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Nikon D500 Camera Review

Nikon D500 Camera Review

Nikon D500 Camera Review

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Mini D5 for Nature only Sharper

/ Categories: My Reviews

Updated for 2020: Yes DSLRs and this Nikon D500 are still relevant in the year of mirrorless cameras and is still considered a top-notch camera - especially for sports/action/bird photography, and it does ok in the video department as well. The video has been surpassed by the Nikon Z6 which exhibits excellent video capabilities.

I still use my D500 with my super-telephoto lenses even though I own a Z7 and Z6, the D500 is superior for the sports/bird photography scenario.

Nikon D500 Everyone who reviewed this camera sent the same message, it is the #1 DSLR crop across the board best DX camera for 2016 and now 2017. No need to read more, just buy yourself one... and enjoy...Case Closed

Nikon D500

Nikon D500

Ready for the new experience!

2017: With the new D850 out many may ask if the D850 is so good why do I need a D500? If you are a bird - wildlife, sports, the D500 is the camera.  If you have a primary interest in landscapes and nature and have the extra $$ get a D850 especially if you have an investment in FX glass.   I have no reservation in recommending the Nikon D500 camera to anyone. It has and will be my go-to DX camera body in 2017-2019, awesome at nature and sports/action, and that is what I use mine for. The only time I hesitate is for landscapes that require higher resolution, for those situations I choose my Nikon D850 along with a super-wide lens for 1:1 high-resolution landscapes. The Nikon 500 is an extension of your creativity so, go and explore it.

Here I try to show the D5oo and a Tokina 11-20mm in action> Woodland Photography link below.  Otherwise, most of the bird photos are taken with this camera body because it is such an excellent camera.

I have used this camera since the day of release - It is the BEST crop DSLR camera available. Most of the bird images on this site are taken with this body, it is wonderful to use, with very good focus and tracking.

Everything below here is mostly my initial - WoW - I have a new camera and it is a fabulous moment. The Nikon D500 is an exceptional camera and you will find no negative comments about this little gem. So, if you like reading the excitement of my initial impressions - read on. otherwise - I give you my word - this is a fantastic camera.

Several Years later - Still in love with the D500 camera and never regretted my decision to buy mine. It is my go-to camera for wildlife and sports. I am serious when I say, this camera is top shelf. It is a step up to any crop Nikon or Canon DSLR. The only considerations I have had are exposure settings which I tend to underexpose for some reason at times, especially in backlighted situations.

See the Nikon D500 In Action: Links are below.

Chronological Updates to this Review can be found at the bottom in "Photographers Notes".

Update:  This is the image quality you can expect using good glass and the Nikon D500: As I incorporate the D500 into my photography you will find updates to this posting - Keep an eye on the "Links" & "Photographer's Notes" section at the bottom.

When others start comparing their favorite camera to the D500 you already know which rules the market.

Grey Gnat Catcher

Grey Gnat Catcher

Accolades to Nikon for a stellar digital SLR, and awesome customer service!  Bottom Line Up Front, the Nikon D500 is a rock-solid, super performer, across the spectrum of FPS, image quality, focus acquisition, and nice to have features (WiFi, SnapBridge, BlueTooth, and Touch LCD). If you are in the market for a Top Shelf DSLR I highly recommend you consider the D500. Even the Canon Fans like it. This Camera is deep and wide as they say - lots of new things and improved things. (things = technology)


First Impressions: The D500 is slightly larger than my D7200. LOTS of new features to learn and maximize for your photographic benefit, like NFC for easy smart device connectivity, WiFi, Touch LCD, and the new Snap Bridge; and that is just the beginning of the nice to have, when you look at the technical attributes of the D500, this is where you find where this camera shines and elevates its self among the DX crowd!  

The button placement is similar but not identical to other Nikon cameras so, you will need to re-teach your fingers a few buttons. Looking underside, Nikon moves the Motor Drive connector to the far left side.   I was hoping my Really Right Stuff  D7200 Arca plate would fit, not even close - In the meantime I use a flat Arca plate so I can take the camera out with my tripod.

