DSLR • £1300/$1250 (body only) • www.nikon.co.uk
Nikon’s newest DSLR is a brilliant all-rounder – but is it right for you?
Nikon’s new enthusiast all-rounder attempts to combine features, performance, image quality and value. Rod Lawton reveals if it succeeds...
The Nikon D7500 does not boast any dramatic new technologies but it does fill a significant gap in Nikon’s DSLR range. Before, enthusiasts had to choose between the powerful but relatively pedestrian D7200 and the much more advanced – and much more expensive – D500. Nikon’s latest addition to its DX line-up is designed to offer a balance between high-end performance and features, and price.
The D7200 is now two years old, but still quite up-to-date in terms of tech. It uses a 24-megapixel sensor with no anti-aliasing filter for sharp, high-quality results, but it’s no longer Nikon’s latest imaging unit.
That was ushered in with the Nikon D500 in 2016. This powerful, rugged, professional-level camera can shoot continuously at 10 frames per second with a big buffer capacity and a max expanded ISO of 1,640,000, made possible by a new 20.9-megapixel sensor and EXPEED 5 processor.
Putting aside the D500’s 3.3Mp drop in resolution compared to the D7200 (which is unlikely to prove significant in everyday shooting), the D500 raised the bar, and the price point, for Nikon’s DX-format cameras.
This left a big gap between the D7200 and D500, which the D7500 has now filled, so how much of the D500’s DNA has filtered down into the D7500, and could this camera give enthusiasts the perfect balance between power and value?
The D7500’s key points
At £1300/$1250, the D7500 isn’t cheap, but the specs are tempting. They start with the 8fps continuous shooting speed, which is only slightly shy of the 10fps and more achieved by top APS-C DSLRs, and still plenty quick enough for capturing most high-speed action. The D7500 is helped by an unusually good buffer capacity of 50 Raw (NEF) files – and that really is unusual outside of the professional market.
It also has the amazing high-ISO setting of the more expensive D500, topping out at ISO 1,640,000. That is an expanded setting 5EV above its maximum standard ISO value of 51,200, so the quality inevitably takes a nosedive, but it is an indication of the technological advances built into the D7500. The D7500 is great for video, too, offering 4K UHD capture. Indeed, this is the first time 4K video has appeared in a non-pro DSLR.
Nikon hasn’t used its latest 153-point autofocus system, however. This remains the preserve of the more expensive D500. Instead, the D7500 gets an improved version of Nikon’s 51-point Multi-CAM 3500 II autofocus sensor, now with Group Area AF mode (found in Nikon’s professional models), plus an Auto AF Fine Tune feature.
On the outside, the D7500 sports a carbon fibre body rather than metal
alloy, though it feels plenty sturdy enough, and it is weather-sealed. It also features a tilting touch-screen display, and it’s the first Nikon DSLR with built-in support for Nikon’s new radio-controlled Advanced Creative Lighting System.
But there are a couple of unpleasant surprises. The first is that there is only one memory card slot. You might get by perfectly well with one slot, but the fact is that the D7200 below it, and the D500 above, both have two.
Worse, though, is the fact that there is no provision for a vertical battery grip. The battery life is good already and it’s no hardship to carry a spare or two in your pockets, but a grip can also improve handling when using long lenses and, more importantly, can make the camera easier to use vertically when shooting portraits.
Build and handling
The D7500’s chunky, weighty body offers a really nice grip. It’s not as large as a pro DSLR, but it’s a big step up from entry-level DSLRs like the Nikon D3400 or D5600. A deep grip on the front gives you a good, firm hold on the camera, and around the back the extra height in the body leaves enough room around the big, tilting screen for the buttons.
You pull out the bottom of the screen to adjust the angle, and it also has an extending hinge to move it further away from the body so that it’s not partially obscured by the viewfinder eyecup. It can even be tilted down slightly for overhead shots. Unlike the screen on the D5600, it doesn’t fold out sideways to offer a full vari-angle view, but a tilting screen is nevertheless a whole lot more versatile than the fixed screen found on the D7200.
The Live View button is on the back of the camera at the base, and it’s inside a lever that switches between stills photography and video. The D7500 doesn’t have the hybrid AF system found in some rival brands, so in Live View mode it relies solely on contrast autofocus, which is precise, but a bit slower. Even so, Live View autofocus feels a little quicker than in previous models – Nikon says this is due to the more powerful EXPEED 5 processor. The D7500’s optical viewfinder, meanwhile, is very good: it uses a proper pentaprism design rather than a cheaper ‘pentamirror’, and offers 100% coverage.
The control layout is much the same as on the D7200. On the left of the top plate is an exposure mode dial stacked on top of a release mode dial. You need a little dexterity in your digits to press down the locking button for the release mode dial, but at least this prevents you from changing the setting accidentally.
The focus mode control is a lever on the front of the camera on the left side of the lens flange. You use the lever to switch between manual focus and autofocus and hold down a button in the centre to change the autofocus mode and focus area using the front and rear command dials.
On the top of the camera is an LCD status panel. This is a feature you don’t get on Nikon’s smaller D3000and D5000-series cameras, and it’s useful for quickly checking and changing camera settings. A springloaded lever around the shutter release briefly activates a backlight lamp for when you’re shooting in dark conditions.
If you’re not used to Nikon’s more advanced DSLRs it might seem as if there’s no particular logic to the button placements, so it could be a while before you can change settings fluently and instinctively. If you’ve used a D7000-series model before, though, you won’t have any trouble.
