Without a doubt, the biggest surprise today is the announcement of the Nikon D500. Just like Nikon did it back in the day with the D3 and the D300, Nikon decided to release both the top-of-the-line D5 and the smaller DX version, the Nikon D500 on the same day. While we have been waiting for the flagship DX camera to appear for too long now (remember those D400 rumors?), Nikon finally decided to unleash the beast. The long-awaited Nikon D500 is finally here and it is promising to be damn good. It is surely Nikon’s best DX camera created to date, thanks to its amazing 153-point AF system (same as on the Nikon D5), 10 fps continuous shooting speed, 200 shot RAW image buffer, 4K UHD video recording capability, Bluetooth connectivity, 100% viewfinder coverage and 1.0x viewfinder magnification (more on that below). Sports and wildlife shooters will surely be attracted to this camera, since it is priced way lower than the D5, at $1,999 MSRP and offers many similar features. Let’s take a look at the D500 in more detail.
While many of us were expecting to see a 24 MP APS-C sensor found on previous-generation DX cameras, Nikon decided to go with a brand new 20.9 MP DX sensor. Spec-wise, it has very different characteristics than any other DX sensor we have seen to-date, with a native ISO range of 100 to 51,200, expandable up to ISO 1,640,000. 1.6 million is definitely a high number though and we can be sure that it is just a marketing gimmick – I would not expect a DX sensor to hold up above ISO 12,800. Still, if Nikon is able to clean up noise well at ISO 3,200 – 12,800 range, it would be phenomenal for low-light photography!
The biggest selling point of the Nikon D500 is obviously its amazing AF system. With 153 AF points spread across the large portion of the frame, 180K RGB metering sensor and hopefully the same -4 EV low-light sensitivity as the D5, the D500 should be amazing as a dedicated sports / wildlife / fast action camera. Coupled with a nice super telephoto lens and a teleconverter, the D500 will give amazing reach. At 10 frames per second and a practically unlimited buffer of 200 RAW images (that’s around 20 seconds of continuous shooting!), you will be able to capture practically every moment of fast action taking place in front of you or in the distance. If you want 14-bit uncompressed RAW, the buffer will be reduced to 79 shots, which is still around 8 seconds of continuous shooting time!
Similar to the D300/D300S predecessors, the D500 has a high-end professional build, with a full magnesium alloy shell and pro-like controls found on cameras like the Nikon D810. Nikon optimized the layout of the D500 even more and added a dedicated joystick for quick change of AF points and a separate Function 2 button, just like on the D5.
An interesting change on the D500 is the swapping of the memory slot from CF to XQD. That’s right, the D500 now comes with an XQD + SD memory card slots! Looks like Nikon is pushing XQD hard, because we now see it on a camera other than FX flagship. I wonder if this means that Nikon will be moving away from CF to XQD on all future DSLRs, like the Nikon D810, D760, etc. I personally would welcome such a change, since XQD is superior to CF in every way.
What’s remarkable about the D500 is its viewfinder magnification. The Nikon D300S had a pretty big viewfinder at 0.94x magnification and it looks like Nikon pushed that to be even bigger, at 1.0x magnification. That’s pretty amazing, because you will be able to see your subjects clearly with such magnification and detect potential AF issues / mishaps.
The D500 is also the first Nikon DSLR to come with a Bluetooth chip. This is an interesting feature – it allows wirelessly sharing photos via Bluetooth using Nikon’s new “SnapBridge” application:
The beauty of Bluetooth vs WiFi is connectivity: once synced, there is no need to create a hot spot to connect via an app from your phone or another device – the connection is always active. This means that you can set the D500 up, so that it continuously transfers all images to your device as you capture those images! Now that’s a pretty cool feature! And if you are not happy with Bluetooth, you still have two additional connectivity options: NFC and WiFi.
Video shooters will love the D500, because it will be able to shoot 4K UHD video at the same 3840×2160 resolution (30p) as the Nikon D5. There are all kinds of video options available, similar to what we see on high-end DSLRs like the D810, including the option to output uncompressed video via an HDMI port.
All in all, the Nikon D500 was worth the wait in my opinion. Compared to Canon’s 7D Mark II, this one is clearly superior in every way! I cannot wait to get my hands on one…
Official Press Release
Below is the official press release from Nikon USA:
LAS VEGAS, NV (January 5, 2016) – Today, Nikon Inc. announced the D500, a DX-format DSLR with pro-level features that gives photographers nimble handling, speed and extreme processing power in a compact and lightweight body. With amazing imaging capability, robust build quality and lightning fast performance, the D500 is sure to satisfy as the highly sought-after successor to the venerable D300S. Like its sibling the D5, the D500 benefits from Nikon’s latest technological innovations such as the totally new, blazing-fast Multi-CAM 20K 153-point AF system and 4K UHD video capture, yet adds a fun new way to share photos with Nikon SnapBridge built-in.
“Nikon has answered the call from photographers to once again re-invent this camera category and offer an unmatched combination of performance and value that is hard for any photographer to resist,” said Masahiro Horie, Director of Marketing and Planning, Nikon Inc. “When paired with the amazing imaging capabilities of legendary NIKKOR optics, photographers can capture intimate portraits, mind-blowing macros or action from extreme distances– the possibilities are endless.”
