Wi-Fi and Connectivity

The D500 is one of the first cameras to offer Nikon's new SnapBridge connectivity system that combines Bluetooth LE (also known as Bluetooth Smart) with Wi-Fi. However, while that may sound a bit like the very effective system that Samsung offered in the NX1, the behavior of the two is very different. It's telling both that Nikon intends to build SnapBridge into all its future cameras and that it also appears in several Coolpix compacts launched soon after the D500.

Don't get your hopes up too high, though.

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

There are two ways of transferring images from the camera to your smart device: auto transfer of every image or browsing the camera's memory card to select which ones to transfer. The app lets you decide whether these transfers send a full resolution image or a more social-media-ready 2MP version.

SnapBridge is the system Nikon intends to use across its range of cameras. We're not convinced that the current implementation is a good fit for a camera like the Nikon D500.

Auto transfer uses the Bluetooth connection to send the image. This means it's very slow: Bluetooth LE has an effective maximum transfer rate of around 1 Mbps second absolute maximum. In practice the speeds we achieved were around 40 KB/s, . In reality this system is only really any use for transferring 2MP versions of your images and only then if you're not shooting much or not hoping to use them immediately.

We spoke to Nikon about this and they said the system was designed for auto-transferring all images to a smartphone in the expectation that the app will be set up to then send them on to the Nikon Image Space cloud storage service. Using Bluetooth means that the camera will never tie-up the smart devices' Wi-Fi and prompt the cloud upload to cut into the user's data plan. However, there are plenty of apps that can be set to only transfer data when connected over Wi-Fi, so we're a bit perplexed by this logic.

Setup is pretty straightforward if your device is compatible with NFC, Bluetooth LE, Wi-Fi and the Nikon app. Navigate to the 'Setup Connection to Smart Device' menu option, then follow the steps.

The alternative is to manually select images using the app's 'Download selected pictures' option. This tries to establish a Wi-Fi connection (though will use Bluetooth which it can't) and is much more practical for transferring full-sized images. Sadly, this process doesn't appear to be any faster than manually making a connection with most other cameras, so the advantage of Bluetooth is unclear.

On the Connect screen you can decide whether images should automatically transfer (across Bluetooth), and whether you want to transfer location and timing information from your smart device.

The final option is to remote control the camera. This gives you a live view from the camera and lets you reposition the focus point and trigger the shutter. This is a much lower level of control than we're used to seeing in a camera at this level.

The app allows remote capture over Wi-Fi but, other than positioning the AF point, offers essentially no control.

Sadly, there's no way of using the Wi-Fi without instigating the connection through SnapBridge so, if your device is unsupported or in some way incompatible with Nikon's app (as was the case with one of our Android devices), you're out of luck.

In conclusion

Overall, SnapBridge appears to be a very simplistic connection system that is frankly ill suited to a high-end camera that can quickly generate huge numbers of images. The ability to sync location and time data across from a smartphone and embed it in the JPEG metadata is handy for some applications but the connect and transfer functions are a real disappointment.

It should be made clear that these are early days for SnapBridge. There's every chance that compatibility and Wi-Fi connection speeds will be improved. We're also hoping that the whole system becomes less battery intensive. However, without major changes to the way it works, we find it hard to see SnapBridge providing many useful functions for D500 users.