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Nikon D500 | Nikon Announces The New Flagship DX DSLR

By Kishore Sawh on January 5th 2016

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Well, it’s that time of year again – CES – and as is typical, it doesn’t disappoint. Over the past months, there were whispers through the grapevines that Nikon’s flagship D4s’ successor was sitting in some hermetically sealed lab somewhere waiting to be released, and then Nikon New Zealand this weekend clarified that they couldn’t be bothered with such lab, and broke the news early, thereby unofficially announcing the Nikon D5’s arrival (which was somewhat expected anyway), and also just fully announced.

What we weren’t really anticipating, probably because we gave up a while ago, was that Nikon had another announcement to make. While the D5 is the pinnacle of the DSLR lineup – the beefy, roided-up, purpose-built black anvil – it’s not something most will ever own, nor would many want to. What the masses have been asking of Nikon for years now is a DX camera of pro build, a successor to the D300s. What they got instead for those years were teasings that were never quite worthy of carrying the D300s’ torch. The D7000 and D7100 and 7200 are great and capable cameras, but never really fit the bill. They didn’t look similar, nor feel similar, and not having that pro-build feel made them as exciting as looking at the night sky, when it’s cloudy. Today though, the Nikon D500 was officially announced, and from pictures and spec sheets, it would seem that Nikon is finally giving the people what they’ve been asking for.

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So what do we know thus far?

This is, by a long shot, the paramount APS-C DSLR in Nikon’s line-up, and in no short part to the fact it has drawn its innards from the D5, encased in a dust-proof water resistant magnesium allow and carbon fiber body. Indeed, the D500 has the same autofocus system, and the same Expeed 5 processor, the beating heart and brains of the D5. That new AF system appears to be something of a marvel, with 153-point dense configuration (99 cross sensors) that cover damn near the whole viewfinder as you can see below. That suggests that like the D5, this D500 is going to be great for sports and action as fast moving subjects should be able to be tracked with ease. Adding to that, you’ll be able to shoot 10 fps for up to 200 shots in JPEG & 14-bit lossless compressed RAW. That sounds a bit like, well, witchcraft.

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As one of the attractions of DX format is the ‘reach’, the D500 will let you take more advantage of reach than any other of Nikon’s DX lineup. Wildlife and aviation photographers are well versed in the knowledge that connecting a teleconverter drops your effective maximum aperture, and that often results in seriously dampened AF ability. Well, like on the D5, when using teles and the maximum effective aperture hits f/5.6 or f/8, you’ll still have 37 AF points and 15 points to work with respectively.

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nikon-d500-d5-SB5000-dx-flagship-d300s-dslr-photography-gear-slrlounge-kishore-sawh-3Furthermore, and probably most interesting to wedding shooters, is that the autofocus ability is extended down to -4 EV with central point and -3 EV with all other points, which means this will likely outperform any other DSLR’s ability to AF in low light situations, and in low contrast settings.

Should you find yourself in low-light situations, it’s good to know that there is a wide sensitivity range for ISO from 100 to 51,300, expandable to ISO 50 and ISO 1,640,000, and that entire range is available for use in video recording. The D500’s added digital stabilization which works with horizontal, vertical, and rotational movements will also come in handy here.

Speaking of which, the D500 clearly has videographers in mind, shooting 4K UHD, and allowing for HDMI output of uncompressed 4K UHD data to an external recorder.

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[REWIND: Nikon D750 Review | It’s Achilles, Less His Heel]

The other two obviously notable points to touch on would be the be the 3.2 inch tilt RGBW high-resolution touch screen, and introducing for the first time in a Nikon camera, SnapBridge functionality. This will allow you to transfer your images to nearby devices using low energy Bluetooth which can stay connected all the time (though it’s not as if pairing with the NFC capability is laborious either). But rest assured that if this isn’t fast enough for you, there’s now an optional WT-7A device that allows for transmission of files to an FTP server or computer at up to a whopping 866.7 Mbps, and it sits on the base of the camera like a battery grip.

Many, like myself, have been waiting for a true D300s replacement before getting another DX body, and as we’ll certainly be getting one of these in to review ASAP, there’s not much to suggest it’ll be a dud if what’s on the sheet translates into the camera in hand. At the moment, if you’re ready to jump the gun, Nikon has released two pricing options for the D500: For the body alone coming in at $1,999 and coupled with the 16-80mm f/2.8-4 ED VR for $3,069.

What do you think so far? Hand on wallet?

