Nikon D7500 is a fantastic combination of the radical high-speed imaging guts of the D500 put in the more practical body of the previous D7200. Always a strong purpose with Nikon DSLRs, the D7500’s dynamic range is very good, even in JPEG files.
What is the Nikon D7500?
Nikon D7500 is a DSLR which designed for enthusiast photographers. With a 20.9-megapixel DX-format sensor and 8fps shooting, it sits between the D5600 and the D500 in Nikon’s range, and costs around $896 for the body only. Judged on its own merits it’s a fine camera, but it looks poor value compared to the older D7200, which remains on sale at around $796.The D7500 produces rich, natural-looking colors and the auto white balance works well. Nikon has boldly opted for a slight drop down to 20.9 megapixels, but fine detail remains very crisp.
- The excellent control layout and handling
- Great image quality up to terribly high ISO settings
- Excellent autofocus using the viewfinder
- Tilting screen a big improvement on previous D7000-series models
- Slow Live View autofocus
- SnapBridge connectivity lacking in features
- Only one SD card slot, where previous D7000-series models had two
- Review Price $796
- 20.9MP DX CMOS sensor
- ISO 100-51,200 (standard), ISO 100-1,640,000 (extended)
- 51-point autofocus
- 8fps shooting
- 3.2in, 922,000-dot tilting touchscreen
Nikon D7500 Reviews – Features
- With Nikon’s Expeed 5 processor on board, the D7500 offers a standard sensitivity range of ISO 100-51,200, which is expandable up to ISO 1,640,000. As we’ll see, these hugely extended ISOs don’t give great results, but that shouldn’t mask the fact that this sensor delivers excellent high-ISO image quality.
- Nikon says the D7500 will shoot at 8fps for 50 raw frames in a burst, which is a significant advance over the D7200’s 27 frames at 6fps. In practice, with a 16GB SanDisk Extreme U3 card rated at 90MB/sec, I measured an even faster rate of 8.2fps, but a slightly smaller buffer of 46 frames using lossless compression. This should still be ample for all but the most trigger-happy of action shooters.
- Being a DSLR, the D7500 can track focus at full speed using its 51-point autofocus system, which uses the same phase-detection module as the D7200. Users can also match their specific lenses to their camera, with the Auto AF Fine Tune function to give the best focusing accuracy.
- Metering employs a 180K-pixel RGB sensor – which is also used for face detection and subject recognition – while feeding information into the AF system to help the camera understand how a subject is moving around the frame. Alongside the usual matrix, center-weighted and spot modes, the D7500 gains Nikon’s highlight-weighted metering. This aims to avoid clipping bright areas of the image to white, allowing the user to make the most of the sensor’s dynamic range when post-processing raw files.
- Perhaps astonishingly, the D7500 has just a single SD card slot, unlike either the D7200 or the D500. Another limitation is that older manual-focus lenses can only be used in manual exposure mode, without any metering. While these omissions will disappoint Nikon fans, fundamentally, they reflect the fact that the D7000-series is no longer top of the firm’s DX lineup.
- The better news is that the built-in pop-up flash can work with Nikon’s radio-controlled Advanced Wireless Lighting system to operate off-camera speed lights wirelessly for creative lighting control. Nikon says the EN-EL15a battery should provide 950 shots per charge, and while this is down from 1110 compared to the D7200, it will still be ample for most purposes. In-camera raw processing allows you to tweak images before sharing them, and to this end, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth allow connection to a smartphone-driven by Nikon’s SnapBridge app. I’ll look at this in more detail later.
- Video shooters will find both 4K and Full HD recording to be available, but while the latter uses the full width of the sensor, 4K reads from a 3840 x 2160 pixel region in the center; this imposes a 1.5x field-of-view crop. In-camera electronic image stabilization is available to compensate for shake when shooting hand-held. This has the advantage of being able to correct for rotation around the lens axis, which is important for video but something in-lens stabilization simply can’t do. It also works with every lens, not just optically stabilized ones. But, sadly, it only functions in Full HD mode, not 4K.
Nikon D7500 Review – Build and handling
For this price, you’d expect Nikon to deliver a solid-feeling, ergonomically sound camera, and with the D7500 that’s exactly what you get. It has a deep grip with a thick rubberized coating that feels extremely secure in your hand, and a weather-sealed body that’s compact without being cramped. The body measures 135.5 x 104 x 72.5mm and weighs 720g – a little heavier than the D7200, but noticeably smaller than the D500.
The control setup is based on the D7200’s, but in a welcome change, the ISO button is now much more sensibly placed; it sits immediately behind the shutter release, as on the D500. This comes at the expense of the D7200’s metering mode button, which has relocated to the camera’s back – much more sensible prioritization of these two functions.
