The APS-C sensor is the king of DSLRs
Nikon D500 detailed review
When the Nikon D500 was announced earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show, we were all surprised. In addition to maintaining compactness and relative ease of use compared to full-frame cameras, the Nikon D5 comes with many nice features. Although after meeting and using it personally, there are many things that become clear. The Nikon D500 is serious about being a progenitor grade DSLR (somewhere between professional and average consumers), and anyone buying a Nikon D500 needs to be seriously immersed in photography.
It’s not just about the quality of the excellent photographs that it produces, or the 4K video recording @ 30fps – the Nikon D500 specializes in. Every bit of the camera, from its controls to the settings, the live view switch, AF system, memory compatibility and every other nook and cranny to enhance your shooting experience, but only if you are already accustomed to shooting with a DSLR. If Nikon’s D7200 has previously been hailed as a great processor choice, the D500 certainly looks like a broader consumer-friendly DSLR.
All of these combine into one of the greatest APS-C sensor DSLR cameras of all time. Read on for more details.
Image sensor format: DX
Type and size of sensor: CMOS, 23.5 mm x 15.7 mm
Functional image pixels: 20.9 million
Viewfinder: Pentaprism at eye level
Medium supported: XQD, SD, SDHC, SDXC
Frame coverage: 100% horizontal / vertical (DX), 98% horizontal / vertical (1.3x crop)
Diopter adjustment: -2 to +1
Preview of the depth of field: Yes, with manual / auto exposure lock
Focusing screenType B BriteView Clear Matte Mark II with Framing Grid Display
Shutter type: Mechanical vertical travel focal plane, electronically controlled (front screen electronic shutter in mirror-up mode)
Shutter speed: 1/8000 “to 30”
Continuous shooting: 10fps RAW
Imaging range: -3 to +20 EV (center-weighted), 2 to 20 EV (spot), 0 to 20 EV (highlight-weighted)
Native ISO: 100 to 51200
AF mechanism: Multi-cam 20K module, TTL phase detection, 153 focus points (99 cross-type, 55 can be selected, 15 support f / 8)
Movie file format: .MOV
Contraction: H.264 / MPEG-4
Size and resolution monitor: 3.2 ”, 2359k-dot TFT LCD, touch input, 100% frame coverage
WLAN: IEEE 802.11b / g, WPA2-PSK Security
Battery: Nikon EN-EL15
Weight: 860 g (CIPA standard)
Construction, control, ergonomics
The Nikon D500 is usually built the way a professional DSLR should. It has a tank-like aspect to its construction and looks like it can withstand even a few drops. The D500 is weather-sealed, and can withstand raindrops. It has a retractable LCD viewfinder, which gives you different viewing angles, but not rotating. Although we’re not complaining – the resolution has been nicely upgraded to 2,359,000 million dots, and the touch response is fluid, which allows more efficient touch focus (more on that later).
Returning to the more professional aspects of the build, the Nikon D500 features an IPS shutter, a joystick for focusing selection and locking, and a single, multi-button dial, four buttons with access to image quality, metering, white balance and mode access. Shooting (automatic, priority, manual, etc.), and the dial itself controls the shutter release, with a push-to-lock lock placed in place against accidental tweedles. To control the settings it gets an information-only view on the LCD, two active LCD modes and two dials, front and rear top-right. As you might expect, the Nikon D500 has a quick-view monochrome LED-backlit display.
The tank-like build adds fairly bulk. For reference, according to CIPA measurements, the Nikon D5500 weighs 470 grams, the D7200 weighs 760 grams, and the D500 weighs 860 grams. The weight is felt in your hands, but for anyone buying it the weight will feel more reassuring and comfortable to shoot. The joystick adds a fair bit of flexibility when shooting on the go – it’s easy to reach and easier to handle. You can use it to select any one of the near-frame-spread 55 focus points and a concomitant button allows you to lock it. Even when you’re not shooting, you can use it to scroll through albums or zoom-in photographs, somehow mimicking an eight-way controller.
The camera has a number of buttons that you can customize from its menu to assign relevant functions. This makes it easy to tune the focus around (when in live view mode), preview the depth of field, select crop factors and much more. In-camera modes allow you to set an ISO ceiling or select an exposure limit outside of which the proposed ISO is pushed higher. We’ll discuss these in more detail below, but combining all of these together definitely makes the Nikon D500 an upmarket in the rich DSLR industry and sets everything possible for a class-leading APS-C sensor-powered DSLR camera.
Note:: All samples are 100% cropped, resized to 640×340 pixels, and rendered to the highest quality.
See the post on imgur.com
Imaging, ISO and autofocus performance
This is where the Nikon D500 literally proves its worth. Due to its fast shooting capabilities, the Nikon D500 combines it with excellent high ISO performance, which makes it a leader in more low light and extreme light photography. Shooting in RAW, the strongest aspect of the Nikon D500 is how it maintains color and texture smoothness even at high ISO levels like the 12800. At ISO 6400, the Nikon D500 easily outperforms its less equipped counterpart, the Nikon D7200, with a great balance of color tonality and subtle subdued sound. As a result, although the grains penetrate significantly, the photograph is certainly usable. The 100% harvest of the ISO sample included above will give you an idea of its excellent ISO capabilities.
