Nikon D3 vs Nikon D5

  • Full frame
  • 12 megapixels
  • Nikon F
  • 42
    Overall
  • 18
    Imaging
  • 42
    Features
  • 66
    Size
  • 0
    Price
  • Full frame
  • 21 megapixels
  • Nikon F
  • 50
    Overall
  • 30
    Imaging
  • 63
    Features
  • 65
    Size
  • 0
    Price

Nikon D3 vs Nikon D5: a Complete Review and Comparison

Are you looking for the best camera to suit your needs? Due to a wide range of options, making a wise and weighted decision can be rather challenging. Which specs to keep in mind? What are the key pros and cons of each model? This comparison should give some helpful hints!

The goal of this overview is to provide a detailed comparison of two popular camera models from Pro DSLR category, introduced by Nikon. We are going to take a closer look at the technical and physical characteristics, features, and performance. The models we are going to assess and compare in this review are D3 and D5. Both products that we are going to review are equipped with the same type of sensor - CMOS. However, they have different resolution. Thus, Nikon D3 comes with a 12.0 MP CMOS sensor, while the Nikon D5 features a 21.0 MP CMOS sensor.

Now, before we can move on to our comparison, let's take a moment to look at the key characteristics of Nikon D3 and Nikon D5.

Nikon D3 Key Features:

  • 12.0 MP Full frame CMOS sensor
  • ISO 200 - 6400 (Expands to 100 - 25600)
  • Image Stabilization: No
  • 3″ Fixed Type Screen
  • ViewFinder: Yes
  • 11.0 fps Continuous Shooting
  • Built-in Wireless: No
  • Dimensions: 160 x 157 x 88 mm
  • Weight: 1300 g
  • Environmental Sealing: Yes
  • Built-in GPS: Yes
  • Replaced by Nikon D3S. Compare

Nikon D5 Key Features:

  • 21.0 MP Full frame CMOS sensor
  • ISO 100 - 102400 (Expands to 3280000)
  • Image Stabilization: No
  • 3.2″ Fixed Type Screen
  • ViewFinder: Yes
  • 14.0 fps Continuous Shooting
  • Video: 4K (UHD) 30p/25p/24p, 1080/60p/50p/30p/25p/24p, 720/60p/50p
  • Built-in Wireless: Yes
  • Dimensions: 160 x 158.5 x 92 mm
  • Weight: 1415 g
  • Environmental Sealing: Yes
  • Built-in GPS: Yes
  • Replaced Nikon D4s. Compare

Since Nikon D3 has been around for some time, it was substituted by Nikon D3S. Be sure to check out some of our other comparisons that may also interest you:
Nikon D3 vs. D3S
Nikon D3S vs. Nikon D5

Why is Nikon D3 a better choice than Nikon D5

Sensor Area 860.4 mm2 vs 855.62 mm2 0.6% larger pixel area
Battery Life 4300 shots vs 3780 shots 520 more frames with a single charge
Weight 1300 g vs 1415 g 115 g lighter

What are the key reasons to pick Nikon D5 over Nikon D3

Wireless Connectivity Optional vs No Better connectivity
Sensor Resolution 21.0 MP vs 12.0 MP 42.9% more pixels
Continuous Shooting 14 fps vs 11 fps 3 fps faster
AutoFocus Face Detection Yes vs No Very handy for portraits
Screen Size 3.2″ vs 3″ 0.2" larger screen
Screen Resolution 2,359k dots vs 922k dots 60.9% higher resolution screen
Touch Screen Yes vs No Easy control of camera functions
Dxo Color Depth 25.1 vs 23.5 Better color depth
Dxo Dynamic Range 12.3 vs 12.2 Better dynamic range
Dxo Low Light Iso 2434 vs 2290 Better High ISO performance
Viewfinder Magnification 0.72 vs 0.7 0.02 better magnification

