Nikon D500 Review
|Full model name:||Nikon D500|
(23.5mm x 15.7mm)
|Viewfinder:||Optical / LCD|
|Native ISO:||100 - 51,200|
|Extended ISO:||50 - 1,638,400|
|Shutter:||1/8000 - 30 seconds|
5.8 x 4.5 x 3.2 in.
(147 x 115 x 81 mm)
|Full specs:||Nikon D500 specifications|
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While not a compact DSLR, the Nikon D500 offers a lot of imaging capabilities in its rugged, pro-oriented camera body. It also has a very good 153-point AF system, fast continuous shooting performance and 4K UHD video recording, making it one of the most capable, well-rounded DSLRs that Nikon has released in a long time. Its $2,000 price tag is quite high for a DX camera, but is it worth the cost?Pros
Superb image quality; Great high ISO performance; Rugged, comfortable camera body; Sharp articulating touchscreen display; Excellent AF point frame coverage; Fast continuous shooting speeds; 4K UHD video; Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth.Cons
Somewhat large for an APS-C camera; Expensive for a DX camera; 4K UHD video doesn't offer full DX field-of-view; No built-in flash; Still uses contrast-detect for Live View AF; Dual slots use two different card types (XQD and SD).Price and availability
The Nikon D500 began shipping in March 2016 for a suggested retail price of US$1999.95 in a body-only configuration. A kit is also available, including a AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR lens for US$3,069.95.Imaging Resource rating
5.0 out of 5.0
Nikon D500 Review
by Jeremy Gray, Zig Weidelich, Dave Pardue, and Jaron Schneider
Preview originally posted: 01/05/2016
Last edited: 06/23/2017
05/03/2016: First Shots posted
05/18/2016: First Impressions & Gallery Images posted
05/24/2016: Image Quality Comparison & Print Quality posted
06/09/2016: Field Test posted
07/06/2016: Performance test results posted
08/26/2016: Review Conclusion posted
06/23/2017: Video Features, Specs & Analysis added
We've just added a detailed look at the Nikon D500's video quality, performance and a general overview its video-related specs and features. Click here to check out our Nikon D500 Video Review.
Back in 2007, Nikon introduced the DX-format D300 to the world and photographers were smitten with its heavy-duty build-quality, fast autofocus, and excellent performance. In 2009, Nikon gave the D300 a cursory upgrade by way of the D300S, which added video recording capabilities and a few specification upgrades.
In the over six years since, amateurs and professionals alike have been wondering, "Where's the D400? Where's the next pro-level, high-performance APS-C DSLR from Nikon?"
Well, you can stop wondering because the Nikon D500 has arrived. With a 20.9-megapixel DX-format (1.5x lens crop factor) CMOS sensor without an optical low-pass filter, the EXPEED 5-powered D500 brings improved professional performance back to Nikon's DX camera lineup.
Let's start first with the new 20.9-megapixel CMOS DX sensor. By foregoing an optical low pass filter, the Nikon D500 delivers sharper image files. Like with the new Nikon D5, there is a particular focus with the D500 on providing rich colors and smooth tones. By utilizing Nikon's new EXPEED 5 image processing engine, the D500 captures images with low noise even at high ISO speeds. Speaking of ISO, the Nikon D500's native ISO range of 100-51,200 bests the previous top-of-the-line DX camera, the D7200, by a stop and even offers an expanded ISO range of 50-1,638,400. Yes, 1,638,400! This makes the D500 the highest ISO setting of Hi-2BW ISO 102,400 on the D7200 look particularly low. The D300S' native ISO range of 200-3200 is simply being left in the dust by the new D500.
Metering is also an area of great improvement, with the Nikon D500 being fitted with a 180k-pixel RGB metering sensor compared to the 1,005-pixel RGB sensor found in the D300S. The D500 also includes Nikon's Advanced Scene Recognition System, and their new White Balance: Keep White feature, which leads to more natural color reproduction by combining the EXPEED 5 image processor and the camera's auto white balance setting.
This new EXPEED 5 image processor has also led to improvements in both continuous high speed shooting capabilities and buffer depth. The Nikon D500 can capture full-resolution images at up to 10fps in CH drive mode, which is 2fps better than the D300S and 4fps better than the original D300. According to Nikon, the D500 can capture 200 lossless compressed 14-bit RAW files and 79 uncompressed 14-bit RAW files at 10fps, compared to the 30 and 19 shots respectively that the EXPEED 1-powered D300S could produce. Visit our Performance page to see how the D500 performed in the lab.
Top shutter speed remains at 1/8000s like that of the D300S, but shutter durability is now rated at 200,000 cycles, up from 150,000, and the D500 adds an electronic first curtain shutter option in mirror-up mode, to avoid blur due to shutter shock. X-sync remains at 1/250s, though the D300S' could be boosted to 1/320s with reduced flash range.