The same goes for the menu system – especially the custom settings options. Higher-end Nikons
like this one can be customized to an enormous degree, but you’ll need to spend some time with the manual to take full advantage – though you can of course use the D7500 and most of its advanced features without customizing a thing.
Overall, the D7500 has a great ‘feel’. It might not have the same magnesium alloy body as the more expensive D500, but it still feels reassuringly solid and ‘grippable’, thanks in part to its rounded corners and high-quality surface materials.
We tested it with the Nikon 18140mm lens. This is likely to be the ‘standard’ kit lens for the D7500, though it’s also available body-only, and some retailers may put together their own camera-lens combinations.
It’s a good pairing. The 18-140mm offers a sizeable zoom range over the average kit lens, yet it’s not too heavy, and its optical performance is good – especially if you switch on the in-camera lens corrections (though this only works with JPEGs – Raw files will still need correcting).
Like other recent Nikon DSLRs, the D7500 comes with Nikon’s SnapBridge wireless picture transfer and remote control system. This uses a Bluetooth LE (low energy) alwayson connection to automatically transfer two-megapixel versions of photos to your smart device, via Nikon’s free SnapBridge app. The idea is that this Bluetooth connection can also activate the Wi-Fi connection when required for remote camera control and full-size image transfer. If you’re using an iOS device, however, you will still need to authorize the Wi-Fi connection manually. This is a security measure built into Apple’s operating system. This means that setting up a Wi-Fi connection still involves a tedious bit of button-tapping, but the automatic 2Mp image transfer is very useful for social media sharing. Images don’t always appear on your smart device straight away, but the fact you don’t need to do anything is a major boon.
The two main selling points for Nikon’s newest sensor and processing technology are speed and sensitivity, and the D7500 has plenty of both. The 8fps continuous shooting speed may not be quite up there with the 10fps of the D500, but it’s fast enough for most of us and, more importantly, it has the buffer capacity to cope with extended Raw shooting. That’s not just useful for burst shooting, but for
auto-exposure bracketing for HDR, for example, where you want to be able to rattle off bursts of three or five Raw files in quick succession.
Nikon’s Matrix metering produces pretty reliable exposures across a range of conditions and it’s easy enough to apply a little exposure compensation for tricky subjects. The D7500’s new Highlight-weighted metering mode is especially interesting. This adjusts the exposure so that the brightest parts of the scene are recorded without clipping. This can leave the midtones and the shadows quite dark, but if you’re shooting Raw files it’s usually possible to recover darker areas very effectively. This looks like it could be a really useful feature.
The Auto White Balance system does an equally good job. It preserves the natural colour of outdoor shots very effectively and copes well under artificial light too – though it will still show a bit of a yellow cast under tungsten lighting. Overall, though, colours are rich, vibrant and realistic. We used the D7500’s Standard picture control throughout, but other picture controls are available, including Vivid, Portrait and Landscape. At the time of writing, Adobe had yet to update its software to open D7500 Raw files, so our Raw processing was done using Nikon’s own Capture NX-D software (see page 86 for more).
Fine detail rendition is good, but both in the lab and in real-world testing the D7500 did lag slightly behind the 24-megapixel D7200. It’s likely that you’d only notice this in direct side-by-side comparisons, however, and the D7500’s sensor has many other qualities to commend it.
Its ISO1,640,000 maximum is spectacular, but the cost in image quality is such that you might never use it. It’s also 5EV above the D7500’s standard ISO range, which tops out at ISO51,200. However, this high-ISO capability does have a knock-on effect lower down the ISO range, and we wouldn’t hesitate to use the D7500 anywhere within its standard ISO range. At ISO51,200, there is some loss of detail and smoothing of fine textures, but overall contrast and colour saturation are still excellent.
We also tried out the D7500’s 4K video, a feature only just appearing on enthusiast-level DSLRs. It makes the D7500 an interesting option for videographers, though tests shooting from a moving boat demonstrated that Nikon’s lens-based VR image stabilization falls some way short of the five-axis in-body stabilization of some of its mirrorless rivals. This is a camera for more considered, controlled video shoots.
So the D7500 is not perfect, but its combination of features, performance and all-round ability is certainly impressive. The question is, if you’re in the market for a new Nikon DSLR, does it trump its older siblings...?
With its chunky body and 18-140mm kit lens, the D7500 is a step up in size from Nikon’s beginner DSLRs Front grip A combination of a slim body and deep grip gives the D7500 a really secure feel in the hand. ISO range With the same sensor and processor as the D500, the D7500 has the same stratospheric max ISO of 1,640,000. Battery life Battery life is good but not exceptional and, disappointingly, there’s no option to add a vertical battery grip. 18-140mm kit lens The D7500 can be bought body-only, but we tested it with Nikon’s 18-140mm superzoom, the most common kit lens option. Control layout The D7500 has the same layout as the D7200, with an exposure mode dial on the left of the top plate stacked on top of the release mode dial.
TOP: Nikon’s Active D-Lighting system controls shadows and highlights well in high-contrast scenes, though Raw (NEF) files have more latitude
ABOVE: We rarely had to override the default exposure values from Nikon’s Matrix metering throughout our time with the camera
This was taken with Nikon’s 10-24mm super-wide-angle lens, but we also got our hands on Nikon’s new, affordable 10-20mm AF-P lens. Look out for a full review next issue!