Sunday, January 31, 2016

NEW! Nikon D5, D500 and SB-5000...

Not only has Nikon announced the D5, the successor to the D4S, but like a rabbit out of a hat, they also announced the D500! The D500 is finally (finally!) the long-awaited-and-almost-given-up-on successor to the aging D300S. The D500 was truly a big surprise since in this case, it seems Nikon kept an amazingly tight lid on things. There were no credible leaks that I ever noticed in any case. Nikon has also announced a successor to the SB-910 too, which also seems to kickstart a new flash model number sequence with the brand new Speedlight SB-5000. Its breakthrough feature is moving from optical to radio TTL for Nikon's Creative Lighting System (CLS). But first, let's start with the new bodies...

Nikon D5 ($8,499)

The Nikon D5 sports an all-new 20.8MP full-frame CMOS sensor with seriously enhanced high ISO capability. Even the D4S featured ISOs well up into the nosebleed territory but if you buy a D5, you may just need to include an oxygen mask with your purchase. How does a stratospheric maximum ISO of 3,280,000 sound? Yep… count the zeros, that's over 3 million ISO! Even the base ISO goes up to a whopping 102,400 now, so for low-light shooters, the D5 might just be the absolute king of the hill. Now, how useable these crazy high ISOs are, running into the millions... that I am not sure of yet? For sure the JPEG engine has seen some superb enhancements, but how will the raw files fare if run through non-Nikon raw converters like Lightroom or Capture One? Even so, one can be fairly certain that the D5 will be an improvement over the D4S regardless, and the D4S was certainly no slouch when it came to high ISO…

More big numbers: the D5 also features an all new AF system with 153 focus points working down to -4 EV, and 99 of them are cross sensors! Viewfinder AF frame coverage is also up from the D4S. How about Ultra-High-Definition (UHD) 4K video now? Yes that's there! The D5 will be available in both a dual-CF slot version and a dual-XQD slot version, and the XQD version will be capable of buffering 200 raws! The CF version will offer a smaller buffer, but it'll still be capable of somewhere around 80 shots continuously. How about full focus tracking at 12 fps and up to 14 fps in MF mode? Yes indeed, the big numbers continue. Even with all those performance bumps, you'll see 25% better battery life than the D4S, despite using the same battery. Rounding out the big numbers, is a super high-resolution rear LCD display, boasting a whopping 403 ppi (even beyond the iPhone's Retina screen), with touchscreen capabilities for playback and text entry too! All of this new technology doesn't come cheap unfortunately, especially with the current weak CDN dollar.

I had the opportunity to briefly handle a D5 at a Nikon NPS launch event and as far as how it handled, there were no big surprises. The camera is built like a tank and feels absolutely rock solid, just like its predecessor. Apart from just being big and heavy, the ergonomics seemed great with excellent feeling buttons, a well formed hand grip and the touch screen was a surprising bonus, making some tasks a whole lot more convenient. The Continuous High setting rattled off an astonishing number of shots very, very quickly, and it kept going, and going, and going... that fast XQD slot definitely makes a different it seems. There isn't really a lot else I can say at this point, since a few minutes with the camera in a not very well lit room didn't allow me much in the way of testing.

Nikon D500 ($2,699)

Just like when the 12MP D3 was announced, along with its very capable APS-C little brother, the DX-crop 12MP D300, Nikon has decided to revisit the pairing, now offering a DX 20.9MP D500 to go along with the full-frame D5. The D500 also sports some impressively big numbers, with a DX sensor that goes up to a very impressive boosted ISO of 1,640,000 and a base maximum ISO of 51,200. It is capable of 10 fps continuous shooting, boasts dual slots, one being a UHS-II SD card slot and the other a very fast XQD slot. The D500 also boasts the same all-new AF system as the D5, but with its smaller DX sensor, the focus points are essentially going right to the very edges of the frame. UHD 4K video is included as well but it actually is even more impressive on the D500, since it can run for 29 minutes whereas the D5 is limited to 3 minutes for an as-yet undetermined reason. The D500 also one-ups the D5 by not only offering a touch-screen LCD but one that also tilts!

The buffer is also just as impressive as the D5, allowing you to shoot 200 lossless compressed, 14-bit raws before the camera slows. However, one thing I haven't been able to find out is if that 200 shot buffer is only with the fastest XDQ cards, or if using the fastest SD cards would still give you that number? Here is a photo of the D500's dual card slots...

