Nikon D500 | Back to Nikon from Fuji?

This is not a review, but rather a collection of some thoughts for the serious non-professional photographer, about the Nikon D500.  I say for the non-professional because if you are making money with photography you pretty much know what is going to work for you and what is not.  And, by “serious” I mean folks that tend to shoot mainly or always in RAW.  If you are shooting in Jpeg, and there is nothing wrong with that at all, I still recommend Fuji cameras over all others.  Again, this is not scientific, just my thoughts.  Your milage will vary!

A few days ago I took delivery of the D500.  I’ve shot quite a number of images now, using most all of the features that are touted by Nikon.  One exception is shooting fast action.  I don’t get much opportunity to do so, and, to be quite honest, if this thing has the same focus system as the D5, well, my guess is it’s pretty darn good at tracking.

Why did I buy the D500 when I’ve shot Fuji exclusively since 2013?  Well, there are a couple of reasons.  The first, and major reason, is the speed of the camera.  I missed the speed of my D4.  The second reason is the size.  I originally switched to Fuji cameras to go smaller, lighter, and cheaper, which they are.  But, after shooting with an X-E2, X-T1 and X-Pro2, I’ve discovered they are just too small for me.  In fact, I really use the X-T1 the least and I figured out why.  It’s just too cramped, ergonomically for the way I shoot.

So, I’ve decided to keep my Fujijilm X-E2 and the 18-55mm f2.8-4 OIS lens and sell all my other Fuji gear.  I’ll use the X-E2 to shoot exclusively in Jpeg.  I do love that little camera. Mated to my new Nikon D500 is a used 17-55mm f2.8 DX Nikkor lens.  I bought a used one in near mint condition for $740 off Ebay.  You’d be a fool to buy one new.

Some thoughts on comparison:

HIGH ISO

Everyone wants to know about high ISO image quality.  All I can say is the D500 delivers. Is it better than the Fuji X-Pro2?  I guess if you like to nit pick, I’d say yes, but only marginally at best, and I’ve looked at comparative shots processing the Fuji image in both Lightroom CC and Iridient Developer, looking for optimal sharpness.  Below is an image I took with both my X-Pro2 and the D500.  This is a 50% crop of the image after I processed the D500 image in Lightroom CC, using a VSCO preset I prefer.  I like high contrast images.  The only noise reduction that was done was default chroma NR.  No luminescence NR was used.  The noise pattern when viewed at 100% is just so even and grain like.  Nikon has been very good at this since the D3.

12,000 ISO f4 @ 1/160th ©Rick Lewis
12,000 ISO f4 @ 1/160th ©Rick Lewis

 

Yes there is some grain to it but, in a pinch, this is entirely usable and printable.

Metering

One of the best features of my Fujis and of all mirrorless cameras, is having a live histogram in the viewfinder or on the LCD.  Obviously the D500 is not mirrorless so it does not have this feature.  I took a serious of images to see if “chimping” every image would be necessary to keep from clipping highlights.  I used Matrix Metering only, for this test, with no exposure compensation for highlight protection.

I found the metering on my Fujis to be good but I usually had to use exposure compensation for scenes with rather high dynamic range.   I chose a location with bright sunshine in the background and shade in the immediate foreground to see how the D500 reacted.  I remember from my brief stint with the Nikon D750 that I basically could not clip a highlight.  The metering system just would not let that happen.  Let’s see what I got.  The following images were processed in LR CC using a VCSO preset only.  I clicked on the preset and we’re done.  The best example would be of the three story tower with large trees in the foreground.  If anything would fool the meter to over expose the highlights, this would.

