Camera Comparison: Nikon D5 vs Z6

D5 vs Z6, DSLR vs Mirrorless, Old vs New

Two very different cameras built for two very different purposes can be used to do the same job! Ultimately the camera is just a tool with which to create our art. Everybody loves a shiny new body with all those extra megapixels and new elements and coatings in lenses… But ultimately, they’re all tools and it matters more whose hands the camera is in than what numbers are associated with what features of the camera! While it would be super cool to know what brand of paint brush was Van Gogh’s favorite, I have zero doubt that he could have made a masterpiece in his signature style with any paint brush that was handed to him.

In our studio, the D5 is our main photo camera and the Z6 is our main video camera. Outside of the studio, we shoot video with an Atomos Ninja V recorder. We just love the quality and freedom we have to push and pull the video files to our heart’s content!

Rachel and Andrew were in Boston shooting a show for Boston Ballet in the Spring. We had recently purchased the Z6 and wanted to see how it would do in a performance setting. Being able to see your exposure in real time on the electronic viewfinder is such a godsend for performance photography! No more chimping! While we did sense a micro lag due to the latency of the electronic viewfinder (you are looking at a little screen, after all, and not directly through the lens), it was easy enough to adjust our timing ever so slightly to still nail the shot!  

The D5 is just a total work horse. The noise performance is unparalleled, and having 12 fps in burst mode when you only have one chance to nail the shot (even though a majority of the time, we’re on single shot) is just awesome. Downside to the D5… when you’re squashed in the back of the theater next to the mixing board and you’ve got to be on your feet for the duration of the entire performance holding nearly 10 lbs up to your face… Needless to say, it gets really heavy really quickly!

The biggest thing that is holding us back from using the Z6 for all of our performance photography is the issue surrounding silent shooting. In silent shooting mode, the camera uses an electronic shutter that, when shooting a performance with mixed lighting types, results in banding that makes the images totally unusable. We ended up using the mechanical shutter and had no issues with the quality of the images, but needed to put the Z6 in the same sound deadening blimp as the D5.

The Z6 performed wonderfully once we were using the mechanical shutter! The noise performance was great. This particular piece was quite dark and contrasty and we were shooting anywhere between 6400 and 12,800 ISO.

Can you tell which shot came from which camera!?


Boston Ballet Kathleen Breen Combes in Paulo Arrais’ ELA, Rhapsody in BlueBoston Ballet Kathleen Breen Combes in Paulo Arrais’ ELA, Rhapsody in Blue







Boston Ballet Kathleen Breen Combes in Paulo Arrais’ ELA, Rhapsody in BlueBoston Ballet Kathleen Breen Combes in Paulo Arrais’ ELA, Rhapsody in Blue





































Boston Ballet’s Kathleen Breen Combes in Paulo Arrais’ ELA, Rhapsody in Blue

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3 thoughts on “Camera Comparison: Nikon D5 vs Z6”

  1. Hi Rachel
    Thanks for the comparison of the D5 and the Z6
    I ended up purchasing the Z7, but was disappointed with the noise/ISO ratio compared to other cameras
    I known it is to do with megapixels and pixel density and 24mp is the sweet spot, but I do a lot of studio/ environmental shoots as well were I love the z7 and new glass.
    I am hanging out for the D6 but may move to the dark side and try the Sony A9ii for performance shoots.
    I haven’t noticed any banding issues yet with the z7, maybe I have been lucky with the lighting
    My biggest issue is with focusing, especially in low light or red green lighting.
    I believe electronic shutter is a godsend as I am usually in the other boat where I am videoing next to a photographer with a mechanical shutter then have to spend more time editing the audio while Trying to retain the ambience of the performance. I will be coming to NY in April for YAGP
    Hope to catch up this time depending on schedule.


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