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Apparently dreams do come true, because Nikon has unleashed a torrent of high-end gear at CES 2016 with the announcement of the latest flagship D5 DSLR, equipped with a revamped AF system and 4K video, a long-awaited top-of-the-line DX-format D500 DSLR, and a radio-capable SB-5000 AF Speedlight.
Starting with the top dog, the D5 improves upon its predecessor in almost every manner, but most notably with the use of a 20.8MP FX-format CMOS sensor, the EXPEED 5 processor, and a brand new 153-point Multi-CAM 20K phase-detect AF sensor. This combination of factors brings greater detail, enhanced processing, and fast, accurate focusing in nearly all conditions. Also, it adds the ability to record 4K UHD video at up to 30 fps, a huge plus for demanding hybrid shooters. One note about the latest flagship is that there will be two available: an XQD-type that sports dual XQD card slots and a CF-type with dual CF card slots, as opposed to the mixed card slots of the D4S.
This card-based camera selection allows users with an existing CF card workflow to upgrade without worry by choosing the CF-type model, as well as allow users desiring enhanced speed to standardize solely on the newer and faster XQD card type by picking up the XQD-type model. Dual card slots further the professional’s workflow by providing either overflow or backup depending on specific needs.
Image quality improvements are obvious across the board, but one standout feature is a native ISO range of 100 to 102400, which can be expanded from 50 to an outrageous 3280000 when set to Hi5. Also, there is a new noise-reduction system to go along with this ISO range, and the upgraded processing has an added benefit of 25% more shots on each charge, rating at 3780 images with a single battery. The sensor itself has an anti-reflection coating on certain components to further limit ghosting and flare. Accuracy is critical to this system with a new 180,000-pixel RGB sensor for matrix metering, with support for scene recognition, including face detection and user-selected watch areas. Additionally, a Keep White setting was implemented in White Balance to ensure natural colors in the final image.
All of Nikon’s top-level DSLRs have had a penchant for speed, and the D5 is no different, with a 14 fps maximum continuous frame rate with fixed focus and Mirror Lock-Up or 12 fps with full auto exposure and focusing. A larger buffer grants a total of 200 consecutive full-res frames without pause or slowdown to ensure you capture the decisive moment. Adding to this speed is the accuracy and efficiency brought by the Multi-CAM 20K phase-detect AF sensor, which offers 153 AF points, including 99 cross-type and 15 capable of functioning down to f/8. Along with this, it has a dedicated AF processor, something previous models have lacked, and the ability to work within brightness ranges of -4 to +20 EV.
During operation, the AF controls have been enhanced with focus tracking with lock now offering two parameters, subject motion (erratic/steady) and blocked shot response (quick/slow), which will ensure the camera reacts as you need for your specific subject matter. Also, 3D tracking is furthered with face detection and a new Watch Area setting of wide or narrow that will provide users with much more control than previously possible. Another advantage is auto AF fine-tuning, which simplifies a more tedious process of calibrating specific lenses to a camera body by using contrast-detection to automatically lock–in these settings. While phase-detection steals the show here, contrast detection has not been forgotten with a marked 50% improvement over the D4S.
While primarily a stills camera, the D5 marks a huge jump in video quality for Nikon by bringing 4K UHD 3840 x 2160p recording at 30 fps to its DSLR line. This high-resolution format is available using the 1.5x DX-crop setting, which provides a perfect pixel-by-pixel readout of the sensor for maximum sharpness and minimal artifacts. Full HD video is available as well in FX, DX, and a 3x crop configuration that also features a full pixel readout.
The D5 greatly benefits from Nikon’s other video improvements over the past couple of years by featuring clean HDMI output, Flat Picture Control, smooth exposure compensation, zebras, power aperture control, and more, including the ability to save a video still as an 8MP photograph. Stereo audio recording is possible via a built-in mic or the external mic jack and headphones can be plugged in for monitoring. And, time–lapse shooting is again possible with the same basic functionally as its predecessor, but with the added touch of 4K UHD output.
With all of these internal changes, the outside of the D5 has maintained the same form factor as its immediate predecessor, though with some notable upgrades. The headline physical change is a 3.2" LCD touchscreen with dense 2.36m-dot resolution, offering a dense 403 ppi for the utmost in clarity. Touch functions make operation much more intuitive, as well. Other handling additions are an extra front-facing Fn button, bringing the total to two, and a new rear facing Fn button for extra control. The optical viewfinder gets a bump to 0.72x magnification and improved visibility during continuous shooting with a shortened blackout time and reduced blur. The eyepiece adapter is fluorine coated for easy cleaning and is compatible with the optional Rain Cover. A Quick Settings feature allows for adjusting release mode and command dial while looking through the viewfinder.
