Oh Boy! Nikon announces two new DSLRs and the frothing begins. I got an e-mail from the local dealer this afternoon asking if I'd like to pre-order some for March delivery...

©2000 Kirk Tuck. All rights reserved. Film. Medium format. One frame at a time...

I was putting together my invoices, receipts, bank statements, credit card statements and royalty reports for the laborious process that is small business, federal tax reporting. Drudgery that seems mean and continues after having just sent away most of my available cash in the service of the final quarter estimated taxes for 2015. I just shake my head when people ask about my "tax refund." If you are self-employed you quickly realize there will never be a "tax refund."

It was in the middle of this accounting funk that I got an e-mail from Precision Camera. I had been offline most of the day, trying to get work done and keep online shopping to a minimum and I was unaware of Nikon's big announcements. I clicked through to the pages that the retailer had set up and read the specs for the Nikon D5 and D500 cameras and then I headed over to read the press releases from Nikon that went up on DP Review. So sad that I also wasted a few minutes reading the comments underneath the official announcement. The lamest comment was from someone who was shocked and dismayed that Nikon didn't include a swivel-y screen on the D5. Hmmm.

From there I went to the Nikon micro-site for the two cameras and then I turned everything off and continued to sort papers.

What do we make of the announcements? Well, I was smiling as I read the specs for the D5 camera. Love the tight reins against runaway megapixels and happy to see Nikon's first foray into 4K video but then, minutes later, depressed that the 4K into the D5 is limited (for in body recording) to a whopping 3 minutes! Really? Really? Then why bother?  Oh, I am sure you can drop another $2K into an outboard digital recorder and shoot for as long as you want but that kind of misses the point of buying a camera of this stature. It should be able to at least match the video performance of the Panasonic GH4 from two years ago (and currently around $1,000) but hey, that would make too much sense. I couldn't find the specs to tell me if the D5 uses a pixel match crop for 4K (which would mean all lenses become much longer) but I did notice that this is the case with 4K video on the DX model, the D500.

Still, if you are into stills instead of video, there's a lot to love about both of the cameras. The D5 will shoot 200 14 bit, uncompressed raw files at 12 frames per second before it hits the buffer and the D500 will give the same basic performance at a slightly slower 10 fps. I'm sure focusing is insanely good with both cameras. I'm equally sure that the new processor is fabulous.

But I think the one hot, cool, neato feature that both cameras share is a new, mostly automated AF-microadjustment process to calibrate lenses for accurate focus at the sensor plane. I want that for every camera I ever buy.

So, for the non-Nikon shooters, what exactly did they announce? The D5 is their new, flagship, sports addict camera. It's the high end. It's $6500. Just a thousand shy of the Leica mirrorless SL. It's a big, brutal camera, built to the highest standards and jam-packed with the latest cool stuff ---- at least where still photography is concerned. It's much like the 1Dx cameras from Canon. Not the highest resolution sensor but best of the breed for high ISO performance and a compromise between resolution (20mp) and overall speed. This is the Nikon camera to buy if you need rugged and reliable more than you need ultimate resolution. For most of the stuff we shoot for clients we'd never know the difference in quality between this and the D810.

The other camera is the D500 and it's touted as being (finally) the replacement for the old, D300s, DX (cropped frame) pro camera that Nikon introduced about eight years ago. DX shooters have been pining for a replacement camera ever since. This camera is also a 20 megapixel camera but the pixels are closer together since they fit on a sensor that's half the size of the sensor in this camera's bigger brother (sister?).

Nikon would love to market both of these cameras as "revolutionary" but, in fact, they are just evolutionary iterations of cameras that already exist. Yes, both are Nikon's first efforts in incorporating video beyond 1080p but both are UHD instead of full 4K resolution. Yes, the ISO settings go up to nose bleed heights but that's no guarantee that the higher ISOs are much more usable than the ones in todays D7200 or D4s. Yes, the cameras are faster to shoot but for most of us that just means more files to wade through in our search for the perfect frame.

My initial thoughts? The D5 looks yummy and cool but it never even enters into my business equation for cameras. It's performance is at some arcane edge of diminishing returns that may make sense for a sports shooter or photojournalist but wouldn't really add anything to my work that the D750 isn't almost as good for. If I needed the speed I'd wait for people to start dumping their D4s cameras and then buy one of those on the used market.

