This will be my honest review as a user of the long awaited Nikon D500 after it’s been in my hot sweaty hands for a while. Watch this space!!
At Last…my review of the Nikon D500!
I finally received my copy of the D500 in early May, one of the first deliveries in the UK thanks to ordering early with my local bricks and mortar dealer Cambrian Photography.
Why have a bought a D500?
All Nikon wildlife and sport shooters have waited many years for a replacement of the last semi professional DX camera, the D300s launched in 2009. Since then we’ve had fairly feeble attempts by Nikon to keep us happy, the D7000 (2010), the D7100(2013) and the D7200 (2015). I have no experience of the D7200, however the D7100 was a very capable DX and provide excellent imagery. The D7200 was a “lite” upgrade offering more in terms of gimmicks (wifi etc) rather than any real substance.
Then in January 2016 out of the blue came the announcement of the D500! Needless to say pre-orders were very high and Nikon had to rethink the availability dates due to demand. I placed my order immediately. The price was at first glance breath taking at £1789, however when one examined the full specification most concerns over price disappeared.
The camera sports a tilting screen, say hello to macro and video shooters, at last a real bonus. 4K video is part of the package as is touch screen and snapbridge (not available to ios users yet, but for Android owners you are good to go. To some, gimmicks maybe! I was originally surprised that the pixel count was 4mp down on the D7100/7200, however this was no deal breaker. Most of all and eagerly awaited was the frame rate, up to 10fps, a sport and moving wildlife shooters delight.
I am not going to write here the full spec, but a section is given below.
Top 5 Features
- New 20.9MP DX-format CMOS image sensor and EXPEED 5 image processing
- ISO range: ISO 100 to 51,200 (expandable to Hi-5, ISO 1,6400,000)
- Redesigned AF system with a 153 focus points, 99 cross-type sensors and a dedicated processor
- 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) video recording and pro-grade video features
- 10 fps continuous shooting for up to 200 shots in a single burst.
- Weather sealed.
- A full breakdown on all features may be found here.
I was amazed by the lightness of the camera compared to my D800E with battery 2.19 lb, the D500 weighs in at 1.90 lb/860 g. In fact it is 95 gms lighter when compared to the D7100 1 lb 11.0 oz/765 g. It feels perfectly balanced and the deeper front grip gives a noticeably more comfortable feel. The first thing I noted was the lack of accessories in the box. Gone are is the HDMI lead and flash shoe cover, the latter cheapskate exclusion and hardly satisfies any weather sealing issues. It does not have a pop up flashgun, the first DX camera to not be fitted with one which aligns it closer to it’s professional FX cameras. However, on that point so much technology has been transplanted into this camera taken directly from the D5 that I can bear the loss of pop up flashgun. The menu structure is different with many new additions. The camera layout is very different too with the ISO button moved to the adjacent to the command dials. Also added is an F2 function button, which is not worth a lot as it’s available shortcuts is extremely small in number.
One thing that totally confused me was the absence of the Nikon UK warranty card. Even the local Nikon technicians were unable to answer where it had gone. Basically, there is no longer a warranty card supplied in UK camera, but on the rear of the user manual is a warranty sheet. It does not bear the camera serial number however, it is purely there for customer reference and can be stamped by the dealer if one so wishes. It was a niggle though.
Now for some not so good news!
On the down side! The next sections are of interest, however skip to the “full review” if you prefer.
Almost immediately I noticed that my camera had a severe battery drain issue. In fact even after recycling the battery 3 times I was unable to achieve better than around 500 clicks per charge. Nikon estimate 1300 minimum. I turned off all battery hungry attributes such as touch screen, Bluetooth and as the camera has an “Aircraft mode” turned that off too, all to no avail. Nikon to the rescue, one would think so, read on!
The saga of the En-El15 battery.
All cameras since the Nikon D810 now come with a EN-EL15 Li-ion20 newly designed battery. All previous EN-EL15 batteries were of a different design Li-ion01 and these batteries will work with the D500, but to a limited capacity. Nikon realising that users would be forced to buy extra EN-EL15 Li-ion20 batteries were quick to issue a free returns policy of up to 5 Li-ion01 batteries. I had trhree and Nikon were as good as their word in this instance. However, this did nothing to help my battery drain issue!
The saga of the battery drain.
I delayed sending my camera into Nikon under warranty as I wanted to take it to Norway on holiday and an airshow opportunity. In mid July I sent it back to Nikon. Now, as I am a Nikon NPU member (Nikon Professional User) I expected a swift resolution, that was unfortunately not to happen! I was initially given a return estimate of 2-3 weeks, but this increased to 4-6 weeks when after 2 weeks I enquired why the repair status showed “awaiting repair”. At this point I enlisted the support of my retailer who contact Nikon and were told I would receive the camera back in 3 days. Amazingly, but worryingly the camera status remained at “awaiting repair” but the switched to “camera ready for dispatch” within only a few hours. What could they have done in that time? Well very little and they sent the repair report that said “camera inspected, cleaned and no fault found, service time 1 hour”. It arrived back the next day and I am please to say that the “no fault found” really meant that they had actually fixed the camera. 3 weeks on and I have achieved well over the estimated 1200 clicks per charge, in fact in excess of 1500!
Finally, during the process I contacted Thom Hogan, often thought of as the Nikon Guru whi is current writing a blog about the D500 (of which he has 12 for assessment). He took time to reply and stated that in his opinion there were a number of cameras with this problem and was investigating the possibility that it could be either a firmware corruption is, or a serious issue requiring a major camera strip down. Luckily, mine seems to be the simpler of the two.
Camera fixed, lets get back to the real review🙂
Nikon D500 real world review.