Nikon D500 for wildlife and fast autofocus?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by pontus_wallst_n, Mar 14, 2017.

  1. Hello everyone,

    I have been reading alot about the Nikon D500, about its extremely fast autofocus, and its many focus points which enable you to get more sharper images on the whole than when using the D810 for instance. I have also read that its colour rendition is very good, and that its considered also very good for wildlife, being a DX camera body. I have been considering buying one for quite a while now, and just called my local camera shop. They said they are doing a deal on the D500 untill the end of march, with over $300 equivalent off on a brand new body (+ warranty of course from Nikon).

    But before calling them back to purchase it, I thought i would just double check opinions here, with anyone who has this camera. I do admit that i sometimes end up missing some shots with my Nikon D810, even in continous AF, during events, or other times with subjects mooving unpredictably, as well as with birds in flight. I have also been watching some youtube video reviews of the D500 for wildlife, and its considered by many one of the best cameras within its price range and weight.

    i read that the bluetooth snap bridge function is best turned off as it will quickly drain the battery. (not a big deal as i had not planned to use this function anyway)

    does the D500 also have the time lapse function, like on the D810?

    Of course there is always the thought that if I whait, Nikon might bring out an even better body this year, but by that time, i could have probably already made very good use of a D500, even next week when i have been asked to photograph an event which will be very "sporty" and participants running in all directions, so i wouldnt want to miss shots then..

    any insights would be very helpfull as always!

  2. Great questions! I'm considering upgrading to the D500 from my very well used D300. Does anyone have any comments about the D500 with the newer Sigma 150-600mm zooms for wildlife shots?
  3. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    The D500 is an excellent camera. Definitely go for it.
  4. Shun, your D500 review is very helpful.
  5. I have a D810 and I've hired a D500 on a (partly) wildlife trip last year. They handle very similarly, with the touchscreen being a nice feature. I had some difficulties with blown highlights (I don't entirely trust highlight priority) - but then I've had the same from the D810, if slightly less so. I too struggle a little with autofocus on the D810, although not nearly as much as with the D800; I'm quite likely to be an early adopter of any D810 successor which has the D500/D5's AF module in it. Even when/if that appears, it's possible but I suspect a little doubtful that it will exceed the pixel density of the D500 (it would have to be about 45MP), so it probably won't be better than the D500 if reach is what you want. The D7200 is, of course, slightly better in terms of pixel density, but way behind the D500 in some other areas.

    I had some difficulties with the D500 focussing in the wrong place (in my case, on the water in front of a sea otter), but I'm completely prepared to believe that was user error. Nonetheless, while I've every reason to believe it's appreciably improved, I'd not expect magic - but it is as good as it currently gets on the market. And the auto fine-tune feels like it has to help, too.
  6. A lot depends on your subject matter. I do shoot wildlife and birds, but not with any devotion. My main "action" subject is my dog. I bought the D500 to handle the most difficult shooting subject I have ever faced - a 60 pound dog running straight at me.Honestly, in that situation, the D500 is only slightly better than what I have used before. It's quite good when the subject is far away but as it gets closer, the D500 gives up the ghost and all the rest of the frames are blurry. I've experienced this with both D500 bodies I have owned. I use group, AF-C, with sensitivity set to "most erratic" and I get only 10-20% keepers.
  7. As an upgrade from a D300, it's a no brainer. I've had mine for about a month with a 200-500mm. I notice the much more responsive and decisive AF compared to my D7200. The speed of AF acquisition is now limited by the lens rather than the camera body. There's a lot of glass to move around and I occasionally find the 200-500mm a bit, not exactly slow, but less snappy than my 70-200mm VRII

    You don't say what glass you're using for wildlife and BIF or if you've used a DX camera much?

    I've not been able to put a Sigma on my D500 yet.

    Sadly, I've had no luck getting Snapbridge to work with Android. However, I can't see myself wireless tethering it or doing any file transfers, so I'm not too bothered. Hopefully a firmware update will sort it out in the end.

