The one thing that sets the D500 apart from the other cameras is the perfect convergence of features unique to it with those usually found only on full-frame professional models such as the D5. It becomes quite clear how the camera is designed for maximum performance. There are altogether 12 key features of the D500 that will aid you in making the best of this high specification camera. In this article, we look at 6 of them, all groundbreaking features that aid the autofocus (AF) system. (Report by Ryosuke Takahashi)
The D500 is mounted with the same Multi-CAM 20K autofocus sensor module that is also used on the high-end, full-frame Nikon D5. It provides 153 AF points (99 of which are cross sensors), and can detect and acquire subjects using individual points as well as an entire surface. As the AF sensor system was originally designed to work with a full-frame sensor, the AF detection area covers almost the whole of the viewfinder. This incredible coverage is indeed a feature to look out for.
Diagram: The area in red is the cross sensor detection area.
On previous cameras, data related to autofocus was processed by the same micro-computer that controlled the rest of the camera. On the D500, this is now carried out by a dedicated processor solely for autofocus, enabling the instantaneous processing of the enormous volume of data streaming in from the 153 points on the autofocus sensor. This dedicated processor also contributes to the enhanced tracking performance of moving subjects, adding to the D500’s excellent autofocus performance.
The D500 can carry out continuous shooting at as fast as 10 frames per second (fps) when in AF-C autofocus mode and exposure mode S or M with shutter speed set to at least 1/250 sec. This is proof of its superior performance in capturing moving subjects, and it is the same across all AF area modes. Continuous shooting performance is maintained even as the enormous volume of image data streamed from the 20.9 megapixel image sensor is processed, a testament to the high speed processing capabilities of the EXPEED 5 image processing engine.
With the success in reducing the noise level of the AF Sensor Module, the central focus point is now fully functional even at low-light conditions of EV -4. The other focus points can perform focusing in conditions as dark as EV-3. Under moonlight conditions when the naked eye finds it impossible to distinguish a subject, autofocusing can still be carried out with accuracy. (Photo by Kazuyuki Okajima)
The AF-C autofocus mode is a feature that helps in getting perfect images by controlling the movements of the autofocus against the subject. The “Blocked shot AF response” parameter determines the sensitivity of the autofocus to any obstacle. The “Subject Motion” parameter allows AF response to be set to correspond according to the subject’s movement characteristics, such as “Erratic” for subjects moving at an inconsistent, unpredictable speed. When used appropriately to suit the shooting scene, this feature will greatly enhance subject acquisition and tracking performance.
This feature is only available for as long as the customized button is pressed. This allows the user to switch to other AF-area modes from the current one it is in. It is most powerful when the user wants to capture separate images of a moving subject and a static subject immediately one after another. This can be achieved by switching immediately between Dynamic AF and Single Point AF and more.