Thursday, July 9, 2020

Nikon D500 (Initial Impressions)

Nikon D500 (Initial Impressions)
July 2020, Carl Garrard

Hello Nikon fans! Just wanted to give a quick initial impression of the D500 for Nikon readers while I have my morning coffee. Again, this is only an initial impression and not my full review, which will come later. I've been using the D500 for just over a week now (constantly), which, honestly is plenty of time for me to get mostly familiar with a camera. When you review as many cameras as I do, you pretty much know what you need and like or dislike about a camera almost immediately. Nikon's D500 has been a camera that has intrigued me since its launch in 2016, and with the market going pretty much mirrorless now, I wanted to test a D500 against my other cameras to get a feel for its capability. For those living under a rock, the D500 is the most advanced APS-C (DX) format camera Nikon has ever made, and it's been updated in firmware a couple of times since its release.
Nikon D500 $949.00 Here

I won't go into specs or anything like that, I'll save a small section of that for my full review. For now, I just want to opine about my impressions of the camera, which have been mostly positive. For new readers, know that I have a good range of Nikon gear in my stable so I've a few cameras to cross compare against.

Some may laugh when I say my D610 has impressed the heck out of me, but I don't care. The D610 is an excellent and capable DSLR that is a huge bang for the buck today that performed much better (in good light) for action photography than the press would have me believe. I liked it so much I started using it as my main DSLR system and still do today. For action though, I was curious to see if the D500's hype had some practical and factual foundation that would make it a viable companion to my D610 relegating it to mostly action photography and giving my D610 a break in that category.

So obviously, my main reason for getting the D500, was because of its touted speed, intelligence, and tracking with autofocusing. It's impressive build and viewfinder, large grip, excellent LCD panel, are all icing on the cake. And with a week of shooting looking for as much action as I can find (mostly birds in flight, etc.) using the 70-300mm AF-P VR/ED lens I have to say that it indeed is an eager and fast camera. While I continue to experiment with autofocus settings, out of the box the D500 has shown some very good initial results.

The very first image I reviewed after my first birding session on the lake was absolutely spot on (I was just practicing on some mallards swimming to get a feel for the D500). It gave me an idea of what I could expect going forward. Nothing special here either, just a jpeg out of camera, I'm impressed with the focusing and what it decided to prioritize.

This was a quick grab as he was swimming by. Just initial practicing and getting a feel before I shot birds in the air.

I have many more keepers already, having gone out three times "birding". Some in flight of course too. I will comment more on this section in the final review because right now I feel I need to "learn" its autofocusing personality even more. It's a complicated but capable AF system and I want to be sure I'm getting the most out of it before I give a final opinion. But initially, I'm pretty impressed considering I hold the D500 to the ultimate standard of sports photography with my expectations.

On my very first outing, with very few opportunities, I feel the D500 more than showed me it's a capable action camera. Having no issue locking onto the mallard with high contrast reflections in the background. Good things will come with this setup, I just know it. (Out of camera Jpeg, slight crop  from a 450mm equiv).

Quick note on the rest. The optical finder is impressively large and bright, love the round eyepiece, flip screen is nice and highly detailed. The build feels high tech, its solid and worthy of replacing the D300 series, but think indy car high tech instead of a tank like build. It's large, but surprisingly light in hand, and you can feel the carbon fiber body panels making this impression. There is metal too, with a top and back magnesium build but the front and bottom are carbon fiber (no, not plastic, carbon fiber).

Getting a feel. After a few clicks behind the D500 I began to settle in a bit more. It made short work of this Canada Goose fly by. I only had about four opportunities to grab a bird in flight on my first outing, and the D500 showed it could make the best of them all. More practice but a good initial outing and start. Another Jpeg out of camera slight crop (from a 450mm equiv)

D300 fans may feel it's not built as good  because it has less metal in the body, and I understand that. Overall though, I think the D500 could handle mishaps better. Carbon fiber has proven to be extremely durable and high tech, I personally own three hand built carbon fiber mountain and cyclocross bikes, and boy do I put them through serious trials. I love good carbon fiber, less weight, stiffer, and more rigidity and shock resistant. Good call Nikon.

Image quality so far has met my expectations for an APS-C sensor. I'm not mind  blown as some reviewers have said. Compared to a D300 oh yeah, its a hell of a lot better, but it's no full framer camera folks, sorry no wizardry here. I'm just keeping it real. I'm still impressed but I'm not going to let myself get carried away like other reviews do. I think they read too many press releases. My D610 has better handling of higher ISO values, especially in the crucial 200-1600 range for action photography. Still, the D500 is impressive "enough" for me.

Fully customizeable, the D500 has a large menu system that I'm still using to fine tune tweaks and such to the camera. Also, I like the layout of the menu, layout of controls, and overall ergonomics too. Overall I'd not hesitate to call it a pro level camera in build, overall specs, and performance.

So far so good. But much more to come.

Stay focused.


Nikon D500 $949.00 Here

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