It has only just been released and it has already been tested! I have just spend over a week testing the new professional reflex camera from the Nikon DX product line: the Nikon D7500.
More than 2000 photos later, here is all the information you will need to determine whether or not this reflex camera – which is situated between the D5600 and the D500 – is right for you!
Test of the Nikon D7500: presentation
The Nikon D7500 is an APS-C reflex camera with an impressive technical datasheet which completes the Nikon DX product lineup:
- 20 megapixel sensor without a low-pass filter from the Nikon D500,
- Expeed 5 processor,
- 8 images/second burst mode,
- integrated flash,
- 4K video in mp4 format.
You can consult the list of differences between the D500 and the D7500 here.
The Nikon D7500 is the answer for photographers who are in search of a DX camera with professional ergonomics and with the best currently available Nikon DX sensor within a compact and light-weight format. In other words, performance characteristics very similar to those of the D500 – if you don’t mind living without certain technical and ergonomic features – all for a lower price of around 700 euros (according to a comparison of publicly available prices).
As I do for every camera, I conducted this test of the Nikon D7500 under different shooting conditions in order to evaluate its general performance. In the text that follows, I will give you my opinion of this camera after having used it, in comparison to other models which I have recently tested – the D500 in particular.
Test of the Nikon D7500: ranking
With the introduction of the Nikon D7500, Nikon was able to reorganize its professional DX product line. Instead of offering only one professional model, as was previously the case with the D7000, D7100 and D7200, it is now possible to choose between two models:
- the Nikon D500,
- and the Nikon D7500.
Nikon D7500 vs Nikon D500
Both of these models use the same sensor, meaning that the image quality of both is the same. It is in terms of performance and ergonomics that these two cameras differ:
The Nikon D500 is geared towards action, sports and nature photography – domains in which precise, simple and fast focusing is required. It enjoys the ergonomics of the brand’s professional models, it is the more versatile of the two cameras since it is able to accommodate a grip, it has room for two memory cards (one of which is XQD), but it does not have an integrated flash, it is more limited in terms of video functionality, it is heavier (magnesium chassis), it is bulkier and it is more expensive.
The Nikon D7500 was designed for landscape photography, portraiture, street level photography, while still having acceptable performance when it comes to photographing action scenes (see photos below). The desire to make this camera compact and light-weight resulted in certain restrictions being imposed (only one memory card, carbon fiber chassis), however it does have an integrated flash, is able to record 4K definition video in mp4 format, and is less expensive.
Therefore, it is not a question of asking which one of these two cameras is better, since they have been designed to fulfill different needs.
In absolute, the D500 is the better endowed of the two cameras, however you should be aware of the fact that the XQD memory card will require that you invest in new memory cards as well as a corresponding card reader – making the D7500 more practical in certain situations.
Nikon D7500 vs Nikon D5600
The D7500 is an interesting alternative to the D5600: it offers overall better performance and professional ergonomics for a much lower cost than the D500. It is definitely a camera to consider if you are planning on replacing your Nikon D3xxx or D5xxx with a newer model.
The D7500 will follow you for a longer time over the course of your photography apprenticeship than would the D5600.
Nikon D7500 vs Nikon D7200
In the minds of Nikon enthusiasts, the Nikon D7500 is the successor to the Nikon D7200. This is both true and false, since the D7200 remains in Nikon’s product catalog. This is common practice with Nikon and it is the manufacturer’s way of offering a camera which is still very interesting at an appealing price.
Moreover, the D7500 does not have all of the same characteristics as the D7200. For example, it does not have a second memory card slot, nor does it offer the possibility of using a grip, and it is not compatible with AI lenses (which have matrix light measurement).
Test of the Nikon D7500: overview
The Nikon D7500 is almost identical to the Nikon D7200 while being a little bit more compact: same ergonomics, controls, viewfinder. Its handle is a little bit more pronounced which makes it easier to hold, while its pivoting touchscreen really sets it apart from the D7200.
