These days, cameras like the Nikon D500 can seem a bit old-school - and not in the timeless, rangefinder sense either.
The answer, at least for anyone looking for a speedy, step-up DSLR, is a definite yes. The D500 has some of the best bits of the painfully expensive D5 - including the same processor and focusing system - along with incredible ISO speeds of, wait for it, 1,640,000.
Okay, you probably won't need that unless you're regularly snapping panthers in a cave, but all of this adds up to incredible tool for shooting fast-moving objects, and pretty much everything else besides.
Design: solid and chunky, built like a tank
The D500, especially when paired with the 16-80mm f/2.8-4 kit lens (of sorts), is a bit of a beast.
You really feel like you’ve got a solid bit of kit in your hands here, and there’s dials and buttons all over the place. A textured coating around the chunky grip has a great texture, while the top plate looks like it could withstand some serious knocking about.
We’ve got a tilting screen design here with the D500 , and it’s touch-sensitive too. That makes it great for composing from some awkward angles, but note that this doesn’t include selfies, or indeed anything shot in portrait format.
The touch-sensitivity particularly comes into play when you’re shooting in Live View and the D500 is mounted to a tripod - you can tap around the screen to change AF point, or even fire off the shutter if that takes your fancy.
Controls: the joy of joysticks
Experienced shooters will enjoy exactly how many buttons and dials are available on the D500. This means you'll rarely find yourself diving into pesky menus whenever you want to change something.
There’s a chunky dial on the top left hand side of the camera which you can use to do all manner of things, including changing the shooting mode, adjusting image quality, choosing a metering mode or setting the white balance option. Give it a twist to change drive mode, too.
Over on the right hand side, there’s a button for ISO, another for exposure compensation, while a dial at the rear has different functions depending on the shooting mode you’re in.
A raised joystick allows you to move the AF point to your heart’s content, and is particularly easy for your thumb to land on when looking through the excellent viewfinder.
For those who have a particular craving to set a button to access a favourite setting, there’s a couple of customisable function buttons to choose from. Sadly, the Photo shooting menu bank, found when you press the “i” button contains a pretty unhelpful set of options, which can’t be changed.
Features: something for everyone
Here’s where the D500 excels - it’s got a hugely rich feature set. While this is by no means a cheap camera, you do get a heck of a lot of options which make the camera well suited to just about every genre of photography. If we’re talking about value for money, it actually comes out pretty well.
The autofocus system, which has been inherited from its beefy older brother, the D5, has 153 AF points, 99 of which are cross-type, which means they are more sensitive to light. 15 of the points are sensitive down to f/8 - so if you’re using long lenses with extenders for things like sport and wildlife, you’ll still be able to get a lock on your target.
In short, the focusing system is extremely capable in a wide range of different shooting and lighting conditions - it’s only really the darkest of situations where you might struggle slightly. Continuous focus is also very good, being able to follow rapidly moving objects, even those that don’t have a particularly obvious pattern.
You can shoot at 10fps, which while not quite on a par with the D5, is very, very good for a DSLR and should see you right for the majority of subjects you’re likely to shoot. The buffer performance is top-notch too, refreshing quickly after rapidly firing to allow you to get on with shooting another set of images in quick succession if you need to - even if you’re shooting in the power hungry RAW format.
Along with the touch-sensitive screen, you’ve got an optical viewfinder. I can sit here all day and argue about the benefits and drawbacks of types of viewfinder, but, for those that are firmly in the optical camp, you’re going to be happy with the D500’s offering. It gives you a 100% field of view, and is lovely and bright too.
The D500 is also equipped with Nikon’s super-handy Snapbridge technology. That means you can set up a Bluetooth connection with your smartphone that's always on (at low power). Images will be automatically transferred across to your phone ready for sharing with the world in a snap - no more faffing around setting up Wi-Fi connections, trying to get the damn thing to connect, then giving up half way through.
Bluetooth is a lot slower than Wi-Fi though, so RAW files and high resolution JPEGs are out of the question. But your Instagram needs will be more than met.
4K video recording is available too - in fact, videographers are very well served with HDMI output, headphone and microphone sockets. The D500 is equipped with two memory card slots - one accepts SD cards, while the other takes the faster XQD format. Invest in the latter if you want to shoot at super high speeds, or do a lot of 4K video work, but you can stick with SD if you’re trying to save cash.