With the much-anticipated announcement of the flagship Nikon D6, many sports and wildlife photographers are probably wondering what this camera does differently compared to its predecessor, the Nikon D5. Although the D6 might not be as big of an upgrade as the D5 was over the D4s and D4 cameras, it is Nikon’s most refined DSLR to date, and will continue to be for a while. Let’s take a closer look at both of these cameras and see how the D6 compares to the D5, and what advantages it brings to the table.
Before we get into the camera specifications, let’s take a look at what Nikon has changed on the D6 in terms of camera design and ergonomics.
Nikon D6 vs D5 Camera Design and Ergonomics
As you can see from the above image, both cameras seem to be nearly identical. The D5 is already a very solid camera with exceptionally good ergonomics, so it makes sense for Nikon to reuse the same design. The only difference I see is the change in numbers – the rest is all the same.
What about the top of the camera? Here are the two compared, side by side, with the Nikon D6 on the left:
Aside from very slight differences, the two cameras are again, nearly identical. The button placement is the same, the labels are the same. Nikon did make a subtle change to the left dial – it is now a little taller. Also, the shape of the “MODE”, “BKT” and metering buttons have changed a little, and there is now a little indentation in the center. The middle area where the flash socket is located is shaped slightly differently, and there is now a plastic cover on the top – that’s to house the in-body GPS chip that does not exist on the D5.
Let’s take a look at the back of the two cameras:
Similar to the front, the backs of the D6 and D5 are nearly identical. The only difference I see is in the microphone label that is now inserted right below the Fn3 button, which is not there on the D5.
Overall, aside from very slight differences on the top, there are no differences in design and ergonomics between the two cameras. Where Nikon has done the most changes is in the camera internals.
Nikon D6 vs D5 Specification Comparison
Let’s take a look at what has changed in terms of specifications:
|Camera Feature||Nikon D6||Nikon D5|
|Sensor Resolution||20.8 Million||20.8 Million|
|Sensor Coating||Anti-reflection coating||Anti-reflection coating|
|Sensor Pixel Size||6.45µ||6.45µ|
|Sensor Dust Reduction||Yes||Yes|
|Image Size||5,568 x 3,712||5,568 x 3,712|
|Aspect Ratio Options||FX (36×24), 1.2x (30×20), DX (24×16), 5:4 (30×24), 1:1 (24×24), 16:9 (36×20)||FX (36×24), 1.2x (30×20), DX (24×16), 5:4 (30×24)|
|Base ISO||ISO 100||ISO 100|
|Native ISO Sensitivity||ISO 100-102,400||ISO 100-102,400|
|Boosted ISO Sensitivity||ISO 50, ISO 204,800-3,280,000||ISO 50, ISO 204,800-3,280,000|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 6||EXPEED 5|
|Focusing Screen||Type B BriteView Clear Matte Mark X||Type B BriteView Clear Matte Mark IX|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/250||1/250|
|Storage Media||2x CFexpress Type B, XQD||2x XQD / 2x CF|
|Storage Saving Options||Overflow, Backup, NEF + JPEG, JPEG + JPEG||Overflow, Backup, NEF + JPEG|
|EXIF Version||EXIF 2.31||EXIF 2.3|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||14 fps with AF/AE||12 fps with AF/AE|
|Buffer Size (RAW, Lossless 14-bit)||200||200|
|Continuous Shooting||14.3 seconds||16.7 seconds|
|Max Shutter Speed||1/8000 to 900 sec||1/8000 to 30 sec|
|Shutter Type||Mechanical Shutter, EFCS in MUP, Electronic Shutter||Mechanical Shutter, EFCS in MUP|
|Shutter Durability||400,000 cycles||400,000 cycles|
|Exposure Metering Sensor||180,000-pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering III||180,000-pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering III|
|Autofocus System||Nikon Advanced Multi-CAM 37K||Nikon Advanced Multi-CAM 20K|
|Autofocus Points||105-point, 105 cross-type AF system||153-point, 99 cross-type AF system|
|Dedicated AF Processor||Yes||Yes|
|AF Area Mode||OVF: Single-point AF; 9, 25, 49, or 105-point dynamic-area AF; 3D-tracking; Group-area AF; Group-area AF (C1); Group-area AF (C2); Auto-area AF; Live View: Face-detection AF, Wide-area AF, Normal area AF, Subject-tracking AF||25, 72, or 153 point Dynamic-area AF; Auto-area AF; Single-point AF; 3D-tracking; Group-area AF|
|AF Detection Points||15 Center AF Points, Up to f/8||9 Center AF Points, Up to f/8|
|AF Detection Range||-4.5 to +20 EV||-4 to +20 EV|
|Auto AF Fine-Tune||Yes||Yes|
|Picture Control||Auto, Creative Picture Controls (Dream, Morning, Pop, Sunday, Somber, Dramatic, Silence, Bleached, Melancholic, Pure, Denim, Toy, Sepia, Blue, Red, Pink, Charcoal, Graphite, Binary, Carbon), Flat, Landscape, Monochrome, Neutral, Portrait, Standard, Vivid, Selected Picture Control can be modified, Storage for custom Picture Controls||Flat, Landscape, Monochrome, Neutral, Portrait, Standard, Vivid, User-customizable Settings|
|Natural Light WB Preset||Yes||No|
|Video File Format||MOV / MP4||MOV|
|Video Compression||MPEG-4 / H.264||MPEG-4 / H.264|
|Video Maximum Resolution||3,840×2,160 (4K) up to 30p||3,840×2,160 (4K) up to 30p|
|Video Max Recording Time||105 min||29.59 min|
|Audio Recording Format||Linear PCM, AAC||Linear PCM|
|LCD Size||3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD||3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD|
|LCD Resolution||2,359,000 dots||2,359,000 dots|
|Built-in Wired LAN||1000 Base-T Support||1000 Base-T Support|
|Battery Life||3,580 shots (CIPA)||3,780 shots (CIPA)|
|USB Type||USB 3.1, Type C||USB 3.0, Micro-B|
|Weight||1,270g (Body Only)||1,240g (Body Only)|
|Dimensions||160.0 x 163.0 x 92.0mm||160.0 x 158.5 x 92.0mm|
As you can see from the above table, the main differences between the two cameras are in the new AF system, faster processor, storage type, continuous shooting speed and built-in Wi-Fi + GPS – the rest of the changes are mostly firmware tweaks. The biggest change, without a doubt, is in the autofocus system. Although the number of focus points went down from 153 to 105, all 105 of those focus points are cross-type, and the AF system has been optimized to yield maximum performance from each one of those focus points. This is going to be especially noticeable when using the updated Group-area AF mode, which allows for 17 different focus point combinations.
