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Nikon D500 versus Nikon D800E

The Nikon D500 and the Nikon D800E are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in January 2016 and February 2012. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D500) and a full frame (D800) sensor. The D500 has a resolution of 20.7 megapixel, whereas the D800 provides 36.2 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Nikon D500 vs Nikon D800E

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D500 and the Nikon D800E is provided in the side-by-side display below. 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. 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 side – the D500 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Nikon D500 vs Nikon D800E
Compare D500 versus D800 top
Compare D500 and D800 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D800E is notably larger (6 percent) than the Nikon D500. Moreover, the D800 is markedly heavier (16 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 D800) 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 camera comparisons there.

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)
Used
Price
(USD)
Nikon D500» 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i
Nikon D800E« 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 35.3 oz 900 Y Feb 2012 3,299- i
Nikon D7500« » 5.4 in 4.1 in 2.9 in 25.4 oz 950 Y Apr 2017 1,299 i i
Nikon D3400« » 4.9 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 15.7 oz 1200 n Aug 2016 499 i i
Nikon D5« » 6.3 in 6.3 in 3.6 in 49.9 oz 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499 i i
Nikon D5500« » 4.9 in 3.8 in 2.8 in 14.8 oz 820 n Jan 2015 899- i
Nikon D7200« » 5.4 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 1110 Y Mar 2015 1,199- i
Nikon D750« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 26.5 oz 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299 i i
Nikon D810« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 34.6 oz 1200 Y Jun 2014 3,299- i
Nikon D7100« » 5.4 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 950 Y Feb 2013 1,199- i
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Nikon Df« » 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.6 in 26.8 oz 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749 i i
Nikon D600« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Sep 2012 2,099- i
Nikon D800« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 35.3 oz 900 Y Feb 2012 2,999- i
Nikon D300S« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 33.1 oz 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799- i
Nikon D700« » 5.8 in 4.8 in 3.0 in 37.9 oz 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999- i

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch 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 39 percent) than the D800, 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: Nikon D500 vs Nikon D800E

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D500 features an APS-C sensor and the Nikon D800E a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D800 is 134 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.

Nikon D500 and Nikon D800E sensor measures

With 36.2MP, the D800 offers a higher resolution than the D500 (20.7MP), but the D800 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.88μm versus 4.22μm for the D500) due to its larger sensor. However, the D500 is a much more recent model (by 3 years and 10 months) than the D800, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.

D500 versus D800 MP

For most 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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D800 offers substantially better image quality than the D500 (overall score 13 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.6 bits higher color depth, 0.3 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.2 stops in additional low light sensitivity. 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 Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Nikon D500» APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483
Nikon D800E« Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.614.3297996
Nikon D7500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.314.0148386
Nikon D3400« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.813.9119286
Nikon D5« » Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388
Nikon D5500« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.114.0143884
Nikon D7200« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.514.6133387
Nikon D750« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693
Nikon D810« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.714.8285397
Nikon D7100« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.213.7125683
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594
Nikon Df« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280-24.613.1327989
Nikon D600« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.2298094
Nikon D800« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.314.4285395
Nikon D300S« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770
Nikon D700« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2230380

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, but the D500 provides a higher video resolution than the D800. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the D800 is limited to 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Nikon D500 vs Nikon D800E

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D500 and the D800 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 D500, the Nikon D800E, and comparable cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

Core Features
  Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Nikon D500»optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n n
Nikon D800E«optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n
Nikon D7500« »optical Y 3.2 922 tilting Y 8000 8.0 Y n
Nikon D3400« »optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n
Nikon D5« »optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 8000 14.0 n n
Nikon D5500« »optical n 3.2 1037 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n
Nikon D7200« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 4000 6.0 Y n
Nikon D810« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n
Nikon D7100« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n
Nikon Df« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 n n
Nikon D600« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 Y n
Nikon D800« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n
Nikon D300S« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 7.0 Y n
Nikon D700« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n

The D500 is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the D800 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the D800 was succeeded by the Nikon D810.

Review summary: Nikon D500 vs Nikon D800E

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D500 and the Nikon D800E? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Arguments in favor of the Nikon D500:

  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/30p).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 921k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 140g or 14 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1240 versus 900) on a single battery charge.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (39 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years and 10 months of technical progress since the D800 launch.


Reasons to prefer the Nikon D800E:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (36.2 vs 20.7MP), which boosts linear resolution by 32%.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (13 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.6 bits more color depth).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.2 stops ISO advantage).
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in February 2012).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D500 emerges as the winner of the contest (9 : 6 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.

D500 09:06 D800

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the D500 and the D800 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. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The detailed reviews can be accessed by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
  Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Nikon D500»HiRec91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i
Nikon D800E«-84/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2012 3,299- i
Nikon D7500« »HiRec86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Apr 2017 1,299 i i
Nikon D3400« »Rec76/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Aug 2016 499 i i
Nikon D5« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i
Nikon D5500« »Rec79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Jan 2015 899- i
Nikon D7200« »HiRec84/1004.5/54/54.5/5 Mar 2015 1,199- i
Nikon D750« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299 i i
Nikon D810« »-86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2014 3,299- i
Nikon D7100« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2013 1,199- i
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Nikon Df« »-81/1004/54/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749 i i
Nikon D600« »HiRec87/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099- i
Nikon D800« »HiRec82/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2012 2,999- i
Nikon D300S« »HiRec82/1004/55/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799- i
Nikon D700« »89/100HiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999- i

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.

 

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. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If the camera you are interested in is not available, kindly get in touch, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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