12.19.2016

I was a bit amused when I read that DPReview had selected the Nikon D500 as their "camera of the year."


It reminded me of the introduction of the Nikon F6 so many years ago. The F6 was launched long after the mass market (both pros and hobbyists) voted with their pocketbooks and abandoned film for the siren song of digital imaging. The camera came with a premium price and though I was hanging out with dozens of working professionals at the time I never met a single soul who splashed out cash to buy an F6. And I've never seen one in the field. Why? Because as great and perfect and proficient as the F6 might have been every person who may have been part of the market for that camera had already moved on...

In 2016 the D500 will appeal to diehard DSLR fans and cheap (or poor) sports photographers. But it's really not a significant, new product. It's more of a tweaked old style product. A D7200 that shoots more quickly. Or, a D300 that has a much better sensor and shoots more quickly. It's still big, heavy, kind of a dog to shoot video with, and embarrassingly bereft of a state-of-the-art electronic viewfinder. 

Not everyone wants to change away from camera styles and form factors to which they have grown accustomed. Not everyone who is even modestly invested in Nikon's system will be anxious to switch to something else. And that's great. But it hardly makes more of the same an interesting choice for "camera of the year." 

I think the honor should go to something brand new and different. I'd nominate the Hasselblad mirrorless medium format camera because it's new and different; and when they get the firmware sorted out it may also be a really good image maker. If that's not your cup of tea I'd be happy to nominate the Sony RX10 iii which is just now starting to get its due from reviewers who are taking a second look. The combination of a miraculous lens and truly great video at an "affordable" price point is eternally tempting. 

For sheer performance and usability my personal nomination for my camera of the year has to be the little Sony a6300. If those bastards at Sony had just seen fit to put in a headphone jack I would be tempted to call this camera near perfect. It's small and light, has a great sensor and great performance, shoots fast, focuses well and does very, very good, 4K video right in camera. Yes, the a6500 came out this year as well but it's nothing more than an iteration, at a higher price, of an already well sorted camera. I find the touchscreen to be an "anti-feature" but I'll admit that the in body I.S. would be worthwhile. I'll stick with the a6300 as my recommendation because it's a proven commodity and makes me smile when I use it. 

The Nikon D500 is resting on the legacy of the past. It's the camera that most of us grew up with but photography is changing quickly and the power and performance of a good shooting tool no longer has to weigh a ton and cost too much. 

Yes, with cameras like the Fuji XT-2 and the Olympus EM-1 mk ii, and the Pentax K-1 in the mix I was surprised to read about DPReview's choice. In fact, I kept looking for the "this article sponsored by Nikon" disclaimer somewhere near the post but I could never find it....


16 comments:

Wolfgang Lonien said...

You mean Barney's choice? I think that was just a single opinion, just like Richard's...
But I agree with you. As tempting as a D750 or a Pentax K-1 may be, it's the workflow on these that would stop me. Much better - or at least faster - to see in the viewfinder that you need -1.7 stops for some scene...

Georgie Porgie said...

For my limited budget, the D500 would perform splendidly, as would the Sony A6300. But if I had just barely enough money, I would buy the D500 because I can get a larger array of absolutely splendid lenses much, much more cheaply than for the Sony, and the D500 is the current champion of the world for fast, accurate focusing. As matters stand, I'll have to make do with my little Nikon V1, also a wonderfully fast focuser, and my newly acquired Canon 6D, the poor monk's full-frame option. I've now leafed through almost 750 pages of photos in the Flickr Canon 6D Group, and I'm continually delighted and inspired by how much sheer fun people are having with that (old, antiquated) camera. I drool over the Canon 135/F2 which is beyond my means, but if I want a cheap 2.8 70-200 for high-speed-sync portraits, I can buy an early-90s vintage lens on eBay for $500 from Japan that weighs so much it's called The Stovepipe. The thing is, what this all boils down to is that camera choice is NOT a question of choosing the single best technical option. As a V1 user, I well understand and love the advantages of an EVF, but the Canon FF with my cheap 70-300 and 24-105 is blowing my mind. The Sony RX100 III is completely out of the running for my needs because I shoot stage events all the time, and in Kirk's testing on people moving about on stage it blew focus on 200 of 800 shots.

Kirk Tuck said...

I keep getting burned on that "best focusing in the universe" thing about Nikons. Yes, they are fast, fast, fast but It was a rare digital Nikon in my inventory that did not back focus like a mad bastard and ruin tons of frames.

Remind me where I mentioned the RX10 iii blowing one quarter of the stage shots. I'm not sure I wrote that.

Best, Kirk

Diogenes Baena said...

Yes, that headline brings on a visceral WTF whiplash, similar to "Assad claims victory in Syria" (pyrrhic), or "Summit sets carbon targets to sliw down global warming". It goes against every kernel of knowledge in my head.
BTW, i love that caption on Ben holding the light ("Diogenes")

Carlo Santin said...

I have not seen any reviews on it yet, but it looks like Fotodiox has released an AF Nikon to Sony adapter. You can now auto focus Nikon lenses on Sony bodies. They already have one for Canon lenses. I have never been pleased with Sony lens offerings. In fact, the lenses I have for Sony Nex are the excellent Sigma primes. This adapter might be worth a look.

Anders said...

If your Nikons were back focusing why didn't you just fine tune them? Easiest thing in the world ☺. With the D500 this can even be done automatically by the camera.

Kirk Tuck said...

Anders, I laugh and laugh at your presumption that I did not try to fine tune the lenses... I followed every protocol, tried every web genius approach and still, the lenses varied in their ability to focus on a given point depending on the f-stop used and, in the case of zooms, the focal length chosen. Maybe the new cameras have that worked out. We'll see, but I wouldn't count on it....

