Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Nikon D5 :: real, real world review (askew)

It's been a big year of DSLR releases. Most notably, the flagships Nikon and Canon, D5 and 1dx Mark ii, respectively. These two beasts made their debut at this year's Rio Olympics . . . and rightfully so.

Without further ado, I intimately share with you my experiences only a week in since Suzy Greenberg's arrival. I'll explain her (Nikon D5) name herein if you're curious.


Four years ago, I received Betsy, my Nikon D4, right around June if I'm not mistaken. Funny, Nikon announced that camera in January of that year. No joke, I was the first kid in Philadelphia to have had his name on that waiting list. And so I waited a torturous 6 months for delivery.

This time around I knew better. As masochistic as I may be, I didn't want to obsessively check tracking numbers round and round the clock, again.

One fine August afternoon, I placed the order with B&H and the very next day she, Suzy Greenberg, my new Nikon D5 had arrived.

At First Glance 

The Nikon D5 has dimensions slightly larger than her predecessor. I know what you're thinking . . . FUCK. A. DUCK. As if their flagship isn't already behemothic in size, they went even bigger?! My friends, I know with mirrorless and the Fuji revolution that arrived a couple years ago, smaller and retro styled has seemingly been the direction cameras are going, right? I disagree. While that's great for many shooters, I prefer the mammoth bodies of flagships for a couple reasons ::
1. I'm a big dude. 6'3" and 200+ (ha! not a chance) lbs. I got hands like baseball mitts; fingers like Maglio sausages. The bigger the body the better, on my cameras that is. Back in my days of entry level DSLRs, even with added battery grips, they didn't snugly fit my grips. The Nikon D5? Dare I say the trite and outdated word, Epic? Fantastic! No pun intended but Suzy fits like a glove. People, also note that the heavier bodies make stabilization much easier. Not that that should influence your dropping nearly $7000 USD on a camera but it's a fun fact to tuck in the back of your brain while you're trying to stabilize your Fuji.
2. Respect. The D5 gets and deserves every ounce of it she receives at drooling glances on the streets. Be it on the front line while photogs bravely create stunning images in war zones or while others, equally risking their lives in the Antarctic to bring us brilliant and calming photographs that most of us lust at the sight of, the D5 is build like a brick. With its size, weatherproofing and magnesium alloy body, she can take whatever elements are thrown her way, even if it happens to be a .50 cal Barret sniper round. 
The D4 and D4s arrived with praises of an Italian race car designer that drew up their new bodies sexy and sleek lining. Seems Nikon took a retroactive approach for the D5 series. Bulkier and blockier. I dig it. Hey, I even dug that super retro Df model except for the fact that the body was made plastic, #fail.


Notice the parenthesized Askew in today's title. My homeys and homegirls. I don't wanna sit here and bore you with menu items that not a single human ever will touch or find for that matter. I'm not gonna memorize specs and regurgitate them back to you. I just wanna share what I've used thus far and how it compares, thus far, to the four years I spent with Betsy (Nikon D4).

You want fake reviews and BS from creepers and posers that never have or will even hold this work of art, I can certainly point you to a few sites where dudes sit in their mother's basements, never have taken a photo but could pixel peep and trash talk the works of greats like Leibovitz or McNally. People can be such douche bags. Ugh. I digress. Actually, I won't point you to their direction. I'm not about hating here. I'm all about love people. Peace and love my friends.

I digress.

Let's get the megapixel thing out of the way first since I know so many of you really care about this. Fact of the matter is, I don't give two shits about megapixels. Nevertheless, Nikon has upped the pixel count from 16 ish to 21 ish. You see, I don't even know the exact number and Suzy, my new D5 is about 12 inches from where I sit.

So what's it about? The big caboodle? Well, I'm more about dynamic range and ISO than I am pixel count. And true and true, the Nikon flagship rocks the planet in those and many other departments (fps) that most pros want and/or require for their photo shoots. Shit, it even made me laugh the other day when Canon announced the 5d mark iv. Max ISO is in the 51,000 area if I'm not mistaken. Suzy? She climaxes at over 3 million!!! And they called the new 5d a game changer. Ha. Well, ok. I'll give respect, it's not a flagship camera and for what and whom it's for, it should be pretty awesome. Just saying.

