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Nikon D500 Expert Review

Nikon D500 Expert Review - Read our full review of the new 20 megapixel Nikon D500, with high speed shooting and 4K video recording.

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Category : Digital SLRs
Product : Nikon D500
Price : BUY NOW£1,544
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Nikon D500 (2)

The Nikon D500 is Nikon's top of the range APS-C (DX) sensor Digital SLR, with a 20 megapixel sensor, the camera offers 10fps continuous shooting, 4K video recording and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. As Nikon's fastest DX APS-C camera it shoots at 10fps, compared to the Nikon D300s which could reach 8fps with the optional battery grip, and the Nikon D7200, which can shoot at 6fps at full resolution. 

Nikon D500 Features

Nikon D500 (1)

Anyone who has been waiting for this camera since the Nikon D300s, has been waiting a long time, with the 12 megapixel D300s released in 2009. The D300s offered 7-8fps, ISO100 to ISO6400, and 720p video, which at the time was quite impressive. This goes to show how far we've come in the last 7 years, with the new D500 offering a 20 megapixel sensor, 10fps continuous shooting, ISO50 to ISO1,640,000, 4K video recording, a tilting 3.2inch touch-screen, and built-in Wi-Fi. 

The Nikon D500 is the long awaited update to the Nikon D300s, and is a professional APS-C Digital SLR with high speed continuous shooting, and the latest Wi-Fi connectivity. 

The Nikon D500 sits at the top of the DX (APS-C) Digital SLR range for Nikon, above the D7200, and competes with the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, and Sony Alpha A77 Mark II, here we compare the main features:

Nikon D7200 D500 Canon 7D Mark II Sony A77-II
24mp 20mp 20mp 24mp (Steadyshot Inside)
3.2inch 1229K 3.2inch Touch 2359K tilt 3inch 1040K 3inch 1288K tilt
0.94x mag OVF 1.0x mag OVF 1.0x mag OVF 0.71x mag EVF
51 AF points 153 AF points 65 AF points 79 AF points
ISO100-102400* ISO50-1640000 ISO100-51200 ISO50-51200
6fps 10fps 10fps 12fps
FullHD video 4K video FullHD video FullHD video
USB2 USB3 USB3 USB2
1110 shots 1240 shots 670 shots 480 shots
675g (body only) 760g (body only) 910g (body only) 647g (body only)
Wi-Fi, NFC Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC GPS Wi-Fi, NFC
£714 body only £1729 body only £1179 body only £764 body only

* Black and white at ISO51200 and above

As you can see by the comparison table, the camera has a number of features that make it the highest specification Digital SLR in its class. It is also the most expensive, available for £1729 body only.

Nikon D500 Key Features

  • 20.9 megapixel DX APS-C CMOS Sensor
  • 3.2inch Tilting Touch-screen, 2,359K dots
  • 1.0x Magnification, 100% coverage optical viewfinder (OVF)
  • 10fps continuous shooting (200 shots RAW)
  • 200,000 shutter cycle rating
  • 153 AF points, 99 cross-type, -4EV
  • Group AF, Tracking AF
  • UHD 4K Video (3840x2160), upto 29 minutes, 59 seconds
  • ISO100 to ISO51200, expands to ISO50 to ISO1,640,000
  • Nikon SnapBridge Bluetooth Always On (Low Power)
  • Wi-Fi / NFC built-in 
  • Supports XQD and SD memory cards
  • Built-in interval timer and 4K/UHD quality time-lapse function
  • USB3.0 Connectivity

The auto focus (AF) system of the D500 is impressive, and is the same as that found in the much more expensive Nikon D5, with 153 focus points, 99 cross-focus points, and these cover a wide area of the frame all the way from the left to the right. The focus system will work down to -4EV.

 

The camera can shoot at 10fps in continuous shooting mode, shooting up to 200 RAW shots, and the camera uses the new EXPEED 5 image processor for improved noise performance and image quality, particularly skin tones. The ISO range goes from ISO100 to ISO51200, but can be extended down to ISO50 and all the way up to ISO1,640,000, the highest available from a camera with an APS-C CMOS sensor. 

The optical viewfinder offers 100% coverage, and 1.0x magnification, with the widest viewing angle amongst APS-C DSLR cameras, at 30.8 degrees.

Nikon D500 (4)

4K video recording is available, at 30, 25, or 24fps, up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds, and the camera provides a wide range of options with dedicated movie shooting menus. There are also mic and headphone sockets on the side with an HDMI port. 