100 ISO, f5.6 @ 1/640th ©Rick Lewis
100 ISO, f5.6 @ 1/640th ©Rick Lewis
100 ISO, f5.6 @ 1/640th ©Rick Lewis
100 ISO, f5.6 @ 1/640th ©Rick Lewis
100 ISO, f8 @1/400th ©Rick Lewis
100 ISO, f8 @1/400th ©Rick Lewis

I did not use the highlight protection metering feature on any of the images above.  I did try it out in a very dark setting, comparatively, that had a strong highlight in one area.  It did fine but I took a second image of the same subject but in standard Matrix Meter mode and found I could easily reproduce the highlight recovery in LR.  I thought because the scene was predominately flat the highlight protection metering would mess up the image but it didn’t in this case.  Take a look at the image below.

800 ISO, f4 @ 1/250th © Rick Lewis
800 ISO, f4 @ 1/250th     ©Rick Lewis

LIVE VIEW

One of the best features of a mirrorless camera, including Fuji, is the live view feature of an electronic viewfinder (EVF).  Live view is a wonderful thing and combine that with a tilting rear LCD and new opportunities open up.

The D500 has both a tilting rear LCD and live view capability.  Granted, it does not have that wonderful live histogram on the LCD that mirrorless cameras have.  I wanted to test the new live view function with touch screen focusing on the D500.  I picked a suitable subject well over my head and needed only two shots to get the right one.  The tilt screen was great and the exposure was right on.  The focus is perfect.  I’d say the D500 got it right.  Take a look below.

400 ISO, f2.8 @ 1/160th ©Rick Lewis
400 ISO, f2.8 @ 1/160th ©Rick Lewis

OVERALL CONCLUSION

I’m keeping the D500.  I think it is a much more refined camera than the Nikon D750.  I know, the D750 is “full frame” and perhaps has a ½ stop or ⅔ stop advantage at super high ISO (6400 and above), but I think the D500 is a better camera.  This stuff is highly personal so I know there are many that will disagree.  Image quality is superb.  I would definitely use this camera in my business if I were not retired.  Are the images better than the Fujis?  I don’t think so.  The Fuji cameras produce beautiful files and I would feel comfortable with them in the studio or other portrait settings.

It is a very quick camera.  I love that I can now use continuous focus with back button focus 100% of the time as I did with my D4.  I don’t care if my subject is static.  It just works for me.  I was very frustrated with the continuous focus function on the X-Pro2.  It tracks well with moving subjects coming toward or going away from you but continuous focus was pretty much useless for anything else.  I know Fuji will improve it in the future.

Battery life is fair.  It uses a common battery with the D810 and the D750 but my experience with the D750 was that it lasted longer.  There is a lot going on inside the camera, including 4K capability, that must be more of a drain.  A very simple solution is to buy more batteries.  I would say battery life is just slightly better than on my X-Pro2 but I use continuous focus so that is something to consider.

The D500 with the 17-55mm f2.8 Nikkor is huge compared to the Fujifilm cameras.  For stealth or if I just don’t want to lug around a camera, I’ll be using my Fuji X-E2, no question.  But the D500 by itself is surprisingly light and it just fits my hand better than the X-T1 ever did.

If you own a Nikon D7200 should you sell and move up?  I am certainly not one to tell you yes, or no.  A friend that has a D7200 loves his. I’ve seen his work.  He gets great images, even at very high ISO values.  My 2¢ worth of advice, if you don’t need 10fps frame rate, don’t upgrade yet.  I know, I said I wasn’t one to tell you yes or no:-)

The missing link with this camera?  Lenses!  Nikon have let the DX shooters down in this regard.  The 17-55mm f2.8 G Nikkor is a decent lens but it was designed around the turn of the century and released in 2003 I believe.  If you are a zoom guy, like me, you have darn few options for that very popular 24-70mm (35mm equiv) range.  And don’t even think about a super wide Nikkor for that D500.  They don’t exist.  Will Nikon step up to the plate and deliver pro quality lenses now, for DX?  I doubt it.  Pretty cynical I know but Nikon has never been one to answer the needs and desires of it’s customers.  Fuji has.  I just wish they made the D500.

