D500 vs. E-M1 II: My Thoughts for Motorsports

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I posted this over on mu-43.com as well since I'm currently a m43 shooter with some Olympus cameras (hence the writing style bias towards m43). This past weekend, I rented a D500 & 70-200 f/2.8 VR II to shoot some racing at a local track, and came away VERY impressed with the D500. It's a great camera to shoot with, and the images speak for themselves. I'm glad I rented it and could see just what the D500 is capable of (and I'm by no means the best, I simply enjoy shooting cars, which is a walk in the park for the D500).

-------------------------

As many of you are likely aware, the E-M1 II has been touted as the most capable m43 camera for sports and action to date, and it certainly is a wonderful camera. I bought one shortly after launch when Olympus had their "Trade-in, Trade-up" program, getting rid of some small, crappy P&S camera, which brought the price of the E-M1 II down to a more palatable $1,800. I received the camera, shot some local college track & field events with it (it did great here, especially with the fast focusing 75mm mounted), and some motorsports as well (with the 12-40 PRO & 40-150 PRO). However, one thing that always bugged me was my keeper rate with panning shots was really poor. I had good form, you could see that the pans were smooth, but the details on the cars were lacking in a number of shots, which was frustrating.

Recently, BorrowLenses.com had a promotion where I could save 15% off a rental. The Nikon D500 has been touted as the best sports camera other than the uber-xpensive D5 and 1DX II (and recently Sony A9). We always hear how mirrorless cameras are great, but they cant' replace DSLR's for sports. I decided to find out for myself, and rented a D500 and a 70-200 f/2.8 VR II, to see how it would compare against my E-M1 II and 40-150 PRO (the lenses are very similar, as both are f/2.8, and have a max reach of 300mm eqv. on their respective bodies). I was hoping that by renting the D500, I wouldn't see much of a difference in my photography, which would lead me to know the issue was with my form.

That was not the case. The D500 simply blew me away. For the type of shooting I'm doing at the track, the E-M1 II isn't even in the same ballpark. There were shots I was getting on the D500 the first day I used it that I've never been able to get with any of my m43 cameras at the track.

The D500 is a sports beast. The frame rate, focusing system, and OVF make it a pleasure to use, and the camera simply "gets out of your way", letting you shoot, while delivering stunning images. There were a number of things that I liked about the D500, and a number of things that I didn't like:

PROS:
  • The first thing has to be the focusing system. I didn't even use the 3D tracking system, just the D25 (it's like the 3x3 grid on the E-M1 II) or the single point focus groups. One nice thing about the D500 that is unusual for DSLRs is that its focus points extend all the way out to the edges of the sensor, making it very similar to the E-M1 II. This allows for greater flexibility in your composition.
  • The second thing I liked about the D500 was the OVF. The whole OVF vs. EVF debate seemingly never ends. Up until this past weekend, I've only ever shot on an EVF, and I've felt that the EVFs in the E-M5 II and E-M1/E-M1 II were very good. However, using the OVF was a whole different experience. I don't think it is inherently "better" than an EVF, but for sports shooting, it is much easier to follow the action in the OVF rather than the EVF. The downsides are that you don't get to see how your exposure looks before you shoot the image. What I found to be probably the biggest downside (IMO) to the OVF was the fact that I couldn't review the files I've shot in it like I can with an EVF. Instead, I'm forced to use the rear screen, which can be a pain when you're out in harsh sunlight, trying to judge whether or not you nailed focus (then again, it's a D500 so you probably did).
  • Ergonomics. I've always been a fan of the "larger" m43 cameras. The E-M1 II has a very nice grip, as does the GH4 which I've owned previously. I liked the deep grip on the D500, something that is necessary when using larger, heavier lenses that typically accompany the camera at a sports event. One other thing I really liked was the top LCD to check my shooting settings. It was very easy to quickly look at the LCD to see what my shutter speed and ISO values were. I don't think this is necessarily "better" than what we have with mirrorless cameras, it was just a feature that I found to be nice.
  • The files were a bit cleaner regarding noise. I shot the D500 at ISO 100, and the E-M1 II at ISO 200 or 64. In both cases, the processed files of the D500 had less noise in them than the E-M1 II files at either ISO. In reality, this likely isn't an issue because the majority of these images end up residing online, but if one were to sell an image that was to be printed, it could be an issue, depending on the print size. In all reality, this is likely a non-issue though, and is just something that pixel-peepers and measurebators would harp on.
CONS:
  • Size & Weight. There's no getting around this. The D500 is a large camera (the camera itself didn't feel heavy, but it definitely is larger than the E-M1 II, which is noticeable when packing my bag), and the 70-200 is large and heavy. With the combo in my right hand, and my left hand under the lens hood to support the weight and balance the kit while panning, I could definitely feel the difference in my left latissimus dorsi after two days of shooting.
  • I didn't find the camera as intuitive to use as the E-M1 II. This is likely just due to a lack of familiarity with the camera (I received it Friday, watched some YouTube set-up videos Friday night, and was shooting Saturday and Sunday before shipping it back on Monday). Items like the dual buttons to the left of the EVF on the top plate of the E-M1 II to adjust bracketing, timers, metering, drive mode, etc. all make it easy to quickly change settings. The SCP is also wonderful, especially on the E-M1 II where it gains additional options over previous iterations of the SCP.

