Hello Nikon D7500 and kit lenses

This is a quick long update regarding my ongoing photography equipment odyssey. Some might remember my previous forays into the difficult landscape of photography equipment (HERE and HERE and probably other places . . . like HERE and HERE). Before we begin, it might be worth remembering what I currently have in addition to the Nikon P900 . . . look HERE.

If it’s not clear from reading the first paragraph, this post is all about photographic equipment. I’ll throw in some photos (90 or so) but the focus (focus . . . see what I did there? . . . nevermind) is on photographic equipment. You might have seen other posts of mine that seemed long; too long, even . . . well, then, you won’t be surprised by this one.

By the way, there’s no SmugMug gallery for these photos but you can click on the individual photos and a larger version will open in a new tab or window. There will also be a gallery at the end of the post.

Anyway, Nikon and Costco got together and conspired to force my hand. For them who don’t know the definition of conspiracy (a large percentage of the country) or how it differs from collusion . . . well, you’re probably too far gone for me to educate you.

Suffice it to say the actions of Nikon and Costco brought about the result they were hoping for:

I bought a Nikon D7500.

So, here’s how the deed was done . . .

First, Nikon dropped the price of the D7500 to $800 (US). That’s a very good price for what it’s arguably one of the best consumer cameras out there. Readers may recall I was vacillating between the D7500 and the highly rated prosumer D500 (they share the same sensors but the D500 has a few more bells and whistles that bumps it up to the prosumer level).

A few months ago, those few bells and whistles had a price differential of $400. Now, the differential is $700 (and, that’s after a $200 drop in the price of the D500).

Really, I couldn’t justify the extra cost of the D500 other than as an ego thing; meaning, the D500 would identify me as a “serious” photographer . . . but only to other serious photographers, of course.

Regular people don’t give a shi . . . er . . . aren’t quite as discerning whereas quasi-photographers don’t look at the results; they judge each other based on the camera model and the size of the attached lens.

Anyway, it also bothered me that the D500 had no onboard flash.

To be clear, my main interest in the D500 was spurred by its touted abilities as an action camera.

I shoot birds, you see, and they often move around.

It turns out the D7500 is quite capable, I tell you what, both when they’re standing still and when they’re moving around.

“So, where does Costco come into the picture?”

Those bastards — Nikon — put together a kit: the D7500, the Nikon AF-P DX 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G VR lens, the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens, and a bag to carry them all . . . all for $999. That’s $500 less than the previous cost of the kit which was already a decent deal.

But it’s not just a matter of money. {D7500 review, Lens Recommendations, DSLR Recommendations} These components are well-matched to my range of abilities. 

I’ve got about 500 photos into the new camera and while the first bunch of photos was shot with my prime lenses (70-200mm f/2.8 VR, 105mm f/2.8 VR), the majority — and all of the photos after the first fifty or so — were shot with the kit lenses. Most of the bird shots are crops of photos taken with the 70-300mm lens at distance ranging from 30 to 70 yards (many in the shade or with backlighting) and a few of the high flyers were quite a bit further. 

I know, right? Those bastards were gunning for me.

Just to give you an idea of how nasty they were, the 70-300mm lens on its own is on sale for $250 (down from $350?) but in the kit it has to be less than $150.

I was seriously considering buying the D7500  and two lens kit directly from Nikon at the $999.95 price. But, I was hesitant because I didn’t need both lenses since I have (and like) the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 lens and the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8.

Still, because of Thom Hogan’s review, I was contemplating the 70-300mm lens as a more convenient lens to carry around. But, buying just the D7500 and 70-300mm lens would run me $1,050 . . . and the bag wouldn’t be included.

Enter Nikon’s kit offering and Costco.

Nikon’s kit offering essentially gives you the two lenses and a carry bag for $200.

The advantage of buying the same kit from Costco is that they have a 90 days return policy on cameras. Plus, they threw in an extra battery ($60-70 value) and an SD card I’ll never use.


The plan is the same as it was for the Nikon P900 (Decision Time); use the camera and decide if it’s what I want.

This includes using the two lenses; if I don’t like (or need them) it’s smarter to return the kit and just buy the D7500 for $800, a saving of $200 from the price of the kit.

Let me tell you about the lenses. They are definitely consumer lenses. They are light and plasticky and feel — frankly — cheap.


