Nikon D500 Review
A phenomenal camera that raises the bar for digital SLR to all-new heights
- Class-leading image quality
- Excellent autofocus performance
- Great interface
- UHD 4k video
- Using SnapBridge can be a bit finicky
- 4k video is based on a crop of the sensor, limiting lens choice
- Autofocus in 4k video is prone to re-focusing
The 20.7-megapixel APS-C DSLR Nikon D500 is a DX-format camera that can shoot 10 frames per second and has an autofocus system similar to the D5. In other words, it’s a very high-performance camera small enough to get into the thick of the action.
With a 153-point autofocus system, a rugged build, 10 fps continuous shooting, and 4k video support, the D500 delivers more than expected. It’s closely aligned to Nikon’s heavier full-frame pro-level camera.
What Is an APS-C Camera?
APS-C cameras have a smaller sensor than full-frame cameras. This makes APS-C less expensive, smaller, and there are fewer materials required to build the camera body.
APS-C cameras have a larger number of lenses from which to choose and these are typically cheaper.
Regarding the pictures you take, an APS-C camera’s lens will take a cropped shot. Less of the scene is captured by the image sensor. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; you can more easily fill the frame with your subject for a more intimate view.
The Nikon D500 represents an APS-C camera that’s so good it genuinely competes with pro-grade full-frame digital SLRs.
Nikon D500 vs. D750
The D500 and D750 are roughly comparable models and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a clear winner between them. The biggest difference between the models is the sensor. The D500 has an APS-C (DX) sensor whereas the D750 has a full-frame (FX) sensor. Theoretically, the D750 should, therefore, have a better image, but the image processor is older than the D500’s image processor and in practice, the difference is minimal.
- The D500 offers full 4k video; the D750 only offers full HD.
- The D500 shoots in burst mode up to 10 fps; the D750 only shoots up to 6.5 fps.
- The D500 has a better autofocus sensor module, particularly in low-light conditions.
Therefore, unless it’s full-frame photography that you love, the D500 may be a better option than the D750.
Body and Handling
The D500 is relatively big for an APS-C camera, in line with the D750. This makes room for a lot of custom buttons. The grip is very well designed and the overall body is very light, making extended use comfortable.
Button positioning is similar to the discontinued D300S, including four buttons on the top left shoulder of the camera. An AF point joystick that doubles as the AEL/AFL button has been added.
The 100% viewfinder has a 1.0x magnification, making it the largest optical viewfinder on an APS-C DSLR available today.
All of the buttons down the left-hand side of the camera can be set to light up in low-light conditions, making capturing late night or concert scenes easier.
The Nikon D500 has extremely good image quality at both low and high ISOs. The D500 is class-leading in both high-speed shooting and low-light situations, beating the D7200, Canon 7D Mark II and Sony A6300 in extensive tests.
With such a high ISO dynamic range performance, light-deprived scenes have no noise in dark regions. When converted from Raw to JPEG, the colors are pleasing, particularly the greens and yellows. The camera manages to balance noise reduction and detail retention better than its direct competitors.
The autofocus is the D500’s biggest strength; it’s the best we’ve ever seen. It has outstanding subject tracking and a simple autofocus fine-tune process that’ll have you taking outstanding action shots without any effort.
The autofocus system covers almost the entire width of the frame with the most accurate and reliable cross-type points down the edges. The 3D tracking system can follow your subject around the scene almost anywhere.
There is a wide range of different autofocus modes to choose from, and it’s powerful to be able to engage a different autofocus point mode temporarily when there’s a change in the action.
Excitingly, the Nikon D500 is one of the first DSLRs that shoots 4k video. The camera has a built-in mic and headphone sockets for audio recording and monitoring.
At full 3840 x 2160, the maximum frame rate is 30 frames per second (fps) with options for 25 fps and 24 fps. At 1920 x 1080, you can shoot in 60 fps.
The quality of the image is good, but the camera’s 4k crop cuts into the camera’s low light capabilities. Autofocus can be aggressive in 4k video shooting, re-focusing too often. When light is low, dropping back to HD video makes sense.
The D500 is built with Nikon’s new SnapBridge connectivity system that uses both Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi. You can set the camera to transfer every image automatically or you can manually browse the camera’s memory card to find the images you want to transfer. You can choose between transferring full-size images or smaller 2-megapixel versions.
Pair your device with the camera using NPC and you can auto-transfer all images to your device using Bluetooth so it never ties up your device’s Wi-Fi connection. Alternatively, you can transfer manually from the camera over Wi-Fi.
Plenty of less expensive cameras can match the Nikon D500 for image quality, but it’s the combination of 10 fps shooting, great ergonomics, logical controls, continuous shooting performance, excellent autofocus, and rugged design that make the case for the Nikon D500.
The autofocus and continuous shooting performance are the camera’s greatest strengths, making it a fantastic choice for photographers who want to capture fluid action in superb high quality.
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