Nikon's brand-new Multi-CAM 20K autofocus system from the D5 also finds its way into the D500. The autofocus sensor module has 153 focus points, including 99 cross-type sensors and 15 sensors that support f/8 autofocusing (perfect for using, say, a Nikon TC-14e III and Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E lens to make for an autofocus-capable 1050mm f/8 lens). Of the 99 cross-type sensors and 15 f/8-supporting sensors, 35 cross-type and 9 f/8 sensors are available for selection. Comparing this to the Multi-CAM 3500 II autofocus system found in the D300S, the D500 has 102 more autofocus points and 84 more cross-type sensors. The autofocus improvements are not just to sheer number of points and sensors, however, but also to low-light autofocus performance. The Nikon D500 can autofocus down to -4 EV, whereas the D300S could only autofocus to -1 EV. AF modes include Single-point, Dynamic Area AF (25, 72, and 153 AF point options), Group Area AF, 3D-Tracking, and Auto Area AF. Further, unlike the D300S, the D500 offers Live View contrast detect AF in AF-S and AF-F modes.
Improvements can also be seen on the camera body itself. The Nikon D500 offers the same level of weather sealing as the rugged Nikon D810. In pursuit of further durability, the D500 doesn't include a built-in pop-up flash, is made of magnesium alloy for the top and rear of the camera, and is reinforced with lightweight carbon fiber on the front. For your flash needs, the D500 is compatible with Nikon's new radio-frequency capable SB-5000 Speedlight flash. The Nikon D500 is also the first DX camera to include button illumination, which will improve operability in dark or nighttime situations.
The Nikon D500 has also seen an increase in viewfinder magnification from 0.94x on the D300S to a full 1.0x on the D500. If you prefer to use live view, you'll be happy to know that Nikon has given the D500 a new tilting 3.2" RGBW LCD touchscreen with approximately 2,359k dots. This high-resolution screen will be put to great use when recording video at up to 4K UHD resolution and 30 frames per second. The 1280 x 720 24p video recording capabilities of the D300S are now very much a thing of the past. With 4K video recording capabilities, the Nikon D500 can also save individual 4K frames as 8-megapixel JPEG Fine images. Other movie features include simultaneous recording to an internal memory card and external recorder, Flat picture control, Smooth Exposure, Zebra Stripes, Power Aperture Control, and Electronic vibration reduction.
Constant connectivity is a major point of focus for the Wi-Fi-, NFC-, and Bluetooth-enabled Nikon D500. Nikon's new SnapBridge allows the D500 to stay connected to your mobile device at all times using a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connection and thus automatically transfers photos to your mobile device, perfect for photographers on-the-go. You can also tag images in-camera for transfer if you don't want it to be done automatically and can even password-protect your connection. And of course remote control is supported as well.
The D500 is also compatible with Nikon's new WT-7A Wireless Transmitter for wired or wireless file transmission to an FTP server or computer (the WT-7A Wireless Transmitter has an SRP of US$935).
The Nikon D500 still has dual card slots, but instead of the D300S' CF+SD slots, they are now XQD+SD, and the SD slot is UHS-II compatible.
The USB port has also been upgraded from Hi-Speed USB 2.0 to SuperSpeed USB 3.0.
There's still a 10-pin Remote Terminal and an external stereo microphone jack, however a headphone jack has been added.
Of course, the Nikon D500 still offers HDMI output in the form of a Mini HDMI (Type-C) port, but it can now output clean, uncompressed video while simultaneously recording to a memory card.
The D300S' composite A/V output has been dropped, as has its DC input terminal. (The D500 requires an EP-5B dummy battery adapter for use with the EH-5B AC adapter.)
The Nikon D500 normally derives its power from an EN-EL15 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack and is CIPA-rated to 1,240 shots per charge. Compare that to 950 shots for the D300S with its EN-EL3e battery, but keep in mind the D300S had a built-in flash which is an additional load during CIPA battery life testing.
The Nikon D500 began shipping in March 2016 for a suggested retail price of US$1999.95 in a body-only configuration. A kit is also available, including a AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR lens for US$3,069.95. The MB-D17 multi battery grip for the D500 sells for US$449.95 to provide additional battery life and improved comfort for vertical shooting.
Nikon D500 Field Test
The D300 successor you have been waiting for
In the years since the Nikon D300S debuted in August of 2009, Nikon users have been waiting for its successor. There have been a handful of enthusiast-oriented Nikon DX DSLRs, but there were always a few features missing that left many photographers longing for another professional-level DX DSLR. The waiting is finally over with the release of the Nikon D500.
The D500 combines the same new autofocus system found in Nikon's latest flagship camera, the D5, with a variety of oft-requested features and agile performance. How does this new DX-format DSLR compare to its predecessor and is this the camera that users have been anxiously waiting for? Read on to find out.
The Nikon D500 is quite large for an APS-C DSLR, but it isn't unwieldy. The front grip is fairly narrow and really deep, allowing for me to get a strong and comfortable hold on the camera. As a pro-oriented DSLR, it has a lot of conveniently placed physical controls and a large LCD display on the top deck of the camera. An aspect of the camera's controls that I particularly like is the repositioned ISO button on the top right part of the camera, which puts all exposure-related controls within reach of the right hand.