No, it's the D500 that really looks like the camera that Nikon would love to sell boatloads of. But does it even make sense at the price point? What does it bring to the table besides speed and higher ISO when compared to the D7200 (which DXO recently declared to be the highest quality DX system on the market)? I'd like to try the UHD faux 4K but I know the sensor crop (which gets the unit down to m4:3 crops) would drive me nuts and might not be nearly as good as what you can already get with the Panasonic GH4.

All in all, my strategy will be to wait and see what everyone else brings to the table and then, if there's nothing that's really compelling, just continue on with the Nikon stuff I have and the Olympus EM5.2 cameras. If I really want anything else it's just that I want a second Nikon D750 body to round out the camera harem. Some days I just feel like having a body with a 50mm over one shoulder and a second body with a 135mm over the other shoulder. I think having matched duplicates trumps having one of the latest and greatest and another of a previous generation. Better that everything match --- that way I don't get confused when the going gets going.

How do the rest of you Nikon shooters feel about the introduction? Will you be rushing to buy one of the two new bodies? I'm always interested to read other people's rationales....maybe I'll steal a good rationale and use it on my CFO... couldn't hurt.


Ron Zack said...

As a sports shooter who uses Canon 7D's, Nikon D7100's and Nikon D3's, I can say that there is no such thing as focusing system that is too fast or accurate, and no such thing as too high of an ISO setting. Hence, both these releases would find a very welcome home with me, though I do like the D500 a bit more, as those might D3 and D4's can get really heavy, really fast, and a monopod is almost always a must when using them for more than five minutes at a time.

However, as you already pointed out, the current crop of Nikons are already giving us very good performance, and so there's certainly no urgent need to upgrade.

What I really want is a D750. I have a friend who has one, but I can't pry it out of his hands long enough to even take a single photo with it. For me, the D750 is the perfect blend of body size and imaging sensor goodness....and still more than good enough for 99% of the sports shooting I do.


Mister Ian said...

The D5 is out now as it's Nikon and all the shooters at Rio 2016 must be properly equipped.

Noons said...

The D5 is simply not needed for anyone not a news or sports photographer. That goes for the equivalent in any brand, not just Nikon's.
The 500 would have been welcome 3 years ago, when it was already overdue.
Now? Apart from the auto AF tuning - which is so obviously a tremendous improvement it begs the question of why wasn't it done before? - there is little else in there to go oooh about. Ah yes, the body makes one look like a "pro". But I'm not a pro - and that is the last thing in my list of priorities.
I think I'm going to look for a D7200 orphaned by some other upgrader and simply pay less than half for nearly the same thing.

JereK said...

I am very happy because this means previous versions will fall in price. I cant afford the latest greatest so kts always good. The D500 is a bit late to the party, it should have come three orntwo years ago. But I am still waiting for a Df2 With evf. :D

Wally said...

Bam, Bam Bam Bam, Bam-Bam-Bam-Bam-Bam. BAMBAMBBAMBAMBBAMB!!!!!!!!!. Nikon repeated their D3/D300 introduction. The specs look great for sports shooters which trickle down to the consumer product lines and should move the broader based consumer market. For me a D7200 shooter- a misnomer as i use my Panny GX 7 for snapshots these days qnd my Sigma Merrills for serious landscape work I agree with your sentiment. If the D500 drops in price in a few years maybe.... I am more interested in buying good used glass. 35-70 F2.8 $ 80-200 F2.8.....Now if one of the Nikon 20 MM F4 shows up on Craigslist locally Or the Tokina 11-16 goes out to n sale.....

Video... Hmmm the D7200 has headphone jacks when i occasionially am not using my cellphone!

Peter Wright said...

I do most of my digital work these days with either a Leica or M43 (Olympus EM5) gear, but I do have some very nice AIS Nikon and Zeiss lenses for my old film Nikons. I could justify buying the D500 to get better use of those Nikon/Zeiss lenses, and then I could justify getting some good DX lenses (a true wide, or a medium tele with AF for example) to get better use of the D500. That seems entirely logical, but my CFO is not logical like me and would have trouble following this line of reasoning. Perhaps if your CFO is more logical than mine, you could steal this rationale?

amolitor said...

My D3100 continues to take a picture when I moosh on the button, most of the time, so I'm gonna stick with that.

But I'm a dilettante. Possibly not the target market.

Chip said...

I know that some people like Thom Hogan have been beating the drum for years for a D300/s replacement, but I think this is actually a really small market that *needs* a pro body $2k DSLR, and that if Nikon is smart there will have only modest sales ambitions for this model.