Almost every important shooting function can be changed using easy-to-access external controls. There’s an exposure mode dial on the left shoulder and a drive mode dial beneath, both of which lock in position to prevent accidental changes. Front and rear electronic dials change the main exposure settings, while the D-pad on the back is used to move the focus area.
Key settings such as metering, white balance, autofocus and flash mode have dedicated buttons on the camera body, while two Fn buttons on the front can be customized to suit the user. A press of the ‘i’ button on the camera’s back brings up a short menu of other settings, mostly to do with image processing. Personally, I’d have liked to see a user-customizable quick menu here, like on most other cameras at this price point. But, to be honest, the D7500 is so well set up overall that this is a minor complaint.
Nikon D7500 Review – Viewfinder and screen
The D7500 has a reasonably large and bright optical viewfinder, with 0.94x magnification and 100% coverage of the lens’s field of view. A sensor above the eyepiece automatically switches off the rear screen when you’re using the viewfinder. As well as displaying the most important exposure data in a panel beneath the focusing screen, it’s also possible to overlay gridlines to aid composition or show a dual-axis electronic level – although, oddly, you can’t have both at the same time.
Naturally, you don’t get any of the advantages of electronic viewing when it comes to accurately preview exposure, white balance or depth of field before shooting – which is a considerable disadvantage of DSLRs compared to mirrorless cameras.
Below the viewfinder is the 3.2in 922k dot LCD, which is an impressively slim unit that tilts up and down while adding little to the depth of the camera. To be honest, I’d have preferred a fully articulated design as seen on the D5600 or Canon EOS 80D, since tilt-only screens are useless when shooting in portrait format.
In Live View the screen gives an accurate depiction of how your shots will come out, with exposure, white balance and depth of field all previewed live. This represents a considerable advantage over older Nikon D7000-series DSLRs, which couldn’t adjust the aperture diaphragm while the cameras were in Live View.
Alongside touch focus and touch shutter release in Live View and video modes, the touchscreen can be used to operate menu selections and browse through images in playback, just like on a smartphone. But overall touch operation still feels tacked-on as an afterthought, and the D7500 lacks features common elsewhere – such as touch focus point selection when using the viewfinder, or a customizable touch-sensitive control panel you can configure with your most-used functions.
Nikon D7500 Review – Autofocus
When it comes to autofocus, it’s very much a tale of two systems. For viewfinder shooting the D7500 uses a 51-point phase-detection system, with the AF array providing decent coverage by SLR standards – about 75% of the frame width, and 50% of its height. Autofocus is super-fast and decisive, even in low light; indeed, Nikon says it’s sensitive down to -3EV, or effectively moonlight. The D7500 also gains the group-area AF mode previously seen on the D500, which allows multiple AF points to be used for keeping track of a moving subject, and works very effectively.
Switch to Live View, however, and it’s a very different story. Nikon is still using a rather basic contrast-detection system, and it’s painfully slow compared to mirrorless cameras or Canon’s Dual Pixel AF system. It’s okay for static subjects, but don’t even think about using it for anything that moves – indeed, Nikon doesn’t even bother offering an AF-C mode. On a more positive note, though, the AF point can be placed anywhere in the scene, and since focusing uses the image sensor itself, it’s consistently accurate – even with fast primes and off-center subjects.
Seasoned DSLR users will be used to this kind of behavior, and may well be happy using the two AF systems in a complementary fashion. But the fact remains that the D7500’s main competitors all focus much quicker when you’re shooting with the rear screen.
Nikon D7500 Review – Video
With the same sensor and processor as the D500, the D7500 can record 4K video, giving impressively detailed footage. However, since it’s captured from a 3840 x 2160 pixel area at the center of the sensor, it imposes a 1.5x field-of-view crop. This can be an advantage if you’re trying to record distant action – sports or wildlife, perhaps – but it’s more problematic if you want to shoot a wide-angle view.
It’s also possible to record Full HD video with no crop, although the quality of the footage isn’t anywhere near as good, and you’d get better results downsampling 4K. That said, it isn’t obviously much worse than other DSLRs, and is fine if you just want to record the occasional video.
One key new feature is the addition of built-in electronic image stabilization for Full HD video, which appears to be a similar system to the one Canon has recently introduced in its EOS cameras. It does a pretty good job of reducing the visibility of camera shake while shooting video hand-held, even when you’re using an unstabilized lens. However, it isn’t as effective as the in-body systems found in some competing cameras.
