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.
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.
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.
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, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|Nikon D4S||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.6 in||47.6 oz||3020||Y||Feb 2014||6,499|
|Nikon D5||6.3 in||6.3 in||3.6 in||49.9 oz||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|Canon 1D X Mark II||6.2 in||6.6 in||3.3 in||54.0 oz||1210||Y||Feb 2016||5,999|
|Canon 1D X||6.2 in||6.6 in||3.3 in||54.7 oz||1120||Y||Oct 2011||6,799|
|Nikon D6||6.3 in||6.4 in||3.6 in||44.8 oz||3580||Y||Feb 2020||6,499|
|Nikon D750||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.1 in||26.5 oz||1230||Y||Sep 2014||2,299|
|Nikon D810||5.7 in||4.8 in||3.2 in||34.6 oz||1200||Y||Jun 2014||3,299|
|Nikon Df||5.7 in||4.3 in||2.6 in||26.8 oz||1400||Y||Nov 2013||2,749|
|Nikon D610||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.2 in||30.0 oz||900||Y||Oct 2013||1,999|
|Nikon D4||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.6 in||47.3 oz||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999|
|Nikon D3S||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||43.7 oz||4200||Y||Oct 2009||5,199|
|Nikon D3X||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||44.4 oz||4400||Y||Dec 2008||7,999|
|Nikon D3||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||45.9 oz||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
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.
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.
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.
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.
| DXO |
|Nikon D4S||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/60p||24.4||13.3||3074||89|
|Nikon D5||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|Canon 1D X Mark II||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||4K/60p||24.1||13.5||3207||88|
|Canon 1D X||Full Frame||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||23.8||11.8||2786||82|
|Nikon D6||Full Frame||20.7||5568||3712||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|Nikon D750||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/60p||24.8||14.5||2956||93|
|Nikon D810||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.7||14.8||2853||97|
|Nikon Df||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||none||24.6||13.1||3279||89|
|Nikon D610||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94|
|Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|Nikon D3S||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||720/24p||23.5||12.0||3253||82|
|Nikon D3X||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||24.7||13.7||1992||88|
|Nikon D3||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2290||81|
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.
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.
|Canon 1D X Mark II||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||16.0||n||n|
|Canon 1D X||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||14.0||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.
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.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|Canon 1D X Mark II||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 1D X||Y||mono||-||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Nikon D4S||..||..||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2014||6,499|
|Nikon D5||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||6,499|
|Canon 1D X Mark II||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||5,999|
|Canon 1D X||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2011||6,799|
|Nikon D6||..||..||4.5/5||..||4.5/5||Feb 2020||6,499|
|Nikon D750||+ +||90/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||2,299|
|Nikon D810||..||86/100||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2014||3,299|
|Nikon Df||..||81/100||4/5||4/5||4/5||Nov 2013||2,749|
|Nikon D610||+ +||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||1,999|
|Nikon D4||..||..||4.5/5||..||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999|
|Nikon D3S||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Oct 2009||5,199|
|Nikon D3X||..||86/100||4/5||5/5||5/5||Dec 2008||7,999|
|Nikon D3||..||+ +||5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||4,999|
|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.
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.
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 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 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|
|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%|
|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 Expectancy||400 000 actuations||400 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||Intervalometer 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|
|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 Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||3020 shots per charge||3780 shots per charge|
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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