In the Field: On the Island, with the Nikon D7500

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With last year’s release of the D500, Nikon seems to have shifted away from the D7000-series of cameras holding onto the top spot in its DX-format lineup. This year, however, Nikon released the D7500, which borrows much of the D500’s technology and packs it into a slightly more compact, less robust body. Could this secretly be the best value in Nikon’s DSLR lineup?

With the D500 clearly positioned to be in the flagship spot, the D7500’s announcement was a bit of a head-scratcher—and not in a bad way. It shares the same sensor and processor technology as the D500, but strips away some of the bells and whistles for a more down-to-earth model that might well suit many enthusiast photographers and videographers in terms of features, as well as price. When I got the chance to work with the D7500 for a day, I wasn’t quite sure exactly how to use it. Mainly, because it seemed to be an all-around good camera, I was struggling to find an example of a subject I could use to exploit potential flaws or a subject that could really shine due to the D7500’s strengths. Within reason, this camera has no glaring weaknesses, nor is it designed as a niche camera to appeal only to a certain type of imagemaker.

I ended up on Governors Island and sought to test the camera under particularly normal conditions. Whereas the D500 sticks out as the camera to grab for fast-paced action or for working in harsh climates, the D7500 seems positioned more for general use. Armed with the body and the 16-80mm f/2.8-4 lens, I took the ferry to document this historic island in the middle of New York Harbor. Being a particularly bright day, the main issue I foresaw was how well the camera would handle the contrast of the bright sunlight and deeper shadows. The 20.9MP sensor, introduced with the D500, is best known for its multimedia capabilities: it supports recording UHD 4K video, affords a native sensitivity range up to ISO 51200 that can be expanded to a mind-boggling ISO 1640000, and fast continuous shooting to 8 fps. Being the same sensor as the D500, it’s safe to assume the video performance will be the equivalent, the high ISO performance is comparable, and the continuous shooting, while slightly slower than the D500, is also quite respectable for photographing some moving subjects. While these are the highlights of the sensor, not much attention was given to its dynamic range and image quality during the initial rounds of D500 reviews.

With the D7500, however, I expect more landscape, wedding, and environmental photographers to be working with this sensor, and subsequently more, or at least different, scrutiny is going to be placed on other aspects of the sensor compared to just speed and high ISO sensitivity. In my use, I found the sensor to deliver an image quality very common to many of the recent Nikon DSLRs, and is characterized by a wide dynamic range well-suited to photographing in harsh or dramatic lighting conditions. Another key to Nikon’s success in the sensor department is color rendering, which is due to the updated 180k-pixel exposure metering sensor and its ability to prioritize exposure regarding independent color values. Seemingly not the most stringent of tests, the D7500’s ability to deliver accurate tones under bright midday light was satisfying where many other cameras can tend to shift too blue once the highlights become overwhelming and the shadows more pronounced.

One of the key differences between the D7500 and the D500 is the autofocus system. The D7500 uses a more modest, but by no means inadequate, 51-point system with 15 cross-type points. In general use, photographing relatively still subjects, this system works flawlessly and the rear D-pad is a simple method for selecting individual points or groups during use. Compared to the D500’s 153-point AF system, however, the D7500 is certainly a bit more limited in its ability to track moving subjects. One thing to note, though, is that even while the D500 has well over 100 focusing points, only 55 of them are selectable, whereas all 51 points of the D7500’s AF system are selectable.

The other main distinction between the D7500 and D500 is the body design. The D7500 uses Nikon’s buzzword-worthy monocoque-type carbon fiber construction that is more heavily focused on weight reduction instead of reinforced durability. Not that I threw around my review sample of the camera, but the heft of the D500 is inspiring; it feels like a camera designed to be beat up a bit. The D7500, on the other hand, feels like a camera with which you should take a bit more care. The other personal drawback I experienced with the body design is the positioning of the Fn1 button, which is inset in the grip and meant to be pressed by your right middle finger. I have normal-sized hands and this button felt to take up too much space in the grip; it initially compromised some handling comfort, but was also something I grew more and more used to the longer I shot with the camera. I appreciate the easy action to a function button, but I think I would have preferred it being located somewhere a bit more innocuous.

