Nikon D5 versus Sony A9
The Nikon D5 and the Sony Alpha A9 are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in January 2016 and April 2017. The D5 is a DSLR, while the A9 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 20.7 megapixel, whereas the Sony provides 24 MP.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D5 and the Sony A9. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side 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 – the D5 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A9 is considerably smaller (52 percent) than the Nikon D5. Moreover, the A9 is substantially lighter (52 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. Both cameras have similarly sized sensors, but DSLRs have a larger flange-to-focal plane distance than mirrorless cameras, which imposes contraints on the optical engineering process and generally leads to bigger and heavier lenses. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D5) and the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A9). Mirrorless cameras, such as the A9, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.
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 comparisons there.
|Camera Body Specifications
|Nikon D5 (⇒ rgt)||6.3 in||6.3 in||3.6 in||49.9 oz||3780||YES||2016||6,499||latest||check|
|Sony A9 (⇒ lft)||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.5 in||23.7 oz||650||YES||2017||4,499||latest||check|
|Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||6.2 in||6.6 in||3.3 in||54.0 oz||1210||YES||2016||5,999||latest||check|
|Leica SL (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.8 in||4.1 in||1.5 in||29.9 oz||400||YES||2015||7,450||latest||check|
|Nikon D850 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.7 in||4.9 in||3.1 in||35.5 oz||1840||YES||2017||3,299||latest||check|
|Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.4 in||4.1 in||2.9 in||25.4 oz||950||YES||2017||1,299||latest||check|
|Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.8 in||4.5 in||3.2 in||30.3 oz||1240||YES||2016||1,999||latest||check|
|Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.4 in||4.2 in||3.0 in||27.0 oz||1110||YES||2015||1,199||discont.||check|
|Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.1 in||26.5 oz||1230||YES||2014||2,299||latest||check|
|Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt)||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.6 in||47.6 oz||3020||YES||2014||6,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.2 in||30.0 oz||900||YES||2013||1,999||latest||check|
|Nikon D600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.2 in||30.0 oz||900||YES||2012||2,099||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.3 in||3.6 in||2.6 in||20.2 oz||440||YES||2016||1,999||latest||check|
|Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.5 in||3.9 in||3.4 in||25.6 oz||410||YES||2017||1,999||latest||check|
|Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||4.7 in||2.6 in||2.1 in||16.0 oz||350||YES||2016||1,399||latest||check|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.4 in||21.1 oz||350||YES||2014||1,999||latest||check|
|Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.0 in||3.7 in||1.9 in||16.7 oz||340||YES||2013||1,699||discont.||check|
The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The A9 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 31 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 imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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. 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 are more costly to manufacture and tent to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the A9 is 1 percent smaller. 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.
Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the A9 offers a higher resolution of 24 megapixel, compared with 20.7 MP of the D5. This megapixel advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 6.44μm for the D5). However, it should be noted that the A9 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 3 months) than the D5, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that partly offset its pixel-size disadvantage.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most 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 A9 has a markedly higher DXO score than the D5 (overall score 4 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.2 bits lower color depth, 1 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.6 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.
|Nikon D5 (⇒ rgt)||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|Sony A9 (⇒ lft)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||24.9||13.3||3517||92|
|Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||4K/60p||24.1||13.5||3207||88|
|Leica SL (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||13.4||1821||88|
|Nikon D850 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.4||14.8||2660||100|
|Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||20.7||5568||3712||4K/30p||24.8||13.9||1192||86|
|Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||20.7||5568||3712||4K/30p||24.0||14.0||1324||83|
|Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.5||14.6||1333||87|
|Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/60p||24.8||14.5||2956||93|
|Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/60p||24.4||13.3||3074||89|
|Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94|
|Nikon D600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.2||2980||94|
|Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||23.7||12.8||1312||80|
|Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/60p||23.9||13.0||807||77|
|Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||24.5||13.7||1405||85|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.9||13.6||2449||90|
|Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.8||14.2||2248||90|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (4K/30p).
