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Nikon D500: a full review of the super-fast Nikon

The Nikon D500 is a small-format SLR camera that enters, rightfully, at the top of its category.

In particular, I think it’s the best APS-C sensor camera ever built for sports photos.

And in fact it is definitely not a car for everyone: the  Nikon D500 price of official dealers is more than 2000 USD, and this is due to the performance of speed and precision absolutely unusual.

And in this regard, I would immediately cut off the bull’s head, since the issue is debated: for me the Nikon D500, even if it is an APS-C, is certainly one of the professional level cameras in the panorama of products of the Japanese house.

Nikon D500 and its rivals

In this review of the D500, however, we will try to understand, as always, if it is the camera that’s right for you.

If you want to stay on the small size, you can take the D7200 ( Review Nikon D7200 ), which costs a thousand euro less and still has excellent performance all round.

Wanting to spend more or less the same (even a little ‘less, in fact) and go on a full frame, you can take the Nikon D750, one of the most successful and complete in my opinion that has ever entered the market.

But as I said, the Nikon D500 has exceptional speed and accuracy features, which you can only find in full professional frames of at least 5000 USD.

But now, let’s begin to take a closer look at this camera.

Nikon D500 Machine Body Design

For those who, like me, see the camera not only as an instrument but also as an object that gives tactile and aesthetic sensations, the Nikon D500 is a decidedly satisfying reduced format.

The D500 is indeed beautiful and has considerable dimensions for its category: 147 x 115 x 81 mm and 760 grams of weight.

Even slightly larger, then, of the full frame Nikon D750.

And this has its pros and cons.

Those coming from smaller-format cameras of a lower category, such as the D3400 ( Review D3400 ) or the D5500 ( Review D5500 ), will immediately notice the difference in size and weight and will need to adapt.

This difference, however, in addition to technical performance, is largely justified by factors such as, for example:

Feeling of great solidity, value and specific weight in the hands

Plenty of space for buttons, all large and easily accessible. And also illuminable, to improve accessibility in low light conditions.

Large control screen  on the upper right side of the machine body

Very comfortable grip even for those with big hands

9 cm LCD screen


Space for connections of all types

The magnesium alloy and the carbon fiber with which the machine body is built, as well as the finishes, finally confirm the “physical” sensation that the Nikon D500 is a professional level machine in every detail.

Let’s see now if this “physical” feeling is confirmed by the technical aspects.

Nikon D500 Technical Features

Here are the main technical features of the D500:

Sensor from 20.7 megapixels APS-C, or a reduced size

Image processor Expeed 5, the current top of the Nikon home range

Continuous shooting at 10 fps for 20 seconds, in RAW! (we’ll talk more about it)

Autofocus with 153 points AF with 99 cross stitches + point selector (also here, we will go deeper)

 The tilting LCD screen, touchscreen system, with 2300K points

180,000-pixel RGB exposure meter

Viewfinder with 100% coverage and 1.0x magnification factor

System connectivity snap bridge

4k / UHD video footage for 30 minutes

Battery with a capacity of 1240 shots

Two memory card slots (SD and XQD)


ISO from 100 to 51,800, expandable up to 1,638,400 (yes, one million two hundred and eighty-eight thousand four hundred!)

NOT present: built-in flash, GPS.

The set of these technical characteristics translate into remarkable performances from all points of view.

Excellent image definition, ease, and speed of use, great video quality, minimum ginning even at very high ISO (even 25,600 photos are more than decent!) … all that you can and should expect from an SLR camera that it costs 2000 USD.

But there are two aspects that I want to dwell on, and which are the main reason why, at least for some types of photographers, it is worth choosing this camera and not others.

They are autofocus and continuous shooting

The Nikon D500 and its impressive Autofocus

The autofocus of the Nikon D500 is so impressive that in the 3 hours I had it in my hands I could never really put it in crisis.

Of course, I’m not a professional sports photographer, but of cameras from 6-7 thousand USD I have tested different and, at least from this point of view, the D500 holds the comparison big.

As mentioned, the autofocus of the Nikon D500 has 153 points, of which 99 cross and 55 manually selectable by the operator through a joystick placed on the back of the camera body.

The methods of use are:

Single point:  Use the selector to choose one of the 55 selectable points manually

Dynamic:  Choose a point, as above, but the machine also considers a group of points close to the chosen one, in case the subject is “lost” from the main point.

Group: Instead of choosing a single point, you select a group, and the system automatically chooses what he considers to be the subject.

