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Nikon D5 versus Nikon D500

The Nikon D5 and the Nikon D500 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public in January 2016. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a full frame (D5) and an APS-C sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 20.7 megapixel.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Nikon D5 and the Nikon D500 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the D5 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Nikon D5 vs Nikon D500 front
D5 versus D500 top view
D5 and D500 rear side
Body view (D5 on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D500 is notably smaller (34 percent) than the Nikon D5. Moreover, the D500 is substantially lighter (39 percent) than the D5. Cameras intended for semi-professional or professional use tend to be a bit bulkier in order to give them the necessary ruggedness. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor (as in the D5) will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, while more compact options are available for the smaller-sensor camera (D500). You can find a comprehensive overview of suitable optics in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Nikon D5 (⇒ rgt) 6.3 in 6.3 in 3.6 in 49.9 oz 3780 YES 2016 6,499 latest check
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft) 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 YES 2016 1,999 latest check
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.0 oz 1210 YES 2016 5,999 latest check
Leica SL (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.8 in 4.1 in 1.5 in 29.9 oz 400 YES 2015 7,450 latest check
Nikon D850 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.7 in 4.9 in 3.1 in 35.5 oz 1840 YES 2017 3,299 latest check
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.4 in 4.1 in 2.9 in 25.4 oz 950 YES 2017 1,299 latest check
Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft | rgt) 4.9 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 15.7 oz 1200 no 2016 499 latest check
Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.4 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 1110 YES 2015 1,199discont. check
Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 26.5 oz 1230 YES 2014 2,299 latest check
Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.6 oz 3020 YES 2014 6,499discont. check
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 YES 2013 1,999 latest check
Nikon D600 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 YES 2012 2,099discont. check
Nikon D300S (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 33.1 oz 950 YES 2009 1,799discont. check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D500 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 69 percent) than the D5, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

Sensor comparison

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D5 features a full frame sensor and the Nikon D500 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D500 is 57 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Nikon D5 and Nikon D500 sensor measures
Sensor size

Even though the D5 has a larger sensor, both cameras offer the same resolution of 20.7 megapixel. This implies that the D5 has a lower pixel density and larger individual pixels (with a pixel pitch of 6.42μm versus 4.22μm for the D500), which gives it a potential advantage in terms of light gathering capacity. The two cameras were released in close succession, so that their sensors are from the same technological generation. Coming back sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the D500 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

D5 versus D500 MP
Sensor resolution

For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under review, the D5 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the D5 (overall score 5 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 1.1 bits higher color depth, 1.7 EV of lower dynamic range, and 0.8 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Nikon D5 (⇒ rgt) Full Frame 20.7 5588 3712 4K/30p 25.1 12.3 2343 88
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft) APS-C 20.7 5568 3712 4K/30p 24.0 14.0 1324 83
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 20.0 5472 3648 4K/60p 24.1 13.5 3207 88
Leica SL (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 25.0 13.4 1821 88
Nikon D850 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 45.4 8256 5504 4K/30p 26.4 14.8 2660 100
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 20.7 5568 3712 4K/30p 24.8 13.9 1192 86
Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.8 13.9 1192 86
Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.5 14.6 1333 87
Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.2 6016 4016 1080/60p 24.8 14.5 2956 93
Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280 1080/60p 24.4 13.3 3074 89
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.2 6016 4016 1080/30p 25.1 14.4 2925 94
Nikon D600 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.2 6016 4016 1080/30p 25.1 14.2 2980 94
Nikon D300S (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 720/24p 22.5 12.2 787 70

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (4K/30p).

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The D5 and the D500 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D5, the Nikon D500, and comparable cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Nikon D5 (⇒ rgt) optical YES 3.2 2359 fixed YES 8000 14.0 no no
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft) optical YES 3.2 2359 tilting YES 8000 10.0 no no
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1620 fixed YES 8000 16.0 no no
Leica SL (⇒ lft | rgt) 4400 YES 3.0 1040 fixed YES 8000 11.0 no no
Nikon D850 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 2359 tilting YES 8000 9.0 no no
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 922 tilting YES 8000 8.0 12 no
Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 921 fixed no 4000 5.0 7 no
Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1229 fixed no 8000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1229 tilting no 4000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 4000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D600 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 921 fixed no 4000 5.5 12 no
Nikon D300S (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 8000 7.0 12 no

Both the D5 and the D500 are current models that good online retailers will have in stock. You can check the latest prices, for example, at amazon. The D5 replaced the earlier Nikon D4S, while the D500 followed on from the Nikon D300S.

Summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D5 or the Nikon D500 – has the upper hand? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Reasons to prefer the Nikon D5:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (5 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.1 bits more color depth).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.8 stops ISO advantage).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (14 vs 10 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (3780 versus 1240) on a single battery charge.

Arguments in favor of the Nikon D500:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.7 EV of extra DR).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • More compact: Is smaller (147x115mm vs 160x159mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 555g or 39 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (69 percent cheaper at launch).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the match-up finishes in a tie (6 points each). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points.

D5 06:06 D500

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the D5 or the D500 handle or perform in practice. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites. You can find the full text of the reviews, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Nikon D5 (⇒ rgt) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 6,499 latest check
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft) HiRec 91/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 1,999 latest check
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 5,999 latest check
Leica SL (⇒ lft | rgt) - 84/100 4.5/5 4/5 4/5 2015 7,450 latest check
Nikon D850 (⇒ lft | rgt) .. 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 .. 5/5 2017 3,299 latest check
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 86/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2017 1,299 latest check
Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 76/100 4/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2016 499 latest check
Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 84/100 Silver 4.5/5 4/5 4.5/5 2015 1,199discont. check
Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 90/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2014 2,299 latest check
Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2014 6,499discont. check
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 87/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 1,999 latest check
Nikon D600 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 87/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2012 2,099discont. check
Nikon D300S (⇒ lft | rgt) 90/100 HiRec 82/100 HiRec 4/5 5/5 4.5/5 2009 1,799discont. check

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Other comparisons

In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, kindly get in touch, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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