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Is the Nikon D5 still worth getting in 2022?

Nikon D5
(Image credit: James Artaius)

When it launched in January 2016, the Nikon D5 was the Big N's latest and greatest flagship camera. 

A powerhouse DSLR, the Nikon D5 (opens in new tab) packed a sturdy 20.8MP image sensor with 12fps burst shooting, 4K 30p video, and a headline-grabbing maximum ISO of 3.28million (yes, really). 

Even in 2016, though, that wasn't quite cutting edge, as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II (opens in new tab) boasted faster burst shooting, 4K 60p video, and better autofocus – especially in Live View and video mode, where the D5 lagged behind with ropey contrast-detect AF instead of phase-detect.

Fast-forward to 2022 and obviously the competition has only got tougher. The Nikon D6 (opens in new tab), released in 2020, made incremental yet worthwhile improvements (namely to the much improved stills AF and the upgrade to CFexpress cards), but the Nikon Z9 (opens in new tab) is where the biggest differences are found. 

The Z9 makes the Nikon D5 look like a toy by comparison, with its 47MP sensor, up to 120fps burst shooting, 8K 60p video, fantastic autofocus (with 9 kinds of subject recognition) in both stills and video… and obviously it's a mirrorless system, able to use the cutting-edge Nikon Z lineup of lenses.

All of which begs the question, does the Nikon D5 still have a place in 2022? 

The answer, to me, is a big fat yes. It's the same old story: just because another camera does something that yours doesn't, does it somehow magically mean that yours stops working? Of course not. 

Who cares if the Z9 shoots 120 frames per second. Trust me, managing that many files is a pure pain in the ass – 12fps bursts is more than enough, thank you. And 20MP files are still more than enough for professional use – hence why pro cameras like the Canon EOS R3 (opens in new tab) still keep resolution in the 20-range.

Admittedly, for video I never picked up the Nikon D5 – the 4K 30p I could handle, but the bizarre switch to hit-and-miss contrast detect when shooting video (or anything in Live View, for that matter) made it unsuitable for anything except manual focusing.

For stills, however, the Nikon D5 is every bit the beast it always was. In fact, given the price disparity, I'd probably pick one up over the D6 right now. Sure, the Z9 might be new king of the jungle, but a long-in-the-tooth lion is still a lion – and the D5 is still a flagship camera that can handle any photoshoot you throw at it.

Read more: 

Best Nikon cameras
(opens in new tab)Best professional cameras
(opens in new tab)Best DSLRs
(opens in new tab)Best cameras for sports photography (opens in new tab)

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The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine (opens in new tab)Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show (opens in new tab). An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.