The long rumoured Nikon D5 has arrived, it is real and now we can stop about guessing about what ifs and switch to the pros and cons stage of discussions. I share my initial thoughts about the D5 and its surprise little sister, the D500. This is not a dissecting the technical data of these cameras but my personal thoughts. How would they fit into my workflow or, do I need either of them?
It seems like that Nikon is consolidating its leading edge on the top tier DSLR market. Up to now the D4/4s duo has earned the respect of many professionals in the sports, action and wildlife circles. The D810 is an outstanding camera with resolution and DR specs that is highly appreciated by both commercial and nature photographers. Then there is the D7200 which is a little gem on its own. So, we have had a good crop of tools to work with. However, the D5 and D500 seem like ratcheting up the bar again.
I have been using three cameras these days and I am satisfied with my gear. I have a D4, a D810 and a D7200. This is an excellent trio, however, the introduction of the D5 and the surprise D500 has created a new scenario that made me rethink the makeup of my camera gear. So, let me elaborate on my thoughts purely based on my own needs.
I spend considerable amount of time off the beaten path in the wilderness. My on land and canoe trips usually take me into the back country for many days in a row. The only limiting factor is the weight that I can carry in supplies and camera gear. When I am on a trail I need camera gear that is sturdy and suitable for a variety of applications, from scenery to wildlife and anything in between. Hence the makeup of my present gear. The D4 is my tool for fast action, the D810 is my scenic camera and the D7200 paired with a 500mm f4E FL and the 1.4x TC III is my “long reach” instrument. I have it all covered, so what is my dilemma now?
I have always wished if the D4 had a bit more resolution. I print 24×30″ images routinely and often print even larger ones. I use Genuine Fractals from ON1 to help with upsizing files. However, the more pixels I start with the less digital magic is needed. I often wished if the D4 had about 20 Mp resolution while maintaining its operational speed. Well, Nikon has come out with exactly that and even more. The new AF system and EXPEED 5 processor makes the D5 very desirable over the D4/D4s. However, that is not what got my fancy tickled the most. It is the surprise D500 that threw a curveball into the scenario, at least it did in my case.
My thoughts are as follows. I think that I could retire my D4 and D7200 in exchange of the D500. By doing so I could decrease the weight of my camera gear and still maintain the whole spectrum that I presently cover. This is providing that the D500 will deliver excellent image quality, which I do not doubt it will. My D4 has been in my bag for ruggedness and speed, the D7200 for its “reach”, while the D810 is there for its image quality for scenic photography and some “slow action” wildlife. My thinking is that if would I replace the D4 and the D7200 with a D500 then l could retain speed and ruggedness accompanied with the “reach” factor. I could carry the D500 and the D810 and have it all in a lighter gear. Yes, the D7200 has more megapixels than the D500. However, the 20+ Mp of the D500 is of larger pixel sizes of a new and upgraded design. Therefore, I expect that I could have at least the same size enlargements made from the D500 files as I’ve been able to get from the D7200. Also, the 20+ megapixel D500 files would be able to beat the enlargement sizes that I’ve been able to get from the D4.
I pre-ordered the D500 to test it before making a final decision about revamping my camera gear. However, I have a strong feeling that I am on the right track and the D500 will help me shedding the weight of the D4 off my backpack. I tried the mirrorless route on one trip by borrowing a friend’s equipment. It was a disappointment, I do not even go into details on the subject. DSLRs remain my choice for wildlife and nature photography. The 10 fps burst rate, new AF system, great buffer and the expected image quality make the D500 appear as the best tool for wildlife work. Not to say that the D5 paired with a 600mm f4E FL would not be another great choice. However, from a weight point of view the D500 with a 500mm f4E FL might be the smarter alternative. Not to mention the financial aspect of things. Selling my D4 and D7200 would make the D500 practically “free of charge”.
I may order a D5 as well but first want to see how the D500 – D810 combo would work out for me. The D500 is expected to ship in mid to late March. I’ll report back with my findings and sample images as soon as I’ll have taken it out for a few days worth of test drive. I am looking forward to take the D500 into some really demanding terrain this year. The rugged mountains of British Columbia and the Great Bear Rainforest will provide excellent testing grounds for the D500.
By the way, Happy New Year to everyone.