The D7500 Blog

Camera blogs are only active as I’m working on my review for the camera. Once my review is posted, the blog pages go silent unless I discover something new that’s significant. 

The D7500 has now been reviewed and the blog pages have gone silent.

The Big Eye

One thing a lot of people don't notice at first is the eye detection system on the D7500. Just above the viewfinder and below the hot shoe you'll see a big rectangle on the back of the camera: that's the eye detector. 

So why does the D7500 have one and the D500 doesn't? Isn't that backwards?

No, it's not. It has to do with something Nikon did way back with the pre-D3000 consumer DSLRs: introduce the Shooting Information display. If you're not looking through the viewfinder on (most of) the Nikon consumer cameras, half pressing the shutter release puts up the Shooting Information display on the rear LCD. Given the minimal information on the top LCD, this is a pretty useful addition.

But you don't want that rear LCD lit up when your eye is at the viewfinder, thus the detector. When the early Nikon DSLRs didn't have this, people complained about brightness in their eyes (especially during night shooting). 

I guess the question here is this: is the D7500 a consumer camera (lots of hand holding) or a prosumer/enthusiast camera (lots of capability). Nikon seems to have punted a bit on that. The D7200 didn't have this auto Shooting Information display bit, while the D3xxx and D5xxx models tended to. It seems clear that Nikon was intending the D7500 to be more of an upgrade option for D3xxx and D5xxx users than D7200 users (who would more naturally gravitate to a D500, I think). 

Yes, this is a small thing, but it's an important one in determining just who Nikon was thinking about in terms of selling upgrades to. Throughout the D7500 there are little tell-tale signs like this that Nikon wanted to make D3xxx/D5xxx upgraders a bit more comfortable, but wasn't as concerned with D7200 upgraders. 

One nice touch from Nikon: the detector is above the viewfinder eyepiece. I've got a few cameras with eye detectors in the eyepiece. What happens when you use the tilt screen on those cameras is that the screen gets detected instead of an eye and the display is turned off. That really doesn't happen on the D7500. Even at max upward tilt with the rear LCD the eye detector doesn't trigger. A subtle thing, perhaps, but one that shows that the Nikon engineers weren't just looking for the simplest place to put the detector.

Aperture Chatter

Put an AF-P lens on the D7500.

Put the camera in Still Live View mode.

Zoom the lens.

The lens "chatters" as the camera tries to keep the aperture at the same value. It's a very interesting noise, not at all like the way the old mechanical aperture lenses tend to sound in the same circumstance. 

In Video Live View you don't get the chatter, because the camera doesn't try to keep the aperture constant, it keeps the shutter speed constant.

Old Manual Focus Lenses on the D7500

Let's start with chipped lenses, such as the Voigtlander 40mm f/2. Mounts and meters just fine. You do have to set the aperture ring on the lens to minimum (f/22), which is Nikon's usual requirement. But in terms of metering and controlling the aperture, it appears that the D7500 handles this and similar chipped lenses just fine in normal shooting modes.

It's when you put an unchipped AI lens—such as my old 58mm f/1.2 NOCT—on the D7500 that you discover that Non-CPU Lens Data isn't available, and there's no AI indexing tab on the camera. Thus, you get F-- flashing in the aperture spot no matter how you set the lens in any of the automated exposure modes, and the shutter release is deactivated.

You can move the Mode dial to M (manual exposure). The Aperture will still be reported as F--, but now you can shoot. The meter won't be of any help to you, you'll need to set exposure manually from some other source (e.g. light meter).

What I noticed with the NOCT is the usual problem with doing manual exposure this way: that the expected result is something off from the actual result. This is a bit due to the way the old AI systems worked. With fast lenses, you often needed to throw in a bit of compensation to align an external meter to the actual result produced. 

But there's a simple enough workaround. Use Live View. 

In Still Live View, press the i button and make sure Exposure Preview is turned to On. Now dial in your exposure visually. This seems to work well, especially once you learn to judge what the LCD is telling you in bright light. In dimmer light, it's easy enough to see where the right exposure probably is. 

Make sure you're in the Still version of Live View. In the Movie version, you have all kinds of odds and ends that will get in your way, and I couldn't find a way to get visual confirmation of exposure. This is another indicator that Nikon is just 100% lost when it comes to video. Many of us use old primes on our video cameras, as autofocus and auto exposure are typically visually annoying in video. But Nikon seems to have crippled the D7500 in this respect. 

