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by Jim Zipp on Tue Aug 06, 2019 1:05 pm
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I'm wondering just what the difference is between a Nikon D850 (with optional grip and battery to get 9FPS) and a Nikon D5 when it comes to autofocus performance.  I know grip/battery has no effect other than FPS but for birds in flight I'd like to get a feel for how well the D850 does against the D5 from those that own or have used both.  The larger files from the D850 are desirable but if they aren't as sharp then what's the point? 

Any input appreciated,
Jim
 

by Anthony Medici on Tue Aug 06, 2019 6:30 pm
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There are a number of differences between the D5 and the D850.

First the frame rate is 12 fps versus 9 fps. And if I remember right, the blackout between frame is less on the D5.
The D5 has 2 extra group modes versus the D850.
The overall speed of focusing is seems faster with the D5.

Yet for all that, it was always hard to tell if one focused better than the other when it came to sharpness. That was caused by the huge difference in resolution. On the D850 it was VERY obvious when the focus missed slightly yet when used at various standard viewing sizes, the images looked fine. On the D5 it was never obvious if there were minor differences between the file since there wasn't enough resolution to tell.

In other words, the D5 never seems to miss focus. (a slight exaggeration since all cameras miss some) And the D850 seems to miss critical focus every other frame. Critical focus is being picky when viewing at 100%. Yet when downsized to D5 resolution, 75% of those images are fine. And with modern tools, it's a not quite in critical focus image can be fixed at full size.
Tony
 

by Jim Zipp on Wed Aug 07, 2019 6:28 am
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Thanks Tony. Makes sense. Just as I was thinking of possibly picking up at least a used D5 I saw yours had just sold at a good price and also it was from a trusted source. If I thought I was going to get one I'd probably not bother adding the grip/battery pack to the D850.
 

by E.J. Peiker on Wed Aug 07, 2019 7:43 am
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I think Tony answered it well. For me, I would take the resolution of the D850 and even when shot in DX mode, you have about the same pixel count as a D5 in full frame mode meaning your capability of cropping, even substantially, is something you can do on the D850 but not so much on the D5. Additionally you have an ~30mp APS-H mode on the D850 which, to me, is fantastic for the type of photography that you do, Jim. Additionally when shooting in that mode, you have substantial coverage of the frame with AF points. I guess to me, that's another advantage of the D850, despite missing two AF modes, the fact that in the crop modes you have substantially more AF point coverage in the frame while still getting the same or more megapixels than a D5. For me, the D5 is purely a press camera where resolution is not all that important, the D850 is a much better all around camera for just about everything else.
 

by Anthony Medici on Wed Aug 07, 2019 7:58 am
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E.J. Peiker wrote:
For me, the D5 is purely a press camera where resolution is not all that important, the D850 is a much better all around camera for just about everything else.


Or sports camera where the frame rate added to not having to deal with huge file sizes to get the image to press on time is more important.

That's why I ended up selling the D5. I was using it for event (people) work and I decided that I could get by with the Z6 for that and not have to carry all the weight of the D5 for that.
Tony
 

by E.J. Peiker on Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:32 am
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Yeah, agreed - I lumped Sports in with Press since since they are generally shooting for some publication but yes there are amateur sports photographers and enthusiasts but I don't see a lot of those with D5's and 400/2.8 lenses :)
 

by Anthony Medici on Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:45 am
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Jim Zipp wrote:
Just as I was thinking of possibly picking up at least a used D5 I saw yours had just sold at a good price and also it was from a trusted source.  If I thought I was going to get one I'd probably not bother adding the grip/battery pack to the D850.


mpb.com sells D5's on occasion for about what I was asking. (They don't currently have one for sale.)
Tony
 

by Jim Zipp on Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:09 am
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Thanks E.J. and again Tony. Since I already have the D850 I think I'll boost up the performance with the D5 battery etc and see how it goes. It's what I'd rather do in the first place. That way I can also use the body without the battery pack when I want to go light and fps isn't important.
 

by Anthony Medici on Wed Aug 07, 2019 12:00 pm
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The D850 is slightly taller than the D5 when it has the grip attached. (Just noting for the record.)

Don't forget to put the rubber from the D850 on the inside of the grip otherwise you will lose it.
(After all, I can't find mine anywhere!)
Tony
 

by E.J. Peiker on Wed Aug 07, 2019 1:30 pm
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Anthony Medici wrote:
The D850 is slightly taller than the D5 when it has the grip attached. (Just noting for the record.)

Don't forget to put the rubber from the D850 on the inside of the grip otherwise you will lose it.
(After all, I can't find mine anywhere!)


Yes, there is a place on the inside of the grip where you are supposed to put it.  Use that, otherwise you will lose it.
 

by Jim Zipp on Wed Aug 07, 2019 3:23 pm
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Thanks guys, Jim
 

by flygirl on Thu Aug 08, 2019 8:05 am
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Jim Zipp wrote:
I'm wondering just what the difference is between a Nikon D850 (with optional grip and battery to get 9FPS) and a Nikon D5 when it comes to autofocus performance.  I know grip/battery has no effect other than FPS but for birds in flight I'd like to get a feel for how well the D850 does against the D5 from those that own or have used both.  The larger files from the D850 are desirable but if they aren't as sharp then what's the point? 