Craig Yuill said...

Well, the D500 has what is probably the best AF system in any DSLR, and (as mentioned earlier) the automatic AF fine tune feature. Users indicate it nails focus for stills like no other APS camera out there. Its swiftness supposedly still beats any mirrorless camera's AF for sports, action, and fast-moving wildlife. That is still important to a fair number of photographers, me included (sometimes).

But I do agree with you that DSLRs like the D500 suck big time for video work. (Except maybe Canon's 80D, 7D Mk II, etc.) That's one reason why I use my mirrorless V1 as much as I do. My kids wanted to go sledding the other day, and I wanted to record the sledding on video. So did I take my D7000 DSLR or my mirrorless V1 camera with me? Why the V1, of course. That said, the stills I recently took of my kids decorating a gingerbread house with the D7000 look great, and that's why I continue to use the D7000.

I agree that the D500 as "Camera of the Year" is a bit of a surprise. This may be, however, the last hurrah for the DSLR. I read this morning on one of the "rumor" sites that the successor to Canon's 6D is possibly going to be a mirrorless camera sporting the Canon EF mount. And a couple of the newer Nikon kit lenses have AF stepper motors in them, which might be a sign that Nikon is getting ready to introduce mirrorless F-mount camera bodies. I have a feeling that DSLRs will continue to exist, but in a very-small niche market. Most or all low- to mid-range interchangeable-lens cameras will likely be mirrorless in a few years.

Anonymous said...

The arguments in this article are so ridiculous that it only proves you don't understand photography enough to be the judge of that. Just the comment about the EVF made me laugh so hard my abs hurt.
What you should say is "it's not the camera for my use", or more accurately " I don't understand why it has been chosen".
It is a specialized tool for a use where no other camera even comes close appart from the D5 and the Canon equivalents.

Try following fast action and timing the best moment on the "best EVF". Even the best is not good by OVF standards (yes, I've compared the best EVFs). Try squeezing 1200 shots from one battery. Hell, try even 300!!!

You just don't understand that it's a specialized tool which is the best for its use. Is it the future? Might not be. Is it the current best in this segment? Hell yeah.

Kirk Tuck said...

I decided not to moderate this comment so you could see how moronic and contentious anonymous posters usually are. This one is mild. I have a folder called, Dumbass Responses, where I keep crap like this.... Reminds me that people in general are not gracious and don't do reading comprehension very well.

Anders said...

Okay, I was quite sure that you knew how to fine tune lenses on you Nikon DSLR, but not why the results were so bad :-( I'm sure something must have been severely wrong with either your camera or the lenses.

I owned the D800 which needed fine tuning for almost all my lenses, but after fine tuning the lenses were focusing properly and even my old 50 mm D-lens was spot on at f/1.4. On the other hand I didn't have to fine tune any of my lenses when replacing the D800 with a D810.

Generally I haven't had problems with back focusing on my Nikons except for the D800 which was quite bad, but luckily that was fixable.

JOHN GILLOOLY said...

I hope the D500 is the last hurrah for DSLRs. But as much as I really want and have tried to move on to mirrorless for my day to day shooting, nothing has allowed me to let go of the workhorse qualities of the D5 and the D3S before that. I shoot lots of high iso and the difference between M43 and FF Nikon is drastic. As important, if not more, is the still virtually unusable continuous autofocus on my M43 bodies. I am fully invested in the Olympus OM-D system and really enjoy using it - more than my Nikons. But when it comes to low light and continuous autofocus, I feel completely handicapped using them.

I do hope Nikon comes out with a full-frame mirrorless professional body. I also fear that if they do not, they will go the way of Kodak and Polaroid.

Diogenes Baena said...

Nikon will go the way of Minolta. The'll be bought by Toshiba or Hitachi: videocentric companies wanting a foothold in Stills.

Rufus said...

I see where Kirk is going with his thoughts on the D500, but his needs dont quite fit with the D500 demographic.

I am as much of a fan of EVF as Kirk, but having tried the D500 I must say it is a remarkably nice camera.

Ok, so it doesn't have the EVF.

But the AF on the D500 is freaky good. Remarkably good. It is as if the D500 has some alien technology in it. Anything - if it is moving fast in any direction and seemingly in any light, is instantly locked on and delivered in perfect focus.

I was shocked how good the AF is. Sure, it is no camera for a portrait guy like Kirk, but if you have tastes that include the fast moving, or even just want a camera that has impeccable instant AF, then the D500 is it.

Kirk Tuck said...

Rufus, I have no question that the D500 might be the nicest DSLR on the market, just as the F6 might have been the nicest SLR on the market at one time. I played with one and it felt good in the hands. But it doesn't really change my belief that the whole design of the camera is a "last century" holdover and that cameras like the a6300 and a6500 will soon match the AF performance and, because there is no mirror to move (and endlessly recalibrate to) that the mirrorless cameras will soon exceed the D500's performance. I talk to a lot of people who make money with their cameras; the number who need super high speed performance is minuscule. And, really, 8-10 fps with really good focusing is even available in something like the Panasonic fz 2500.

Marshall said...

This probably has as much to do with the approach of the awarder as anything. If they wanted to award a "best", maybe they find the D500 to be that. (It does have a LOT going for it, and if I shot more sports or wildlife than I do, I'd be very tempted.) If they were going for most innovative or influential, then no. It's a little akin to the debate about Time's Person of the Year. (Not intending to be political, here, but it's clear that they are choosing for influence and so forth, and not necessarily for "best".)