Nikon D5 Autofocus Test

Nikon D5 Autofocus Test

On Tuesday afternoon I had the opportunity to do a short Nikon D5 Autofocus test, courtesy of Paul Atkins.

D4D6793 900x599 Nikon D5 Autofocus Test

Using Paul’s newly acquired D5, his Nikon 400mm f2.8 lens and his two crackpot Golden retrievers ‘Enzo’ and ‘Raffa’, his large lawn and a couple of tennis balls, I gave the camera some hard work to do.

Bearing in mind that attentiveness, obedience and eagerness to please, are not traits that figure greatly in either dogs mental make-up; I was pleasantly surprised as to how instructive the exercise was – well done puppies!

On a good run at the camera the dogs cover something like 28 metres in 5 seconds, starting out at around 31 metres away and ending just outside the focus limiter at around 3 metres.

The camera was set to my MANUAL EXPOSURE + AUTO ISO, 1/4000th and f6.3.

I should also stress that there was NO AF FINE TUNE set for these shots.

That silliness has been taken to a whole new level of craziness now – sweet Jesus it makes me so angry!

I set the AF up very much how I’d set a Canon 1DX or 1DXMk2, and then went through the majority of the AF modes.

Dynamic 9, 25 and 72, group, 3D and ‘AUTO’ – and I was totally horrified at which mode gave the best results, and I mean BEST by a country mile!

In this video I go through the full resolution sequence of 27 shots individually so you can see how the Nikon D5 autofocus performs as the two dogs get closer to the camera with every frame.  The images have only Lightroom default sharpening applied and have had nothing done to them except my standard contrast-lowering adjustments.

Don’t be silly – click the YouTube link in the bottom of the above frame and watch it at full resolution on my channel!

Please don’t take this as a definitive test of the Nikon D5 autofocus – I certainly don’t, and neither am I prepared to draw much of a conclusion from it.  But it works!

I know I’m not alone in finding the Auto focus mode to be ‘better’ in terms of consistent focus, but to my mind this should NOT be the case, especially on such a target moving in such close proximity to a long telephoto – even if it is an f2.8.

At this point I’m not going to bother showing the sequences from the other modes, just take my word for it that I was shocked at the distinctly poorer performance using the other modes I tried – except for GROUP, which has never worked well in this sort of situation.

A couple of things to note:

  1. I used the same settings at 12fps and the consistency level dropped by around 45%, so no change in that old chestnut.  The Canon 1DX suffered from it too, but with the limited testing I’ve done on the 1DXMk2, Canons idea of crafting and honing the existing AF system, as opposed to Nikons ‘chucking the baby out with the bath water’, seems to have solved the problem to a greater degree.
  2. The D5 raw files seem to have lost a little tractability in ‘lifting the blacks/shadows/exposure’ – something that I’ve always held typical .NEF files in high esteem for.  This I found quite surprising seeing as the camera was heralded as the ‘Prince of Darkness’.   It’s also the one thing above all else that I despise in Canon 1DX raw files.  But Canon have upped their game considerably on this front with the 1DXMk2.

Seriously folks, it’s like some sort of demented see-saw or merry-go-round with these manufacturers…

The new Canon is coming to Norway with me in a couple of weeks, and Mr. Paul is bringing his D5, so there will be quite a bit of performance testing going on throughout September and October.

Hope these shots peek your interest folks!


5 thoughts on “Nikon D5 Autofocus Test

  1. Thanks Andy , I had been looking forward to your ,,experience” with the D5 and hearing your comments and looking at your video it just about sums it up doesn’t it……the merry go round between the two manufacturers and us paying customers ,,paying” the price!!
    I am still fine tuning my eagles from May and altho I have a great amount of GREAT pictures I so get pissed off by also SO many failures, as I expressed to Tim Munsey at the time especially at the crucial moments when AF seemed to fail for that one ore two shots an then back to sharpness again !….in a serie’s of ten ore so ?
    I didn’t do much with auto AF but my god I kept trying everything else and still haven’t found what I am really looking for, ore can solidly rely on.
    It’s also shame that I can’t find on lightroom the info on the camera settings in which mode I took the photograph ,meaning amount of focus points and erratic you could learn in which mode you are more successful ,perhaps !
    Anyway my friend we shall carry on and not blame the camera for our mistakes too often ,but again I do wonder who can do a better job sometimes,instead of trowing money at it all the time , maybe being in the boat with OM-D every day and just keep the ultra sharp ones only is the answer!
    Well won’t be long before your in Norway and I do hope we shall get a moment too catch up , I feel a little awkward in interfering perhaps , if I was to go and meet you either at Dovre ore Flatanger…..I should speak again to Ole perhaps and see what he thinks.

    we keep in touch , regards Rudy

  2. Thanks for the post Andy – and a very impressive capture of a daddy long legs. Looking forward to seeing the forthcoming results in Norway. I have just shelled out for the d5 but thankfully didn’t pay top draw for it!!

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