Nikon D500 – Not Just for Birding – Alabama Editorial Photography

It’s been a while since my last post.  I’ve been meaning to do this for some time.  It seems every time I see an article about the new Nikon D500 it is about birds in flight, wildlife, or sports photography.  It almost seems as though this camera is only suited for these genres of photography.  Not so; and I’ll attempt to prove that in this post.

When the Nikon D500 was announced, I could not believe my eyes.  This camera was a long time coming and many think, too long!  (Myself included in this group.)  In 2013, after retiring from my professional career, I switched from my extensive Nikon gear (D3, D4 & a bunch of pro glass), to all Fuji APS-C gear.  I wanted to go smaller and lighter with good quality lenses and great image quality.  It seemed a no brainer.  The D500 was still just a dream.

I soon learned after investing in a Fuji X-T1, X-E2, and X-Pro2, and many lenses, that the cameras were just too small and light for me.  They produced great images but I had a very difficult time using them.  Along came the D500.  I did not want the bulk of the D810 nor did I want to spend that kind of money on a body again, so the D500 looked perfect.

I bought it, along with a used (9+) 17-55mm f2.8G ED Nikkor lens.  I later added the MB-D17 battery grip.  It’s a brick, I know, but still, a smaller brick than my beloved D4!  I paid $1995 for the D500 and only $730 for the lens off Ebay, through a trusted store.  Not a bad deal.

Most everything I was reading about the camera pertained to using long lenses, along with the incredible D5 focusing module.  These articles hit mostly on the focusing ability and really didn’t get into image quality and the real versatility of the camera.

I found the camera to be very well suited for travel, editorial and any general assignment photography a pro would come up against and certainly what any non-pro would need. From the images you’ll see it is superb at higher ISO’s and has a very wide dynamic range for an APS-C CMOS sensor.

Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8, 23mm, 1/250th, f5.6, -⅔ EV, 3200 ISO, ©Rick Lewis

I was able to try out the fantastic focusing abilities of the D500 at the 2016 International Firefighters Combat Challenge.  It takes a little practice but it worked flawlessly and will make any non-pro photographing their active children quite happy, not to mention the pro that needs the speed, and reach, for sports or wildlife photography.

Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8, 55mm, 1/500th, f5.6, 100 ISO, ©Rick Lewis

I took the camera to Old Alabama Town to see how the camera would perform at a little editorial travel photography.  Even though this is an outdoor museum, most of the interesting imagery is inside and in very dark and challenging settings.  I shot for a couple of hours and doubt I got much below 2000 ISO except for a few outdoor images.

Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8, 32mm, 1/250th, f6.3, 125 ISO, ©Rick Lewis

I am really impressed with the color depth and the workability of the files in post.  I processed all of these images using Adobe Lightroom CC ®.  I use VSCO presets most of the time, as a starting point, and work from there.  I tend to like high contrast, saturated, images, as you will see.  This does tend to bring out the digital “noise” in any image but I really don’t care.  I think you will see the Nikon D500 noise pattern is exceptional and, to me, looks more like film grain.  I actually like this look on my images.

Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8, 19mm, 1/250th, f3.2, 2200 ISO, ©Rick Lewis
Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8, 24mm, 1/250th, f2.8, 2200 ISO, ©Rick Lewis

Now, I know there is a lot of marketing hype by “Canikon” pushing the so called “full frame” cameras.  They do this because those cameras have a higher profit margin.  Can’t blame them for that, I guess.  But, don’t think for a minute you have to have one to get good quality images, even in very low light.  It just isn’t so any longer.  There are other reasons to own that full frame camera, of course.  But for my current needs, this D500 will be quite enough.

Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8, 38mm, 1/100th, f5.6, 160 ISO, ©Rick Lewis

One thing that really impressed me about this camera was the Auto ISO function.  I tend to  use this setting when not shooting in a studio.  In the early days, it was hit or miss on getting the right exposure.  Not so now.  I shoot either in manual mode, controlling both my shutter speed and aperture depending on the subject or in aperture priority, both in Auto ISO.  Shooting in RAW (NEF), I rarely have to adjust the exposure value more than a half stop.

Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8, 34mm, 1/50th, f4, 2200 ISO, ©Rick Lewis
Nikon D500, 17-55mm f2.8, 17mm, 1/50th, f5.6, 3200 ISO, ©Rick Lewis

The bottom line; the D500 is not just for birding. 🙂  The only real drawback that I can see is Nikon’s pathetic DX lens line up.  They are pushing the FX concept to the point that I really don’t see a follow-up to the D500.  Maybe I’m too cynical.  This camera can be a lot of things to a lot of people with just a little more attention to producing quality, fast, DX lenses, especially on the wide end.

Don’t get me wrong.  I wouldn’t turn down a Nikon D810 and a couple of pro lenses, but until someone is in a generous mood, I’ll stick with my D500 and 17-55mm f2.8G ED.

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