So, now I'm in an interesting predicament. I was really hoping that the E-M1 II wouldn't be that far off from the D500, but that simply is not the case (and that's an unrealistic expectation, considering Nikon has decades worth of AF experience with DSLR's, compared to a relatively embryonic technology like on-sensor PDAF in mirrorless like what Olympus is using). The D500 is a sports beast. But, it is larger and heavier than my m43 kit. Will I be replacing all of my m43 gear? Absolutely not. For things like personal photography, travel, portraits, etc., I still believe m43 excels because of the size and weight. But, I will be looking at picking up a used D500 and some lenses to take to the race track with me, because in that scenario, the Olympus simply can't compete.

Long-story short: Use the right tool for the job. There are some things a DSLR does better than mirrorless, and other things a mirroless does better than a DSLR. I'm glad that I rented the D500 and saw first-hand what it's capable of producing. My wallet on the other hand... lol.

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P

photogramps

Guest
Superb panning and love the format of the 'racing car' shots, very different. :)
 
Joined
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chelmsford
i agree with everything the OP says. The D500 is one of the best cameras there is for Motorsport and other action shots. It's up there with the D5 and 1DX. The mirrorless Olympus and Fuji offerings are fine cameras, but mirrorless is not yet fully capable for Motorsport and action. I recently stood trackside with another experienced Motorsport photographer who had a Fuji XT-2 to try for the day. No contest. The Fuji was useless in comparison to my D500. I can only assume that the Fuji fanboys who keep asserting that their XT 2s are up to the job have never tried a D500.

I'd better don my crash helmet, ready for when the mirrorless fans start to disagree.
 
Joined
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i agree with everything the OP says. The D500 is one of the best cameras there is for Motorsport and other action shots. It's up there with the D5 and 1DX. The mirrorless Olympus and Fuji offerings are fine cameras, but mirrorless is not yet fully capable for Motorsport and action. I recently stood trackside with another experienced Motorsport photographer who had a Fuji XT-2 to try for the day. No contest. The Fuji was useless in comparison to my D500. I can only assume that the Fuji fanboys who keep asserting that their XT 2s are up to the job have never tried a D500.

I'd better don my crash helmet, ready for when the mirrorless fans start to disagree.
Hey Mike. Honestly, for people who say mirrorless is just as good as a DSLR for sports, they either have never shot with a DSLR built for sports (D500, D5, 7D II, 1DX II), or they have and are simply delusional. I'm not saying that an X-T2 or E-M1 II can't shoot sports. I've gotten some nice photos out of my Olympus gear at the track. But where a DSLR, particularly one like the D500, excels is with the keeper rate. I simply got so many more keeper images with the D500 than I did with the E-M1 II. Also, for these sites that do camera reviews and comment about AF-C performance, there is a VERY big difference between having someone jog/run towards you as your shoot, and having a race car coming at you at 120 or 140mph, while still accelerating.
 
