Nikon D7500 Conclusion

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The latest in a well-loved series of feature-rich enthusiast DSLRs

When Nikon launched its D7000 DSLR back in late 2011, you could say that it created something of an instant classic. The D7000 perfectly hit the sweet spot for enthusiasts and even as a second or third body for many pros. It was affordable and yet comprehensively feature-rich, giving its owners plenty of room to grow in whatever direction their photographic needs took them. The D7100 and D7200 followed in much the same vein, but the D7500 arrives in an altogether-different market.

The Nikon D500 now rules the roost as the company's flagship sub-frame (or DX-format, in Nikon parlance) DSLR, and the D7500 is positioned directly beneath it in the line, offering many of its features at a significantly more affordable pricetag. Perhaps understandably, though, the D7500 lacks a few of the features found in its predecessors, as Nikon has reserved these for the flagship model instead.

120mm-equivalent, 1/400 sec. @ f/5.0, ISO 100
Nikon taketh away, sure, but it also giveth a little with the other hand

But while we can understand why Nikon felt the need to take away these features -- we'll get to the specifics in just a moment, for those of you who've not already read the rest of our review -- it's a bit of a shame that the company wasn't able to reduce the pricetag of its D7500 at the same time. In fact, body-only the D7500 is a scant $50 more expensive than was the D7200 at launch, listing for a still-affordable US$1,250 without a lens.

But while it does lack a few features of earlier models, such as a second flash card slot, a secondary infrared receiver, an NFC radio, support for a portrait grip, or a mechanical AI coupling lever, the D7500 does best its predecessor in many other ways, perhaps justifying that slight bump in price. (Especially when one bears in mind the effects of a couple of years inflation. It inherits much the same excellent imaging pipeline as the D500, for example, and thus offers a nice step forwards in both performance and sensitivity range. And it also sports a much finer-grained metering sensor that it shares not just with the D500, but also with its professional flagship, the D5.

187mm-equivalent, 1/200 sec. @ f/2.8, ISO 560

The D7500's newly-designed body is a joy to shoot with

All of this sits inside a newly-designed carbon fiber monocoque body which is truly a pleasure to shoot with. It's comfortable in the hand, and is adorned with an abundance of external controls that, for the most part, are well-positioned and easy to use without accidental operation.

It's a little easy to forget its two front function buttons, tucked inside the hand grip as they are, and if you have large hands you may find yourself occasionally bumping the upper of the two as we did, but at its default setting doing so won't adversely affect your images. And the remainder of the controls are very easy to reach, have good feel, and quickly become second nature. And we're definitely fans of the new ISO button location!

63mm-equivalent, 1/60 sec. @ f/3.5, ISO 560

And the body itself, for such a fully-featured DSLR, is nevertheless surprisingly trim and light, something achieved thanks to that carbon fiber monocoque design. And really, it feels just as sturdy and solid as the magnesium alloy panels it replaced. Truth be told, the only way we really noticed the difference in materials is that carbon fiber isn't cold to the touch, as the mag alloy panels are. (And it's worth remembering that the D7200 only had mag alloy on its top and front surfaces anyway, with the remainder being polycarbonate.)

A slight step back in resolution, but it allows noticeably better high ISO

The D7500 is relatively unusual among DSLRs -- heck, in the camera market in general -- for the fact that it actually has a little lower resolution than did its immediate predecessors, the D7100 and D7200. But in our book, that's absolutely no bad thing. Frankly, the difference between a 20.9-megapixel camera and a 24.2-megapixel one is modest, at best.

82mm-equivalent, 1/100 sec. @ f/3.8, ISO 1600

We're talking about the subtraction of only 432 columns and 288 rows of pixels to make an image from the D7500 that's still 5,568 pixels wide and 3,712 pixels tall, after all. A little back-of-the-envelope math tells you that the D7500 has somewhere in the region of 7% less linear resolution than the D7200, hardly an earth-shattering reduction. And yet by sacrificing almost 14% of the total pixel count, the D7500 can offer larger, more light-hungry pixels and will fill its buffers noticeably less quickly.

