Nikon D500 vs Sony A7R
The Nikon D500 and the Sony Alpha A7R are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in January 2016 and October 2013. The D500 is a DSLR, while the A7R is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-C (D500) and a full frame (A7R) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 20.7 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 36.2 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D500 and the Sony Alpha A7R? 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.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D500 and the Sony A7R. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A7R is notably smaller (29 percent) than the Nikon D500. Moreover, the A7R is substantially lighter (46 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 compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D500) and the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7R). Mirrorless cameras, such as the A7R, 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.
Concerning battery life, the D500 gets 1240 shots out of its EN-EL15 battery, while the A7R can take 340 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack. The power pack in the A7R can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|Nikon D500||5.8 in||4.5 in||3.2 in||30.3 oz||1240||Y||Jan 2016||1,999|
|Sony A7R||5.0 in||3.7 in||1.9 in||16.4 oz||340||Y||Oct 2013||2,299|
|Nikon D7500||5.4 in||4.1 in||2.9 in||25.4 oz||950||Y||Apr 2017||1,299|
|Nikon D5600||4.9 in||3.8 in||2.8 in||16.4 oz||970||n||Nov 2016||699|
|Nikon D3400||4.9 in||3.9 in||3.0 in||15.7 oz||1200||n||Aug 2016||499|
|Nikon D5500||4.9 in||3.8 in||2.8 in||14.8 oz||820||n||Jan 2015||899|
|Nikon D7200||5.4 in||4.2 in||3.0 in||27.0 oz||1110||Y||Mar 2015||1,199|
|Nikon D750||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.1 in||26.5 oz||1230||Y||Sep 2014||2,299|
|Nikon D810||5.7 in||4.8 in||3.2 in||34.6 oz||1200||Y||Jun 2014||3,299|
|Nikon D7100||5.4 in||4.2 in||3.0 in||27.0 oz||950||Y||Feb 2013||1,199|
|Nikon D610||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.2 in||30.0 oz||900||Y||Oct 2013||1,999|
|Nikon D600||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.2 in||30.0 oz||900||Y||Sep 2012||2,099|
|Nikon D300S||5.8 in||4.5 in||3.2 in||33.1 oz||950||Y||Jul 2009||1,799|
|Sony A7R II||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.4 in||22.0 oz||290||Y||Jun 2015||3,199|
|Sony A7 II||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.4 in||21.1 oz||350||Y||Nov 2014||1,999|
|Sony A7S||5.0 in||3.7 in||1.9 in||17.2 oz||380||Y||Apr 2014||2,499|
|Sony A7||5.0 in||3.7 in||1.9 in||16.7 oz||340||Y||Oct 2013||1,699|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The D500 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 13 percent) than the A7R, 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.
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. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better 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 Sony A7R a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A7R 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.
With 36.2MP, the A7R offers a higher resolution than the D500 (20.7MP), but the A7R 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 2 years and 2 months) than the A7R, 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.
The resolution advantage of the Sony A7R implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A7R for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 36.8 x 24.6 inches or 93.5 x 62.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 29.4 x 19.6 inches or 74.8 x 49.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 24.5 x 16.4 inches or 62.3 x 41.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D500 are 27.8 x 18.6 inches or 70.7 x 47.1 cm for good quality, 22.3 x 14.8 inches or 56.6 x 37.7 cm for very good quality, and 18.6 x 12.4 inches or 47.1 x 31.4 cm for excellent quality prints.
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 Sony Alpha A7R are ISO 100 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-51200.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 A7R offers substantially better image quality than the D500 (overall score 12 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.6 bits higher color depth, 0.1 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.1 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.
| DXO |
|Sony A7R||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.6||14.1||2746||95|
|Nikon D750||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/60p||24.8||14.5||2956||93|
|Nikon D810||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.7||14.8||2853||97|
|Nikon D610||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94|
|Nikon D600||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.2||2980||94|
|Sony A7R II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||26.0||13.9||3434||98|
|Sony A7 II||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.9||13.6||2449||90|
|Sony A7S||Full Frame||12.0||4240||2832||1080/60p||23.9||13.2||3702||87|
|Sony A7||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.8||14.2||2248||90|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. 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 A7R. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the Sony is limited to 1080/60p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the A7R has an electronic viewfinder (2400k 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), but the viewfinder of the A7R has a higher magnification than the one of the D500 (0.71x vs 0.67x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D500 and Sony A7R along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|Sony A7R II||2400||n||3.0||1229||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y|
|Sony A7 II||2400||n||3.0||1230||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y|
One feature that is present on the D500, but is missing on the A7R is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.
