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Nikon D500 Expert Review - Performance

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Nikon D500 Performance

The performance section is where we look at the image quality performance of the camera. Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

Shutter Response <0.05secs (0.1secs live view)
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.175secs (0.65secs live view)
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response  0.175secs (0.75secs live view)
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 0.25secs
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.3secs
Shot to Shot with Flash N/A
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
10fps (134 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash N/A
Continuous Shooting - RAW 10fps (54 shots)

Nikon doesn't specify the continuous shooting speed with continuous AF, but in our tests we were still able to shoot at 10fps. We were also impressed by the camera's ability to focus successfully in low light. 

Nikon D500 Sample Photos

Sample Photos - Exposure is reliable, and colour is also impressive, with the camera producing extremely pleasing results straight from the camera. You also have the option to use Picture Control to customise the look of photos to your own personal tastes. Within Picture Control you can adjust the sharpening, clarity, contrast, brightness, saturation, and hue. If you select the monochrome options, you can adjust the filter effect and toning, for example to create a Sepia toned image. Dynamic range seemed very good, even on default settings, however you can expand this if you want. You can use D-lighting to improve dynamic range, or use the HDR mode to combine a number of shots, although you need to select JPEG only when using the HDR shooting feature.

Nikon D500 Lens test images

Lens Performance - The Nikon D500 is capable of taking some very sharp, detailed images, particularly when used with prime lenses. Built-in lens correction includes settings for vignette control, as well as auto distortion control. This means that you shouldn't have any issues with vignetting, or distortion when using compatible lenses. Results are very sharp with prime lenses, and other high quality zoom lenses. Focus is reliable, although AF fine-tuning will help, particularly when shooting with bright prime lenses wide-open.

Nikon D500 ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - The Nikon D500 produces images that are sharp straight from the camera, with low levels of noise and good levels of detail from the base ISO setting, all the way up to ISO6400 and ISO12800. You may even find images taken at ISO25600 usable when resized or depending on what you are shooting. At ISO51200 noise is stronger, but colour saturation remains good. At ISO102400 noise becomes much stronger again, although colour saturation for some of the brighter colours is reasonable. Above this noise becomes particularly ugly. 

Compared to the Nikon D7200, the D500 gives better noise performance at ISO6400 and ISO12800, with roughly 2 stops better performance, meaning ISO12800 is usable (comparable to ISO3200 on D7200). ISO25600 is still usable, but could be where you'd want to process the images further before you get better results. Results from the D500 are better than the 7D Mark II, and also better than the A77 Mark II. Another DSLR with a 20 megapixel APS-C sensor is the Pentax K-S2, and results are noticeably better with the D500. We also compared the results with the 28 megapixel APS-C BSI (Backside Illuminated) Samsung NX1, and the D500 provides better noise performance.

Nikon D500 White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Like the Nikon D5, the D500 has different options for auto white balance, letting you choose whether you want white (ideal for product shots), normal or warm results (ideal for portraits). These options are designed to work under tungsten / incandescent lighting, but also make a difference when shooting in fluorescent or mixed lighting. With these options, it means you shouldn't really need to use the Tungsten or Fluorescent presets, as these can often give a colour cast to images if not adjusted correctly. 

Nikon D500 Outdoor images

Video - Video quality is good, with the option of electronic Vibration Reduction (VR) for Full HD videos, or alternatively you can use a lens with VR built-in to help with handheld video stabilisation.

The D500 records 4K video at UHD resolution (3840x2160), and can record at 30fps, 25fps or 24fps, and this is recorded using a dot-by-dot native pixel crop. It's possible to record up to the up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds limit.

Nikon D500 Video Crop

You can also record Full HD video (1920x1080) at 60fps, 50fps, 30fps, 25fps or 24fps. Full HD can be recorded using the full pixel area, or can also be cropped. The ISO range can be set from ISO100 to Hi 5 (ISO1,640,000), when recording in M mode. Auto ISO works from ISO200 up to Hi 5, and you can set the maximum ISO setting you want the camera to use. Clean HDMI out is available, 4K/UHD movies can be recorded to the memory card or output uncompressed to HDMI with 8-bit 4:2:2 YCbCr.


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Photographs taken using the Nikon D500

Frog in a pondRosesWitchyFIELD WORKSHumpback down underDesert Ratmorning rushPoppiesIndian Roller BirdColumbineHumpbackstreets of London

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GsanG 6 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?


George Swindells

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trevorlittlewood Junior Member 16 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 9 1.6k 376
12 May 2016 12:53PM
This or the Pentax K-1? I'd go for the latter..... You?
BHSnapper 11 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.
Tcoat3 4
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 8 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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