    My D7200's WiFi functions perfectly happily, even though the App is dire. DSLRDashboard works well.
  8. I've had my D500 for about 6000 shutter releases. I'm blown away by the capability of the camera. However, as others have pointed out there are opportunities for user error. Learning to use the features takes a bit of effort. I'm still not fully comfortable with managing the focusing and have to think about it rather than just doing it. Snapbridge is a bad joke.
  9. A quickly approaching subject at close distances can be difficult to focus on. Which lens did you use for this situation? f/2.8 lenses tend to be among the fastest to focus. How close is the subject when the camera loses focus and is not able to reacquire it?

    I use the D5 which has a similar autofocus system. For people subjects I've been very pleased with its performance, though I can't say how it would work on running dogs. Nikon have some tips for sports and AF settings; they may be helpful for non-sports action shooting as well:
  10. By the way, which AF area mode do people typically use for action using a D500? I noticed with the D5, the dynamic area AF modes are quick to focus on the background if the main selected focus sensor point leaves the subject for even a short time (assuming there is detail in the background). With group area AF mode I have much higher percentages of main subject in focus. There seems to have been a change in the way the dynamic area AF works, or how brief a time the surrounding points will be used if the primary point leaves the subject. My D810's dynamic area AF seems to permit longer time period before refocusing on the main point in this situation where the surrounding points are still over the main subject but the main point is on the background.
  11. Just curious, since I almost never leave the camera to choose AF point(s) automatically. What advantage do these AF area modes offer over fixing an AF point and making sure that the chosen point is over the subject by manually keeping the framing that way?

    A tracked off-centre AF point would surely keep the composition nicely as the subject moved. Wouldn't it?
  12. I believe it's a matter of whether you think you can lock the single AF point on the subject. For, for example, moving birds, I know I've found this very difficult (and I've not always found 3D subject tracking does the right thing either).
  13. I prefer to use a single manually selected AF point when it is possible. However, sometimes the situation is that when the subject is moving fast and may be some distance away, I am not able to hold the single AF point steadily on the subject's face without sometimes slipping on the background; also faces often have quite low contrast detail compared to the dress and background advertisements and audience. In this scenario both the single point AF can lead to some shots focused on the background. The face can also be smaller than the single AF point's field of sensitivity. I can improve my odds by using group area AF mode on distant subjects because it picks on the closest subject within the group and avoids focusing on the audience behind the subject. However as the subject gets closer I find that the depth of field is often not sufficient to get the face in focus at the same time with the rest of the body, especially if the subject is approaching and picking up speed. So in this case I prefer to focus on the face but group area AF can't always be moved enough off-center to achieve a satisfying composition especially for horizontal compositions. So for this close-by subject situation I think dynamic area AF may be preferable to group area AF because it allows the area to be cut so that the main point is at the topmost row and the supporting points around it to the sides and below, whereas with group area AF the entire group is always within the AF sensor array and so it can't be off-centered as much as dynamic area AF. This is why I would like to use dynamic area AF for horizontal compositions of skaters (and skiiers) as they approach, but so far I've gotten too many surprises with the camera focusing on the background. Maybe this is because I misunderstood how dynamic area AF works; I didn't realize it was so much weighted on the primary focus point as it appears to be on the D5 (and D500, from reports). I will try Nikon's tip of using lens buttons to activate group area AF on distant subjects and as the subject approaches closer, let go of the lens button and switch to 25-point dynamic area AF. Or, I could simple program the camera to switch to 25-point dynamic for horizontal compositions and use group area AF for vertical, maximizing the off-center potential and yet getting some support from the camera.

