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Nikon D4S vs D5

The Nikon D4S and the Nikon D5 are two professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2014 and January 2016. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The D4S has a resolution of 16.2 megapixels, whereas the D5 provides 20.7 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Nikon D4S versus Nikon D5
Nikon D4S Nikon D5
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
16.2 MP, Full Frame Sensor 20.7 MP, Full Frame Sensor
1080/60p Video 4K/30p Video
ISO 100-25,600 (50 - 409,600) ISO 100-102,400 (50 - 3,280,000)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.2 LCD, 921k dots 3.2 LCD, 2359k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed touchscreen
11 shutter flaps per second 14 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
3020 shots per battery charge3780 shots per battery charge
160 x 157 x 91 mm, 1350 g 160 x 159 x 92 mm, 1415 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D4S and the Nikon D5? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D4S and the Nikon D5. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Nikon D4S vs Nikon D5
Compare D4S versus D5 top
Comparison D4S or D5 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D5 is somewhat larger (1 percent) than the Nikon D4S. Moreover, the D5 is markedly heavier (5 percent) than the D4S. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can compare the optics available in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

As can be seen in the images above, both cameras have a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

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Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life 1
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch 2
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Nikon D4S 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1350 g 3020 Y Feb 2014 6,499i
 
Nikon D5 160 mm 159 mm 92 mm 1415 g 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499i
 
Canon 1D X Mark II 158 mm 168 mm 83 mm 1530 g 1210 Y Feb 2016 5,999i
 
Canon 1D X 158 mm 168 mm 83 mm 1551 g 1120 Y Oct 2011 6,799i
 
Nikon D6 160 mm 163 mm 92 mm 1270 g 3580 Y Feb 2020 6,499 i
 
Nikon D750 141 mm 113 mm 78 mm 750 g 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299i
 
Nikon D810 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 980 g 1200 Y Jun 2014 3,299i
 
Nikon Df 144 mm 110 mm 67 mm 760 g 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749i
 
Nikon D610 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i
 
Nikon D4 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1340 g 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999i
 
Nikon D3S 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199i
 
Nikon D3X 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1260 g 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999i
 
Nikon D3 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The two cameras under review were launched at the same price and fall into the same market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

Sensor comparison

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Technology-wise, the D5 uses a more advanced image processing engine (EXPEED 5) than the D4S (EXPEED 4), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.

Nikon D4S and Nikon D5 sensor measures

Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the D5 offers a higher resolution of 20.7 megapixels, compared with 16.2 MP of the D4S. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 6.44μm versus 7.29μm for the D4S). However, it should be noted that the D5 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 10 months) than the D4S, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that partly offset its pixel-size disadvantage.

The resolution advantage of the Nikon D5 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D5 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 27.9 x 18.6 inches or 71 x 47.1 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 22.4 x 14.8 inches or 56.8 x 37.7 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 18.6 x 12.4 inches or 47.3 x 31.4 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D4S are 24.6 x 16.4 inches or 62.6 x 41.7 cm for good quality, 19.7 x 13.1 inches or 50.1 x 33.3 cm for very good quality, and 16.4 x 10.9 inches or 41.7 x 27.8 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Nikon D4S has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 25600, which can be extended to ISO 50-409600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D5 are ISO 100 to ISO 102400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-3280000.

D4S versus D5 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

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Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
 
Nikon D4S Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/60p24.413.3307489
 
Nikon D5 Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388
 
Canon 1D X Mark II Full Frame 20.0 5472 36484K/60p24.113.5320788
 
Canon 1D X Full Frame 17.9 5184 34561080/30p23.811.8278682
 
Nikon D6 Full Frame 20.7 5568 37124K/30p........
 
Nikon D750 Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693
 
Nikon D810 Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.714.8285397
 
Nikon Df Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280none24.613.1327989
 
Nikon D610 Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594
 
Nikon D4 Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589
 
Nikon D3S Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382
 
Nikon D3X Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032none24.713.7199288
 
Nikon D3 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2229081

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the D5 provides a better video resolution than the D4S. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the D4S is limited to 1080/60p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D4S and the D5 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), but the viewfinder of the D5 has a higher magnification than the one of the D4S (0.72x vs 0.70x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D4S, the Nikon D5, and comparable cameras.

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Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
(000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
 
Nikon D4Soptical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
 
Nikon D5optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 1/8000s 14.0 n n
 
Canon 1D X Mark IIoptical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 1/8000s 16.0 n n
 
Canon 1D Xoptical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 1/8000s 14.0 n n
 
Nikon D6optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 1/8000s 14.0 n n
 
Nikon D750optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 1/4000s 6.0 Y n
 
Nikon D810optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n
 
Nikon Dfoptical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5 n n
 
Nikon D610optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/4000s 6.0 Y n
 
Nikon D4optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
 
Nikon D3Soptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
 
Nikon D3Xoptical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
 
Nikon D3optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n

One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The D5 has a touchscreen, while the D4S has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.

