Is the Nikon D500 worth buying for wildlife photography in 2022?

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Is the Nikon D500 relevant for bird & wildlife photography in 2022? Bird & wildlife photography needs gear that’s fast enough to meet challenges. In a world of mirrorless cameras, are DSLR cameras such as the Nikon D500 and Canon 7D Mark II good enough to click sharp pictures of birds and wildlife?

I have a 5-point checklist to decide whether a camera is good enough for wildlife photography and they are, the number of autofocus points, autofocus speed, burst speed, buffer size and image quality.

Now before we talk about each of these in detail, I want to tell you that the camera has excellent build quality. It is weather sealed. So you can use it briefly in light rain, and its’ dust resistant. 

If you read the specs, they’ll tell you that this camera has 153 focus points. And that 99 of them are cross type focus points. 

But what you should know is that only 55 out of those 153 points are selectable by the user. And only 35 out of those 55 are cross type focus points.

On the other hand the D500’s biggest rival, the Canon 7D Mark II has 66 focus points, all cross type.

Cross type focus points are able to focus faster and more accurately than non-cross type points. You can rely on them to nail focus every single time. 

I always choose my autofocus area as “single point”, and select the relevant point where I want maximum sharpness. I align that focus point with the eye of the subject. 

You must also know that the focus points on the D500 that fall along the rule of thirds are not cross type. Which is a bummer when I want to align something along the thirds. But it’s not always that the eye of the bird needs to be along the thirds. And even though there are no cross type focus points at the thirds, we have non-cross type points there. That’s better than no focus points at all.

The autofocus speed is fast. With some practice, you should be able to nail focus on your subjects even in challenging situations.

The camera has a 20.9 megapixel sensor. And can click 10 frames per second which is exceptional. 

It has a buffer size of 200 RAW images. So as long as you have a fast enough card, which you should when clicking wildlife, your camera shouldn’t slow down because its buffer is full.

When clicking pictures of birds in flight, for example, we need shutter speeds in excess of 1/2000th of a second, sometimes even 1/4000th. That means higher ISO values. The image quality is exceptional, even at 1600 ISO.

The Nikon D500 camera checks all boxes and that’s why it’s still one of the best cameras you can lay your hands on, even in 2022. 

The thing that makes it most appealing is the Nikon 200-500 mil lens. This lens has a fixed maximum aperture value of 5.6 through the entire range of focal lengths. The 500 mil focal length is extremely essential when clicking pictures of birds. Canon, unfortunately never considered providing an affordable 500 mil lens for DSLR cameras whereas Nikon offers two, the 200-500 and the 500 5.6 prime lens.

But the Canon 100-400 Mark II lens is much smaller and lighter, ideal for jeep safaris if you’re going to click tigers, leopards, rhinos, and other mammals.

Please see www.girishmenon.com to know more about the bird and wildlife photography workshops and tours that I teach and organise

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