Features & Controls

The Nikon D500's image sensor is an APS-C sized sensor, measuring 23.5 by 15.7 mm and offering 20.9 megapixels of resolution. Although the D500's resolution count lags behind some other DSLRs with similar sized image sensors, its image quality is outstanding.

You can record in JPEG, RAW (what Nikon calls NEF), or TIFF image formats. JPEG photo files occupy about 12MB to 18MB of storage space, RAW files need about 20MB to 40MB of storage space, and TIFF files need about 40MB to 70MB. With this model you can record RAW and JPEG images with one press of the shutter button. You'll have to shoot TIFF images alone though.

The D500 makes use of Nikon F mount lenses. To the right of the lens mount on the camera is the D-shaped lens release button. The white bubble above the lens release button helps you line up the lens with the lens mount before attaching it to the D500. You can see the edge of the focus mode selector switch below the D-shaped lens release button.

To the lower left of the lens mount is the Fn1 button, to which you can assign a commonly used camera setting. The Fn1's button is defaulted to the image area command for the image sensor, where you can toggle between DX (24x16 mm) and 1.3x (18x12 mm).

To the upper left of the lens mount is the round Pv button (unmarked). It allows you to temporarily select the maximum aperture of the lens, making it easier to dial in manual focus. This function works in Live View mode.

In the far upper left of this photo, above the red stripe, is the front facing command dial (which Nikon calls the sub-command dial). It works in a variety of shooting situations, allowing you to change settings for the D500.

Nikon provided the EXPEED 5 image processor with the D500 DSLR, which allows the camera to work extremely fast in Viewfinder mode. This is the newest image processor Nikon offers.

Both manual focus and autofocus modes are available for those shooting with the Nikon D500. You'll have 153 focus points available with this camera, of which you can select up to 55. When using autofocus, you can make use of 153-, 72-, or 25-point dynamic area autofocus.

Front view with lenses.jpg
My Nikon D500 test model shipped with two lenses, a 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR lens and an 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens.

Front buttons.jpg
When viewing the D500's camera body from the left side, you can more clearly see focus mode selector switch discussed earlier at the bottom of this photo. You can toggle between AF (autofocus) and M (manual) focus modes.

In the middle of the toggle switch is a round AF-mode button, through which you can select either AF-S (single servo AF) or AF-F (full-time servo AF). To make the selection you'll press and hold this button while spinning the command dial on the back of the camera.

Above the focus mode selector switch is the previously mentioned lens release button and the white dot to help you line up the lens and the lens mount.

At the top of the photo is the BKT button. Press and hold the BKT button and then spin the command dial on the back of the camera to select the number of shots to use in the bracketing sequence.

On the upper right of the top of the photo are two compartments with covers, which, when combined, make an elongated egg shape. The upper compartment contains the flash sync terminal, where you'd connect a cable from a flash unit. The lower compartment contains the 10-pin remote terminal, where you can connect devices like a GPS unit.

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The top panel of the Nikon D500 has plenty of buttons to control the unit. This photo shows the right two-thirds of the top panel of the camera.

On the left side of the photo is the D500's hot shoe, where you can attach an external flash unit. To the right of the hot shoe, you can see the edge of the diopter adjustment knob for the viewfinder.

Further to the right is the LED control panel, through which you can see data about the D500's settings. This is a feature that's typically reserved for advanced DSLR cameras, and makes it easier to use the camera when it's attached to a tripod, where it's more natural to look down at the top panel of the camera, versus bending over and looking at the LCD screen to adjust the settings. The control panel includes information such as the shooting mode, the aperture setting, the number of photos remaining on the memory card, and the white balance setting.

At the top of the right hand grip are several other buttons and switches. The power switch is at the far end of the right hand grip, where you can toggle between On, Off, and a light bulb icon, which causes backlights behind the camera's buttons to light up (as well as the LED control panel), making it easier to use the Nikon D500 in dark conditions. This is a very cool feature that should be available on more cameras. The buttons remain illuminated for about 5 seconds.

