While the DSLR market is slowly shrinking, that hasn’t stopped camera companies from introducing innovative new models for those of us who still find them the right tool for many occasions. There are some excellent options ranging from $500 to $5,000, with the trick being to find the right tradeoff of features, size, and cost for your needs. That’s what makes the Nikon D7500 so impressive. It manages to pack most of the best features of its “big brother” Nikon D500 into a smaller, less expensive form factor.
I’ve been using my D7500 for about a month now, initially as a backup to my Nikon D810, but increasingly as my “go-to” camera when I don’t need pitch-perfect image quality or massive resolution. It is certainly a lot easier to travel with. For a recent client project in Europe, for example, I knew that my images would only need to be used on the web, so I was easily able to take a full camera and computer rig as part of my carry on luggage by taking the D7500 and a couple DX-format lenses.
This Camera Is About as Fun to Use as a DSLR Can be
Unless you have massive hands, using a large DSLR may be rewarding, but is usually not described as fun. The mid-size D500 set a new standard for how user-friendly its deep grip, small size, and well-thought-out controls made it. The D7500 takes that a step further, as it’s even smaller and lighter. With the kit lens you get a versatile combination that handles most shooting situations, is easy to hold in one hand, and sells for under $2K total. Nikon has even shaved off just over an ounce from the weight of its predecessor, the D7200.
Other nice updates include the addition of a proximity sensor to shut off the LCD when you put your eye to the viewfinder and the improved ISO button location — also found in the D500. The optical viewfinder is quite good for this class of camera, importantly featuring 100-percent coverage. Also nice to find in a prosumer model are headphone and microphone jacks, as well as a current-design accessory terminal. The rear LCD not only folds out, but is touch sensitive, making focusing during LiveView pretty simple, if still slow. You can even set it to be a touch shutter.
As far as getting the shot, the camera certainly isn’t a match for a Nikon D5. But the updated AF system, high frame rate, and improved low-light performance make it a natural for capturing just about any type of event or activity. I used it indoors, outdoors, and for flight shots, with excellent results in all cases. As long as you use a stabilized lens (like the 18-140mm “kit” lens) you can also capture some fairly long exposure shots without a tripod.
Nikon has continued to upgrade its Snapbridge connectivity system, with the newest version allowing Bluetooth to your mobile device for transferring low-resolution images and controlling the camera. Unfortunately, image transfer is really slow, so it is really only useful if you’re desperate to share an image or two before you have a chance to download your SD card.
What Nikon Left Out of the D7500
There are a couple features from the Nikon D7200 that Nikon left off the Nikon D7500. First is the second card slot, and second is the Ai tab for using older manual focus lenses. Cynics say these were left off to give the more expensive D500 some differentiation, but I suspect they just weren’t used much by buyers of cameras in this price range. There are also no contacts for a vertical grip. However, with its impressive 8fps and long battery life, a vertical grip is more of a convenience for shooting in portrait orientation and not a shooting necessity.
You’re also not getting pro-level features like a 10-pin connector for accessories. You do get amazing battery life, though. With the updated EN-EL15a, Nikon rates the D7500 at 950 frames per charge. In my usage, I’ve been getting well above that. Nikon left off the DOF preview button — probably not a loss for most photographers these days — but more importantly there doesn’t seem to be any way to program a function button to turn off the flash. That is one of the handiest custom functions of other modern Nikon DSLRs. The D7500’s added 4K video support is a nice touch, but it forces a 1.5x crop factor.
A Little Less Resolution Doesn’t Mean Less Image Quality
Like the D500, the D7500 has slightly lower resolution than its predecessor (21MP versus 24MP), but image quality is very close. the D7200 achieves a slightly higher overall DxOMark sensor score, probably due to slightly better dynamic range at ISO 50 and 100, but its performance falls off much more sharply at high ISO. As a result the D7500 is a solid upgrade when shooting action or in low light.
For most uses, I’ve found the optional Nikon 18-140mm DX-format lens that is bundled in a kit with the D7500 to be excellent. For general walking around, especially at the middle of its range, it provides very usable output. However, when I tried using it extensively at the long end for wildlife, I found it was not as sharp as my much-loved Nikon 70-200mm f/4 lens.
Image Gallery: Take a Look For Yourself
[Images copyright David Cardinal]