Nikon D500 First Impressions

I’ve had my D500 for a couple weeks and I’ve been putting it through its paces. My criteria has been two-fold: first, as a used item to make sure all of its functions work as expected, and second, as a new camera with unique features compared to my D750. These are my first impressions.

  • It instantly feels familiar like my D750
    • It has more buttons, but overall the layout is similar
  • It’s larger than my D750 in every way
    • It’s wider, taller, deeper, and heavier, but not by much. This is a bit counterintuitive since my D750 has a larger sensor, mirror, pentaprism, and viewfinder, but it makes more sense when you consider the placement of the two cameras. The D750 is the smallest full-frame SLR on the market; it’s designed to be small and light, but it’s still sturdy. The D500 is an enthusiast camera that deliberately has a heavier build with more metal and cladding even though there are smaller components inside than the D750. Overall they are not that different. It’s huge compared to my crop-sensor D3200 but still smaller than my ancient D100.
  • It uses Nikon’s professional layout
    • This includes a larger top screen LCD and push-button mode selector. The top LCD screen is great but I prefer selecting the camera mode by rotating a button like on my D750.
  • It’s in really good condition
    • Though it was rated as an 8+ (with some scuffs) I don’t actually see any. There is some evidence that it visited a beach at one point, but the small grains of sand are easily removed with a brush. It is in very good mechanical condition and has taken 29,000 photos on a shutter mechanism rated for 200,000. In essence I saved 50% on a camera that is only 14.5% through its life. Thats far better than $2,000 D850s I found that had taken over 200,000 photos.
  • The shutter is loud
    • The shutter is really clicky and sounds very strong, just like the shutter in my pro-level D1H and D2Xs cameras. It’s louder than my D750, so it might scare off a bird or disrupt a quiet ceremony.
  • Continuous high-speed shooting is very fast
    • Continuous shooting is broken into two settings, low and high, just like my D750. Because 10fps is so fast, it’s actually very difficult to not shoot at least two frames every time I press the shutter button. I keep my D750 in high mode all the time so I’m always ready, but I have to keep the D500 in low so I don’t get duplicate shots.
  • The touch screen is convenient for swiping through photos during playback
    • I’m still getting used to it so I don’t use it all the time. I do wish Nikon had enabled menu selection through the touch screen with a firmware update.
  • I can take more continuous shots on my SD card than I thought I could
    • With the Kingston UHS II memory card I’ve had in my D750 since 2016 I can shoot about 10 seconds of images at 10 fps. A faster CF Express card will allow me to shoot the same speed for 20 seconds, but even 10 seconds is far higher than the burst rate I expected with the card I already have. I only get about 3 seconds out of my D750 before the card slows me down.
  • The battery life is significantly lower than my D750
    • This has been noted in other reviews. I gone through two fully-charged batteries and took about 1500 photos each. I generally get over 2000 shots on my D750. Regardless, 1500 shots will certainly get me through a day, and since it uses the same battery as the D750, I’ve got spares. The D500 also shoots significantly more than the 400 shots I’d get on a mirrorless camera.
  • Image quality is good and dynamic range seems to match my D750 pretty well
    • Resolution is a bit lower (20 MP vs 24 MP) and noise is a bit higher but not by much. It’s good for a crop sensor. I don’t feel like I’m losing any quality when using this for bird shots, and the crop-sensor magnification means I can get better detailed images due to less cropping.

Sample Images

I’ve taken a lot of images so far and I’m starting to process through them. One advantage of this camera is that the crop-sensor magnifies the focal length of my lenses by 1.5x. It turns my 28 – 300mm lens into a 42-450mm lens, giving me almost the same view as my 600mm lens on my D750 but at a significantly lower weight and size. The results are these Seagull photos that I took without looking like too much of a paparazzi.

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