And that's borne out by what we've seen both in the lab and in the real world. Yes, the D7200 will give you just slightly higher resolution, a difference that's noticeable even after you ramp up the sensitivity a little. But it will do so at the expense of noise levels and dynamic range once the sensitivity ramps up a little. The D7500, by contrast, will give you better results once you move away from base sensitivity, with cleaner images and as much as a stop more dynamic range than its predecessor by the time you reach ISO 25,600-equivalent.

210mm-equivalent, 1/250 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 560

And even at base sensitivity, the D7500's 20.9-megapixel resolution is sufficient for super 30 x 40-inch prints, or perhaps even larger for display on your walls at typical viewing distances. Combine that with vibrant, pleasing colors, good exposure accuracy and accurate white balance under most conditions except tungsten lighting, and you have the recipe for great photos. And once you raise the sensitivity levels, the D7500 will prove even more satisfying!

The D7500 performs admirably with slightly fewer pixels to handle, too

We alluded to the potential performance advantage of a reduction in pixel count a moment ago, and that's paired with a new EXPEED 5 image processor which Nikon tells us offers 30% greater performance. The result is that the D7500 handily outperforms its predecessor and even best its own manufacturer rating, managing a solid 8.2 frames per second in our lab testing.

78mm-equivalent, 1/400 sec. @ f/10.0, ISO 100

For JPEG compressed images, that's a worthwhile 2.4 extra frames every second, and for raw shooters there's an even more significant 3.3 frames more every second than the D7200 could manage. And yet buffer depths in the D7500 are double those of the D7200 for JPEGs, and they've even more than doubled for raws.

And performance in other respects, including autofocus, shutter lag and single-shot cycle times are all great too. Plus there's a swift 1,8,000-second maximum shutter speed, just as in the D7200, and greater shutter-speed accuracy in general, according to Nikon. Battery life has decreased by around 14% since that camera, admittedly, but even here the D7500 turns in a very good performance for its class, so long as you're shooting through the optical viewfinder.

183mm-equivalent, 1/500 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 100
Great video quality too, but with a couple of catches

The D7500 isn't just a still shooter, of course. It's a capable video camera too, in many respects, although there are a couple of catches to be aware of which may sway you in favor of another camera, if video capture is a primary goal for you. Its 4K videos are packed with loads of detail. And it's nice to know that if you want to avoid compression artifacts, you can also simultaneously record uncompressed video via HDMI to an external recorder.

But 4K footage comes with a significant 1.5x focal length crop (and that's on top of the 1.5x crop you already experience since you're using a DX-format image sensor), so it's effectively a 2.25x crop overall. Even if you opt for the widest of the three kit lenses, for example, being the AF-S 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR zoom, you'll find that for 4K video usage it's effectively a 36-180mm zoom instead. That could be a great thing if you're wanting to shoot distant subjects and bring them up close, but if wide-angle video possibilities are what you're after, then it's going to prove seriously limiting.

66mm-equivalent, 1/60 sec. @ f/3.5, ISO 32,000

On the plus side, if you're only looking for Full HD video capture, then the D7500 bests in predecessor in this regard. Where the D7200 had a focal length crop if shooting 1080p footage at 60 frames per second, the D7500 can accomplish this feat with no crop at all, so long as you disable its optional electronic vibration reduction function and rely on lens-based stabilization or shoot unstabilized footage instead.

The only other significant fly in the ointment for video capture comes in the focusing department. The D7500 lacks any on-chip phase detection autofocus pixels, and that means while many mirrorless rivals and even some competing DSLRs now offer hybrid autofocus for video capture, the D7500 must still rely on contrast-detection autofocus, which is much more prone to hunting around the point of focus. And while you can, if you like, pull focus manually, the D7500 still lacks focus peaking functionality, an omission which we find a little bit incredible when the feature can now be found even on sub-$500 point-and-shoot cameras from some rivals.

