To evaluate the real-life resolution of the Nikon D500, I shot the following scene with it using the Nikkor AF-S 16-80mm f2.8-4 VR lens set to 35mm f8. I shot the scene in RAW+JPEG mode and have presented crops below at 100% from the areas marked by the red rectangles. The JPEGs were out-of-camera using the Standard Picture Style, while the RAW files were processed with Adobe Camera RAW using sharpening of 50 / 0.5 / 36 / 10 and with noise reduction set to zero.
The first thing to note when comparing the out-of-camera JPEGs and RAW files below is the higher contrast applied to the former by default. This approach is certainly delivering some deep blacks, but equally losing some of the darkest shadow detail. It’s easy to retrieve this from the RAW files, or of course by adjusting the JPEG Picture Control if preferred, but I should say for day-to-day use I found the JPEGs out-of-camera were generally satisfying.
The next thing you’ll notice from the second and third row of crops is a little moire / false colour in the very fine lines of the grills and shutters. This isn’t surprising given the absence of a low-pass filter on the sensor and it is something you’ll need to deal with or accept on images with fine detail like this. I wouldn’t describe it as a deal-breaker, indeed many won’t even notice it unless you pointed it out while pixel-peeping, but it is visible under the right – or wrong – conditions.
Beyond this, the D500 is recording plenty of detail from its 20 Megapixel sensor and you wouldn’t notice any perceptible difference in real-life resolution compared to a 24 Megapixel model.
To find out how the camera measures-up at high sensitivities, scroll down for my Nikon D500 noise comparison, or head to my Nikon D500 sample images or skip to my verdict.
Nikon D500 noise JEPG vs RAW
To evaluate the real-life noise of the Nikon D500, I shot the following scene with it using the Nikkor AF-S 16-80mm f2.8-4 VR lens set to 25mm f8. I shot the scene in RAW+JPEG mode at each ISO and have presented crops below at 100% from the area marked by the red rectangle. The JPEGs were out-of-camera using the Standard Picture Style, while the RAW files were processed with Adobe Camera RAW using sharpening of 50 / 0.5 / 36 / 10 and with noise reduction set to zero. The high degree of sharpening coupled with zero noise reduction may be extreme, but reveals exactly what’s going on behind the scenes and how much real-life data you have to work with.
The first thing to notice is the same as on the previous page: the Standard Picture Control for JPEGs is applying greater contrast than my RAW process and as such while the blacks are deep, there’s some lost tonal detail. Adjusting the Picture Control for in-camera JPEGs or processing RAW files will allow you to retrieve this detail with subtler tonal gradations.
Up to 400 ISO the Nikon D500 delivers very clean images even with noise reduction turned-off for RAW files, but a faint sprinkling becomes gradually visible on my RAW crops from 800 ISO upwards. This in turn is being dealt with by noise reduction on the JPEGs, but with a gradual softening of ultimate detail. I reckon between 800 and 3200 ISO, there’s more detail available in the RAW data than the JPEGs are showing, and results here could look better with fairly mild noise reduction applied.
From 6400 ISO upwards though, there’s a noticeable increase in noise which will become visible either as speckles with low noise reduction or smearing with higher noise reduction. I’d say 25600 ISO is about as far as you’d want to go for anything other than smaller reproductions.
While the highest sensitivity in the standard range is 51200 ISO, the D500 bravely continues with Hi settings equivalent to 102400 ISO, 204800 ISO, 409600 ISO, 819200 ISO and even 1638400 ISO – yes, over a million and a half ISO. But as you can see from the crops, the quality is horrible when viewed at 100%. Even at smaller reproductions the images look very ropey, but if it’s a case of coming home with a horribly noisy image or no image at all, mist photographers would go for the former.
If you’d like to see these other examples and many more real-life shots, check out my Nikon D500 sample images, or tab back to my verdict.