Reviewed in the United States on June 7, 2017
A change in direction for Nikon...
My D7500 body arrived on June 5th, shipped directly from Nikon USA, not from Amazon. So that's why this is not a "Verified Purchase" review.
I have to say, I'm pleasantly surprised with this camera. It's not all roses though, and I certainly have my gripes. And it's a pretty big letdown if you intend to use it with big/heavy lenses handheld. If you're moving from a D3xxx or D5xxx body to the D7500, it's a pure upgrade and you'll have no regrets. A "no-brainer," if you will. However, I do suggest that you give serious consideration to the D7200 (for several hundred dollars less) before you commit to the D7500 as the D7500 is not a clear upgrade from the D7200. The D7500 is a give-and-take vs. the D7200 and which of those cameras is right for you will really depend on your style and needs. Definitely not a black and white decision. If you won't shoot a lens larger than the 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G VR handheld and won't do much vertical shooting, I'd go with the D7500. But with a lens bigger/heavier than the 70-300mm handheld and/or you will do a lot of vertical shooting, the D7200 is the easy call, as you'll need a battery grip and the D7200 offers one while the D7500 does not.
To understand where I'm coming from, I got this camera as a replacement for my D7200. D7500 vs. my D5300 is an easy call for the D7500. But I don't call the D7500 an upgrade over my D7200 because in several important ways, the D7500 is actually a downgrade from the D7200. I almost didn't even order it. The ONLY reason I was getting the D7500 was for the 50-frame 14-bit RAW buffer and the 8fps Continuous Shooting speed at that resolution. I didn't want the D7500's sensor because 24MP is my favorite sensor size and I didn't want to go with the D7500's 20MP. I didn't want the tilting screen because with the many Nikon DSLRs I've had, every single one of them had Live View AF that was totally worthless so I never used Live View, so a tilting screen wouldn't matter. I didn't care about the touchscreen either. I didn't care about the 4K video because without usable Live View AF, video resolution doesn't matter since you're never gonna shoot video.
Well, what actual use taught me about my expectations was:
1) While I don't forgive it for being only 20MP, this sensor is quite impressive. I love my D7200's sensor and the D7500 hardly distances itself from the D7200, but it does have detectably better color and saturation and very slightly better ISO performance. EDIT June 18, 2017: A suggestion is to set High ISO NR (Noise Reduction) to either Off or Low for JPEGs. The Normal and High settings completely eliminate color noise but are rather aggressive with their smoothing and detail is lost, and the images start looking digital at Normal and really look digital at High. The Off setting gives a natural appearance but with some color noise (closest to core RAW data). The Low setting still looks quite natural and with very little color noise. I've used Low and Off NR for awhile now, over wide varying conditions, and have decided to stick with the Off setting. I just don't like the aggressiveness and particular smoothing character of the D7500's NR. And since noise is relatively low on the D7500, I've decided that a little grain is fine and the more natural, finer, microcontrast obtained without NR is preferable for my style of shooting and image character taste. Afterall, I do come from decades of shooting film. Perhaps if you spend a lot of time at/above ISO 3200 you may want to go with Low NR. I believe a lot of the praise this (and the D500's) sensor is getting from the public for high ISO performance is actually due to the specific character of noise reduction of the EXPEED 5 image processor (not the sensor) which completely eliminates color noise at the Normal and High settings for JPEGs and embedded JPEGs in RAW images. It's really rare to not see ANY color noise in photographs at medium and moderately high ISOs, and everybody's used to noise smoothing. Core RAW data between the D7200 and D7500 are nearly identical. The D7500 has more accurate/neutral color noise though, as the D7200's noise pulled a little magenta.
2) This is a BIG one. Live View AF actually works! Don't get me wrong, Live View AF is not even in the same ballpark as Viewfinder AF for speed of consistent lock-on. However, this IS a big improvement because it is the first Nikon DSLR I've owned (maybe the D500 is on par with the D7500 here?) that has usable Live View AF and therefore is the first Nikon DSLR I'm actually shooting video with.
3) Now that Live View AF works, the tilting screen actually has value. And it, for the first time, GENUINELY allows camera-away-from-eye shooting. Now I can pretty reliably shoot video, and stills(!), from weird angles provided there is a decent amount of light. Opened a lot of doors here...
