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Nikon’s D5 flagship DSLR is worthy successor, despite lower sensor test score

There are high expectations for Nikon’s latest flagship DSLR, a speedy shooter with a maximum ISO of more than three million (3,276,800, to be precise) — and according to the latest tests, the D5 should have no problem meeting them. DXO Mark, a camera testing software company, just released results for the D5, and they’re rather surprising.

Related: Here’s what ISO 3,276,800 really looks like

The Nikon D5 scores an 88 overall on the test — which is actually a lower score than the older D4 and the less expensive D750 and D810. Still, despite the results, DXOMark reviewer Kevin Carter is calling the camera a worthy successor.

“While the D5’s score is perhaps slightly lower than expected, the sensor still performs at a very high level overall, especially considering that the camera is being marketed to action and sports photographers requiring ultra-high-speed capture rates, and also considering that it has some 4K (UHD) video capability,” Carter said.

So what’s behind that score? While the color depth is improved over the D4 and D4S, the dynamic range and low light ISO is slightly lower.

All three cameras have similar performance at ISO 800, but the D4 proved to be one stop better than the D5 at ISO 800-12800. The D5, though, starts at a lower ISO of 100, not 200, which is where the numbers favor the D4. In the higher ISOs, the D5 has a better dynamic range.

“Despite the high color sensitivity that indicates lower noise levels, the Nikon D5 comes in at just over one-third stop behind the D4s in our low-light ISO score, and around a half-stop below the D3s. In real terms that’s not a great deal, considering its advantages elsewhere, and especially when compared to competing products,” Carter said.

DXOMark hasn’t yet released the sensor scores for the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, but the D5 does beat out the first 1DX in every category except for low light.

While the sensor scores are a bit lower than the big expectations after the announcement, part of that is due to the wider available ISO range. With what’s still considered an excellent score, the D5 also includes an impressive autofocus and 12 fps burst for sports photography – but portrait and still life photographers probably won’t be doing themselves any favors by spending more on the D5.