The Nikon D500 has 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 A7R uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The D500 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the A7R only has one slot. The D500 supports UHS-II cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 312 MB/s), while the A7R can use UHS-I cards (up to 104 MB/s).
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 Sony Alpha A7R and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|Sony A7R II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|Sony A7 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D500 (unlike the A7R) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
The D500 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Nikon. In contrast, the A7R has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the A7R was succeeded by the Sony A7R II. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon and Sony websites.
So what is the bottom line? Is the Nikon D500 better than the Sony A7R or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Advantages of the Nikon D500:
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60p).
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Easier setting verification: Features 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 1230k dots).
- 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.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1240 versus 340) on a single battery charge.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
- Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- Faster buffer clearing: Supports a more advanced SD data transfer standard (UHS-II vs UHS-I).
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (13 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 2 years and 2 months of technical progress since the A7R launch.
Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A7R:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (36.2 vs 20.7MP), which boosts linear resolution by 32%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (12 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 (1.1 stops ISO advantage).
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.71x vs 0.67x).
- More compact: Is smaller (127x94mm vs 147x115mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 395g or 46 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in October 2013).
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D500 is the clear winner of the match-up (16 : 11 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 before making a decision on a new camera. 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.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D500 and the Sony A7R place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D500 and the A7R 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.
This is why expert reviews are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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.
|Nikon D500||+ +||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,999|
|Sony A7R||+ +||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||2,299|
|Nikon D7500||+ +||86/100||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2017||1,299|
|Nikon D5600||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4/5||Nov 2016||699|
|Nikon D3400||+||76/100||4/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||499|
|Nikon D5500||+||79/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2015||899|
|Nikon D7200||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||Mar 2015||1,199|
|Nikon D750||+ +||90/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||2,299|
|Nikon D810||..||86/100||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2014||3,299|
|Nikon D7100||+ +||85/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2013||1,199|
|Nikon D610||+ +||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||1,999|
|Nikon D600||+ +||87/100||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,099|
|Nikon D300S||+ +||82/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||1,799|
|Sony A7R II||+ +||90/100||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Jun 2015||3,199|
|Sony A7 II||+||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Nov 2014||1,999|
|Sony A7S||..||86/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Apr 2014||2,499|
|Sony A7||+ +||80/100||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||1,699|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
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. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
Specifications: Nikon D500 vs Sony A7R
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 Model||Nikon D500||Sony A7R|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||January 2016||October 2013|
|Launch Price||USD 1,999||USD 2,299|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D500||Sony A7R|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.5 x 15.7 mm||35.9 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||368.95 mm2||861.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.3 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||20.7 Megapixels||36.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5568 x 3712 pixels||7360 x 4912 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.22 μm||4.88 μm|
|Pixel Density||5.60 MP/cm2||4.20 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/30p Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 51,200 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 1,640,000 ISO||50 - 51,200 ISO|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 5||BIONZ X|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||83||95|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||24.0||25.6|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||14.0||14.1|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1324||2746|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D500||Sony A7R|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2400k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.2inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||2359k dots||1230k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Tilting screen||Tilting screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D500||Sony A7R|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/8000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||10 shutter flaps/s||4 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||200 000 actuations||250 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||no Intervalometer|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC or XQD cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||UHS-II||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D500||Sony A7R|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||USB 3.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||micro 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||no Bluetooth|
|Body Specs||Nikon D500||Sony A7R|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||1240 shots per charge||340 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
147 x 115 x 81 mm
(5.8 x 4.5 x 3.2 in)
127 x 94 x 48 mm
(5.0 x 3.7 x 1.9 in)
|Camera Weight||860 g (30.3 oz)||465 g (16.4 oz)|
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