Nikon D500 review (who would have thought…)

This Nikon D500 review is by Romanian photographer and Nikon Ambassador Mircea Bezergheanu (Website | Facebook | Vimeo | YouTube). The original review was published here in Romanian (thanks for the translation Marius; click on images for larger view):


Nikon has kept the secret so safe,that the launching of D500 - the mythological D400 - has sent the photographers into a fever of excitement. Its specifications have revealed us a device that leaves you no room for justifications such-the device couldn't rise to the challenge. I started testing it in parallel with that of D5, but at D500 I pulled more trying to find weaknesses-at some point I got really sad thinking that I have found the Achilles heel-trying to bring it to its limit.

Some of the specifications are found at a rival’s camera,but only a small part,and the Nikon D500’s implementation is sent to the level of  a wet dream…

  • 20,7 Mpix in an APS-C-5568x3712 pixels - here I was expecting 24 Mpix.
  • 153 autofocus points,with 99 cross-type points-the exact system of the Nikon D5,but it covers almost the whole DX frame!!!
  • 10 frames per second, completed with a buffer which is absolutely incredible, 200 frames NEF at 14-bit, thanks to another smart implementation-the XQD card.
  • 180.000 pixels for the RGB sensor that manages the exposure measurement and the facial recognition .
  • Articulated monitor - very useful - with 2,36 millions pixels.
  • 2 slots for the memory card-1 for XQD - excellent for 4k filming and endless shootings in burst mode,and 1 SD slot, with which you will be able to shoot approximately 50 frames in the burst mode, depending on the chosen model.
  • The Viewfinder offers a frame coverage of 100 %.
  • The Iso range is between 100 - 51200 Iso. You will find a more complex test,with all the Iso values,on my blog, written a while ago.
  • Wi-fi and Bluetooth, accompanied by an app for tablets and phones, Snap Bridge, which allows you to upload the frames on the WEB while you take pictures.
  • USB 3.0
  • 4K filming (UHD) 30p/25p/24p, 1080/60p/50p/30p/25p/24p, 720/60p/50p
  • Automatic calibration system for the autofocus errors of the camera lenses - an extremely useful function that some may have missed.
  • 1240 frames on a full battery,but I made it to 2000 frames with a battery, for taking pictures and I exceeded 4000 frames when I shot more time lapse … this is absolutely phenomenal, especially as I had a great initial disappointment when I saw that I can not shoot more than 800-900 frames with a battery. I had used those old batteries, the 01 series, but when I put  batteries in series 20, it was like I had changed the camera!!! Nikon is changing the battery version 01 with version 20, so that the Nikon battery owners can benefit from its real capacity.

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Beyond the specifications and beyond the impersonal and sterile testing labs there are the challenges of the field  photographing, where every tool it’s facing the challenges more or less. So let’s see what the Nikon D500  had to show me. There were 2 chapters that I had found absolutely exciting, and that I focused on since the first testings.

The performance of the APS-C sensor on the night photography,at high and very high Iso values:

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3200 ISO
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
6400 ISO

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12800 ISO
12800 ISO
12800 ISO
12800 ISO

I have shot some frames with very, very long exposure,aproximately 2279 sec in order to stress the sensor out as much as possible, shooting Star trails frames.

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Another frames shot at night, at different exposures, at lower iso values.

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The second chapter - The performance of the autofocus system,which was not new to me, I had tested it on the Nikon D5. But I didn't knew now how well it was implemented, nor whether it had been intentionally restricted by the manufacturer…

The testings’ start have been the The Danube Delta Rally, as I had thought that “engine” sports would have challenge my camera quite well. It has been a bad joke though,the camera had been urging me to put it through tough challenges, not to something that have proved to be nothing more than "big kids games".

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I have brought it to an Air Show … but it hasn’t strained itself that much here either.

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Action, baby, action! The superfast, unpredictable stuff, on short tracks, in harsh lighting, or on the contrary, in fog! I got frustrated and sent it to see some flies.

