June 12, 2017
This camera is touted as a sports camera, and I'm sure it's excellent for that purpose, but it's also, at this point in time, the best camera to shoot weddings, events, and fast paced photo sessions (for example, with little kids running around).
My first camera I used professionally was the Canon 6d, shooting weddings and events. I wanted a camera with more dynamic range and better file flexibility so when the Nikon d750 came out I bought one with the 24-120 f4. I loved the files and DR range so much, I brought another d750 with the 24-85mm lens as a backup and for use with the 16-35mm lens. I still loved the d750but I had two problems with the camera
1. The settings constantly changed because I couldn't lock it in ( I had the same issue with the 6d). Shooting in a fast paced environment, I couldn't concentrate all the time to make sure the I didn't touch the shutter speed and aperture dials. When I reminded myself to check that I didn't turn anything by mistake, I had taken many photos either over and underexposed. It was a waste of time editing in post and I was not getting the best IQ because of under and overexposure.
2. Too little focus points. For portraits the AF points were passable, but for the dancing and other events, there were not enough outer points and I ended up with tons of ceiling space which I later mostly cropped in post( losing from the sides as well).
When the d500 came out, I didn't think I'd "downgrade" to a cropped sensor. The reviews were also mixed on how the IQ compares with the d750. But after being so frustrated with the two issues I was having with the d750, I decided to try the d500 because it has a shutter and exposure lock ( only for stills, it doesn't work in video) and a nice amount of AF points, which would solve those two problems. Well, I'm mighty glad I did.
ISO and Dynamic Range
After very extensive comparisons and studying the scenes studio test scenes on dpreview.com, the d750 seems to be approximately a third stop better at high ISO than the d500. I think its really amazing that a cropped camera is almost equal in ISO capabilities to an excellent FF camera. The dynamic range of the d500 seems to be a bit better than the d750. In IQ, the d500 easily competes with FF.
I am extremely impressed with the 16-80 lens which is very sharp at f4 ( I didn't test it at 2.8 aperture ) for a zoom. It is sharper than the 24-120 f4, and of course much lighter. Originally, I thought the difference in sharpness between the images I was seeing from the d500 and the d750 because only because of the two lenses. I am still very impressed with the 16-80 lens, it is indeed sharper than the 24-120 f4. But I saw a comparison by digitalrev.tv of the d750 and d500 and they said the d500 is sharper than the d750. And so I tested these two cameras with the Nikon 85mm 1.8g lens. Indeed, the d500 is noticeably sharper than the d750! It was incredible, I couldn't believe it.
Re- sharpness: Edited on June 4 2018: Regardless of digitalrevtv review on YouTube, after studying many photos which I did get tack sharp images on the d750, equal to that of the d500, I came to the conclusion that the d500 is NOT sharper than the d750. The cause for blurriness on the d750 is SHUTTERSHOCK. Pressing the shutter causes the causes the camera to jerk, thus causing the camera to move a few mm. Depending on the subject and aperture, the camera can still focus on the area on wants even if it veers off very slightly lightly off from the original AF target if the AF point is focusing on the same plane as the original target , or the targeted area of the image can be slightly blurry from veering off the AF targeted area. A fast shutter speed does not help in this case. Setting the shutter to "silent mode" on the d750 does help with shutter shock. The d500 does not have this issue at all. The shutter is smooth and focus ALWAYS where you placed it.
I like the color rendering of the d750 more than the d500 in most cases. The d750 is more warm in color, while the d500 is more neutral. I prefer the more warm peachy skin tones and and warmer colors, but this is subjective and some will prefer the d500's neutral color. And in some situations I do prefer the colors from d500. It's actually the white balance, not Nikon's color science, affecting the warm/neutral hue. I use Magmod 1/4 cto filters on my Godox flashes, so the color is nice and warm when I shoot portraits with the d500.
Re-color: Edited on June 4 2018
Unfortunately the d500 can produce red instead of black color with certain lenses like the Nikon 85mm when used for contrasty subjects such as black letters on white paper. It doesn't happen all the time only under certain lighting conditions, certain subjects, and certain lenses. With these lenses it will produce much more chromatic aberation in contrasty situations vs a FF camera (and maybe other crop sensor Nikon cameras) This does not happen ever with my d750. Trying to use Lightroom's chromatic aberation remover results in large chunks of the blacks (and reds) disappearing, destroying the image entirely. Red chroma color can be lowered in post and it will make the reds turn black again, however in photos like portraits, the reds cannot be lowered too much otherwise it effects the photo negatively. This problem doesn't occur too often, but if you mostly work with high-contrast subjects, the d850 is probably for you ( Read above about the d750 shuttershock issue. Setting it on silent shutter almost eliminates the problem.) I would still choose this camera over the d750 for the pro controls since this problem does not occur often.
The Nikon d810 successor will be here sooner or later, I suspect in the next 2-3 months, and will be awesome as well. Some will probably consider it even more awesome than the d500 for wedding photography. However, it will also weigh more and for some of us camera weight with the weight of attached lenses (FF vs cropped), is a considerable factor, especially considering the amount of hours we carry the camera ( or cameras) at weddings and events. Some wedding photographers also carry two cameras at a time and I think that's a lot of weight to carry if they will be using cameras like the d810. And of course, the cost of the upcoming camera will likely be more than $1000 more expensive than the d500. I think the d500 is more than adequate for wedding photography and will likely be a better buy than the d810 successor for wedding photography.
Update Feb. 2 2108: I checked dpreview.com studio scene, the d500 (and also the d750) actually looks better at high ISO, which is not surprising due to the large amount of pixels the d850 has. (However, the d850 may retain better details at high iso). The bottom line is, the d500 has amazing clean high ISO and can compare to FF cameras.
