Back in December, I needed to head out to Dubai to make some pictures. I had been asked to give my take on the newest APS-C camera from Nikon, the D500. Not owning the camera, I went out to BlueHillco to rent it, along with the new 24-70mm f/2.8E, and decided to spend some time making pictures with it. I think with tech like this you really need to find a way to take it out and kick the tires and see if it’s going to be something you can benefit from.
Download Raw Files from the Nikon D500
I also want to provide you all with a few of the actual raw files from the camera itself. They can be downloaded HERE. This should give you a better way to inspect the shots and make your own conclusions as to the overall quality or range on the camera. The images displayed in this post are optimized for web viewing and won’t give the camera nearly enough credit so be sure to check out the raws yourself. Just know that this is for comparative info only – not to replace an image in your portfolio!
The Nikon D500 is a 21 megapixel camera that uses an APS-C sensor. I see this camera as a long-awaited replacement for the venerable D300S. The first adjustment I needed to make was re-learning to see things in an APS-C frame. Being used to a full frame cameras and having full frame lenses, my 14-24mm was really more in the 21-36mm space and this required me rethink everything I was shooting. If you’re unsure what I mean by all this, please check out this primer: Introduction to Full Frame vs Crop Frame Sensors Plus Great Sensor Comparison Resources.
For as long as I can remember, there’s been this thought that cropped sensors don’t offer the quality of a full frame counterpart. Over the last couple of years, you really have seen the technology take the sensor to a level where that argument is starting to feel moot. I mean, here I am with a 21 megapixel camera that is producing images with great detail. I was making images outdoors of some falcons that we were working with in the desert and I wanted to focus on one of them.
A couple of shots in, I thought the detail on the bird was pretty outstanding and the Nikon D500 delivered. I could get used to this little camera.
Speed For Days: Nikon’s D500 10 Frames Per Second Shooting Speed
The other thing that I think is seriously impressive about the D500 is the frames per second shooting speed. At 10 FPS, the D500 is amazingly fast – too much for most of the scenes I was shooting, to be honest.
After a couple of passes with the camera at that high rate I found myself immediately going back to single frame as I didn’t want to fill up my cards after just being out for an hour.
Good Dynamic Range Results
Shooting with the camera out in bright sunlight provided some great images and one of the things that I really appreciated was how much latitude I got from the Nikon D500 to push and pull highlights and shadows. Being able to edit these files without them breaking up was a good thing – very strong on Nikon cameras in general and happy to see it on this one.
Below is a picture of the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. If you want to see how I processed that image from start to finish, I’ll be happy to send you the tutorial, just reach out to me.
From DSLR to Phone
Being able to share images immediately from the field has become pretty essential so it was nice to see that the D500 had a function to do so using SnapBridge.
In no time at all I was able to sync the camera to my phone app and download images that I had made of people in the spice market to then send to them on their phones. A couple of quick edits on Snapseed and I was on my way (for iOS and Android). I even got a scarf from the vendors as a thank you!
Night Shooting and Street Shooting with the Nikon D500
After completely covering my sensor with sand in the desert (never EVER change lenses when out in a desert – you’ll see why in some of those raw files), I took the camera out to make some evening cityscape shots of the Burj Khalifa during sunset.
This was probably one of the only times that I really missed having something that was a little wider, but some recompiling got me shots I was pretty pleased with.
I also got a chance to take the camera out to Oman to make some pictures and was pleased overall with the images that I got out of it. Oh, I even got a chance to sneak in a couple of very early morning pictures in Amsterdam on the way home.
A Small Change in the D500 Makes a Big Difference: The Fn2 Button
The fit and finish on the camera is really good and I was happy to see additions like the dedicated joystick on the back of the camera for focus and an articulating touchscreen. The feature that really did it for me, and one of those features you really wouldn’t expect to geek out about except when you’re knee deep in shoot after shoot, is the Fn2 button.
Every photographer chimps on the back of their camera. At this point it’s just human nature. I believe that we have a good feel for when we are shooting a good picture during a shoot. For quite some time, I have wanted to be able to mark or rate an image right onsite and have that information carry over to Lightroom. Now you can with the Fn2 button.
During the review of a picture, press the Fn2 button and you’ll see a series of options on the lower right portion of the screen. One of these options is a star rating! You can then use the back wheel and assign it a star rating from 1-5. That information will then transfer over to the metadata of your image. During the coverage of the event, you can quickly mark the images that you think are keepers right when you know that they are keepers. Then, you can import into Lightroom and filter by the star rating you’ve already applied – you’ve completed one level of culling before you have even started edited! A simple button speeds up your workflow a ton. Thanks, Nikon!
Take the Nikon D500 for a Spin
While I had the camera for about a week, I felt like there were so many more things that I wanted to play around with. I didn’t even crack any of the flash settings inside of it! As it turns out, you can now trigger the new Nikon flashes remotely using radio frequencies instead of just optically. So that’s got to be good! As I play around with it more, I’ll make sure to follow up with you all. Now, while I’m sure you can come to your own conclusions by reading specs and downloading these images, I don’t think you can truly say if this is for you without actually putting it through its paces yourself. Before you plunk down cash on the camera, give it a spin. Go and rent one for a week and go shoot the scenarios YOU like to work with and see if the camera fits into your specific way of shooting. If you’re anything like me, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised (provided you don’t ever get sand on your sensor).
A note about that: BlueHillco was totally cool with the sand because I had insurance and each camera gets a pro-level cleaning (or replacement/repair where necessary) between every rental, no matter how pristine the gear seems when they get it back from a customer.