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Nikon D500 vs D850

The Nikon D500 and the Nikon D850 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in January 2016 and July 2017. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D500) and a full frame (D850) sensor. The D500 has a resolution of 20.7 megapixels, whereas the D850 provides 45.4 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their sensors, their features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.


Headline Specifications
Nikon D500   Nikon D850
Nikon D500 Nikon D850
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
20.7 MP, APS-C Sensor 45.4 MP, Full Frame Sensor
4K/30p Video 4K/30p Video
ISO 100-51200 (50-1640000) ISO 64-25600 (32-102400)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.2" LCD, 2359k dots 3.2" LCD, 2359k dots
Tilting touchscreen Tilting touchscreen
10 shutter flaps per second 9 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
1240 shots per battery charge1840 shots per battery charge
147 x 115 x 81 mm, 860 g 146 x 124 x 79 mm, 1005 g

Body comparison: Nikon D500 vs D850

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D500 and the Nikon D850. 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. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the D500 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Nikon D500 and Nikon D850
Compare D500 versus D850 top
Compare D500 or D850 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D850 is notably larger (7 percent) than the Nikon D500. Moreover, the D850 is markedly heavier (17 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 D850) 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.

Concerning battery life, the D500 gets 1240 shots out of its EN-EL15 battery, while the D850 can take 1840 images on a single charge of its EN-EL15a power pack.

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)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Nikon D500» 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D850« 5.7 in 4.9 in 3.1 in 35.5 oz 1840 Y Jul 2017 3,299 i i Nikon D850
Canon 5DS« » 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 32.8 oz 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS
Canon 5DS R« » 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 32.8 oz 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS R
Nikon D7500« » 5.4 in 4.1 in 2.9 in 25.4 oz 950 Y Apr 2017 1,299 i i Nikon D7500
Nikon D5600« » 4.9 in 3.8 in 2.8 in 16.4 oz 970 n Nov 2016 699 i i Nikon D5600
Nikon D5« » 6.3 in 6.3 in 3.6 in 49.9 oz 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D3400« » 4.9 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 15.7 oz 1200 n Aug 2016 499- i Nikon D3400
Nikon D5500« » 4.9 in 3.8 in 2.8 in 14.8 oz 820 n Jan 2015 899- i Nikon D5500
Nikon D7200« » 5.4 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 1110 Y Mar 2015 1,199- i Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 26.5 oz 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Nikon D810« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 34.6 oz 1200 Y Jun 2014 3,299- i Nikon D810
Nikon D7100« » 5.4 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 950 Y Feb 2013 1,199- i Nikon D7100
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Nikon D600« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Sep 2012 2,099- i Nikon D600
Nikon D300S« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 33.1 oz 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799- i Nikon D300S

Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. 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 D850, 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Nikon D500 vs D850

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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 more expensive and 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 D850 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D850 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.

Nikon D500 and Nikon D850 sensor measures

With 45.4MP, the D850 offers a higher resolution than the D500 (20.7MP), but the D850 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.35μm versus 4.22μm for the D500) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the D850 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 6 months) than the D500, and its sensor might 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 neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.

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 D850 are ISO 64 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 32-102400..

D500 versus D850 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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D850 offers substantially better image quality than the D500 (overall score 17 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.4 bits higher color depth, 0.8 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1 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
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 D850« Full Frame 45.4 8256 55044K/30p26.414.82660100Nikon D850
Canon 5DS« » Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/60p24.712.4238187Canon 5DS
Canon 5DS R« » Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/60p24.612.4230886Canon 5DS R
Nikon D7500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.314.0148386Nikon D7500
Nikon D5600« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.114.0130684Nikon D5600
Nikon D5« » Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388Nikon D5
Nikon D3400« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.813.9119286Nikon D3400
Nikon D5500« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.114.0143884Nikon D5500
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 D810« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.714.8285397Nikon D810
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

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. 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: Nikon D500 vs D850

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The D500 and the D850 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 adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D500 and Nikon D850 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Nikon D500»optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n n Nikon D500
Nikon D850«optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 9.0 n n Nikon D850
Canon 5DS« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Canon 5DS
Canon 5DS R« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Canon 5DS R
Nikon D7500« »optical Y 3.2 922 tilting Y 8000 8.0 Y n Nikon D7500
Nikon D5600« »optical n 3.2 1037 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D5600
Nikon D5« »optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 8000 14.0 n n Nikon D5
Nikon D3400« »optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D3400
Nikon D5500« »optical n 3.2 1037 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D5500
Nikon D7200« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D750
Nikon D810« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 8000 5.0 Y n Nikon D810
Nikon D7100« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n Nikon D7100
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D610
Nikon D600« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 Y n Nikon D600
Nikon D300S« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 7.0 Y n Nikon D300S

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the D500 and the D850 write their files to SDHC or XQD cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.