Nikon has been standardizing the use of pivoting touchscreens on its reflex cameras, and that’s a good thing: these displays make it easier to navigate the menus, to review photos as well as to zoom in on images to see them in an enlarged version. I also enjoy the ability to release the shutter in Live View mode with the press of a finger – when you are holding the camera in your outstretched arms, this really makes things easier!
For a professional model, the Nikon D7500 has been able to remain surprisingly compact and light-weight. This is another difference between it and the more massive D500. Travelers and adventurers are sure to appreciate this fact.
Test of the Nikon D7500: superior controls and the handle on the right-hand side
The Nikon D7500 differs from the D500 in terms of ergonomics. It has the same basic layout as the rest of the D7xxx series (and of the FX D610 and D750). It requires that you turn the mode selector dial on the top left side of the camera to change between shooting modes (P, S, A, M).
This same dial grants access to the Scene and Effect modes (such as miniature or selective color). I must admit that personally, these function are of little importance to me since I prefer to manage the rendering of my photos during post-processing. I would have preferred instead to have direct access to the Picture Control without having to go through the customizable U1 and U2 settings.
Among the controls and buttons on the right-hand side of the camera are:
- the power switch with a control for the illumination of the top-facing LCD control panel,
- an independent movie-record button,
- an exposure correction control button,
- a new direct access button for changing ISO sensitivity,
- an AE-L / AF-L button,
- a control dial on the back side for adjusting the different settings.
On the left-hand side you will find:
- the mode selector dial for choosing between the four expert shooting modes P,S,A and M, as well as the Scene and Effect modes – the dial can also be locked,
- a locking selector dial for the type of shutter release: simple, burst, quiet, etc.,
- a button for reviewing the photos you have taken,
- a “trash can” button.
On the back side of the device, you will find:
- 5 buttons on the left-hand side to access the various functions and menus,
- a circular keypad on the right-hand side to change settings and to navigate through your photos in the playback mode,
- the focus selector lock,
- an “I” button (which stands for information),
- the Live View selector switch for photo or video,
- the LCD touchscreen for viewing your photos and accessing the device’s various settings.
These controls allow you to personalize the behavior of the camera. Several of the controls can be customized to suit your personal preferences. This is the major difference with the D5xxx which does not allow for as much direct access.
Test of the Nikon D7500: the rear-facing touchscreen, the control pad and the latch for the SD memory card
The touchscreen, just as the one on the Nikon D500, allows you to control the different shooting parameters, to have access to the menus at your fingertips and to be able to review your photos just as you would on a smartphone. It is always possible to limit the tactile functionality of the display to reviewing photos, or to deactivate it altogether.
The presence of an ISO control button on the top of the camera is a very nice feature, it is much faster than having to go through a menu.
Ergonomics and access to the main functions
The Nikon D7500 has been designed for experienced photographers who are interested in having access to the best of Nikon’s DX technology without having to make the significant monetary investment required for acquiring the D500. The price to pay for this trade-off takes the form of certain limitations, namely the lack of a grip and a secondary memory card slot.
In so much as a grip runs contrary to compactness and light-weightiness, I prefer not to use one when I am traveling, and I find the absence of a second SD memory card slot to be more regrettable. Nikon justifies its decision not to include a second slot by claiming that there was no room for an additional memory card due to the redesign of the camera’s new, sleeker handle. It does however seem like there would have been enough room to incorporate a second slot if the two slots had been placed one behind the other for example.
As opposed to the Nikon D5600, use of the rear-facing display is not obligatory for changing the shooting settings. This is the advantage of this camera’s professional ergonomics which could be a deciding factor in convincing someone to buy this camera instead of a D5xxx series model.
On the D7500 it is possible, by means of dedicated controls, to directly modify:
- the photo recording format (RAW/JPG or RAW+JPG),
- the white balance,
- the ISO sensitivity,
- the autofocus mode,
- the light metering mode,
- the exposure correction,
- the flash mode.
It is also possible to change all of these settings by pressing the “I” (as in information) button and then going through the menus by using the touchscreen.