About

Kishore is, among other things, the Editor-In-Chief at SLR Lounge. A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

53 Comments

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  1. Sedric Beasley

    You notice how Nikon just went with a new number series now. D7000,7100,7200 were just incremental tweaks. The D500 just started a new series of numbers. I’m thinking this is the new baseline in the DX series camera and it just crushed all other DX series. I own a D7000 and a D7100 and was ready to get the D750 or 810 maybe because I wanted to go full frame but; dam you Nikon. I think I might stick with the DX line because of the value of the 10FPS with 200 shot buffer, 4k video and a new Autofocus system at the same cost of the D750 and it has touch screen. Yeah Ok Nikon. D500 is on my list. I ‘m thinking next year the cost will come down some.

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    • adam sanford

      The D500 isn’t a new number series so much as a terribly overdue update to an old one. Nikon has had a high-end crop line for a long time (D100, D200, D300, D300s) and simply let it fester without new offerings.

      So the D500 is Nikon’s way of saying “We love birders”, “Please don’t go to Canon if you are reach-obsessed” and “We are terribly sorry for twisting your arm to go to FF for the last few years.” It’s *long* overdue, but it certainly looks like it was worth the wait — it’s a killer spec sheet product.

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    • Sedric Beasley

      You are right. I missed it. The 100 series is a series to itself. Now when I review the Nikon stuff, I see the 7000 series,600,700,800 and Dx series now. I will step into the 100 series with the D500 and then decide on what FX model I want to have as a compliment. At the moment the 800 series would be my preference do to portrait and event photography. I like the high MP to get more detail in portraits.

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  2. Dave Haynie

    Did anyone notice the DIGITAL in-body stabilization in the D500 and D5? For video, of course. That’s kind of a surprise… DIS kind of vanished from reasonable camcorders long ago, and I don’t recall it being in any pro still camera before. Sounds like a possibly late-minute answer to Sony’s A7 IBIS.

    Digital isn’t too useful unless you have lots of spare sensor area… engaging that mode will give you a bit of a crop in HD mode. But it can correct Z-axis rotation, which IBIS can also handle, but OIS never will.

    Not sure I’d think of a D500, much less a D5, for much handheld video shooting, but if you did, not a bad feature.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Yeah, since the D500 crops in quite a bit to produce 4K video, it should be able to do some pretty impressive “digital” stabilization. However, I don’t know if this creates the risk of certain artifacts, I guess we’ll find out…

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    • Dave Haynie

      I recall it worked ok with my old Sony HVR-A1, the last one I had that did digital IS. It didn’t have anywhere near the range of an OIS or IBIS system, and the didn’t do Z-correct back then. And that was a different error in signal processing.

      The basic idea is sound: you shoot a wider image, and crop the next shot to line up with the previous shot. Doesn’t lead to any artifacts I can think of, though of course, even with very good matching, you can be off by less than a pixel, but that wouldn’t ordinarily be much of a problem. And they have a powerful new DSP in the camera. The problem is, as you extend the stabilization range, you increase the computation necessary to stabilize. So even with all that extra room, there’s no guarantee that 4K stabilization works any better than HD… could be the other way around.

      I don’t really hand shoot video with my Canon 6D, so I can’t imagine doing it with either of these, either. But I guess my old Panasonic HMC-40 was about as heavy and certainly larger, and that was often handheld, maybe on the Glidecam depending on the scenario.

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  3. Anders Madsen

    This camera is not really on my radar as such (I’m a commercial and portrait shooter so the AF and FPS would be completely overkill for me) but man, if this is how Nikon is going to roll, the D620 could definitely be an interesting camera to wait for. Touch screen and 4K could make it a brilliant hybrid for when the client requests “talking head”-style interview videos to be made along the corporate portraits and product photographs.

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    • Rafael Steffen

      Your focus should be on the D750 as a sweet spot for every type of photography!

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    • Anders Madsen

      Well, I already have the D610, so I’m good for now – the D750 is not enough of an upgrade for my purposes to warrant the expense. However, an updated D620 with touch screen and good 4K video features may be enough to tempt my wallet out of hiding and demoting my D610 to backup status. :)

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    • Matthew Saville

      That’s what I thought too, but the subtleties between the D610 and the D750 add up to make the D750 a HUGE difference in real-world practice. IMO, it is so much of a difference that I’d hate to have to do a job on a D610 now.

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  4. Peter Nord

    I would send my Africa bound students with a 7D2&100-400 now I’m thinking a D500&200-500 might be nicer. I’m getting too old to shoot out in the rain and am thinking prints from my D7200 might look just as good.