Looking more at the body design of the D7500, two additional sticking points come to mind, and this time in relation to the D7500’s predecessor: the D7200. With the previous-generation camera, you were provided with dual SD card slots for more flexibility in how you saved your files (I particularly like the ability to shoot JPEG to one card and raw to another), but the D7500 now features just a single SD slot. I must believe this deliberate backtracking is due to the D500 now being the “pro” DX camera, and dual SD slots being a “pro” feature, but it is surprising to see the omission of a much-lauded feature. One other point of contention, although much more negligible, is the difference in resolution of the rear LCD. The D7200 sported a 3.2" 1.229m-dot screen, and the D7500 has a 3.2" 922k-dot screen. The change in resolution isn’t a deal-breaker by any means, but it’s another one of those setbacks that is a bit more puzzling than sensible. I can only assume the reason for the change in resolution is that the D7500’s LCD is also a touchscreen, and has a tilting design; a welcomed update for many. The tilting action is very helpful when reaching over obstacles or shooting from low angles, and the touchscreen is… well… pretty much what you would expect at this point. It’s nice to be able to swipe and tap to zoom while reviewing images, but beyond the playback aspects I hardly used the touchscreen while shooting.

In addition to the few physical differences, the D7500 also received an updated form of SnapBridge, which now uses Bluetooth Low Energy in addition to Wi-Fi for transferring files wirelessly between the camera and a mobile device, or for remotely controlling the camera from your phone. I’ve used this updated iteration of SnapBridge with the D5600 to much success but, again, it’s one of those features I seldom use in actuality. I like having the ability to grab some photos from the camera and look at them on my phone while heading back from shooting, but it isn’t a feature I rely on too heavily for professional work.

Overall, the D7500 is a solid release and a strong step forward in terms of imaging, compared to the D7200. It provides a strong, realistic alternative for those excited by the D500 but perhaps not in need of the durability and autofocus features. Also, I could see the D7500 being a perfect backup camera for photographers working professionally with the D500. If you can overlook the absence of a second memory card slot, the D7500 can be thought of as the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing.

28 Comments

Would the D7500 be a good replacement for my D7000?

Thanks Joe L.

Yes, the D7500 would be an excellent replacement for the D7000 based on its faster autofocus, faster processor and improved low light performance. 

I have a Canon rebel t5 would this be a upgrade?

Hi Kyle,

The D7500 would most certainly be an upgrade to your Canon T5 in terms of resolution, autofocus speed and low light performance. 

I am looking to upgrade my camera I currenlty own a Nikon D40x which I have been using for the past 10 years. I know this camera would be a big improvement. Would you recommend this camera or the D7200 or even the D5600?

Hi Traci,

Being that the D7500 offers a faster processor, a faster continuous shooting rate and a higher ISO range, it would be a better choice over the D7200 and the D5600.

Is there a Vertcal Grip for the D7500?

Hi GP - 

Nikon has not offered one yet.  I am thinking a third-party manufacturer will bring something out soon, like what happened with the D5300.

Really people? The fact that it has only one card slot is a deal breaker tomake you ignore all else that is good?  I've been shooting with bodies that have one card slot for years with zero issues. Worry about something real. 

 I have four camera bodies as of this time, all are Pentax: K100D super, K 10D, Kr and last a K5ii. Al cameras have two things in common, they are all APSC and all have one card slot. I consider my self an experienced photographer. Over the course of ten years, I started photographing landscapes and wildlife, I shared my work with every one around me, five years ago I was asked to photograph the Memorial Day event at the State Correctional Facility that I work at, the fact that my cameras had only one card slot did not stop me from photographing this event, I am now on my 5th year of doing so, I provide prints from the event to be displayed in the front lobby of the facility.I  have photographed the outgoing Superintendent and custom printed and framed his portrait. Lastly I was requested to photograph the outdoor  weddings of three co-workers. I prepare myself and the equipment that I use when I take on these projects and have confidence in my self and my equipment, I do not let the fact that my camera has only one card slot from shooting the things that I do or will do, that being said if you are going to do events or weddings often, I would make shure that I had higher end camera bodies with dual card slots.

The "resolution" of the D7500 screen is actually the same as the the D7100 and D7200 - 640 x 480.  The difference is that the D7500 screen has 3 sub-pixels (RGB 'dots') per pixel while the D7100 and D7200 have 4 sub-pixels per pixel. Despite the difference, the screen on the D7500 is actually a bit brighter and crisper than the one on my D7100. Honestly, I have no idea why they bother quoting dots/sub-pixels instead of just pixels since it's pretty meaningless and just confuses things.