Reb Bellied Woodpecker

Reb Bellied Woodpecker


Mine Shipped From Nikon: D500 arrives from Nikon very securely packed, with both a thick English and Spanish user manual and of course battery, USB, charger, etc. Over the years, I noticed Nikon go GREEN for packaging choices, Thanks Nikon for using recyclable packaging!.

Quick First Set-Up: Power up the D500 and you are greeted by language settings, followed by snap bridge (images to the world) setup, You can skip the setup for Snap Bridge at that moment since you need the app installed on your device first. I did a basic setup for my time zone, date, time, etc the normal Nikon fare.  Later I used the Nikon PC Camera Control Pro 2 to do a fully customized setup on day 2. (PC Camera Control allows access to the camera menus via your PC)



It works!

Snap Bridge: First download and install the Snap Bridge APP to your smart device, pair the D500 camera to your smart device and if you want, set a password - all easy.   I had mine all set up in about 8 minutes. Took a few photos and enabled the transfer, each image takes about 5 seconds or less to load, with an option to download the full size or a 2MB version. You also have the option to send the images "auto" as you take them, and even when the camera is turned off. Once the images are on your device you can email, upload to other locations.

WiFi: The D500 has built-in WiFi to allow a wireless connection to the camera for more wireless features like using the snap Bridge as a "remote" camera control + download movie files - this makes sense since movie files will be considerably larger.

As an add-on accessory you can attach a WT-7 Wireless Transmitter for ultimate control using the WT-7's built web server or set up as an FTP upload - See the Link section for a full review.

Button Layout:  Everything seems to be in the same spots except a few buttons. 

The ISO and Mode buttons are now swapped. The mode button is now on the left side. While the ISO is now close to the shutter for fast ISO changes. Nikon swapped the positions.  
A new joystick style button appears on the right rear (sub-selector) for controlling the focus point, exposure Lock for recomposing. The Sub selector is positioned close to the rear wheel.
A rear Function 2 (fn2) button is now located at the lower-left rear where the original OK button use to be, now the ok button is right above the fn2.
Ergonomics: Very good for average to large hands, smaller hands may find it not so much, but very usable all day. I wish Nikon would bring back the Nikon D700 Style grip, everyone loved the D700 Grip - I compare all grips to the D700 which was almost perfection.

Build: As light as the D500 is, it is super solid, The buttons, switches, and covers are exceptionally tight and secure. This camera offers "out in the wild" dependability with dirt and moister being held at bay using seals, and covers. so, nothing to worry about for normal daily use in light misty, dusty areas.  The D500 has exceptional build quality.

LCD Screen: At almost 24K in resolution, the display is bright and sharp and can be pulled out and rotated up and down, with a solid feel, no wobble, and stays where you put it. For me this is useful for MACRO work, others may find it useful for video/waist-level shooting.

Touch Features: I had no issues using the touch features, works/feels very similar to a smartphone with the option to turn it off if you wish, and use the buttons and wheels as normal.  The biggest benefit is it allows you to pinch, zoom, move next &  previous for your images, this is a big time saver.  Some complaints about no-touch menu control, but I don't care since I have two function buttons, which can be programmed for quick recall of favorite menu settings. Secondly, the wheel better serves menu deep-diving IMHO, you can easily do all the menus with a few flicks of the thumb. enough said! 

Nikon D500

Nikon D500

Using a Nikon D500 and 400mm, focus was spot on.

Image Quality The images are very nice showing excellent dynamic range, detail, and resolution for cropping and producing stunning prints. + image size is not too burdensome for download using either the wireless or USB cable, as file sizes are roughly 21MB.  By the second day of use and after a few tweaks I am getting excellent predictable results even in difficult lighting conditions with ISO up to 12,800 if you need to ramp it up that high. For outdoor wildlife, I try my best to stay under 800 ISO to retain feather/hair details. With the D500 the high ISO noise is minimized and holds up very well.  I found the D500 is capable of shooting underexposed and still being able to produce excellent images following post-process corrections when shooting in RAW.  In-camera editing is available as well with a good selection of editing tools.


