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Nikon D500 vs D780

The Nikon D500 and the Nikon D780 are two enthusiast cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in January 2016 and January 2020. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D500) and a full frame (D780) sensor. The D500 has a resolution of 20.7 megapixels, whereas the D780 provides 24.3 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Nikon D500 VS Nikon D780
Nikon D500 Nikon D780
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
20.7 MP, APS-C Sensor 24.3 MP, Full Frame Sensor
4K/30p Video 4K/30p Video
ISO 100-51200 (50-1640000) ISO 100-51200 (50-204800)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.2" LCD, 2359k dots 3.2" LCD, 2359k dots
Tilting touchscreen Tilting touchscreen
10 shutter flaps per second 12 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
1240 shots per battery charge2260 shots per battery charge
147 x 115 x 81 mm, 860 g 144 x 116 x 76 mm, 840 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D500 and the Nikon D780? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D500 and the Nikon D780 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Nikon D500 vs Nikon D780
Compare D500 versus D780 top
Comparison D500 or D780 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D780 is somewhat smaller (1 percent) than the Nikon D500. Moreover, the D780 is slightly lighter (2 percent) than the D500. 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 D780) will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, while more compact options are available for the smaller-sensor camera (D500). You can compare the optics available in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

The power pack in the D780 can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D500» 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 860 g 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 iNikon D500
 
Nikon D780« 144 mm 116 mm 76 mm 840 g 2260 Y Jan 2020 2,299 iNikon D780
 
Canon 6D Mark II« » 144 mm 111 mm 75 mm 765 g 1200 Y Jun 2017 1,999 iCanon 6D Mark II
 
Canon 80D« » 139 mm 105 mm 79 mm 730 g 960 Y Feb 2016 1,199iCanon 80D
 
Nikon D6« » 160 mm 163 mm 92 mm 1270 g 3580 Y Feb 2020 6,499 iNikon D6
 
Nikon D7500« » 136 mm 104 mm 73 mm 720 g 950 Y Apr 2017 1,299 iNikon D7500
 
Nikon D7200« » 136 mm 107 mm 76 mm 765 g 1110 Y Mar 2015 1,199iNikon D7200
 
Nikon D750« » 141 mm 113 mm 78 mm 750 g 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299iNikon D750
 
Nikon D7100« » 136 mm 107 mm 76 mm 765 g 950 Y Feb 2013 1,199iNikon D7100
 
Nikon D610« » 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 iNikon D610
 
Nikon D600« » 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 Y Sep 2012 2,099iNikon D600
 
Nikon D300S« » 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 938 g 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799iNikon D300S
 
Panasonic GH5« » 139 mm 98 mm 87 mm 725 g 410 Y Jan 2017 1,999 iPanasonic GH5
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The D500 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 13 percent) than the D780, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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.

 

Sensor comparison

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D500 features an APS-C sensor and the Nikon D780 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D780 is 133 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Technology-wise, the D780 uses a more advanced image processing engine (EXPEED 6) than the D500 (EXPEED 5), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.

Nikon D500 and Nikon D780 sensor measures

With 24.3MP, the D780 offers a higher resolution than the D500 (20.7MP), but the D780 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 4.22μm for the D500) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the D780 is a much more recent model (by 4 years) than the D500, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to 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.

The resolution advantage of the Nikon D780 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D780 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30.2 x 20.1 inch or 76.8 x 51.1 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24.2 x 16.1 inch or 61.4 x 40.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20.2 x 13.4 inch or 51.2 x 34.1 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D500 are 27.8 x 18.6 inch or 70.7 x 47.1 cm for good quality, 22.3 x 14.8 inch or 56.6 x 37.7 cm for very good quality, and 18.6 x 12.4 inch or 47.1 x 31.4 cm for excellent quality prints.

The D780 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.

The Nikon D500 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 51200, which can be extended to ISO 50-1640000. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D780 are ISO 100 to ISO 51200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-204800.