3D Tracking – you select the initial single point, and the camera then follows the subject using other single points when necessary.

Automatic  – The system decides the subject be focused by itself.

Now, for those who have never done sports photography, it may seem too much. But each of these modes has its optimal application depending on the situation.

For example, let’s go to the Giro D’Italia to take pictures: with your D500

Do you want to photograph a specific cyclist pedaling at a constant speed in the group? The single point is fine.

Are you at the top of the hill and the cyclists arrive one at a time? You put yourself comfortable and have the machine done automatically

Are you following a two-way challenge in which a cyclist snaps trying to detach the other? Go with 3D Tracking

And so on.

The speed of the action, the number of subjects present in the image, the possible accelerations of the subject, its chromatic characteristics, the background, the intensity of the light… Each of these aspects affects the autofocus mode you will use.

And of course then, everyone has their own tastes, and there are several borderline situations in which two equally competent photographers can use different modes.

But anyway, the Nikon D500 will not let you down and will do its job well.

As for the low light situations, I have not had the opportunity to verify the performance personally. However, the photographers I consulted confirmed to be a very good autofocus behavior even in – 3ev

The continuous shooting of the Nikon D500

The second feature that puts the Nikon D500 above the competition is continuous shooting.

Which is obvious and congruous with what we have just seen relative to autofocus.

Being, in fact, a machine designed to photograph the action, the D500 has:

Large continuous shooting speed: 10 fps

Great buffer: in 20 seconds it does well 200 photographs in RAW

Of course, in order to take full advantage of these features, you must have a suitable memory card (see the SD card guide to select the appropriate one). And in fact, the Nikon D500 houses two memory cards, one SD and one XQD.

A single negative remark, just to be picky: the snap ridge sharing system is not able to stay behind the shutter speed.

To do this, you have to buy the Nikon WT-7A wireless transmitter, with which the camera is compatible.

Nikon D500 machine body price and kit with lens

Now the choice of online stores from which to buy cameras is very wide. And, especially if you turn to the market of unofficial retailers, you can make good deals, especially if they are cameras without Nikon Italy official warranty.

However, since it is still a choice that has some risk component, I prefer to give the Amazon price reference. In my opinion, no store, physical or online, gives the same certainties of delivery/return/ guarantee of the colossus of Seattle.

At this time, February 2017, as a reference, consider:

Nikon D500 price only body machine: about 2000 USD. I recommend it especially if you already have other objectives of the Japanese house, I know if you’re going to build a selected lens park. On the other hand, you would have all the possibility, given the vastness of options offered by the Japanese house.

Price Nikon D500 + Nikkor AF-S DX lens 16-80mm VR: about 2700 USD, in case you want a good optics a little for all uses, at least for a while.

All you spend less is runny fat, and you take home some risk that you have to evaluate well.

As always, there is also the option of Amazon Warehouse Deals (read the article on used Amazon reconditioned to understand why it’s convenient). However, since the D500 is a recently released camera, it is difficult to get one.

The Nikon D500 is for you?

The Nikon D500 has specific qualities so strong that all in all to evaluate if it is the car that’s right for you is quite simple.

If you want to take sports or wildlife photos and want great speed and precision without spending a fortune, the Nikon D500 is definitely the best Nikon camera on the market.

A true power that will leave you impressed.

And the same fact that the sensor is a small format will be an advantage: you will lose something in the quality of the image (still excellent), but you can afford smaller, portable and economic telephoto lenses thanks to the crop factor.

If you are an all-around photographer, that is, who likes to do a bit of everything and has no specific needs in any area, it is not worth taking the D500.

The best top-of-the-range APS-C SLRs

Of course, it is obvious that you can shoot 200 RAW files in 20 seconds and have Nikon’s top autofocus is cool.

But if they are things that basically do not need you, much better take the D7200, an APS-C with similar image performance but that costs a thousand euro, or a full frame handyman.

Also seen that for a similar price or even a little ‘less you can get some excellent handyman, like the Nikon D750.

Or, wanting to get out of the Nikon, the Canon 5D Mark III, a little ‘more expensive but much better in the video industry.

Or, wanting to completely change technology and philosophy, the mirrorless  Sony Alpha 7S. (See our article that explains everything about mirrorless )

And it is here in my opinion that Nikon has done, with the D500, a masterpiece of positioning on the market.

If for a certain type of needs, in this price range, there are really many alternatives, for the action photographer the Nikon D500 is clearly the best choice.


Categories: Camera


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