Nikon D5 vs D850
The Nikon D5 and the Nikon D850 are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in January 2016 and July 2017. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The D5 has a resolution of 20.7 megapixels, whereas the D850 provides 45.4 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 D5 and the Nikon D850? 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 physical size and weight of the Nikon D5 and the Nikon D850 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All size dimensions 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 D850 is notably smaller (29 percent) than the Nikon D5. Moreover, the D850 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 compare the optics available in the Nikon Lens Catalog.
Concerning battery life, the D5 gets 3780 shots out of its EN-EL18a battery, while the D850 can take 1840 images on a single charge of its EN-EL15a power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the D5 has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the D850, Nikon provides the MB-D18 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Nikon D5||160 mm||159 mm||92 mm||1415 g||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|2.||Nikon D850||146 mm||124 mm||79 mm||1005 g||1840||Y||Jul 2017||3,299|
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark II||158 mm||168 mm||83 mm||1530 g||1210||Y||Feb 2016||5,999|
|4.||Canon 5DS||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|5.||Canon 5DS R||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|6.||Nikon D6||160 mm||163 mm||92 mm||1270 g||3580||Y||Feb 2020||6,499|
|7.||Nikon D4S||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1350 g||3020||Y||Feb 2014||6,499|
|8.||Nikon D750||141 mm||113 mm||78 mm||750 g||1230||Y||Sep 2014||2,299|
|9.||Nikon D810||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||980 g||1200||Y||Jun 2014||3,299|
|10.||Nikon D610||141 mm||113 mm||82 mm||850 g||900||Y||Oct 2013||1,999|
|11.||Nikon D4||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1340 g||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999|
|12.||Nikon D600||141 mm||113 mm||82 mm||850 g||900||Y||Sep 2012||2,099|
|13.||Nikon D3S||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1240 g||4200||Y||Oct 2009||5,199|
|14.||Nikon D3X||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1260 g||4400||Y||Dec 2008||7,999|
|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 retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The D850 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 49 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
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 and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the large-sensor cameras that aim for top notch image quality. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the D850 offers a higher resolution of 45.4 megapixels, compared with 20.7 MP of the D5. This megapixels advantage translates into a 48 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the D850 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.35μm versus 6.44μm for the D5). However, it should be noted that the D850 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 6 months) than the D5, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that at least partly compensate for the smaller pixel size. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the D850 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D850 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D850 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 41.3 x 27.5 inches or 104.9 x 69.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 33 x 22 inches or 83.9 x 55.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 27.5 x 18.3 inches or 69.9 x 46.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D5 are 27.9 x 18.6 inches or 71 x 47.1 cm for good quality, 22.4 x 14.8 inches or 56.8 x 37.7 cm for very good quality, and 18.6 x 12.4 inches or 47.3 x 31.4 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Nikon D5 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 102400, which can be extended to ISO 50-3280000. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D850 are ISO 64 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 32-102400.
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 D850 offers substantially better image quality than the D5 (overall score 12 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.3 bits higher color depth, 2.5 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.2 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.
|1.||Nikon D5||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|2.||Nikon D850||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.4||14.8||2660||100|
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark II||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||4K/60p||24.1||13.5||3207||88|
|4.||Canon 5DS||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.7||12.4||2381||87|
|5.||Canon 5DS R||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.6||12.4||2308||86|
|6.||Nikon D6||Full Frame||20.7||5568||3712||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|7.||Nikon D4S||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/60p||24.4||13.3||3074||89|
|8.||Nikon D750||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/60p||24.8||14.5||2956||93|
|9.||Nikon D810||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.7||14.8||2853||97|
|10.||Nikon D610||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94|
|11.||Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|12.||Nikon D600||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.2||2980||94|
|13.||Nikon D3S||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||720/24p||23.5||12.0||3253||82|
|14.||Nikon D3X||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||24.7||13.7||1992||88|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (4K/30p).
