Of course I did go out more with the new Nikon D500 camera, to see what it can do.To summarize my findings so far: the autofocus is really very fast, but the pictures are not all as sharp as I had hoped. That said, I did make progress with the flying swallows. ISO 200 can very close to pixel-sharp and while even 400 ISO images are not noise free, a 10,000 ISO image can be made presentable.
You can click on the pictures in the post to show them in the 800×533 resolution that I exported them with.
Birds in flight
First another Northern Lapwing (Kievit), with spot metering. 1/4000sec, f/5.6, ISO 400, taken with a 300mm F2.8 lens. The crop that I created the JPG from was 1268×846 pixels out of 5568×3712.
Next a Common Buzzard (Buizerd), also with spot metering. This picture is taken with the new 80-400 zoom lens at 400mm F5.6. ISO 200 and 1/1600 second. View NXi shows that the focus point is not exactly on the bird, although I am not sure that makes too much of difference.
Finally Barn Swallow (Boerenzwaluw), a picture I would never have been able to make with the D7100 and the 80-400mm. Also with spot metering, 1/2000 sec f/5.6, ISO 200 at 400mm. Unlike the Lapwing and the Buzzerd, this swallow is a very fast moving bird!
None of these pictures would make it to the www.birdpix.nl site, but it is progress as compared to day 1. The Nikon D500 does have more options with respect to the autofocus, it is quite possible that more experience and patience will give sharper pictures.
Very low light
The Nikon D500 is advertised to have good low light capabilities, so let me show an example of that too. Below a Mandarin Duck (mandarijneend) taken with the 300mm F2.8 lens The settings were 1/500sec, f/5.6, ISO 11400. This is based on a crop of 1598×1064 pixels. Given the ISO, it is actually pretty impressive what the camera and Lightroom can make of this picture. Before Adobe Lightroom, it did not look as impressive. The camera has a tendency to overexpose it seems.
Finally some pictures from this morning, with very good light. Taken with the 300mm F2.8 lens, 1/500sec, f/5.6, ISO 200. The first picture is a bit light (highlights have been dimmed a bit), but certainly sharp.
To show the sharpness that can be reached a crop from just the Grebe’s head. This is a crop in actual pixels (if you click the image), so no size reduction was done. Also f/5.6, ISO 200, this one 1/640 sec.
Also another bird in flight: a Black-headed Gull (kokmeeuw) crossing the trail I walked. So this bird was very close, the crop is 1405×935 pixels. ISO 200, 1/2500sec, f/5.6 with the 300mm F2.8 lens.
With excellent light like this, the D500 is almost a point-and-click camera for birding. The 300mm F2.8 lens probably also helped, as compared to the 80-400mm F5.6 that I used for the other pictures. A duck that flew just in front of me came out pretty decent too. That would have been impossible with the D7100.
Processing the raw images
View NXi is the current version of the Nikon photo viewer. It is View NX with some updates. It is still a good viewer. View NXi is needed to interpret Nikon specific data, like seeing the autofocus points. I could not yet find an Adobe Lightroom plugin to show the focus points for the D500 raw files.
Capture NX-D is the replacement product for Capture NX2, but I did not like it. So I am learning to use Adobe Lightroom 6 now. Version 6 is needed to get Nikon D500 support. Adobe did actually have a reasonably priced upgrade from my Version 5 product, so I did not have buy the subscription (yet). Some Capture NX2 like functions are available in the Google NIK toolset that integrates in Lightroom. This is now a free download.
Adobe Lightroom does not update the raw files. In a way that is a good thing, but for the software I wrote to create my birding website I need the metadata (bird name and location) in the raw and JPG files. I see two options: use View NXi for the tagging like before, and/or use EXIFTOOL and some scripted code to copy the metadata from the Adobe XMP sidecar in the raw and JPG files. I tried a few simple cases, and that works conceptually. I just need to do some coding around it.
All the JPGs in this post are exports from Adobe Lightroom. Sharpening is typically set around 5, radius at 1.1-1.2 and detail between 25 and 35. Where possible, I used masking to avoid sharpening the noise in the background.