D500 versus D780 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D500 APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483Nikon D500
 
Nikon D780 Full Frame 24.3 6048 40244K/30p........Nikon D780
 
Canon 6D Mark II Full Frame 26.0 6240 41601080/60p24.411.9286285Canon 6D Mark II
 
Canon 80D APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.613.2113579Canon 80D
 
Nikon D6 Full Frame 20.7 5568 37124K/30p........Nikon D6
 
Nikon D7500 APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.314.0148386Nikon D7500
 
Nikon D7200 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.514.6133387Nikon D7200
 
Nikon D750 Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693Nikon D750
 
Nikon D7100 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.213.7125683Nikon D7100
 
Nikon D610 Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594Nikon D610
 
Nikon D600 Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.2298094Nikon D600
 
Nikon D300S APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770Nikon D300S
 
Panasonic GH5 Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/60p23.913.080777Panasonic GH5

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture 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 range of features. The D500 and the D780 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), but the viewfinder of the D780 has a higher magnification than the one of the D500 (0.70x vs 0.67x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D500, the Nikon D780, and comparable cameras.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D500optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 1/8000s 10.0 n n Nikon D500
 
Nikon D780optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 1/8000s 12.0 n n Nikon D780
 
Canon 6D Mark IIoptical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 6.5 n n Canon 6D Mark II
 
Canon 80Doptical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/8000s 7.0 Y n Canon 80D
 
Nikon D6optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 1/8000s 14.0 n n Nikon D6
 
Nikon D7500optical Y 3.2 922 tilting Y 1/8000s 8.0 Y n Nikon D7500
 
Nikon D7200optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n Nikon D7200
 
Nikon D750optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 1/4000s 6.0 Y n Nikon D750
 
Nikon D7100optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n Nikon D7100
 
Nikon D610optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/4000s 6.0 Y n Nikon D610
 
Nikon D600optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5 Y n Nikon D600
 
Nikon D300Soptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 7.0 Y n Nikon D300S
 
Panasonic GH53680 n 3.2 1620 swivel Y 1/8000s 12.0 n Y Panasonic GH5

The Nikon D500 and the Nikon D780 both have an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.

The D500 writes its imaging data to SDHC or XQD cards, while the D780 uses SDXC cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. Moreover, both cameras support UHS-II cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 312 MB/s).

 

Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Nikon D500 and Nikon D780 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D500YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYYNikon D500
 
Nikon D780YstereomonoYYmini3.1Y-YNikon D780
 
Canon 6D Mark IIYstereomonoY-mini2.0YYYCanon 6D Mark II
 
Canon 80DYstereomonoYYmini2.0YY-Canon 80D
 
Nikon D6YstereomonoYYmini3.1Y-YNikon D6
 
Nikon D7500YstereomonoYYmini2.0Y-YNikon D7500
 
Nikon D7200YstereomonoYYmini2.0YY-Nikon D7200
 
Nikon D750YstereomonoYYmini2.0Y--Nikon D750
 
Nikon D7100YstereomonoYYmini2.0---Nikon D7100
 
Nikon D610YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Nikon D610
 
Nikon D600YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Nikon D600
 
Nikon D300SYstereomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D300S
 
Panasonic GH5YstereomonoYYfull3.1Y-YPanasonic GH5

Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.

Both the D500 and the D780 are recent models that are part of the current product line-up. The D500 replaced the earlier Nikon D300S, while the D780 followed on from the Nikon D750. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon website.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D500 and the Nikon D780? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Arguments in favor of the Nikon D500:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (13 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in January 2016).


