Nikon D500 Video Features, Specs & Analysis

by Jaron Schneider | Posted

The Nikon D500 is an outstanding stills camera, but perhaps often overlooked is its video capability. Though it lacks many features video shooters look for, anyone who already owns a D500 may find that it has enough features to keep one suitably satisfied through many video applications. Specifically for video shooters, you'll find both headphone and mic jacks, two ports that are an absolute must for streamlined audio capture.

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The Nikon D500 can shoot 4K video (one of the first Nikon cameras to do so) in both 24p (23.98) and 30p (29.97), and does so at a healthy 144 Mbps bitrate. The result is clean, beautiful 4K video that looks akin to what you might see out of a Sony or Panasonic (in terms of color, sharpness and clarity). Footage is very sharp, and colors are vivid. In today's highly competitive video market, this is what we are looking for. Just bear in mind that you'll need an XQD or a UHS Speed Class 3 SDHC/SDXC memory card to capture 4K video.

It's a shame that the crop factor to create the 4K footage is so dramatic: it takes the 1.5x crop of the APS-C sensor and adds an additional 1.5x to that for a total of about 2.25x compared to full frame. That's makes the resulting piece of the sensor used to create 4K not only smaller than APS-C, but smaller even than Micro Four Thirds. It's a heinous crop factor, and can be totally debilitating for many video shots, especially those in tight quarters. For example, the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 becomes approximately 54-158mm when shooting 4K on the D500. Full HD and HD resolutions can be shot with no additional crop, or with a 1.3x crop added to APS-C, for a total of about 1.95x compared to full frame.

As excellent as the 4K video appears, unfortunately, this quality does not extend to any of the D500's 1080p shooting modes. Though it does offer 1080p60 (59.94), it can only record it and 50p at a maximum bitrate of 48 Mbps. In 24p, 25p and 30p, the best the D500 can offer is 24 Mbps.

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If you compare footage side by side, the difference is extremely noticeable: native 1080p footage taken with the D500 is well below expectations, especially given how clean the 4K video quality is. Given the D500's near-$2000 price point, the 1080p quality is well below both expectations and market norms.

ISO performance is good, with footage looking quite pleasant past ISO 6400, with even ISO 12,800 being usable in some situations. Though noise is introduced, it's not necessarily deal-breaking. Stay well away from anything beyond this ISO level, however, as the noise seen past 12,800 is considerable. The color accuracy of footage falls significantly and is completely unusable for anything resembling pro-level video.

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The D500 offers touch-focusing capability thanks to its touchscreen, and it does work for the most part. It's not particularly clean, however, and if you were to focus while recording, the "hunting" that occurs will make it exceedingly obvious to your viewer that you were using autofocus. In short, it doesn't look natural. This is ok, however, in some situations as it can be used to quickly nab focus and then switch to manual focus, rather than worrying with manual focus and digital magnification. Additionally, though relatively quick to lock onto focus, the touchscreen doesn't seem to be particularly sensitive, and often got the points I tapped incorrect (it would highlight a section next to my fingertip, or would hunt briefly before stopping with nothing in focus). For video autofocus, it's nowhere near market leading, but would likely qualify as "at par."

Nikon D500 Video Speeds & Feeds

  • All videos recorded in .MOV format.
  • 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160)
    • 30p (29.97) | 144Mbps
    • 25p (25.00) | 144Mbps
    • 24p (23.98) | 144Mbps
  • Full HD (1920 x 1080) - High Quality
    • 60p (59.94) | 48Mbps
    • 50p (50.00) | 48Mbps
    • 30p (29.97) | 24Mbps
    • 25p (25.00) | 24Mbps
    • 24p (23.98) | 24Mbps
  • Full HD (1920 x 1080) - Normal Quality
    • 60p (59.94) | 24Mbps
    • 50p (50.00) | 24Mbps
    • 30p (29.97) | 12Mbps
    • 25p (25.00) | 12Mbps
    • 24p (23.98) | 12Mbps
  • HD (1280 x 720) - High Quality
    • 60p (59.94) | 24Mbps
    • 50p (50.00) | 24Mbps
  • HD (1280 x 720) - Normal Quality
    • 60p (59.94) | 12Mbps
    • 50p (50.00) | 12Mbps