 

 

13 thoughts on “Nikon D500 | Back to Nikon from Fuji?

    1. Hi Chris. That’s a good question. The 10-24mm DX Nikkor is unfortunately a variable aperture, f3.5-4.5 lens and it’s primarily made of plastic. I’ve never been a fan of variable aperture. Perhaps a better option would be the venerable 12-24mm f4G DX Nikkor. The problem I have is the age of both these lenses. The 10-24mm is around four years old and I believe the 12-24mm f4G ED is over 10 years old. On the current crop of high MP Nikons, I question their resolution power. I am tempted to buy a used 12-24mm f4G though. I’ll be doing a little more research.

      Thanks for your input, Chris. This has me thinking:-)

  1. Thanks for the review Rick. I’m in a similar position. Bought an X-T10 to dip my toes in the mirrorless world. Became so enamored with the whole FujiFilm system that I have a number of their lovely primes, and the 50-140.
    My problem is my current system is Nikon, based around a D4s for motorsport. I love the Fuji, but it doesn’t match the D4s and say 70-200 at the track. The D4s is H U G E !!! Heavy, tiring to lug around.
    So… contemplating the D500. The instant advantage is size and weight, gain the 1.5 FoV which makes my 70-200 a 105-300 at f4. Still entirely use-able at the track (shoot action at f5.6 + generally). Keep the X-T10 for static shots in the pits, pretty grid girls etc…
    This needs more thought of course as the X-T2 is imminent.

    1. Hi Gordon,
      Thanks for the comment. I think you are right on the money with your thoughts. I am envious that you get to shoot motorsports! That is a real interest of mine. The X-T2 was announced today but I haven’t seen anything about focus tracking etc. The price is getting up there at $1599 US. That puts it at just $400 below the D500 that basically has the D5 metering and focusing units in it. I love Fuji but they have a ways to go on speed of use.

      Let me know how your new set up works if you go with it. Good luck and happy shooting!

  2. The D500 looks like a great camera. A real winner for Nikon!

    The thing that will keep me using Fuji are the lenses. Fuji has hands down the best set of APS-C lenses made today. I simply could not give them up at this point. I’ve always liked the 24mm perspective. So the Fuji 16/1.4 is a favorite. Gorgeous lens! For my own interests I love shooting primes. For event photography I use the fast zooms. Fuji has both well covered.

    Both Canon and Nikon are poor for APS-C lenses. I assume wanting to push people to FF. I would find it frustrating to spend $2000 for a camera and not have a solid set of system lenses. There are some good APS-C lenses for Nikon from other manufacturers. I still have my Nikon D7000 and a set of misc lenses. The Fuji lenses are just in another league.

    I have a couple X-T2 cameras on order. Time will tell about them.

    1. Great comment! I agree about Fuji lenses. They are superb. And, the BIG knock on Nikon, (I can’t speak for Canon), is the lack of quality DX lenses (for APS-C). You are totally out of luck for a quality 24mm (35mm equiv) lens for the D500, and that is really sad. Nikon has never been, and in my opinion, will never be driven by their loyal customers. Instead, they will throw the DX shooter, (I’m now solidly one of them), a bone now and again. I’ll be honest, I don’t understand their corporate philosophy.

      I guess with the D500 Nikon thinks that camera will only appeal to sports shooters and wildlife shooters, buying expensive long glass. I shot Fuji exclusively for two years with four different cameras and a host of quality lenses. The new D500 sensor and processor is just as good as the sensor in the Fuji X-Pro2. The handling is superb. The size if quite nice. I easily could have used the D500 for any job I shot as a professional, with the right glass. My Fuji’s could have handled 90% of what I shot. The glass was not the issue. The issue was speed and continuous focus issues.