The flagships Canon 1dxii and Nikon D5 crank out about 14 frames per second (mirror up/12 fps full auto focus) while that 5d peaks at 7fps. Again, just saying. If you don't need 14fps, then you can save yourself thousands on a less expensive pro body. As for me? I shoot anything from studio headshots to action location work. Film to commerce. It's nice to know you got every tool in any given situation that may arise. The four years I spent with Betsy (Nikon D4), I put her to the test, every single day. Be it at the skatepark or on the salty shores of the Atlantic; Betsy earned her keep. I shall think that I'll put Suzy Greenberg through the same rough and tough four years. If keep your gear all pretty and shiny then maybe the flagships aren't what you need. But if you are like me and want to plant your tripod waist deep with waves crashing around you and the jetty, I'd seriously consider the investment. Why? The lesser expensive bodies aren't built for that kind of abuse.

Where was I? Oh yeah! Fuck, if I don't have ADD than I don't know who does, or what that even meant. BTW, if I had ADD, I don't nor would I be medicated for it. I'm happy in my crazy brain as is. I like the hand I was dealt. You see!? I'm way off track here people.



Oh, before I get into the dynamic range whispers on the nets that I've been hearing, let's for a second talk about focus and responsiveness of the D5.


Nuff said?

You want more on that? Look, Last year I had a shoot where Betsy (Nikon D4) was my workhorse and I had the Canon 5d Mark ii as a secondary. Hate to spoil anyone's notions but let me say, first hand, that the response time for focus and actuation on the flagship cameras are second to none.

The Nikon D5, four years later? Fuck me silly.

Dynamic range. Aye. People. Get over yourselves. Compared to the 4 series Nikon flagships, D4 and same sensor D4s, the new D5's sensor while taking on more pixels loses a hair in the DR department but ONLY at ISOs 50 to about 400. Beyond that, the DR is the same if not better. People, unless you're going crosseyed staring at side by sides, untouched, at 3000% then you ain't gonna see the difference. BTW, how many of you leave your photos untouched?

I shot the D4 for four years! At it's inception, it was the camera with the best dynamic range on planet earth. No shit. And guess what? In the digital darkroom, I still crushed my blacks. So who gives a fuck? Seriously. And the D5? The world's best DR's successor misses by a pube at like 1/1000000000th of it's usable ISO ranges? Really? Relax peepers. Relax. Do you know what if feels like to shoot at 102k and have usable files? I didn't think so. Well I can and did. Now excuse me while I drop the mic.

The touch screen? Eh. Good, responsive and all that, but my muscle memory for the Nikon controls is so instinctual at this point, I keep forgetting it's there.

Flat Picture Profile.

I totes thought this was gonna be a game changer for me. It is. And it isn't. Lemme explain.
With stills in the past, I kept the Standard profile. Or Normal. Or whatever the shit the most basic profile was named. I can't recall. Like my hands that have learned to instinctually fondle the Nikon bodies, my eyes have also become accostomed to the normal review of the RAW file displayed on the LCD. Basically, if I wanna stick with the Flat profile, I'm gonna have to train my eyeballs a bit. I'm still torn at the moment.

Oh. Further, when you open the file in ACR (I don't use Lr), you have to manually choose the flat profile for each file . . . unless I'm missing something. Otherwise, ACR will display the Normal profile regardless of your in camera settings.


Using the Flat profile for video is, for me, priceless. Why? At the moment, I'm not recording clean to an Atomos. Soon I'll make that investment. Currently, I record video straight to the XQD cards. This records, although true 4K, a compressed version as compared to using the HDMI to record pure RAW video to an Atomos. I'm not sure of the compression ratios. Again, if you need those details, find a peeper or creeper's blog. Here it just comes from the heart.