Connectivity comparison: Nikon D500 vs D850

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 D850 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
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
Nikon D500»YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYYNikon D500
Nikon D850«YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYYNikon D850
Canon 5DS« »YmonomonoY-mini3.0---Canon 5DS
Canon 5DS R« »YmonomonoY-mini3.0---Canon 5DS R
Nikon D7500« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0Y-YNikon D7500
Nikon D5600« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0YYYNikon D5600
Nikon D5« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0---Nikon D5
Nikon D3400« »Ymonomono--mini2.0Y-YNikon D3400
Nikon D5500« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0Y--Nikon D5500
Nikon D7200« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0YY-Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0Y--Nikon D750
Nikon D810« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--Nikon D810
Nikon D7100« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0---Nikon D7100
Nikon D610« »YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Nikon D610
Nikon D600« »YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Nikon D600
Nikon D300S« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D300S

Both the D500 and the D850 are recent models that feature in their makers' current product line-up. The D500 replaced the earlier Nikon D300S, while the D850 followed on from the Nikon D810.


Review summary: Nikon D500 vs D850

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D500 and the Nikon D850? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Advantages of the Nikon D500:

  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 145g or 14 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (39 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in January 2016).


Arguments in favor of the Nikon D850:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (45.4 vs 20.7MP), which boosts linear resolution by 48%.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (17 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.4 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.8 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1 stops ISO advantage).
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1840 versus 1240) out of a single battery charge.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 6 months) more recently.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D850 is the clear winner of the contest (7 : 3 points). 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 when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

D500 03:07 D850

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the D500 and the D850 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews: Nikon D500 vs D850

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 (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Nikon D500»HiRec91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D850«HiRec89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jul 2017 3,299 i i Nikon D850
Canon 5DS« »Rec83/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS
Canon 5DS R« »Rec83/1005/55/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS R
Nikon D7500« »HiRec86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Apr 2017 1,299 i i Nikon D7500
Nikon D5600« »-79/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Nov 2016 699 i i Nikon D5600
Nikon D5« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D3400« »Rec76/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Aug 2016 499- i Nikon D3400
Nikon D5500« »Rec79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Jan 2015 899- i Nikon D5500
Nikon D7200« »HiRec84/1004.5/54/54.5/5 Mar 2015 1,199- i Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Nikon D810« »-86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2014 3,299- i Nikon D810
Nikon D7100« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2013 1,199- i Nikon D7100
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Nikon D600« »HiRec87/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099- i Nikon D600
Nikon D300S« »HiRec82/1004/55/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799- i Nikon D300S

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. 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 are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, 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.

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    Specifications: Nikon D500 vs Nikon D850

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Nikon D500 Nikon D850
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date January 2016 July 2017
    Launch Price USD 1999 USD 3299
    Sensor Specs
    Sensor Technology CMOS BSI-CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.5 x 15.7 mm 35.9 x 15.7 mm
    Sensor Area 368.95 mm2 858.01 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.3 mm 43.1 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5 1.0
    Sensor Resolution 20.7 Megapixels 45.4 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 5568 x 3712 pixels 8256 x 5504 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.22 μm 4.35 μm
    Pixel Density 5.60 MP/cm2 5.30 MP/cm2
    Movie Capability 4K/30p Video 4K/30p Video
    ISO Setting 100-51200 ISO 64-25600 ISO
    ISO Boost 50-1640000 ISO 32-102400 ISO
    Image Processor EXPEED 5 EXPEED 5
    Screen Specs
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    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
    Maximum Shutter Speed 1/8000s 1/8000s
    Continuous Shooting 10 shutter flaps/s 9 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC or XQD cards SDXC or XQD cards
    Connectivity Specs
    USB Connector USB 3.0 USB 3.0
    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 NFC built-in
    Bluetooth Support Bluetooth built-in Bluetooth built-in
    Body Specs
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type EN-EL15 power pack EN-EL15a power pack
    Battery Life (CIPA)1240 shots per charge1840 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 147 x 115 x 81 mm
    (5.8 x 4.5 x 3.2 in)
    146 x 124 x 79 mm
    (5.7 x 4.9 x 3.1 in)
    Camera Weight 860 g (30.3 oz) 1005 g (35.5 oz)

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