Tips and Tricks, Hidden Features of the Nikon D500

Nikon D500 Tips and Tricks

Users are often curious about “hidden” features that their camera may have, though typically most dSLR models really don’t have many, as long as one carefully goes through all of the Menu and Custom Settings items, and reads through the manual or a user’s guide. However, with so many options and functions, there are a few items that truly are actually a bit hidden away on the Nikon D500. It’s not that the D500 manual doesn’t mention them, or that they can’t be found with careful investigation of the camera, but you may need to have them called to your attention to learn how to locate them and how to take advantage of them. And there are a few button shortcuts to access features and settings that you simply need to learn if you wish to take advantage of, because once you are using your camera, they are not indicated in any menus or with any button icons.


Several of these “hidden” features are accessed with the i Button when working in the appropriate mode (Shooting, Live View, Movie, or Playback). Others are accessible in the menus but may require an understanding of the options as they are listed, or might require extra steps of sub-menu navigation to locate them. All of these features are discussed in more detail in my 400 page comprehensive e-book guide Nikon D500 Experience, but here is an introduction to these “hidden” features of the Nikon D500.

Illuminated Buttons – Hopefully you are already aware that your D500 has the cool new feature of illuminated buttons, in order to help you change your settings when working in low light conditions. To make use of this, simply rotate the camera’s Power Switch to the light bulb icon.


Detail of the illuminated buttons of the Nikon D500.

Information Display and Button Settings – If you first press the Info Button to display the Information Display on the rear Monitor, you can then press most of the camera buttons to change the corresponding settings as you view them on the larger rear screen, rather than on the smaller top Control Panel. For example, you can press the AF Mode Button, and turn the appropriate Command Dial to change the AF-Area Mode and the Focus Mode. The screen will even indicate which Command Dial to use for each setting. This can also be used for the buttons on the top of the camera such as White Balance and ISO, as well at the BKT (Bracketing) Button.

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Left: First press the Info Button to display the Information Display, then press most any of the camera buttons to view and change those settings as you view them on the rear Monitor, such as the AF Mode Button for the autofocus settings. Right: Press the i Button during shooting to access the Photo Shooting i Button menu.

i Button Features – The D500 includes the i Button, which is on most other current Nikon dSLR models. Pressing the i Button when shooting will allow you to access and change several settings using the Photo Shooting i Button Menu on the rear LCD Monitor, such as Active D-Lighting, Image Area, Long Exposure Noise Reduction, and High ISO Noise Reduction. It will also allow you to access the Custom Control Assignment menu where you assign the function of various camera buttons including the Pv, Fn1, and BKT Buttons, and the Sub-selector joystick. When working in Live View, Movie Live View, image playback, and movie playback, the i Button will access a contextual menu for each mode, and in some situations it is the only way to access and change certain of these “hidden” features.

i Button in Live View – For example, when working in Live View, you can press the i Button to adjust the Live View Monitor Brightness. This is a different adjustment from the Monitor Brightness adjustment of the Setup Menu which affects the brightness of the screen for menus and image playback. The Live View Monitor Brightness adjustment, obviously, adjusts the screen brightness for Live View, but will not affect the exposure of the actual image. The Live View i Button menu will also allow you to access the Photo Live View Display White Balance feature. This feature allows you to set the white balance of the Live View screen separately than the current white balance of the camera. While this may sound odd, it can come in handy when setting up a shot that will actually be taken with different lighting, such as with a Speedlight or studio strobes. So using this feature, you can set the white balance of the LCD Monitor to better set up the scene in the current lighting.


Left: Live View i Button Menu, where Split-Screen Display Zoom can be accessed. Right: Making use of this feature, to see if the left and right sides of the frame are level.

The i Button is also the only way to access the Split Screen Display Zoom during Live View, where you can simultaneously zoom in on two different areas of the frame to help determine if they are level. This can come in handy for landscape and architectural photographers. Although the Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter is accessible with Custom Setting d6, and thus isn’t hidden, I will mention it here because it can also be accessed with the i Button during Live View. What you need to know is that this feature must be used in conjunction with Mirror Up (Mup) Release Mode.

i Button in Movie Live View – Just as with Live View, some “hidden” features can be accessed with the i Button when working in Movie Live View. The “zebra stripes” feature is accessed with the Highlight Display item of the i Button menu. This will display diagonal lines on the screen at potentially over-exposed areas of the scene, thus helping you to adjust to the proper exposure. You will also need to press the i Button if you wish to adjust the Movie Live View Monitor Brightness and the Headphone Volume if monitoring the audio with optional headphones. The i Button will also access the Multi-selector power aperture feature, where you can press up or down on the Multi Selector to smoothly adjust the aperture setting while recording. Power aperture can also be assigned to the Pv and Fn1 Buttons using Custom Setting g1. The new Electronic Vibration Reduction can also be accessed via the i Button, or by using the Movie Shooting Menu.


Left: Press the i Button when in Live View or in Movie Live View to access the applicable i Button Menu screen. Right: The Highlight Display “zebra stripes” feature for movie shooting, to indicate overexposed areas of the scene.

Live View Exposure Preview – Pressing the OK Button when in Live View will display the Exposure Indicator scale on the screen, and the brightness of the screen will reflect the current exposure settings rather than simply showing the scene at an optimal brightness level. This will allow you to better preview the resulting image and make exposure adjustments.