The Nikon D4S and the Nikon D5 both have an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the D4S and the D5 write their files to Compact Flash or XQD cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.

Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Nikon D4S and Nikon D5 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
 
Nikon D4SYmonomonoYYmini2.0---
 
Nikon D5YstereomonoYYmini3.0---
 
Canon 1D X Mark IIYmonomonoYYmini3.0---
 
Canon 1D XYmono-Y-mini2.0---
 
Nikon D6YstereomonoYYmini3.1Y-Y
 
Nikon D750YstereomonoYYmini2.0Y--
 
Nikon D810YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--
 
Nikon DfY----mini2.0---
 
Nikon D610YmonomonoYYmini2.0---
 
Nikon D4YmonomonoYYmicro2.0---
 
Nikon D3SYstereo---mini2.0---
 
Nikon D3XY----mini2.0---
 
Nikon D3Y----mini2.0---

Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.

Both the D4S and the D5 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D4S was replaced by the Nikon D5, while the D5 was followed by the Nikon D6. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon website.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D4S or the Nikon D5 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Reasons to prefer the Nikon D4S:

  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.4 stops ISO advantage).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in February 2014).


Arguments in favor of the Nikon D5:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (20.7 vs 16.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 13%.
  • Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (EXPEED 5 vs EXPEED 4).
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60p).
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.72x vs 0.70x).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 921k dots).
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (14 vs 11 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (3780 versus 3020) out of a single battery charge.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 10 months) more recently.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D5 is the clear winner of the contest (10 : 3 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

D4S 03:10 D5

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D4S and the Nikon D5 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the D4S or the D5 perform in practice. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.

Expert reviews

This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

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Review Scores
  Camera
Model
camera
  labs  
dp
review  
ephoto
  zine  
imaging
resource
photography
  blog  
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Nikon D4S....4.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2014 6,499i
 
Nikon D5..89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499i
 
Canon 1D X Mark II..89/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2016 5,999i
 
Canon 1D X....4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2011 6,799i
 
Nikon D6....4.5/5..4.5/5 Feb 2020 6,499 i
 
Nikon D750+ +90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299i
 
Nikon D810..86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2014 3,299i
 
Nikon Df..81/1004/54/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749i
 
Nikon D610+ +87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i
 
Nikon D4....4.5/5..4.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999i
 
Nikon D3S..89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199i
 
Nikon D3X..86/1004/55/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999i
 
Nikon D3..+ +5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Nikon D4S:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D5:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.

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    Specifications: Nikon D4S vs Nikon D5

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Nikon D4S Nikon D5
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date February 2014 January 2016
    Launch Price USD 6,499 USD 6,499
    Sensor Specs Nikon D4S Nikon D5
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 23.9 mm 35.9 x 23.9 mm
    Sensor Area 860.4 mm2 858.01 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.2 mm 43.1 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 16.2 Megapixels 20.7 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4928 x 3280 pixels 5588 x 3712 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 7.29 μm 6.44 μm
    Pixel Density 1.88 MP/cm2 2.42 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/60p Video 4K/30p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 25,600 ISO 100 - 102,400 ISO
    ISO Boost 50 - 409,600 ISO 50 - 3,280,000 ISO
    Image Processor EXPEED 4 EXPEED 5
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 89 88
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 24.4 25.1
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 13.3 12.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 3074 2343
    Screen Specs Nikon D4S Nikon D5
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.70x 0.72x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.2inch 3.2inch
    LCD Resolution 921k dots 2359k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Touch Input no Touchscreen Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D4S Nikon D5
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 11 shutter flaps/s 14 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy400 000 actuations400 000 actuations
    Time-Lapse PhotographyIntervalometer built-inIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF or XQD cards CF or XQD cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D4S Nikon D5
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 3.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Microphone Port External MIC port External MIC port
    Headphone Socket Headphone port Headphone port
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Nikon D4S Nikon D5
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type EN-EL18a EN-EL18a
    Battery Life (CIPA)3020 shots per charge3780 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 160 x 157 x 91 mm
    (6.3 x 6.2 x 3.6 in)
    160 x 159 x 92 mm
    (6.3 x 6.3 x 3.6 in)
    Camera Weight 1350 g (47.6 oz) 1415 g (49.9 oz)

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