The keypad, with its four circular buttons at the back of the device, allows for the precise adjustment of the autofocus and for the selection of the active collimator. The lock lever makes it possible to lock-in your selection. This keypad is positioned low on the device – in a spot towards which the user’s thumb naturally gravitates – this is the case with all of the cameras in this line of Nikon products, and is something that the manufacturer might want to improve in its future models since some other brands are more ergonomic in this regard.
To change the focusing mode, you will need to press the button on the front of the device and use the camera’s two dials. This can be done much more quickly and easily than on the D5600.
There is also a dedicated lock button for exposure and/or focus which can be configured via the menu. This button will, for example, allow you to focus on a specific subject and to lock-in your selection before reframing the shot. The same thing goes for the exposure. This is another major ergonomic difference with cameras of a lower product level.
While the rear-facing display does not have as high a definition as the one on the D500, its display quality is quite sufficient. You will not notice any difference between the two displays in the “Settings” mode, and the difference which can be observed between them in the “Playback” mode is so negligible that it should not be a factor in making your decision on what camera to buy.
The D7500’s display is pivoting just like the one on the D5600, a distinct advantage compared to the D7200’s display which is hopelessly fixed in position. The pivoting display makes it possible to release the shutter with you arms outstretched over your head, while framing your shot in Live View mode – the same thing applies to framing shots very close to the ground.
The pivoting display is a great feature!
There are two command buttons on the front-side of the camera associated with the integrated flash: a button to open the flash and a button to engage the flash exposure compensation.
The built-in flash can not compare to a Cobra flash, but it does allow you to shed some light on dark areas and to remotely control other flashes by making use of Nikon’s CLS system.
Size and feel in your hands
The D7500’s main advantage over the D500 is its compactness and its light weight. Remove 1 cm from each of the D500’s dimensions, as well as 120 g of weight, and you would end up with the D7500. While the weight difference is only really noticeable after using the camera for a long time – especially since oftentimes the lens weighs much more than the camera itself (this is the main disadvantage of reflex cameras compared to hybrids) – the difference in size between these two cameras is immediately apparent.
Mount the Nikon AF-S 16-80mm f/2.8-4 – which is great for photojournalism – on the D7500 and you will end up with a versatile, effective and sufficiently light-weight setup to do just about anything.
The choice of the lens is a very important aspect, one which you should not neglect because this sensor deserves a far better lens than a basic zoom. The difference in price between the D500 and the D7500 should allow you to purchase a professional quality zoom.
Nikon D7500 – Assisted back/front focus adjustment
Modern reflex cameras sometimes require a precise adjustment of the autofocus module due to the extreme precision of the new generation of lenses. This adjustment makes it possible to rid yourself of back or front focus problems (displacement of the focal point in front of, or behind the subject).
There are different techniques to perform this adjustment, among which is the technique of using the autofocus in Live View (the only mode which is exact, by definition) and then measuring the difference with the conventional autofocus before inputting the value for the difference into the corresponding menu (use an accessory such as the Spyder Lens Cal).
The Nikon D7500 makes your life easier by offering a simplified procedure for performing this adjustment:
- switch to Live View mode,
- select the AF Single mode – with a single collimator at the center of the display,
- focus on a subject with a sufficiently high contrast level,
- next, simultaneously press the AF button on the front of the camera and the video recording button for approximately 2 seconds,
- the rear-facing display will then display a validation message, press the OK key,
- the camera measures the difference between the Live View AF and the conventional AF and automatically records the value in the menu,
- this value is then associated with the precise lens being used if you activate the Precise AF function in the menu.
Nikon D7500 – Video mode
Le D7500 scores some points versus the D500 thanks to its ability to record 4K definition video in mp4 format. Video enthusiasts are sure to appreciate this ability which will allow them to shoot better definition video in order to have more control over the editing process, or to output it directly to 4K HD displays.
