Initially released in the spring of 2016, the Nikon B500 was a highly popular and exciting release by Nikon. It’s a compact prosumer digital camera, with the main highlight feature being its superior lens. Technically, Nikon calls this a superzoom camera, which is quite an interesting subset of the compact camera market. These cameras offer the same capabilities of traditional point & shoots, with the added benefit of strong zoom lenses.
Nikon aims this entry-level bridge camera towards beginners and hobbyists looking for an upgrade in image quality over their smartphones. They simultaneously hope to help users bridge the gap between compact and DSLRs as well. And they aim this camera as a competitor to Canon’s PowerShot SX530 and Sony’s Cyber-Shot HX300. Today, we assess the strengths, weaknesses, and answer whether this camera should be a consideration for you.
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- What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Nikon B500?
- Image Quality
- Video Quality
- Focusing Performance
- Battery Performance
- Display & Viewfinder
- User Interface
- Physical Layout & Ergonomics
- Niche Features/Extras
- Image Performance
- Low Light Capabilities
- Lacking Features
- Is this a good beginner camera?
- Is this a good camera for you?
What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Nikon B500?
It uses a 16-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor for well exposed and saturated images. The camera includes a lens with 40x optical zoom, effectively delivering a focal length of 22.5-900mm. The lens uses a variable aperture from f/3-6.5, and Nikon’s installed an electronically controlled neutral density filter to minimize harsh daylight. Not only does the 40x optical zoom provide super telephoto power, Nikon even offers enhanced digital zooms, which effectively double the reach to a whopping 80x zoom. And they’ve also included Vibration Reduction (VR) on the lens to keep shots steady when shooting at such long distances. And lastly, the lens offers a 1 cm macro mode, allowing users also to shoot macro photography and close-up subjects, a nice touch. Overall, the additions and capabilities provided here are incredibly impressive.
The camera also offers continuous shooting speeds of up to 7.4 frames per second (fps) and 7 shot buffer.
For video, it shoots 1080p full HD up to 30 fps in the high-quality progressive format and 60 fps, in the lower quality interlaced format. It records video in the easy to edit and web-friendly MP4 format as well.
Nikon has also installed a 4-axis Hybrid Vibration Reduction (VR) system on the camera to counteract and remove any shake that happens during video recording. It offsets up, down, left, and right movements for much steadier videos.
The camera also features a Superlapse Movie mode, which creates in-camera time-lapse.
It uses a contrast-detection autofocusing system with a total of 99 focusing areas along with subject tracking and face priority. Overall, while not the fastest, autofocusing performance is sufficient for most applications.
AA lithium-ion rechargeable batteries power the camera. And Nikon rates the camera to deliver an impressive 1,240 shot per charge lifespan or 4.5 hours of continuous video recording.
It also features an AC input for unlimited continuous power using the EH-67 AC adapter. A feature typically not found on cameras in this class.
Display & Viewfinder
It features a 3-inch anti-reflective TFT LCD, which tilts 90° upwards and 85° downwards, making it the optimum choice for shooting at high or low angles. In this price category, this camera remains as one of the only cameras to feature a tilting rear screen. The screen offers excellent brightness, which users can choose between five settings for best viewing, and you can also change the hue and vividness for added versatility. It is also reasonably sharp, with a resolution of 921K dots, par for the course at this price.
As the camera’s layout is quite simple, many of the settings have moved to the user menus. The camera provides manual control over all the critical shooting parameters you’d expect, which includes white balance, ISO, autofocus, to name a few. While these controls are not on the body as physical buttons, they’re all accessible through the menu. And the menus themselves are straightforward, well organized, and easily mastered.
To help new users, Nikon has even installed the Easy Auto Mode, which automatically optimizes the camera settings for each shot.
The camera also offers in-camera editing, allowing you to add effects, alter the lighting, and perform various retouching operations. And it also provides an extensive selection of scene modes for users to choose between; in total, there are 18 total scenes.
Nikon has even installed the Smart Portrait System, which configures the camera for portraits, enabling Face Priority AF and Skin Softening, to name a few.
Physical Layout & Ergonomics
From a handling and ergonomics standpoint, the camera resembles an entry-level DSLR in many ways. However, it’s much lighter, only weighing 542 grams. But it does provides quite a large and comfortable grip, which makes it quite comfortable to hold. The buttons that it does have are also well positioned and easy to reach. And the layout isn’t overly crowded with unnecessary buttons.
It also includes two zoom rockers, one by the lens and one by the shutter-release, for quick access and smooth zooms during recording.
It features a built-in pop-up flash.
It features Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and NFC connectivity, which allows users to pair the camera to a smartphone. Once paired, you can remotely transfer photos and control the camera.
The camera only records images in the JPEG format. The RAW format is not available. With that, you don’t have very much room for post-production editing before the image quality diminishes significantly.
It lacks 4K UHD video recording.
While the camera offers 1080p video at 60 fps, it records in the lower quality interlaced format, which provides much lower quality footage than the pregrossive format and isn’t ideal.
Low Light Capabilities
And, sadly, low light performance isn’t great. The camera doesn’t supply a very large native ISO range, and images lose quality as soon as the camera reaches ISO 1,600. Unfortunately, the included lens isn’t fast enough to compensate for the weak ISO performance either. With that, it’s best to avoid using this camera in low light whenever possible.
It doesn’t offer an electronic viewfinder. Instead, you will have to compose images using only the rear screen.
The rear screen only offers 98% coverage of the image area, which means what you see when looking at images in playback is not what you saw when you initially captured the photo. The photos in playback will be slightly larger than what you see on the rear screen. Not the end of the world, just figured it was worthy to point out.
The camera is slow to turn on and experiences a delay during startup. When it first turns on, it must first adjust the lens to the proper focal length before allowing full operation.
While the camera is on the smaller end, it’s not particularly pocketable nor is it conveniently stowed away. The lens is quite large, so it lacks the discretion some of the competitors offer.
When zooming in and out, the lens is quite sluggish and a bit slow.
It lacks a hot shoe to mount external flash units, microphones, or other accessories.
While the camera offers a tripod mount, it’s not aligned with the lens, making the camera imbalanced and not ideal for shooting panoramas.
It lacks a microphone input. And since it doesn’t offer a hot shoe either, there’s no option for better audio capture without using an external recorder.
It lacks a headphone input.
Is this a good beginner camera?
It’s an excellent beginner’s camera that provides a distinct edge in image quality over what our smartphones alone can provide. And it’s the perfect alternative for those who cannot afford a fully-featured entry-level DSLR or mirrorless camera, but desire more flexibility over a traditional point & shoot camera.
Is this a good camera for you?
If you’re in the market for an affordable camera that delivers an enormous zoom range, allowing you to shoot virtually every kind of photography around, then this is the right choice. Not only does it offer a step up in image quality over a smartphone, but it does so without any added costs associated with buying additional lenses. Overall, it’s a strong option for those wanting an upgrade, who can’t afford an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless camera. Just leave this camera in the Easy Automatic or scene selection mode, and it’ll handle the rest.
In the end, the Nikon B500 is an extraordinarily versatile compact prosumer camera that delivers a sharp superzoom lens and easy to master features. It provides a focal length that far outcompetes the competition, and at a price point that makes it quite a compelling option.