Initially, the D7500 was going to be my secondary camera for a music festival I was shooting, and the D750 was going to be my primary. But ultimately I ended up using the D7500 more.

The arrival of the Nikon D7500 to our office coincided with one of my favorite annual Seattle events, the Big Building Bash, an all-day music festival held in the city's industrial SoDo neighborhood.

Ordinarily I shoot music with a Nikon D750 and two primes, which vary depending on the space I'm shooting. I run a small publication - along with a group of contributors - documenting the DIY aspects of Seattle's music community. This mostly means shooting in small, intimate spaces where multiple camera bodies or big lenses would likely raise an eyebrow or two.

But Big Building Bash is a bit more casual in nature than a show in someone's living room, so I felt comfortable bringing two bodies. My kit included: The D750 with a 24mm F1.8G as my primary camera and the D7500 with an 85mm F1.8D as my secondary. Switching lenses between the two cameras effectively gave me four (equivalent) focal lengths.

Big Building Bash is a charming little music festival held under the West Seattle Bridge in SoDo's warehouse district. It is a showcase of Seattle's best up and coming music, with no real emphasis on a specific genre. This leads to a vast array of acts and shooting scenarios, with the strong sun cutting through highway overpass pillars and the occasional passing train engine only adding to the overall charm.

We got to the festival as the first bands on the schedule were starting to play. With attendees trickling in and the mid afternoon sun shining bright and direct, I started dialing in my preferred camera settings.

AF Fine Tune

I fired a couple of test shots with each camera and noticed that the 85mm on the D7500 was front-focused. No problem, the camera has auto AF Fine Tune. A nifty, though strangely hidden feature that automatically corrects front or back focus. It's great for primes, but less useful for zooms, as only one adjustment value can be saved. A quick Google search pulled up our own video, revealing how to unlock this feature. Within moments my 85mm was perfectly calibrated. It was time to get shooting!

I found myself switching the two lenses back and forth between my camera bodies. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy shooting with both a crop sensor and full frame body. The reach of the 85mm on the D7500 proved extremely useful and I appreciated also being able to go as wide as 24mm with the D750. However 35mm is probably my favorite focal length, so the 24mm on the D7500 was also a joy to use.

3D tracking

I'm a creature of the night, and adjusting to live music in a bright environment took some brain rewiring. Normally, I dial in all my settings manually including ISO, and shoot using AF-C and a single, manually chosen point (the center point if it's really dark). Instead, I switched both cameras to Auto ISO and decided to give 3D tracking a go on the D7500.

The D7500, D7200 and D750 all use the same 51-point AF system. But each has a different metering sensor, which is also used for image recognition. The metering sensor in the D7500 is borrowed from the company's flagship APS-C DSLR, the D500, and is the highest-res of the bunch: ninety times higher than the D7200 and twice that of the D750.

3D tracking allowed me the freedom to frame as I pleased, as long as my subject fell within the AF coverage area.

I'd used 3D tracking before while writing about the Nikon D5 and was impressed by its reliability. The D5 also uses the same resolution metering sensor as the D7500, but with triple the AF points. And while the D750 and D7500 use the same 51-point AF system, the AF area covers far more of the D7500's APS-C sensor than it does on the full-frame D750. The limited AF area coverage and the generally low light nature of my work are the reasons I do not often use 3D tracking on my personal camera.

The AF coverage on the D7500 is the same as on the D7200. However the metering sensor, used for image recognition, has been substantially upgraded.

And my inexperience using/trusting 3D tracking on anything other than the company's most expensive body lead me to commit the unholy act of 'chimping' several times during the first band. In my defense, I did this just to be absolutely certain I was actually getting sharp, in-focus shots. Thankfully Carey Rose has set the 'OK' button on the D7500 to zoom images in playback to 100% on the focus point. This made double checking sharpness quite simple.

This was one of the very first frames I shot on the D7500 using 3D tracking. Once I trusted its capability, I was free to concentrate on composition.

Once I felt I could trust the subject recognition, it didn't take long to get hooked on using the D7500's 3D tracking. The camera stuck to my subjects of choice with ease. And the 51-point AF system provided enough coverage so that I could even place subjects close to the edge of the frame.

'It didn't take long to get hooked on using the D7500's 3D tracking. The camera stuck to my subjects of choice with ease.'

Ultimately 3D tracking freed me up from having to think about autofocus and allowed me to simply concentrate on composition and exposure, which in turn lead me to use the D7500 as my primary camera for the duration of the festival. That plus I liked the reach of the 85mm on it.

Drummers with long hair are photographic gold. I used the camera's 8 fps continuous drive to try and get the perfect frame.

Burst, buffer and tilting touchscreen

I don't normally shoot in continuous drive mode, but with an 8 fps burst and a super-deep buffer of 50 Raw files or 100+ JPEGs, I figured, I'd give it a try. An eccentric drummer provided the perfect opportunity to fire off a long burst. After looking back through those images, I decided to keep the camera in continuous drive mode for the duration of the festival, figuring I might as well come back with as many photos to choose from as possible.

The tilting touch LCD also proved useful: I use Live View on my D750 occasionally, but moving the AF point with the D-pad is a slow and annoying process. With the D7500 I could simply tap on the area I wanted to focus on. Of course, AF in Live View is contrast detect only, so speeds are a bit sluggish.

I used the tilting touch LCD to frame this shot toward the start of the show. This was the view from the beer garden. Did I mention the D7500 has great weather beer-sealing? Because it does.

Other takeaways

As the festival pressed onward, and I became comfortable with my chosen settings, I slipped into autopilot mode and simply tried to enjoy and photograph as many bands as possible. It wasn't until hours later, with the sun dropping behind the buildings, that I started to lose my faith in 3D tracking and switched to old-fashioned AF-C using a single point. To be honest, switching back felt downright prehistoric after a full day of near-compositional freedom.

I ended up shooting over 8 hours and in that time I put away 2,542 images (Raw + JPEG) with 3/5 battery still left. Not bad for a camera with a CIPA rated battery life of 950 shots per charge.

This was one of the last frames I shot using 3D tracking. As the band Snuff Redux finished their set, the sun ducked behind the buildings and I switched back to AF-C using one point.

Ultimately, I brought the D7500 along to Big Building Bash thinking I'd get some time to test it for work. But I photographed the show primarily for my own purposes/publication and as such, getting the shot was paramount to testing gear. Still, if nothing else, I figured the D7500 would be a good complement to my trusted D750. But it turns my D750 was more a compliment to the D7500.

Note: Images in this story are all JPEGs edited and occasionally cropped to taste (no ACR support yet). You can see the original out-of-camera JPEGs in the sample gallery below.