This week I had a chance to attend a Launch Meeting for the D5/D500 at my local dealer. This was a one hour session with plenty of hands on time with the cameras. Comments here are just about the D500 although many features are shared with the D5.
The D500 will in fact shoot a continuous burst of 200 14 bit lossless compressed RAW photos without ever slowing for a full buffer. This was in the original communications to a large extent, but not clearly stated with regard to the conditions. note that this is the size of the maximum burst - not the buffer. Nikon does not disclose the size of the D500 buffer, but it looks like it is about 55 images - about 1.3 GB. The big catch is you can only achieve this kind of speed with the fastest XQD cards - the Lexar 2933x or Sony G. The other Lexar and Sony cards are slower and will fill the buffer well before you reach 200 frames. The fastest SD cards will also not achieve this kind of speed but for shorter durations are fine. The Lexar 2000x UHS-II and Sandisk 280 MB/s UHS-II are the best alternatives.
With a buffer that only holds 1.3 GB or 55 images, the buffer will fill in as few as 80 frames depending on the card. The bigger issue is the speed to clear the buffer, which would be 16-18 seconds for a card that fills the buffer in 8 seconds. It's not just a single burst where this is a problem. The buffer limit is more likely a problem with a series of 2-3 second bursts in short succession.
There are several important design features to be aware of in the D5 and D500. There are more parts than normal shared between the D5 and D500.
Both cameras have a new mirror mechanism that not only has a motor to raise the shutter but also a motor to lower the shutter. This decreases vibration and noise while generating a very high frame rate.
There is a new AF processor separate from the main processor and this achieves faster focus processing as well as reducing power usage.
The viewfinder on the D5 and D500 both are 100% viewfinders with a round eyepiece. These are bright viewfinders with standard accessories on both cameras.
The AF sensor layout for the D500 is exactly the same as the D5 but the sensor is cropped. That provides edge to edge AF points on the horizontal axis - much greater coverage than in the past. The 15 cross sensors at f/8 are vertical and horizontal from the center point. AF tracking is excellent in my brief testing.
Bracketing allows up to 9 images with a 1 stop difference, or 5 images with a 3 stop difference. The bracketing button is where the on-camera flash release button used to be.
High ISO performance is outstanding for a DX camera. I would not expect the camera to match FX, but it will be close. ISO 12,800 is very usable. The extreme ISO values are there if needed, but you clearly have noise issues. I suspect the ISO performance will not be linear and has a step up in noise reduction to help achieve the better performance.
The battery is the same as recent cameras but with improved life. The number of images on a charge is up by 20% using CIPA standards. Real life use would be much more. Note that CIPA standards require the use of flash so cameras without a camera powered flash score better. The D5 has a huge improvement in power performance and battery life.
Smartbridge looks like very interesting technology for fast image sharing across devices. It uses both Bluetooth and Wifi depending on signal strength switching as needed.
All in all I did not see anything that was a negative. The body has a new shape with a little deeper grip. The weight balances nicely in your hand. Both cameras are big winners.