The Nikon D500 features low-power Bluetooth connectivity, to enable easy image transfer to a smartphone using Nikon's new SnapBridge software. On Android (and later iOS) devices, Nikon's SnapBridge software can be used to setup a connection to the smartphone, and then you can transfer images, shoot remotely, and add GPS information. With a compatible Android device you can also use NFC to connect the camera to the smartphone. 

Nikon D500 Handling

Nikon D500 (8)

The Nikon D500 is weather sealed and feels extremely well built, with a good sized handgrip and ample rubber covering to provide a gripped surface to make sure you have a firm hold of the camera. There is a metal chassis, with the top of the camera made from magnesium alloy, and the rest of the camera is made from strong plastic, with some carbon fibre parts. Regardless of what each part is made from, the camera feels very solid with no flex or movement visible. All of the joints, buttons and dials are fully weather sealed, including the battery and memory compartments. Despite the solid construction, the D500 isn't the heaviest APS-C DSLR weighing 760g body only, with the title of heaviest APS-C DSLR going to the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, at 910g.

The camera has a collection of buttons around the shutter release button, including the video, ISO and exposure compensation buttons, which gives quick access to change these settings as well as start and stop video recording. The mode is changed between P,A,S and M, using the mode button which is found on top of the drive dial, which can only be turned when you press the unlock button above it. There is an i button on the back of the camera which will bring up a quick menu with a number of options. You can use the Fn2 button on the back to rate photos, and this button, along with a number of other buttons can be customised. 

Nikon D500 Body

To setup your own custom shooting modes you have to use Nikon's "Photo shooting menu bank" and "Custom settings bank" and there are four here, named A, B, C, and D. It's a shame that you can't setup a custom shooting mode, like you can on the Nikon D7200 with two user modes (and other cameras with a normal mode dial, such as the 7D Mark II with 3 user modes), and you can only switch between shooting modes of P, A, S and M. 

There are numerous options in the menus, and thankfully the camera has built-in help, which can be shown when you press the ? button (although not every option has built-in help). The menus are split into seven different sections, including playback, photo shooting, movie shooting, custom settings, setup, retouch and MyMenu. Unfortunately you can't use the touch-screen to scroll through the menus. You can also setup the MyMenu with as many options as you want, or you can switch the MyMenu for a Recent Settings menu instead. Study of the manual is recommended to fully understand all of the options and settings available. 

 

From the Retouch menu you can process raw files, trim images, resize, adjust D-lighting, correct red-eye, straighten images, correct distortion, perspective, as well as apply filter effects (skylight and warm filter), monochrome and image overlay. There's also an option to edit movies. When processing raw files you have the option to adjust image quality, size, white balance, exposure compensation, picture control, noise reduction, colour space, vignette and D-lighting. 

You can quickly change the focus point with the small joypad on the back of the camera. You can also setup face detection and tracking. If you're coming from a full-frame DSLR, then you will be impressed by the wide coverage of the focus system, which goes from the very left to the very right of the frame (as shown below). If this isn't enough, then in live-view mode you can use the touchscreen to select any point on the screen, right in to the very corners of the frame. You can set the camera to take the photo when you press the touch-screen, or be used just to set the AF point, or you can switch the touch screen off. 

Nikon D500 Optical Viewfinder
Nikon D500 Optical Viewfinder

There are options to adjust how the AF performs, with focus tracking lock-on options letting you set "Blocked shot AF response" (quick to delayed), as well as "Subject motion" (erratic to steady). 3D tracking face detection is also an option, along with the option to set the 3D tracking watch area. You can leave AF set to auto if you don't want to change settings. 

A round rubber eyecup surrounding the optical viewfinder (OVF) gives the camera a professional look and feel. There is dioptre adjustment on the side for those with less than perfect eye-sight.

Automated AF fine tune system - This is a semi-automated process, in that you have to enter live view, set the focus point to the centre, and then press and hold the AF button (on the left of the camera body), and the movie record button at the same time. We tested this with a Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 lens, which was back-focusing and the camera set the adjustment value to +20.

If you get an error message saying: "Auto AF fine-tune is not available at current focus settings", then you need to make sure that the central focus point is selected, auto focus is set to single, and wide or normal area, rather than face detection focus. A tripod and static subject or focus point is recommended.

Nikon D500 (6)

On the back is a tilting 3.2inch touch-screen with an impressive resolution of 2,359K dots, and the touch-screen can be used in playback, as well as being used to set the focus point in live view mode. The screen is very clear with excellent viewing angles, and the tilting screen has a good range of movement. You can turn the touch controls off if you want.

The camera has a top LCD screen that can be illuminated, and backlit buttons on the left hand side of the camera so that you can see them easily in the dark. Unfortunately, the buttons on the right of the camera don't light up. 

