Review of the New Flagship DX Camera – The Nikon D500

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Everyone thinks they need a full frame camera but are they really that much better? Most people feel the only reason they have cropped sensor cameras is because they can’t afford a full frame one. Then you have to wonder why Nikon have produced one that is not full frame and comes with an expensive price tag. So who would be interested in the new Nikon D500? There are a lot of people who would love this camera and what it has a lot to offer.

Earlier this year Nikon released the new flagship D500 camera as part of their DX range or cropped sensor line-up. It is fast and designed with a specific user in mind. It is also one of the first cameras Nikon has produced that is using Snapbridge, the new phone app that allows you to take photos and upload them to your phone for sharing on social media straight away.

Nikon D500 review

The Nikon D500 – image courtesy of Nikon.

Price out the Nikon D500 on Amazon or B&H Photo’s site.

First impressions

Unlike many of the other DX cameras, it is quite large. People tend to think that cameras with cropped sensors are smaller, but the D500 is in the Pro range and you can see that just by looking at it. It looks like a camera that a professional photographer would use, and many indeed do.

One of the first things I noticed was how similar many of the controls and the layout is to the D800. In many ways, it seems like a cropped sensor version of that camera. This also means that most of the buttons are around the camera body, so you don’t have to keep going back to the menu to change settings. There are everywhere, but it doesn’t make it confusing. You can make changes without really having to stop and look at what you are doing.

Nikon D500 review

Sunset image shot with the Nikon D500.

If want to do long exposure photography there is a small blind in the viewfinder that will close to stop light leaking into your image. It means you never have to worry about whether or not you have the cover for it. You just need to remember to use it when doing long exposures. Very handy.

ISO and noise

The D500 is Nikon’s replacement for the popular D300 range that they stopping making a few years ago. The D300 was fast and great for many types of photography, however, the ISO range was not good. As soon as you increased the ISO the images became very noisy.

It also didn’t go very high, with ISO 3200 being the maximum. The D500 ISO goes up to 512,000, so it will get you images no matter the shooting conditions. The level of noise in the images is also significantly better and not as noticeable.

Review of the New Flagship DX Camera - The Nikon D500

Image shot using a tripod with the Nikon D500 at ISO 200.

Review of the New Flagship DX Camera - The Nikon D500

Image shot with the Nikon D500 hand held at ISO 6400.

Megapixels and image size

The camera is 20 megapixels, which is enough for most people. A RAW image is around 25 MB. Not as large as some cameras, but still large enough that you have to consider how you will store them. Jpegs are a lot smaller, but you don’t get as much information to work with as shooting RAW.

Battery

The battery is very similar to the battery for the D800 but it is a new version, so should only be used in the D500. If you have similar batteries for other cameras it is a good idea to mark them in some ways so they don’t get mixed up. You don’t want to be putting the wrong battery in the camera. While the battery is different the charger is the same.

The battery lasts a long time and you can safely go out for a day of shooting and not use much. Like most Nikon cameras you can go out and shoot for a few days without having to recharge it. Though that is dependent on how many photos you take. Of course, if you do a lot of chimping (image review on the camera) or use LiveView frequently the battery will run out faster. Likewise, if you’re shooting in the cold.

The batteries do typically last a long time as well. You can use a battery for quite a few years before you start noticing that it doesn’t last as long.

Remote shutter release

Review Nikon D500 DX camera

Using some ND filters and the MC-36 remote shutter release on the Nikon D500 for some long exposures.

When you are looking at a new camera you need to be aware of all the accessories and whether or not you will have to buy a lot of new ones. The remote shutter release that I purchased for the D300s, the MC-36, was fine for the D800, and it is also good to use on the D500. That makes it a good match for the gear I already have. It is something you need to consider anytime you are buying a camera, it isn’t just the expense of the camera, but what other equipment you may need as well.

Review Nikon D500 DX camera

A long exposure of some recently painted silos using the D500.

Focusing area

The focusing area takes up larger space in the Nikon D500 than it does in other bodies. It has the same focusing center as the Nikon D5, their top pro model, but on the cropped sensor of the D500. In practice, that means you can focus on subjects almost up to the very edges of the viewfinder. You can focus on a much larger area than other DX cameras.

If you want to use spot focusing, but have found it hard in the past because you couldn’t focus on subjects at the side, it is now possible to do that. Any camera that makes focusing easier for you has to be good.

Memory card

 

The D500 has two slots for memory cards. You can put an SD card in one, and the other is for XQD cards, which are reasonably new but only needed for a few Nikon cameras. It is mainly used in the higher end bodies that are fast and shoot a lot of frames per second, which is why the card is used. Normal cards would find it hard keeping up with the speed and writing the images. If you are taking photos at 10 frames a second it is important.

Apparently, you can buy the cards at all good camera stores. Though, you would also need a memory card reader for it as well.

Touchscreen

The screen at the back is a touchscreen which makes it easy to scroll through your images. It works a lot like your smartphone. You can make the images bigger or smaller and flip through them with your fingers.

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The back screen of the D500 can be moved for better viewing and is also a touchscreen.

Crop factor

The Nikon D500 has the 1.5x crop factor. Basically, that means that if you have a full frame lens, like the 70-200mm, when you use it on the D500 the lens becomes essentially like a 105-300mm. It is the advantage of using a DX camera body with high-quality lenses.

Nikon D500 review

It is all set up to take some sunset photos of the city of Melbourne.

Who is the Nikon D500 for?