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Andreas Berglund
Thank you for a great and insightful post. A very valuable post to me, confirms what I have thought it would be. As a birder, I need the capabilities of a camera like the D500 but then again for everything else the mirrorless cameras are a great tool.

I do have two things that I think dampens my enthusiasm and it is the (lack of) DR compared to my D800e and I just plain don't like the 4:3 format compared to 3:2 on my DSLR's when shooting landscapes etc.

We are in the golden age pf photography (equipment), all of top cameras and brands have superb tools and we can pick and choose what suits us.

BTW would love to here your thought on panning and how to do it
 
Joined
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Ian
Thank you for a great and insightful post. A very valuable post to me, confirms what I have thought it would be. As a birder, I need the capabilities of a camera like the D500 but then again for everything else the mirrorless cameras are a great tool.

I do have two things that I think dampens my enthusiasm and it is the (lack of) DR compared to my D800e and I just plain don't like the 4:3 format compared to 3:2 on my DSLR's when shooting landscapes etc.

We are in the golden age pf photography (equipment), all of top cameras and brads have superb tools and we can pick and choose what suits us.
Hey Andreas,

Yeah, for shooting things that move, the current mirrorless offerings are just not there yet IMO. As for "everything else", I honestly don't have a lot of issues with my m43 gear. Obviously the cameras won't have as much dynamic range as a FF sensor like those in the D800 series, but I end up bracket shooting a lot of stuff or use Grad ND's, and that allows me to circumvent the lower dynamic range in 99% of shooting scenarios where it's an issue (mostly static, landscape type shots). I do like a number of features that Olympus brings for general phtography. Things like hi-res shooting (64MP RAWs with my E-M5 II and 80MP RAWS with my E-M1 II), their "Live" modes (Comp/Time/Bulb for easier and more unique long exposure shots), etc. make me enjoy shooting Olympus in those scenarios. As for the 4:3 aspect ratio for landscapes, I agree with you. I end up cropping my landscape stuff to 3:2 most of the time.

I definitely agree with you though about the current selection of cameras that are out there. There's a camera to meet whatever need a user may have.
 
M

marine 337

Guest
I posted this over on mu-43.com as well since I'm currently a m43 shooter with some Olympus cameras (hence the writing style bias towards m43). This past weekend, I rented a D500 & 70-200 f/2.8 VR II to shoot some racing at a local track, and came away VERY impressed with the D500. It's a great camera to shoot with, and the images speak for themselves. I'm glad I rented it and could see just what the D500 is capable of (and I'm by no means the best, I simply enjoy shooting cars, which is a walk in the park for the D500).

-------------------------

As many of you are likely aware, the E-M1 II has been touted as the most capable m43 camera for sports and action to date, and it certainly is a wonderful camera. I bought one shortly after launch when Olympus had their "Trade-in, Trade-up" program, getting rid of some small, crappy P&S camera, which brought the price of the E-M1 II down to a more palatable $1,800. I received the camera, shot some local college track & field events with it (it did great here, especially with the fast focusing 75mm mounted), and some motorsports as well (with the 12-40 PRO & 40-150 PRO). However, one thing that always bugged me was my keeper rate with panning shots was really poor. I had good form, you could see that the pans were smooth, but the details on the cars were lacking in a number of shots, which was frustrating.

Recently, BorrowLenses.com had a promotion where I could save 15% off a rental. The Nikon D500 has been touted as the best sports camera other than the uber-xpensive D5 and 1DX II (and recently Sony A9). We always hear how mirrorless cameras are great, but they cant' replace DSLR's for sports. I decided to find out for myself, and rented a D500 and a 70-200 f/2.8 VR II, to see how it would compare against my E-M1 II and 40-150 PRO (the lenses are very similar, as both are f/2.8, and have a max reach of 300mm eqv. on their respective bodies). I was hoping that by renting the D500, I wouldn't see much of a difference in my photography, which would lead me to know the issue was with my form.

