How to properly set up the Nikon D500 for video

The Nikon D500 is one of the best wildlife cameras. But can it do video? Yes, it can, and I will show you how to set up the D500 for video.

You might ask: is the D500 is the most logical camera for video? Well, I would say no. For wildlife, it is somewhat difficult to find subjects because the viewfinder is not available in video mode.

The video quality, especially the 1080p video, is not the best. And while the D500 is a focusing beast with the optical viewfinder, the live view autofocus is like an unfinished computer science project.

However, the quality of the D500 is decent if you set up the camera right, and plenty of subjects don’t really need autofocus. Here, I’m thinking of a shorebird feeding in the mud, parallel to the sensor.

In short, I still find the D500 very decent for video and it is very convenient if you are already using it for stills.

Step 1: The shooting menu

The first thing is to go to the movie shooting menu:

You have to select a resolution, either 1080p or 4K. The smaller number is the framerate. The 4K quality is better than 1080p, but the 1080p is necessary if you want to shoot in 60 frames per second (fps).

The 4K is also cropped, so if you’re using a fixed prime lens 400mm and up, it may be even more difficult to find your subject. But if your final video will be in 4K, you need to use 4K.

Also on this same menu, make sure the video quality is set to HIGH. It’s kind of weird that there’s even a low-quality option.

I also set the recording media to SD, so that my photos are stored to the XQD card and videos to the SD card. That makes it easier when it comes time to transfer the goods to the computer.

Step 2: Set picture control

The next screen is even more important. Scroll down the movie shooting menu to page two:

The most important option is “Set Picture Control”, right at the top. Set that to flat. I’ve actually gone into “Manage Picture Control” where you can turn the contrast/sharpening down even further:

The reason why you want flat is because it will offer the greatest flexibility with shadows and highlights in post. And this is actually very practical: even if you don’t end up doing much editing, your video will look so much better. The other picture controls blow out highlights and crush shadows so easily that the video will look very bad.

Step 3: A few other options

I would also make sure “High ISO NR” is turned off. You can experiment with “Active D-Lighting” for increased shadow and highlight recovery in camera, but I keep it off.

How to actually take a video

How do you actually take a video with these awesome settings?

  1. Turn the toggle around the LV button to the movie symbol
  2. Press the LV button
  3. Press the red button on the top of the camera (see photo below) to start recording
  4. Press the red button again to stop recording

The record button is the red one:

2 thoughts on “How to properly set up the Nikon D500 for video

  1. Suzanne says:

    How do you focus (with good results) when shooting video? Every video I’ve watched so far does it differently, e.g. Af-A, or put focus on a point by touching the LiveView screen, or Manual, etc. I’ve done 3d mode set in Face recognition that tracked my face when doing a speaking video, but I’d like to do some wildlife video, too

    1. Jason Polak says:

      Good question, Suzanne. If you are talking about the D500 in particular, then wildlife video with decent focus will require selecting your shots. That’s because the D500 will not do a very good job with moving subjects where the subjects are moving in and out of the plane of focus.

      Thus, I would use manual and select shots that work well with this mode, like a duck swimming across the plane of focus.

      Also, good video only requires short clips, so a bird flying off a branch would be great even if you can’t track it in flight. Plenty of shooters (even professional ones) have used manual focus for video for a long time, so it’s not a huge limitation. Obviously it would be nice to have a clip of a duck flying towards you, but that is definitely not happening with the D500 in Live View mode.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *