Nikon D5 vs D90
The Nikon D5 and the Nikon D90 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in January 2016 and August 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a full frame (D5) and an APS-C (D90) sensor. The D5 has a resolution of 20.7 megapixels, whereas the D90 provides 12.2 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 D90? 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 D5 and the Nikon D90. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. 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 D90 is considerably smaller (47 percent) than the Nikon D5. Moreover, the D90 is substantially lighter (50 percent) than the D5. It is worth mentioning in this context that the D5 is splash and dust resistant, while the D90 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
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. A larger imaging sensor (as in the D5) will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, while more compact options are available for the smaller-sensor camera (D90). 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 D90 can take 850 images on a single charge of its EN-EL3e 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 D90, Nikon provides the MB-D80 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).
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, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|1.||Nikon D5||160 mm||159 mm||92 mm||1415 g||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|2.||Nikon D90||132 mm||103 mm||77 mm||703 g||850||n||Aug 2008||1,299|
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark II||158 mm||168 mm||83 mm||1530 g||1210||Y||Feb 2016||5,999|
|4.||Canon 40D||146 mm||108 mm||74 mm||822 g||750||n||Aug 2007||1,299|
|5.||Nikon D6||160 mm||163 mm||92 mm||1270 g||3580||Y||Feb 2020||6,499|
|6.||Nikon D850||146 mm||124 mm||79 mm||1005 g||1840||Y||Jul 2017||3,299|
|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 D610||141 mm||113 mm||82 mm||850 g||900||Y||Oct 2013||1,999|
|10.||Nikon D4||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1340 g||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999|
|11.||Nikon D600||141 mm||113 mm||82 mm||850 g||900||Y||Sep 2012||2,099|
|12.||Nikon D7000||132 mm||105 mm||77 mm||780 g||1050||Y||Sep 2010||1,499|
|13.||Nikon D3S||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1240 g||4200||Y||Oct 2009||5,199|
|14.||Nikon D300S||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||938 g||950||Y||Jul 2009||1,799|
|15.||Nikon D5000||127 mm||104 mm||80 mm||590 g||510||n||Apr 2009||749|
|16.||Nikon D3X||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1260 g||4400||Y||Dec 2008||7,999|
|17.||Nikon D80||132 mm||103 mm||77 mm||668 g||600||n||Aug 2006||999|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. 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 D90 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 80 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.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D5 features a full frame sensor and the Nikon D90 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D90 is 57 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
In terms of chip-set technology, the D5 uses a more advanced image processing engine (EXPEED 5) than the D90 (EXPEED), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.
With 20.7MP, the D5 offers a higher resolution than the D90 (12.2MP), but the D5 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.44μm versus 5.53μm for the D90) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the D5 is a much more recent model (by 7 years and 4 months) than the D90, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.
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 D90 are 21.4 x 14.2 inches or 54.5 x 36.2 cm for good quality, 17.2 x 11.4 inches or 43.6 x 28.9 cm for very good quality, and 14.3 x 9.5 inches or 36.3 x 24.1 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 D90 are ISO 200 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 200-6400.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under review, the D5 provides substantially higher image quality than the D90, with an overall score that is 15 points higher. This advantage is based on 2.4 bits higher color depth, 0.2 EV of lower dynamic range, and 1.3 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
| DXO |
|1.||Nikon D5||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark II||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||4K/60p||24.1||13.5||3207||88|
|5.||Nikon D6||Full Frame||20.7||5568||3712||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|6.||Nikon D850||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.4||14.8||2660||100|
|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 D610||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94|
|10.||Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|11.||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|
|16.||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, but the D5 provides a higher video resolution than the D90. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the D90 is limited to 720/24p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D5 and the D90 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 viewfinder in the D5 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the D90 (96%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the D5 has a higher magnification (0.72x vs 0.63x), 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 D90 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark II||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||16.0||n||n|
One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The D5 has a touchscreen, while the D90 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.
The Nikon D5 has 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 D90 uses SDHC cards. The D5 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D90 only has one slot.
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 D90 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark II||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the D5 has a microphone port, which is missing on the D90. Such an external microphone input can help to substantially improve the quality of audio recordings when a good external microphone is used.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D5 (unlike the D90) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the D5 and the D90 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D90 was replaced by the Nikon D7000, 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 what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Nikon D5 better than the Nikon D90 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Advantages of the Nikon D5:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (20.7 vs 12.2MP) with a 30% higher linear resolution.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (15 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (2.4 bits more color depth).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (1.3 stops ISO advantage).
- Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (EXPEED 5 vs EXPEED).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 720/24p).
- Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 96%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.72x vs 0.63x).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 920k dots).
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (14 vs 4.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (3780 versus 850) on a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More modern: Reflects 7 years and 4 months of technical progress since the D90 launch.
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D90:
- More compact: Is smaller (132x103mm vs 160x159mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 712g or 50 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 (80 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in August 2008).
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D5 is the clear winner of the match-up (23 : 5 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro 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 D90 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 technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the D5 or the D90 perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], 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||..||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||6,499|
|2.||Nikon D90||..||+ +||+ +||4/5||4.5/5||Aug 2008||1,299|
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark II||..||..||89/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||5,999|
|4.||Canon 40D||..||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,299|
|5.||Nikon D6||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2020||6,499|
|6.||Nikon D850||4.5/5||+ +||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2017||3,299|
|7.||Nikon D4S||5/5||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2014||6,499|
|8.||Nikon D750||5/5||+ +||90/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||2,299|
|9.||Nikon D610||4/5||+ +||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||1,999|
|10.||Nikon D4||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999|
|11.||Nikon D600||4/5||+ +||87/100||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,099|
|12.||Nikon D7000||4/5||..||80/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,499|
|13.||Nikon D3S||5/5||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2009||5,199|
|14.||Nikon D300S||5/5||+ +||82/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||1,799|
|15.||Nikon D5000||..||+ +||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2009||749|
|16.||Nikon D3X||..||..||86/100||4/5||5/5||Dec 2008||7,999|
|17.||Nikon D80||..||+||+ +||o||4.5/5||Aug 2006||999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. 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 use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
Specifications: Nikon D5 vs Nikon D90
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 D90|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||January 2016||August 2008|
|Launch Price||USD 6,499||USD 1,299|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D5||Nikon D90|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||35.9 x 23.9 mm||23.6 x 15.8 mm|
|Sensor Area||858.01 mm2||372.88 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.1 mm||28.4 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||20.7 Megapixels||12.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5588 x 3712 pixels||4288 x 2848 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.44 μm||5.53 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.42 MP/cm2||3.28 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/30p Video||720/24p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 102,400 ISO||200 - 3,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 3,280,000 ISO||200 - 6,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 5||EXPEED|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||88||73|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||25.1||22.7|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||12.3||12.5|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||2343||977|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D5||Nikon D90|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||96%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.2inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||2359k dots||920k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D5||Nikon D90|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||14 shutter flaps/s||4.5 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||400 000 actuations||100 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||no Intervalometer|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||Built-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF or XQD cards||SDHC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D5||Nikon D90|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||USB 3.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Headphone Socket||Headphone port||no Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Nikon D5||Nikon D90|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||not weather sealed|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||3780 shots per charge||850 shots per charge|
160 x 159 x 92 mm
(6.3 x 6.3 x 3.6 in)
132 x 103 x 77 mm
(5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)
|Camera Weight||1415 g (49.9 oz)||703 g (24.8 oz)|
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