Connectivity is a huge advantage of the larger D5-style bodies and that has not changed with the company's latest release. This includes an update to SuperSpeed USB 3.0 for the standard connection, as well as a 1000Base-T Ethernet port for transfers at up to 400 Mbps. Along with this, it can have wireless added via the optional WT-6A transmitter, which supports speeds of up to 130 Mbps. And, the D5 is still equipped with a hot shoe, PC terminal, HDMI output, headphone and mic jacks.
Nikon has been keeping DX-format shooters satisfied with consistent updates to the D7000 series, but many were still clamoring for a true D300s replacement. Today is the day their wish comes true with the out-of-nowhere release of the D500 DSLR, which can be purchased as a kit with the 16-80mm lens. Practically a DX-sized D5, the D500 shares many specifications and features with Nikon’s latest and greatest DSLR, including the EXPEED 5 processor, the 153-point Multi-CAM phase-detect AF sensor, and 4K UHD video recording. Where it differs is in the more condensed body design and the use of a 20.9MP DX-format CMOS sensor that omits the optical low-pass filter for maximum resolution.
While not the mind-blowing 3 million ISO of the D5, the D500 has a very respectable expanded ISO range of 50 to 1640000 and a standard range of 100 to 51200. It also takes on the speed specialty with a maximum continuous shooting rate of 10 fps with a buffer of up to 200 shots with lossless compressed RAW. We can also find the 180,000-pixel RGB sensor used for matrix metering and scene recognition, as well as the new Keep White white balance setting.
For video, it sounds very much the same as the D5 with the same exact options for 4K UHD at up to 30 fps and Full HD at up to 60 fps. One notable change is the additional 1.5x crop of the DX-format sensor when shooting 4K, ensuring maximum quality in this mode. Also, Full HD is available with either the full DX sensor or a 1.3x crop. Advanced time–lapse controls are available, as well in both Full HD and 4K UHD.
Handling is improved with a tilting 3.2" 2.36m-dot touchscreen LCD and an optical viewfinder with 100% coverage and a 1.0x magnification. Also, it has added a rear-facing Fn button for further customization during use. As with all its flagship cameras, the D500 is equipped with two card slots, one XQD and one SD, ensuring maximum speed when necessary, as well as overflow storage and backup when needed. A significant difference from the D5 is the built-in connectivity, and the D500 is being billed as the perfect partner for the smartphone era. It incorporates Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC in its body for fast, consistent pairing with Nikon’s snapbridge app on mobile devices.
And, speaking of connectivity, the D5 and D500 are the first DSLRs to be completely compatible with the just introduced radio-enabled SB-5000 AF Speedlight, the new flagship and likely the first in a series of radio-capable flash units. Designed for the demands of professionals, this Speedlight takes the Creative Lighting System with Advanced Wireless Lighting (CLS with AWL) to new dimensions with integrated radio control, in addition to the traditional optical triggering setup. The radio option supports instant non-line-of-sight triggering from up to 98' away. Additionally, it has a dedicated cooling system, a world’s first for a shoe-mounted flash, and enables the triggering of 100 consecutive shots.
This new radio-controlled system allows D500 and D5 users to utilize the WR-A10 Wirless Remote Adapter and WR-T10 Wireless Remote Controller to remotely work with up to six groups of SB-5000 AF Speedlights, all at up to 98' away. It also allows for a combination of optical and radio flashes to be used simultaneously, as long as the camera is equipped with both an optical master and the radio transceiver. This setup is compatible with the Camera Control Pro 2 software, as well, and allows for changes made with the camera, computer, or flash to all be synchronized.
As a standard Speedlight, the SB-5000 AF is at the top of its game with a powerful guide number of 113' at ISO 100 and 35mm zoom position. It also offers full tilt and rotation capabilities and a zoom head for maximum control over light placement. Along with these features, the unit has an Info button for fast access to settings and a smaller footprint than comparable models. And finally, it has a built-in wide-angle diffusion panel, a bounce card, and a plethora of your standard accessories included.