I’ve had my D500 since about May of 2016, about 2 years. In that time I’ve taken about 100,000 photos with it. I use a tool called Bulk Rename Utility during my import process and have a saved profile for the renaming and I add digits to the file name and it’s up to 100,000+ now.
The camera itself is great, up to 10 frames per second, a ton of focus points farther out to the edge of the frame than past cameras. I like the XQD (?) card option, though I wish you could use 2 at once instead of having the second slot be for an SD card. To me the SD cards are all too thin and flimsy and prone to breaking. I’ve had one break on me and I lost images while in Wyoming. That sucked.
For birds I primarily use the Nikon 600mm f/4 lens along with the D500 – I got the lens used (not on Amazon) and saved a bunch, but it had some wear and tear on it. Generally I am hard on my gear and after a while I realized that for me buying all new stuff wasn’t worth it. Especially with lenses, after a few months they’re not pristine anymore and I could have saved a bunch. I bought my last car used for the same reason. The car’s great, and already comes broken in (with a ding or two, so no need to worry about it).
The D500 at 20 MPs on a crop/DX sensor seems like a lot. I remember my first Nikon DSLR was the D70s at just 6MPs, then the D200 had 10MPs and the D300/300s has 12 MPs. Compared to those 20MPs seems like a ton! And it is a lot, I can still crop to reframe some and have lots of image left to work with. For wildlife and bird photography you basically have to crop – because lenses are not of infinite mm’s and you can’t always zoom more with your feet. At some point you can’t get closer so to make an image more appealing to view, cropping has to be done.
The way I setup the camera to shoot with the D500 is roughly this:
- Manual exposure mode for shutter speed and f/stop
- AUTO-ISO so ISO will vary and rise and fall depending on the scene
- Exposure compensation set to get proper exposure (needed because manual exposure + auto-iso results in ISO fluctuating and exposure no longer behaving like it normally does in manual mode)
- AF-C – focus mode set to continuously update and track moving subjects
- remap the DoF preview button to the in viewfinder virtual horizon
- Set the “exposure adjustment” to -3/6. This is found in the menu at b7.
I didn’t use the DoF preview button much, and I find that I tend to hold the camera in a way that’s not level, I just seem to always have a little tilt in my hands, or my head, or tripod, or idk – if there’s an horizon it’s not level. So being able to turn on the 2 little angle displays for vertical and horizontal angles is super helpful.
The exposure “adjustment setting” (menu item b7) is used to change what the exposure is when the camera is at EV0, or the base, starting exposure. I have found that for the D500, D810 and D850, they tend to over-expose images based on how I like to shoot. Also, these newer cameras allow for the RAW image to be adjusted up in exposure easily without much of a problem. However as with all cameras when things are over-exposed there’s a limit to how much can be recovered. By making the camera shoot slightly darker, I have a little cushion. When it comes to processing the images, I use an import preset in Lightroom, and that includes an exposure adjustment of +.25. The result is the camera shoots a 1/2 stop dark, and in post I brighten the image a 1/4 stop. I can remove this and be back at -3/6 or -.5 of a stop if a particular image needs it.
When I’m not shooting birds and wildlife, I change the rear “focus” button to be the AE/AF Lock function. The small jog style button on the back does this normally, but because it wobbles so easily it doesn’t actually hold a lock for me when I am actively shooting and I need a normal style button. This setup allows me to shoot in AF-C and then lock focus/exposure with the button and reframe the image to a different composition.
For file naming, my standard is to change the DSC_nnnn to instead include the camera model number, which would be something like 500_nnnn. Then in the BRU utility I mentioned at the start, I rename the files to be [date]_[camera-model]_[nn]nnnn.NEF. A file would then be like this once renamed after offloading – 2017_1104_D500_097416.NEF. The BRU tool lets you save a profile, and I have one per camera and increment the profile each time I’ve taken another 10,000 images since the camera only goes up to 9999. I store the profiles on dropbox so I can access them from my laptop or desktop which works well if I happen to be editing images on a trip and not while home with my desktop PC.
The above image was taken with a D500 and 600mm lens on a tripod (probably with a wireless remote trigger). I have found that in many cases the male osprey will circle the nest with a fish but then fly away if I am close or watching. They know, they sense this and within some distance will fly away and wait. I took a bunch without a remote trigger and then re-positioned the camera closer, with the remote, set the camera to manual focus mode and framed up the nest and backed off. I think this was with the remote but I’m not 100% sure. This location is a pier on the eastern shore of Maryland and the nest is ~90 feet from land. I especially like this image and the sequence because it has the entire family – both adults and all 3 chicks. This was taken in mid July in 2016 on a very hot day.
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