For many people a central question for the selection of the next camera is: FX or DX? Especially the current situation, where a D750 costs less than a D500 creates a lot of debate which to pick.

The advantages of the D500 are:

  • Autofocus: Without a doubt this is the main feature of the camera, which differentiates it from the direct competition. Especially tracking of moving subjects has been improved by a big margin, even compared to the D4/D4s generation. The huge spread of AF sensors across the frame, caused by the DX sensor size, is also a big plus for sports and wildlife photographers.
  • Frame rate and huge buffer (especially with XQD cards)
  • Camera body equipped with the button layout of the pro class (AF-on, 10 pin connector, round viewfinder). I did not write pro-body for a reason. The build quality is by far the best within the DX class, but compared to FX the D500 sits between the D750 and the D810. Time will tell if this is the new “pro” build quality level below the single digit bodies (D4, D5,…). The D500 has no bad build quality, far from that, but it is less massive and solid compared to a D810 or D300/D300s.

Absolute image quality and high ISO shooting are not the strong points of the D500. For DX the D500 represents for sure the optimum right now, but the FX competition cannot be denied. If you want the best image quality, there is no alternative to a FX camera. D810 and even D750 are better overall with cleaner images at all ISO levels.

So, what is the audience for the D500? People, who:

  • Need high continuous frame rate
  • Want to have the best AF right now and do not want to spend 7.000 € for a D5 or are not willing to wait for the next mid-class FX body generation.
  • Need a wide spread of AF sensors across the frame. In this regard the D500 will be in the lead within the Nikon system for quite some time.
  • Need the effect of the “DX tele converter”.

All of this puts the D500 in some sort of niche. Sports and wildlife photographers seem to be the main target group of the D500. High ISO enthusiasts better choose a used D4/D4s or Df, people in need of high resolution and the best overall picture quality the D810 (with some impact to the AF performance).

Nevertheless it is understandable that many photographers outside of the above mentioned groups are longing for a D500. She combines the best AF system to date with slight compromises in picture quality and high ISO performance. The pro control layout also might be a main factor for many people, especially compared to the D750. This also makes the D500 attractive as an additional body besides a D800/D810 or D4/D5.

The D500 has some issues, much like the D750 had at the start. The battery problem is currently solved by Nikon in a very customer friendly way by exchanging old EN-EL15 batteries with new ones. Three four year old batteries that I sent in were exchanged in less than one week by the Nikon service here in Germany without any issues.

Regarding SD cards the situation looks a bit different. The available firmware update is a workaround, which just diminishes the issues with UHS-II cards.

The D750 ha overcome those teething issues, which might be a factor for decision. In the end the individual preferences compared to the strengths and weaknesses of the different camera bodies are important. For me, the D500 is the ideal companion for a D800 and D4. Photographers, who might want to use only one camera body might favor a D750.