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… then to see some butterflies …

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… then some birdies …

lopatar-d500_007_00016 lastuni-d500_005 lastuni-d500_006 kingfisher-d500_004 kingfisher-d500_005 lastuni-d500_003 lisita-d500_005_00041 lisita-d500_007_00043 lisita-d500_008_00044 lastuni-d500_002 lastuni-d500_004
next in line being the Common Swift (Apus Apus), possibly the biggest challenge in the BIF category.

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When I realized that it was me who couldn’t cope with its potency, I switched it to bigger animals, so it wouldn’t be able to notice my shaky hand and my helplessness.

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Then, when I thought that he was finally tired,and its battery drained, I had said to myself that I should surprise it with some close up action. The result?....From my point of view, I have taken the picture of the year, a wildlife picture at a macro level, that had succeeded in revealing through all its pixels the astonishing fight for survival of a giant wasp from the species Vespa carbro, that had attacked an ant farm, becoming in a matter of seconds the prey.

vespa-crabro-1
I have put the camera down saying to myself - Done, I have taken this year’s PHOTOGRAPH! Thank you Nikon for the D500!!! It’s a review, so I should be less biased, but you just can’t pretend that you’re not impressed, when you are literally jumping for joy!

I have worked at the wildlife category, taking pictures where I have evaluated the sensor’s capacity to reproduce the more settle tones, or the bright white,or the plumage, which is usually seen by the camera as black.

d500_120 popandau-2016_019 lopatar-d500_004_00015 sarpe-de-apa_019 ibis-d500_007_00006 ardea-alba_051 ardea-alba_221 ardea-alba_014 ibis-d500_013_00007 ardea-alba_015
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I am going to post a whole frame of a Great crested grebe, followed by an 100 % crop of that frame, in order to evaluate the level of detail.

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corcodel-d500_008_00001-crop
The sun was setting, the light was not so giving, but the result had convinced me that I could rely on the tool.

I had shot some more frames in the rain, with a calf.

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So that I could later test the results of the reproduction of the pastel colors.

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As well as the color’s reproduction on the red channel, especially in backlight. The result - irreproachable.

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The portrait photography, with a diverse range of skin tones, hard to correctly reproduce in difficult lightning. The tests speak for themselves:

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I went to evaluate the sensor’s behavior to the landscape photography, which sometimes requires the HDR to be as good as possible, in order to reproduce the details from very well lit areas, as well as the shadowy  areas. I am reading on the net the comments of some so-called connoisseurs, who haven’t even touched the camera yet, who say that it’s going to have a bit of a weakness regarding the DR. Ohh, really!

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I was shooting along with an Nikon D810, and the photos had been coming out the same. It is said that some folks are going to test it in the laboratory and they’ll demonstrate that the Nikon D500 is weaker. They’d better say it to my face,’cuz I’ve got my arguments.And the photos.

For well lit landscapes it’s pretty standard, kinda like taking a picture with a smartass phone.

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…okay, I admit it, it’s a little better … this camera has everything I haven’t even dreamed of for a DX!

This DX camera rises to Nikon D4’s iso level, and it’s indisputably better that a lot of full frame cameras on the market! Many have asked me - D750 or D500? It’s hard to tell someone else how to spend his/her money. I choose the D500,because I own a D810, so for the FF part, I’m covered. But, if I had to choose a camera only, I would choose the D500 for the solutions it has to offer, but I’d  be careful in choosing the camera lens. With capable camera lenses you can face any kind of photograph, from events to wild life, This is the artistry, the way you equip it with the optics.

Good luck!

…umm… I forgot this stag-beetle, shot in low light in the forest, with an Iso 3200. I’ll just leave it here, so it doesn’t get lost.

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This Nikon D500 review is by Romanian photographer and Nikon Ambassador Mircea Bezergheanu (Website | Facebook | Vimeo | YouTube). The original review was published here in Romanian (thanks for the translation Marius). All photos © Mircea Bezrgheanu.
If you have an interesting idea for a guest post, you can contact me here.

This entry was posted in Nikon D500, [NR] Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Plug

    No mention of the lenses used and that will certainly matter in assessing autofocus speed. Having said that mine is excellent with the 300f4 PF. Great insect pics.

