Let’s Hope Things Didn’t Go to Nikon’s Head

With dpreview officially recognizing the D500 as their “high-end ILC camera of the year” for 2016, I’m sure that the folks at Nikon corporate are all smiling. I hope those aren’t smug smiles, because:

  1. The D500 had the longest gestation period of any Nikon DSLR. Nikon lost a lot of previously loyal users during the wait. Moreover, we’ve now got mirrorless cameras nibbling at the back door and still stealing a few more sales (e.g. X-T2, E-M1 Mark II, and maybe the A6500). It would be nice to know that such an important group isn’t overlooked for so long again in Nikon’s update cycles.
  2. The D500 had one of the roughest “break-in” periods I’ve seen in a Nikon DSLR, maybe even all ILC cameras, with some very clear bugs, missing abilities (e.g. SnapBridge iOS), plus clearly problematic battery and storage issues. Even today, it’s not clear that everything has been resolved. For example, Nikon’s drop to UHS-I whenever it encounters a UHS-II card error is a kludge and not a permanent solution. Either Nikon or the card makers have misinterpreted the standard and need to fix their implementation. If its the card makers, just slowing things down isn’t the full answer for users: we really want to know that we have a card that’s slowing things down and needs to be looked (updated) by its maker. This is a relative to my control-your-ecosystem chant for years: if Nikon had a true certification program, we wouldn’t have this issue as users, and when we did, there would be someplace we could direct our queries to. As it is, I’m still unconvinced that there aren’t lingering issues in the D500 firmware, though it’s rare that I see any manifestation these days.
  3. Why the D5 got the 9-point Dynamic addition and the D500 didn’t is a huge question to me. Quite frankly, the D500 is more in need of that new feature than the D5, as the layout of the autofocus sensors goes across the whole D500 frame, and there are “gaps”—especially in the cross sensor capabilities—that make off-center D25 somewhat problematic for a few situations. I’m worried that Nikon thinks that the D500 isn’t the true flagship, so they can leave out capabilities and no one will be upset. Sorry, but that’s not true. 
  4. Given how poor SnapBridge is at doing what a serious shooter needs in terms of connectivity, Nikon gave us the ugliest and most awkward accessory ever, the WT-7. Why not just build the WT-6 port into the regular MB-D15? Oh, right, Nikon didn’t design the MB grips as anything other than basically dumb, one-way systems (e.g. battery can’t be shared to another accessory). Moreover, configuring SnapBridge, the WT-6 (D5), or WT-7 (D500) for serious Wi-Fi work is a pain in the butt. Heaven help you if something changes between uses. 
  5. The wireless-by-radio flash system is still nascent, missing a full range of options. I’m not convinced that the current menus for setting flash options on an SB-5000 are well thought-out, either, which means we’ll probably get some more cheese moving in the future. Oh, and have you tried buying the necessary WR-R10 that plugs into the 10-pin socket and controls the flash? Yep, another example of Nikon not having an inventory of product ready to serve demand. Moreover, I’m still hearing about people who get a brand new unit that needs its firmware reprogrammed by Nikon to actually be used with the camera. 

So okay Nikon: celebrate for a few days, then get back to work making the D500 everything it can and should be. 

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