There’s an argument that the
D500 is a better video camera than its big brother, but it’s still flawed and neither are as focused as Canon’s EOS-1DX Mark II or EOS 5D Mark IV in this area.
The D500 records 4K video in the UHD resolution of 3840x2260 pixels at 30, 25 or 24 fps. However, it doesn’t use the full sensor area and instead crops to 16.2x9.1 mm which avoids the artefact issues associated with down-scaling, but means there’s a further increase in the effective lens focal length, taking it up to 2.25x (i.e. 1.5x + 0.75x), Great if you’re shooting sports or wildlife, less great for landscapes or interiors. For the Full HD and HD resolutions the crop is 23.5x13.3 mm which, of course, is pretty close to the full ‘APS-C’ frame size.
Curiously, compared to the D5 which was initially hobbled with three minute 4K clip lengths, the D500’s has always been the full 29 minutes and 59 seconds that’s allowable under European taxation laws (relating to video cameras). New files (up to eight) are automatically – and seamlessly – created at the 4.0 GB point. Video is recorded in the MOV format using MPEG-4 AVC/H .264 compression. Full HD footage can be recorded at 24, 25, 30, 50 or 60 fps (obviously the D500 is multi-region) and HD at 50 or 60 fps.
Electronic image stabilisation (i.e. by shifting the image area on the sensor) has also been available on the D500 right from the outset and this is available for both Full HD and 4K recording. It provides three-axis correction (i.e. up/down, left/right and rotational) and can be combined with the optical image stabilisation in VRequipped Nikkor lenses.
The D500 has built-in stereo microphones with adjustable level and a choice of two frequency response settings called ‘Wide Range’ and ‘Vocal Range’. There’s also a low-cut filter for reducing wind noise. Both a stereo audio input and an output are provided – standard 3.5 mm minijack terminals – the latter enabling headphones to be used for monitoring. An uncompressed video feed (8-bit, 4:2:2 colour) is available at the camera’s HDMI connection for recording to external devices and, usefully, it’s also recorded simultaneously to a memory card to provide a back-up.
The level of video functionality is very good and all the exposure control modes can be used, although shutter-priority auto works like the program mode (i.e. you can’t manually adjust shutter speeds). Manual ISO control is only available when using the manual exposure mode, but the auto range covers the full span from ISO 100 to ‘Hi 5’ (i.e. ISO 1,640,000).
All the ‘Picture Control’ presets are available with the Flat option specifically designed for video shooting as dials down the colour saturation, sharpness and contrast to enable easier grading in post-production. Continuous autofocusing is available when shooting with the options of facedetection, subject tracking or normal/wide area modes, and the D500 has a proper touch-focus facility which works particularly well for video.
Likewise the ‘Power Aperture’ function which actually enables smooth, stepless adjustment of the lens iris.
There’s a zebra pattern indicator for blown-out highlight and flicker detection, but as with live view photography, the only aid for manual focusing is a magnified image rather than the much more effective focus peaking display. Time-lapse movies of up to 20 minutes in length can be created in either the 2K or 4K resolutions.
The UHD image quality is, of course, stunning, but the Full HD resolution delivers excellent results too. The pity here is that Nikon just hasn’t taken the D500 quite far enough as a video camera, although on balance it’s a pretty capable machine, it’s just not the same knockout package it is as a stills camera. Consequently, there probably are better alternatives… but it’s still king of the D-SLRs for photographers.