The most likely person to buy this camera is someone who is interested in the 1.5x crop factor. Photographers who can’t afford those great big long lenses, but want to be able to get as close as they can to the action. Having the ability to make a 300mm lens go to 450mm is fantastic. The longer the telephoto lens, the more expensive it is, so the cropped sensor is great for that reason.

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The sunset shot with the Nikon D500. The DX camera allowed me to get a lot closer with the 80-200mm, this was at 277mm.

Sports photographers would also be interested where speed and getting closer to the action is very important. Full frame is great, but to get a camera that is fast enough to shoot lots of frames per second you would need to spend around $6500 on a Nikon D5 or similar. If you don’t have that kind of money, $2000 USD will get you the Nikon D500 which will do many of the things that the others can, but you also get the cropped sensor.

There are many other kinds of photographers who would benefit from the D500 as well. Bird and wildlife photographers would love being able to get more length with their lenses. The 10 frames per second capability of this camera would also be an advantage for capturing birds and animals on the move.

Macro photographers will get a lot closer to their subjects with their lenses, and when you put on extension tubes, a whole new world will be seen.

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Taken using the D500 and the Nikon 105mm macro lens, with the cropped sensor you can get in a lot closer than you can with a full frame.

Snapbridge app

This is a new app that Nikon has developed that makes it possible to connect your smartphone with the camera. It is unlike others that use Wi-Fi to do it, Snapbridge stays connected to your phone all the time. You can upload photos, use it to take your photos, and it also keeps your camera’s firmware up to date.

It is available for Apple iPhones and Android, though it is a little harder to use with an Android.

Using the camera

I found the camera easy to handle and work my way around. Then again, I’ve been using Nikon cameras for many years, and as previously stated I found a lot of similarities with the D800. I found the weight fine, but others who picked it up thought it was heavy. Then again, you would expect a camera of this quality to be that heavy. Good quality cameras of this caliber are always a bit hefty.

The fast frame rate blew me away and as someone who always likes to bracket photos to get more options, I really enjoyed it. With the D800 I would never do more than three shot hand holding, but with the D500 I felt there was enough speed to let me do five. I also really enjoyed just listening to how fast it was.

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Using the D500 for night photography in Melbourne.

If I had one criticism, it would be that there is an overall blue cast and how, in some cases, it made the blues far bluer than they really were. I’m not a fan of blue in images, so I didn’t like it, but I know a lot of other photographers would.

Overall

The Nikon D500 is a great camera and anyone who purchases it will really enjoy using it. Full frame is great, but if you are a photographer who likes to zoom in, then the DX may suit you more. If you shoot sports, birds, wildlife or macro, look at this camera, it could be just what you need.

Price out the Nikon D500 on Amazon or B&H Photo’s site.

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The sun as it sets and the camera taking photos.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Nikon D500
Author Rating
4.5

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Leanne Cole is a fine art photographer based in Melbourne, Australia. She loves Melbourne and photographing it, along with other parts of the state. She likes doing architectural and environmental photography. You can find her on her website or on Instagram.

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  • New? You’re kidding, right?

  • No, it is relatively new, it is new for dps.

  • walwit

    I think that the crop factor is not an advantage at all to get more reach from a telephoto lens, compared with a full frame camera. You are just cropping the picture.

  • Not really. You do get more pixel density on that cropped section than if you were to crop a photo from a full frame camera.

  • Thanks Don, that is true too, and also for those that prefer to frame in camera, then it is a great choice. I have tried using the cropped function on the FX cameras and it is a bit frustrating, so I liked not having to worry about that. Thanks for your comment Walwit.

  • prhayz

    Very indepth review, Leanne. If I was looking to buy a camera one would definately buy the D500 base on your review.

  • Thank you, that is really nice of you to say.

  • Richard Vee

    please i am a beginner in photography and i have a nikon D3100 and am not to good using it,please i need to know when and how to use my ISO, shutter speed, and aperture.please my people i need your help
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/15fba8967ce04a92c70dbedfad6b6af4882c55df1a1a5edb54e294ee00a03853.jpg ….

    the portrait below is my shot,i tried to shoot a portrait and this is all i got, and am certified.help on how to play with my nikon D3100

  • There are lots of articles here at Digital Photography School to teach you those, so I suggest you do a search and see if you can find some that will help you. I don’t photograph people so I don’t know much about that aspect of it, sorry.

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  • An item of note for D500 users, Nikon is exchanging older EN-EL15 batteries at no cost to those who purchased a D500. After contacting Nikon and uploading a copy of my camera purchase receipt, they emailed a return label. I shipped off the battery that came with my D7000, and in about 2 weeks, I received a shiny new upgraded EN-EL15. Details on the exchange are here: http://nikonrumors.com/2016/06/02/nikon-offers-free-exchange-of-older-en-el15-batteries-for-d500-owners.aspx/

  • That’s great information, thanks for sharing it and providing the link.

  • Laila Kristin Skauge

    I just ordered a D500 and I’m looking forward to start playing with it. I am looking at reviews for a lens to use for landscape photography, and wonder what you think about the 16-80mm f2.8 Do you have any suggestions where to read and learn more about it? I have the 70-200mm, 50mm and the kit lens from my D3000, so I have a place to start 🙂

  • Lucky you, I would love one of these, such an amazing camera. I don’t actually know that lens, but someone recently was telling me it was a good one. I might have to see if I can borrow it to try it out. Sorry, I don’t know where, but if you google it you should find lots of reviews. You do have a place to start. I will see what I can find out.

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