    Auto Area AF and 3D tracking differ in that the former decides on its own, which is the subject, and the user has no role. In initiating 3D tracking, the camera chooses the subject based on the user's focus point selection and then moves the point around according to subject movement in the frame. Both use RGB sensor data and can identify and give priority to faces. 3D tracking works quite well but it can get confused e.g. when the subject spins around (which happens a lot in figure skating!); Auto Area AF works well but in pairs and ice dancing it switches between the two subjects a lot, and I kind of feel left out of the process when the camera decides what to focus on. ;)
  14. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    Concerning AF point selection, my experience is that you really need to know your subject. For normal birds in flight, I typically use either 25 or 72 AF points on the D500 to cover the bird. If the background is a blank sky, I could even use auto-area AF and it can work very well.

    One exception is hummingbirds feeding. I captured the attached image this morning, and I used group-area AF. If I use 25-point or 72-point dynamic area, it is almost certain that the camera would focus on the flower in front.

    However, I find group-area AF terrible for normal birds in flight because it concentrated in a small area. As soon as the bird is not covered by the group area, AF fails miserably.

    Last edited: Mar 17, 2017
    Wouter Willemse likes this.
  15. D500 is great for wildlife with long lenses. On a bird workshop, guy next to me made me a little jealous with his D500, compared to my D7200.

    Hope you enjoy it!
  16. Thanks for all your replies,

    I ended up buying the Nikon D500, probably my best investment of these recent years!

    over the past few weeks, in most photo situations, I have ended up leaving my D810 behind and going for the D500.

    I do like the fact that it has alot of focus points stretching or rather, utilising more of the screen/image area. I also like the Auto AF tracking system in AF C, the 3D mode seems fairly good as well.
    I can conclude that I have managed to overall get shots with subjects now in focus that my D810 would have missed. I also find the D500 overall much faster and more responsive than the D810, especially when it comes to focusing and even the shutter release button seems to react faster.

    I also like the burst mode and the colours, especially when shooting video, seem a bit more contrasty and have a nicer tint to them than the D810. And finally, the flip screen is a great asset, especially for video I find. So basically, so far, only positive aspects.

    to answer the previous question about my wildlife lenses, I use the following (although rarely travel with ALL of them at once due to wheight ) - Nikon 14-24 mm f 2.8, Nikon 24-70 mm f 2.8, Nikon 70-200 mm f 2.8, nikon 200-500 mm f 5.6 and Nikon 60 mm f 2.8 macro.

    I am definitely planning some wildlife shooting over my easter break with the Nikon D500!

  17. I just bought a D500, upgrade from D7000. I would check out buying the camera from B&H Photo and Video. You'll get a good price and excellent customer service from B&H. Larry
  18. I have both the D810 and the D500. The AF on the D500 is better than the AF on the D810. I use the D 500 for wildlife and birds mostly with a 300mm and 500mm prime lenses from Nikon.

    Here is a recap of my usual settings on the D 500:

    Aperture priority, Matrix metering, Exposure compensation, if needed
    Continuous shooting, High, 10fps.
    Shutter– set to Release Priority, not Focus—Custom setting, a1
    AF-ON button, Back Button Focusing—Custom setting, a8
    ISO set for fast shutter speeds, 1/1250 to 1/4000, maybe 1/8000
    Auto ISO. You set max ISO and min shutter speed--Shooting Menu.
    White Balance— Auto or Daylight, usually Daylight.
    Focus— AF-C
    Pre focus with AF-ON button, lift finger to stop focus; or Continuous focus with AF-ON button
    Keeping the focus point on the right spot is critical
    Use thumb stick on D 500 to move the focus point.

    Autofocus Area Modes for AF-C
    Single point or Dynamic area

    S—Single Point AF. For when the subject is not moving.

    D25, D72 or D153 for D500. I use D 25 about 99% of the time

    Custom setting a3: Focus tracking with Lock On, for D 500:
    Blocked shot AF response: 2. I prefer a short time period for lock on.
    Subject motion: Normal
    Experiment and see what works best for you and conditions present. There really is no one correct setting. It depends a lot on you and the way you shoot. Experiment and see what works best for you.

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