You should consider investing in an external microphone such as the Nikon ME-W1 – if you are looking for a compact model. You could also choose the ATR3350 microphone which has a 6 meter long wire – enough to film interviews and stationary scenes (this is what I use to record my photography programs for example).
The D7500 allows for the connection of an external microphone, an HDMI recorder, headphones, and a remote control.
The microphone’s levels can be adjusted automatically or manually – it is possible to reduce wind noise by choosing the right settings. The same thing goes for frequency response (wide range or vocal range).
The D7500 has a digital stabilizer that works in video mode, which avoids the systematic need for a tripod. It can’t compare to a Steadicam, but it will definitely help you out in certain situations.
A new addition to the D7500’s menu is the .mp4 file format which will allow you to directly upload your videos to the internet without first needing to convert them – which is often the case with .mov format videos.
Autonomy & connectivity
The D7500 goes the distance in terms of autonomy. I was able to use it for an entire day of intense shooting without needing to change the battery – even though I made frequent use of the rear-facing display for controlling exposure levels in difficult situations.
In video mode, you can expect to be able to film for at least one full hour before draining the battery. This should be enough for most types of situations.
Battery compartment at the bottom of the camera.
If you take this camera with you on a two to three day long trip, you will not really need an extra battery unless you intend on continuously recording videos. In photography mode, the camera is easily capable of taking 1000 photos, which should be enough for a full day of shooting.
You will however need to be careful when using the SnapBridge feature to transfer photos since it will drain both your smartphone´s and your camera´s battery – even if Nikon has made efforts to limit the power consumption. I recommend that you deactivate the continuous transfer of photos and choose only those that your would like to transfer. This is just as easy to do, and is much more economical in terms of the power consumption of both of your devices.
While the Nikon D7500 does not have a built-in GPS module, you should be aware that you can geotag your photos by using the SnapBridge application which will gather GPS data from your smartphone. Although this procedure is not as straightforward as using a built-in GPS, Nikon reflex cameras with integrated GPS modules are notoriously inaccurate. It is high-time that cameras become as accurate as smartphones!
Side-view, video and audio inputs and outputs, and USB port
Test of the Nikon D7500: in the field
Nothing compares to using a camera in real-life shooting conditions to get a sense of what its abilities are. I tested the Nikon D7500 by using it to take a number of photos for two photojournalism reports for which I was required to submit my work. The photos included both action scenes (dance scenes) and low-light scenes (on-stage performance scenes).
Why did I use the D7500 to take photos of action scenes rather than the D500 which, as I mentioned at the beginning of the article, is better at this type of photography? I thought it would be interesting to test the D7500’s limits in the most difficult situations. Landscape photography does not put much demand on the autofocus or the sensor (increasing ISO sensitivity). I do not find photographing brick walls to be very interesting, however taking clear and properly exposed photos in situations where light is lacking is an interesting test.
Knowing how to correctly expose a photo requires good knowledge of shooting techniques. However, the light measuring ability of reflex cameras is constantly improving and the Nikon D7500’s matrix measurements proved to be very accurate; I was not required to correct any of its measurements – except in cases where I wanted to give the photos a more personal touch than I would have been able to had I used the values proposed by the camera.
Light measurement in matrix mode – without any corrections – the shadows remain detailed
The sensor plays its part in the final rendering of the image: it is able to handle bright light fairly well, and the native JPG files are satisfactory; more demanding users will still be able to finalize their images during post-processing of the RAW files.
In matrix mode – without any corrections – the sensor is able to handle the bright light of clouds fairly well without blocking off the darker areas in the foreground
Another example of very satisfactory rendering of the lighter areas in the glass and the darker areas – without any exposure correction
Verdict: the Nikon D7500 is very flexible and it is possible to photograph using its matrix measurement mode – without any exposure correction – without running the risk of having the bright areas “burned out” and/or the darker areas blocked off – making it impossible to recover any detail during post-processing. Using RAW format for the most difficult situations remains advantageous, however, the correction of exposure levels during shooting makes it possible to produce very good quality JPG images.