Key PROs of Nikon D3 and Nikon D5

Screen Size 3″ | 3.2″ Large display
Viewfinder Optical (pentaprism) | Optical (pentaprism) Better framing and control
Raw Support Yes | Yes Better image quality
Timelapse Recording Yes | Yes Creative shooting
Storage Slots 2 slots | 2 slots Extra Storage Slots
Continuous Shooting 11.0 fps | 14.0 fps Nice continuous shooting
Flash Sync Port Yes | Yes Port for Flash Sync
Environmental Sealing Yes | Yes Shoot at tough conditions
Battery Life 4300 shots | 3780 shots Big number of frames with a single charge

Key CONs of Nikon D3 and Nikon D5

Screen Type Fixed Type | Fixed Type No flexible viewing angles
Sensor Resolution 12.0 MP | 21.0 MP Small sensor resolution
Built-In Flash No | No No built-in flash
Image Stabilization No | No No image stabilization

Nikon D3 vs Nikon D5: Comparing Two Models By Physical Characteristics

Before heading straight to the technical characteristics of each model, let’s start with comparing their physical specs. Let’s start with looking at the physical difference of the two products. Below are images that clearly show the sizes of Nikon D3 and Nikon D5 from the front view.

Nikon D3
Nikon D5
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Now, let’s go on and see how the reviewed models are different or similar by the top view.

Nikon D3
Nikon D5
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After looking at these images, you should get a clear idea of each model’s dimensions and how they are different from each other. However, we are not going to stop there. The next characteristic worth looking at is the weight. Of course, not every photographer is concerned about the weight, for example, it wouldn't be a decisive point for those who shoot in a studio. However, it is still an important factor because if you happen to go on a long photo session or just love having the camera with you wherever you go, you want to be sure that the chosen model isn't too heavy.

Speaking of weight, Nikon D3 is a lighter option of these two, as it weights 115g less than the Nikon D5. This difference, in fact, can become a significant disadvantage for the photographers, who prefer to have their cameras with them wherever they go.

Battery values for Pro DSLR cameras:
Nikon D3 — 4300 shots
Nikon D5 — 3780 shots
Min: 650 shots
Average: 2336 shots
Max: 4400 shots
Thickness values for Pro DSLR cameras:
Nikon D3 — 88 mm
Nikon D5 — 92 mm
Min: 74 mm
Average: 85 mm
Max: 123 mm
Weight values for Pro DSLR cameras:
Nikon D3 — 1300 g
Nikon D5 — 1415 g
Min: 735 g
Average: 1275 g
Max: 1585 g

Comparing Nikon D3 and Nikon D5 by the type of Sensor and Resolution

Sensor is, without a doubt, the most significant element of every digital camera. Its type, size, and resolution are the factors that define the quality of future shots. Thus, it is barely possible to pick a suitable camera without looking at these specs.

Are Nikon D3 and Nikon D5 any different in terms of sensor type?

In fact, that's exactly what makes these two models really different. Thus, it is a good point to consider if your are choosing between these two cameras. Nikon D3 features a 12.0 MP Full frame sized CMOS sensor and boasts of a Expeed processor . Nikon D5, in its turn, comes with a 21.0 MP Full frame sized CMOS sensor , which makes it significantly different from the first model.

Take a look below to find the comparison of Nikon D3 and Nikon D5 by the size of their sensors.

Nikon D3
Nikon D5
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Nikon D3 and Nikon D5 are identical by this indicator, as each feature a sensor of the same size. Thus, both cameras will provide the same level of control in terms of the depth of field if you use them with the same focal length and aperture.

For Which Fields Of Photography Are Nikon D3 and Nikon D5 Suitable?

If you are interested in photography or has made a career in this field, you should know that different types of shooting actually require different camera characteristics. While one model can produce outstanding portraits, at the same time, it can be terrible for shooting landscapes, and so on. Thus, before you purchase a specific camera, it is vital to decide, which type of shooting you do most often and consider an option that suits it the most.

This section of our comparison is devoted to the performance of Nikon D3 and Nikon D5 in different fields of photography. Here we are going to look at the five main areas and evaluate how well each of the reviewed models performs in them. This will help you choose an option that suits your needs the most depending on your interest in one or several of these fields.

