Event Coverage

First looks: Nikon's D500 is a mighty APS-C flagship, the D5 is built for speed

By Bryan Chan & Marcus Wong - 14 Apr 2016

The Nikon D500


The D500 is something that Nikon APS-C shooters have been clamoring after for the longest time. If you think about it, the last 'proper' APS-C flagship we had from Nikon was the D300S, and that was released back in 2009! Suffice to say, a refresh of this camera has been way overdue. And looking at the specs of these cameras, we do think most Nikon fans will agree with us when we say that the wait has been worth it. 

The D500 gets a new 20.9MP DX format CMOS sensor and boasts a continuous shooting rate of up to 10fps with a 200-shot buffer for RAW images. It also gets the same 153-point AF system and 180k-pixel RGB metering sensor as the D5, as well as the same EXPEED 5 processor, so there are now plenty of AF points throughout the viewfinder. It will also do 4K UHD resolution video, and has a native ISO range of 100 - 51,200, expandable to 50 - 1,640,000.

The built-in Wi-Fi seems to have come at the expense of a pop-up flash.

monocoque body design is again used, bringing the weight (body with battery only) down to a mere 860g. And the camera is said to offer the same amount of weather sealing as the D810. Wi-Fi support is built-in so that you can maintain a continuous connection with your smart device via Nikon's Snapbridge system. This is an always-on connection that allows you to transfer images and get GPS, as well as time information from your mobile phone. The Nikon D500 is the first of a new series of cameras to have it.

At the rear is a 3.2-inch LCD with tilt and touch, and in a first for Nikon’s APS-C cameras, it also gets illuminated buttons for working in low light. We have to say that we were a bit disappointed in the implementation of the touch input though, as this is limited largely to playback and setting your AF point, unlike what you find in the lower level D5500.

Tilt is nice, but touch inputs only apply to image review/capture and not the menus!

 In terms of controls, the button layout will be familiar to any Nikon user, but there’s now the inclusion of a small control pad just under the AF-on button, which works to shift AF points (as with the D4S). This felt a little stiff to us, so it takes a bit of getting used to.

You now get an extra control pad to help with the selection of AF points.

XQD seems to be the way Nikon is moving forward with their cameras, but thankfully, the D500 gives you the option of SD card storage too.

The D500 has a slot for both SD and XQD cards.


Image samples

In terms of imaging performance, Nikon had a dark box set up to show off the low-light capabilities of the camera. Inside, they had a toy house set up with a light meter and a bulb with an adjustable light output.

Here’s an image with the light on so you know what we were taking pictures of.

28mm at f/5.0, 4.0s, ISO 100

100 percent crop.

And here’s one with the light dimmed.

24mm at f/8.0, 1/8s , ISO 51,200.

100 percent crop.

And below, we've another shot with the maximum ISO of 1,640,000! At this point, we really had to stop down the shutter to maintain exposure because that dim light was too bright! As you can imagine, the resulting image is really grainy, but you’re getting pictures that your eyes can’t even see, and the words on the light meter (Under) are still clearly visible.

24mm at f/8.0, 1/500s, ISO 1,640,000

100 percent crop.

Finally, here’s a feature we found in video mode that we thought was most useful - Electronic Vibration Reduction (VR). This in-body image stabilization kicks in only during video mode, and will work in conjunction with the VR on your lens. Handy, since the D500 has much improved video functions like the ability to record in 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) for up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds per clip. 

Here are some sample images from the D500 with their respective 100 percent crops:-

 500mm at f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 100.

The lawn mower is actually moving in this shot, hence the slight amount of blur can be excused.

500mm at f/5.6, 1/800s, ISO 100