Nikon has included a flat Picture Control mode designed to allow easy color grading of your footage in post-production, and a zebra pattern display to help you avoid clipping highlight detail. You can use the touchscreen to autofocus on a new subject during recording, but this is slow and shows a distinct contrast-detection ‘wobble’ effect in your footage, which means it isn’t very usable in practice.
Sadly, there’s no peaking display to help with manual focusing either. These deficiencies leave the D7500 rather lacking in comparison to cameras such as the Canon EOS 80D or Sony Alpha 6500, so if you’re specifically looking for a camera that’s good for video, this isn’t the best choice.
Nikon D7500 Review – Performance
In general use, the D7500 is an impressively accomplished performer, more than capable of handling almost any photographic situation you might present it with. Having shot well over a thousand images with the camera across a wide variety of situations, I rarely found it wanting.
Image quality is very good indeed, with the 20.9-megapixel sensor delivering detailed images at low ISO settings and keeping noise under control up to about ISO 6400; it produced usable files even at settings as large as ISO 51,200. Nikon’s matrix metering does a decent job generally. If anything, it veers on the side of underexposure to protect highlights, which is far more desirable than irrevocably clipping bright highlights.
JPEG color rendition is by default bright and punchy, even at high ISO settings where colors might start to fade on other cameras. If you want to pep things up further, then Vivid and Landscape Picture Controls are available, while the Neutral and Portrait settings give more subtle renditions.
Nikon also offers a huge amount of control over the image processing settings, so it should be possible to tweak the color output to match your taste. However, I did find the auto white balance to be a little erratic, with a clear habit of erring too much towards the cool side on bright, sunny blue-sky days, which makes images look a bit sterile.
In such cases, it’s easy enough to switch to a preset, of course. If you’re shooting raw then you can also re-process in-camera with a better white balance setting. Alternatively, most mobile imaging apps will let you quickly warm up the image too. In most cases, only a slight tweak is needed to give a more attractive result.
Nikon D7500 Review – Image Quality
Nikon has used a constant 20.9-megapixel DX-format sensor as in last year’s D500, and it delivers similarly impressive image quality in the D7500. It’s slightly lower resolution than the 24-megapixel sensors in Nikon’s cheaper DX DSLRs, but this has a little practical impact unless you print larger than A3 (16 x 11in).
In return, its high-ISO performance is very good indeed, despite the fact that the extended settings beyond ISO 51,200 are hugely over-optimistic. As usual, you’ll get the best possible results in terms of fine detail and noise control by carefully processing raw files.
Nikon D7500 Review – Resolution
In JPEG, the D7500 delivers 3200 lines per photo height (l/ph) in our resolution chart tests. Using carefully processed raw files you’ll achieve rather better results, of around 3600 l/ph. Noise progressively reduces resolution as the sensitivity setting is increased, and by the time we reach ISO 1600, it’s down to around 3200 l/ph in raw.
Move up the dimensions to ISO 12,800 and the D7500 still registers 3,200 l/ph, but beyond this things deteriorate rapidly. The extended ISOs show very low resolution due to extremely high noise, with any detail on our resolution chart barely discernible by ISO 819,200.
Nikon D7500 Review – ISO and Noise
At low ISOs the D7500’s image quality is superb; fine detail is rendered with spectacular sharpness and there’s no visible noise. At ISO 800, noise starts to possess an impact on image quality, with low-contrast textures starting to blur and shadows losing detail. ISO 1600 is still eminently usable, but by the time we hit ISO 6400 fine detail and color saturation are visibly suffering.
Image quality progressively degrades at higher ISOs, and by ISO 51,200 color rendition has become very broad-brush – although the image is still recognizable. The first extended sensitivity of ISO 102,400 is still just about okay, but at higher settings it’s increasingly difficult to see the point as the image disappears under an ocean of noise, acquiring a distinct magenta hue at the top two extended ISOs.
Should I buy the Nikon D7500?
With the Nikon D7500, Nikon has made an especially capable DSLR that will, I’m sure, satisfy the needs of a lot of serious enthusiast photographers.
The conundrum for prospective buyers, though, is whether it’s good enough to command a significant premium over its predecessor, the highly-regarded D7200. As Nikon’s former DX flagship, this includes features that have been left out of the D7500 – most notably, dual-card slots and a magnesium alloy body shell, alongside a slightly higher 24-megapixel resolution.
This is compounded by the fact that many of the D7500’s updates turn out to offer relatively minor benefits over its predecessor in practice. For example, it’s great to have a tilting screen, but the camera’s relatively slow Live View autofocus meant I rarely used it. The $796 launch price also looks high, especially when compared to its closest competitor, the $1000 Canon EOS 80D.