Nikon D5 Review and Settings

The complete Nikon D5 hands on Review. Some recommendations and camera settings to make your D5 a better camera, For amateur and professional photographers. Switch from Nikon D610 to the D5 passing trough D750 and D810

With all my pleasure and passion, my dear friends and collages, I leave here this mighty review about the powerful and amazing machine called

Nikon D5

After a few years owning this wonder, with honesty I can tell you that I’m very familiar with this body and I have accurate information to share with you, as well as my point of view about it. Let's analyze who this camera is for and who the ideal users are.

This review is intended to help different types of users

—Those who do not have this camera, but are curious to know why it worths spending a lot of money on it. Because, lets face it, it’s not cheap at all. Those who doesn’t have this camera and probably will not buying it (because of the price), but wants “to keep” some useful tips in mind and maybe apply the same to another personal Nikon camera. Those who are thinking it could be their next camera deserved :-) And last but not least, people who already have it and want to take advantage of the configuration, to get more out of the potential of this great camera.

Here we go, let us begin!

In order, the full-frame DSLR cameras that I have had throughout my career are: the immortal Nikon D700, D610 and D810. Between them I’ve own in the past a Nikon D750 but it didn’t last as far as I was thinking because I never felt good with that camera in my hands.

The D750 was not for me for many reasons, but more than anything because it was not a professional camera such as the D810... It is very small and the ergonomics doesn’t work very well with big hands; It’s more plastic than other full frame bodies; the shutter speed does not go higher than 1/4000; the ISO starts at 100 (I really love the D810 starting at 64 ISO); some important buttons are missing for a better setup; there are still some green AUTO settings that are ridiculous, such as Sport or Portrait mode (even if a professional is not supposed to use this stuffs); it’s a noisy camera; the upside display is small and important information is missing; and finally the Custom Bank shooting items are just two and not four (as the D810).

That’s why I bought the D810, and once I had it I thought it was the best camera I had ever had. And it was true, until I found the Nikon D5

But, why did I spend the price of two bodies D810 to get a new camera, when I was so happy with the D810? This is a key point of this article, let me explain it more thoroughly... My style, as an honest visual narrator, is based on the ethics of photojournalism, storytelling where many things happen quickly. A ninja photographer must always be focused to take "THE" photo and freeze the moment, there is no excuse, we can not waste time.

A photographer should always be ready because a fraction of a second can make a big difference in terms of composition and decisive moment

Many will say that it's too much. But, when you’re picky and perfectionist about to get precise moments, to move yourself quickly, and most important to react quickly, you don’t have other solution than working with a camera (a tool) that doesn’t stop you... It needs to have at least the same speed than you, or more... But never less.

That’s why in a world populated by thousands of choices, you should chose what you need to fit your needs, and if possible the budget. Because we always dream for a better camera, right? But do we really need an upgrade? Do you already know what exactly you need from a camera? I do know it absolutely, there is a lot of communication between me and my camera LOL, we don’t talk but we sure understand each other perfectly.

There came a time when the D810 was stopping me to do more

So I was asking for more from a camera, and there was a good reason... When you bring your own vision and framework to the scene, everything is happening quickly (it's live and you can not waste time). Having a camera that is like an extension of my arm and an effective tool that helps me instead of stopping me, I suppose it's mandatory.

In an ideal world, my camera should be fast like my thoughts LOL. That’s why I need the fastest tool in the market, to achieve that speed and performance that will help me to catch what I want, in the way I want and most important, when I want. I want to be fast, it’s my job, it’s my approach. I need a monster camera.

What is it about the D5 that deserves to replace the powerful D810?

I can not say that everything is better LOL, obviously not, the D810 is still an amazing camera and I still use it often, but there are several reasons that helped me take the big step, plus some things that I discovered throughout my journey and the use that I have given to it. All those reasons not only confirmed my good choice at the time, but make me happier day after day.


The ISO performance is without doubt amazing and better than other DSLR tested before, where at 6400 ISO I was suffering because the relevant noise. WIth the D5 this is not a problem up to 25,600 ISO with not so good light conditions, and up to 12,800 ISO with better conditions. Considering the small 20.8 megapixels size, which is consistently less than the 36 megapixels of the D810, this give us a better performance.