The shutter button is in the middle of the power switch. It's in a location and it's of a size that make it very easy to use.

Three buttons are on the lower side of the power switch. The movie recording button (marked with a red dot) is on the left side. In the middle is the ISO button, through which you can change the ISO setting by holding down this button and spinning the command dial on the back of the camera. You also can format the memory card with this button (with the Format label in red), when you press the ISO button and the Delete button (with a trash can icon) on the back of the camera at the same time.

And on the far right is the exposure compensation button, which you'll press and hold while spinning the back command dial to make changes.

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On the left side of the top panel of the Nikon D500 is the release mode dial, which has several functions. To the top left of the dial is the round release mode dial lock button, which you must depress before you can turn the release mode dial.

You don't need to spin the dial to use the four buttons on the top of the dial. (We'll discuss spinning the dial next.)

To gain quick access to a few of the camera's more commonly used settings, you'll press and hold one of the four buttons on top of the release mode dial, while spinning the command dial on the back of the camera. The four buttons on top of the release mode dial are:

  • QUAL - Allows for setting of image quality options, including JPEG, RAW, or TIFF
  • Metering icon - Allows for setting of metering options
  • MODE - Allows for setting of shooting mode, including P (Program Auto), S (Shutter Priority), A (Aperture Priority), and M (Manual)
  • WB - Allows for white balance setting

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Along the edge of the release mode dial are printed letters and a white mark. The letter aligned with the white mark is the current special shooting mode. Press and hold the previously mentioned release mode dial lock button to spin the dial to the desired special shooting mode, where the options are:

  • S - Single frame (which is what you'll use most of the time)
  • CL - Continuous low speed (frame rate of between one and nine frames per second, depending on menu settings; default setting is five frames per second)
  • CH - Continuous high speed (frame rate of 10 frames per second)
  • Q - Quiet shutter release
  • QC - Quiet continuous shutter release (frame rate of up to three frames per second)
  • Clock icon - Self-timer
  • MUP - Mirror-up mode

flash back.jpg
Nikon included a Speedlight SB-5000 external flash unit with my test kit for the D500. The SB-5000 attaches to the camera via the hot shoe.

The D500 has no built-in flash unit, as do some other Nikon DSLRs.

The flash control modes available with the Speedlight attached are:

  • TTL
  • Auto External Flash
  • Distance Priority Manual
  • Manual
  • Repeating Flash
Flash compensation settings are available at between +3 and -3 by 1/3 increments.

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The Speedlight SB-5000 runs from four AA batteries, which means you won't have to worry about draining the D500 camera battery when running the flash.

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Nikon included a high quality LCD screen with the D500. It measures 3.2 inches diagonally, which is an above average size. It has 2.359 million pixels of resolution, again which is above average.

It's a touch enabled LCD screen, something you rarely see with an advanced DSLR camera. Touch screens make cameras easier to use, especially for people who are familiar with using smartphone cameras. It's just unfortunate that Nikon didn't create a menu interface with more graphical elements, more like a smartphone.

LCD view 1.jpg
LCD view 3.jpg
The LCD screen has a tiltable design, which is great for odd angle photographs and for easily viewing the screen when the Nikon D500 is attached to a low tripod. In fact, having a tiltable LCD screen with the D500 almost negates the need for the LED screen on the top panel of the camera.

Back buttons top left.jpg
Nikon included a high-quality pentaprism single-lens reflex viewfinder with the D500. It offers 100% frame coverage when shooting with a DX image area. The D500's performance levels and response times are outstanding when you're using the viewfinder to frame your photos.

The diopter adjustment control knob is to the right of the viewfinder, while the eyepiece shutter lever is at the upper left of the viewfinder. When you're shooting in Live View mode, you can use the eyepiece shutter lever to close the eyepiece shutter and prevent light from entering the camera through the viewfinder to interfere with your images.