    • CERO

      I was wondering the same.. incredible pictures. I particularly love the foggy ones.

    • Totally agree, hard to categorize it as a review without knowing the optics in play, and these wonderful examples would help with readers’ lens selection who are still building their collection.

    • James

      Here’s the answer (not suprising, really)

      “Nikon 16mm fisheye, Nikon 14-24/2,8G, Nikon 70-200/2,8 VR II, Nikon 200-500/5,6G, Nikon 300/4VR, Nikon 600/4D.”

      You can figure most of those per subject and rendering but he didn’t mention the macro. He’s an Ambassador for Nikon so assume 200 f4 or 105 VR micros are in his reach.

  • Photobug

    Nice pictures. Thanks Peter for posting.

    • Nice pictures indeed!

    • Eric Duminil

      Wasp + ants and the bird + snake + fish pictures are just incredible.

  • Eric Calabros

    Peter, this guy is master of portraits. You should really post his mind blowing images taken by 105 f/1.4 that he shared in DPR.
    The only downside is that he is vignettophile 🙂

  • What most photographers are “afraid” of is the sensor size itself.
    Full frame cameras has been easier on the pocket recently, and for many, Full frame cameras are the way to go whenever upgrading. Also include then people who lost hope of a new DX pro camera that just jumped to a FX.
    I’ve been using the D500 for quite a while now, there’s no regret that I picked it over a D5.

    * Hint: Get a grip, BL-5 and EL-18a for it. You can thank me later

    • There are so many more options for the “normal” range of focal lengths with FX. That’s why I switched. For instance, if you want a fast 24mm lens for DX, what are your choices? You end up having to go to a zoom and suffering the expense and bulk. Just a thought.

      • Yes, I know the support for variety of lenses for APS-C/DX cameras are slimmer compared to full frame – but that wasn’t my point. A couple of my friends and co-photographers just thinks DX sensor is worthless or a dying breed.
        Before whenever I shoot concerts and fast-paced sports, My D810 is always on DX mode (REASON: Less MP, further reach, AF coverage, and 7 FPS). Now with the D500, I get a camera dedicated for that purpose!

  • Danichro

    It would be nice if the author could share some info about the lenses he used for this review!

  • AC

    I still struggle about D500. Per-pixel sharpness does not seem on par with other cameras (D750), despite the lower megapixel count. I remeber Thom Hogan writing that higher megapixel cameras have this effect, but I don’t see it in D750 or D810, so I’m a bit puzzled (being a bit of a sharpness freak…).

    • Photographer100

      nonsense, the pixel pitch on the D500 is 4.22 micrometer
      D750 is 5.9 micrometer
      D500 scaled up is a 47MP sensor
      20.9MP x 2.25 = 47

      Meaning there is MORE translational data per MM of sensor on the D500 than on the D750

      • AC

        Yes, I did the math too, but D810 is not so far from that pixel pitch, and yet I don’t see the issue. It’s something that I can’t exactly explain just with the pixel pitch. It’s more about the “quality” than the “quantity” of this lack of sharpness. I tried 4 or 5 D500 thinking that this could be a matter of a single body, but it may be just a characteristic of its sensor… BTW I see it also on a tripod with fast shutter speed, so I don’t think that it is related to motion only…

        • Photographer100

          I can explain it, easily, a camera is not a sensor, its an image processor, the Native Gain at roughly 4 micrometer pixel pitch is the current LIMIT to get decent DR from a pro DSLR of any make or variety

          the Canon 5DSR 51MP camera and the D500 20.9 MP camera BOTH share the same basic 4 micrometer pixel pitch

          • AC

            Hum… yes, and how would this relate to sharpness? I tried also the D7200, which would result in a 54mpixel full frame sensor, but didn’t get the same effect…

            • Photographer100

              that depends on cropping, if and as needed, and the SNR processing applied (if its good or not).

              D7200 is a diff engine than the D500, a camera is not a sensor, its an image processor.