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    • adam sanford

      +1. Again, I’m a Canon guy, but the reach/fps/buffer/AF system-per-dollar value proposition of a D500 + that insanely affordable 200-500 are two vital pieces needed to grab Canon amateur wildlife/birding business. Again, I must tip my cap to Nikon here.

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  5. John Havord

    Damn you Nikon! I thought I had conquered my GAS and now you come along with the D500. It’s like you really want my money :)

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    • Colin Woods

      I have and love the D750 but I want this for the same reason that Mallory wanted Everest. Because its there.

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    • Rafael Steffen

      We are all dreaming with these new cameras! I love this! I am in love with Nikon Cameras!

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  6. Rafael Steffen

    I am so happy with Nikon new DSLR lineup. They have really worked hard to provide the best possible professional features photographers need! Amazing!

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  7. Daniel O’Bruba

    Great news. Have a D5 fund going but this has me thinking hang on to 2/3 of my cash.

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    • Daniel O’Bruba

      * only thing I really don’t like is the XQD… no CF option like the D5? lol

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    • Kishore Sawh

      This one is bound to concern other as well, but I’m pretty sure it’s there to keep the body small whilst still handling the large and fast data transfer required for the 4K vUHD video. I think most will be ok with it as long as it can be programmed as overflow and mirror as we’ve become used to with dual slots

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  8. Anthony Thurston

    Nikon did well to keep this one close to the vest. Not really even a peep about this camera from the rumor mill and that is really rare. But, this camera puts the 7D2 on notice, and really forces Canon to think about their next APS-C offering.

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    • adam sanford

      Huge shock. The D5 was telegraphed for months, but this surfaced like a secret weapon. Well, well done, Nikon.

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  9. Chuck Eggen

    Game changer for a DX camera. I want the D5 but this little monster is testing for the reach with tele lenses. WOW!

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    • adam sanford

      D500 + a 150-600 lens + ‘crop of crop’ mode = 1170mm without a teleconverter slowing things down or softening the IQ.

      That’s shockingly good. The reach-obsessed should be salivating. (Yes, you can crop in post with a 7D2 to get the same effect, but you can’t share to world directly off-camera like the D500 can…)

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    • Peter LaGregor

      Is there any difference between using the in camera “crop of crop” mode and just cropping in during post processing?

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    • adam sanford

      Everything with this new ‘crop of a crop’ mode can be done with any crop camera in post, but the D500 does the cropping in-camera and bluetooth does the sending. It’s a convenience, nothing more.

      Consider, doing this on a 7D2 would require an EyeFi card or external card reader + a computer / tablet of some sort to pull off.

      So is it slick? Sure. Is it what photographers are really screaming for? Not so much, unless immediacy on Instagram trumps proper editing in post on a PC.

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  10. Kyle Stauffer

    Liking Nikon’s decisions as of late!

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  11. adam sanford

    The D500 is both a staggering surprise and a jaw-dropping spec sheet.

    You could just call it a D5 with a crop sensor inside and no grip. It’s *that* formidable. But for a segment-specific comparison, it’s a Canon 7D2 plus all of this:

    ‘Crop of a crop’ mode (more reach by 1.3x)
    153 AF points
    200 shot RAW buffer
    Center AF works at -4 EV and all of the rest work at -3 EV (impressive)
    4K video
    Low-power always on Bluetooth for transfer to phones
    (lots of other juicy details here: http://goo.gl/Uk9ZRt)

    That’s an outrageously spec’d rig. Wow.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Yeah, curious to see how (and if) Canon responds. The 7D2 is still fairly new, so I would be surprised to see an update, yet this camera clearly bests it in almost every way – significantly in some – it almost forces them to respond.

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    • adam sanford

      No chance Canon responds anytime soon. Canon’s camera release docket is already queued up for 2016 like so many flights arriving at O’Hare.

      Canon will do nothing to steal the run-up/announcement/pre-sale excitement of the 1DX II, then the 5D4, then 6D2, etc., so don’t expect a 7D3 anytime in the next 18 months. (Perhaps we’ll see an 80D soon, but not a 7D3.)

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    • Anthony Thurston

      I agree, it won’t happen soon… but it does force them to add it to their schedule/list, where as before the could have let the 7D2 ride for 5 years like the 7D classic did with little to no competition from team Yellow. This changes that.