At the upper left of this photo is the previously discussed release mode dial. Below it is the Playback button (play icon) and the Delete button (trash can icon). Both buttons are used in Playback mode. You also can press the Delete button at the same time as the ISO button on the top of the camera (as mentioned earlier) to format the memory card. (You can see the Format icon in red under the Delete button.)

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The Nikon D500 has a series of buttons to the left of the LCD on the back of the camera. The aforementioned Playback and Delete buttons are to the upper left of the LCD screen. The other buttons (from top to bottom) are:

  • MENU - Opens the on-screen menus
  • Key icon - Use this button in Playback mode to protect a photo from accidental deletion. This button also opens a help screen whenever a question mark icon appears in the lower left corner of the LCD screen. And you can use this button to set the Picture Control setting under certain shooting conditions.
  • Plus magnification icon - Use this button in any shooting mode in Live View to magnify the image on the LCD to aid with manual focus. In Playback mode you can use this button to magnify the image you're currently viewing on the screen.
  • Minus magnification icon - Use this button to reduce the magnification of the image on the LCD during manual focus. In Playback mode you can use this button to reduce the magnification of the stored image you're currently viewing on the screen, or you can see a thumbnail grid of stored photos with this button.
  • OK - Verifies the current selection
  • Fn2 - The Fn2 button allows you to rate stored photos by default, although you can assign a different function to this button through the D500's menus.

Back buttons right.jpg
Additional control options are on the right side of the back panel of the DSLR.

Along the top right is the main command dial, which you'll use to scroll through command options quickly. You can use this dial to change shutter speed in some shooting modes. You'll also use this dial while pressing and holding other buttons to gain access to more features and settings.

To the left is the AF-ON button, which you can use to prefocus on the scene, just as you would do by pressing the shutter button halfway.

To the lower left is the sub-selector, which is almost like a mini joystick, allowing you to move it in four directions and select the focus point in a scene. You also can press the sub-selector inward to lock in both the focus point and the exposure.

The four-way button is the large button in the center of the photograph. Press the edges of the four-way button (up, down, right, and left) to move among menu options or to scroll among stored photos. The round button in the center of the four-way button acts like an OK button in most situations.

Surrounding the four-way button is a focus selector lock, which is a toggle switch. Turn the toggle switch to the white dot to allow the multi-selector to select the focus point, or turn it to the L to lock in the currently selected focus point.

The i button allows you to open various popup menus, depending on the camera mode you're currently using and whether you're in Live View or Viewfinder mode.

When you're in various shooting modes, you can use the Info button to change the data displayed on the screen in Live View mode or to see data about the current settings on the LCD screen when in Viewfinder mode.

At the bottom of the right side of the back of the D500 is the LV (Live View) button. Press this button to switch back and forth between Live View and Viewfinder modes. The toggle switch surrounding the LV button allows you to switch between still image photography and movie recording. (You only can record movies if this toggle switch is flipped to the movie camera icon.)

Ports view.jpg

Most of the Nikon D500's various ports are on the left side of the camera body (as you're holding it). A flexible cover snaps into place to protect each port. The ports are (from top to bottom):

  • USB
  • Headphone port (on the left)
  • Microphone port (on the right)
  • HDMI

memory card slots.jpg

The memory card slots for the D500 are on the right hand side of the camera. A hard plastic hinged door protects the slots. The upper slot can accommodate an XQD memory card, while the bottom slot works with SD cards.

Battery view.jpg
The battery compartment is located in the bottom panel of the camera, and the battery is protected by a hard plastic cover with a hinge. A toggle lock holds the plastic cover in place.

The rechargeable battery that Nikon included with the D500 is large, but I was disappointed with its performance level, at least when using the LCD screen quite a bit. There were times during my tests where I only received about 200 shots per charge. But when making use of Viewfinder mode primarily, I could shoot almost 750 shots per charge. It's tough to provide an exact number of shots per charge you can expect to receive because of the widely varying results I received. Nikon doesn't provide an estimate in its specifications either, perhaps for the same reason.

The separate battery charger plugs directly into an outlet, rather than using any cable or cord.

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