D7500

DSLR • £1300/$1250 (body only) • www.nikon.co.uk

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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.

Per­for­mance

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!

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