Some Updates and Advice

It seems clear to me that the D500 has some sort of power related issue. Whether that’s the cause of the card problems or not isn’t clear, but clearly there is a DBS-like issue that results in a camera lock up with a slightly different signal than DBS had.

DBS signaled lock up on a power-out-of-expected-range event with clearing the top LCD and blinking the battery symbol. Camera was locked and turning off and turning it back on had no impact. This new D500 version is strange in that it tends not to appear until you attempt to turn off the camera (I’ve had several reports of it happening with the camera on, and that turning the camera off then didn’t work, the top LCD stayed lit and the camera locked.

I’ve had just enough reports of potential triggers to believe that this is a power related issue. While no one can absolutely duplicate an instance, several have reported that the “while on” version happened as the lens was made active (focus and VR). That was the trigger with DBS. 

It’s clear that plenty of people have encountered the issue, though neither I nor my shooting partner have. I’m hoping I do, as I’ve taken to paying close attention to what I’m doing and sequence of that. 

For example, here’s a new problem related to an old problem: at the last minute I decided to shoot a time-lapse of the audience filing into the theater this weekend. I was originally going to do that with my GoPro, but discovered I was missing a plate for the way I wanted to mount the camera. So I did the time-lapse with my D500 instead. 

[ominous music builds in background]

I set the parameters to longer than I knew the sequence needed to be. There was a Lexar 1000x card in the camera and…you guessed it…I decided that was going to be the destination. Yes, I like to flail myself from time to time. I started the time-lapse. 

As usual, Nikon’s time-lapse function fights you when you want to turn it off early. Depending upon your settings, you may have hardly any time to press the MENU button followed by the OK button to stop it. If you miss, you get to try again after the next shot fires.

I missed the first time. 

The second time I got the “card may be damaged” message. Oh-oh. Do I power off? No, the camera might still thinks it’s writing the movie file. So, since I had other things to do, I stuck the D500 in its inoperative state under the stairs up to the stage and went about videoing the show with my big 4K rig as planned.

After the show, yep, the camera was still showing “card may be damaged.” So I turned it off, popped the battery, popped it back in and…nothing appeared on the card when I pressed the Playback button. Oh-oh. [music swells]

I complained about this to my shooting partner, packed the gear away, and headed home. 

The next morning I turned on the camera and pressed Playback. Nothing on the card. Really, Nikon? I had other things to do, so it wasn’t until this morning that I decided to take a close look at the state of the card in my computer. 

Amazing: the time-lapse video is there. Wait, but it didn’t appear on the camera. So I put the card back in the camera and…sure enough, there’s the video now. Strange. Very strange. But this is consistent with what everyone else reports about that error: the card isn’t actually damaged and no data or files was lost when the message appears. The movie not appearing is new, though.

Meanwhile, I’m slowly accumulating similar errors occurring with other cards, including XQD cards with no SD card in the camera. While early on this problem seemed to point only at Lexar and specific cards, I believe that they’re only more susceptible to whatever the problem actually is, and the problem is more likely in the camera. And it could be once again power related, as the problem only shows up when systems are suddenly drawing power (card read, rear LCD). 

So my advice is this: don’t believe that you’re never going to encounter this error. You might. Don’t panic if you do encounter it. I’ve not yet heard of a camera actually losing data, but you might not be able to verify that on the camera, so don’t panic.

Meanwhile, Nikon managed to turn around my WR-10 quickly with the required firmware update, so I’m now running radio wireless flash with the D500. Without reading the step-by-step instructions, it took me a bit to figure out how to pair the units and get things set for my normal use, so I can just imagine that there will be some confused folk trying to set this up for themselves. 

But it works, and it seems to work well. What’s a bit dopey is the multi-part way you now have to set flash settings: Press Info, press Info again, press i to get to the master radio control settings (or use the menu option that’s moved from the CUSTOM SETTINGS menu to the PHOTO SHOOTING menu). Press the Thumbnail button with the Shooting Information screen displayed on the LCD to get to the flash exposure compensation and mode settings. Meanwhile, a quick flash enable/disable is only available if you set one of the custom buttons to that. Yikes. Plus we have new terminology to learn.

Overall, the new radio flash system seems just a bit of a kludge on the existing flash system. That’s especially on the D5 and D500, which don’t have a built-in flash and thus no dedicated flash control button. I suspect everything can be designed more cleanly with cameras that have a flash button. But then again, cheese does like to be moved.

Still, it’s nice having a reliable wireless flash. But Nikon, do you really think you’ve got enough channels, or did you expect your market share to dwindle so much that you didn’t need many? 

Finally, it appears that not enough of us are calling 911 for the emergency services to know there’s a problem. The few people that tell me they’ve called Nikon Customer Support all tell me that when they reported one of the D500 problems the answer from the other end was “that’s the first I’ve heard of that.” 

Remember my article last week about reactive versus proactive? I think Nikon needs more people calling in complaining about locked up cameras and card errors for Nikon to even react. I can tell you that Nikon isn’t proactive, because I’ve been documenting these problems for a couple of weeks now and no one from NikonUSA has bothered to contact me. Maybe they’re afraid I’ll bite their heads off. Grrrr Grrrr (buzz buzz ;~). 

So far I have one report of a locked up camera going back to Nikon to be looked at. While the party in question was apparently told that nothing could be found wrong, the repair invoice listed Repair B2, which indicates a low level repair, though there wasn’t anything else specified. 

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