While the D500 has some really nice features it's clear that waiting a year will get you 90% of that camera in a D5600/D7300 for half the price. Remember, a year after the D300 came out the technologically-equivalent D90 was released with same sensor, same top LCD panel, same performance (with the exception of it using Nikon's consumer-level buttons), and while the D300 was $1800 street the D90 was $1050 (and dropped to $920 or so a year after that).

Sure, real pros might find the D500 worth the price today (and worth writing it off as a business deduction), but most Nikon shooters really don't need this camera, at least at this price. But even for most pros I don't see it being irresistible - for the same price or less I think a pro shooter might find more compelling something like a like-new D3s (from somewhere like KEH).

Robin said...

I get the impression that Canon have done well with their 7DII, which is the same idea as the D500, but I suspect it meant that it's success was to a certain extent balanced by loss of unit sales of the 1DX, their full frame top of the line camera. This will presumably happen to Nikon too but, equally, I suspect they have allowed for this, which is partly why the price of the D5 is so high. The D500 does seem a bit pricey though (the 7DII is cheaper), but Nikon virtually always charge a more than the Canon equivalents, because they can I suppose.

Edward Richards said...

I mostly shoot architecture off a tripod, so I think the D610 is about perfect. (I stitch so I like the bigger pixels as opposed to the 810.) But the D500 would be great addition for wildlife, with the 200-500 zoo, and for when you want to shoot events and do not need really wide lenses. It would be a great sports camera, with the wider coverage of the AF system, might even have advantages over the D5.

Great picture, BTW. The cook in the right hand corner really kicks the composition up a notch.

Anonymous said...

I am a DX Nikon shooter (and have been since I switched to shooting digital in 2006), and have no plans to change brands for the foreseeable future. My primary interest is in shooting wildlife, with a mix of whatever else catches my eye (landscapes, portraits, etc.) thrown in for good measure. I am guessing that I am clearly in the target market for a D500.

For me, the D500 has three features that make it very appealing: the automatic AF fine tune feature, the deep buffer (up to 200 uncompressed 14-bit raw using XQD cards? Up to nearly 80 using top end SD cards? Wow) and most important to me, the supposed vast improvements to autofocus (which remains to be seen). The downsides are the price and the fact that I don't actually need it - the improvements I mentioned would be very welcome but none is "must-have-now" essential. I don't shoot video and could not care less about it (I am a hobbyist, not a pro).

I'll wait to see the early real-life user reports on the autofocus (and on possible QC issues) before deciding whether to take it for a test ride. Assuming that I can justify the expense to myself, which is not a given.

Anonymous said...

I'm staying with my D810 for the dynamic range and ease of use. The new bodies don't offer me much in that I don't shoot sports or things in motion where a fast frame rate is needed.

Chris Pisarra said...

I've been shooting with a D300 since it came out, and every day I looked for its replacement, like Linus waiting in a pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin.

Last week I dropped and smashed it. Wading through dozens of ideas, I finally settled on the D750, which would be mostly overkill for my DX lenses, but whatcha gonna do?

The D750 came on Monday.

It went back on Tuesday. The D500 is exactly what I've been craving. I'm willing to pay more for the magnesium frame and carbon fiber in the body--I drop things (see above).

I'm a happy man today.

Daniel Walker said...

I keep waiting for Nikon to win me back from my Olympus M5-ii. Weight, size, and image quality is the deciding factors. I am not convinced Nikon has do it with the D500, especially at the suggested price. I think I would rather get a D5500 at $700 and spend my extra money on a good Zeiss lens. Your CFO and my CFO must trade notes.

Rufus said...

I love a fast, snappy camera.

It is the one, single thing that I regret about the Sony A7r2. The Sony is exceptional - the files are gorgeous, astonishing.

It has an EVF. Manual focus is a breeze.

But the processor lacks guts for the huge files. It feels too slow.

In contrast, my Canon 7D2 has only OK image quality. Its good enough. But oh my, it is a pleasure to use. Fast, fast, fast, accurate and confidence inspiring.

If the D500 can be as fast and snappy as a 7D2, but wth better IQ, then color me interested.

Mark Davidson said...

AF speed and accuracy are very relative things.
Every time a new body is introduced by anyone, the claims of better AF are front and center. From my experience (mostly with Canon but also with Nikon, Panasonic and Fuji) all fall short of the promises made by their manufacturers.

