The launch of the D7500 presents an interesting quandary for camera buyers: should I buy the D500 or save some money and get the D7500?
We’ll look at the differences between the two, to help illuminate the question for you. Which one is ‘best’ will be a choice for you, of course, since it’ll depend on what you shoot and what you need.
With the same sensor and the same generation of processing, there’s no reason to expect there to be any difference in image quality between the D7500 and D500. The 20MP sensor in the D500 is very good (albeit not significantly different from the D7200’s chip, when viewed at the same size), and Nikon knows a fair bit about generating JPEGs.
For us, one of the most significant factors will be how closely the D7500 can match the D500’s autofocus. It gains the much higher resolution metering sensor used for subject tracking, along with nominally the same processing (though Nikon’s Expeed naming system doesn’t necessarily mean they have the same chip).
However, the D7500 doesn’t gain the AF module from the D500, which means it can only offer 51 AF points, rather than 153 points. Critically, 99 of the D500's AF points are cross-type, compared with just 15 of the D7500s, which is likely to give the bigger camera a huge advantage when you use off-center AF points. The difference in AF module also means it misses out on the incredibly broad AF coverage that the D500 offers.
Even so, the processing and meter module should ensure the autofocus and, in particular, the subject tracking, works better than the already rather good D7200. It remains to be seen whether it can match the uncannily good performance of the D500.
On top of whatever difference there proves to be in terms of autofocus, the D500 is a faster camera. It can shoot 10 frames per second, to the D7500’s 8 and, at 200 uncompressed Raws in a burst, can keep shooting for four times as many frames as the D7500. If high-speed action is your thing, it’s a pretty simple choice.
The hardware enabling that extra speed is visible everywhere: the D500 uses XQD and UHS-II SD cards, while the D7500 makes do with a single, UHS-I compatible slot. The D500 also offers a USB 3 connector, rather than the D7500’s USB 2.0 socket, which leads to faster transfer, if you’re not using a card reader for some reason.
The D7500 has the same viewfinder as the D7200, which is a rather nice pentaprism finder with 0.94x magnification and 100% coverage. This makes it one of the largest viewfinders you can get for the money. However, this is still smaller than the D500’s finder which, at 1.0x magnification (0.67 in full frame terms), and 100% coverage is the largest viewfinder we’ve ever encountered on an APS-C camera.
This may sound like a small difference, but it’s a difference you’ll benefit from, every frame you shoot with the camera. That may not, in itself, swing the balance for you (it's probably not, in itself, a $700 feature), but it's not an insignificant difference.
The physical differences between the two cameras are relatively minor but are exactly what you might expect to distinguish between an enthusiast model and an enthusiast/pro crossover one. Probably the biggest difference is that the D500 has a joystick for positioning AF point, rather than relying on the multi-way controller on the rear panel.
The D500 body is also a little bigger and has a better grip and its construction feels a little more solid. Again, much as you’d expect. For action shooters who like to back-button focus, it has a dedicated AF-ON button, which the D7500 lacks. For low light shooters, the buttons on the left-hand rear of the D500 are illuminated.
The more expensive camera has a 2.34m dot (1024 x 768 pixels) rear LCD, rather than the 920k dot (640 x 480) panel on the D7500. Both are mounted on tilting cradles but the D500’s screen has a more rugged-seeming surround, rather than cover glass that extends out to the edge of the cradle.
The final big ‘pro level’ feature the D500 gets which is missing from the D7500 is a shutter rated to survive 200,000 cycles, rather than 150,000. This extra 33% shutter life is likely to be significant for anyone who’s using the D500’s 10fps shooting and 200 shot-per-burst buffer, day in, day out.
Somewhat perversely, the D7500 might have an advantage when it comes to strobery. For a start it has a built-in flash, which the D500 lacks. The built-in unit in the D7500 can be used as a commander, allowing the use of the infra-red version of Nikon's Creative Lighting System of wireless flash control and triggering.
The other potential advantage of the D7500 is the absence of a 10-pin connector on the front of the camera. Why is the absence of a connector a good thing? Quite simply it means you can attach Nikon’s WR-R10 radio frequency dongle without having to buy the WR-A10 adapter. The WR-R10 allows access to the newer, more robust radio-based 'Advanced Wireless Lighting' system.
Of course, leaving the WR-10 hanging out of the side of the D7500 is less secure than plugging it into the 10-pin socket on the front of the D500. However, given the WR-A10 adapter isn’t the sturdiest thing in the world, the difference might not be that huge. Either way, it means the D7500 can be used to radio control SB5000 speedlites just as well as the D500 can.
As with image quality, there’s little to choose between the D500 and D7500 in terms of video. Both offer 4K UHD output from a 1.5x crop of their sensors and both record with the same codecs and formats. There's little to separate the two cameras, beyond the fact that the D500 comes with a small clip to retain an HDMI lead if you're shooting with an external recorder.
It’s also good to see that the D7500 has gained power aperture: a means of controlling the aperture when in live view mode. Like the D500, the D7500 has two function buttons on the gripward side of the lens mount, which can be assigned to open and close the aperture while shooting video. Both camera have the Flat Picture Profile, which is intended to offer a little extra flexibility in the grading process but in a way that’s not as unfamiliar to stills shooters as a true logarithmic response would be.
The remaining differences are subtle. The D500 has NFC, which makes the initial configuration of the SnapBridge Bluetooth/Wi-Fi system quicker. This benefit only exists for Android users, though, since Apple doesn’t let you use the NFC capabilities of its devices. Once it's set up, for better or worse, SnapBridge should work in the same way on both cameras.
Finally, the D500 is rated as having more battery life. However, its 1240 shots-per-charge rating is helped by not having a built-in flash. The D7500 manages to get 950 shots per charge (including flash) out of its battery, but we doubt there’s much difference in the real world if you use them the same way.
That said, if you need more than a single battery's worth of charge, you're out of luck with the D7500: it no longer has any contact points for the attachment of an external battery grip. Clearly if you're the kind of user who needs this, Nikon would prefer you to buy the D500.
If none of the differences up to now haven’t swayed you, you may find the decision ends up depending on where you live.
One of the biggest factors in choosing a camera is what lens it comes with. Even if you already have a bag full of Nikkors, a new camera can often be bought bundled with a kit lens at a competitive price, which is worth buying even if you intend to list it on eBay.
Nikon Europe offers the D7500 in a kit with the 16-80mm F2.8-4.0 VR, whereas Nikon USA doesn’t, as yet. As its specs suggest, it’s a really useful and flexible lens. It’s also pretty small and light, which just increase that utility. If no other difference has already made the decision for you, then we’d suggest getting a D7500 with a great all-round lens is a better choice than spending a similar amount of money on the D500.
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