4) Regular AF performance is somewhat improved at the AF points away from center. The D7500 has the same AF system as the D7200, but the D7500 has the greatly-improved metering system of the D500. A lot of pre-release hype was made of how this meter will improve AF. Sounded like typical marketing hype that amounts to nothing to me. But, whether it's the meter or something else in the camera, AF performance has improved.
5) A new feature also thanks to the D500's meter is Viewfinder AF face-tracking. Meaning that while you look through the regular viewfinder (not Live View) the camera will find face(s), and track a face if using AF-S Auto, AF-C Auto, or AF-A Auto. It actually works fairly well. It could use some refinement and it rarely locks onto eyes, but it is a pretty reliable feature and really handy. It seems like you're supposed to go to Custom Settings Menu / b4 Matrix Metering / Face Detection On to activate this feature. And it seems implied that you're supposed to be using Matrix Metering for the feature to work. What I've found in actual use is that it doesn't seem to matter if you turn this feature on or off and it also doesn't seem to matter what metering mode you're in. If you set your focus mode to AF-S Auto, AF-C Auto, or AF-A Auto, it will always look for faces. For the record though, AF-C 3D and AF-A 3D still tracks action better. But really because you tell it exactly what to focus on each time. The D7500's face-recognition isn't ready for demanding use yet. It's convenient for group shots/snapshots, but not for serious portraiture, and certainly not for sports. *Might* be awesome for BIF (Birds In Flight) or other subjects that have a low-contrast/no-contrast background, but I haven't tried that yet so I can only speculate.
6) Mounted on a tripod with focus fixed (recording a landscape), I have to say the 4K 30p looks really good. There is a substantial 1.5x crop factor to shoot 4K so you'll need a really wide lens. Compression isn't aggressive and fine distant detail was maintained. I did notice quite a bit of wind noise in moderate wind even with the wind noise filter activated. I'm not experienced at shooting video so I couldn't tell you if the ergonomics or other characteristics of the D7500 as a video camera are good or bad relative to other video DSLRs. However, the 4K 30p video image quality is very solid! I imagine 4K timelapse with the D7500 could be tremendously impressive!
7) With such solid ergonomics and a really intuitive root Menu structure, I didn't care about the touchscreen. It just wasn't necessary. BUT, for pinch-zooming and repositioning while reviewing photos, it's fantastic! However, and this is a giant head-scratcher, for in-camera cropping (Nikon calls this "Trim"), pinch-zoom does not work. Whaaat in the wooorlllddd??? But you can move the crop frame around the screen by finger-dragging it.
8) In-camera RAW processing now has a setting for most options that retains the as-shot setting. So now when you in-camera RAW process and all you want to do is add +1.0 Exposure Compensation, for example, assuming you've selected the As-Shot setting for all the options, all you do is add +1.0 and then hit EXE and you're done. No need to confirm White Balance, Picture Control, Active D-Lighting are how you shot them. On that note, you don't have to remember what Picture Control, etc. you actually shot that photo at.
9) At first I cringed that there would no longer be magnesium body parts in the D7xxx line as it is one of the defining features of the D7xxx line. But, given how much I like the light weight of my D3300 and D5300, I actually consider this a benefit. For me. I don't beat on my gear so I don't need that level of durability. Not to belittle magnesium durability as some people will really need it. But that's truly not many people at all. I doubt even 1% of D7xxx users NEED that kind of durability. So long as this does not affect AF or sensor alignment, I'm good.
10) This is a personal choice thing and not everyone will agree here, but I like that there are no "dangly triangles" neckstrap guides anymore. I really don't use straps and hated those triangles dangling all the time. I know they are removable, but then you lose them or don't have them when you actually need a strap. The "fixed slot" of the D7500 is better for me but I wish they were positioned differently and faced upwards instead of jutting out to the side.
11) The shutter is quieter now. It sounds more refined and is noticeably less intrusive. Nice.
