A Fleet With Two Flagships

on May 09, 2016

For some time the photographers who use Nikon cameras have been wondering when the smaller of the DSLR fomats - the DX, APS-C, or 18mm x 24mm sensor, call it what you will - would have a new flagship camera body added to the lineup. They fondly remember the line of development of the D100, D200, D300 and D300s and have been patiently waiting for the next in the series. The wait is over.

Last night an expert photographer and our state representative for Nikon Australia presented a show at Camera Electronic focused around the new Nikon D500 camera. Michael Phillips was able to tell us a great deal of the technical detail of the device while Kingsley Klau let us see what it is capable of on a photo-shooting road trip down south.

The camera is definitely the child of the Nikon D300-D800-D810 styling stable. The shape is unmistakeable if occasionally a detail or line changes slightly. But remember this is a DX camera. Long-time enthusiasts will note that the pop-up flash that has been seen in other models has been left off this camera in favour of more weather sealing. Note also that while the camera bears the note of DX, it can take all of the long FX lenses as well - and therein will lie one of its special charms or selling points.

The really big news is invisible - the performance of the sensor and processor and focusing mechanism is so similar to the bigger flagship - the D5 - that you might think that you are using it with a smaller capture area. The ISO performance is up to the 51200 point and it captures 20.9 megapixels. It also captures 4K video and 10 frames per second. A sports camera indeed.
Kingsley put it through its paces utilising a fast car on a deserted road and showed the extraordinary speed and accuracy of focus on the vehicle. He was even able to emulate this with another 4WD at the first glimmer of dawn through mud puddles.

The people who will be looking at this camera seriously - there were over 35 of them on the night - will be interested in that high-speed capture and the precise line of focus that the camera can take with telephoto lenses. It would be an ideal wildlife or birder's camera. I can also imagine the dedicated night-time shooters of stars and beaches applauding the fact that Nikon have incorporated illuminated control buttons in this body. Folks, when you need to see and can't see it spoils some of the best opportunities in outdoor photography. The theatre shooter will also applaud, during the louder passages of the overture.

Have you noticed that you get a tilting LCD screen at last on a century-series Nikon DSLR? Hooray, it makes quite a difference for studio and field shooting and is even better in being a touch control screen as well.

Finally, I can sort of explain what Michael told us regarding social media sharing with the new feature side the camera - SnapBridge - but only sort of. If you think of it as a wireless sharing feature that will shuffle your pictures over very rapidly to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever other social connection you use, you will not be far wrong. But the delightful thing is that you only have to set up the commands to do this once and the camera will remember that connection and re-establish it ever after.

Other wireless sharing connections require you to start them up, pair them up, press a dozen buttons and enter numerous passwords every blessed time. You eventually get sick of it or forget the special sequences needed. SnapBridge does it for you easily and means that the extremely high quality pictures that issue from this camera will start to measurably improve your images and image in the social scene. Think of it as WiFi for grownups.

Note as well that at sometime in the future the sequence of firmware updates that we all should attempt will be come far easier as the Nikon SnapBridge system allows the Nikon company to automatically update the appropriate equipment as improvements come along.

In short, Nikon is now sailing the DX seas with a very high quality new flagship.