With that in mind, my workflow for film is with Apple Final Cut Pro X or FCPX for shorty. I import media and transcode to ProRes 422 if my memory serves me right. This gives me a workable file much better than the compressed file but not quite as good as the true RAW data. It's like limbo or purgatory for motion. Think of your stills; better than Jpg but not as awesome as RAW. Anyway, FCPX immediately renders the Flat profile just as it was shot in camera. This gives me much more latitude, longitude and altitude to push the files better than had they been in Standard or Normal.

Speaking of motion. I am super uber (can I use that word legally?) stoked to have Zebra Stripes. It's like your clipping screen but a zillion times better. If you don't know, then you'll just have to go find out, after this read of course.

The great Fro Knows, Jared Polin, who actually lives like three minutes from me, made the Sniff Test famous during his unboxing of new gear.

So what did I smell? I thought it was lime and Sriracha but at the time of sniff, I was just prepping my Friday night Pho. Suzy Greenberg's body had been contaminated. #fail

But the Pho was titty city so I will forever be able to bring back that meal every time I put Suzy up to my face. HA! just playing. My hands did stink but didn't get the flavor on my new D5. That would drive me loco.

And I Ain't Done With Video Talks Yet, My Brothers and Sisters! 

You can scour the internets and find so much talk from peepers and creepers about things like ::

The D5 is for pro sports photographers only.


The D5 is not made for filmmakers.

I call bullshit.

Folks, I'm a shooter of stills and motion. The load of my work comes from advertising photography. Further, most of that work is studio and location based. As for motion? As of the last couple of years, I've been drawn to storytelling in filmmaking.

I shoot some action but never have I found myself on the sidelines. Would I? Sure. But I didn't buy the Nikon D5 for that reason. I invested in this professional tool so that I, ME, could get to a desired result via my own chosen path.

And the talk that the Nikon flagships ain't for filmmakers. Wait till I unleash my recent film with the D4 and what I'm going to throw at ya with the D5. Partly just to crush what all the haters are saying. Guess what? You can jump on the Canon bandwagon. I did once. I spent years on their side. Now, second flagship in, with Nikon? I couldn't be happier.

BTW, have you seen any of the Corey Rich films that he produced with said camera bodies? Gangsta.

Well Slap Me Silly, I Totally Forgot

One of the super duper terrify changes revolutions Nikon made with the D5? An entire menu section dedicated to your filmmaking needs. How pimp is it? Lemme just say, I thought I knew just about every function of any camera or brand and how to use that operation with great confidence. Being the transparent dude that I am, I can admit, there are one or two functions in the video section that I have no fucking clue as to what they are or what they do but am super stoked to learn.

Some Randomness That I thought I'd Share

Strange as it may sound, one of the reasons I dig Nikon so much, besides the fact that those I look up to in the public photo eye also shoot Nikon, is that I really like the dedicated shutter and aperture wheel and their strategic and ergonomic placement on the big bodies.


Like I said... transparency.

Although it did hurt when Kelby became a traitor. Suppose no-one can deny the almighty dollar.

But Jarvis and McNally stay true! Rock on brothers. Much love.

What else? The new communication between the D5 and the new SB flagship (sb-5000?) can be done sans IR and sans any necessary hotshoe transceiver devices. Guess what? After dropping the price of a new Fiat on a camera, I think I'll stick with my frugal Yongnuo strobes and antiquated but uber reliable Plus ii Wizards.

If you XXers and XYers (speaking in DNA as I have no clue what's PC anymore) like outputs and inputs then the D5 will get your knees knocking. HDMI out, mic, headphones in, the list goes on. There's enough orifices in the D5 to put a serial rapist at ease.

Okay, I just paused to grab a beer and had a thought. You know, none of any of this really matters. 8MP or 21MP. 720 or 4K. None of it matters. What matters is YOU and what YOU create. If you want to be top of the world shooting a disposable Kodak or a Nikon D5, it's totally up to you and what makes you and your wallet comfortable.

So screw everything I just said and go out there and create something.

Now excuse me while I cuddle up to Suzy Greenberg and fondle her every nook and cranny. #BeJealous

NOTE :: Oddly enough, although I shoot so much staged, choreographed and directed work, I posted all these action shots. LMAO. #Hipocrate

Until next time . . .