Pro-Level Image Quality, DX-Format Versatility
The D500 imagines the best of both worlds, offering advanced enthusiasts and pro photographers all the benefits of DX-format, such as smaller form-factor and lens crop, combined with many of the same advanced pro features found in the new Nikon D5. The new Nikon D500 features an all-new 20.9-megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor that renders images with outstanding colors and gorgeous tonality. This new sensor is coupled with Nikon’s new EXPEED 5 image processing engine, affording low noise and maximum processing power with a surprisingly small footprint and superbly balanced body.
The benefits of the DX-format are evident for long-distance applications like wildlife and sports photography, where telephoto ability is at a premium and weight reduction is welcome. With Nikon’s legendary FX or smaller-sized DX-format NIKKOR lenses, the sleek D500 is the ideal companion for wanderlust. When mated with the new AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens, the D500 offers a remarkable 350-750mm equivalent focal range for a lightweight, yet super-telephoto duo.
Because amazing images can happen even when the sun goes down, the D500 is capable of excellent low-light performance, with an ISO range of 100-51,200, expandable to 50-1,640,000 equivalent. From low-light cityscapes to action sports under the lights, the D500 is ready to tackle any imaging challenge.
Performance Meets Portability
Within the streamlined body of the D500 is a formidable processing powerhouse. Whether photographing sideline sports for the home team or animals in exotic destinations, a super-fast 10 frames-per-second (fps) burst speed with full AF and AE will help nail nearly any shot. This extreme speed lets users capture every fleeting moment in exceptional clarity, while a generous buffer allows for up to 79 shots (14-bit, uncompressed RAW/NEF) to be captured, so the moment won’t be missed.
To keep pace with the action, the D500 is fitted with the same AF system as the Nikon D5, the Multi-CAM 20K AF sensor module, with a separate dedicated processor for AF function. On the D500’s DX format sensor, the 153-point AF array fills the frame from side to side, letting users flawlessly track and lock-onto subjects from the edges of the viewfinder. Like the D5, the D500 utilizes the new 180K RGB Metering system and Advanced Scene Recognition System to help ensure balanced exposures and fantastic color rendition in nearly any shooting situation.
Controls and Rugged Construction Worthy of a Flagship
The D500 features an enhanced level of robust build quality, offering the same amount of rugged weather sealing as the Nikon D810. The durable body is a monocoque structure composed of magnesium alloy for the top and rear, while the front is reinforced with lightweight carbon fiber. The shutter mechanism has been tested for 200K actuations, helping to ensure maximum endurance. For further durability, the D500 excludes a pop-up flash, yet is compatible with Nikon’s newest radio frequency capable flash, the SB-5000 Speedlight (with optional WR-R10 & WR-A10)1.
It’s easy to compose and view images on the D500’s bright 3.2-inch, high resolution (2359K-dot) touchscreen LCD, which lets users interact with photos in playback, control the camera and operate menus. When mounted on a tripod or shooting from creative angles, landscape and event shooters will appreciate the reinforced tilting LCD screen, similar to that of the Nikon D750. Additionally, images are rapidly written to either a fast XQD card slot or to the additional SD card slot for maximum workflow efficiency.
Constant Connectivity with the New Nikon SnapBridge
The D500 marshals in a new way to share photos wirelessly with the new Nikon SnapBridge, making the camera’s built-in connectivity easier to use than ever before. SnapBridge allows for Bluetooth2 supported connection between your camera and compatible smart device, thus making automatic upload of your images possible. Once enabled, the camera stays connected to the smart device and transfers photos, eliminating the need to re-connect devices. Those looking to share images from their travels or from the field can also tag images for transfer in camera and can password protect their connection for added security. As an added benefit, the D500’s built-in Near Field Communication (NFC)3 capability easily connects the camera to a compatible smart device with just a tap, while built-in Wi-Fi3 capability allows for faster wireless image transfer.
For those looking for an even faster transfer solution, the D500 is also compatible with the new optional WT-7A Wireless Transmitter, enabling wired or wireless transmission of files to an FTP server or computer at faster speeds.
Advanced Video Features
Just like the D5, the D500 has the ability to capture striking 4K UHD video at up to 30p (3840×2160), as well as Full HD (1080p) video at a variety of frame rates. Ready for any production, the camera sports a host of pro video features derived from the D810, including uncompressed HDMI output and Picture Controls, but adds even more great features. These pro-level creative video features include the ability to create 4K time-lapse movies in-camera, Auto ISO smoothing to provide fluid transitions in exposure during recording, and the capability to record 4K UHD video to the card and output to HDMI simultaneously. When capturing 1080p Full HD content, the camera also has a new 3-axis electronic VR feature that can be activated regardless of the lens being used. Challenging video exposures are no problem for the D500, as it also adds in Active D-Lighting to Full HD video to balance exposure values within a scene to help prevent blown-out highlights
Price and Availability
The new Nikon D500 DSLR will be available in March 2016 for a suggested retail price (SRP) of $1,999.95* for the body-only configuration. A kit will also be available, bundled with the versatile AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR lens, for the SRP of $3,069.95*. The MB-D17-battery pack will also be available in March 2016 for the SRP of $449.95* and will add extended battery life and facilitate vertical shooting. The WT-7A Wireless Transmitter will be available in March 2016, for the SRP of $934.95*. For more information on these new Nikon products, please visit www.nikonusa.com.