Any input appreciated,
Jim



Hi Jim

I just got back from the Pantanal of Brazil and I was VERY happy that I had added the larger battery with the grip to my D850.  I have not used a D5, but with the ability to crop and with practice the resolution power of the D850 is awesome.  Here is an example with a male ringed kingfisher, the largest of the Pantanals kingfishers, paired with the Nikon 300 f/4, PF, VR lens.
Image
 

by Jim Zipp on Fri Aug 09, 2019 6:09 am
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Thanks Nancy. I have been finding the D850 to be very good myself. I did just add the grip yesterday. I don't plan on using it all the time but when shooting action it will be nice to have. I'm used to the 12fps+ so getting back up to at least 9 feels good again. Great image by the way!
 

by Brian E. Small on Fri Aug 09, 2019 2:52 pm
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Jim Zipp wrote:
Thanks Nancy. I have been finding the D850 to be very good myself.  I did just add the grip yesterday.  I don't plan on using it all the time but when shooting action it will be nice to have.  I'm used to the 12fps+ so getting back up to at least 9 feels good again.  Great image by the way!



Jim,

I know your original question was about AF performance.  But I wanted to add that for me, the main consideration to get or not get the D5 was it's ability to produce high quality images in low light and to shoot at significantly higher ISO than the D850.  There is no question the D5 is far superior in this area.  But, the $4-5K price tag for a used one didn't seem worth it to me.  Basically, I'd rather just try to shoot in good light as much as possible.  Now if I were going for example to a place like the Pribilofs where you're almost guaranteed mediocre weather I'd definitely want the D5 and maybe I'd rent one for a specialty trip like that.  But I spend most of my year in SoCal or Arizona or Texas where I generally expect pretty good weather and so the D5 would be more of a luxury for me.  

You live in the East and know your local haunts better than I.....................so it may be more of a reason to consider the D5. I just thought it worth mentioning that to me, ISO/low light performance is the main reason to consider the camera...............even more than AF performance IMHO.  From everything I've read and everyone I've talked to, there isn't a significant enough difference between the two cameras to make that the deciding factor.  

And I also agree with what Tony said in his original response to you................he summarized it well.
 

by E.J. Peiker on Fri Aug 09, 2019 3:02 pm
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When normalized to the same print size and not looking at noise at the pixel level, the D850 actually slightly outperforms the D5...
https://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Compare/Side-by-side/Nikon-D5-versus-Nikon-D850___1062_1177
Look at the Sports/Low Light score - higher is better.

Digging deeper into their scores, the important one for noise is the Signal/Noise graph and you can see that the difference is negligible:
https://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Compare/Side-by-side/Nikon-D5-versus-Nikon-D850___1062_1177 and click on the Measurements Tab and then S/N

At the pixel level the D5 may be a bit cleaner but when the D850 shots are processed at the same pixel level (RAW conversion to half the pixel count - not scaled after RAW conversion) as the D5, it is ever so slightly cleaner.  But when looking at more than twice as many pixels at the 1:1 pixel level, the D850 probably looks a bit noisier.  Bottom line, it depends on how you look at noise whether the D5 is actually better at low light or not - at pixel level, or for a given output or viewing size.

Again, DXO normalizes to a specific print size.  You will also see that the D850 very much outperforms the D5 for dynamic range and color depth.
 

by flygirl on Fri Aug 09, 2019 3:36 pm
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Brian E. Small wrote:
Jim Zipp wrote:
Thanks Nancy. I have been finding the D850 to be very good myself.  I did just add the grip yesterday.  I don't plan on using it all the time but when shooting action it will be nice to have.  I'm used to the 12fps+ so getting back up to at least 9 feels good again.  Great image by the way!



Jim,

I know your original question was about AF performance.  But I wanted to add that for me, the main consideration to get or not get the D5 was it's ability to produce high quality images in low light and to shoot at significantly higher ISO than the D850.  There is no question the D5 is far superior in this area.  But, the $4-5K price tag for a used one didn't seem worth it to me.  Basically, I'd rather just try to shoot in good light as much as possible.  Now if I were going for example to a place like the Pribilofs where you're almost guaranteed mediocre weather I'd definitely want the D5 and maybe I'd rent one for a specialty trip like that.  But I spend most of my year in SoCal or Arizona or Texas where I generally expect pretty good weather and so the D5 would be more of a luxury for me.  

You live in the East and know your local haunts better than I.....................so it may be more of a reason to consider the D5. I just thought it worth mentioning that to me, ISO/low light performance is the main reason to consider the camera...............even more than AF performance IMHO.  From everything I've read and everyone I've talked to, there isn't a significant enough difference between the two cameras to make that the deciding factor.  

And I also agree with what Tony said in his original response to you................he summarized it well.


As far as iso goes, this one was taken at iso 16000 with my D850.  They did not allow flash and had just two moonlight type spotlights.  This was at the ocelot blind at the Southwild Lodge in the Pantanal, Brazil.  It was challenging but I love it!!!  You always learn new tricks on trips like this.
Image
 

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