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Nikon D500 versus Olympus E-M1 II

The Nikon D500 and the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in January 2016 and September 2016. The D500 is a DSLR, while the E-M1 II is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-C (D500) and a Four Thirds sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 20.7 megapixel, whereas the Olympus provides 20.2 MP.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Nikon D500 and the Olympus E-M1 II are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button 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 D500 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Nikon D500 vs Olympus E-M1 II front
D500 versus E-M1 II top view
D500 and E-M1 II rear side
Body view (D500 on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-M1 II is notably smaller (28 percent) than the Nikon D500. Moreover, the E-M1 II is markedly lighter (33 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 will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D500) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-M1 II). Mirrorless cameras, such as the E-M1 II, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.

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 D500 (⇒ rgt) 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 860 g 1240 YES 2016 1,999 latest check
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft) 134 mm 91 mm 67 mm 574 g 440 YES 2016 1,999 latest check
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 136 mm 104 mm 73 mm 720 g 950 YES 2017 1,299 latest check
Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 98 mm 76 mm 445 g 1200 no 2016 499 latest check
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 159 mm 92 mm 1415 g 3780 YES 2016 6,499 latest check
Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 97 mm 70 mm 465 g 970 no 2016 699 latest check
Nikon D5500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 97 mm 70 mm 420 g 820 no 2015 899discont. check
Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt) 136 mm 107 mm 76 mm 765 g 1110 YES 2015 1,199discont. check
Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt) 141 mm 113 mm 78 mm 750 g 1230 YES 2014 2,299 latest check
Nikon D7100 (⇒ lft | rgt) 136 mm 107 mm 76 mm 765 g 950 YES 2013 1,199discont. check
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 YES 2013 1,999 latest check
Nikon D300S (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 938 g 950 YES 2009 1,799discont. check
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt) 125 mm 72 mm 37 mm 427 g 330 no 2016 1,199 latest check
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 85 mm 45 mm 469 g 310 YES 2015 1,099 latest check
Panasonic G9 (⇒ lft | rgt) 137 mm 97 mm 92 mm 658 g 400 YES 2017 1,699 latest check
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 139 mm 98 mm 87 mm 725 g 410 YES 2017 1,999 latest check
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 78 mm 63 mm 487 g 330 YES 2015 1,199 latest check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The two cameras under review were launched at the same price and fall into the same 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 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. 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 Olympus E-M1 II a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-M1 II is 39 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 2.0. The sensor in the D500 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-M1 II offers a 4:3 aspect.

Nikon D500 and Olympus E-M1 II sensor measures
Sensor size
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Sensor size

With 20.7MP, the D500 offers a higher resolution than the E-M1 II (20.2MP), but the D500 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.22μm versus 3.34μm for the E-M1 II) due to its larger sensor. However, the E-M1 II is a somewhat more recent model (by 8 months) than the D500, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. 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.

Unlike the D500, the E-M1 II has the capacity to capture high quality composite images (50MP) by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).

D500 versus E-M1 II MP
Sensor resolution
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Sensor resolution

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most cameras. 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. The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar image quality. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Nikon D500 (⇒ rgt) APS-C 20.7 5568 3712 4K/30p 24.0 14.0 1324 83
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/30p 23.7 12.8 1312 80
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 D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 20.7 5588 3712 4K/30p 25.1 12.3 2343 88
Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.1 14.0 1306 84
Nikon D5500 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.1 14.0 1438 84
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 D7100 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.2 13.7 1256 83
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.2 6016 4016 1080/30p 25.1 14.4 2925 94
Nikon D300S (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 720/24p 22.5 12.2 787 70
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 1080/60p 23.1 12.4 894 74
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60p 23.0 12.5 842 73
Panasonic G9 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/60p - - - -
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/60p 23.9 13.0 807 77
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/30p 23.5 12.6 806 75

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 variety of features. For example, the E-M1 II has an electronic viewfinder (2360k dots), while the D500 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D500 and Olympus E-M1 II in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar 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 D500 (⇒ rgt) optical YES 3.2 2359 tilting YES 8000 10.0 no no
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 18.0 no YES
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 D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 2359 fixed YES 8000 14.0 no no
Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.2 1037 swivel YES 4000 5.0 12 no
Nikon D5500 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.2 1037 swivel YES 4000 5.0 12 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 D7100 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1229 fixed no 8000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 4000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D300S (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 8000 7.0 12 no
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Panasonic G9 (⇒ lft | rgt) 3680 YES 3.0 1040 swivel YES 8000 20.0 no YES
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 3680 no 3.2 1620 swivel YES 8000 12.0 no YES
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1040 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES

Both the D500 and the E-M1 II are current models that good online retailers will have in stock. You can check the latest prices, for example, at amazon. The D500 replaced the earlier Nikon D300S, while the E-M1 II followed on from the Olympus E-M1.

Summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Nikon D500 better than the Olympus E-M1 II or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


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Reasons to prefer the Nikon D500:

  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.2 EV of extra DR).
  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 1037k dots).
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1240 versus 440) on a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in January 2016).

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Advantages of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II:

  • High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (18 vs 10 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (134x91mm vs 147x115mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 286g or 33 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (8 months) more recently.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-M1 II emerges as the winner of the match-up (9 : 7 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features.

D500 07:09 E-M1 II

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 E-M1 II 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. The detailed reviews can be accessed, respectively, on the websites of 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 D500 (⇒ rgt) HiRec 91/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 1,999 latest check
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,999 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 D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 6,499 latest check
Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 79/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4/5 2016 699 latest check
Nikon D5500 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 79/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 899discont. 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 D7100 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2013 1,199discont. check
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 87/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 1,999 latest check
Nikon D300S (⇒ lft | rgt) 90/100 HiRec 82/100 HiRec 4/5 5/5 4.5/5 2009 1,799discont. check
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt) - 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2016 1,199 latest check
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 81/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2015 1,099 latest check
Panasonic G9 (⇒ lft | rgt) .. .. 5/5 .. 5/5 2017 1,699 latest check
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2017 1,999 latest check
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 1,199 latest check

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering 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 comparisons

In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please send me an email, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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