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D5 and the D850 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 D850 has a higher magnification than the one of the D5 (0.75x vs 0.72x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D5 and Nikon D850 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|1.||Nikon D5||optical||Y||3.2 / 2359||fixed||Y||1/8000s||14.0||n||n|
|2.||Nikon D850||optical||Y||3.2 / 2359||tilting||Y||1/8000s||9.0||n||n|
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark II||optical||Y||3.2 / 1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||16.0||n||n|
|4.||Canon 5DS||optical||Y||3.2 / 1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n|
|5.||Canon 5DS R||optical||Y||3.2 / 1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n|
|6.||Nikon D6||optical||Y||3.2 / 2359||fixed||Y||1/8000s||14.0||n||n|
|7.||Nikon D4S||optical||Y||3.2 / 921||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0||n||n|
|8.||Nikon D750||optical||Y||3.2 / 1229||tilting||n||1/4000s||6.0||Y||n|
|9.||Nikon D810||optical||Y||3.2 / 1229||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||Y||n|
|10.||Nikon D610||optical||Y||3.2 / 921||fixed||n||1/4000s||6.0||Y||n|
|11.||Nikon D4||optical||Y||3.2 / 921||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0||n||n|
|12.||Nikon D600||optical||Y||3.0 / 921||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.5||Y||n|
|13.||Nikon D3S||optical||Y||3.0 / 921||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0||n||n|
|14.||Nikon D3X||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n|
The Nikon D5 and the Nikon D850 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.
The D5 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or XQD cards, while the D850 uses SDXC 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 D5 and Nikon D850 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Nikon D5||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|2.||Nikon D850||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||Y|
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark II||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|4.||Canon 5DS||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|5.||Canon 5DS R||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|6.||Nikon D6||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.1||Y||-||Y|
|7.||Nikon D4S||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|8.||Nikon D750||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|9.||Nikon D810||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||-||-|
|10.||Nikon D610||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|11.||Nikon D4||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||-||-||-|
|12.||Nikon D600||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|13.||Nikon D3S||Y||stereo / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|14.||Nikon D3X||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the D850 offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the D5 does not provide wifi capability.
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
The D850 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Nikon. In contrast, the D5 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the D5 was succeeded 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 what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D5 and the Nikon D850? Which camera is better? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Advantages of the Nikon D5:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (14 vs 9 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (3780 versus 1840) on a single battery charge.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in January 2016).
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D850:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (45.4 vs 20.7MP), which boosts linear resolution by 48%.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (12 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.3 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.5 EV of extra DR).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.75x vs 0.72x).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- More compact: Is smaller (146x124mm vs 160x159mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 410g or 29 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (49 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 6 months) more recently.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D850 is the clear winner of the contest (14 : 5 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 D5 and the Nikon D850 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 specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D5 or the D850. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). 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.
|1.||Nikon D5||..||..||4/5||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||6,499|
|2.||Nikon D850||4.5/5||+ +||5/5||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2017||3,299|
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark II||..||..||4.5/5||89/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||5,999|
|4.||Canon 5DS||..||+||..||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|5.||Canon 5DS R||5/5||+||..||83/100||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|6.||Nikon D6||..||..||4/5||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2020||6,499|
|7.||Nikon D4S||5/5||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2014||6,499|
|8.||Nikon D750||5/5||+ +||4/5||90/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||2,299|
|9.||Nikon D810||5/5||..||5/5||86/100||5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2014||3,299|
|10.||Nikon D610||4/5||+ +||..||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||1,999|
|11.||Nikon D4||..||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999|
|12.||Nikon D600||4/5||+ +||..||87/100||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,099|
|13.||Nikon D3S||5/5||..||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2009||5,199|
|14.||Nikon D3X||..||..||..||86/100||4/5||5/5||Dec 2008||7,999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The review scores listed above should be treated 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. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
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. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Nikon D5 vs Nikon D850
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 D5||Nikon D850|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||January 2016||July 2017|
|Launch Price||USD 6,499||USD 3,299|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D5||Nikon D850|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||35.9 x 23.9 mm||35.9 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||858.01 mm2||858.01 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.1 mm||43.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||20.7 Megapixels||45.4 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5588 x 3712 pixels||8256 x 5504 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.44 μm||4.35 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.42 MP/cm2||5.30 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/30p Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 102,400 ISO||64 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 3,280,000 ISO||32 - 102,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 5||EXPEED 5|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||88||100|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||25.1||26.4|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||12.3||14.8|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||2343||2660|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D5||Nikon D850|
|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||2359k dots||2359k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D5||Nikon D850|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||14 shutter flaps/s||9 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||400 000 actuations||200 000 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||SDXC or XQD cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D5||Nikon D850|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 3.0||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||Wifi built-in|
|Near-Field Communication||no NFC||NFC built-in|
|Bluetooth Support||no Bluetooth||Bluetooth built-in|
|Body Specs||Nikon D5||Nikon D850|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||3780 shots per charge||1840 shots per charge|
160 x 159 x 92 mm
(6.3 x 6.3 x 3.6 in)
146 x 124 x 79 mm
(5.7 x 4.9 x 3.1 in)
|Camera Weight||1415 g (49.9 oz)||1005 g (35.5 oz)|
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