Camera Magazine Imaging Awards - see all winnersHere’s a thing. Nikon announced the D500 at the same time as the flagship D5 so it was a bit overshadowed by all the headlines generated by its big brother. But, to all intents and purposes, the D500 is a D5, only with an ‘APS-C’ size sensor which makes it both smaller and lighter. This also makes it quite a camera… in our opinion the best D-SLR of 2016 regardless of sensor size or category. The best, full stop. In the old days we used to hand out just one award – the Australian Camera Of The Year – and if we were still doing that, you’d be looking at the winner right here.
 
The systems and features it shares with the D5 give the D500 professional aspirations and, in truth, it could have competed quite capably in that category, but it’s superlative as an enthusiast-level camera and here it’s sensor size is a definite asset… as is its pricing (both reasons why Canon’s EOS 5D Mark IV is on the pro category shortlist rather than here). As we noted in the introduction, sensor size is becoming less of an issue, but as far as pros are concerned, bigger is still better… even if the D500 easily disproves it.
 
There’s no better endorsement of why the D500 wins here than in our ‘The Verdict’ conclusion to our road-test of the camera – “The bottom line is that the D500 is, to all intents and purposes, an ‘APS-C’ format D5. It borrows so much from the full-35mm camera that the differences in performance – both camera-related and image-related – are negligible and, in fact, the D500 does a little better in a few areas. It looks to be just as strongly built and the viewfinder is equally good. It’s actually nicer to handle and, of course, is a lot lighter to carry around. If you choose to fit non-DX Nikkor lenses you get a 1.5x focal length increase for free which also translates into saving weight.
 
“The key performance difference between the two cameras is the top shooting speed – 12 fps versus 10 fps – but in reality this is going to represent no difference to many photographers who simply don’t need the extra 2.0 fps. The all-important burst length is still the same for shooting both JPEGs and RAWs. So all this is brought into sharp focus by the difference in the prices… the real bottom line. 
 
If it was all relative, the D500 should be selling for around $6000 (or maybe more), but it’s half this price which makes it the best value proposition anywhere. 
 
The fact that this actually isn’t the most compelling reason for buying the D500 gives you some idea just how good the rest of the package is. 
 
Mirrorless may be on the march, but here is the most convincing argument for buying another D-SLR – and, what’s more, an ‘APS-C’ one – that there is. Bravo!