Photography Type Nikon D3 Nikon D5
Portrait Photography
83%
94%
Street Photography
76%
79%
Sports Photography
98%
100%
Daily Photography
93%
68%
Landscape Photography
94%
97%

Nikon D3 for Portrait Photography

Advantages:

  • Large Full frame (36 x 23.9 mm) sensor
  • Fast Max Shutter Speed (1/8000s)

Disadvantages:

  • You might not like Nikon skintone
  • No Image Stabilization

Nikon D5 for Portrait Photography

Advantages:

  • Large Full frame (35.8 x 23.9 mm) sensor
  • High resolution sensor (21 MP)
  • Fast Max Shutter Speed (1/8000s)
  • Face Detection Focusing

Disadvantages:

  • You might not like Nikon skintone
  • No Image Stabilization

Nikon D3 for Street Photography

Advantages:

  • Built-in View Finder
  • Live View
  • Large Full frame(36 x 23.9 mm) sensor
  • Big battery life (4300 shots)

Disadvantages:

  • Big size (160 x 157 x 88 mm)
  • No Image Stabilization

Nikon D5 for Street Photography

Advantages:

  • Built-in View Finder
  • Live View
  • Large Full frame(35.8 x 23.9 mm) sensor
  • Big battery life (3780 shots)

Disadvantages:

  • Big size (160 x 158.5 x 92 mm)
  • No Image Stabilization

Nikon D3 for Sports Photography

Advantages:

  • Fast Continuous Shooting (11.0 fps)
  • Environmental Sealing
  • Fast Max Shutter Speed (1/8000s)
  • Nice Low Light ISO (2290)
  • Big battery life (4300 shots)
  • Big size (160 x 157 x 88 mm)

Disadvantages:

  • Bad Max Native ISO (6400)

Nikon D5 for Sports Photography

Advantages:

  • Fast Continuous Shooting (14.0 fps)
  • Environmental Sealing
  • Fast Max Shutter Speed (1/8000s)
  • Big Number of autofocus Points (153)
  • Big Number of CrossFocus Points (99)
  • Nice Low Light ISO (2434)
  • Big battery life (3780 shots)
  • Big size (160 x 158.5 x 92 mm)

Disadvantages:

No Significant Disadvantages

Nikon D3 for Daily Photography

Advantages:

  • Large Full frame (36 x 23.9 mm) sensor
  • Built-in View Finder
  • Live View

Disadvantages:

  • Big weight (1300 g)
  • Big size (160 x 157 x 88 mm)
  • No Built-in Flash
  • Video is not available

Nikon D5 for Daily Photography

Advantages:

  • Large Full frame (35.8 x 23.9 mm) sensor
  • Built-in View Finder
  • Live View
  • Wireless Connectivity
  • Video is available

Disadvantages:

  • Big weight (1415 g)
  • Big size (160 x 158.5 x 92 mm)
  • No Built-in Flash

Nikon D3 for Landscape Photography

Advantages:

  • Large Full frame (36 x 23.9 mm) sensor
  • Good Dynamic Range (12.2)
  • Environmental Sealing
  • Live View
  • RAW Support
  • Nice Low Light ISO (2290)

Disadvantages:

  • Low resolution sensor (12 MP)
  • Bad Max Native ISO (6400)

Nikon D5 for Landscape Photography

Advantages:

  • Large Full frame (35.8 x 23.9 mm) sensor
  • Good Dynamic Range (12.3)
  • Environmental Sealing
  • Live View
  • RAW Support
  • Nice Low Light ISO (2434)

Disadvantages:

  • Low resolution sensor (21 MP)

Comparison of Nikon D3 vs Nikon D5: Final Verdict

Hopefully, our detailed overview of these models has helped you consider all the main specs, pros and cons of each cameras. Maybe, after reading this comparison, some of you have already decided which option to opt for depending on your needs and preferences. However, if you are still wondering which option is a better choice, Nikon D3 or Nikon D5, below you can see what scores each of them received in five different aspects. To wrap up, we have used our unique Decision Algorithm that assesses different camera models upon 63 different factors including their price, and, if possible, DxO Mark scores. This algorithm allows us to make our verdict more consistent and objective.

