My thoughts on Nikon D500 for sports

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There is a lot to love about the new D500. Got mine on Monday. I am primarily a sports shooter -- and it's first test was on baseball. Here are my Cliff Notes on the D500.

1) Absolutely amazing AF performance. Even on plays at the plate with a lot of motion from runner, catcher, and umpire in a small space, it nails the focus.

2) I love the touch screen. Made it so much easier to cull through photos and to check for focus on shots. Wondering how fast it is? It can go as fast as your fingers can move. And I can't wait to use this camera for overhead shots of players in a huddle with a coach. The tilting touch screen will give me the ability to know EXACTLY what I have as I am shooting it.

3) Ergonomics feel just right in my very large hands. I tried very hard to love the D7000, but it felt like a toy in my hands. Even with a grip on it, the D7K seemed tiny (especially when mounted to a 400 f/2.8 for field sports.) The deep right-hand grip of the D500 makes it much easier to hold -- and is big enough for me to hold the camera securely with all four fingers -- not just three.

4) Viewfinder is tremendous -- and I love the full coverage of the 55 AF points. As a sports shooter, that is a god-send as the action involving multiple athletes is not limited to the center of the frame.

5) Think 20 MP is a sweet spot for a sports camera -- especially a DX body. There are times when the 12.3 MP of my D4 is just not quite enough when I have to do heavy crops (think of a player making a catch at the wall in Right Field when I am on the third base dugout. The extra MP's and reach give me the ability to do large prints of everyone -- not just the pitcher and batter.

6) As much as I can't believe I am writing this, I wish I had the ridiculously over-priced $400+grip for the D500. For the past four years, I have pretty much used D3, D3s and D4 day in and day out. Having the integrated grip has become second nature. I tried to shoot the D500 without a grip. Took three shots and rotated the lens back to landscape orientation and didn't move it again. (Note: B&H didn't have the MB-D17 grips, but supposedly Amazon now has them. May order one today because lack of a vertical release is a deal-breaker for me.)

7) Metering for me seemed to be a little hit or miss -- HOWEVER, I want to point out that it was likely user error. When I got home and started culling through the images I thought that good number of them were underexposed. I had the wrong setting and was considering the entire frame -- and not the spot metering I prefer for sports. As a result, the camera (correctly) made adjustments to properly expose the entire image and not just the subject I had in mind.

8) Because this was a day-time baseball game, low light ISO was never in play for me (went up to a whopping ISO 400 :) ) However, in playing with the camera coming out of the box, I took a couple of shots around the house of our black lab in a very dark kitchen. ISO 21,600 is ridiculous. ISO 51,200 is almost unimaginable. As a sport shooter, my definition of usable is undoubtedly different from the guys/ladies who do such incredible birding and landscape work. But to know I can go that high to get a shot is very exciting -- and is a game changer to have in a DX sensor camera.

I know you are clamoring to see the shots -- and I will produce. Haven't put them on my sports website, but plan to after lunch and will post links here. Overall, it's a very promising start for a DX body so many have waited so long to get their hands on.
 
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Thank you - interesting report, I'm particularly interested
  • How it tracks when people gets in the way will it hold on a more distant player or grab the one in the foreground or how well does it stay on the distant player you where tracking...
  • If you are tricking and object in the sky and come down below the horizon, the older bodies tend to loose it, how does the D500 fare in this scenario?
 
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Posted this as a separate thread here in the sports corner, but wanted to follow up for those of you who were following here.

Wanted to post some sports photos from the D500. This was my first game with Nikon's new DX flagship. There's a lot to like about it. All images are Nikon D500 with Nikon 400 f/2.8 AF-S II. Aperture Priority. f/2.8. Shutter speed between 1/1250-1/2000th. Single point focus. Minor tweak in LR for highlights and shadows, plus a touch of vibrance and saturation. No Noise reduction.

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1. Centerfielder struggles to find the ball after it pops out of his glove during the second inning.

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2. Leftfielder makes a running catch to record an out against the Hampton Talbots.

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3. Hampton leftfielder Andy Kubay has a bead on a sinking line drive in the third inning of Monday's game against Deer Lakes. (NOTE: This photo was taken from the rightfield corner and is about a 50 percent crop.)

