Back to the action: Nikon D500 Review

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Back to the action: Nikon D500 Review

The Nikon D500 is a 21MP APS-C DSLR capable of shooting at up to 10 frames per second and featuring an autofocus system derived from the one in the D5. In other words, it’s exactly the kind of high-end DX format body that appeared to have become extinct with the D300S.

The six-and-a-half years that have passed since the D300S’ launch have seen the camera market move on considerably but the D500 does much to reclaim the position as one of the preeminent APS-C camera on the market.

As you might expect, much of the improved capability of the camera centers around sports and high-speed shooting, with significant upgrades to the shooting rate and autofocus system, but there are also major upgrades to the viewfinder, video capabilities and connectivity options which expand its utility beyond one particular niche.

Key Features

  • 20.7MP APS-C (DX-format) sensor
  • 153 point AF module with 99 cross-type points
  • 180,000 pixel RGB sensor for metering and subject recognition
  • AF point joystick
  • 10 fps shooting for up to 200 shots (lossless compressed 14-bit Raw to XQD card)
  • 4K (UHD) video from 1.5x crop of sensor
  • 100% coverage viewfinder with 1.0x magnification
  • 2.36M-dot tilting touchscreen display
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity with NFC for setup
  • Mic and headphone sockets
  • USB 3.0 connector
  • Anti-flicker option for working under artificial lighting

A good sport

Much of the D500’s capability is built around the ability to focus and shoot very quickly. Its 153-point AF module offers near full-width coverage and is linked to a 180,000 pixel RGB metering sensor to further improve its AF tracking capabilities. Interestingly, and like the D5, the D500’s AF system now offers two parameters for fine-tuning the autofocus tracking behavior, letting the user specify the type of subject movement and the correct response to another object blocking the targeted subject. Existing Nikons only let you specify duration, suggesting Nikon is trying to expand the range of shooting situations for which the AF system can be optimized.

Only 55 of the camera’s AF points can be directly selected and the D500 gains both a joystick and a touchscreen to make it as fast as possible to select the point you want to use. Add to this the ability to shoot up to 200 Raw frames before slowing down (if you use an XQD card), and it becomes obvious that the D500 is intended as a high-speed pro/semi-pro camera in a way the D7000 series never was.

How’s that for coverage? The D500 doesn’t just boast a lot of autofocus points, it also offers them across most of the width of the frame, which is useful whether you’re manually selecting a point or letting the camera track your subject.

The D500 also gains an anti-flicker option designed to ensure the camera shoots in-sync with the brightest point in the flickering cycle of artificial lights. It’s a feature we first saw on the Canon EOS 7D Mark II and we’d expect it to be particularly valuable for shooting indoor sports such as basketball.

Another sign that this is a true high-end camera is the inclusion of a larger viewfinder. Like previous DX00 class cameras it has 100% coverage but it also offers 1.0x magnification, which is the largest optical viewfinder we can remember seeing in an APS-C camera (electronic viewfinders are a different matter, since size and brightness isn’t constrained by sensor/mirror size).

The D500 can also shoot 4K video and includes both an input for using an external mic and a headphone socket for audio monitoring. The camera also offers a flat picture profile to provide more post-processing flexibility, on-screen highlight warnings and power aperture control that allows you to select and change the aperture when in movie mode. There’s no focus peaking option, though, and you can’t zoom-in while you record to confirm or adjust focus as you record.

Connectivity

One of the other big features Nikon is touting is its Snapbridge system that uses Bluetooth LE (a low-power variant of Bluetooth also known as Bluetooth Smart), and Wi-Fi to maintain a connection between the camera and a smart device. This includes the ability to auto-transfer images from the camera, as well as initiating the Wi-Fi connection for remote shooting or manual image transfer.

Context

To show where the D500 sits in the lineup, here are the major feature differences between it and the less expensive D7200, along with a comparison back to the D300S – not because we expect anyone to be choosing between them, but to show how much of a step forward the camera represents.

 Nikon D500 Nikon D7200 Nikon D300S
Sensor Resolution 21MP 24MP 12MP
AF points 153 (99 cross type) 51 (15 cross-type) 51 (15 cross-type)
Max frame rate 10 fps
  • 6 fps
  • 7 fps in 1.3x crop mode
  • 7 fps
  • 8 fps with battery grip
Buffer depths 200 lossless compressed 14-bit Raw ~17 14-bit Raw
~28 12-bit Raw
30 lossless compressed 14-bit Raw
Shutter durability rating 200,000  150,000  150,000
Viewfinder
  • 1.0x magnification
  • 100% coverage
  • 0.94x mag
  • 100% coverage
  • 0.94x mag
  • 100% coverage
Rear screen
  • 2.36m dots 3.2″
  • Tilting
  • Touch sensitive
  • 1.23m dots 3.2″
  • Fixed
  • 920k dots 3.0″
  • Fixed
Video Resolution
  • UHD/30p
  • 1080/60p
  • 1080/60p
  •  720/24p
Mic/Headphone? Yes/Yes Yes/Yes Yes/No
Wi-Fi? Yes (and Bluetooth) Yes No
Built-in flash? No Yes Yes
AF-On Button? Yes No Yes
Body construction Magnesium Alloy + Carbon fiber composite Magnesium Alloy + Carbon fiber composite Magnesium Alloy
Battery Life (CIPA) 1240 shots/charge 1100 shots/charge 950 shots/charge
Weight (Body Only) 760g 675g 840g

Review History

Review History
26 April 2016 Studio scene and Raw dynamic range published.
16 May 2016 Introduction, Body and Handling, Operation and Controls, Wi-Fi and Connectivity and Video pages published
25 May 2016 Autofocus, Loose Ends and

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