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Nikon D5 versus Nikon D800

The Nikon D5 and the Nikon D800 are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in January 2016 and February 2012. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The D5 has a resolution of 20.7 megapixel, whereas the D800 provides 36.2 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Nikon D5 vs Nikon D800

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D5 and the Nikon D800. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the D5 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Nikon D5 vs Nikon D800
Compare D5 versus D800 top
Compare D5 and D800 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D800 is notably smaller (29 percent) than the Nikon D5. Moreover, the D800 is markedly lighter (29 percent) than the D5. 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 find an overview of suitable optics in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the D5 gets 3780 shots out of its EN-EL18a battery, while the D800 can take 900 images on a single charge of its EN-EL15 power pack.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. 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.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Nikon D5» 6.3 in 6.3 in 3.6 in 49.9 oz 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D800« 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 35.3 oz 900 Y Feb 2012 2,999- i Nikon D800
Canon 1D X Mark II« » 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.0 oz 1210 Y Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Leica SL« » 5.8 in 4.1 in 1.5 in 29.9 oz 400 Y Oct 2015 7,450 i i Leica SL
Nikon D7500« » 5.4 in 4.1 in 2.9 in 25.4 oz 950 Y Apr 2017 1,299 i i Nikon D7500
Nikon D500« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D7200« » 5.4 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 1110 Y Mar 2015 1,199- i Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 26.5 oz 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Nikon D810« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 34.6 oz 1200 Y Jun 2014 3,299- i Nikon D810
Nikon D4S« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.6 oz 3020 Y Feb 2014 6,499- i Nikon D4S
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Nikon Df« » 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.6 in 26.8 oz 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749 i i Nikon Df
Nikon D4« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.3 oz 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
Nikon D800E« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 35.3 oz 900 Y Feb 2012 3,299- i Nikon D800E
Nikon D3X« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 44.4 oz 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999- i Nikon D3X
Nikon D700« » 5.8 in 4.8 in 3.0 in 37.9 oz 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700

Any camera purchase will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D800 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 54 percent) than the D5, which puts it into a different 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Nikon D5 vs Nikon D800

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the 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.

In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.

Nikon D5 and Nikon D800 sensor measures

With 36.2MP, the D800 offers a higher resolution than the D5 (20.7MP), but the D800 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.88μm versus 6.44μm for the D5). Yet, the D5 is a much more recent model (by 3 years and 10 months) than the D800, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

D5 versus D800 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D800 has a markedly higher DXO score than the D5 (overall score 7 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.2 bits higher color depth, 2.1 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.3 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Nikon D5» Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388Nikon D5
Nikon D800« Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.314.4285395Nikon D800
Canon 1D X Mark II« » Full Frame 20.0 5472 36484K/60p24.113.5320788Canon 1D X Mark II
Leica SL« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.013.4182188Leica SL
Nikon D7500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.314.0148386Nikon D7500
Nikon D500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483Nikon D500
Nikon D7200« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.514.6133387Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693Nikon D750
Nikon D810« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.714.8285397Nikon D810
Nikon D4S« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/60p24.413.3307489Nikon D4S
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594Nikon D610
Nikon Df« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280-24.613.1327989Nikon Df
Nikon D4« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589Nikon D4
Nikon D800E« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.614.3297996Nikon D800E
Nikon D3X« » Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032-24.713.7199288Nikon D3X
Nikon D700« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2230380Nikon D700

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the D5 provides a higher video resolution than the D800. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the D800 is limited to 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Nikon D5 vs Nikon D800

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D5 and the D800 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D5 and Nikon D800 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

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)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Nikon D5»optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 8000 14.0 n n Nikon D5
Nikon D800«optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n Nikon D800
Canon 1D X Mark II« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 16.0 n n Canon 1D X Mark II
Leica SL« »4400 Y 3.0 1040 fixed Y 8000 11.0 n n Leica SL
Nikon D7500« »optical Y 3.2 922 tilting Y 8000 8.0 Y n Nikon D7500
Nikon D500« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n n Nikon D500
Nikon D7200« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D750
Nikon D810« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D810
Nikon D4S« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D4S
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D610
Nikon Df« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 n n Nikon Df
Nikon D4« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D4
Nikon D800E« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n Nikon D800E
Nikon D3X« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Nikon D3X
Nikon D700« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n Nikon D700

The D5 is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the D800 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the D800 was succeeded by the Nikon D810.

Review summary: Nikon D5 vs Nikon D800

So how do things add up? Is the Nikon D5 better than the Nikon D800 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Reasons to prefer the Nikon D5:

  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/30p).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 921k dots).
  • Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (14 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (3780 versus 900) on a single battery charge.
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years and 10 months of technical progress since the D800 launch.


Advantages of the Nikon D800:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (36.2 vs 20.7MP), which boosts linear resolution by 32%.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (7 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.1 EV of extra DR).
  • More compact: Is smaller (146x123mm vs 160x159mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 415g or 29 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (54 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in February 2012).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D800 emerges as the winner of the match-up (8 : 6 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision.

D5 06:08 D800

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the D5 and the D800 in practical situations. 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 why expert reviews are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Nikon D5»-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D800«HiRec82/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2012 2,999- i Nikon D800
Canon 1D X Mark II« »-89/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Leica SL« »-84/1004.5/54/54/5 Oct 2015 7,450 i i Leica SL
Nikon D7500« »HiRec86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Apr 2017 1,299 i i Nikon D7500
Nikon D500« »HiRec91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D7200« »HiRec84/1004.5/54/54.5/5 Mar 2015 1,199- i Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Nikon D810« »-86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2014 3,299- i Nikon D810
Nikon D4S« »--4.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2014 6,499- i Nikon D4S
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Nikon Df« »-81/1004/54/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749 i i Nikon Df
Nikon D4« »--4.5/5-4.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
Nikon D800E« »-84/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2012 3,299- i Nikon D800E
Nikon D3X« »-86/1004/55/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999- i Nikon D3X
Nikon D700« »89/100HiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please contact me, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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