Reasons to prefer the Nikon D780:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (24.3 vs 20.7MP), which boosts linear resolution by 9%.
  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better image quality: Is equipped with a larger and more technologically advanced sensor.
  • Richer colors: The sensor size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
  • More dynamic range: Larger sensor captures a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Larger sensor produces good images even in poorly lit environments.
  • Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (EXPEED 6 vs EXPEED 5).
  • Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.67x).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (12 vs 10 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (2260 versus 1240) out of a single battery charge.
  • Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
  • More modern: Reflects 4 years of technical progress since the D500 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D780 is the clear winner of the contest (12 : 4 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

D500 04:12 D780

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D500 and the Nikon D780 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D500 and the D780 in practical situations. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cam
era
  labs  
dp
re
  view  
e
photo
  zine  
ima
ging
resource
photo
graphy
  blog  
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D500+ +91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 iNikon D500
 
Nikon D780..87/1004.5/5..4.5/5 Jan 2020 2,299 iNikon D780
 
Canon 6D Mark II+80/1004.5/54/54/5 Jun 2017 1,999 iCanon 6D Mark II
 
Canon 80D+ +84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2016 1,199iCanon 80D
 
Nikon D6....4.5/5..4.5/5 Feb 2020 6,499 iNikon D6
 
Nikon D7500+ +86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Apr 2017 1,299 iNikon D7500
 
Nikon D7200+ +84/1004.5/54/54.5/5 Mar 2015 1,199iNikon D7200
 
Nikon D750+ +90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299iNikon D750
 
Nikon D7100+ +85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2013 1,199iNikon D7100
 
Nikon D610+ +87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 iNikon D610
 
Nikon D600+ +87/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099iNikon D600
 
Nikon D300S+ +82/1004/55/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799iNikon D300S
 
Panasonic GH5+ +85/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2017 1,999 iPanasonic GH5
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Nikon D500:
Check Amazon price
Nikon D780:
Check Amazon price

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.

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    Specifications: Nikon D500 vs Nikon D780

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Nikon D500 Nikon D780
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date January 2016 January 2020
    Launch Price USD 1999 USD 2299
    Sensor Specs Nikon D500 Nikon D780
    Sensor Technology CMOS BSI-CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.5 x 15.7 mm 35.9 x 23.9 mm
    Sensor Area 368.95 mm2 858.01 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.3 mm 43.1 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 20.7 Megapixels 24.3 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 5568 x 3712 pixels 6048 x 4024 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.22 μm 5.94 μm
    Pixel Density 5.60 MP/cm2 2.84 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 4K/30p Video 4K/30p Video
    ISO Setting 100-51200 ISO 100-51200 ISO
    ISO Boost 50-1640000 ISO 50-204800 ISO
    Image Processor EXPEED 5 EXPEED 6
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 83 ..
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 24.0 ..
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 14.0 ..
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 1324 ..
    Screen Specs Nikon D500 Nikon D780
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.67x 0.70x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.2 inch 3.2 inch
    LCD Resolution 2359k dots 2359k dots
    LCD Attachment Tilting screen Tilting screen
    Touch Input Touchscreen Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D500 Nikon D780
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Manual Focusing AidNo Peaking FeatureFocus Peaking
    Max Shutter Speed (mechanical) 1/8000/s 1/8000/s
    Continuous Shooting 10 shutter flaps/s 12 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy200 000 actuations200 000 actuations
    Time-Lapse PhotographyIntervalometer built-inIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC or XQD cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Dual card slots
    UHS card support UHS-II Dual UHS-II
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D500 Nikon D780
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 3.0 USB 3.1
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Microphone Port External MIC port External MIC port
    Headphone Socket Headphone port Headphone port
    Wifi Support Wifi built-in Wifi built-in
    Near-Field Communication NFC built-in no NFC
    Bluetooth Support Bluetooth built-in Bluetooth built-in
    Body Specs Nikon D500 Nikon D780
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type EN-EL15 EN-EL15b
    Battery Life (CIPA)1240 shots per charge2260 shots per charge
    In-Camera Charging no USB charging USB charging
    Body Dimensions 147 x 115 x 81 mm
    (5.8 x 4.5 x 3.2 in)
    144 x 116 x 76 mm
    (5.7 x 4.6 x 3.0 in)
    Camera Weight 860 g (30.3 oz) 840 g (29.6 oz)

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