640 x 480 x 3 = 921,600

640 x 480 x 4 = 1,228,800

Thanks for the great review. Looks to be a solid DX format at a pretty decent price. I'm sure the great majority of D7500's will be sold as "packages" at Costco & Sam's Club (sorry B&H, I still love you guys). These will eventually replace the D7200 two lense packages now on sale there. I'm reasonalbly certain that the "big box" buyer will not miss the 2nd card slot, so they buyer that does will likely end up with the D500. My daughter has a D7000, and has been waiting to replace it, so now she has an additional option. She has always complained the the D7000 was nowhere near the camera that my now very "long in the tooth" D800 was. Certainly the D7200 will remain available for quite some time for those who want one. Of course, 4K video is a major reason to go to the D7500, so would have liked a bit more coverago of this feature in this otherwise very good review.

Has anyone ever made more then one photo at a time?  I guess they are stoped all the time by people, who are trying to see if they have the 2-frame camera or only the poor old style 1-frame,er.  Does a 1-frame camera  make you only a poor want to be and real photographer.

    I wronder what "HCB" and the Burt Glinn"s. of the real world think.

Buy a used D500

You're joking? Who sells a used D500 after a few months of release. Not all live in dark back alley scammers worlds as you do!

I have had a D7100 since 2013 and I find it hard to justify upgrading. Especially since this one does not have the double card slots.

I've also been using the D7100 since mid 2014. It's been great at times but I started noticing focusing issues, particularly when using AF-C. I also had to fine tune many of my lenses.  I recently got the D7500 and I can promise you the image quality is noticeably better. It's also lighter, much faster, and better in low light. I agree with you though...it's a great upgrade but not perfect and not necessary for everyone. My biggest con (outside of Lightroom not having a camera profile for it yet) is the dropping of the 2nd card slot.  

When you look at the Nikon vs. Canon debate it seems Nikon has been doing a lot of useful innovation, and the ONE CARD SLOT is definitely a PLUS. Simplify making photos. I am planning to get a D7500. I'm using a D7100 to its death right now and love it. The control layout is perfect. The menu options are everything I could hope for. The custom WB is easy and consistent. I almost never shoot raw, always work to nail the jpeg and they turn out fine, and with built-in lens distortion corrections to every shot. Looking forward to the D7500. 

1 card slot is a plus? I dont understand your logic. 

Not having dual cad slots will pose a problem for many potential users. SD cards can fail, though not often. I personally would not use a camera without a back up card slot for any event photography or travel. I use a D7000 and D7200 which both have dual SD card slots. I chose these cameras as picture quality is adiquate and pricing allowed me to buy more and better glass. 

The second slot is a life saver!  Shooting JPG only, I rarely get into the second card.  More than once, I have left the house, ship, or tour bus, with no card in slot #1.  My mistake for sure, but that's where slot #2 saves the day.  Shooting professionally, I would re-check everything and carry spares, but the casual stuff sometimes trips you up.   

Another model that nobody cares about.  All you will do is wish you bought the D500.

I have a D7000 and like it a lot. It's getting on in years so I was really enthusiastic as I read through the overview of the D7500. I was a bit concerned by the placement of the programmable function (Fn) button but figured it would be something I could get accustomed to. But the loss of the 2nd SD- card slot is not something I am willing to give up. Hopefully the lost SD card will be found on a future 7000 series iteration! 

Comment about 2nd card-good point-had not considered it. Can't find anything wrong with my D7000

Hard to understand business policies of some big companies like Nikon or Canon.  I am very happy with my inexpensive yet robust pro-like D7100 with some good lenses. Before buying anything new in the market, a thorough review of options within the budget is a good investment of time. That's all I can say.

I'm always pleased to discover that the not-newest camera I bought is at least as good if not better than the newest! I am very pleased with my D7200.  I actually like that it doesn't have a touch-tilt screen.  And I definitely like the two card slots.  I don't like the complaints about the ergonomics of either camera.  And my hands aren't as flexible as they used to be.

I was excited to read this synopsis of the D7500, and loving what I was reading, all the way to the dual card slot going away. That's a deal breaker for me. I guess my D7200's will have to last till they bring it back... 

Otherwise, I like everything I am reading. The Iso expandability seems completely insane. 20 years ago, we were hoping 400 iso would be usable... hahahaha.

At the time of using film cameras we prefer fuji 200 is the all purpose film shooting on daylight or wedding at indoor light mix with flash light.....awesome result.....best result using nikon FM2 with 50mm f/1.4 for portrait & couple shoot & with sigma 28-105mm f/2.8-4 for other wedding shots.....but now in digital world we can't find best one always varies with variety models & day by day going more expensive.......taday's joy next yr's pain....every dslr's have a limited lifetime.....mainly shutter life is going fast we can use it 1yr or 3yrs depends on the work......every one can't go thru the high value photography contact it depends on the area based & so on......but getting better result move to better body & lenses........also shorter life time of dslrs......

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