12) EDIT June 16, 2017: The new (if you're coming from a D7200) Highlight-weighted Metering (the mode after Matrix and before Spot with an icon that looks like Spot Metering with an asterisk (*) at the top right corner) is coming in very handy for me since with bright scenes I nearly always will expose for the highlights and lift shadows in post. For scenes that don't have excessive "hot spot(s)," this mode yields unpredictable results, for me anyway. I suggest NOT using it unless there is highlight detail that needs to be preserved. Matrix Metering upon its creation decades ago was designed to give a bias towards preserving highlight detail and it is an improvement over Center-weighted Metering in that respect unless the highlight is in the center of the frame. Highlight-weighted metering is basically an automatic spot meter that actively looks for and finds highlights and then exposes for them, with little or no concern for the rest of the scene. Just as manually spot metering will do, Highlight-weighted will let the rest of your scene go really dark in order to prevent blown highlights. Combining a healthy dose of ADL and/or Exposure Compensation may be in order, but of course, this is up to your own taste and the scene itself. And since Lightroom can't process D7500 RAW images yet, right now you're limited to Nikon software or in-camera post-processing in 2-stops of brightening and/or ADL. Highlight-weighted Metering really works better when it is the subject that is highlighted, rather than something like a bright sky behind your subject. When your subject is backlit and you're using Highlight-weighted Metering, I suggest adding ("overexposing") 1 or 2 stops of Exposure Compensation. Examples in my attached Photos 9, 10, 11.
13) So, regarding THE reason I bought the camera; 8fps and 50-frame RAW buffer! Well, yeah, it's what you'd expect: BADASS! For all but special applications or the most demanding professional work, this is more than enough performance. And I finally get to say that about Nikon's Continuous frame rate and buffer! Being limited to real-life 5 or 6fps for 2 or 2.5 seconds (and even that was only recently) was really frustrating. The D7500 finally has a usable Continuous High frame rate and adequate buffer. And all was good in the world... :)
So, as mentioned earlier, it's not all roses:
1) Now there is only 1 memory card slot. 2 memory card slots was one of the defining features of the D7xxx series. So, I don't really consider this a D7xxx series camera anymore. To me, it's a D6000. Different people will value the "Backup Slot" differently. To me, it's important. Not critical, but certainly important. I have had cards fail on me and was saved by the Backup Slot. But that's only happened a couple times over more than a decade. The problem is, you don't get to pick when your card fails. Maybe you lose rubbish photos of your cat and it's no loss. Maybe you lose your best friend's wedding pictures or your priceless travel photos on an African photo safari! :O This leap backwards is a justifiable reason for many to avoid this camera and Nikon better not make this blatant "don't-cannibalize-D500-sales" marketing call in the D7500's successor.
2) No vertical grip ability. Again, another defining feature of the D7xxx line is gone. Different people will value this differently. It matters to me. I'm pretty upset about this. *Maybe* it would be okay if this was called the D6000 and was priced at $899. But it's not okay as a D7xxx at $1,250. EDIT June 18, 2017: Last night I finally got to shoot action with this 8fps machine. I shot an outdoor concert with the AF-S 80-400mm F4.5-5.6G mounted. Frankly, it was very disappointing and difficult. This is a larger/heavier lens, which is what you expect to be shooting with when shooting action that's not right in front of you. The D7500 is too small and doesn't have enough leverage to easily manipulate such a rig. Vertical shooting was horrible. Without a tripod or monopod, this setup and larger (and even a little smaller as well) is just simply too clumsy. Shooting this setup without a vertical grip was far too burdensome last night and the lack of stability due to poor camera bracing posture caused at least 1-stop of blur, and therefore I had to go with at least 1-stop higher for ISO. Throwing away 1 or 2 stops of ISO in the evening/night just made the D7200 FAR superior and comfortable vs. the D7500 for handheld shooting action with bigger lenses in darker settings. Very ironic as that's EXACTLY what the D7500 was touted at excelling at. In intimate settings with smaller/lighter F1.4, F1.8, or F2.8 lenses (20mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 58mm, 85mm, 105mm), sure, the D7500 is better for horizontal shooting, but still not for vertical shooting. If you're going to shoot concerts/shows in low light handheld with a 70-200mm F2.8 or 80-400mm F4.5-5.6 or 200-500mm F5.6 or similar (and forget about using a 200mm F2.0 or 300mm F2.8 handheld!), don't use the D7500 to shoot it until a vertical grip becomes available. Some company is going to have to develop a vertical battery grip that uses ML-L3 infrared signal to trigger the D7500. At least I REALLY hope so...