Increase in ISO sensitivity
Since the Nikon D7500 uses the same sensor as the Nikon D500, it is only logical to assume that it should have the same image quality – if not better due to the improvements which have been made to its software. In practice, I noted the same results as those obtained during my testing of the Nikon D500.
From 100 to 1600 ISO there is no problem at all. The sensor is able to handle this range of sensitivity without any difficulty – producing very satisfactory JPG and RAW images alike. There is no visible digital noise on the JPG image files which are sufficiently detailed to allow them to be adjusted for final rendering.
At 3200 ISO, digital noise becomes noticeable and the camera’s smoothing of the JPG images becomes apparent. At this sensitivity, the digital noise is still negligible, and the images are entirely usable. This is the sensitivity at which more demanding uses will begin to sharpen the RAW files in order to obtain the best possible results – although this is not an absolutely necessary requirement.
At 6400 ISO the digital noise is very noticeable and the smoothing of the JPG images is unmistakable. Both of these effects can be compensated for during post-processing if you would like to get the most out of your photos. The native JPG files remain usable – depending on the exposure level (details are negatively impacted by the increase in digital noise while flat areas may still have an acceptable level of granulation).
If you plan on printing your photos in a format larger than 20×30 (approximately) be sure to sharpen your RAW images. If not, the quality should still be adequate for publishing your photos on the internet for example.
This ISO sensitivity is the “acceptable photographic limit” for the Nikon D7500 – it is also the D500’s limit. It might seem as if the D7500 is incapable of performing any better than its predecessors. However, this is without taking into account the sensor’s capacity for handling differences in contrast and producing entirely usable image files. In this regard, I find that it performs fairly well – and that it performs even better than the D7100 and D7200, but this is a subjective evaluation and it will depend on your expectations as well as the post-processing software that you will be using.
At 12,800 and 25,600 ISO the images are heavily degraded, just as they were with the D500, and only RAW image files will allow you to recover a cleaner version of your images after careful sharpening. You should forget about being able to produce usable JPG images at these ISO sensitivities – your best option would be to learn how to post-process RAW image files.
It is worth remembering that these ISO sensitivities are only useful in very particular shooting conditions. You should try to avoid using them as much as possible, but it is always good to know that you can still obtain usable images at these sensitivities by doing a little bit of post-processing work. The evaluation of image quality at these sensitivities is highly subjective, but the results appear to be similar to those which I obtained during my testing of the D500.
In excess of 25,600 ISO the digital noise increases dramatically and the smoothing effect of the JPG files is highly visible. These extreme ISO sensitivities are more often used by reconnaissance specialists rather than photographers since not much can be done with any image taken at these kinds of ISO values except maybe publishing them on the internet (which would still be difficult to achieve).
Verdict: the Nikon D7500 has a very flexible sensor which allows its user to increase the ISO sensitivity when needed. The 6400 ISO value should not be exceeded in order to produce images of sufficiently good quality – while still keeping in mind that it is entirely possible to produce usable photos at 25 600 and 51 200 ISO values. This is a sizable achievement which places the D7500 at the same level as the D500.
It is logical to think that Bayer matrix APS-C sensors and their respective image processors have reached their limits, indeed I did not notice any difference between the D7500 and the D500 which was released over a year prior, although one could be forgiven for thinking that further developments to this technology could still make it possible to gain a few ISOs.
It should be reiterated that we are dealing here with extremely high sensitivities which were not even conceivable a few years ago. It is also worth stressing how great the quality of the images taken at lower sensitivities truly is – at 100 ISO for example (something which is not discussed enough when dealing with ISO sensitivity).
Autofocus and focus tracking
The D7500 differentiates itself from the D500 in terms of its autofocus since it uses a 51 point Nikon AF module instead of the newer 153 collimator module. Contrary to what you may think, the D7500’s 51 point module is far from being laughable, and its Expeed 5 processor helps it to obtain excellent results.
