Nikon Launches the Flagship D5 and D500 DSLRs in Singapore

Nikon D5 and D500 with AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G
Nikon D5 and D500 with AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G

Nikon Singapore has launched the flagship D5 and D500 DSLRs today (13 Apr 2016) at the Aura Skylounge at the National Gallery of Singapore. We were there at the launch event and managed to get a hands-on session with both the cameras.

Sunny Ng, Senior Sales and Marketing Manager of Nikon Singapore
Sunny Ng, Senior Sales and Marketing Manager of Nikon Singapore

The launch started with an introduction by Sunny Ng, Senior Sales and Marketing Manager of Nikon Singapore followed by a rundown of the D500’s features by Albert Yap from the Asia Technical Office. Some some strange reason, there wasn’t any talk about the flagship D5. The talk focussed on the Nikon D500.

Albert Yap, Asia Technical Office, Nikon Singapore
Albert Yap, Asia Technical Office, Nikon Singapore

Wildlife photographer C.S. Ling then talked about her experience shooting the D500 in Borneo and how it managed to capture her wildlife shots in vivid detail and very low noise, despite her having to use very high ISOs some times.

Wildlife Photographer, C.S. Ling
Wildlife Photographer, C.S. Ling

We then had a short Q&A with Nikon Ambassadors Bryan Fong and Elliot Lee, who briefly shared about their shooting experiences and how they felt about the two new cameras.

Nikon Ambassadors Bryan Fong and Elliot Lee
Nikon Ambassadors Bryan Fong and Eliot Lee

To allow us to test the D5 and D500, Nikon has kindly gave us 16GB CompactFlash and SD cards (Sandisk Extreme no less!) so that we can bring the images back. One of the much touted features of both the cameras are their excellent high ISO performance, and Nikon has specially constructed a dark box for this purpose. It simulates a lighting condition of -4EV, in which the naked eye can barely see anything. However, the D500’s centre AF point is sensitive enough to still be able to AF in such conditions. Previous cameras like the D750 can only AF down to -3EV, so the D500 is a stop better in this regard. I wasn’t able to achieve an AF lock using Live View though.

The Nikon Dark Box
The Nikon Dark Box
Taken inside the dark box
A scene taken inside the dark box using the Nikon D500 at ISO 51200.

Here’s a YouTube video by local photographer Alex Ortega showing the camera achieving an AF lock under this lighting condition. Pretty cool, I’d say.

For testing the high-speed burst modes and fast AF speeds, Nikon got two bartenders to give bartending performances. Both cameras were able to capture this well. I don’t really shoot a lot of bursts myself, though.

Bartending Demo
Bartending Demo, shot on a D500. 1/200 @ f/4, ISO 1600.

There was also a section set up on the balcony to let us play with the AF-S 800mm /f5.6E, AF-S 400mm f/2.8E and the AF-S 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lenses. It was bloody hot outside, so I didn’t stay out there for long. I took a couple of shots on the D5 and it was expectedly good. This is a given, as just about any modern camera would have produced a good shot in good lighting nowadays.

Outdoor testing areaa
Outdoor testing areaa
Nikon D5, 1/200 @ f/11, ISO 100.
Nikon D5, 1/200 @ f/11, ISO 100.

Anyway, back indoors, I attempted to test both the camera’s high ISO performance. Since low ISOs are no longer a challenge for most modern cameras, I started from ISO 1600 and worked my way up to the maximum. “Unfortunately” it wasn’t dark enough to reach the ISO 3-million of the D5.

Expectedly, ISOs within the non-expanded range (i.e. below H.01) were all very good, particularly on the D5 which didn’t show much noise until about ISO 51,200.

Nikon D5 at ISO 25,600
Nikon D5 at ISO 25,600
Nikon D5 at ISO 51,200
Nikon D5 at ISO 51,200

The D500 that I was testing appear to have its Noise Reduction turned off or set to a very low level. So, the high ISO performance does not appear to be that great in the shots below. I’d still say it’s pretty decent, though.

Alex has also posted a set of high ISO images on ClubSnap and his appears to be much cleaner. I believe his test unit has the Noise Reduction turned on. We shot basically the same thing, and did not check if it’s turned on or not. Judging from his files, I’d say that the D500’s high ISO performance with Noise Reduction is pretty amazing.

Nikon D500 at ISO 25,600
Nikon D500 at ISO 25,600
Nikon D500 at ISO 51,200
Nikon D500 at ISO 51,200

One modern feature that Nikon has added to both cameras are touch-sensitive LCD displays. The D500 has a tilting LCD touch screen, while the D5 has a fixed one. Like smart phones, both allow you to swipe through images, as well as pinch to zoom in. Of course, you can also tap to focus during Live View. Unfortunately, you can’t navigate the menus via touch.

Another nice touch added to the cameras a little joystick controller for AF-point selection. This is available on both the D5 and D500 and makes it much easier to select the desired AF point. This is also seen on the newly-released Fujifilm X-Pro 2.

I am liking the D500 pretty much, but I am now too used to the size and weight of the Fujifilm X-T1. If Nikon made a mirrorless camera with the D500 specs, I’d be much more interested. Still, both the D5 and D500 are very nice cameras indeed. The AF speed is fast, high ISO performance is excellent and image quality is excellent too. There’s nothing much to dislike (except perhaps the price, especially for the D5.)

Here are a few more test shots.

Nikon D5, 1/320 at f/2.8, ISO 1600
Nikon D5, 1/320 at f/2.8, ISO 1600
Nikon D500, 1/200 at f/4, ISO 1600.
Nikon D500, 1/200 at f/4, ISO 1600.
Nikon D5, 1/320 at f/11, ISO 100.
Nikon D5, 1/320 at f/11, ISO 100.

YS: There are a lot of nice improvements, like the new joystick for AF selection, the position of the ISO button (though that will require some muscle memory re-learning for long-term Nikon users), the AF speed, and the AF demonstration in the dark was quite impressive.

Also, I’m particularly looking forward to how Snapbridge works. Finally, a way to connect with your smartphone that doesn’t require the two-handed juggle that always happens? During the presentation Nikon implied that the camera will retain a low-powered Bluetooth connection even when the camera is off.

It’s a pity Nikon took such a long time to release this. I’d have jumped on it immediately as a replacement for my then-D300.

CK: At the time of writing, pricing and availability dates are not known.

UPDATE (26 Apr 2016): Nikon Singapore has announced that the D500 will be available from authorised Nikon retailers at S$2,999 for the body alone, or S$3,999 bundled with the AF-S 16-80mm f/2.8-4E E VR kit lens.

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