That was not the case. The D500 simply blew me away. For the type of shooting I'm doing at the track, the E-M1 II isn't even in the same ballpark. There were shots I was getting on the D500 the first day I used it that I've never been able to get with any of my m43 cameras at the track.

The D500 is a sports beast. The frame rate, focusing system, and OVF make it a pleasure to use, and the camera simply "gets out of your way", letting you shoot, while delivering stunning images. There were a number of things that I liked about the D500, and a number of things that I didn't like:

PROS:
  • The first thing has to be the focusing system. I didn't even use the 3D tracking system, just the D25 (it's like the 3x3 grid on the E-M1 II) or the single point focus groups. One nice thing about the D500 that is unusual for DSLRs is that its focus points extend all the way out to the edges of the sensor, making it very similar to the E-M1 II. This allows for greater flexibility in your composition.
  • The second thing I liked about the D500 was the OVF. The whole OVF vs. EVF debate seemingly never ends. Up until this past weekend, I've only ever shot on an EVF, and I've felt that the EVFs in the E-M5 II and E-M1/E-M1 II were very good. However, using the OVF was a whole different experience. I don't think it is inherently "better" than an EVF, but for sports shooting, it is much easier to follow the action in the OVF rather than the EVF. The downsides are that you don't get to see how your exposure looks before you shoot the image. What I found to be probably the biggest downside (IMO) to the OVF was the fact that I couldn't review the files I've shot in it like I can with an EVF. Instead, I'm forced to use the rear screen, which can be a pain when you're out in harsh sunlight, trying to judge whether or not you nailed focus (then again, it's a D500 so you probably did).
  • Ergonomics. I've always been a fan of the "larger" m43 cameras. The E-M1 II has a very nice grip, as does the GH4 which I've owned previously. I liked the deep grip on the D500, something that is necessary when using larger, heavier lenses that typically accompany the camera at a sports event. One other thing I really liked was the top LCD to check my shooting settings. It was very easy to quickly look at the LCD to see what my shutter speed and ISO values were. I don't think this is necessarily "better" than what we have with mirrorless cameras, it was just a feature that I found to be nice.
  • The files were a bit cleaner regarding noise. I shot the D500 at ISO 100, and the E-M1 II at ISO 200 or 64. In both cases, the processed files of the D500 had less noise in them than the E-M1 II files at either ISO. In reality, this likely isn't an issue because the majority of these images end up residing online, but if one were to sell an image that was to be printed, it could be an issue, depending on the print size. In all reality, this is likely a non-issue though, and is just something that pixel-peepers and measurebators would harp on.
CONS:
  • Size & Weight. There's no getting around this. The D500 is a large camera (the camera itself didn't feel heavy, but it definitely is larger than the E-M1 II, which is noticeable when packing my bag), and the 70-200 is large and heavy. With the combo in my right hand, and my left hand under the lens hood to support the weight and balance the kit while panning, I could definitely feel the difference in my left latissimus dorsi after two days of shooting.
  • I didn't find the camera as intuitive to use as the E-M1 II. This is likely just due to a lack of familiarity with the camera (I received it Friday, watched some YouTube set-up videos Friday night, and was shooting Saturday and Sunday before shipping it back on Monday). Items like the dual buttons to the left of the EVF on the top plate of the E-M1 II to adjust bracketing, timers, metering, drive mode, etc. all make it easy to quickly change settings. The SCP is also wonderful, especially on the E-M1 II where it gains additional options over previous iterations of the SCP.

So, now I'm in an interesting predicament. I was really hoping that the E-M1 II wouldn't be that far off from the D500, but that simply is not the case (and that's an unrealistic expectation, considering Nikon has decades worth of AF experience with DSLR's, compared to a relatively embryonic technology like on-sensor PDAF in mirrorless like what Olympus is using). The D500 is a sports beast. But, it is larger and heavier than my m43 kit. Will I be replacing all of my m43 gear? Absolutely not. For things like personal photography, travel, portraits, etc., I still believe m43 excels because of the size and weight. But, I will be looking at picking up a used D500 and some lenses to take to the race track with me, because in that scenario, the Olympus simply can't compete.