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    • adam sanford

      Canon *might* drop a higher end crop lens in the mix to keep the 7D2 sexy, like an EF 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM refresh.
      But a new top-spec’d ‘1DX II-lite’? It’s going to be a long time before we see that, I think.

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    • Dave Haynie

      Now that Nikon’s thrown down the 4K gauntlet at a $2,000 price, it’ s got to be clear to Canon that they can’t keep 4K a feature of $10K+ cameras only. I think, if the 5D mk IV does not do 4K, those DSLR video shooters who haven’t already jumped to Panasonic or Sony may be looking at Nikon.

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    • adam sanford

      D500 is a crop rig, Dave, the binning/pixel heavy lifting burden is less there than with an FF rig. So I don’t read a crop rig getting 4K as a must that FF rigs get it in that same generation.

      Keep in mind, the D5 only shoots 4K for *3 minutes* according to the tech brief they published. It must heat up or something.

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    • Dave Haynie

      Yeah, the D500 is a crop rig. not a question. However, the “heavy lifting” is identical between the D500 and the D5. Even if it wasn’t, pixel binning is very low overhead… actually lower overhead than de-Bayering. But they’re going the Panasonic GH4 route: the 4K mode is always a 1:1 crop, no binning. And technically, they’re only doing QHD, not DCI 4K. Still good.

      I did not see the 3-minute-warning on the D5… that’s essentially useless for 99% of video. I kind of wondered if it was a typo, looking it up, given that most video-for-film cameras knock off recording at 29’59”, so that the whole world is punished for video recording taxes in Europe (Panasonic doesn’t, pretty much everyone else does). But they’re also cutting 1080/60p short, which no other modern camera does.

      It could be sensor heat. That’s also kind of a thing of the past in most cameras, particularly big-ass pro models that have a nice metal frame for heat sinking and no IBIS.

      It’s also interesting that the Nikon site has the usual 29’59” limit listed for the D500, but doesn’t mention any limits for the D5. Now, given the ages of rumor about the D5, I’d kind of thing this wasn’t a surprise announcement for Nikon… that they had plenty of debugging time. But you never know… back when I was designing computers for Commodore, we occasionally took the handful of working prototypes to CES and didn’t release full specs. Might be they have some weird issue. Then again, if they were intending to fix it, why list any recording times?

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    • adam sanford

      My source for the 3 minute 4K recording comment is here:

      http://goo.gl/aQtlqh

      (see Section 4-1. D500 gets the 4K goods here, but the D5 gets the hook after 3 minutes. Doesn’t look like a typo.)

      Of course, external recording might change all that. I’m not a videographer, so I shan’t speculate / riff / discuss that.

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    • Anders Madsen

      I’m not sure if this is still relevant, but I think I remember something about video in DSLRs being a problem at some large sports events where exclusive TV rights were being sold for large amounts of money and no additional professional video would be allowed for that reason.

      Perhaps the 3 minute limit is a commercial compromise rather than a technical issue?

      It definitely stands to reason that the D5 will be present at a lot of these events, and if it was able to do high quality 4K recording for half an hour at a time, TV rights could be worth very little if the whole shebang was to be found on Youtube two hours later…

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    • Chuck Eggen

      The 3 minute limit is a problem for anyone looking at the D5 as an all-rounder camera. I think the limit is there to keep heat down. I may be wrong and many are commenting about the ridiculous ISO stated but…. if the D5 can shoot acceptable photos at 51K or even higher (approaching the native limit of 102,400) it will claim the title as Low Light King. Remember, heat from the sensor introduces noise. We’ll see when it’s delivered if this is the case. Being able to frame a shot and focus in moonlight would be incredible. And to be able to bump shutter speed up 2-3 stops to shoot in low light venues with acceptable noise will be a boon for sports / action shooters. Call me an optimist. I believe the ISO and 3 minute limit are connected.

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    • Dave Haynie

      Oh yeah, Adam, I found the 3 minute spec as soon as you had mentioned it. Questioing Nikon, not you.

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    • Dave Haynie

      Anders… interesting theory. Though I would expect pros to respect the conditions given their activity by the venue. Is this a “thing” in stadiums these days? Amateurs, well, it’s easy enough for any venue to ban “professional” cameras.

      As for heat on the sensor, that was an issue in the early days on some DSLR video, hard to imagine it’s still any kind of issue today, particularly on a big pro body with plenty of heat sinking and fully functional HD video modes. The HD modes use the whole sensor and downsample, the 4K mode is done via cropping the juicy 4K center of the sensor. So there may actually be more sensor work and signal processing for HD.

