In this article I’ll compare the new Nikon D500 DX format DSLR versus three full frame cameras, the Nikon D750, Nikon D610 and Canon 5D Mark III. The D500 is a fully features cropped sensor DSLR, and for some of you, it might be the only viable alternative to a full frame out there. But is it that good, can it convince you to ditch your Canon full frame dream and pick up Nikon’s best APS-C camera to date?
Before we jump into our in-depth comparison, let’s first learn more about the Nikon D500 and what makes this cameras such a good one? As of the time of writing, the D500 is capturing the third positioning on amazon.com best sellers in the DSLR category, which obviously shown high demand for it. It isn’t a cheap camera, but it might be a dream come true for many enthusiast photographers, and an excellent backup and even main camera for professional photographers.
The Nikon D500 was announced more than six years after the D300s, which it’s aimed to replace. The D300s was a legendary camera at the time, and many people thought that Nikon’s going to release the D400 in around 3 years mark, but that never happened. This is probably one of the most anticipated cameras in the history of digital photography. Now it’s here, so let’s see why so many photographers are so excited over it.
Almost everything is new about the D500. It all start s with a brand new 20.9MP (effective) DX sensor and Nikon’s brand new Expeed 5 image processor (not the 5A first seen in the Nikon 1 J5). This image processor was designed to support the needed (10 fps burst, 4K videos, etc.) super-fast performance of these cameras with faster read/write data transfer speed and improved NR function among others.
Now listen to this: the D500 can shoot at sensitivity up to ISO 1640000 (Hi 5), although the native sensitivity is maxed out at ISO 51200. The D500 is also equipped also with a 180K-pixel RGB light metering sensor, -4EV AF sensor (center point, others are -3EV; -4EV is equivalent to “Night, away from city lights, subject under half moon.” – source), improved NR function, brand new image processor, new image sensor, flicker reduction function – all make the D500 a superb camera for low-light photography and when shooting in an non-optimal lighting conditions.
The D500 went through some moderate physical changes both in the external body design and the button placement. This includes among the changes, a more prominent hand grip, a function (Fn2) button on the back left side, a new “i” button which allow access to frequently used camera settings. It employs a tilting touchscreen display at the back, more rubber grip at the back and also on the its right side.
On of the probably most important features is the use of the new Multi-CAM 20K 153-point (99 cross-type) autofocus system. The focus points are arranged tightly and spread evenly, covering almost the entire horizontal frame in DX mode. In 1.3x crop mode, the camera utilizes only 117 focus points (63 of the are cross-type), but the AF points cover the entire frame horizontally.
This 1.3x crop mode not just provides extra reach (because the crop factor becomes 2x instead of 1.5x), but it also provides very tight subject tracking. This mode is very useful and favorable by wildlife and sports photographers whom, in many cases, need that extra reach and best subject tracking performance. Keep in mind that in 1.2x crop mode, the image resolution is reduced from a maximum resolution of 5568×3712 pixels (DX) to 4272×2848 pixels (1.3x) because the camera uses a smaller portion of the sensor.
Among it’s other important features are: a 10 fps burst with 200 shots buffer (when shooting in 14-bit lossless compressed RAW), 4K video recording with 3-axis electronic stabilization, easy photo sharing with WiFi/NFC/Bluetooth and SnapBridge function. Using the SnapBridge app, the camera can create a constant wireless connectivity between the D500 and your mobile phone or tablet device. It can automatically transfer images while shooting, and even tag them with text, logo, timestamp and geo-location data on-the-fly. SnapBridge app is available for both Android (on GooglePlay) and iOS (on the AppStore) smartphones and tablet mobile devices. We’ll talk about all the other features in the comparison section below.
All in all, the Nikon D500 is Nikon’s flagship DX digital SLR and most certainly a well-worthy successor to the D300s. If you want to see how it compares against other Nikon DX cameras, check my D500 vs D7200 vs D7100 vs D5500 comparison.
The D500 is not a fully frame DSLR, but it is so well equipped, that it might convince photographers to suspend their full frame wishes, at least for a while. You need to look at the camera as a whole. Take all the features and performance into account and decide which camera body can give your the best results and can help you achieve your goals as a photographer. The D500 is not just another body, and it focuses not on gimmicks, but on really useful features that many enthusiast photographers will find suited to their own needs.
D500 VS D750 VS D610 VS 5D MARK III
Before we move to the comparison, let’s first take a look at the current prices for our cameras.
- Nikon D500 (body) – $1996.95
- Nikon D750 (body) – $1896.95
- Nikon D610 (body) – $1496.95
- Canon EOS 5D Mark III (body) – $2499.00
* as for 1.7.2016 via B&H. visit B&H Photo Video store for updated prices
As you can see, the the D500 isn’t the cheapest camera, the D610 is. When you see these price comparison, you can understand why some photographers might think twice before getting the D500 or think about getting a full frame body instead. Among their distinct advantages are an excellent high ISO performance, higher dynamic range, shallower depth of field (with the same lens) and more options for wide-angle shooting (great for landscapes and architecture). Sports and wildlife photographers might prefer the cropped offering due to the extra reach and tighter focus point grouping that can speed up tracking of fast-moving subjects.
Having said that, when picking a camera body in that price point, you should make sure that it can answer all, or at least most of your needs. Some photographers prefer investing in a better or extra lens instead of spending a premium price on a camera body. But these judiciously depend entirely on you and your particular needs.
The Nikon D500 looks very compelling and doesn’t feel less of a camera than any of the other three full frame DSLRs that we compared here. the D500 is expected to deliver exception level of details, even at high ISO. We can’t ignore the reasons why one would want to upgrade to a full frame and why so many professionals choose those cameras as their main.
That being said, sensor technologies came a long way in the past years and image quality has been improved by a very large margin. In fact, new APS-C sensors even outperform some relatively old full frame sensors. Photographers who are looking for the ultimate low-light performance will find the new Full Frame cameras to be more adequate for their needs. But the D500 is aimed for the enthusiast photographer.
A full frame camera can certainly be a better choice if you want and need to take use of its advantages. If not, the D500 look very attractive. It’s the second most expensive camera, and more expensive than the D750 and D610. This makes the decision even harder, because you know that you could have purchase a full frame at the price of the D500. That being said, you do get quite a lot in return for your investment: including 4K video recording (which the other cameras lack) with lots of features including electronic image stabilization, latest generation sensor (without an OLPF) and image processor, highest ISO range in its class, arguably the best AF system which designed to work in very low-light conditions, the most advanced light metering sensor in its class, fastest burst speed among the four cameras, best wireless options by far, XQD memory card support and superb battery life among it’s other unique features.
For many enthusiasts, the D500 is a dream come true. A camera that justifies an upgrade and a good reason to stay with a DX camera, especially for wildlife and sports photographers, but not only. So as I mentioned, it isn’t cheap and you can buy a full frame camera for that price, but the overall features are more future proof and probably be more useful for you in the field than what the other full frame cameras can offer. It doesn’t make the other cameras less good, it’s just that the D500 can give such a good fight that it’s really hard to ignore it.
What do you think? Is the D500 a well-worthy competitor for those three full frame DSLRs? – share your thoughts in the comment section below and thanks for reading.