Review Nikon D500

Mar 20, 2017
Central Ohio
Real Name

Image © NikonUSA


It was a hard decision.

My D300 has served me well over the years. Time and technology have shown it's age though in the IQ department though. It still performs well in the AF department, being used by me for all my high speed action photography.

There have been other APS-C sensor Nikons that have come through the years, but none that matched the D300 for me. The D7000 series was close, but did not feel right in my hand. Then there were rumors of an impending D400....but nothing ever appeared.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere Nikon gave us the D500 along side of the D5 release.

As many who read this blog regularly, I also shoot with a Micro Four Thirds kit as well. Olympus recently announced the EM1 Mk II. They promise a lot from it.

The decision came down to a few things.

  • As of this writing(Nov 2016), the Nikon D500 is $300 cheaper than the EM1 Mk II price
  • Olympus in the pre-release reviews have not really shown the EM 1.2 AF performance which they claim is rivaling that of other companies flagship DSLRs.
  • Nikon's D500 AF performance and IQ have been front and center - it is a known and quantifiable entity that I can compare and contrast with my current gear.

Image © NikonUSA

For a DSLR, the D500 is on the smaller side. It is not a Canon SL1 size, but I placed it right next to the Nikon Df and it is roughly the same size. The D500 is just every so slightly bigger and 100 grams.

The grip is deep and allows for a confident grip, even holding on to it one handed with a 70-200/3.8 lens attached.

I'm still not a big fan of the was you switch about AF modes, having to press in the side button and then turn the dials. I'd rather have the old 3 position switch, but I'm sure I can make myself get used to it.

All the buttons feel quality. The addition of the thumb stick on the back for adjusting the AF point is a great addition and it is sitting in just the right position for me.

The rear LCD is great for reviewing images as it is a touch screen and functions similar to how our phones work. It is also articulating so it can be tilted at an up and down angle. Nikon also included touch to focus and touch to actuate the shutter features to the rear LCD as well. This is a welcome feature as I have grown used to it with the Olympus cameras I use. The AF is still a slower contrast detect only method, but seems much snappier than the past iterations. The Olympus implementation is still quicker, but good to see Nikon moving in this direction.

The shutter mechanism also sounds different than the older Nikon DLSRs I have. It sounds and feels more dampened.

Image Quality
There is a big upgrade here when looking at the D500 against the D300. My ceiling for the D300 has been ISO 1600. Even that, the output can be mushy and low in detail. The micro 4/3 cameras of today, in comparison, are usable up through ISO 6400.

The D500 changes all that. Base ISO is down to 100 now and the high ISO usability is now way higher. I was getting some great images at ISO 12,800 and 25,600. ISO 6400 is very clean. I should not have been surprised because I've always thought Nikon did a great job in processing high ISO images.

Dynamic range is also excellent and the files are rich in data so doing post processing has a lot of latitude, even in JPG files.

Tamron 70-200/2.8 VC
ISO 100, 1/1250, f/4 @ 200mm

Tamron 70-200/2.8
ISO 100, 1/1250, f/4 @ 200mm

Tamron 70-200/2.8
ISO 200, 1/2000, f/4 @ 200mm (heavily cropped)

Auto Focus
This is where I was completely blown away.

Not only do you have a ton of options, but the speed at which the D500 locks on is right there with the AF speed of the micro four thirds cameras. That is really no shocker, though...what will get you amazed is the AF-C performance.

I went out and took pictures of 2 smaller dogs playing, and by playing I mean they were wrestling around. The only images that were out of focus were the ones that I just could not physically keep up!

These dogs were rolling and heads flashing about...and the D500 was able to give me an unbelievable keeper rate.

My issue now is trying to learn all the AF modes and when best to use them. All that I had heard in the reviews I have found to be very true!

Auto Focus set to AF-C d25 mode, continuous high release, release priority. Did my best to keep the center point on the dogs. The D500 and Tamron 70-200/2.8 VC did the rest!!

Tamron 70-200/2.8 VC
ISO 200, 1/3200, f/2.8 @ 82mm

Tamron 70-200/2.8 VC
ISO 200, 1/2500, f/2.8 @ 70mm

Tamron 70-200/2.8 VC
ISO 800, 1/2500, f/4 @ 70mm

Tamron 70-200/2.8 VC
ISO 800, 1/3200, f/4 @ 100mm

4k video capable here. I'm new to video, so I will not get too much into this and this is my first Nikon with video recording capabilities. There are mic in and audio out for monitoring available, which is great. According to the manual, the bitrate is 144Mbps for 4k.

Battery Life
Powered by the EN-EN15 battery, it is rated at around 1400 shots per charge. Plenty enough for all day shooting if needed with normal use. I'm sure it is less with a lot of chimping or using the Live View or recording video.

Other Misc. Items of Note
Bottom Line: The Nikon D500 is probably the most responsive camera I have ever used as of the date of this writing. It just does what it does and with seeming ease.

I use a Black Rapid strap and I did notice that the tripod socket does not seem to be as deep as the older Nikon cameras. When attaching the Black Rapid connector to the tripod socket, the rubber piece that sits between the camera and the adapter never really cinches down. It appears to work OK, but I think I might get some thicker rubber washers to use for that added security.

Here is a link to the Nikon USA D500 webpage for all the specs and what not.

Going to continue shooting with the D500, throw on a prime - maybe the nifty fifty or perhaps see how it deals with the Nikon 24-70/2.8. Look for a follow up review in the weeks to come!
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