51 points Autofocus in burst mode
Autofocus 51 points and low light detection
In practice, I observed:
- a very good level of AF sensitivity, including in low-light conditions (see above), which, personally, is more important than the number and distribution of AF collimators,
- a responsiveness which easily keeps up with the rest of the camera’s abilities – including its 8 images/second burst mode,
- no discernible difference in responsiveness between the 9 and 21 point zone modes and the 51 point 3D tracking mode, which means that it is possible to consistently use the latter.
Verdict: the D500 is still a step ahead in terms of autofocus, due to its wider coverage of the field of view and its greater number of collimators (which allows for their more precise positioning).
The D7500 however, has nothing to be ashamed of, its AF is capable of working in very low-light conditions, and its AF performance is able to keep up with the camera’s shutter (burst mode and subject tracking); the rate of wasted images is very low indeed.
Nikon D7500 vs. Nikon D7200
The debate over whether the D7500 will replace the D7200 or not is never-ending. Instead of adding fuel to the fire, I would prefer to share with you a few of my impressions about the D7500 after having had the opportunity to try it out.
Do you already own a D7200? The difference between these two cameras is not significant enough to justify replacing a D7200 with a D7500, except if its pivoting touchscreen and its ability to record video in 4K definition are features that you really need.
Were you considering buying a D7200 and are now hesitating ever since the D7500 was released? The same comment regarding the D7500’s display and video recording capabilities applies in this case as well. You should keep in mind that the D7200 is able to accommodate a grip as well as manual lenses, with automatic indexing. And with the D7200, you will not be any worse off in terms of image quality or high ISO sensitivity.
Moreover, the money that you will be able to save by opting for the D7200 will allow you to invest in lenses for its sensor which is still as capable as ever.
Test of the Nikon D7500: my conclusions
Nikon D7500 vs Nikon D500
To the question: which of the two should you buy? I would answer that it depends on your expectations. The D7500 is an ideal camera for landscape photography and portraiture due to its sensor which is able to handle a wide range of contrasts and to produce RAW image files with rich color tones. In this regard there is no difference between it and the D500.
The D7500’s 51 point AF is able to handle sports and nature photography, but for these types of usages, it is slightly inferior to the D500’s AF which has more collimators. It is simply a question of AF coverage since both cameras have the same level of responsiveness and sensitivity.
In terms of bulk and weight, the D7500 will have no trouble seducing fans of lighter cameras. It is an ideal model for traveling light – in conjunction with a professional photojournalism type lens. The D500 is bulkier in all of its dimensions. The D7500’s integrated flash also eliminates the need for mounting a supplementary Cobra flash – which is more convenient while traveling.
You should also pay attention to the ergonomic differences between these two cameras: the D7500 has numerous direct access controls whereas the D500 more closely resembles other professional models. This criterion is highly personal, and you should really hold both cameras in your hands before making your final decision.
Are you looking for the most complete camera possible? Do you enjoy using a grip? Do you absolutely need two memory cards? Do you use manual lenses and want the ability to use matrix light measurement? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you should go with the D500.
Would you like to enjoy the best currently available Nikon DX sensor without sacrificing any image quality? The D7500 will allow you to save a considerable amount of money which you will then be able to wisely invest in lenses.
Are you a video enthusiast who would like to record 4K definition video in mp4 file format? If so, the D7500 would be the better choice for you.
Nikon D7500 vs Nikon D5600
20 megapixels versus 24. Professional ergonomics versus amateur ergonomics. Upgradability and advanced video capabilities versus more limited functionality. The D7500 is a very good alternative to the D5600 if you plan on becoming serious about photography.
The D7500 will last you for a longer time because of its more robust construction, better AF capabilities, a qualitatively better sensor and a globally richer technical datasheet. The difference in price between these two cameras is not very large and the D7500 should be seriously considered if you are interested in acquiring one of the best APS-C cameras on the market.
There are as many possible comparisons as there are Nikon reflex cameras and I can not list them all within the confines of this article. That is why I invite you to further the debate in the comments section. Are you already using the Nikon D7500? Feel free to share you opinions about it with our other readers!