Even with a chipped lens, it seems that Nikon has completely messed up something when still shooting in Video Live View. Neither the shutter speed nor aperture set is respected. This appears to be true in both Auto ISO Control (mode M) and not. Video recording, however, works correctly and respects the shutter speed and aperture that you set. 

The problem I have with all this is not so much that Nikon removed a feature, but rather that it is clear that the camera is doing something it shouldn't be, even when using an older lens that should be recognized. I'll have to look much more into this, but this doesn't seem to say a lot in favor of Nikon's QA testing matrix for firmware. 

Since I Mentioned Cheese: The Full Menu

I mentioned removing the cheese in the last entry, today I'll deal with the moving of the cheese. 

The Playback menu, delightfully, seems pretty normal to me. If you haven't been around a recent Nikon DSLR, the Auto Image Rotation menu item is now here with the Rotate Tall item, which is as it should be. Likewise, the recent cameras have the Rating and Select To Send to Smart Device on this menu, as well. Again, pretty much as it should be.

Indeed, if anything, Nikon really needs to thing about organizing the cheese more, and this menu shows it. Wouldn't it be better with the rotation options as a single item, Image Rotation, with separate sub-items for the file marker and the on-camera rotation? And wouldn't all the markings (Protect, Hide, Rating) be better as a single item, Mark Image, with separate abilities to change those markings within it?

In the Photo Shooting Menu, Flash Control is going to throw some people for a loop at first, as Nikon has redesigned this. This used to be the CSM #E3 item, and that item had four options for Flash Control Mode. The D7500 (and D500/D5) have three. You'll wonder where CMD (commander mode) went. Well, it's still there. You just have to turn Wireless Flash Options (another item further down the menu) to Optical AWL. Unfortunately, this causes a slight dissonance in the menus: if you select Manual for Flash Control Mode, then select Optical AWL, you'll see a grayed out Manual with your output amount and in Group Flash Options you'll see that TTL has been set. If you were expecting Group Flash Options to pick up your Flash Control Mode for the main flash, you'd have been wrong. 

I can see the arguments for both cases, but I really don't like dissonances. They stop me cold and make me think more carefully about what the camera is trying to do.

Next up is the new Auto Picture Control. This is really the Standard Picture Control, but the camera may adjust "hues and tones" as it sees fit. I'm still trying to come to grips with what Nikon means by that, as "tones" is not something that is set in the Picture Controls. The closest things to that we have are "contrast" and "brightness." Since I'm seeing contrast changes, I think that this is what Nikon really means: hue and contrast changes. 

What I'm seeing so far is that the D7500 tends towards a "snappier" looking JPEG in Auto than the D7500 or D500 in Standard. A little more color punch and contrast in many situations. But as with anything "auto" in the Nikon world, this is going to take a lot more testing to see what's really happening. Nikon has this habit of using either a simplistic AI based upon a database analysis they've done on images, and/or a programming technique called fuzzy logic. Neither tends to give you absolutely repeatable results in similar situations, so it can take time to figure out what the tendencies are.

I was a little surprised to find that the D7500 turned off Auto Distortion Control with the 8-15mm, but only a little. 

In the Custom Settings Menu the D7500 is mostly what you'd expect. Some might be surprised that Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter is available (requires Mirror Up), or that Store Focus Points by Orientation is present, or that 1/320s (Auto FP) is available. These are all things that have only appeared in the higher end cameras, and Nikon's penchant for cost cutting might have impacted each of those, but didn't. 

The only really big cheese item in the CSMs is the missing DOF Preview I outlined yesterday. One big cheese item that was added is the ability to program the red Movie button to WB, Metering, or Choose Image Area. Very useful and appropriate.

The SETUP menu is still the usual disorganized mess of miscellany it's been on recent Nikons. Things like the Beep Options and Slot Empty Release Lock have migrated here from the CSMs in many recent Nikons, and the D7500 carries that forward. But realistically, this is another menu that could use some hierarchy to simplify it (e.g. a single Settings option that has all four sub-options in it, a single Monitor [LCD] option with all those sub-options grouped together, a single Cleaning option, a single Connectivity option, and so on. 

The good news is that the touchscreen works with the menus, and it works very well. A single flick takes you one page (up or down depending upon flick direction) in a menu, and data entry for things like Copyright, File Naming, Image Comment, and so on, is a breeze. 

Now, to the outer cheese. 

Missing cheese includes the rear remote control detector (only a front one on the D7500). The i button switches places with the Info button, and the i button does a different set of things on the D7500 than the D7200. 

Up top the cheese moves: we get the ISO button instead of the metering button (which moves to be an overloaded zoom button on the back, or a reprogrammed red Movie button). I've already noted that the DOF Preview button is now Fn1, and the Fn button is now the Fn2 button. 

