eagle flight still from testing the new nikon auto focus system on the d5 and d500 cameras by wildlife photographer richard costin

Nikon D500 review diary

Nikon D500 Review Diary

LATEST UPDATE: 18th Jan 2017

Nikon D500 camera body for wildlife photography, review by Richard Costin Greetings all! This page will serve as the rolling review for the Nikon D500 camera. I have my very own one in my camera bag and antisipate this becoming my go-to camera for distant action in all lighting conditions. Will it stand up to the Richard challenge? I'll be reporting back every few days and letting you know how i get on in this rolling review. Posts below will be in descending date order with the newest at the top. Any questions? Just head on over to Facebook and ask!

18th January 2017   |  "Psychic AF"

Aaaaaand we're back! A happy new year to you all. As promised I finally found some time to head out to my local AF testing range and try out the D500 with once again, Rex the Stella's Eagle. The D500 shares the exact same AF engine/processor with the D5 (AF test for that here) which is a very, very good thing. As this is a crop sensor the same module covers a larger relative area in the frame than on the full sizes sensor on the D5. These cameras have a dedicated processor for handling the huge amount of data coming in from the 153 phase sensors in the camera. The huge amount of calculations it can do per second really ups the performance of the tracking in the D5. Does the D500 match as suggested? YES! I'll be adding more tests over the next few days, first out the gate is a tricky one. Rex here coming strait towards the camera (a much trickier situation that moving from side to side). To make matters harder for the camera the background is super busy, similar in colour to Rex. I was also mostly filling the frame with him. I almost tested the performance wider with the 70-200 but filling the frame with the 200-400 is a much harder test (of both the camera and myself). Check out the animated GIF below, its about 8meg so give it a moment to load if it's not moving.....

D500 AF tracking test. Full shot in the background with the focus area picture in picture.

Full image in the background and the 1:1 of the focus point picture in picture.

Do note that I have deliberately over sharpened the above to highlight the focusing. Wonderful stuff. It gets a fraction soft in the middle but certainly acceptable and still sharp. Note how far away he was to start and he is basically on top of me by the end. The head stays sharp! Amazing. More test and info on my techniques later, keep an eye here or over on facebook for updates as they are uploaded! Rich.  

Hi all. A long delayed update for you! As you know I review and talk about my gear just for fun really and it unfortunately often takes a back seat to the business and personal happenings in my life! Well I am back here with more images from my time with the Little Owls and the wonderful machine that is the D500. I had the opportunity to use the colossal 800mm from Nikon on the shoot (as well as the good old 200-400 and 70-200 lenses). The camera performed borderline perfectly. I will put a small gallery taken almost entirely with the D500 at the end of this post. Many people, especially enthusiasts and pros have written of crop sensors in recent years. Full frame sensors are much more affordable than they once were and are often seen as the gold standard for quality (medium format not withstanding I guess). In may ways that is mostly true. All else being equal (number of pixels etc) a larger photosite will collect more light than a smaller one. As I am sure most of you know the crop sensor's advantage mainly comes in two forms, price and effective focal length. Basically it puts all the camera's pixels onto a smaller area of the lens. Whilst this doesn't actually change the lens' focal length in any way it effectively gives you some additional zoom on the same lens vs a full frame sensor. The downside, especially in the past has been a compromise in image quality and especially low light noise performance. My recent use of the Nikon D7200 in the Mara really convinced me that there really is a place for a crop sensor camera in my bag. The images were wonderful and whilst not quite up to the same quality as the full frame cameras when the light goes down, it was still very good and not really that far behind at all. Well as far as I can tell in my use, the D500 basically takes the same great sensor technology that the 7200's crop sensor has, makes it a little better and beefs up all the other areas (readout speed, fps, focus, build quality etc). To that end the camera is giving me some wonderfully sharp shots. As a testament to not only Nikon's optics but the accuracy of the new autofocus system, here are some shots and their corresponding 100% crop examples. The first was taken with the 800mm and with a teleconverter. The teleconverter used was the one included with the 800mm. The cropped area is exactly where I had the focus point placed and just look at the detail the sensor is giving me..... Nikon D500 image quality full to crop comparison, wildlife photographer Richard Costin The camera settings for the above shot: ISO 200, 800mm lens (1000mm with the teleconverter), 1/1000 at f 5.6 Below are the two views on their own.