3) The touted deeper grip, to me, is actually a negative. To achieve the less-bunched-up holding position, the front of the grip was not extended outward from the body, but rather, the body was narrowed so that your fingertips wrap around the front of the grip at the same length, but go deeper into the body so that your fingertips are no longer being pushed back (or not AS pushed back) by the camera body. The problem with this is that when your ring finger reaches for Fn2 (the bottom Function button), your finger is always scraping against the inside of the lens mount area. I had to switch to using my pinkie finger for Fn2. This new method is going to have to overwrite long-burned muscle memory and I don't know if I'll ever prefer this.
Secondly, the position of Fn1 is poor. It's too tall of a button now and your middle finger will very often accidentally activate Fn1. Effort must be made to stay away from Fn1.
Thirdly, the grip rubber seems to be a harder less-grippy rubber than the D7200's. I've cleaned and rubbed this rubber to get any wax or initial "stuff" off of it, but it just feels different from the D7200 and I REALLY don't like it! Hopefully it will break in. EDIT June 12, 2017: After almost dropping my D7500 while picking it up from a table due to the slippery rubber grip a couple days ago, I "scrubbed" all the grippy rubber on the camera vigorously for several minutes with a rubbing alcohol-soaked cotton make-up remover pad this morning. This helped a lot. (MAKE SURE THAT THE FIRST THING YOU DO WHEN YOU RECEIVE YOUR D7500 IS TO SCRUB ALL THE RUBBER ON THE CAMERA WITH ALCOHOL! DO THAT BEFORE EVEN INSTALLING THE BATTERY!) This morning the grip was kind of gummy and left a residue on my hand. Even after the alcohol-scrubbing, it's still kind of gummy. But it's much more grippy now. Still not how it should be, but it's now outside of the "red zone" for inadvertent drops. The right thumb grip on the right back of the camera is nice and grippy so make sure your thumb is planted and you should be okay. EDIT June 16, 2017: I'm finding that I constantly have to "scrub down" the rubber as it keeps regaining it's "slippery gumminess." Frustrating. EDIT July 08, 2017: This rubber just doesn't break in. It simply is slippery and definitely a substantial liability. Another D7500 irony; much-touted grip... that fails on materials cheapness... This is absolutely inexcusable on a $1,246.95 camera body. Nikon should do a recall, and repair free of charge any D7500s and attached lenses, flashes, etc. damaged from drops.
4) The frame crop for 4K is ridiculous! 1080p video doesn't suffer this crop so this really seems to be an intended crippling of the D7500 so as to not cannibalize the Full-Frame bodies that shoot 4K.
5) This is really a gripe I've had since the D7200. The Info Display is crap compared to how it was on the D7100. Same goes for the top LCD display that's even smaller than the D7200's, which is inferior to the D7100's. Further, and this is my main gripe about this, is that the "i Menu" since the D7200 incarnation does not highlight items on the Info Display for you to then change. I liked navigating the intuitive double lower rows for common functions. Now the i Menu takes you to a regular Menu list that you scroll up and down like any other root Menu. The whole top LCD/Info Display/i Menu system is a really big step backwards from the D7100. Actually, the D7000 was even better because you could press Info once for the Info Display and then press Info the second time to pick items to change right there on that screen so you didn't even need an i Menu. Why Nikon departed this totally intuitive and efficient system is mind-boggling.
6) When is Nikon going to get rid of the stupid Mode knob lock button??? I never ever EVER accidentally changed Modes on my cameras that don't have Mode lock buttons. Not having such control locks ever was a problem. But always having to get around these locks is a constant block to seamless shooting and a pain in the butt.
7) This isn't Nikon's fault, but Adobe Lightroom doesn't support D7500 RAW yet. It's a good thing the in-camera RAW processing is so efficient... EDIT July 25, 2017: FINALLY, after more than 7 weeks after the D7500's release, Lightroom can work with D7500 RAW files!!!
In summary, this camera is a bunch of steps forward and a bunch of steps backward vs. the D7200. It is ALL-forward if you're coming from a D3xxx or D5xxx body though. And it is in FACT no longer a D7xxx series camera. It's just not. It's really the D6000. So far I'm really liking the responsiveness and refined feel and the confidence of knowing I have a tool that can very competently capture action with small lenses. I'm quite fond of my "D6000" but I think it's very overpriced. Without the security of the Backup Card Slot and no vertical grip, particularly since the new grip is literally dangerously slippery, this camera shouldn't be getting D7xxx pricing. For $899.00, it would be a great-but-compromised camera and a solid deal. But since it costs $1,246.95, you decide if what I've talked about is worth it to you...
