Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Nikon D7500: Mostly Good

The Nikon D7500: Mostly Good

What you make of the recent Nikon D7500 announcement depends largely on your expectations and what you are currently shooting with.

Initially, the new Nikon D7500 sounds like a natural evolution from the predecessor D7100 and D7200. Why Nikon skipped 7300 and 7400 aside, the labeling of the new model implies strongly where it fits in Nikon's overall lineup. But things get at least a tad murkier once you dig into the actual specs.

The new Nikon D7500In terms of raw numbers, the most immediately apparent puzzler is the megapixel count of just 20 MP, down from 24 megapixels of its predecessors. Not that photographers today would fall for judging cameras solely by megapixel count as easily as they did in the early days of digital. I can easily increase the megapixel count of an image by upsizing it in Photoshop. But if there's no more information, the added pixels serve primarily for show and provide no real value. But when the expectation is that each new generation of camera has more megapixels, the idea that the D7500 has less seems odd indeed.

But it isn't so much a race for pure numbers. Quality counts at least as much as quantity. Dropping from 24 MP to 20 MP isn't much of a concern if those 20 megapixels are put to good use. And newer sensor designs are almost always better than old. Neither body has the traditional anti-aliasing (AA) filter over the sensor. The image EXPEED 4 image processor has been replaced by the newer EXPEED 5 processor.

For a few additional points of differentiation, the D7500 shoots 4K ultra-high definition video as opposed to "just" 1080p. The D7500 can shoot 8 frames per second continuous while the D7200 could manage just 6. The buffer size has been increased such that the D7500 can hold 50 full-size 14-bit NEF images as opposed to just 18 with the D7200. The D7500 also drops support for the second SD card slot, presumably because card sizes have gotten so big most shooters don't need two. The maximum possible ISO has been dramatically increased on the new body, and Nikon has added support for Bluetooth connections.

And yes, the D7500 LCD screen is touch sensitive, and can tilt. That while that monitor screen remains the same size as on the D7200, its resolution drops from 1,228,800 dots to only 922,000. So much for Retina and similar high-dpi screens I guess. I know Nikon can do it, since the D500 screen has fully 2,359,000 dots in the same 3.2-inch diagonal form factor. The battery on the D7200 is rated to last slightly longer than on the newer D7500. If you still shoot with any older manual-focus lenses, you should know that the D7500 has lost the aperture-ring feeler needed to support auto-exposure with such lenses. Most shooters today though won't miss it. Retail price has edged upward slightly.

So, overall, there have been a number of new advances here, but not as dramatically so as many had hoped. And in some areas, it could be argued that we've taken a bit of a step backward.

Perhaps the best way to understand the D7500 is to consider it in relation to Nikon's top-of-the-line DX-format camera, the D500. Announced in January 2016, the D500 became the king of the hill for DX Nikon bodies. It had features more typical of a Nikon FX (full frame) DSLR, and some would argue, a price to match. You could buy two D7200 bodies for the price of a single D500. It had been some time since the ever-trusty D300 and D300s bodies were released, so the D500 was welcome indeed.

During that gap of seven years though, it could be argued that the D7100 / D7200 were the best DX options for photographers. The aging D300s was just too old. With the release of the D500, Nikon clarified its DSLR market segmentation strategy, making it clear that the D500 was targeted towards professionals, whereas the D7200 was aimed more squarely at the advanced consumer. Now that the D7500 is out, this segmentation becomes even more clear. The D7500 is clearly not a high-end body. What it appears to be is somewhat of a scaled-down "consumer" version of the D500. Both use what appears to be the same 20 MP sensor, but Nikon seems to have strategically tailored the features for different user segments.

So, if you made the jump from the D300 or D300s to the D7100 or D7200 when they came out, it's time to decide whether to continue to the D7500 successor, or to return to the D300 series with the current D500 or its eventual successor.

I would expect to see a new body in the D500 line announced within the next year or so. The D7500 is anticipated to be shipping by summer of 2017.

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Time Trap Photography is dedicated to freezing those special moments in life that can be revisited and admired for generations to come. - Shannon Bourque

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