One feature that both the D5 and D500 share is a new 180,000 pixel RGB 3D Matrix Metering sensor. With a resolution that high, it is now even more effective than the D4S was at assisting the AF system when locking onto subjects with good colour contrast, since the D4S had a lower resolution RGB sensor with only 91,000 pixels.

The last D500 headline feature, one that the D5 doesn't have either, is WiFi with Bluetooth and NFC. I haven't tested it yet, but that combination should allow for much easier mobile device pairing and more importantly, re-pairing for future repeat connectivity. I am guessing this may work in a way similar to Apple's AirDrop, with respect to using a near-field Bluetooth connection in conjunction with WiFi, allowing for much more streamlined and less fiddly connectivity. On virtually every WiFi enabled camera I have ever used, setting up repeat WiFi connections was always fairly tedious, but the D500 promises to make that a thing of the past.

I also only spent a few minutes playing with the D500 and it is certainly a lot lighter and more comfortable in my hands (mainly due to its lower mass) than the bigger D5. One thing that puzzles me a bit about both of these new bodies, is why Nikon got rid of the AE-L button and now only has an AF-ON button as a right thumb operated button? Of course there is an extra Fn button at the front of the camera that can be programmed to perform AE-L, but it's not like there wasn't enough real-estate on the back to put one there, and I found the stretch to get to the front button slightly more uncomfortable too. That said, I myself almost never used that rear AE-L button on my D800, preferring to program the shutter release button to lock exposure with a half-press, so maybe not many others use a dedicated AE-L button much? Not something that one won't get used to, but it just seemed a strange design decision...

Otherwise, the D500 was a joy to use with even nicer ergonomics due to its slightly smaller size and , as mentioned, much lower weight. It also felt a easier to reach the new AF joystick, since it is a bit closer to where your thumb naturally rests. The VF was excellent and the entire camera felt extremely responsive and fast, just like its (much) bigger brother. Having a dedicated ISO button right near the shutter release is also a nice touch on both cameras, since ISO is a setting that one changes a lot these days, unlike the days of shooting film. Having the button there, means easy ISO changes without moving ones eye from the VF. For those who have been long awaiting a D300S replacement, I'm sure this new D500 will impress, and when it finally ships in late March, will have been worth the wait. This camera is a truly massive upgrade from the ancient... well okay, the 2009-vintage D300S!

Nikon SB-5000 Flash ($769)

I spent even less time with the SB-5000 at the Nikon NPS event since, well, I'm not much of a flash shooter, usually preferring to use available light. That said, for anyone who does use flash, especially off-camera TTL flash, the new SB-5000 is bound to be on their wish list. With an optional wireless controller kit ($235), you be able to radio control multiple off-camera SB-5000 flashes at up to 30 meters distance, regardless of sunlight or walls getting in the way, as they often might when using Nikon's current optical TTL system. However, the beauty of the new SB-5000 is that one can get it to play nice with your older, TTL optically controlled flashes too! It is quite possible to set up a complicated shot using a combination of SB-5000, SB-910 and SB-700 flashes for example, all working in TTL mode. Of course you would need to ensure that the older, optically triggered flashes be line-of-sight, but then you would have more freedom to position the SB-5000 flashes in sunlight, around corners etc. Cool!

Despite the flash being a bit smaller than the hulking SB-910, the new SB-5000 also has a fan-cooled system for the flash head! This means you can take over 100 sequential shots at full power, without needing to worry about the head overheating. If you are shooting at lower power or more slowly, the fan doesn't kick in, but start working the SB-5000 hard, and you'll hear the faint whir of the new cooling system. Nice! The new flash still has a high-voltage input, so you'll be able to continue using your Quantum Turbo or Dynalite JackRabbit battery packs too. About the only negative thing (apart from its steeper price) is that for the moment, it seems the radio TTL system is only compatible with the new D5 and D500 bodies. Maybe there will be firmware updates to enable its use with older cameras, but I have not confirmed that yet...

Beau Photo Supplies is taking preorders for all these new products and if you are an NPS member, rest assured that we are an NPS Pro shop and will work with you to ensure you get your new camera or flash as soon as possible! Contact us for more details...

1 comment:

  1. Drool! The Nikon D5 delivers with rugged construction and robust weather sealing, coupled with a familiar yet enhanced Nikon interface.

    Kim T. of Impression Emedia


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