Although 3.1 megapixels more would've been appreciated with the d500, I believe that the average 24 megapixels was sacrificed for the low light IQ. Nikon, had its priorities right in this case, however I hope the d500 successor will once again feature at least 24mp.
In summary, the d500, which has the shutter and aperture lock and sufficient AF points and IQ as good as the d750, makes for an excellent camera to shoot weddings with!
I now have sold one d750 and the 24-85mm f3.5-4.5g lens to help finance the d500. I still have one d750 but I use the d500 as my main camera because of the excellent pro controls. The d500 has the same IQ as the d750 except in low light it is only very slightly more noise that can easily be removed. I would purchase a camera now, I would definitely choose the d500 over the d750.
The video IQ is pretty good! I found that the touch focus is great for focusing on the subject before the video starts so it's great for interviews and subjects that stay in one place. I don't use continuous AF in video because Nikon video AF is simply a disaster, it is unusable. For moving subjects or for when I move I prefer a camera with reliable video AF. I really, really wish the d500 camera had good video AF!
Edit Nov 9 2017: No focus peaking, on top of no reliable video AF, just ruins this as a video camera. I wanted to use the d500 more often for video. The other cameras/camcorder I own that have reliable video AF which I use for shooting video also have small sensors. Very often I find myself in situations where I need better IQ that I can only get with larger sensors. And so I started using manual focusing with the d500, but with no focus peaking it makes it virtually impossible to be 100% sure that you are getting focus especially when I or the object is moving. It's ok when I'm shooting stuff for my projects that I can reshoot if it's not in focus, but not if I can't reshoot the footage if I realize later that it is not perfectly in focus. I mostly shoot video with the d500 on a tripod so I now use the Neewer HD monitor that has the focus peaking feature.
Also, although the DR of still files shot by the d500 is excellent, the DR of the video thhis cameras shoots is not so good. It's not worse than the d750 and it may be better, but it's not that good. It's almost impossible to lift the shadows and to grade in general.
I realized that I can shoot video with the d500 with the wide end of my zoom lens set to 16mm (24mm FF equivelent), aperture set to f5.6 with the subject at least 20 feet from the camera which in this case scenario the depth of field is to infinity so everything stays in focus even if the subject moves. (I focus on the subject before turning on the video by touching the touchscreen once. I have the AF on AF-S, not AF-C so the camera doesn't try to focus).
When I shoot video at events I use the d500 on a tripod, to the wide angle video. I use my other cameras which focus reliably (but have smaller sensors) to zoom into the subjects and to pan.
The d500 does not get heated up after shooting to the full 29 minutes of 1080pr, but it will become warm when shooting at 4k. The The Canon 6d used to heat up very quickly at 1080p (it doesnt have 4k), I needed to change the batteries frequently when I shot video and the d750 only films 10 minutes of good quality video. The a6000 heated up without finishing the 29 minutes of video it's, supposed to be able to shoot. But the d500 was only very slightly warm after 29 minutes of filming without stopping. I had tested the camera before shooting this event and it was a relief to know I can let it roll.
I'm waiting anxiously for a Nikon APSC mirrorless camera that will focus quickly during video and for a 16-80mm lens for that mirrorless camera that will focus silently and quickly when shooting video.
I will also not purchase another camera that has no focus peaking because I don't want to shlep extra gear, in this case an external monitor, batteries and cable, and I don't want longer setup and teardown time as a result of using this extra gear.
D500 vs D750 vs Sony a6000 stills IQ
Dreview.com's studio comparison tool is very accurate. Through side by side sample testing and real life shooting weddings and events comparing the d500 and d750, I've found the same as I see in the dpreview's studio comparison, almost equal high ISO between the d500 and the d750. So whoever still says FF is much better IQ than cropped has not really compared this camera to current to FF cameras well. DPR's scene comparison also shows how much better the d500's high ISO is from the Sony a6000 and I have found it to be true in real life ( as well as the Sony a6000 having horrible smearing in ISO as low as 800!).
This leads me to the conclusion that dxomark scores are totally meaningless! I don't know if these scores have any merit in technical terms, but in real life, the photos you get out of the cameras do not resemble dxomark's scores at all. Dxomark rates the d500 at a much lower score than the d750, the d750 having more than100% higher ISO score, and I find that to be really funny because it's simply not true. The difference is approximately a third stop ISO, not double the ISO advantage. Also, the a6000 is rated as higher in ISO capabilities than the d500 and I found that to be completely untrue as well. The d500 has much better higher ISO than the a6000, it's much cleaner and has no reddish color smearing. As I've mentioned above, you can see the excellent high ISO quality of the d500 compared to other cameras, FF and cropped, in dpreview's studio scene.
Update Nov 16 2017:
After using this camera to shoot many weddings and events, I can say that this is my favorite camera I ever had for shooting stills. I choose to use this over my d750 because of the pro controls and excellent dynamic range. Coupled with the 16-80 lens's better clarity, sharpness and lower weight compared to the 24-120, it's simply a winnining combination for portraiture, wedding and event photography. The d500's IQ is fantastic, the FF d750 having only a third stop advantage in ISO which is nothing. Definitely a pro camera and a joy to use!
For video it is lacking basic features. IQ is OK but not as good as stills mostly because the DR is not good ( but better than Canon cropped sensor cameras and the FF 6d) . And editing the footage is not easy at all because of the narrow dynamice range. Because of its lack of video features and IQ, I cannot recommend it if purchasing mostly for video use.