But, let me also tell you . . .

I’m impressed with the lenses . . . 

. . . and maybe a little pissed off. I mean, I have a lot of money into my “good” lenses and these lenses perform . . . well, I mean, those photos look pretty good and they were taken in sub-optimal conditions.

Mind you, because of the less-than-great f/ranges, in low light, I have to bump up the ISO to get a sufficiently high shutter speed but here’s a couple of things to consider . . .

. . . both the VR and noise reduction have significantly improved since I bought the D7000 a little over eight years ago. So, it’s not really a drop in the quality of results from what I was used to because I don’t have to shoot with as high a shutter speed/ISO range to avoid a loss of sharpness.

300mm zoom; shutter at 1/50 sec.
300mm zoom; shutter at 1/80 sec.

The improved performance could also be the result of the increased resolution (20MB for the D7500 vs. 16MB for the D7000), improvements in sensors designs, improvements in lenses designs, and improvement in the camera’s software.

Or, all of the above.

No, the kit lenses are (probably) not better than my primes but for most of the shots, I’m hard-pressed to tell the difference.

Granted, I’m not taxing the capabilities of either the lenses or camera, but then I seldom do. Remember, I ain’t a pro. I can barely pass for an enthusiast.

But –in point of fact — the results are a noticeable improvement over what I can do with my now outdated rig and lenses.

As a side note, I was considering the same kit lenses offered with the D7200 camera, but the D7200 has a lower frame rate and smaller buffer. The D7200 was a serious contender when the differential to the D7500 was $400. At the current $100 differential, the D7500 takes the advantage.

. . . plus, the D7200 has been out-of-stock for a while now (thank goodness or I might have bought it).

So, here I am; a new camera and some new lenses to evaluate and me with already a metaphorical full plate.

What’s a guy to do?

Well, I’ll show you some examples . . . 

This is a redwing blackbird in flight . . . 

Let’s talk about the fact I’d never gotten that shot with the P900 . . . or even the D7000. 

Plus, that’s a crop of the original. How much of a crop? Here’s another photo . . . 

As it comes out of the camera
My usual processing

My typical crop for these types of photos . . . 

typical crop size before stuff starts not looking all that good

You are encouraged to click on the photo to see it about twice as large. 

Now, let me go a little closer . . . 

Honest, I can crop some more but then we do start hitting the limit of resolving details. It doesn’t look awful, but there’s no point to it. I do have some examples later on. 

Here’s a more modest crop example . . . 

as it came out of the camera (300mm zoom)
Cropped and processed . . . go ahead; click on it

Here are three shots of a heron that was flying at what I estimate was at least a couple of hundred yards away . . . 

Nope! Those won’t win any awards. 

But if I wanted to shoot something just for the narrative, I’m fairly confident I’ll be happy with those shots as opposed to no shot at all. 

Here’s another shot . . . 

As it came out of the camera (300mm zoom)
My processing
crop 1
crop 2

If you click on that last photo, you’ll see that even at a reduced size you can still see a fair amount of details. The original even more so when I zoom in at the pixel level.

What’s important to note here is that it’s not just one thing; it’s a multitude of things. It’s the fact that I got the photos in the first place (focusing and focus tracking of a moving subject), the fact the photos resolve a lot of detail (camera resolution), and that I can get that at the maximum zoom of a cheap kit lens.

The low-light performance of the camera (with a f/4.5-6.3 lens) is also (to me) impressive. 

The following shots were all shot after sunset, many at the maximum zoom, and ranged in ISO numbers from ISO 800 to (and I’m not exaggerating) ISO 12800. I could barely see what I was shooting at but could see some movement where I was aiming. 

(with flash)
ISO 6400
ISO 800
ISO 1250
ISO 1250
ISO 1250
ISO 1250

Before criticism is slung my way, know that I’m only snapping these photos to see what the camera will do. There’s nothing spectacular or amazing about them.

Let’s continue . . . 

ISO 3200 with flash
ISO 6400
ISO 6400
ISO 12800

The rest of this series were all shot at ISO 12800. That’s not a typo; it’s twelve-thousand-eigh-hundred. 

No way I would have even attempted any of these shots with my (now) old rig. 