Fortunately, that's it for the cheese removal and moving. I don't think a D7200 user would have trouble adjusting to the D7500. Certainly a D500 user wouldn't have issues with the D7500 as their backup body. 

It may seem strange that I admonish cheese moving but also suggest new cheese moving at the same time (e.g. menu hierarchy improvements). It's not that moving cheese is always a bad thing, at least if it helps a user get to the functions they want to set faster and easier. But random cheese moving is very frustrating, as the changes from the CSM to SETUP menu items have been recently, especially since one thing that doesn't belong in the CSM menu (File Number Sequence) still remains. 

On the other hand, cheese moving that improves the overall handling is always welcome. Nikon's organization of the custom button assignments, for instance, was highly welcome, as was separating the still and video shooting menus so that a camera could retain still and video settings separately. 

The Cheese Has Been Removed

Long time readers of my Nikon reviews know that I complain a lot about Nikon engineers who move buttons and menu items willy-nilly with camera iterations, which is extremely irritating to those of us who are long-time Nikon users. I call that process cheese moving, loosely modeled after the book Who Moved My Cheese?

Guess what? Now we have to talk about cheese that is removed.

What am I writing about now? In particular, the DOF Preview button. 

Oh, the button still exists in the location you'd expect it—no cheese moving—but it's labeled Fn1. Guess what you can't assign to Fn1 (or any other button)? Yep, DOF Preview. 

One of two things happened at Nikon. Either they had massive, repeated meetings about whether it was okay to remove DOF Preview, or some engineer who had no one looking over his shoulder decided it wasn't necessary and vanished it without any discussion. 

Both possibilities are problematic. In the first, if you had to have many meetings to determine whether removal was okay or not, then your marketing department needed to have a message to users about that, otherwise when they discover the missing feature, you're going to get articles like this ;~). And who knows what kind of Internet frenzy? 

On the other hand, if it was removed quietly by someone who didn't discuss it with others, then you have a product group that isn't being managed very well, and with no clear direction from above, don't you? 

Nope, Nikon's not going to squirm out of this one. A mistake was made. It's only a matter of which mistake it was.

Okay, don't go all presidential. Don't open up your Twitter account and get ready to fire off a missive dissing Nikon on this. Let me explain what you're going to do now that DOF Preview is gone.

In short, you're going to use Live View. The D7500 is one of the cameras that respects the aperture while in Live View (most of the consumer cameras only use the aperture you set before starting Live View for Live View viewing, though they'll change the aperture when you take the photo). That means that you can, with some extra effort, see what the DOF looks like. 

Sort of. The rear LCD of the D7500 isn't the same high pixel count one as on the D500, so you'll likely be pushing the zoom factor up to make out what's happening. Meanwhile, in lower light the Live View image gets grainier as you set smaller and smaller apertures. 

Yes, this works best in bright light and on a tripod. But frankly, so did the DOF Preview button. 

I can see Nikon's logic in removing DOF Preview (not in the index of the manual, either). With a good Live View system, it's not really necessary or as good. Moreover, DOF Preview as a button doesn't actually do anything useful when you're in Live View with a camera that respects apertures in Live View. What I can't see is Nikon not telling users what they did and how those users should address the missing cheese. 

EN-15a Battery

So what's the difference between an EN-15 and an EN-15a? For the most part, color. The EN-15a is a gray battery and the EN-15 is a black battery. When you look at the markings/label on both they are virtually identical: 7v, 1900mAh, 14Wh. Some of the text has been expanded in the standards section and there's a new icon symbol for some standards process, but both are labeled Li-ion2 and even the serial number is arranged the same way (YYYYMMDDxx####). 

So, the question becomes this: does the D7500 support third party batteries? Remember, the D500 didn't work with any third party battery when it appeared. At the moment, all of the third party EN-EL15 batteries I have fail in my D7500, while all my old Nikon EN-EL15 batteries work fine. I'm told that B&H now sells a Watson battery that works with the D500, but I don't have a copy of that battery to try with the D7500 at the moment. 

As with all Nikon cameras these days, the battery that ships with the camera is in a near-depleted state (to minimize shipping hazards). You absolutely will have to charge the battery first or put a fully charged EN-EL15 into the camera before fiddling with it. If you attempt to set the language and time/date with the battery as it ships from the factory you're almost certain to lose the time/date, as the internal battery that runs the clock will quickly discharge the EN-EL15a as it tries to charge up.

First Impressions

As I did with the D5 and D500 when they first came out, I'm going to do a brief set of articles blog-style during my initial testing of the D7500. 

