The D7500 is Nikon’s latest enthusiast DSLR that gains a handful of components and refinements from the higher-end D500. However, it’s also a model that loses a couple of features in order to leave a more decisive gap between the two models.
So where does that leave existing D7200 owners? It’s fairly unusual for successive models to offer enough of a change to provide a significant upgrade, so does the D7500 do that? For that matter, should would-be buyers try to pick up the last of the D7200s, while they’re cheap?
For all the hoopla about better image quality, we’ve seen little significant difference between this 20MP chip (when it appeared in the D500) compared with the 24MP sensor in the D7200. The differences that do exist become visible in side-by-side comparison at extremely high ISO settings, but don’t expect a significant uptick in noise or dynamic range performance in return for the slight cut in resolution.
The D7500’s highest native ISO rises by 1EV and its extension settings keep going to a dizzying Hi 5, which is equivalent to ISO 1.6 million (I’m not going to speculate about how Nikon’s engineers celebrated when they achieved this milestone), but the main benefits of this chip appear to be readout speed, rather than significant differences in image quality.
For us, one of the most significant factors will be how closely the D7500 can match the D500’s autofocus. It gains the much higher resolution metering sensor used for subject tracking, along with nominally the same processing (though Nikon’s Expeed naming system doesn’t necessarily mean they have the same chip).
However, the D7500 doesn’t gain the AF module from the D500, which means it can only offer 51 AF points (15 of which are cross-type), rather than 153 points, 99 of which are cross-type. This also means it misses out on the incredibly broad AF coverage that the D500 offers.
Even so, the processing and meter module should ensure the autofocus and, in particular, the subject tracking, works better than the already rather good D7200. It remains to be seen whether it can match the uncannily good performance of the D500.
Autofocus auto fine-tune
One of the nice features to make its way down to the D7500 is the Auto AF fine-tune system. This allows you to set the focus precisely in live view such that the camera can then check this against the results of its separate phase detection AF module. Any difference is captured as a correction value.
This is a useful addition since it allows the user of the camera to calibrate their lenses without the considerable degree of trial and error required with the D7200’s AF fine-tune system (which essentially required that you guess and check a correction value).
The autofocus fine-tune system isn’t a panacea: it applies a single correction value for all focus points, so will not necessarily improve the performance of off-center focus points, which tend to be less reliable, particularly with lenses that exhibit spherical aberration.
Obviously the biggest change with the D7500 is the move from six frame per second to eight frame per second shooting. This isn’t a match for the D500’s 10 fps shooting but it’s likely to be enough for a lot of people. Hell, this is around the level of performance that the world’s best sports shooters used around 2005.
As well as 8 fps shooting, the D7500 has a buffer nearly three times deeper than the D7200’s. 50 uncompressed 14-bit Raws in a burst is likely to be enough for all but the most demanding action shooters.
The D7500 brings 4K UHD video recording and, assuming it looks like the D500’s output, it’s pretty good. It’s taken from a 1.5x crop of the sensor, meaning it’s using sub-Four Thirds sized sensor region, which means you won’t get the ‘Super 35’ style noise or depth-of-field characteristics that other APS-C cameras can offer. The significant crop also means your lenses will offer a significantly less wide field of view when shooting. A standard Nikon 18-something DX zoom will start at a fairly restrictive 40mm equivalent field of view.
Just as significantly as the addition of 4K is the gain of power aperture, which means you can change aperture in live view mode on the D7500. On the 7200 it’s a dance of dropping out of live view, changing the aperture and then jumping back in again, with no way at all to change it once you’ve hit REC.
Backwards compatibility takes a step backwards
The D7500 also loses a little in the way of backwards compatibility. Nikon has tried to keep its F mount as backwards compatible as possible, even as it’s added more modern features. The D7X00 series has, for some time now, been the lowest level of Nikon to retain a screw drive for older AF-D lenses but the D7500 sees another small element of compatibility chipped away. Specifically, the tab that checks what aperture old ‘AI’ lenses are set to (pictured, center) has been removed, meaning the camera can only use manual exposure mode with these lenses, with no aperture priority option.