      It also supports 4K via HDMI recorder but no limit given. Neither answer would be terribly satisfying.

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    • Matthew Saville

      The Sony A7R II in “super-35” mode does *AMAZING* 4K video. I wouldn’t put it past this D500 to offer truly impressive high ISO results in 4K, if they can get the noise reduction algorithms right. My bet is usuable ISO 3200 for sure, 6400 looking very clean, and 12800 usable in a pinch with 25600 being for “goofing around” and educational purposes. But maybe even bump all that up one stop if your standards for acceptable noise are a bit more relaxed than mine.

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  12. Jason Markos

    I thought I was saving up to upgrade from my D7000 to D750… I now find myself conflicted, tempted by the D500!

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    • Kishore Sawh

      The best advice I can give you here is to figure out precisely why you wanted to move to a full frame camera. If it is about the sensor size, you have your answer, because given that upon release the D500 will be more than a year and a half newer than the D750, it’s likely going to very very good at very many things. I adore the D750, as I called in my review, it made the D810 and D4s niche cameras…

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    • Rafael Steffen

      Some photographers are using the D750 as their main body because even the AF system is faster than the D4s and D810.

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    • Jason Markos

      My main focus is sports, events and travel. And I like to take my camera as many places as I can, so avoiding a huge body is key motivation also.

      I’ve been looking to upgrade for better AF, buffer, and ISO… I’d kinda ruled out D7100 and D7200 because they didn’t seem like that much of an upgrade. The D750 seemed to give those things… and FF, and all for a pretty good price.

      The D500, as you say, does all those things, and then some! And for a similar price. It would also mean I could keep using my 17-55/f2.8. All I’d be losing compared to the D750 is a little DoF… right?!

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    • adam sanford

      All depends on what you shoot.

      If you need low-light, small DOF, or world-class ultra-wide lenses (crop mounts *generally* don’t have them), go with the FF rig. The D750 is a peach.

      But if you need speed, reach, or 4K video, get this D500. This looks/feels like the Samsung NX1 droolworthy spec sheet, but this time it’s married to a proper Canon/Nikon lens/accessory/flash universe. So much win.

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    • Matthew Saville

      The “world class” ultra-wide lenses for full-frame aren’t all that abundant, especially for Nikon users. There’s the 14-24 2.8 and that’s about it. Everything else is rather excellently equalled in APS-C versions, in both f/2.8 zooms and f/4 zooms. In fact by and large, the APS-C zooms are sharper overall than their full-frame counterparts, again especially for Nikon shooters. Give me a Tokina 12-28mm f/4 on a D7200 any day compared to a Nikon 16-35 f/4 VR on a D750. But that’s just me, the weight weenie who counts ounces and dollars a little too much.

      All in all, my point is that if you need speed, don’t let any lens issues stop you from getting the D500. I’d absolutely love to have this camera on something like the new Tokina 14-20mm f/2. that’s for darn sure!

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    • adam sanford

      Apologies, Matthew, that’s my FF vs. Crop sales pitch for Canon guys. We have more options on the wide end.

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    • Matthew Saville

      I wouldn’t consider Canon a champion of anything 24mm or wider, except the very recent 11-24, which is an exotic trophy lens. At f/2.8, I’d actually rather have a Tokina 11-16 or 11-20 on a 7D mk2, than a Canon 16-35 mk2 on a 5D mk3. Or, even in the full-frame realm, I’d opt for the Tokina 16-28 or the Tamron 15-30, instead of any Canon option.

      Either way, my point was that although the term “world-class” might incline folks to think only of full-frame, when it comes to ultra-wides I actually believe the APS-C options are right up there with the FF options, and in some cases, even better suited to certain tasks.

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    • Dave Haynie

      Yeah, agreed. I had the Tokina 11-16mm back when I had Canon APS bodies. Gave that one to my niece, replaced it with a Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 for full frame. No f/2.8 there, but an actual ultrawide, which Canon wasn’t offering back then anyway.

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    • Dave Haynie

      But also consider the phrase “world class lens support” or whatever does also include the fast that there’s a very healthy level of support for Canon and Nikon from 3rd party suppliers like Sigma and Tokina. You have to wonder about what’s being supported on other lens mounts… it’s pretty much “everything” for Canon and Nikon.

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    • Rafael Steffen

      I can´t wait to see night photos of the D500.

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    • Rafael Steffen

      I am thinking of selling my D7100 too!

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