Today I'm going to just work my way around the body with some first impressions. 

At first glance, the D7200 and D7500 bodies look alike. On closer examination, you see all the small changes that Nikon has made, some of which are significant. For the most part, button/control positions are unchanged. The obvious ones are the addition of the ISO button behind the shutter release (the metering button that was there goes to be the overloaded zoom in button), and the Info/I button swap (info now in the left stack of buttons on the back, i by the Live View, which is exactly opposite of the D7200). 

One thing that did strike me is that the Direction pad is slightly lower on the back of the D7500 than the D7200. It's not a big change, but it's one that absolutely feels different.  I'll have to see how that works out in shooting, but moving the focus cursor down the body is not going to work if you're trying to one-hand the camera. 

Up top, there's less information on the LCD than before, with Nikon opting to move a lot of the setting indicators down to the rear LCD (Shooting Information screen). I'm not excited about that, either, but it's a trend Nikon started a while ago, and I'd guess that cost cutting will eventually send the top LCD packing completely. 

No hot shoe cover, another trend Nikon's cost cutting has provoked, though you still get the ubiquitous "please advertise Nikon carrying strap." 

The initial impression is that the rear LCD is bigger, but it's not. You're reacting to the tilt mechanism, which forms a border around the actual display. There's no selfie mode for the tilt mechanism—I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing—and it's much better at tilting up than down. What immediately pleases me is that we've touch-control menus back, including very fast page-based swipe scrolling in the menus. Why this isn't on the D500 I don't know. It makes it very easy to rapidly find and change one of the many menu items.

The three door system over the external connections on the left side of the camera has become a two door system. Worse, it's not a well thought out one, the same problem the D7200 had. If you're using the D7500 for video, you'll probably have both doors open because the mic and headphone connectors are under different doors. Nikon's gotten this wrong on a number of cameras now, so I guess it's to be expected. But really the remote control and USB connector should be under one door, the video stuff under a different door. 

Another thing that's now wrong is the offset shoulder strap locations. The right-hand strap holder is behind the center of gravity of the body, the left-hand one just about on it (and forward of the right-hand one). Moreover, we've lost the triangular rotating strap hangers. Now we've just got a simple open metal bar to thread through. More cost cutting.

The missing vertical grip support is interesting. The body bottom clearly looks as though it were originally molded to include something else. Instead of the full faux grip pattern, there are two points within the pattern where the mold appears to have been modified. The battery door is the usual removable one. But there are no positions either on the body bottom or inside the battery chamber for addition control connections. 

The curious thing about the missing grip is that Nikon, Fujifilm, and others have all discovered that doing a camera+grip bundle at discount is a way to move product without giving up too much gross product margin. They won't be able to do that with the D7500 this Christmas, so I wonder how Nikon will create and price a bundle to move product after the initial demand has been placated. 

Moving onto the other grip—the one you usually wrap your right hand around—the D7500 follows the recent Nikon DSLR pattern of a deeper finger well. I don't sense much difference to the basic shape of the grip itself, but if you've got longer fingers you won't be crunching up against the body with your fingertips. On the other hand, the Fn1 button is a long reach now for someone with shorter fingers.  

Overall, the D7200 and D7500 are remarkably similar in most ways. With both sitting on my desk at the moment, it often takes me a moment to recognize which is which. The rear LCD is one giveaway, the ISO button the other. But other than those two obvious clues, the family resemblance is very, very close. 

Yes, plenty of folk are still put off by the "missing elements" (vertical grip option, second card slot, missing 4mp, etc.) that have provoked a lot of angst among the Nikon faithful. I'm much more curious about how it "shoots" though. That's what's up next on my list of things to do.

Aside: some of you have asked me how the new Nikkor 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5 performs on a DX body. Since that's what's currently mounted on my D7500 I can tell you. At the mark between 10 and 12mm, you get the equivalent to the 10.5mm DX fisheye: 180° diagonally. You can get pretty close to 10mm before the corners start to clip, so I'm finding I can get slightly more coverage than the 10.5mm gives me. Quite obviously you can go the other way and "zoom in" to 15mm. At the point you still have extreme barrel distortion, but with about 110° from corner to corner diagonally. That's slightly less wide than the 14mm (114°), but not enough difference to pay any attention to. If you zoom out to 8mm on a DX body, you'll see a horizontal capture with semicircle extensions at top and bottom center. This almost gives you an unclipped 16:9 crop. I'd judge the widest you can get a 16:9 frame completely filled is about 9.5mm. 

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