Another great advantage is that I can work more with the available light without using flash or led

I like it more. It is more cinematographic and always respect ethically and technically the environment, the context and the mood of the surroundings in general, without trying to paint the place with light (especially if it is dark)... Sounds good, let's work with the original and real darkness :) This is mandatory for me with my documentary approach, respect the light and work with what you have. Love it!


The autofocus of the camera is impressive, it’s very rare that some shots are out of focus images, and it happens sometimes but it’s my fault and not because the camera didn’t success. We don’t need any kind of assistance light (this camera doesn’t have it) because we can always focus on what we want.

Practically you don’t have limitations (except very extreme cases) and the photos are in focus, oh yeah! :-) It’s all about the right setup and technique. There are some great AF modes to explore, but we’ll talk later about it.


I do not know if it happened to you in the past, but imagine yourself in a great prolific situation, moments when you have to shoot a lot, and suddenly the camera freezes. OMG! Something happens in front of you and you can not shoot because the camera's buffer is still processing the last pictures you took... It happened to me in the past and it was very bad.

Comparing numbers: with a D750 you can successfully shoot up to 57 jpegs in large format, but with the D5 up to 200 photos of raw at 14 bits, wow it’s a huge difference. And this is just the camera buffering, if on the top of this you use fast compact flash cards (because I don’t like XQD), the sky is the limit.

It’s a relief to know that your camera will almost never stop to shoot, it gets tired first your finger than the shutter :)


To be honest, I was tired of SD cards. I have always preferred and chosen compact cards because they are more reliable and larger. I feel more confident shooting with two large CF cards, than with an SD. And the XQD? I do not shoot sport, so I do not need them. With the performance of Buffering and the correct CF, in the way I shoot, I do not need more.


For people like me, who love to always read the manual and have the best advantage and the best possible performance of each device, the Nikon D5 always makes me happier :-)

The body has an incredible way to configure all the buttons

I changed many things and my D5 is very different from one with the factory default settings. This important flexibility for the configurations that I love, along with a fast and accurate AF, plus the excellent high ISO performance, plus buffering, makes me faster than with any other camera. All this for the main purpose: to have a camera that understands you and never abandons you.


It lasts for a whole wedding, in fact I've never completely finished a battery. The picture taken does not play automatically on my screen, I disable the function so that the battery can last longer and I do not need to look at the screen frequently; so I take up to 5,900 photos with a single battery, leaving a symbolic charge of 6%. Depending on how long or how far away your home may be from your event, if you bring two fully charged batteries (even for more than one day's coverage), you probably will not need a charger. This freedom to put large cards with great capacity and use only one battery, don't you think it's useful? Focus more on the story and less on the worry of changing the battery.

Speed and reaction:

The time that this camera takes to react to a command is one of the fastest out there, and it’s proved. Amazing. Remember, these fractions of a second can make the difference.


This camera is a tank. No matter if there is dust, rain, blows or demanding conditions, the camera is still working 100% without a doubt. With a D810 I would not be so happy to work in the rain, but with the D5 there is no problem!

Do you understand why I bought the beast?... I’m so happy :-)

—Now let me share with you some setups to optimize the D5 at its maximum power!

Some setups apply only for the Nikon D5, some are compatible with other Nikon cameras. I hope you find it useful...

NEF recording:

I shoot in raw at 14bits lossless compressed. Considering the small megapixels size (only 20.8) we can take as much advantage as possible of the quality of the raw but still having a great 20-30Mb file. With a 128gb card, I can shoot up to 5,000 photos with an average Raw of 26Mb. Great! 5,500 pixels at the longest side is the perfect size, don’t need more for what I do.

Monitor Brightness:

For the Playback Menu (to see photos taken) is set at -1, while for Live View (you know what is this, right?) is set at +1 ... I noticed that with its large 2,359,000 display points, with this configuration,

the D5 shows me a more truthful image in low light conditions towards the screen

For example, when are working on an outdoors scene without shade, and you try to see on the screen what you’ve produced, it is kind of complicated to be objective with the result you are seeing on the screen itself, due to the brightness. Right!? I used to teach my eyes to understand the highlights, to have a more adequate idea of exposure. At that time I had to paid more attention to the highlights. But I set the 'Picture control' menu, so now my RAW are very neutral, no contrast, clarity or extra sharpening; this way it is easier to understand the exposure, in my humble opinion.