Nikon D500 image quality full to crop comparison, wildlife photographer Richard Costin

Nikon D500 image quality full to crop comparison, wildlife photographer Richard Costin

This is all at ISO 200, helping get the most out of the sensor. So how does the camera do at higher ISOs? Below is an image taken at ISO 4000. I have applied some noise reduction & sharpening in Lightroom as I would prior to distributing the image... High iso image showing detail from the Nikon D500 DSLR, Richard Costin Wildlife Photography The camera settings for this shot: ISO 4000, 800mm lens, 1/2500 at f 5.6 Below are the two views on their own again..

High iso image showing detail from the Nikon D500 DSLR, Richard Costin Wildlife Photography

High iso image showing detail from the Nikon D500 DSLR, Richard Costin Wildlife Photography

As you can see the detail is still there in spades even up at ISO 4000. Then noise reduction had to be a little more aggressive but nothing to heavy handed. More examples coming soon! Check out the Little Owl gallery below or on the photography page...

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13th June 2016   |  "The wildlife camera to end all wildlife cameras?"

Nikon D500 Logo, Richard Costin Wildlife Photography

Yes, I have one. Yes I have used it. Yes I love it.

If you are on the fence as to whether to pick one up let me save you any more worry; It is awesome you will not be disappointed.

For some of you that will be enough, for others you will need to know more. I don't make the above claims lightly. I have been out and about with the camera working on proper projects and am very impressed. Very very impressed. All the good stuff you are reading online is true, it is fabulous. Fast, great image quality, joint best autofocus in the world (along with the D5).

I will be writing up the next entry shortly which will detail my experiences but I have taken some wonderful shots so far with the camera and I will leave you after this brief introduction with one of them. Check back soon!

Little Owl, taken on the Nikon D500 by Wildlife Photographer Richard Costin

Low light, high ISO. Lightning fast bird, in focus and noise free, awesome!


Comments 4

  1. Hey Richard –
    I’m planning my first trip to Kenya and Rwanda in August.
    I’m really struggling figuring out which camera to bring: D500 or 1dx Mark ii. I’m a Canon guy but that’s because I have the lenses. Now I’m needing something that will be good in low light (Rwanda. I read that I might have to shoot up to iso 12800) and I assume the crop would be nice in Kenya.
    What are your thoughts? Do you think a full frame would be better or the D500? I’d have to rent the lenses for the Nikon but I have to do that for Canon anyways (I don’t own the 100-400) so I thought I’d entertain Nikon since people seem to be liking it.
    I appreciate any advice!

    1. Post

      Hi John, for a Safari in Kenya if you main aim is animals then the extra crop will certainly come in handy. The 1DX II is a fine camera and if you already have the lenses then makes sense. Personally given a fresh choice I would go for the D500 with the (new, AF-S) 80-400 as an unbeatable combo. Safe travels!

  2. Hi Richard,

    Heaving read your comments about D500 I have dilemma. Shell I go for D5 or D500, please? I just need all in one. The D500 has all as D5 but it is DX. All my lenses are for FX.
    I can afford only one. I travel a lot, shoot people, landscapes, sports, wild life. Which one, please advice?
    Thank you.


  3. Richard,

    I have a D800E I’ve been using for bird photography and landscapes. I also have D5 that I use for event and sports photography. I’ve been considering getting the D500 to be my new birding camera. The reason would be to get 20MP in the center of the frame where I need it, but have the fast autofocus with edge to edge coverage and a high frame rate. The D800E give me pixels, but is slow. The D5 is fast, but does not have the pixels. Would the D500 be the best of both, at least when it comes to bird photography or am I missing something here? Is the D500 worth adding to this collection of bodies or should I just suck it up and use the D5 or D800E? You seem to be familiar with all three, so I’d like your opinion. Thanks!

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