Testing the D500 at a rehearsal of "Pippin"

Theater rehearsal tests D500 to the practical limit

Testing the D500 at a rehearsal of "Pippin"

This is an out-of-camera jpeg, shot at ISO 20,000. I let the camera choose, well, everything -- I just zoomed the zoom and pushed the button. I wanted to see whether It could really extend picture quality beyond the D7100s I'd used for the last five years.

Here's ISO 16,000

To my eye, it looks better than 6400 from the D7100, though it also seems a little hot to me. With processing, highlights could be brought down a bit.

And 28,800

This is better than I imagined it would be, though I'd bring the highlights down a bit in post. The D500 does seem eager to push the ISO for steadiness when the lens is zoomed in tight. All these pictures were made with the Nikkor 18-300mm f3.5-6.3 zoom, an under-appreciated lens in my view.

This is "only" ISO 7200

Note that the lighting was not especially well designed, in my estimation -- the guy's forehead was not red and the camera didn't make it so. It's not long ago that a picture this sharp shot at 7200 would have been laughably impossible.

ISO 45,600

The high ISO is due, I think, to Nikon's very conservative treatment of long focal lengths -- in this case 230mm. I'd like at this point to say that while the 18-300 is good, a 16-260 would be better, a 16-260 f4 would be better still, and a 16-260 f2.8-4 would be so good I'd glue it to the camera.

Here's ISO 1400

It's also with the lens zoomed back to 32mm, which is evidence of my suspicion that focal length is overwhelmingly important in the camera's decision as to ISO. It was shot at 1/60, f4.

And my upward limit, ISO 51,200

I confess that it wasn't until after I'd edited my pictures and shipped them to the newspaper that I realized the camera had taken it this far. I set 51,200 as my upward limit, though the camera goes much higher. Based on tests I've seen from others, 51,200 is the point after which image quality degrades more rapidly. This picture, I think, is as good as a 6400 from the D7100. (I've not shot a D7200; when it came out there was something about it I didn't much like, though I don't remember what -- probably that it wasn't a D500.)

Another at ISO 51,200

As I mentioned, these are all jpegs straight from the camera. I'd fiddle with the highlights a little and I'm not sure what else. The blue light from the left was there because . . . hell, I have no idea; it was the designer's vision or lack thereof. But my overall conclusion is that the D500 is good for publication purposes at least up to ISO 51,200.