      What I think has happened is because Nikon is only an optics and camera manufacturer, they just don’t have the money to sink into R&D to produce great DX lenses and have focused on FX for that reason. Nikon does not have the financial backstop that the huge Fuji Industries can provide. From what I’ve read, you will be very happy with the Fuji X-T2. I know they improved the focusing system but I just never felt comfortable with the size. I never bonded with my X-T1, hence my D500 purchase. 🙂

  3. Hi Rick,

    I’ve actually had a similar epiphany. I had D7000 and hurt my back pretty badly so I switched to the X-T1 due to size/weight. I’m no pro but I find the same issue you have. I get great pictures from the X-T1 but I just have not really taken to it the way i had with my D7000 and D90 before that. Something about the cramped feeling of using it, the bad low light autofocus and don’t get me started on the nonexistent grip.

    I dabbled in Olympus as well but it was just two spongey and I couldn’t deal with it, plus so much noise in the images.

    I’m now seriously considering the D500 as well, even though there is a huge gap in lenses available.

    1. Hi Jay,
      Thanks for your comments. Sounds like we have a lot in common. I can’t understand why Nikon does not update and / or add to their DX lens line up other than the mostly cheap entry level lenses. I know many Nikon DX shooters sure wish they would. My only guess is Nikon feels it will be a money loser for them. Nikon is quickly losing market share, so they better figure things out. I know I have no plans to buy any other DX Nikkor lenses, any time soon. But, having said all that, I really enjoy shooting with my D500, and I still have my Fuji X-E2 with the 18-55mm kit lens when I need to go very light.

  4. My head is swirling between the Nikon d500, d7200 and Fuji xt2. I need good autofocus and hdr for dark clubs and frantic bands as well as dark performances where no flash is appreciated. Help!!!…please!

    1. Hi Deanna,

      I think your choices come down to either the Nikon D500 or the Fujifilm X-T2. I have not shot with the X-T2, only the X-T1. The major difference would be the new sensor & processor in the X-T2. Size wise, they are essentially the same. I owned a Fujifilm X-Pro2 though. It has the same sensor & processor as the X-T2. Image quality is superb. High ISO capability is also superb. If you are shooting for Web use, ISO 12,800 is very doable. It is that good.

      The Nikon D500 is very different from the D7200, in my opinion. It has the same focusing module as the $6,500 Nikon D5! The D7200 is capable but will not focus as well in low light as the D500. The high ISO capability of the D500 is as good as the Fuji X-T2, and I think it is better than the D7200. The build quality of the D500 and X-T2 is better than the D7200. Probably the most amazing thing about the D500 is its ability to focus in the dark. It truly is amazing.

      The D500 has great high ISO image quality, is very fast to focus, even in the dark, and has more options for shooting HDR. The Fuji X-T2 also has great high ISO image quality, does not focus as fast in the dark, has limited HDR options, but has a fantastic EVF. With an EVF you don’t really ever need to “chimp” because, what you see, is what you get, when you click that shutter. For me one of the biggest drawbacks was that the X-T1 was just too small and cramped for quick on the draw shooting. You may not have that problem.

      Now, here is a really key point to be pondered; lens selection. Fuji lenses are fast and superb! Even the cheaper lenses are quite good. That can be the single biggest factor in your decision. If you need very fast, high quality lenses built specifically for an APS-C (crop sensor) camera, Fuji is the way to go. The lens line up from Nikon is O.K. but the good lenses are mostly in the FX (full frame) line. That means they will be bigger, heavier, and more expensive than their Fuji counterpart. I’ve only photographed one concert and that was an operetta in a community theater. I used a 70-200mm f2.8 Nikkor on a D4. I shot at f2.8 and at 3200-8000 ISO for the entire performance. It was not easy, but I got some great shots for their advertising.

      My best advice to you is to rent a D500 and lens for an event then rent the X-T2 and lens for another event. That comparison between the two systems will be the determining factor for you. By renting first you will save the inevitable buyers remorse and lingering doubt as to whether you made the right decision. Good luck and have fun!

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