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Nikon D500: Top of the APS-C DSLR class

Operation of the D500 is really fast. Starting up and shutting down are instantaneous. There is virtually no shutter lag.
Operation of the D500 is really fast. Starting up and shutting down are instantaneous. There is virtually no shutter lag.PHOTO: NIKON

The camera's lightning-quick autofocus is a definite plus

The Nikon D500 succeeds the D300S, which was launched in 2009. Indeed, it has taken so long for Nikon to come up with this sucessor that it has decided to skip the D400 moniker.

Being the flagship professional APS-C DSLR model, the D500 is packed with a whopping 153 AF points that cover a large portion of an image.

The camera is supposed to be able to shoot up to 10 frames per second for up to 200 shots, in JPEG or RAW file format.

For this review, I used the Nikkor AF-S DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR kit lens (the focal length translates to 24-120mm in 35mm format due to the image sensor's 1.5x crop factor).

The AF really is lightning-quick. It locked on to a focus under bright sunlight instantaneously. In low lighting conditions, AF took less than a second. Only in near-darkness conditions did the AF time stretch to around 2sec (without the aid of AF assist light).

The only downer is during video recording, when the AF does not grab a focus on its own. You need to half-press the shutter release button or press the AF-On button sited at the rear to focus on a subject when you move to a new scene.

Operation of the D500 is really fast. Starting up and shutting down are instantaneous. There is virtually no shutter lag.

The D500 has two memory card slots - one for an XQD card and the other for an SD card. You can use the extra SD card for extra storage or simultaneous backup.

With an SD card with a writing speed rated at 40MB per second, the D500 was able to capture 37 RAW images in 4.8sec until the buffer ran out.

This was not as fast as the advertised shooting speed. But I think the advertised speed and buffer size might have been attained had I used a much faster XQD card.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $3,999 (with 16-80mm f/2.8-4 kit lens) or $2,999 (body only)

    IMAGE SENSOR: 20.9-megapixel APS-C CMOS

    SCREEN: Tiltable 3.2-inch touchscreen LCD with 2,359,000 dots; optical viewfinder

    SENSITIVITY: ISO 50 to 1,640,000

    SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 10 frames per second

    CONNECTIVITY: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth LE, Near Field Communication

    WEIGHT: 840g (body with battery and memory card)

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The D500 might not have a magnesium-alloy body like its cousin D5 (Nikon's flagship full-frame DSLR). But its part-metallic body feels solid and durable. I particularly love the ergonomically contoured rubber grip that lets you have a good grasp of the camera.

Button layout will be familiar to those who have handled its predecessor, the D300S. But the addition of a rear AF point joystick is very much welcomed. It makes moving the AF point when composing pictures so much faster.

Another nice touch is that the rear left keys and top left mode buttons are backlit. Great when you need to change settings in the dark.

I never thought I would appreciate a touchscreen display on a professional DSLR. But the D500's touchscreen display is responsive and allows me to double-check sharpness with a pinch.

The camera is also really lightweight. Even with the kit lens attached, the whole package weighs only 1.34kg. This makes it easy to carry around.

Image quality is superb with sharp rendition of pixels and great dynamic range. You can clearly spot details even in the dark areas of the image.

The default white balance is spot on most of the time. But under artificial lighting like tungsten, colours look cooler or more blue.

The D500 has a sensitivity setting of up to ISO 1,640,000. However, I would not recommend using such a high ISO setting, or at ISO 256,000 and above, as the chromatic and luminance noise becomes too abundant. But you get clean images with great details up till ISO 3,200. Even at ISO 128,000, there is only slight loss in details.

Keeping up with the times, the D500 is able to record 4K videos (3,840 x 2,160 pixels). Videos captured are sharp but suffer from a tad too much ambient audio.

Battery life is superb at around 1,240 still images per charge.

•Verdict: The Nikon D500 is quite simply the best APS-C DSLR currently with its lightning-quick AF, swift operation and superb image quality.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2016, with the headline 'Nikon D500: Top of the APS-C DSLR class'. Print Edition | Subscribe