Without looking at any of the photos I have taken outside of inspecting them on the LCD on the back of the camera, I have extremely good feelings about the Nikon D500. In a time when mirrorless is the cool kid, and big DSLR bodies are looked at by many with mild distaste, the D500 is a shining example of why we should not be quite ready to give up on them yet… or even ever.
From a perspective that is as pure as “first impressions” can get (as in, how I felt after holding and shooting with the D500, not yet pixel peeping or judging how good or bad the ISO is), I am wildly impressed with what Nikon has created here. What’s most fascinating is that they have given me a camera that feels so good without giving me any single feature that I would categorize as “revolutionary.” The camera does absolutely nothing that is particularly shiny or new, but performs as a camera so damn well that it doesn’t matter.
And I think that right there is exactly what makes for the best kind of camera: one that lets you simply get great photos.
It seems like every time we get a new camera there is a flashy new focus algorithm, or a multiple layer sensor, or insane megapixels or outrageous ISO. That’s all well and good, but if the final product is not the best possible option in a category for capturing an image reliably… then who cares?
The grip, the incredible frames per second, the interface and the reliability of the D500 are all things that cameras, DSLRs and others, have done well independently for many years. Having accurate and reliable autofocus on a DSLR is not new, but it is greatly appreciated. Having a great grip and a camera that feels good in hand is also not new (see the D750 for example), and yet it is welcome here. Speedy frames per second might be new on an APS-C or mid-grade camera, and yet it feels like it is something we should be celebrating on the D500.
I think what the D500 does well is simply be a device that doesn’t get in its own way. It’s intuitive, fast and pleasant in a way that makes me feel good as a photographer. In shooting events or fast-moving subjects, if I missed a shot it’s probably my fault, not the camera’s.
Knowing that the onus is on me to get an image and not really questioning whether the camera can handle a situation is a huge deal for a photographer. If we are going to be let down, we would rather be let down by our own lack of skill and not feel like we were sabotaged by our tools. With many of the cameras I test, I often find myself at odds with some part of the hardware, grumbling to my out of focus image and often finding fault in the device. But not with the D500.
It speaks volumes when I am so used to having something “hinky” about a camera become “the norm” and then find myself so impressed by something as humble as the D500. That’s a weird, backwards world, but it’s the one that we’re in. We keep demanding crazy specs out of new cameras, expecting something new and “never before seen” every time a company releases the next iteration of their flagship whatever. And we don’t even do this consciously, but in how we reward companies with coverage and pre-orders when they choose to go this route. When we look at the D500, and praise it for being a great, perhaps it means that we should not be expecting “revolutionary” out of every new camera, but instead “reliable,” “trustworthy” or even simply just “tested.”
It does nothing extraordinarily different than anything out there that already does a good job, but it combines the best results from the myriad of options available and packages them neatly into one body.
The Nikon D500 is simply a blast to use, and I’m so damn happy about it.