Over the years, Nikon has been refining the AF system on its flagship DSLR to deliver the best results for action photography, and I am sure the D6 will not disappoint in this regard. This is a workhorse camera that needs to deliver in every shooting scenario, and the D6 does it extremely well. Nikon chose to apply subtle updates to the already amazing camera, but are these changes enough to push existing D5 owners to upgrade? My guess is – probably not. However, those shooting with the D4 and D4s cameras and wanting to move up to the best Nikon has to offer should definitely look into the D6.
What do you think? Are you planning to upgrade to the Nikon D6? Please let us know in the comments section below.
An interesting review, time has actually changed it somewhat. A firmware update to the D5 means that it too can now use CFexpress cards and the difference between the EN-EL18c and the EN-EL18a is minimal, later D5 bodies actually shipped with EN-EL18c batteries.
Personally, whilst the D6 would be nice to have the D5 is perfectly adequate, if I miss a shot it is more to do with the photographer than the camera. So, unsurprisingly I won’t be upgrading
I have purchased one. I think it is the last DSLR.
But with the few upgrades equate to a price differences of +/- $2000,- retail…is that really worth it? I have to work hard for my $$$$
D5 is better right
Frustrating how 2020 has turned out to have hindered the usual intensive real world testing of pro cameras – especially in an Olympic year. Previously, this widespread feedback includes reports from the coalface of action / low light shooting by professionals with decades of experience in wildlife/sports, and close familiarity with the previous models.
Nevertheless, contrary to the planet’s trolls, reports on the NikonGear forum confirm the D6 AF is a game changer compared to the D5. Nonetheless, the D6 demands weeks of experimenting with the modes, Custom Area in particular, to optimize its performance.
Lastly, the attention to Custom Menus and controls are a vital feature of the modern ILC, but far too many reviewers fail to drill into the differences. I have learnt to ignore reviews that fail to give this subject priority attention. Nikon has improved and expanded the ‘Recall Shooting Functions’ controls/customization in the D6, and these options are essential to maximize the potential of a modern Professional ILC.
In stead of the 12 fps change to fps, for me its more worth to go to a higher resolution (or both of course ). D5 together with my D850 covers my need (mostly wildlife fotogaphy).
D5 package comes with EN-EL18C batteries. so not sure why this is an advantage for D6…
no one noticed the brochure mentions 200 JPG instead of 200 RAW ? A friend of mine shooting consecutively in these last days with a preproduction D6, had the buffer filled at 108 RAW. This should be investigated – although I don’t know who might need so many photos all together.
It’s true for some reason the D6 does have a shorter or worse buffer size compared to the D5! Not sure why and nobody seems to be able to explain it either! However most people don’t ever shoot more than 100 frames in a row so it’s not a big deal!
The D6 is an awesome machine and worth the money if you have it. If you don’t have the cash, grab a used D5 at a great price. Probably less than half. Use the savings of $3,000 to buy a lens. Don’t get too hung up on little improvements like the 14fps. The 2 extra frame are most likely going to be on the edge of soft focus if the subject is moving to or from you. Also the buffer of 200 is more then I have ever needed and doubt you will ever get close to needing it. I shoot pro baseball and football. METS & JETS. No loser jokes please. I have the D5, D850, and recently sold my D4 and D500. I am probably getting the D6 but might just get a D5 and use the savings to buy some other toy. You should think about that too.
I own two D4s and love them. D5 was in my sights but couldn’t really justify upgrading. I have preordered the D6 for the 14fps, and the CFExpress cards, as well as the built in WiFi and GPS (small but nice feature). The other big boost is the AF and the ISO, from what I’ve seen and read it’s going to be much better in low light situations which I tend to shoot a lot in. I can’t wait for it to arrive.