I highly recommend to update the firmware (if you didn’t before) to the version C1.20

At the moment that I’m writing this review I still have the C1.20 But, for a better performance I recommend that your camera is always updated (new updates may follow this post). But the difference between C1.10 firmware and C1.20 are so many.

It’s an obligatory update for your camera :-)

Not only the camera is faster but there are some new features. Between them, two brand new type of focus: AF (HL) and AF (VL) ... Thanks to them, now you can focus using only vertical or horizontal points of the line or column you chose; very helpful for some special occasions.

Here the direct link to download it from Nikon's website:

+ D5 firmware

Face detection:

In 'custom settings' menu, there is a function (Configuration A4) for faces detection when using the 3D autofocus tracking ... Turn it ON, it works very well.

ISO steps:

This is something very personal and it works side by side with your way to expose quickly, something that I use to share in my DiLusso-Workshops. Many photographers are usually concerned to have the perfect exposure, not a good one, the perfect one. But they they may be loosing a few seconds while trying to find the right setup for speed, aperture and ISO... and loosing the moment, most than anything!

My ISO is set to increase by 1/1 step instead of 1/2 or 1/3. This gives me more freedom and speed to compose

Instead of using a specific ISO, I don’t care, it has not to be perfect but very close :-) Nowadays -at the end of the 2018-, if your photo has not the perfect exposure is not a big deal, we can always compensate it in post production and no one is noticing it, either you. I don’t care to underexpose by 1.5 stop by accident, I can resolve this small issue later. But at least, I have less settings to think about and be very focus on the story. Can you see my point here?

Continuous shooting speed:

Continuous shooting low speed is set for five frames per second (5FPS); and my camera is permanently set for this. When I need a single shot “S” (as 95% of the time) I just press the shutter and release quickly the finger. But If I need more, I have already the ability to shoot 5FPS, without to change nothing. Then I decide to limit the AF modes and the combinations at the minimum (using the Quick release dial on the top left of the camera); having only “L” and “H” continuous shooting and self timer, only three elements. Regarding the Mirror Up and Quiet shutter, no please, don’t need that!

It allows me to work with only a few options to decide the shooting mode, instead of having the entire list

Release button trick:

To be even faster than usual during setting changing and have your fingers rested (I mean, more ergonomics and less osteoarthritis LOL), I suggest for you this:

configuration F6 in the Nikon Menu allows you to change settings by releasing the button

That means that you can click in the ISO button once, then release to rest your finger and change with another finger the preferred ISO ... soft and smooth, ideal for me! I’m faster to shoot if I have less problems, less buttons to press, less things to worry about. A complete setup of your camera is absolutely important, trust me!

Information display:

My information display, I choose to keep it in manual and light on dark. I guess it’s easier to understand the display numbers with a quick look, rather than the opposite setting.

Better use in case of high contrast outdoor scenes

Limit AF modes:

During all my career and experience in photography, I've most used the AF-S rather then AF-C who was great only for a few conditions: Besides that many colleagues prefer the AF-C, more reliable and highly recommended (they say), I’ve always been happy with my workflow and the AF-S. But once I bought the D5, I had in my hands one of the top camera leader in the industry for many things, between these the Autofocus, so I decided to “force” me to use more the AF-C technique and see why could be competitive with an AF-S. Now, in a regular event I shoot approximately 70% using the AF-S, when the conditions are ”normal”, but

when the subject is moving a little (or a lot!) or the conditions are very difficult to focus, there is when I switch to the AF-C

in particular the AF-C 3D and the AF-C with 72 points. They have not failed me so far; except a few rare cases of extreme strong backlights, where maybe some photos was out of focus... Therefore, if you have not yet tried these two spectacular features, you should try them!

Nikon DSLR D5 hands on review reseña settings configuración

The one and only setup:

And for the grand finale... To have an extension of your arm and a super responsive tool, here I entrust you the important task of setting the mighty:

Configuration F1 I think is the key of proper and useful settings

But, guess what! This time I won’t be sharing mine... WTF Dennis? If you’re so generous and share a lot of content, why not this?... Because this is the soul of the overall setup of the camera!