Again, not award winners but that was the first instance I saw of the hummingbirds tapping the Fuscia plant. It was nice having a photo to share with Melisa (and a few readers).

But, I know what you’re saying (I secretly turned on your microphone) . . . 

“Emilio; we know you tweaked the crap out of those photos. It’s probably mostly post-processing wizardly stuff you use to justify keeping the camera!”

Well, yes, I’m keeping the camera and lenses. I also plan to sell a few of my current lenses to recoup some of the cost of this kit. 

But, I did nothing more than I would normally do with my photos. However, here are a number of photos taking not the RAW file, but the JPG sidecar and doing a couple of adjustments in Lightroom (crop, brightness, contrast, and stuff) taking barely five seconds per photo. And even then, only because I shoot with Neutral processing so the photos do need a bit of TLC. I should try the camera’s onboard processing to see how it does, but there are a lot of settings and ultimately I prefer to do my own adjustments.

So, from the camera’s JPG versions minimally processed.

Wish it were an Oriole.
Butt-sniffing bird? Whoa!
. . . on the hunt . . .
Success! Yum!
I see your crop and raise you a tighter crop.
I can see you!
Fine; see if I care!
Tight crop . . .
Pfft! You call that a tight crop? Here; take a gander of this.

This next guy was seldom still for more than a few seconds and this is where the fast and accurate focus comes into play . . . 

Here’s another example of being able to crop, beginning with the original out of the camera and continuing with two successive crops.

original out of the camera
Crop 1
Crop 2

Don’t get me wrong; I love my P900 for many things, but I’d never gotten that shot with it. Also, assuming I could get a photo before the bug moved, it wouldn’t have looked this good. 

This plays to my original poser in one of my linked posts: can I get as good a result by cropping a photo taken with a decent DSLR as I can with zooming in with the P900?

No question the P900 has a lot of reach, and it has allowed me to take some photos that I’d be hard-pressed to get with a regular camera but, as I keep mentioning, there’s a price you pay in terms of quality. 

I’ll be doing some direct comparisons (eventually) and there’s no question about two things: the D7500 is a definite worthwhile upgrade from the D7000 and the P900 will still a place in my photography arsenal. The difficult question, frankly, is what lenses will become my mainstay and which I should consider selling. 

Given that the 80-400mm optimal zoom is around the 300mm mark, it would seem the 70-300mm can easily take its place (with the P900 taking up the slack). 

Also, given this purchase, the P1000 is off the table as I don’t think I’d gain much bang for the bucks. I’m still of the opinion the 200-500mm lens should eventually join my lineup for when I need a higher quality zoom than what the P900 provides. We’ll see.  

Side note:
Some people look at the price and tsk-tsk me blowing money on this stuff. Or, they say they can’t afford to do the same. OK; I probably have more means than most people but . . . 
– Nikon 80-400mm – bought in 2003 (16 years) – yearly cost: $106/year and I can sell it for about $400; net yearly cost: $82.
– Nikon 70-200mm – bought in 2008 (11 years) – yearly cost: $145/year and I can sell it now for about $600; net yearly cost: $91.
– Nikon 105mm – bought in 2008 (11 years) – yearly cost: $68/year and I can sell it now for about $300+; net yearly cost: $36.

Now, cameras don’t hold up as well. It’s why I haven’t sold the ones I have. I’ve owned the D7000 since early 2011, or 8 years. That’s $140/year and the market value for it is around $225. Still, that lowers the yearly price to $110.

Another reason why they say to invest in the lenses and not the camera body. 

The point I’m making is that I tend to keep and take care of stuff for a long time and when I look at prices I take into account the years I will be using it. Same with cars or anything else I buy. The money I blew on this kit will go a long way (at least another 8 years and probably more unless I kick the bucket sooner) as it’s difficult to imagine me needing more . . . unless I go pro. In case anyone is wondering, it ain’t likely unless National Geographic discovers me . . . meaning, as much chance of that as Trump having scruples or telling the truth about anything.

To summarize, the above runs to about $450 per year (so far) and I’ll argue people spend more money than that a year on lattes (my yearly cost of lattes is about . . . hmm . . . multiply . . . carry the zero . . . yup; it’s zero.

It’s all about priorities; at that cost, I get a heck of a lot of capability, at least when it comes to taking photos. But no lattes.

Here’s the gallery:

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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