What is our final verdict? Based on our comparison and the final scores of Nikon D3 and Nikon D5 here is what we can say in conclusion:

According all the factors that we considered in the process of comparing these two cameras, Nikon D5 deserves a higher Total Score than the Nikon D3. Thus, if you are choosing between these options, we would recommend you to choose the first model over the other one.

Nikon D3 vs Nikon D5 Table Of Technical Specs

For better understanding of each model’s technical characteristics, find the detailed comparison below:

Nikon D3 Nikon D5
General
Brand Nikon Nikon
Model D3 D5
Announced Apr 18, 2008 Jan 05, 2016
Body Type Large SLR Large SLR
Sensor
Sensor Type CMOS CMOS
Sensor Size Full frame Full frame
Sensor Dimensions 36 x 23.9 mm 35.8 x 23.9 mm
Sensor Area 860.40 mm2 855.62 mm2
Sensor Resolution 12.0 MP 21.0 MP
Max Image Resolution 4256 x 2832 5588 x 3712
Max Native ISO 6,400 102,400
Max Boosted ISO 25,600 3,280,000
Min Native ISO 200 100
RAW Support Yes Yes
Lens
Manual Focus Yes Yes
Lens Mount Nikon F Nikon F
Number of Lenses 287 287
Focal Length Multiplier 1x 1x
Macro Focus Range
AutoFocus
AF Touch No No
AF Continuous Yes Yes
AF Single Yes Yes
AF Tracking No Yes
AF Selective Yes Yes
AF Center No Yes
AF Multi Area Yes Yes
AF Live View Yes Yes
AF Face Detection No Yes
AF Contrast Detection Yes Yes
AF Phase Detection Yes Yes
Number of Focus Points n/a 153
Number of Cross Focus Points n/a 99
Screen
Screen Type Fixed Type Fixed Type
Screen Size 3″ 3.2″
Screen Resolution 922k dots 2,359k dots
Live View Yes Yes
Touch Screen No Yes
ViewFinder
ViewFinder Optical (pentaprism) Optical (pentaprism)
ViewFinder Resolution 0k dots 0k dots
ViewFinder Coverage 100% 100%
ViewFinder Magnification 0.7 0.72
Photography Features
Min Shutter Speed 30 s 30 s
Max Shutter Speed 1/8000 s 1/8000 s
Continuous Shooting 11.0 fps 14.0 fps
Shutter Priority Yes Yes
Aperture Priority Yes Yes
Manual Exposure Mode Yes Yes
Exposure Compensation Yes Yes
Custom White Balance Yes Yes
Image Stabilization No No
Built-in Flash No No
Flash Range 0 0
Flash Modes Front curtain, Rear curtain, Red-Eye, Slow Sync Auto, Red-eye, Slow sync, Rear curtain
External Flash Yes Yes
AE Bracketing No Yes
WB Bracketing No Yes
Exposure Modes
Multi-Segment No Yes
Average No No
Spot No Yes
Partial No No
AF-Area No No
Center Weighted No No
DxO Sensor Scores
DxO Sensor Score 81 88
DxO Color Depth 23.5 25.1
DxO Dynamic Range 12.2 12.3
DxO Low Light ISO 2290 2434
Video Features
Video Resolutions n/a 4K (UHD) 30p/25p/24p, 1080/60p/50p/30p/25p/24p, 720/60p/50p
Max Video Resolution 3840 x 2160
Video Formats n/a MPEG-4, H.264
Microphone Port No Yes
Headphone Port No Yes
Connectivity
Wireless Connectivity No Yes
HDMI Yes Yes
USB USB 2.0 USB 3.0
Physical
Environmental Sealing Yes Yes
Water Proof No No
Dust Proof No Yes
Shock Proof No No
Crush Proof No No
Freeze Proof No No
Weight 1300 g 1415 g
Physical Dimensions 160 x 157 x 88 mm 160 x 158.5 x 92 mm
Battery Life 4300 shots 3780 shots
Battery Type Battery Pack Battery Pack
Battery Model n/a EN-EL18a
Other Features
Self Timer Yes Yes
Timelapse Recording Yes Yes
GPS Optional Optional
Storage Type Compact Flash (Type I or II) x2 Dual CompactFlash or dual XQD
Storage Slots 2 2

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