camera

An Event Photographer’s Brief Review of the Nikon D5 by Robert Allen (websiteFacebook | Instagram):

This is my first formal review of a camera body. The information in this review is based on using the Nikon D5 for a period of approximately 6 months during 2018.

Brides maids during ceremony. Nikon D5, 70-200mm f/4 lens, ISO 180.

Let me provide a brief background on myself, equipment usage and Pro Image Photography of Idaho. I have positioned Pro Image as the premier event, wedding and portrait photography service in our local area of Boise. Although most of our revenues come from weddings, more and more of our sales are in other sectors of event category. As for my prior equipment usage, I have been shooting digital since 1998, starting out with a Kodak DC210, a one megapixel point and shoot camera! I migrated to Canon for a few years when the Digital Rebel was released in 2003, but since 2005, I have been exclusively a Nikon photographer. My first Nikon was the D70 from which I quickly upgraded to the Nikon D50.

Every type of photography has some aspect(s) that make it challenging. Event photography is no exception. Event photography covers a wide range of activity, from marathon runners to dimly lit formal black-tie corporate events and everything in between. Although weddings can be thought of as a separate genre of photography, they can also be included as part of the event category. As you can imagine, these types of subject matter bring with them a wide variety of lighting and weather conditions, with many of them not particularly optimal for photography. Because of these extreme varying situations, a camera that comes closest to a jack of all trades is the most desirable tool for event photography.

Wedding guest candid. Nikon D5, 105mm f/2.8 macro lens, ISO 1,400.

As of the writing of this article (December of 2018), the Nikon D5 is Nikon’s flagship camera (with a matching flagship price might I add). I won’t list out all of the specs in detail of the D5 since they can be found on about 1,000 other websites.

Corporate event. Nikon D5, 300 f4 PF lens, ISO 1,600.

Based on my experience, these camera attributes are important when shooting event photography:

  • Ability to achieve fast and accurate focus in dim light
  • High ISO performance
  • Adequate frames per second
  • Overall image quality

I will briefly discuss each of these in the following sections.

Live performer at a wedding. Nikon D5, 300 f4 PF lens, ISO 3,200.

The auto focus ability of the D5 has been described as possibly the best in the world of any current DSLR camera. I will say that it’s good but like any other camera, it does have its limits. Yes, I do notice the auto focus is better on the D5 than the Nikon D4s, the D5’s predecessor camera that I also owned. For event photography, I rarely need 3D tracking AF. I mainly use single point center AF for static subjects and continues single point center AF for moving subjects. I did notice 2 things regarding the AF when shooting the Nikon D5:

During a portrait session, if I ask my subject to walk towards me, the camera will keep focusing closer to the subject than I could with the D4s. In other words, the subject can keep moving closer to me during their walk and the AF still works. This allows me to capture more usable frames during portrait sessions.

I also noticed that photos look sharper when taken on the D5 than on the Nikon D4s (despite the higher resolution of 20MP on the D5 vs 16PM on the D4s). I think the reason for this is that the autofocus is more accurate and hence the photos appear sharper.

Dancer at a wedding. Nikon D5, 35mm f/1.8 lens, ISO 12,800

High ISO performance is another area everyone has been talking about regarding the Nikon D5. Is it better than the D4s? I would say yes. There does appear to be lower noise at high ISO settings, but only slightly; I would estimate just short of a full stop difference. The D5 is the first camera where I have set the auto ISO ceiling to 12,800. I have never done that with the Nikon D4s or the D3s, limiting those cameras to a maximum ISO of 6,400 when shooting with auto ISO. With an ISO of 12,800 and fast lenses, I can usually obtain the required shutter speed needed for just about any situation I’m likely to encounter when shooting events. With auto ISO enabled on the D5 at a maximum of 12,800, I basically set it and forget it. The D5 also holds better color at higher ISO settings, reducing magenta and cyan colors present in some high ISO photos when using the Nikon D4s or D3s.

For people who don’t shoot events, having a high frame rate may not seem important at first. However, since sports can be considered part of the event photography genre,

most of us know that a high frame rate can be very beneficial for capturing fast moving subjects. However, there is another less obvious situation where having a fast frames per second (fps) camera is an asset and that’s when shooting people speaking. If you take one photo of a person while giving a speech, chances are you will catch them with their mouth making an awkward expression or their eyes might be closed. Having a high frame rate insures that there should be at least one frame that you can deliver to a client.

Corporate event. Nikon D5, 300 f4 PF lens, ISO 12,800

As for overall image quality, I really like what comes out of the Nikon D5. This may sound silly, but the photos look more mature than what the D4s produced. Let me explain. When I had the D4s, I thought I would never find a camera that produced better looking photos. I really enjoyed the punchy colors that camera produced. However, after shooting with the D5, I can say that the colors look more realistic and less saturated than the D4s, which I now find more desirable. A lot has been said of the D5’s lack of dynamic range when shooting at lower ISO values. I can say that in practical terms, this has not been an issue at all.

Corporate event. Nikon D5, 70-200mm f/4 lens, ISO 12,800.

With 12 frames per second, improved high ISO performance, a large buffer capable of storing 200 RAW images, excellent ergonomics and image quality, I can highly recommend the Nikon D5 for shooting events. Any negatives? Yes, and I suspect a big one for most people: The price!

I hope you found this brief assessment of the D5 informative and, if you are considering buying the Nikon D5, a useful aid in making your purchase decision. Let me know if you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear what you think of this review and if you already own the Nikon D5, what your experience has been using the camera. I can’t wait to see what the Nikon D6 brings to the table!

Here are a few more sample images:

To see more of Robert Allen’s work, visit www.ProImage-Photo.comFacebook and Instagram.

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