Nikon D500: First Impressions from Palm Springs
A fast, agile and fun to use APS-C DSLR
Nikon invited me along with numerous colleagues in the industry to Palm Springs, California to work with the new Nikon D500 for a few days. In the scorching desert heat, the hottest thing wasn't the air, but the camera. While not without a few shortcomings, like every camera, the Nikon D500 is a very promising model that looks poised to be a very worthy successor to the D300S of 2009.
After a long day of travel, which is an inevitable consequence of living in Bangor, Maine, I arrived in a very warm Palm Springs. A few snowflakes fell in Bangor the day before, so stepping out of the plane into high-90's temperatures was a shock to the system.
After a short rest in my hotel room, I headed to a gathering, caught up with a few old friends and made some new ones. As we all chatted about the new gear, a few models played croquet in the afternoon light. I'm not an expert on the lawn sport, but I got the sense it was more of an exhibition match, at best, than any sort of genuine competition. Nonetheless, I was able to test out the D500 in a very interesting backlighting situation.
Nikon D500 Image Quality Comparison
Pitting the new flagship APS-C Nikon against the challengers
Here we present crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing Nikon D500 image quality to its true predecessor, the D300S, as well as against a couple of its more recent siblings, the D7200 and the D750. We've also included the Canon 7D Mark II, its closest competitor, and the Sony A6300 which offers similar performance and is considered to produce state-of-the-art image quality for a shipping camera with a Bayer-filtered APS-C sensor. We realize the Nikon D750 is full-frame while the D500 and the rest are APS-C, but the D750 is the same price so we wanted to see how a full-frame camera compares for those that don't need the performance of the D500.
NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera.
Nikon D500 Print Quality
Just how big can you print?
Print quality and image quality are similar but not identical, because what you see on a print isn't always the same as what you see on the screen. Our print quality analysis answers the important question: "Just how big can I print my photos at higher ISOs?"
We've certainly come a long way since 2009 and the days of the Nikon D300S! That was a camera to be reckoned with for its time, but in the past seven years the stakes have definitely changed. For the APS-C world, the Nikon D500 is now one of the heavy hitters in the print quality department as ISO rises, besting other cameras like the Canon 7D Mk II, Nikon D7200 and the Sony A6300 at ISO 6400 and higher. Only the Samsung NX1 and NX500 have fared as well or better at print quality in the APS-C category.
Nikon D500 Conclusion
Is the Nikon D500 their best APS-C DSLR ever?
In 2009, Nikon released the D300S, and since then, they had not released a new professional-quality APS-C DSLR until the D500 was released this spring. The Nikon D500 shares many features with the simultaneously-announced D5 flagship DSLR, and in fact, save for the smaller body and sensor, there are not as many differences between the D500 and D5 as you might expect. They both use the same new 153-point AF system, 180k-pixel metering sensor, fast EXPEED 5 image processor and offer 4K UHD video recording.
The Nikon D500's rugged body is pro-oriented and comfortable to use
The Nikon D500 is quite large for an APS-C sensor DSLR. Compared to the D7200, the D500 is both heavier (by about three ounces) and larger in every dimension. Even compared to the full-frame D750, the D500 is heavier and larger, although the margins are much smaller. Despite being quite large, it's comfortable to hold due to its narrow, deep front grip.
Like the D5, the D500 is one of Nikon's first cameras to include the ISO button on the right side of the camera, putting all of the exposure controls within the reach of your shutter finger. Controls are good overall, and we particularly liked the D500's inclusion of a sub-selector joystick. All of these well-placed buttons light up too, allowing photographers working in the dark to easily find the right button. On the back of the camera is a 3.2-inch articulating touchscreen LCD with 2,359,000 dots. The touchscreen functionality works well, particularly during Live View and video recording, and the display's articulation is very good and feels rather durable.
In the Box
The Nikon D500 retail box as tested ships with the following items:
- Nikon D500 Body
- EN-EL15 Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery
- MH-25a Battery Charger
- UC-E22 USB 3.0 Cable
- AN-DC17 Camera Strap
- BF-1B Body Cap
- BS-3 Accessory Shoe Cover
- USB Cable Clip
- HDMI Cable Clip
- DK-17 Eyepiece
- User's Manual
- Warranty Card
- Large capacity SD and/or XQD memory cards. Given the high resolution and large file sizes of the D500, 32GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity. If you plan to capture high-definition or 4K movie clips, shoot image bursts, or shoot in RAW format, opt for the fastest cards you can afford.
- Extra EN-EL15 lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack for extended outings
- External shoe mount flash (SB-5000, SB-910 AF, SB-700 AF), macro light (R1C1, R1), wireless commander (SU-800) or other accessory flash
- ME-1 external stereo microphone or other external mic with 3.5mm stereo plug
- Medium to large camera bag
Buy the Nikon D500
$829.33 (117% less)
24.35 MP (14% more)
Also has viewfinder