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!

 

D5 from Nikon – Latest News

The Nikon D5 – more news & musings

D5b D5 from Nikon   Latest News

Well, the grapevine is saying that Nikon Europe will only be supplying the Dual XQD-slot version – not a bad thing in my opinion as I really like the speed increase of XQD over traditional CF.

Rumour also has it that the 30 second 4K UHD video record limit of 3 minutes is going to be increased to match the D500 30 minute capabilities.  There is some speculation as to whether this will be a “straight 30 minutes” or a 10x 3 minute sequential file recording method (WOW…..I can see that option going down like a lead balloon!).

Nikon Rumours have got their hands on a rather interesting 17 page Nikon Support internal  “CONFIDENTIAL” document about the Nikon D5. marked for limited distribution, with the instruction that the information can only be given to customers on a one to one basis.  This is a MUST READ folks:

READ IT HERE

There is also one for the D500 HERE

On the AF side of the new D5 equation, with its 153 AF points, don’t forget:

  • Only 55 of those are “selectable” – that’s just 4 more than the D4/4S
  • The total AF frame area coverage is only marginally larger on the D5 than it is on the D4/4S

So there are 98 AF points that the camera has full control of AND YOU DON’T – let’s hope they are singing off the same hymn sheet as the camera operator ALL THE TIME.

In my opinion Nikon have basically tried to re-invent the wheel somewhat with this vast number of AF points.  Canons 61 point Reticular AF unit is a damnable good standard which Nikon could have added to simply by increasing the FX frame area coverage with an extra 10 to 20 AF points.

But NOOOOOO…………..Nikon couldn’t possibly think of doing something quite so logical.

To be brutally honest, there’s a chance that Nikon have failed in the D5 to conceive a camera that meets the full requirements of the photographers it’s theoretically aimed at – the pro photograher; especially when you consider the D5 price point.

Instead, it looks to me as if they may have concieved the right thing, then added to it in order to make the camera appeal to that unique bracket of consumer – the one with more money than sense!

Let me qualify somewhat –  a proper “pro” knows what they are doing, knows their kit inside out, thinks on their feet, and can make settings decissions ‘on the fly’ virtually without thinking about them.

Give him or her a camera with 98 AF sensors that they can’t control – and the first thing they are going to look for is some way of turning the things OFF; just like they do with VR!

But turning them off is not an option, and the majority of Nikon pro users I’ve spoken to are of the same frame of mind as me – we are suspicious.  Yes the Multi-CAM3500 AF system wasn’t perfect and was in desperate need of improvement – but bloody hell Nikon, did it have to be quite so damn radical!

It’s all very well Nikon showing cool action jpgs on their website and promo material – but these are meaningless.  All the shots could have been taken on a D3 for all we know – yes, sharp action photographs were possible back then too.

What they don’t show you is a high speed sequence of 30 or 40+ full resolution images shot at 10 fps – only THAT would actually prove that the new fangled AF system actually does all that it’s hyped up to do.

On the flip-side, as I mentioned in my previous D5 related post, at least Nikon have given us access to the one thing AF-wise that was missing; an equivalent to Canon Accel/Decel tracking – but they could give that to D4/4S owners with a simple firmware upgrade – yeah they could, ‘cos it’s already there in the form of preset differences between 9 & 21 point Dynamic Area AF.  But they don’t tell you that!

At the end of my previous post I said I wanted to get my hands on a D5 now – and I still do.  But I never said anything about paying for it upfront or sight-unseen.  I only buy ‘stuff’ that I KNOW works; and I only tell you guys ‘n gals about equipment once I KNOW how well it does its job.

Until I’ve given the D5 a thorough work-out I’m just going to advise a bit of buyer-caution though – the beast might be brilliant, but then again it might not, once you peel back the hype and look at the nitty-gritty.  And £5200 is a big sum to gamble with.

Come on Nikon, have the courage of your own convictions and send a D5 to your Uncle Andy – let him prove his suspicions wrong; let him set out to prove the D5 isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – and fail miserably!