 The Birds Image shot at ISO 1,200
 The Cats Image shot at ISO 1,200

Image handheld late afternoon using a Nikkor 300mm - ISO is 1,000 very low noise     Image handheld late afternoon using a Nikkor 300mm - ISO is 1,200 very low noise  

February Snow Fall

February Snow Fall

Took the day off for some photos

Out in the field: After several days of field use, I began to feel at home with the D500 and found myself able to quickly dial in the right exposure compensation for TOUGH lighting situations. (knowing how new sensors behaves is very important for correct exposure)  The D500 is very responsive, with a very quiet shutter - unlike any shutter I have heard to-date. Just a click, no loud slapping (perfect for birding/weddings). Looking through the viewfinder is amazing, very bright, and crisp with 100% coverage, so what you see is what you bring home. 

The shutter/mirror As mentioned is considerably quieter than any camera I used to date, a nice surprise! In continuous shooting mode, the camera will fire shot after shot and not bog down.
With all the focus points available you have great control over composition using the new "subdial" or wheel to move the focus points to exactly where you need them. The subdial takes some getting used to because my thumb kept going to the wheel due to memory muscle.
Focus: I am still messing around with the many available modes and features, In some situations using all focus points my lens would re-focus even after I had focus lock on my subject,  this was especially true with a lens over 400mm and not really a big problem, due to my inability to keep the camera/lens centered on the subject handheld.  Shooting very small birds in trees is difficult, to say the least, and the D500 has a focus mode to help get the best images.
Dust Spots: By the 400th shot I noticed three spots on my sensor - hmm, strange since I did not change lenses in the field.  Not sure where the shots came from. I did an "electronic clean" and have not seen any additional.
Images: The images in this article do not represent the best of the D500 since they are the results of my first few days of use.  I will be posting many more images in the upcoming year. From what I see the images are excellent, at 20.9 MP they are in the Goldie Locks zone - just right, offering enough resolution for re-touching, cropping, and sending via SnapBridge.


Auto Focus: The D500 has Single-servo Auto Focus and Continuous servo Auto Focus, The camera can be set to use 153 focus points of which 55 are selectable with up to 99 cross sensor focus points, varies depending on the lens and Teleconverter being used.  

In AF-C mode the camera will use predictive focus tracking, the camera attempts to focus and predict where the subject will be when the shutter is released - the bee's knees.
Dynamic AF in AF-C mode the camera will focus based on info from other focus points, obviously, this is best used for moving subjects.  In Dynamic mode you can choose between 25 focus points up to 153 points depending on the lens.
3d tracking, for that erratic side to side subjects.
Group Area and Auto Area, Group Area uses a group of points (you can move these around) that you precisely move to what you want in focus.  Auto Area, you leave the guesswork to the camera and can detect faces and focus automatically set focus on the face. As mentioned these groups can be moved around to accommodate your choice of composition.
Overall you have 7 focus modes with up to 153 focus points (depending on the lens used).
Missing PopUp Flash: Yes, but the benefit at least for me is now my PC-E lens is "fully" compatible. I can rotate the PC-E lenses without striking the pentaprism due to it being smaller without the built-in flash.

Wireless Remote Flash Fire:  With the wireless accessory you can now remote fire your SB-5000 flashes using an optional  WR-RA10.  This feature uses "radio frequency" not IR. but the camera works perfectly fine with modern Nikon flashes such as SB-700 / SB-910.

 Key Features:  Exceptional focus and dynamic range, built-in WiFi to allow access to your camera. The Near Field Connection for your "Fast Smart Phone " set up. Enable NFC, and tap your NFC capable device to instantly connect to your camera for photo sharing (love it) SnapBridge allows you to use a Smart Phone APP to quickly share your images from your camera. Nikon users have been asking for this and now it is here. - Be careful what you ask for!  One final Note - the rear buttons are all backlighted, meaning in low light you can turn them on with a flick of the switch - now I can operate my camera in low light without the need for a flashlight:). 

I love the D500 camera already! reminiscent of my all-time fav D700, except the D700, has a better grip.  Speaking of GRIP, the D500 has a somewhat of a chunky fore-grip and I feel Nikon could improve this: too straight up and down, needs to center more to the hand. Comfortable but could be improved


Video:  The Nikon D500 as you know shoots 4K video. When shooting at 4K it crops down to 1.5 crops so your lenses appear more telephoto, thus for wide-angle shots you really need a WIDE lens. 1080p uses the full sensor, so you get what you see. I am not into the video but the camera holds its own in the current market. 