Nikon D500 Notable Video Features

  • Records in 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Offers NTSC and PAL video framerates
  • Maximum Video Recording time: 29 minutes, 59 seconds
  • Max file size 4GB (if file size exceeds 4GB a new file will be created automatically)
  • Offers clean uncompressed HDMI out UHD 4:2:2
  • In-camera 4K video must be recorded to XQD or UHS Speed Class or faster SDHC/SDXC cards; Full HD and HD requires SD Speed Class 6 or faster
  • Video compression uses H.264/MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding
  • TTL exposure metering using main image sensor is matrix, center-weighted, or highlight-weighted
  • Menu option to enable zebra highlight display
  • Microphone sensitivity can be set to Auto, or manually adjusted among twenty levels
  • Audio records at 48 kHz, 16-bit linear PCM stereo
  • In-camera wind noise reduction
  • Five screen display options (HUD): Blank/clear, digital level, camera record settings, grid, curves. All displays keep camera exposure settings visible
  • Multi-selector power aperture
  • Flicker reduction options: Auto, 50Hz, or 60Hz
  • Manual, shutter priority, aperture priority and program modes available for video capture
  • Auto ISO available in video capture. In Exposure mode M: Auto ISO sensitivity control (ISO 100 to Hi 5) available with selectable upper limit; manual selection (ISO 100 to 51,200 in steps of 1/3, 1/2, or 1 EV) with additional options available equivalent to approximately 0.3, 0.5, 0.7, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 EV (ISO 1,638,400 equivalent) above ISO 51,200. In Exposure modes P, S, and A: Auto ISO sensitivity control (ISO 100 to Hi 5) with selectable upper limit
  • All white balance modes are usable during video capture
  • Offers custom tone curves
  • Active D-Lighting can be selected, extra high, high, normal, low, or off
  • Includes seven picture modes including a flat profile (similar to but not quite log)
  • Offers 10 video recording formats, including 25p and 50p (all recorded in MOV)
  • Capable of slow-motion when recorded in 1080p60
  • Offers continuous autofocus
  • Offers electronic vibration reduction
  • Has a built-in 4K time-lapse mode
  • When recording, the D500 does not show individual clip length on a timer, but rather displays how much total time remains on the card in a countdown-style

Summary

For one of Nikon's first 4K DSLRs, the D500 is a solid showing. The ISO performance is good, the slow motion full HD option is nice, and of course the high-quality 4K video is the main focus. Sadly, the 4K uses a heavily cropped portion of the sensor resulting in a painful 2.25x zoom to anything, shot which heavily limits its usability. Add to that the vast quality difference between the 4K and the full HD video (which is sub-par) and the iffy touch autofocus, and you get a camera with limited usability for video. If you are a Nikon user and desperately want to shoot 4K, this is really your best option, and it's not the worst situation in which you could find yourself. The Nikon D500 is overall an excellent camera, and adding 4K was kind of icing on the cake. It should not be seen as a go-to video camera, but it is a very good fall-back for anyone who wants quality 4K and who may already own the D500.

Pros:

  • Offers 4K Ultra HD video, with clean HDMI out UHD 4:2:2 8 bit
  • Offers 1080p60
  • Offers continuous autofocus (though see Con)
  • Good ISO performance
  • Camera body includes a headphone jack and mic jack

Cons:

  • Very heavy crop in 4K video recording
  • Low bitrate 1080p video means poor textures, muddy colors and lackluster sharpness
  • Continuous autofocus, and tap autofocus has tendency to "hunt"

 



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