BUGS NOTICED SO FAR:
1) June 10, 2017: Buffer Reserve remaining frames improperly displays as "r12" in the viewfinder and in Live View when the buffer is totally empty (ready for a full burst). As you shoot continuously, the Reserve counter erratically counts down from 12, but occasionally jumps back up a frame. For example, you start shooting with the counter at 12, a few frames later you drop to 11, 2 frames later you drop to 10, on the next frame the counter goes to 11, then to 10 on the next frame, etc. I expect Nikon will address this in the first firmware update since this is happening on a camera whose primary draw is fast continuous shooting. For continuous shooting, it is a really in-your-face flaw.
2) June 21, 2017: I've noticed this a couple times in the past and hoped it would just go away. But it happened again last night. Sometimes the D7500 just freezes up and becomes unresponsive to any button presses or dial turns. Last night I waited through such a freeze and after about a minute, things seemed to return to normal. Previously I'd turn the camera off once the freeze happened and then back on again and everything was okay. This kind of error makes me very paranoid about data corruption and I panic about losing the data on the sole memory card. Who knows, perhaps even with 2 cards if there was a corruption it would corrupt both cards, I dunno. But I'd sure like the chance that a backup card could save the day, but the D7500 has no backup card...
3) June 11, 2017: I'm finally calling this a bug, as it serves no purpose and is really inconvenient. The new Viewfinder face recognition feature is cool. However, once you set any AF Mode (AF-S, AF-C, AF-A) to Auto (this is the only AF Mode you get Viewfinder face recognition in), the other AF Modes all switch to Auto as well. This may be a trait of other Nikons as well, I don't know, but it's a real pain. I've never used AF Auto before because it's never picked my subject accurately. It was a garbage Mode that had no place in a DSLR. I've always used the Single Point setting for Single Focus Mode (AF-S Single), and 3D tracking for Continuous Focus modes (AF-C 3D and AF-A 3D). The camera remembered these settings. On the D7500, choosing the Auto setting for any of the Modes sets AF-S, AF-C, and AF-A all to Auto. You can't have AF-S Single and AF-C Auto/AF-A Auto. So everytime you set AF-C Auto for face-recognition for action, when you go back to AF-S, you must manually re-set to Single. This is clumsy and costs critical time, which results in lost photos.
PHOTOS IN THIS REVIEW (Amazon has issues displaying my images so if you don't see them all, that's why...):
1) This is an example of Live View AF. It is an uncropped JPEG created in-camera via RAW processing the original. The only thing done to it was converting it to JPEG. ISO 220, 1/125sec., F2.2, 35mm F1.8G DX Nikkor.
2) This is a straight crop from Photo #1.
3) Example of 10mm lens (current widest non-fisheye Nikkor lens) still image uncropped frame, for following video crop comparison.
4) 10mm frame from 1080p video. Only the top and bottom were cropped from the full 3:2 still image frame by the camera due to the 16:9 aspect ratio. 1080p video gets full sensor width. Approximation of 4K frame crop border shown in red.
5) 10mm frame from 4K video. Actual frame, no cropping by me. Nikon causes a 1.5x crop going from 1080p to 4K.
6) 18mm uncropped still image. For very many DX shooters, this will be the widest focal length in their lens lineup.
7) 18mm frame from 1080p video. Only the top and bottom were cropped from the full 3:2 still image frame by the camera due to the 16:9 aspect ratio. 1080p video gets full sensor width. Approximation of 4K frame crop border shown in red.
8) 18mm frame from 4K video. Actual frame, no cropping by me. Nikon causes a 1.5x crop going from 1080p to 4K.
9) Regarding Highlight-weighted Metering comments above. Settings for this photo: Highlight-weighted Metering, ISO 100, 1/125sec., F3.0, ADL Normal, Landscape Picture Control. No edits.
10) This is Photo #9 above, but in-camera RAW-processed with +2.0 Exposure Compensation (brightening), ADL H2. This is the best it can get in-camera. With Lightroom, it could be a LOT better. Preservable highlights and enough dynamic range to lift shadows substantially.
11) Matrix Metering, ISO 1600, 1/80sec., F3.0, ADL Normal, Landscape Picture Control. No edits. Highlights are totally lost.