Hey guys, today I wanted to share a practical perspective on why you should consider the Nikon D500 if you’re in the market for a high-end crop sensor camera during the second half of 2017. Whether you are just starting out with Nikon or if you already have a collection of lenses, the D500 is a good choice for anyone with the money to purchase it! Why would you want to buy a crop sensor body that costs as much as an entry level full frame body? It’s actually pretty simple really! Maybe you want a camera that you can take anywhere and be able to shoot anything. A camera that can handle anything you throw at it!
Between the professional grade weather-sealed magnesium alloy body and the incredible speed of this camera, the D500 is perfect for shooting pretty much anything. That cannot be said about some of the other cameras it is in competition with. This camera has better weather sealing and a generally tougher body to withstand the rigors of everyday use especially in hostile environments. The body is more rugged than the prosumer full frame cameras that cost as much or more than this one. In fact, the only camera on this level is the D5 which costs a whole lot more.
You will have less depreciation after purchasing a D500 than with other competing crop sensor bodies you might be considering against it. Many consumer or prosumer level cameras get replaced every two to three years while the professional level bodies only get replaced every 5 years or so. This leads to a more stable investment into your gear and losing less money over time. You may not keep this camera for its entire lifespan, however your return on investment will be much higher when you do decide to sell it. That’s money you can put back in your pocket to help pay for your next camera or better lenses, etc. In short, I wanted a camera that would last for 5-10 years before needing an upgrade!
Having grown up in the film era and learning to shoot on manual cameras, I have a desire for real buttons and dials. I want to be able to control all the most important settings without diving into a menu system. That kind of stuff is important in real world shooting and once you realize the difference it makes, there is no turning back. The newest generation of Nikons have a button layout that is more intuitive and easier to use than previous incarnations, making the cameras a joy to use. Between moving the iso button to a better location, you can also configure back button focus options more easily than before and some of the consumer level cameras don’t even have a direct dial for aperture. All combined, this makes it hard for me to shoot with my old D7000 after getting used to my new camera!
An important consideration for me was the bigger, brighter viewfinder than those found on most other consumer and prosumer level Dslr’s. This helps so much in taking better photos particularly in verifying focal point but also in overall composition as well. It also makes it easier to recognize unwanted items in the frame and other distractions from the image. The switch on the eyepiece to block light from intruding through the viewfinder during long exposures is a fantastic feature and I’m really glad to not have to mess with that tiny attachment they use on the lower end models anymore! This makes a big difference in the field!
The D500 has an amazing autofocus system pulled straight out of the D5, which gives it much better focusing capabilities than pretty much any other consumer or prosumer level body. The focus points cover most of the frame as opposed to most other Dslr’s on the market and include many more cross type points than the others as well (once again excluding the expensive D5). All of this in a much smaller form factor than the D5 and at approximately one-third of the price!
Another benefit is the cameras ability to shoot with and even matrix meter with vintage lenses. Many of Nikons consumer level cameras can’t meter at all or can only spot meter with these older lenses. Nikon even neutered the D7500 on this function even though all previous 7000 series cameras could do this. This is a deal breaker for me and should be to most serious users. Even if you don’t currently have any of these lenses, it is something you should look into. Not only does this double your lens options, but often these lenses can be found for less than half the price of a similar modern lens with sometimes superior optical quality. Some will argue this point at times despite having rarely or ever actually used them. Look more into these lenses with an open mind and look at pictures taken with them and let the photos speak for themselves!
Then you have the fantastic frame rate when shooting stills. Of course, we’ve probably all seen the videos where they set this camera for continuous high shooting and the amazing sound of 10 frames per second (please watch one if you haven’t). While this is a feature that I almost never use and neither do three quarters of the photographic community, it definitely is nice to know it’s there. And when you end up needing it, there is no substitute for having this ability. You either get the shot or you don’t. The big Buffer allows you much longer continuous shooting even when shooting uncompressed raw allowing you to keep shooting the ten frames per second for quite a long time before slowing down. With the xqd card installed you can pretty much keep shooting until you fill up the card only with a brief pause every 200 shots or so.
You also have an amazingly durable tilting screen… Having a tilting screen in this day in age is not really a feature as much as a given, however the thing that makes this one special is the obvious durability in its design and implementation. As one of the people who were once skeptical that you could have this feature and still have a rugged camera, I have now been fully convinced. I hope that one day the flippy tilting screen can be implemented with the same level of durability.
Without going into too much technical detail, I will suffice it to say that higher iso shooting is much more acceptable in the modern generation of cameras than it used to be. I generally shoot landscapes and almost always keep the camera on iso 100. However, in the circumstances where I do have to up the iso past 2000, the results are so much better than my previous cameras. In the past I may not have bothered taking a shot at higher iso’s, but now I’ll probably take it and decide later if the image will pass my quality control or not! The ability to shoot higher when needed is a huge advantage over sensors from even two years ago! I’ve also heard some say that the dynamic range is not so good on this camera, however that has not been the case in my experience. I can’t help but wonder what cameras they may be comparing it to. Do I wish I still had yet more dynamic range? Of course, I do!
And while it’s expected that most of the cameras in the future will have access to the wireless radio frequency flash system, this one was probably the first. The people complaining that this camera doesn’t have a built-in flash because you want to use it for commander mode are missing the point. This camera will not need commander mode. Most pros are not going to miss this feature, are going to use triggers, or will utilize the new radio frequency wireless mode on the newer flashes going forward. They have an incredible range and don’t require a line of sight from the commander flash as on the old system. This will not only be more reliable but also open up more creative possibilities as well. Not to mention that Nikon claims that the weather sealing is much better on the camera without the pop-up flash as well.
Especially if you have a few crop sensor lenses already and are not quite ready to purchase the equivalent full frame lenses, it may be a good idea to stay crop sensor a little while longer. Also for those of your shooting sports or wildlife, this camera may just be the ultimate camera for you. Given the extra reach a crop sensor can provide, it would take a 50-100-megapixel full frame sensor to get the same result and you can do it at a fraction of the price! All with the speed that very few cameras can compete with at this time! It also may make a great back up to full frame users as you could use the full frame for the wide-angle lenses and the crop sensor body with the telephoto lenses. Especially the people who carry two bodies and don’t have time to change lenses.
Over a year after its release, the Nikon D500 is still a great prospective purchase for anyone looking at this segment of the market. It’s not the smallest or lightest camera, it doesn’t have a pansy flash, and it’s not a mirrorless camera. It doesn’t have focus peaking or zebras. It has 4k but at a 2.2 crop factor, it’s not the best in the market for video. However, if you’re in search of a fantastically capable traditional Dslr and have the money to spend on it, this one will not let you down. Could you get 80% of its capabilities at half its price? Yes. But with the additional features and the long-term resale value as well as long term reliability, it may very well be a much better investment!
-Brett Bodkins www.brettbodkinsphotography.com