            • AC

              “per-pixel sharpness” means 1:1 pixel sharpness, or (if it’s easier to get) watching images at 100% zoom. So cropping or not does not influence this. I am perfectly aware that a camera is not a sensor, but I fail to see the logic in your comments. You started talking about megapixel count, then stated that the issue is pixel size regarding achievable DR, then you say the obvious (a camera is not a sensor).
              My point was: I examined 4-5 D500, and compared images with D750, D810, D4s, D3s and D300 (that is to say all the cameras I own). I have the impressione that – examining images at 100% zoom – the ones from D500 are softer than the ones produced with any of these other cameras. Does someone else have the same impression? Is that only the result of a different imaging pipeline (sensor/asic/software) or is there something else?

            • Coastalconn

              Are you shooting raw or jpeg? Are you comparing the same sensor size. Ie DX area in full frame and downsampling the D500 to the same pixels? You can zoom in a lot further with a d500 at 21MP than you can with a D750 at 10MP. The D500 will be the least forgiving because of pixel pitch. All the cameras you mentioned are more forgiving to technique and lens quality. I’m with Steve Perry in that the D500 is an excellent imaging machine..

            • Photographer100

              photosites/pixels dont have “sharpness” , NONE do. They have native gain of the circuit of light in SNR and the microvolts which define the SNR

              *rolls eyes

            • Thom Hogan

              Without examining what you’re doing at your side and seeing your images, it’s nearly impossible to help you on this. But…the D500 and D7200 are putting demands on camera handling and lenses that some of the other cameras are not, thus I suspect shot discipline, camera settings, or something similar.

        • Robert

          Could be a possibility of lens calibration?

        • Robert

          Tack sharp images almost every time with my D500, and Nikon 200-500 5.6!

      • Alda Smite

        that math only applies when you are about to crop… lets say I stand 100 yards away from a birdie and take picture with d750 and d500 (with same lens) then d500 would smoke d750… but if I am walking around with 24-70 and can zoom with my feet and take my time I will fill frame with those 24mpix of d750 and no further crop will bee needed

        • Photographer100

          “only when you crop” ……meaning every wildlife shooter on earth….. 🙂

        • outkasted

          i love full frame…but i miss my D300. thus i will be getting D500/D700/D3 combo. will be loving it.

      • Captain Megaton

        “Meaning there is MORE translational data per MM of sensor on the D500 than on the D750”

        That’s exactly the problem. He said “per pixel”. Looking at 100% crop the D500 will magnify any lens softness/distortions relative to the Nikon FX models. Camera shake will also be more evident.

        • Photographer100

          that nonsense about “out-resolving the sensor” is a lie. It has no basis in reality.

          • Captain Megaton

            Here though we are concerned with the sensor out-resolving the lens.

            • Photographer100

              thats what i said , its nonsense. Im rocking a pile of 30+ year old nikkor lenses on the 36MP D810

              Tony Nothrup has brainwashed you (or DXOmark, same thing)

            • Captain Megaton

              That’s not what you said. You said exactly the opposite.

              So which is it? Do your vintage Nikkors out-resolve your 36MP sensor, or does your 36 MP sensor out-resolve your vintage Nikkors?

            • depends on the day and the planet alignments.

            • Paco Ignacio

              Don’t feed the troll, plz

    • That is odd. I have shot the D810, D5, D4, D3, D3x, D7200, etc for wildlife and the D500 doesn’t seem to give anything away in the sharpness dept. If anything, I think it’s can be a touch sharper than the FX bodies with an AA filter.

      I wish I had an answer for you; maybe a lens problem? Perhaps your lens looks fine on the lower pixel density cameras but isn’t up to par with the higher pixel pitch of the D500. Or maybe whatever use for RAW processing applies profiles differently to the D500 than your other images. Just tossing out ideas, not sure if any of them are even close 🙂

      • Allan

        Time to have camera/lens checked by repair department?

    • AnotherView

      I agree with AC….I can crop an D810 image as much as 0.4 linear (5.76MP) and get acceptably sharp/detailed images on at 5k monitor, but the most I’ve been able to crop my D500 is about 0.6 linear (7.56MP) — this with my 600E. Maybe the D500 is just more demanding to use with those tiny pixels, I don’t know, but the pixel quality just isn’t the same as with the D810 in my experience.

