D5 / D500

Jan. 10, 2017 | Digital SLR Cameras


Inheritance and evolution

Our pride in a flagship model and tireless pursuit of the best design

Cameras that can be fully utilized
for effective image creationMr. Chihiro Tsukamoto, Product Designer
Mr. Yutaka Nikaido, Product Designer


Whether producing stills or movies, cameras are essentially a creative tool for users to capture scenes out in the field or at studios. Photographers embrace subjects through the viewfinder, then nail the special moment in a single shot, or continue aiming and shooting. Our cameras achieve full-scale durability, enduring the rain, dust and other more severe conditions. We have to deliver a product that users can carry with them anywhere and effectively utilize for their every single need in order to create their own unique imagery - that is our mission as a designer of flagship cameras.

Agility projected through the form

A camera body that centers around the optical axis coming through the lens toward subjects - that is the philosophy for designing a Nikon SLR. In the development of the D5, while following this philosophy, we also pursued a more dynamic design.

The upper body, housing the pentaprism, is an important design element for a camera. While designing this section, we shaped the whole body in a way that effectively displays the shooting direction converging into a straight line toward the subject. Around the Nikon logo is a polygon, as often seen on cameras in general, taking advantage of the slope from the top. This design projects the sharpness and dynamism that supports the agility demonstrated in any situation. The D500, launched at almost the same time as the D5, is designed following identical principles.

The challenge for developing the D500 was packaging the D5's design strengths into a more compact body, as the DX model's optical system is smaller than the FX model's. We inherited the ambience and lines from the D5's upper body, and fine-tuned the angles to the size of the D500, as the relative positioning of eye level and optical axis center is different.


The ideal shape for many hands

A camera's grip is the key for improving agility. Professional photographers often carry a camera body with a large, heavy lens attached, in a single hand. How easy it is to carry a lens-attached body is as important as comfortable holding during shooting. We adjusted the thumb grip at the rear of the body and its curve down to 0.1 mm. We repeatedly created mockups to explore the perfect form that would best fit in hands of diverse sizes. This resulted in an ideal shape that satisfies all users, including hardworking professionals.


Solving a difficult puzzle

Button operability was also thoroughly explored. Photographers often operate buttons while holding the camera with both hands. Considering such situations, the centerline of the viewfinder and that of the LCD monitor were aligned as much as possible to facilitate their comfortable operation while facing subjects. Sometimes we accompany professional photographers to the field, observe their behavior and reflect what we learned from this in the body design. The D500's button layout was particularly difficult to perfect as the camera incorporated a tilting monitor, which would not allow us to simply move buttons to one side. We spent a long time moving each button little by little and examining if it would interfere with the internal structures - which was somewhat like solving a difficult puzzle.

Reproducing authentic leather texture

Authenticity and a sense of luxury are vital to a flagship's design. We ordered custom-made, grained material for the D5 and D500 grips. Layers of lines and pores were repeatedly processed to reproduce an authentic leather texture. It feels slightly rough because the unevenness is more defined, but this creates friction, helping the grip securely stay in the hands.


Consistent operabilityMr. Shunichi Matsuda, GUI Designer
Mr. Junichi Ukaji, GUI Designer


The D5 and D500 share almost the same graphical user interface (GUI) design. Considering that many of our customers utilize several bodies over the same period of time, we don't usually change the GUI design for each model. Consistency of operability throughout a camera series is important. However, we do of course implement changes to the GUI design to incorporate improvements. The custom button setting menu screens for the D5 and D500, for example, are different, as they are designed to assist users in understanding the feature and make quick setting changes optimally for each model.

Workflow for nailing the critical moment

One emphasis in designing the GUI for this project was speeding up the playback workflow. The D5 and D500 incorporated a touch panel for the first time in our flagship models. We aimed at making it as smooth as possible to shoot, play back for focus and composition confirmation, decide which pictures to keep or delete, and prepare for the next shot - a workflow that professional photographers often repeat in the field.


The D5 and D500 incorporated the frame advance bar, that can be activated by a touch at the bottom of the LCD monitor during playback. With the slide of a finger, it allows users to control the speed of scrolling through pictures. It offers convenience and increases efficiency in the post-shooting image confirmation process. We created and tried out various versions of this bar - with or without a handle, different indicator forms, display positions and sizes. We simulated each type, and after numerous discussions, finalized it in its current form.

Playing the greatest supporting role possible

Contrast in GUI simulated.

Flagship cameras have countless features, increasing the amount of information shown on the monitor. On the other hand, crucial information must always be displayed more prominently and in a way that helps understanding. It was difficult to maintain an effective balance between the amount of information and visibility, while inheriting the strengths of GUI designs from conventional models. We also carefully reviewed color schemes of the info screen to maintain visibility in any circumstances. Thanks to this, letters and numerals stand out against the background, maintaining a clear contrast, under both low and bright light conditions.

Whether using the GUI for shooting or playback, the photographer's pictures are given top priority. A GUI should never hinder the framing of a shot or smooth image confirmation. With that in mind, we always aim to design a GUI that helps users to operate smoothly and intuitively, without breaking their concentration.