Final Thoughts:  It is obvious the D500 is one serious DX with a goal set for speed and agility when used with fast lenses you have an excellent sports/wildlife go-to system. Nikon has a winner on its hands with the D500. Regardless of the few minor complaints on things that don't matter anyway, this camera is poised to be a classic must-have DX.  Battery life out in the field was pretty good, after 6 hours of shooting, viewing, I still had half a battery. I would recommend spare batteries if you are using the wireless features.

For some reason Nikon delayed the release of the D500 until 21 April 2016, why this occurred is not clear but everyone who pre-ordered is pleased they have shipped.  Whatever the reason was there are lots of folks now happy to see the postman arrive.

Osprey leaping with D500

Osprey leaping with D500

I include a youtube channel that speaks in simple  terms and describes the D500 overall. We only differ on one point the grip.. but what the heck, the camera is top shelf.  Go Get One.

See More Links Below

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BRIAN NOEL · 5/13/2016 10:45:00 PM

Thanks I enjoyed your review and I have one on order .I found it difficult to choose a xqd card ie which one to get .Some people suggested two 32mb cards the luxer at 425 I think was the quickest but the Sony was there as well .There is another article that says there have been reports about an issue of the on off switch .The screen is meant to stay on even though the camera is turned off . I ordered mine yesterday and they gave me a delivery date of July7th .Thanks for the article

TrueToad · 5/14/2016 10:18:59 AM

Thanks Brian, You will enjoy the D500 It is one of Nikon's best efforts to date.. Me personally I bought a Lexar Professional 1400x 64GB XQD 2.0 card and a 64gb SanDisk Extreme Pro 64gb. As far as the screen staying on? If you are refering to the top "control panel" yes it remains under power, but only shows the Number of images remaining and status of cards.

Robert King · 5/18/2016 9:25:03 AM

I only read the first few sentences and that was enough to draw a comment. The D500 is LARGER that the a considerable margin.

TrueToad · 5/18/2016 10:00:51 AM

Robert, thanks for your comments. Considering the differences are only fractions of an inch, I would not classify the D500 as considerably larger than a D7200 camera, I own both and can interchange pelican cases between the two.

Exact Measurements:

D7200: 5.4 in. (135.5 mm) x 4.2 in. (106.5 mm) x 3.0 in. (76 mm)

D500: 5.8 in. (147 mm) x 4.6 in. (115 mm) x 3.2 in. (81 mm)

TrueToad · 9/17/2017 5:03:55 PM

The D500 has been my best camera to date.

Les · 11/3/2020 4:45:39 PM

I just noticed your articles on the Nikon D500 and SB-5000. I have obtained both in January 2020. I moved up from a Nikon D7000 which I used for many years. The D7000 was an excellent DSLR however I obtained a barely used D500 at an excellent price point so it was time to retire my D7000. The first thing I found was how substantial the D500 felt in comparison to my D7000. I liked the layout and pro feel. The D7000 was an excellent DSLR for dynamic range and colour and always produced very good pictures however the D500 was definitely a real step up as was the focusing. I really love the wide amount of focus points the cover most of the viewfinder. Anyway I use a SB-5000 flash that gives me real good in camera control and is a very powerful flash. On my D7000 I was using a SB-600 so this was also a real step up. This combination will undoubtedly last me for years. I am an avid hobbyist who sees no reason to move to mirrorless anytime soon. I was brought up on SLR cameras and the D500 & SB5000 suits my style completely. Thanks for the review.

TrueToad · 12/10/2020 10:12:30 AM

Les, Thanks for your comments. To your point, older DSLRs are not necessarily less functional. I had the D7200 and loved the images it took. My favorite older DSLR was my D700 which was my first true enthusiast-level camera, the only camera I kept long enough to shoot over 100,000 images. When I got my D500 it was head and shoulders above in performance - a very useful camera for sports and wildlife shooting.

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