84mm-equivalent, 1/100 sec. @ f/3.8, ISO 16,000
Not entirely the enthusiast camera its predecessors were, but still a great buy regardless

But if you can live with those few shortcomings in the video department, there's no question that the D7500 is a very capable camera indeed. Admittedly, in some respects it doesn't quite match up to its own predecessor in order to create a greater differentiation from the more expensive, DX-format flagship, the Nikon D500. But if you need those features, Nikon would really rather you pay the extra for that camera, and you'll get an even more serious photographic tool that justifies the added cost in other respects, too. And it certainly bests its predecessor in important ways that will arguably have a greater impact on your photography, too.

If you want superb image quality and plenty of features at a much more affordable pricetag, the D7500 is a great camera. A clear choice for a place on our Dave's Pick list, the D7500 comes highly recommended for enthusiast shooters (and amateurs looking to step up their game), but who can't justify stretching to the purchase of its significantly pricier flagship sibling. All in all, in the D7500, Nikon has achieved a near-perfect balance of image quality, features, ease of use and price.

 

Pros & Cons

Image Quality

  • Essentially the same excellent image quality and dynamic range as the D500
  • Even broader base ISO range than its predecessor (51,200 vs 25,600)
  • Slightly lower sensor res than D7200 (but faster burst and much broader ISO range)
  • Ridiculously high extended ISOs aren't very useful in the real world
  • Auto and Incandescent white balance too warm under tungsten lighting

Performance

  • Quick 8.2 fps burst mode, significantly faster than its predecessor
  • Generous buffer depths have doubled for JPEG, more than doubled for raw despite faster bursts
  • Very fast and accurate autofocus
  • Low shutter lag
  • Fast single-shot cycle times
  • Top 1/8,000 sec mechanical shutter, and shutter timing now said to be more accurate

Video

  • Ultra high-def 4K video capture at 30 frames per second
  • No additional crop for 1080p60 video, unlike D7200
  • New three-axis electronic VR for 1080 video (but with additional crop, obviously)
  • Can record compressed 4K internally and uncompressed to external recorder simultaneously
  • External mic and headphone jacks
  • Power aperture control, zebra striping, and even 4K time-lapse movies
  • Heavy 1.5x crop in 4K video recording
  • No hybrid AF for live view/movies; shows noticeable hunting and AF adjustments
  • Rolling shutter can be noticeable in 4K videos, especially when panning
  • Combination of mechanical and electronic VR for videos (and the fact they're quite separate in the UI) can cause confusion

 

User Experience

  • Lighter, smaller carbon fiber monocoque body with deeper grip, better weather-sealing, better ISO button location feels just as solid as mag-alloy
  • Boatloads of well-designed, mostly well-positioned dedicated controls
  • Generously-sized, tilting touch-screen display
  • Electronic front-curtain shutter option reduces vibrations (but only in mirror-up mode)
  • Quiet shutter release mode really lives up to its name, great for shooting unobtrusively (and at up to 3fps, too)
  • Very good battery life (but down 14% from D7200)
  • Face detection supported even with optical viewfinder
  • Automatic AF Fine-Tune function gives good results easily
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless communication
  • In-camera batch raw processing
  • Function 1/2 buttons can be too easy to forget, being hidden just inside the handgrip (and Fn1 is easy to bump accidentally if you have large hands)
  • *Still* no focus peaking
  • Only a single card slot, and it lacks UHS-II support
  • No support for accessory portrait / battery grip
  • NFC and rear IR remote receiver dropped

Optics

  • All three kit lens options are decent (but can be soft in corners wide-open at some focal lengths, and show significant distortion / chromatic aberration when uncorrected)
  • Viewfinder is bright, crisp, roomy and has great on-demand indications
  • Metering and Aperture-priority are no longer supported with older non-CPU AI lenses due to lack of mechanical AI coupling lever
  • Optical viewfinder has less than 100% coverage, and is slightly tilted/offset

Flash

  • Built-in flash with good performance
  • X-sync at 1/320 possible with reduced range
  • Built-in flash has narrow coverage

 



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