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A9 has an electronic viewfinder (3686k dots), while the D5 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D5 and Sony A9 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.
|Nikon D5 (⇒ rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||2359||fixed||YES||8000||14.0||no||no|
|Sony A9 (⇒ lft)||3686||no||3.0||1440||tilting||YES||8000||20.0||no||YES|
|Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1620||fixed||YES||8000||16.0||no||no|
|Leica SL (⇒ lft | rgt)||4400||YES||3.0||1040||fixed||YES||8000||11.0||no||no|
|Nikon D850 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||2359||tilting||YES||8000||9.0||no||no|
|Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||922||tilting||YES||8000||8.0||12||no|
|Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||2359||tilting||YES||8000||10.0||no||no|
|Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1229||fixed||no||8000||6.0||12||no|
|Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1229||tilting||no||4000||6.0||12||no|
|Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||921||fixed||no||8000||11.0||no||no|
|Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||921||fixed||no||4000||6.0||12||no|
|Nikon D600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||921||fixed||no||4000||5.5||12||no|
|Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2360||no||3.0||1037||swivel||YES||8000||18.0||no||YES|
|Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||3680||no||3.2||1620||swivel||YES||8000||12.0||no||YES|
|Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||2300||no||3.0||922||tilting||YES||4000||11.0||6||YES|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2400||no||3.0||1230||tilting||no||8000||5.0||no||YES|
|Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt)||2400||no||3.0||1230||tilting||no||8000||5.0||no||no|
Both the D5 and the A9 are current models that good online retailers will have in stock. You can check the latest prices, for example, at amazon. The D5 replaced the earlier Nikon D4S, while the A9 does not have a direct predecessor.
So what is the bottom line? Is the Nikon D5 better than the Sony A9 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D5:
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- 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 1440k dots).
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (3780 versus 650) on a single battery charge.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in January 2016).
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A9:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 20.7MP), which boosts linear resolution by 7%.
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (4 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.6 stops ISO advantage).
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (20 vs 14 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (127x96mm vs 160x159mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 742g or 52 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (31 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 3 months) more recently.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A9 is the clear winner of the contest (13 : 6 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.
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 A9 in practical situations. 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 expert reviews are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites. The full reviews are available, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.
|Nikon D5 (⇒ rgt)||-||89/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2016||6,499||latest||check|
|Sony A9 (⇒ lft)||..||89/100 Gold||5/5||5/5||5/5||2017||4,499||latest||check|
|Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||89/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2016||5,999||latest||check|
|Leica SL (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||84/100||4.5/5||4/5||4/5||2015||7,450||latest||check|
|Nikon D850 (⇒ lft | rgt)||..||89/100 Gold||4.5/5||..||5/5||2017||3,299||latest||check|
|Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||86/100 Silver||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2017||1,299||latest||check|
|Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||91/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2016||1,999||latest||check|
|Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||84/100 Silver||4.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||2015||1,199||discont.||check|
|Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||90/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2014||2,299||latest||check|
|Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2014||6,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||87/100 Gold||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2013||1,999||latest||check|
|Nikon D600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||87/100 Gold||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2012||2,099||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||85/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2016||1,999||latest||check|
|Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||85/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2017||1,999||latest||check|
|Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||85/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2016||1,399||latest||check|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||82/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2014||1,999||latest||check|
|Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||80/100 Silver||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2013||1,699||discont.||check|
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 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.
In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please send me an email, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.
- Canon G7 X Mark II vs Canon M10
- Nikon D300 vs Nikon D7100
- Nikon D3300 vs Nikon D7200
- Nikon D750 vs Panasonic GH5
- Olympus E-400 vs Olympus E-330
- Olympus E-M10 III vs Olympus E-620
- Olympus E-M5 vs Panasonic GH4
- Panasonic FZ1000 vs Sony RX100 II
- Panasonic G5 vs Panasonic GM1
- Panasonic GH4 vs Panasonic G6
- Panasonic GX850 vs Canon G9 X Mark II
- Panasonic L1 vs Olympus E-410