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4. Talbot senior Jacob Seymour delivers a pitch during the fourth inning of Monday's game against Deer Lakes. Seymour pitched five innings for the victory. (NOTE: This image was taken through a black chain link fence near the third base dugout. Needed to see what those images would look like.)

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5. Hampton third baseman Tyler Iversen makes a play during the fourth inning of Hampton's 5-4 win over Deer Lakes. (NOTE: Like photo four, this image was taken through a black chain link fence near the third base dugout.)

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6. Rightfielder Caleb Mattson of the Hampton Talbots squeezes a fly ball during the 5th inning of a 5-4 win over Deer Lakes. (NOTE: VERY heavy crop. Taken from the third base dugout. Like the extra resolution of 20+ MP for this very reason.)

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7. Catcher Jeremy Schmitt adjusts his mask during the 5th inning of Hampton's 5-4 victory over Deer Lakes. (NOTE: Image was taken through a black chain link fence behind home plate.

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8. Hampton's Matt Dayton tries to avoid a tag during a rundown in the fifth inning.


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9. Deer Lakes catcher applies the tag as Hampton's Matt Dayton tried to slide back into third base during the Talbots 5-4 win.

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10. Tyler Iversen scores the winning run in the bottom of the 6th inning as Deer Lakes catcher Tyler Chandler blocks an errant throw with his cheek during a section baseball game at Talbot Field. Hampton won 5-4.
 
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Thank you - interesting report, I'm particularly interested
  • How it tracks when people gets in the way will it hold on a more distant player or grab the one in the foreground or how well does it stay on the distant player you where tracking...
  • If you are tricking and object in the sky and come down below the horizon, the older bodies tend to loose it, how does the D500 fare in this scenario?

Good morning Andreas,

Thanks for checking out the post. I have to say after working with the D500, the AF system is without question the strength of this camera. It just seems to know what you want to focus on and nails it. I shot this game in single point focus, but really like the 25 point dynamic best (it replaces the 9 point) and really shines. And as for focus tracking, my experience has been that it doesn't matter what passes in front or what your background changes to, it does a very fine job. Look closely at photos 8 & 9 for a perfect example of how it does with changing subjects in a busy scene. Nailed it.
 
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Hey Rick,

I actually posted this in the D500 thread where you had also posted, but I have a question.

Since you also have a D3s and also shoot baseball, how would you compare the D3s to the D500 for baseball?

In particular, since I shoot mostly at night at really high ISOs (25,600 and 51,200), how would you compare them at those ISOs?

Thanks for your insights.

Andy
 
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Hey Rick,

I actually posted this in the D500 thread where you had also posted, but I have a question.

Since you also have a D3s and also shoot baseball, how would you compare the D3s to the D500 for baseball?

In particular, since I shoot mostly at night at really high ISOs (25,600 and 51,200), how would you compare them at those ISOs?

Thanks for your insights.

Andy

Andy,

Great questions....and after having the D500 for a little over a week, I would say this. The D500 is a very nice DX camera. It is the best crop sensor camera I have ever owned/shot. Nice high(er) ISO -- and the best AF system I have ever shot (and I am including my Nikon D4 in that conversation.)

However, the D500 is no D3s/D4. It is not just a matter of high ISO where the D3s/D4 are remarkable (and the D5 seems to be crazy good.) To me, those FX bodies are better when it comes to rendering color. And while I can't put my finger on what it is, but there is something "missing" in DX photos that I have become accustomed to with my FX bodies. It's almost a 3D "depth" that I personally am not seeing on my D500 images the way I see them on the D3s/D4.

I have not shot the D500 for night baseball yet, but did shoot a girls lacrosse game that finished with the lights on. However, because the days are getting longer, the stadium lights were aided by the setting sun, and I don't think I ever got above ISO6400. I will post some of them here. I have to say the Anti-Flicker feature was outstanding and seems to work amazingly well. No noticable ugly color shifts in any of the 1,000+ shots taken during the game.

With all that being said, there is one very big issue with using the D500 for shooting baseball -- and this will make most people laugh. The D500 gets you too close to the action. I shoot large field sports with the Nikon 400 f/2.8 AFS-II -- and with the D500, I literally have to move AT LEAST 50 feet beyond the third base or first base in order to get the entire batter in the frame. You can't get the entire pitcher's body in the shot. Plays on the near side of the field are impossible to shoot without chopping body parts/limbs. The only solution that I see is to ditch the 400 f/2.8 (which is an obscene thought) and buy a 200-400 f/4 to shoot field sports with....However, the 200-400 presents another problem -- and that is the max aperture is f/4. I know the D500 has a nice high(er) ISO capability, but I really don't have much confidence that f/4 will work on the high school baseball/football/soccer/lacrosse fields. And as you know, buying a 200-400 becomes a rather expensive "experiment" to find out.