The focus failures I get with action irrespective of make cause me to be entirely dismissive of the the claims of AF excellence.

Similarly, exposure accuracy is claimed to be increased with every new body. Since the old match needle, center weighted meters of the late 60's were about 80-90% accurate (with experience and film latitude making up the balance) it is hard to see real improvements despite how many gazillion pixel color sensors one uses to measure exposure. I am sure it is more accurate, but any improvement is largely invisible as the increments are so small. I can see this every time when my Canons or Nikons underexpose any frame with more than 50% sky. My Panasonic and its EVF allow me to be bang on despite the frailties of "auto" exposure.

Mike said...

After shooting a basketball game with my D750 last night, I honestly think a D5 is way, way, WAY overkill for any journalist not working in a war zone or photographing for SI. Not that I haven't lusted over it, but for $6,500, it's out of my price league. If the D500 had been introduced a couple of years ago when I was still shooting DX, I would have jumped on it and never jumped ship. It would have made a great compliment to my D300, which is still my favorite camera of the digital era.

Richard Leacock said...

Yes it has been a long time coming for the D300/s replacement, a very long time. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then. When the D3 and D300 came out they came out to a surprised and enthused crowd. Surprised as in how well the cameras did in low light to give you much cleaner higher ISO all at a mere 12 MP. Speedy, hardy well spec'd cameras. And the petal-to-the-metal advertising for them top notch. If you didn't need one you definetly wanted one. A great one-two punch for full frame and DX. Both used by a lot of photographers for many purposes. Sports, weddings, natiure, existing light portraits, reportage, etc etc.
Definitely a boon to photographers and to Nikon.

Now we have that same one-two punch. There's a lot of good reasons to buy either/both cameras. And as been mentioned a lot of reasons why people are holding back or not considering them. Price may be one especially here right now in Canada. D5 body $8900 , D500 body $2900 before taxes. A very weak dollar is great for the tourists but not so much for the locals.

There's also so many different choices of companies and cameras now, both full frame, non-full frame, mirrorless, video with 1080/4k etc than when we first saw the D3/D300. Other options, other choices. At one time I was looking at buying a D300s, flash, some lenses to add to my gear for better low light ability. But along came the mirrorless options with some wicked primes, lighter weight, great image quality (Oly, Pany, Fuji) and the equation changed. I don't shoot frantic sports or nature so it fit well for what I do. YMMV...

They'll be fantastic cameras for the people who'll shoot the hell out of them and enjoy them and cudos to them. I may rent one somewhere down the line and be impressed and pleased with the results but right now I'll set aside that chunk of cash for some Yongnuos, 95 CR LED lighting and maybe another prime or two.



William Beebe said...

The D500 is an interesting camera, much as the D300 was. When I purchased my E-3 many years ago, it was a toss-up between it and the D300. But Olympus offered some outstanding sales one Christmas and that's what I got. Flash forward to today's D500 and I've got a second chance to consider a Nikon pro DX body. I'm not bothered by the price (body only) as I've long since considered that to be the price for that class of crop-sensor camera. And I even like the selection of lenses you can get for it, both Nikon and third party. The so-called video deficiencies aren't a problem with me.

Of all the Nikon cameras I find this one the most tempting to date. I don't think I'm alone in that assessment. Unless there's some horrible QC flaw (D600/D800/D750, et. el) I believe Nikon will sell a lot, and there'll be a lot of satisfied D500 owners.

Kepano said...

The D3s is what I turn to for the bulk of my stills work. I'd like a bit more resolution, but not much. I gave up on Nikon for video a while ago, using a P2 camera and GH2 for better DoF control. Now, Sony has won my video dollars.

I actually like the pro sized body, with its forever battery and physical controls and tough as nails durability. Since Sony has my video game covered, the D5's video features do not look at all interesting to me. I like the idea of grabbing a pair of D4s' as they start to flood the market.

neopavlik said...

This is the first time ever that I can remember having enough money to buy a camera like the D500 as soon as it hits. But neither the D5 or the D500 are for me.

I'm thinking about a wide zoom (nikon 18-35mm) , or a wide prime (nikon 24 1.8G), or a normal prime (Tamron 45mm 1.8 / Voitlander 58mm 1.4). Not sure what it'll be if any of them. Trying to focus on lighting, emotion, and the results.