After 100% harvest, 70% quality
Moving from ISO to color, Nikon’s power always produces bright, vibrant photographs. As a result, although the deeper tones are a little less intense than you might like, the vibrancy is more than matched with the excellent dynamic range. You get bright, accurate white, lilac, green and yellow and even a few blues look crisp. The shades include crisp, distinctive details, which combine with the camera’s excellent ISO performance to deliver bright harsh light shots. Shoot in the sunlight scattered through a screen and you will find almost every grain of fabric that filters out sunlight.
Another big reason to consider is the sharpness of the photograph, which of course we expected from the Nikon D500. Saturation levels are well maintained even at higher ISOs, although photographs outside of ISO 6400 (and especially if you shoot in JPEG and do not RAW) reflect a decline in the TAT saturation standard. The bright dynamic range also makes for great cloudy shots, where the details of the sky with dark nozzles are well captured. The center-loaded shots look very well balanced in terms of color, sharpness, vitality, tonality, and low image noise, and that’s what makes the Nikon D500 the king of this generation of APS-C DSLR cameras (you should ideally stop reading here and head for the bank).
“The Nikon D500 is the mountain king of APS-C sensor-powered DSLRs“
If this is not the case then maybe the 153-point autofocus system is a good idea. The Nikon D500 borrows this process from Nikon’s flagship, the D5. Originally covering the entire frame, the focusing mechanism has 99 cross-type AF points. Out of these 99, 15 AF points is f / 8 compatible, which means you can expect fast, accurate focus in low light. Out of the total 153 AF points, you can choose 55. Among the selectable points are 35 cross-types, nine of which are f / 8 compatible, cleverly spread across the frame.
After 100% harvest, 70% quality
With regular use, you will rarely find a delayed focus on regular shooting under decent light conditions. Joystick makes focus selection and locking easier, but before that, the excellent work is done by phase detection pixels that track AF points to efficiently locate the point of focus. In low light, focusing on subjects is obviously easier and certainly faster than many of its competitors. With the points mentioned above, what it guarantees is that there are less lost moments due to faster shooting, blurring or incorrect focus. Make no mistake, the higher buffer size allows the Nikon D500 to push RAW continuous shooting at 10fps, which is almost perfect for bird-spotting or sports photography. The f / 8-compatible crosspoints help to amplify the D500’s high-speed photography here, giving accurate focus locks to bright fields on people and objects that change position in the blink of an eye (read: Usain Bolt).
In short, the Nikon D500 is the mountain king of APS-C sensor-powered DSLRs. This is the perfect camera for DSLR enthusiasts and semi-professionals who want to invest in a fast, accurate DSLR. Most full-frame sensors capable of this type of performance cost a lot more, and that’s what sets the Nikon D500 apart from the crowd of DSLRs.
Connection and battery life
The Nikon D500 gets Snapbridge, a Nikon-owned, low-power Bluetooth connection that lets you transfer files on the go. Images are transferred directly as small files with a maximum size cap of 2MB, although WiFi-based transfers will give you full-size photographs (which, incidentally, can be a problem to open without hiccups on most recent genre smartphones). Snapbridge is fast and efficient, and lets you transfer your favorite photographs to your phone in an instant. This allows for more instant post-processing and uploading photos to social media, earning higher appreciation for your handicrafts.
You can also transfer files via the USB connector included in the box, or a card reader that accepts XQD cards (thanks to the Nikon team for sending us). If you use SDHC / SDXC cards, the Nikon D500 works best on UHS-II compliant cards, and works best on high-speed XQD memory cards. Shoot to save pictures seamlessly with a 128GB Sony XQD card, which further reduces the load on the image processor to make continuous shooting a breeze.
In terms of battery life, a 1240 rating per charge cycle may be a bit over-the-top, but the Nikon D500 easily delivers about 1000 shots and 40 minutes of video recording in 4K. On average, when you go out on an assignment, it should be easy for you to get up to three days of hardcore shooting. We’ve heard of a specific problem where older EL15 batteries last less than expected in a full charge cycle, and although we haven’t really encountered such an issue, you may want to check with your nearest Nikon store if you encounter similar problems.
The last row
Well, do you have to buy Nikon D500? Of course you should, but only if you have a serious interest in photography and go beyond the levels of being a beginner or occasional shooter. Nikon D500 means business, its excellent ISO performance, color reproduction, autofocus, many features and multiple modes of storage and connection.
At Rs 1,32,950 (for body only, Nikon India), the Nikon D500 is definitely expensive, but it’s the flagship APS-C DSLR we’re talking about, and the D500 is the best we’ve seen in a while. In many ways, this is a mini Nikon D5, which is a compliment for which most DSLRs will die.