    • 24MPistooMuchOnDX

      Hi AC. Of course there could still be something wrong with your D500 but you have to understand that the higher pixel density of the D500 requires higher quality lenses than lets say a 12MP D300 or a 24MP Full frame D750. Unless you use an excellent lens stopped down you will get sharper results with lower pixels cameras. And I am not talking about motion blur here.
      This is why Nikon should do a 12MP D500. It would be a real high iso beast (same as D750 or even better) and would retain the same sharpness.

  • Ineluki

    Some very fine pictures regardless if all were taken with a D500. The pictures are wonderful.

  • MB

    Great review … though it is more of an accolade to D500 … which it so rightfully deserves … and great shots …

  • T.I.M

    Old (new) D7200 + Old (really old) Nikon 500mm f/8 reflex mirror+SB900
    Who need technology ?
    :o)
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1a95bc427f1f33c3b61297842ccfc778f9aa53eb5415342eb4f5f84b5f189c99.jpg

    • Eric Calabros

      Who need a nice looking watermark?

      • T.I.M

        It’s for sale, buy it and I’ll take away the watermark !
        :o)

        • dabug91

          That watermark is far too easy to remove to have to worry about it. Lol

          • T.I.M

            true, but T.I.M is actually not my official copyright watermark.

    • Allan

      Nobody is going to argue that you can take good pictures with older cameras and lenses. Is there some further point that you are making? Thanks.

  • Reilly Diefenbach

    Some excellent work there!

  • Max

    Great shots. I especially like the woman and the cow.

  • very nice pictures, a lot of work and also as usual a lot of people who knows always better–,))) the only problem is your un-spell-able-name….please go on to take more….

  • NicP

    Nice photos, thanks for your input/thoughts for the camera.
    Automatic calibration with lenses!! Thats the way to do it. Having to adjust zoom lenses for wide and also for the tele end is something that was missing from Nikon which Canon managed with previous models, now Nikon raised the bar, Im impressed, and thankful hoping for that being implemented on D900…

  • T.I.M

    Nice, here in Florida they are everywhere !

    • Coastalconn

      They have almost all cleared out of CT now.. Another week or so and I will have to wait until March to see them again

  • MonkeySpanner

    I am wondering – I have 55-300 DX zoom – and 18-105 DX zoom and 18-55 DX zoom – will these focus as fast and reliably as the pro zooms that most people use with the D500?

    • Todd Peterson

      No they will not, not even close.

      • MonkeySpanner

        So, unless a person plans on investing 4 or 5 thousand in pro lenses – they would be better off with some DX lenses and a D7200. Right?

        • peter w

          D7200 is a fine camera. I’d say, improve on the weakest spot: the lenses. It wouldn’t nescessarily be best to replace these by the big ‘pro’ zoom lenses. Quite heavy.

  • Great shots, thanks for posting them!

    I’m impressed by seeing good results from flying butterflies, I’d love to know what lens you used for those …

    • James

      I asked him on is blog, without specifics for each photo. The telephhotos he used were 70-200, 300 f4 and 600 f4 D. Butterflies in flight are most likely aided by the high frame rate of the D500 — based on my experience trying and often failing to get the same type photos.

  • Captain Megaton

    For the purpose of a review the photos are almost too good. I get the sense that someone of his skill level could have obtained the same amazing results with any of Nikon’s current lineup, including a D3400. It’s very much the photographer and not the camera that is being showcased here.

    • NicP

      I think to be able to render those colors and separation of main subject with conditions in some cases as above a good camera, great glass and precise post processing is needed.

    • outkasted

      I agree but HE DID use a D500 and his sheer delight in using it knowing that he has vast experience with many Nikon DSLR including full frame. He is singing the praises of the the D500 based on HIS experience. True he is a fantastic photog and these images prove not only his skill but the value and worth of Nikon equipment and the D500! Kudos mate!

      • Captain Megaton

        Sure. In his experience, he feels that the AF spread and responsivity of the D500 trumps the disadvantages of a crop sensor. That’s a totally reasonable conclusion to make. I did feel though that because full resolution images were not compared, and because lenses and lens selection were not discussed, FX wasn’t really being given fair and due consideration in the review.