MO said...

i practice the the to bodies over the shoulder when i work. Have done since i started getting paid. first it was a 5D II and a 550d. when i dident know if id make anything from this. now i have matching bodies. But still the 5 d II's. I have a single 1dsIII altso. I use that for jobs where i dont need the flexibillity of 2 bodies and i need flash(es). the difference in preformens in the newest bodies, dont justify making the jump. one off my 5 d's i brought from new. but the other 5 d and my 1d a got used for around 800 dollars. i had the 1d fro over 2 years and whanted a 5d. but at that time i could not find it as cheap.

i stick with this setup until newer bodies become avalible at the used market in the under 1000 dollar range or the leap in performance gets more noticeble. I would like to try the nikons but the price of lenses has made me marry the canons for a while :)

But in short i use the same a body over each shoulder thing. i just tend to shoot a bit wider. at 24 and 50 or 35 n 85.

I dont need the new stuff. the difference dont justify it. That said i get my inner gearhead satisfied by the newest additions of big sensor all in one cameras. i brought a lumix lx100 a few month before u got the fz1000 for personal stuff. And that keeps my urge down. Might even start using them on jobs. But i like to use a new system a lot and have it feel natural in my hands before i bring it to a job. both an site n in post. my next buy will likely be the fz1000. your joy of gear kinda rubs off and i like the way the lx 100 handles.

i write fast, rant a lot n dont spell to good in english. sorry about that. Thanks for blogging!

cheers Mads

almostinfamous said...

I am glad I havent been holding my breath, but it seems the past year i've mostly been treading water. I'm sure that I don't NEED the full frame fun of the D750 but I've also been a bit worried about what age is doing to my 2 D7000s (little bits seem to be gone every time i pick one of them up)
So I am just waiting to see that Nikon has successfully banished their first-run gremlins and pick up one and hopefully two of the D500s to continue my DX strategy.

tnargs said...

The D300 was announced eight and a half years ago. Rumours of its replacement started about seven and three quarter years ago. Having learned their lesson, I predict no rumours of a D500 replacement for, ooooh, ten months.

Frank Field said...

As a 30-plus-year Nikon shooter, I'm pleased to see Nikon bringing markedly improved cameras to the market. They have been doing minor iterations on stuff for too long, all the while accumulating unsold stock of prior generation gear in the pipeline. I suspect that once the dust settles, we will see the step function improvement in auto-focus coverage, accuracy and tracking accuracy and the much improved buffer sizes as the standout new features in both the D5 and D500.

As a long-time D200 then D300 shooter, I probably would have (mistakenly) jumped for the D500 in 2012. But, I made the switch to full frame and the D750 in 2015 and I do not think the D500 will cause me to give up the D750. I shoot primarily landscapes and seek to optimize the depth of field and resolved detail while minimizing the recording of diffraction. With that objective, 12 MPx is about the limit for a DX-sized sensor in my opinion for my needs. At 12 MPx, diffraction is taking away resolution by f/11. At 21 MPx, diffraction will be quite visible at f/8. Far better, for my needs, to move to full frame 24 MPx where the onset of diffraction is pushed back a bit (about a stop, actually).

Like Kirk, I have favored carrying a pair of cameras. A pair of D200 bodies then a pair of D300 bodies and keeping them set-up identically. I currently have a single D750. I suspect my next camera purchase will be a second D750 body.

There are reasons to continue to have a crop sensor camera -- primarily for reach in my practice. Does the D500 tempt me? No, at least not for now. I'll continue to hold a D300 for the times when I need reach. Yes, I'll have to operate at lower ISO but I'm almost always on a tripod, anyway.

Certainly nature photographers and action shooters of any genre will be thrilled with either the D5 or D500. Birders will be ordering the D500 in pairs. Let's hope that Nikon has learned lessons from quality issues in too many recent introductions and gets it right this time. If the sales ramp is slower than expected, Nikon need only look in the mirror as buyers wait for initial quality problems to surface and be fixed before placing orders.

As a dedicated Nikon shooter, I want to see Nikon succeed. Let's hope the market rewards them.

Marshall said...

If I could justify it, I'd love to pick up a 500 for sports work. The 750 has and will continue to serve me well, but extra speed matters and the AF is likely a meaningful improvement when shooting in dim settings (e.g., high-school stadiums with fast-moving athletes). So, straight up, a pro-layout, even-better-AF, 10 fps camera that probably performs very very well at ISO5000 would be fantastic. But I'm not pro, and the differences aren't justified, sadly.