Camera Controls Assignments – A few other “hidden” features of the Nikon D500 can only be accessed by customizing one of the camera buttons to assign it to that function. For example, you can make use of the Viewfinder Virtual Horizon, which is a camera level that you can display in the Viewfinder. It will show an electronic level along the bottom of the screen as well as one on the right side, so that you can see both pitch and roll of the camera body. In order to use this feature, you need to use Custom Setting f1 to assign either the Fn1 Button, Pv Button, or Sub Selector Center press to the Viewfinder Virtual Horizon option. You can also assign the Pv Button or Fn1 Button to the 1 Step Speed / Aperture setting, which will allow you to quickly change the shutter speed or the aperture setting in 1 EV (full stop) increments, rather than the typical 1/3 EV adjustments that are made when you turn Command Dials.

Another handy customization will allow you to press and hold a button to temporarily switch to a different AF-Area Mode. For example, if you have set up the camera to capture a bird in flight using Dynamic-Area 25 Point AF-Area Mode, you can customize the camera to press the Pv Button, Fn1 Button, AF-ON Button, or Sub-Selector Center to temporarily switch to Single-Point AF to better capture a still subject. You can set up the camera in a similar manner to temporarily switch to a different Metering Mode.


Left: Using Custom Setting f1 to customize one of the buttons (such as the Pv or Fn1 Button) so that it can be used to temporarily switch to a different AF-Area Mode. Press right on the Multi-Selector here to set the desired AF-Area Mode. Right: The Multi-Selector Center Button can be assigned to display a large histogram during image playback.

One Button Playback Zoom / Histogram – Using Custom Setting f2, you can assign the Multi Selector Center Button so that during image playback it will immediately zoom-in, at the magnification level of your choice (50%, 100%, 200%), centered at the area of the active focus point so that you can closely inspect your image. Or you can instead assign the button press to display a large histogram with the image, so that you can evaluate your exposure.

OK Button and Multi Selector Shortcuts – During image playback, you can press the OK Button and simultaneously press the up arrow on the Multi Selector to access the Playback slot and folder options. This allows you to quickly choose which memory card (SD or XQD) and folder is being accessed during image playback. You can also simply scroll through the images from one card to the next, or you can press the Zoom-out Button repeatedly to access this Playback slot and folder screen (rather than the calendar view screen of other Nikon models). You can also press the OK Button plus the right arrow of the Multi Selector to access the Retouch Menu, and press the OK plus down arrow to select an IPTC Preset, which is metadata attached to an image for publication purposes.

Autofocus Auto Fine-Tune – The Autofocus Auto Fine-Tune feature will enable you to use Live View focusing to automatically fine tune the autofocusing of individual lenses. The procedure for this is fully explained in the Nikon D500 Experience guide, and it involves simultaneously pressing the AF Mode Button and Movie Record Button. There is also an excellent description and tutorial for it on this site:

I recommended that you read their instructions for the process, in order to achieve the best results with this feature.

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Left: Simultaneously press the AF Mode Button and Movie Record Button to begin the Autofocus Auto Fine-Tune procedure. Right: You can directly enter a K-Color Temperature value by pressing the WB Button and using the Multi-Controller to select and change the digits, as displayed at the lower-left of the Live View display as highlighted here in yellow.

White Balance Color Temperature Selection – When making use of the K – Choose Color Temp White Balance Setting, you can select the desired color temperature in the White Balance menu item, or you can quickly adjust this setting by pressing the WB Button and turning the front Sub-Command Dial while viewing the setting on the top Control Panel or on the Live View Screen. If you wish to directly enter a value, you can press the WB Button and use the Multi-Controller to select and change the digits.

Live View Spot White Balance – This feature enables you to take a white balance measurement of a precise area of the scene when working in Live View. This is accessed by setting the white balance to Preset Manual (PRE), then pressing the WB Button until the PRE icon flashes. You can then tap on the Touch Screen to select the area used for the Spot White Balance Measurement.

Synchronized Release of Remote Cameras – If you are making use of an optional wireless remote to trigger multiple cameras, there is also a “hidden” setting for this in the Custom Setting f1 button assignments. You can choose to assign the Pv Button, Fn1 Button, or Sub-Selector Center press to the Sync. Release selection option, which is used in conjunction with the Custom Setting d4 Sync. Release Mode Options. You can set up the camera so that, for example, when using the D500 as a master camera to remotely trigger other cameras, you can press the Fn1 (or Pv) Button while taking the shot, and then just the master camera will shoot, or just the remote cameras and not the master, based on your settings.

Flash Information Screen – With an optional Speedlight flash attached and turned on, press the Info Button twice to access the Flash Information Screen showing the current flash settings, and then press the i Button to view and change the various settings and options.

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When using a Speedlight flash, press the Info Button twice to access the Flash Information Screen showing the current flash settings (left), and then press the i Button to view and change the various settings and options (right).

To learn much more about the D500, including all the Menu options, Custom Settings, camera controls, features, and functions – plus how, when, and why to use them in your photography, have a look at my guide, Nikon D500 Experience.

Nikon D500 Experience book manual guide how to use set up quick start setting recommend menu custom setting setup guide

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