        • Because it wasn’t an FX review, nor was it a “roundup” comparison review. Everyone who cares knows by now the technical differences between all the current Nikon models, no need for that this late in the game. The D500’s excellent ISO performance challenges phrases like “the disadvantages of a crop sensor”. They are also the same disadvantages of an FX as compared to a medium format sensor if you want to keep raising the bar.

          Having said that, the need for listing lenses and exposure settings is paramount for us readers to understand how things like IQ and focus were achieved–yes, great skin tone rendering in tricky lighting but with what lens???

  • Aldo

    This review is flawed due to the fact that the photographer is simply too good. Impressive work and technique. This is a very well rounded photographer. Thanks for sharing.

    • Funny how when a camera is about to hit the market and the initial leaked images appear here and there, people complain that the shots are not good examples because of the sub par photography. Then finally we get to see great shots from pros and people say it’s unrealistic since they’ll never be that good, LOL.

      Knowing that a camera CAN be this good if used properly is what matters to me. I improve my skills every time I shoot, and given the right gear could get similar shots to these if put in front of the same locations and subject matter. A lot of what makes a great photographer happens before the hand grabs the grip.

      • Aldo

        No this photographer is well beyond average.

  • peter w

    Thank you Mircea, to share your views, your enthousiasm and these pictures, among which indeed some truly exceptional.

    • outkasted

      i could only like once.

      • peter w

        somebody else was of help ;).

  • The thing is, it was no surprise that that this camera was going to be good. Same as the D3, D4, D5, or in the future D6; as if pro level cameras are going to get a bad review.

    The battle ground is in the semi pro sector. If Nikon made the Df properly instead of blowing their budget on marketing then that would be a review worth noting. And that is why cameras like the XT2 get all the praise, because no one expects a lot from Fuji. Nikon on the other hand has a reputation to defend. And apart from the D500, some of the camera releases lately have been mediocre.

  • anilarkay

    The Wasp drama was too good shot!!

  • 24MPistooMuchOnDX

    The main conclusion of this test is that:
    The guy is a excellent photographer and he has excellent lenses.
    He also had a lot of pleasure using the D500 but he probably would have achieved the same results with a D7200.

    • outkasted

      indeed but this is the D500 however…

    • peter w

      Don’t forget about the buffer and the better af. Why would such a good photographer be so enthousiastic about a camera?
      One could say, because he is ambassador ;)…., I think because he means it, and he could make the pictures that he didn’t believe were possible to make.

      • Steve

        Call me crazy, I am sure the D500 is a great camera, but I take reviews from people on Nikon’s payroll, with huge fecking pinches of salt. Never trust what an ambassador says about anything. It’s their job to love it all.

  • Siech

    Nice photos but terrible translation. Run the Word spell checker on it next time.

    • Totally agree it reads very poorly; I had to give up and just enjoy the pics. I get the guy might not have English as a first language, but isn’t that the job of an editor?

  • Valdo

    Quite nice pictures, but I found the placement of the name very obtrusive.

  • Mateusz Antonowicz

    Vasp pic looks like some last boss from some game. Great pics. I really enjoyed macro ones and panorama landscapes. Very gifted in many areas of photography, superb!

  • bgbs

    This guy should be a writer for the Nikon marketing

  • Nice, but careful, it’s lacking a horrendous watermark.

  • Stephen Corby

    What amazing shots. Thank you for the review and for sharing them with us. I mainly shoot horses and have found the D500 to be everything I hoped it would be.

  • James

    I asked him on his blog what lenses were used.

    Here’s the answer (not suprising, really)

    “Nikon 16mm fisheye, Nikon 14-24/2,8G, Nikon 70-200/2,8 VR II, Nikon 200-500/5,6G, Nikon 300/4VR, Nikon 600/4D.”

    He’s an Nikon Ambassador, and he clearly makes these lenses and that camera sing.

    He also has a great look at the new 105 on his site (and DP review)

    Support this guy on the web if you can.

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