With all those things being said, I plan to say with a pair of Nikon D4 bodies -- and may take a serious look at the D5 because that AF system is UNBELIEVABLE.

Hope that helps.
 
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Hey Rick,

Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and insights.

I liked the reach I had with the D2Hs I used for about five years. But it's the D3s that enabled me to shoot night baseball (night sports, really) with the hope of getting decent to good output after it got fully dark.

I was hoping the D500 would be a best of both worlds kind of thing. I'm really planning more for next season, so I've got time to think about standing pat or upgrading.

Thanks again for giving me your real world perspective.

Andy
 
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Hey Rick,

Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and insights.

I liked the reach I had with the D2Hs I used for about five years. But it's the D3s that enabled me to shoot night baseball (night sports, really) with the hope of getting decent to good output after it got fully dark.

I was hoping the D500 would be a best of both worlds kind of thing. I'm really planning more for next season, so I've got time to think about standing pat or upgrading.

Thanks again for giving me your real world perspective.

Andy

That is precisely why I bought the D500...wanted the best of both worlds. However, what I have come to realize is that I have upgraded lenses over the years to work best with the FX bodies I owned. If I had kept a 300 2.8 when I bought the 400 2.8, the D500 might be a perfect solution. Yet -- and this is a huge consideration -- based on where and what I shoot, the D500 is not the right camera FOR ME. That is not to say that it won't work for you or for someone else, but FOR ME, it is not going to be a solution.
 
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Thanks Rick for posting these images and your thoughts. I'm especially impressed with No. 6 for being such a heavy crop.

I agree completely Doc. It is unbelievable how much detail the D500's 20+MP sensor captures -- and it is unreal how it is preserved even with heavy crops. I am certain that wildlife and bird-in-flight shooters are going to LOVE this camera. And have I told you how much I love the AF system and full coverage of the of AF points in the view-finder?
 
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Rick - one question, how do you think the viewfinder compares among your bodies? Now of course FF should be bigger, better etc etc yet how do you think the D500 ranks among the body you have / had ?
 
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Well, Rick, what else is there to say, eh? You make a great point regarding sometimes "too close", which is one reason an FX/DX combo, in my case D500 and D810 makes some sense. Problem I am starting to face is that I am REALLY liking the D500 AF, so do I sell my 600 and D810 for another D500, and then get a 400 or a 500? Or wait for the next "D8x0" with the new AF? You have a great combo, D4 with the 400, D500 with 70-200 for when they get "up close and personal".

Nice bits. I liked them in the other thread, and here as well.
 
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Well, Rick, what else is there to say, eh? You make a great point regarding sometimes "too close", which is one reason an FX/DX combo, in my case D500 and D810 makes some sense. Problem I am starting to face is that I am REALLY liking the D500 AF, so do I sell my 600 and D810 for another D500, and then get a 400 or a 500? Or wait for the next "D8x0" with the new AF? You have a great combo, D4 with the 400, D500 with 70-200 for when they get "up close and personal".

Nice bits. I liked them in the other thread, and here as well.
get a D5 and sell the 810...
sell the 600 and get a 500
I was going to keep my D7200 but that was before I got used to the D500's AF so now I'm not so sure, what a problem to have:)
 
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Rick - one question, how do you think the viewfinder compares among your bodies? Now of course FF should be bigger, better etc etc yet how do you think the D500 ranks among the body you have / had ?
the VF is like shooting a D4 w/o the grip, it makes me feel like I'm playing a video game the camera is so responsive
 
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get a D5 and sell the 810...
sell the 600 and get a 500
I was going to keep my D7200 but that was before I got used to the D500's AF so now I'm not so sure, what a problem to have:)

Well, Randy, if the D5 was $3500 less I just might take you up on that! If I keep an FX, then the 600 stays for sure, therein lies this horrible dilemma, too many choices. It would be a lot easier if I shot a lot of lanscapes, maybe.
 
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