I have been a Nikon girl since the moment I picked up my first DSLR. I have never been disappointed with any of my Nikon gear, and always have fun expanding my collection.

For some time now, I have been shooting with the Nikon D3s, but as my work and approach have evolved over the years, I have been noticing the need for some changes within my equipment. Weighing my options within the Nikon systems, I jumped at the chance to test out the Nikon D500.

In my early years, I had previously shot with the D300s and was pretty thrilled to learn that the D500, thus far, could be considered it’s most comparable replacement. Though I have enjoyed the professional shooting stability the D3s has provided and recognize that a transition to the new D5 may have seemed a more natural progression, I admittedly have been hoping to find a camera that can pack all the same features into a much more compact system.

The D3s was my workhorse when shooting traditional portraiture. As I have shifted into more of a “storytelling” approach, I have been on the look out for a compact Nikon camera with pro features. Knowing the D500 was building the reputation of a mini-D5 – similarly equipped, just smaller – I grew a great hope that this was exactly the camera I was looking for!

photo of Nikon D500 box by Jessica Svoboda

First impressions

When the D500 arrived and I was given the opportunity to perform a field test, I was immediately pleased with the way the camera felt within my hands (compact and solid). It just felt right, and I couldn’t wait to begin shooting. The big adjustment for my shooting style was the DX-format sensor. It’s not that I wasn’t aware of the crop factor from my research, but having shot full-frame for so long now, the transition back to the smaller sensor took some time as I had to adjust to seeing things differently through the same lenses. Below is a great comparison of exactly what I am talking about. Two moments, shot consecutively, from the same point of view and using the same 35mm lens – first on the D3s and then on the D500.

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picture of toddler getting a sink bath by Jessica Svoboda

picture of toddler getting a sink bath by Jessica Svoboda

A new perspective

As one might suspect, I found myself missing the wider angle of my 35mm on the larger frame of the D3s. Luckily I had received a 16-80mm lens to test with the D500 and though this was my first experience with a variable aperture lens, the wider-angle capabilities let me play around with some perspectives that my 35mm prime lens couldn’t reach on a DX-format sensor. It has been fun getting in a groove with a new lens and camera. This new gear really has sparked my creativity and forced me to see things in a new way!

black and white picture kids and dog sleeping by Jessica Svoboda

black and white photo of toddler by Jessica Svoboda

black and white picture of boy and dog looking out a door by Jessica Svoboda

black and white silhouette of boy by Jessica Svoboda

dark and moody picture of boy walking by Jessica Svoboda

Rich color

I am used to shooting in custom white balance, so I always adjust my Kelvin temperatures to ensure I achieve colors that are true to life. The colors rendered by the D500 are rich and beautiful.

boy riding a gocart by Jessica Svoboda

photo of a girl and a horse by Jessica Svoboda

Excellent ISO performance

Much of my storytelling work takes places within my home, which I find to be quite dark. I am constantly searching for little pockets of light to shoot in, but I am also dependent on my cameras to be able to perform at high ISOs in low light situations. The D500 met these expectations as shown in the following images that were shot at ISO 2500 with minimal noise.

dark picture of kid sitting in the hallway by Jessica Svoboda

photo of kid walking down hallway by Jessica Svoboda

D500 + 85mm = Love

Though my field test primarily consisted of my personal work – shooting everyday life at home with my little ones – as I grew more confident in my handling skills with the D500, I did take it out for a few of my commissioned shoots. The image quality of this camera for my portraits, coupled with the bokeh of the 85mm, were a perfect fit together.

bride and groom portrait in a field by Jessica Svoboda

wedding photo outdoors by Jessica Svoboda

My final impressions

Overall, the Nikon D500 is a great camera. The smaller body size and quieter shutter over my current D3s were big draws for me with my storytelling work and the image quality and ISO performance were just what I was looking for. The DX-format sensor was a more difficult adjustment for me than I had expected it to be after years of shooting with a full-frame, but if you are a shooter that is not used to shooting in full-frame anyways, that would essentially be a non-issue. In short though, the D500 is a great addition to the family of Nikon cameras and a great alternative in price and size to the D5 without compromising the professional shooting features I need.

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