Long-story short: Use the right tool for the job. There are some things a DSLR does better than mirrorless, and other things a mirroless does better than a DSLR. I'm glad that I rented the D500 and saw first-hand what it's capable of producing. My wallet on the other hand... lol.

View attachment 1582109 PittRace-Atlantics-90 by Ian Menego, on Flickr

View attachment 1582110 PittRace-Atlantics-67 by Ian Menego, on Flickr

View attachment 1582111 PittRace-Atlantics-87 by Ian Menego, on Flickr

View attachment 1582112 PittRace-Atlantics-69 by Ian Menego, on Flickr

View attachment 1582113 PittRace-Atlantics-82 by Ian Menego, on Flickr

View attachment 1582114 PittRace-Atlantics-91 by Ian Menego, on Flickr

View attachment 1582115 PittRace-Drifting-5 by Ian Menego, on Flickr

View attachment 1582116 PittRace-Drifting-18 by Ian Menego, on Flickr

View attachment 1582117 PittRace-Drifting-8 by Ian Menego, on Flickr

View attachment 1582118 PittRace-Drifting-23 by Ian Menego, on Flickr
As a diehard olympus shooter for years----loved the quality of the pix --but knew my actions shots were wanting. Picked up a d500 and I haven't looked back. Don't bring a knife to a gun fight. This d500 is the cats meow. Once ya shoot with it-----you will see what ya been missing.
 
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Found a good deal on a used D500 body, a used 70-200 f/2.8 VR II, and a used 17-55 f/2.8, all of which literally look brand new. I'm now the proud (and happy) owner of a very small, yet nice, Nikon kit. It's looking like I will be back at the local track next weekend, and plan to put the gear to good use.
 
Joined
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Regarding IQ only what does mirrorless do better (serious question since I know nothing about mirrorless )

Mirrorless has some tricks like in-body stabilization that let you hold your camera steady longer than a DSLR (like up to 10-13 seconds on the Olympus E-M1 and 12-100mm Pro lens) and you get almost 100% single shot AF accuracy due to contrast detect AF which means little to no AF adjustments for even the fastest lenses. There are other tricks like focus peaking which allow you to accurately use manual focus lenses and the ability to adapt almost any lens ever made in existence. You can even use Canon and Nikon lenses on the same Sony body (with certain limitations).
 
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Regarding IQ only what does mirrorless do better (serious question since I know nothing about mirrorless )

Randy,

As a technology, mirrorless does nothing to improve IQ. Instead, it improves the experience in other areas, namely size/weight reduction.

Olympus has a number of unique features that I regularly use (80MP hi-red mode for landscapes, EVF Live-View exposure information, in-camera focus stacking, creative long-exposure modes, electronic shutter, in-body stabilization so that all my lenses are stabilized, etc.)

Really, the only area Olympus has let me down was in the sharpness of images and the tracking ability when I was shooting motorsports. The D500 simply crushed the E-M1 II in that regard. The D500 is a really nice camera, but it is noticeably larger and heavier as a kit than my Olympus gear, which is what I use as my normal, everyday kit.
 
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CHARLOTTE
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Randy
Randy,

As a technology, mirrorless does nothing to improve IQ. Instead, it improves the experience in other areas, namely size/weight reduction.

Olympus has a number of unique features that I regularly use (80MP hi-red mode for landscapes, EVF Live-View exposure information, in-camera focus stacking, creative long-exposure modes, electronic shutter, in-body stabilization so that all my lenses are stabilized, etc.)

Really, the only area Olympus has let me down was in the sharpness of images and the tracking ability when I was shooting motorsports. The D500 simply crushed the E-M1 II in that regard. The D500 is a really nice camera, but it is noticeably larger and heavier as a kit than my Olympus gear, which is what I use as my normal, everyday kit.
Thanks
 
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