For most users, this is likely to be irrelevant (manual focusing using the viewfinder focusing screen of a DX DSLR isn’t the most life affirming process), but it does mean anyone with an older lens collection will need to think about the D500 as their next step, and it’ll be another factor to consider when scouring eBay.
The D7500 gains the SnapBridge system that uses a constant Bluetooth LE connection to auto-transfer 2MP images or keep the hailing frequencies open for when you want to use Wi-Fi.
We remain unconvinced by SnapBridge, especially in terms of what it offers the higher-end, more shutter-button-happy user, but it’s not necessarily worse than the D7200’s system. That may sound like damning with faint praise but, until Nikon develops more distinct ways of using SnapBridge, we feel it’s better suited to the D5600 user than it is to the more demanding enthusiast user of the D7500.
Still, the D7500 does gain a batch in-camera Raw conversion system, which we’re hoping will work well in conjunction with SnapBridge to provide an effective Raw + Wi-Fi workflow. Time will tell.
The D7500 gains a flip-up/down touchscreen. The flip screen is likely to be handy for video shooting but, with underwhelming video autofocus and no sign of the D5600’s ability to use the rear panel as an AF point touchpad, we don’t think the touch sensitivity of the screen is less exciting. Sure, the D5600’s touchpad implementation only really worked for photographers who put their right eye to the viewfinder, but that at least made it a major benefit for those users.
The LCD panel itself has also changed, but don’t read too much into the lower dot count. The new panel may only be 922k dots, rather than 1.2 million, but the difference is that there is no longer a white ‘dot’ making up each pixel: they’re both displaying 640 x 480 pixels.
Battery life/battery type
The D7500’s battery life rating has fallen 15%, compared with the D7200, presumably as a result of the demands of the faster processor and possibly less energy-efficient screen.
It uses a new version of the EN-EL15 battery called the EN-EL15a. Other than coming in a lighter grey plastic case, Nikon was unable to give specifics about what’s changed. Our assumption is that it’s just Nikon making it easier to distinguish between the newest versions of the EN-EL15 and the older ones which don’t seem to get on with its newest cameras.
However, this is where you see another attempt to put more clear water between the D7500 and the D500: the 7500 no longer has a port for connecting to a battery grip. So you’ll need to stick with your D7200 or jump to the D500 if you regularly shoot beyond the capacity of a single battery or appreciate the improved ergonomics for portrait orientation shooting.
Is this really the D7200 replacement?
While it’s true that the D7500 isn’t a step up from the D7200 in every last respect, it follows the D7X00 pattern in every way that matters. Twin dials, screw drive, large prism viewfinder and comparable price point. Nikon will, naturally, say that the D7200 and D7500 will sit alongside one another, but that’s what manufacturers say to avoid devaluing any stock left in retail channels.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that when the D7200 was launched, it sat at the top of Nikon’s DX lineup, whereas the D7500 has to slot in beneath the D500. Inevitably that means some users will be better served by stepping up a tier, but we don’t think it’ll inconvenience a significant number of users. 64, 128 or 256GB cards offer plenty of capacity and card errors are rare enough that a second card slot isn’t a vital feature. The D7500 is still a camera that shoots faster and for longer, and can capture better video than its predecessor, so it’s not like Nikon’s evil marketing department has left would-be D7X00 users out in the cold.
Should I upgrade?
To a large extent, the degree to which we’d recommend upgrading from the D7200 to the D7500 will depend on how its new AF system performs. If you’ve already been thinking about a camera with faster performance, though, then take a look at our D500 vs D7500 comparison: the D500 will give you a bigger performance boost.
If your needs are less action driven, it’s a much harder call and, unless the AF performance turns out to be great, the answer has to be that it’s probably not worth it. However, if you own a D7000 or even a D7100 that’s starting to show its age, the D7500 offers a host of benefits, not least better dynamic range, faster shooting and a much deeper buffer.
Overall, then the D7500 isn’t better than the D7200 in every respect, but it’s at least a little better in most of the ways that will matter to most people. But, while the last of the D7200s are available at end-of-life prices, it’s worth thinking about how much the extra features are worth, to you.