To set it up perfectly according to your needs and workflow; and for that, you need a plan, a strategy, an idea of what you want to achieve in any situation. I don’t want to tell you (with one setup) what is in my mind prior to click on the shutter; this is so personal and unique... So, where is your uniqueness in your photos? —Do you still want mine!?... mmm, What about if I just tell you that you can focus by pressing no shutter button or AF-ON back button? or, What about to switch four complete different camera setups in a fraction of a second? Again, this is so personal and you must find your core, your vision and soul; it’s an intimate matter, but more important is unique, it’s you. So the right setup becomes helpful, but watch out folks it can turns weird as well... A badass setting or a very dangerous one, LOL

It's so valuable that it could change the way you shoot from this moment on, I did!

There are five buttons (Pv - Fn1 - Fn2 - Fn3 - Video recording buttons), with eighteen possible options; many of them with several submenu options as well, oh yeah! Maybe it sounds a little complicated, and yes it is, but once you studied all the combinations to find which ones could be the right ones for you and you found it out, you should use all this information and skills to add it to your own unique and personal vision to shoot, to focus or just to be fast on changing ... I will also share with you that I use the Pv button for the feature “My Menu”, to access quickly at the things I usually change.

You can really make some great magic, you get that, right?

—landscapes of the mind.
—landscapes of the mind.
—landscapes of the mind.

So, coming to the end of this review about the Nikon D5... Dennis, do you recommend buying this camera? —Uff! I want to be honest with you guys, let’s analyze different scenarios:

If you are an amateur that doesn’t use the camera as a Pro:

—And you have budget, buy the D5. Because it’s a complex camera, yes, not just a tank. Also because there are many buttons and settings to deal with and take full advantage of the camera. —And you are shooting in Program and AF-AUTO, please forget about this camera! LOL... You need to read the manual and use some great tricks to make it like a responsive extension of your arm. But, If you don’t like the idea, you can stick with a D610, D750 or D810 as top choice.

If you are a Pro that already has any other full-frame Nikon camera:

And you like to work hard starting from a deep overall configuration, and use it at 100% of its capacity, and you have some extra moment to spend: It could be the perfect camera for you!But if you think that you don’t need a deep configuration for your photos, or your shooting approach is rather than documentary more editorial and posed (so you have more time to spend to shoot a photograph); Then the D810 or D850 would be a perfect camera for you!

If you are a Pro that already have a Nikon D850:

—Mmmmm, interesting question! Here, everything is on you my friend! haha... It’s a difficult case and I’m not sure I can help you on this decision (so much responsibility!), you’re in a very hard situation!... The D5 and the D850 are two types of cameras completely different but with just a few similar features;but you can always consider this: If you want to use at 100% the performance of the D5 (thanks to the one and only mighty setup); And/or you shoot in severe or extreme conditions; And/or you need the fastest camera in the market; And/or don’t need either 46 or 24 megapixels (because 20.8 is enough); And/or you don’t like the XQD cards; And/or you have big hands ... Then,

you upgrading to the D5 makes total sense!

—You know what I mean?

At the end, and considering the D5 price, you can invest in one D850 and some lenses, for the same price. I've tested occasionally the D850, and at the moment I would not change the D5 for nothing. The day my back up body D810 will die, I will probably purchase a brand new D850, but let’s see.

I really hope this post helps you to understand more about this camera. Just remember, "with great power comes great responsibility" (from the mighty Spider man scene, thanks Uncle Ben for that); If you get a D5 you have to treat it well, it’s not a camera for everyone. That's for sure.

If you have speed up questions: send them over and I’ll try to find a time to answer to your doubts. If it’s a big detailed question or you just have many of them hahaha, remember that you can contact me for mentoring sessions, portfolio reviews, custom tutorials or whatever you think I can help with (based on availability).

Here my mail for friendly talk: [email protected]

Also be sure to keep in touch and subscribe to the newsletter at the bottom. You will receive an email several times during the year, through which I will share with you new content and stories on my website

Thank you so much for being here :) Good vibes!

Di Lusso

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