Nikon D500 is the DSLR many have been waiting for

David Haueter
Jan 8, 2016

It’s been almost seven years since Nikon introduced the D300s DX-format DLSR, and for the last several years many Nikon shooters have been waiting for a true replacement to that model. There was speculation that a successor would be announced at nearly every significant trade show over the last few years. That day finally arrived with the launch of the D500 at CES 2016 in Las Vegas.

It seemed as if Nikon would never introduce a true successor to the popular D300s. The D7100 and D7200 DX-format DSLRs were announced in February 2013 and March 2015, respectively. They had similar and in some cases even better performance than the D300s, but were lacking in other areas like buffer size, continuous shooting speed, and ruggedness. The D500, which was introduced at the same time as the new flagship D5 FX-format DLSR, far exceeds the specs and performance of the D7100/D7200 as well as the D300s that is it’s true predecessor. Featuring a 20.9MP CMOS sensor, the D500 actually has lower resolution than the D7200’s 24.2MP CMOS sensor, but given the other performance enhancements in this new camera, we expect it to produce better quality images than Nikon’s other DX-format cameras.

Nikon's new D500

One of the most impressive features of the new D500 is its new 153 point autofocus (AF) system with 99 cross sensors, which is the same AF system used on the D5 and outshines the 51-point/15 cross type sensor system on the D7200. Another new feature that enhances AF performance is a new joystick located to the left of the rear thumb grip that allows the shooter to quickly fine-tune their AF point. The D500 also features a 180K-pixel metering sensor compared to the D7200’s 2,016-pixel sensor and has the same EXPEED 5 processor as the D5. Low-light performance of the D500 looks promising as well, with an ISO range of 100-51,200, compared to the D7200’s range of 100-25,600.

One of the shortcomings of the D7100/D7200 pair, with sports photographers in particular, was the continuous shooting speed and buffer size. The D7200 was only capable of shooting at a maximum 6 frames per second (fps) in DX-mode or up to 7fps in 1.3x mode, which was lower than the D300s’ maximum 8fps. The D500 far exceeds both with a continuous shooting speed of 10fps in DX-mode, and has a buffer capacity of 200 shots in raw lossless compressed format or 79 in uncompressed format. By comparison, the D7200 was only good for 18 shots in lossless compressed format. This is a major upgrade for sports and nature photographers, who can now capture far more action in raw format without reaching the limitations of the buffer capacity.

D500 back

Other notable features of the D500 include a tilting touchscreen display, the ability to shoot in 4K video, an optical viewfinder with a wider 30.8 degree viewing angle and the ability to connect to smart devices via Bluetooth with Nikon’s SnapBridge functionality in addition to built-in Wi-Fi. Another difference from the D7200 is memory card slots for SD and XQD format cards instead of two SD card slots. Nikon says the XQD card will allow for faster read/write and transfer speeds than SD. The D500 Is built from magnesium alloy and carbon fiber materials, and should be more rugged than the D7200.

With the D500, Nikon finally has a true successor to the D300s, which was a popular camera with sports and wildlife photographers who wanted the enhanced crop-factor zooming capabilities of a DX-format DSLR. The D500 has the build quality and specs to attract enthusiast and pro photographers alike, and at a price of $1,995.95 it seems like a relative bargain compared to the pricey D5 ($6,499.95). As a freelance motorsport photographer, I was one of those who were waiting patiently for a pro-level DX-format camera to replace the D300s. I finally gave up waiting and bought a D7100 a couple of years ago, which has been a great camera as long as you understand its limitations. With the D500, those limitations have been addressed and it might be time to consider an upgrade!

For more information on the Nikon D500, visit http://www.nikonusa.com.

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