Nikon D500 Lights (3)

Wi-Fi features - The Nikon D500 has built in Wi-Fi, NFC and low-power Bluetooth. This means you can connect to a compatible smartphone to transfer images, synchronize the clock, add GPS location information as well as shoot remotely. 

Nikon Snapbridge Main Screen Nikon Snapbridge Paired Camera Nikon Snapbridge Remote Shooting Nikon Snapbridge Settings
Snapbridge Main Screen Snapbridge Paired Camera Snapbridge Remote Shooting Snapbridge Settings


You can't change any of the camera settings from the app, and when you are remotely shooting, you can't change the settings on the camera either, which is a little frustrating. The app could definitely do with some improvement, especially when compared to other manufacturers remote shooting apps. There's an option on the camera that will automatically send photos to your smartphone once you've set up the connection, and there is an option to leave this transferring images when you've switched the camera off. This feature can be switched on and off, and if you're concerned about your battery life dropping, then you can switch on the Airplane mode, which will switch off all communications. 

Nikon D500 Battery

Battery life - The camera has a very good battery life of 1240 shots according to CIPA test standards, and an optional battery grip is available which will extend the battery life to 2510 shots (with the EN-EL18a). 



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Photographs taken using the Nikon D500

SplashingBarranco Early EveningThe Old Coxswain's CottageRobin on poleIce , water , reflections and sunshine.Water confettiHow Many 10,12, 14 ???Goldfinch - at last!

Comments


GsanG 3 Malta
7 Jan 2016 5:00PM
To the tester.
When testing the burst rate of the shutter what was your impression of the shutter sound. Was it better than the D750 or D7100?

Thanks

George Swindells

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trevorlittlewood Junior Member 12 United Kingdom
7 May 2016 9:09PM
Clearly the D500 is a top-performing camera - pro-spec as they say! It's launch price is showing as significantly higher than current FX models such as D610 and D750.

And yet how well supported is the DX format with pro-spec lenses? I have but rarely use on my D7100 the 17-55 mm f2.8, largely because of its lack of VR; instead I find myself using the 16-85 f3.5-5.6mm as it has VR and of course it's much lighter too.

There is the recent and much costlier 16-80 mm f2.8/4 which hasVR and wider aperture availability but is it actually a better performer than the 16/85; one review I've read tells that in terms of image quality there's little difference.

Might there be a VR upgrade to the 17-55 mm in the pipeline?

Does this matter anyway... after all FX lenses work!

Trevor Littlewood
I'm sure this will be a wonderful camera.
After all we have waited such a long time; the D300 was introduced before the very first iPhone!

My only reservation is with the MB-D17 battery grip.
Again Nikon have produced yet another model rather than use an existing one such as the D800 or D7200 grip.

But at 429 for what is fundamentally an empty plastic box with some buttons .... come on Nikon, don't take us as fools.
pablophotographer 5 721 280
12 May 2016 12:53PM
This or the Pentax K-1? I'd go for the latter..... You?
BHSnapper 8 14 United Kingdom
14 May 2016 7:42AM
Re Pentax K-1 - to some extent it depends on whether you have to buy lenses or not. f you had a good set of quality Nikon glass, changing to a different marque makes little sense unless you can afford it!. But if you have no lenses, then maybe. Or maybe not! I very much doubt that if I laid out photos side by side, printed extremely large and to a very high standard, you could tell the difference between them.
16 May 2016 9:28AM
Even the A77 II is usable up to ISO25600 if shooting in RAW. And I'm not suggesting the 4 megapixels more would be noticeable over Nikon D500 either, but you literally are going to be paying the price for the improved ISO performance and the 4K. I'm waiting for the A77 III (if that camera ever happens), or the OM-D E-M1 MK. II, which is not too far away --I'm also assuming it will have 4K.
mannypr 5 9 Puerto Rico
6 Jul 2016 8:35PM
There is one thing I don't understand . By what your review states the Nikon D500 is the best aps-c type camera in the world . No other camera has better specs . Has the best focusing system , best high iso performance . No other camera does better . Then why give it 4.5 stars ? You give the pentax K-3 5 stars and the Nikon is way above the Pentax in almost every way if not all . Scatching my head , don't get it . Is it because of the price ? What does the price have anything to do with the cameras performance ? Come to think of it , 2,000 dollars is really not that much money for what you are getting , the worlds best , so

You have pentax in both number 1 and 2 spots . Why is that ? Is there something going on between you and Pentax ? Looks like I can confidently say that when you review the Pentax K-1 you 'll put it worlds best as the best FF camera above the Nikon 810 and canon 5D mark 3 .

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