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Pentax K-3 II versus Nikon D500

The Pentax K-3 II and the Nikon D500 are two enthusiast cameras that were announced, respectively, in April 2015 and January 2016. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Pentax has a resolution of 24.1 megapixel, whereas the Nikon provides 20.7 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: Pentax K-3 II vs Nikon D500

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Pentax K-3 II and the Nikon D500 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. 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 K-3 II – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Pentax K-3 II vs Nikon D500
K-3 II versus D500 top view
K-3 II and D500 rear side
Body view (K-3 II on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D500 is notably larger (29 percent) than the Pentax K-3 II. Moreover, the D500 is markedly heavier (8 percent) than the K-3 II. 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. Hence, you might want to study the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.

Concerning battery life, the K-3 II gets 720 shots out of its D-LI90 battery, while the D500 can take 1240 images on a single charge of its EN-EL15 power pack.

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 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)
Pentax K-3 II (⇒ rgt) 131 mm 100 mm 77 mm 800 g 720 YES 2015 1,099 latest check
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft) 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 860 g 1240 YES 2016 1,999 latest check
Canon 80D (⇒ lft | rgt) 139 mm 105 mm 79 mm 730 g 960 YES 2016 1,199 latest check
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 136 mm 104 mm 73 mm 720 g 950 YES 2017 1,299 latest check
Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt) 136 mm 107 mm 76 mm 765 g 1110 YES 2015 1,199discont. 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 E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 134 mm 91 mm 67 mm 574 g 440 YES 2016 1,999 latest check
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 85 mm 45 mm 469 g 310 YES 2015 1,099 latest check
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 78 mm 63 mm 487 g 330 YES 2015 1,199discont. check
Pentax KP (⇒ lft | rgt) 132 mm 101 mm 76 mm 703 g 390 YES 2017 1,099 latest check
Pentax K-70 (⇒ lft | rgt) 126 mm 93 mm 74 mm 688 g 410 YES 2016 649 latest check
Pentax K-3 (⇒ lft | rgt) 131 mm 100 mm 77 mm 800 g 560 YES 2013 1,299discont. check
Pentax K-5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 131 mm 97 mm 73 mm 760 g 740 YES 2010 1,099discont. check
Sony RX10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 129 mm 88 mm 102 mm 813 g 400 YES 2015 1,299discont. check

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 K-3 II was launched at a markedly lower price (by 45 percent) than the D500, 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: Pentax K-3 II vs Nikon D500

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. 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.

Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the D500 is 1 percent bigger. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Pentax K-3 II and Nikon D500 sensor measures
Sensor size

Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the Pentax K-3 II offers a higher resolution of 24.1 megapixel, compared with 20.7 MP of the Nikon D500. This megapixel advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 3.90μm versus 4.22μm for the D500). Moreover, it should be noted that the D500 is a somewhat more recent model (by 8 months) than the K-3 II, 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.

Unlike the D500, the K-3 II has the capacity to capture high quality composite images 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).

K-3 II versus D500 MP
Sensor resolution

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar image quality. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Pentax K-3 II (⇒ rgt) APS-C 24.1 6016 4000 1080/60i 23.6 13.6 1106 80
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft) APS-C 20.7 5568 3712 4K/30p 24.0 14.0 1324 83
Canon 80D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 23.6 13.2 1135 79
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 20.7 5568 3712 4K/30p 24.3 14.0 1483 86
Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.5 14.6 1333 87
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 E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/30p 23.7 12.8 1312 80
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60p 23.0 12.5 842 73
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/30p 23.5 12.6 806 75
Pentax KP (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.1 6016 4000 1080/60i - - - -
Pentax K-70 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60i - - - -
Pentax K-3 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.1 6016 4000 1080/60i 23.7 13.4 1216 80
Pentax K-5 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 16.1 4928 3264 1080/25p 23.7 14.1 1162 82
Sony RX10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 1-inch 20.0 5472 3648 4K/30p 23.0 12.6 531 70

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, but the D500 provides a better video resolution than the K-3 II. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the Pentax is limited to 1080/60i.

Feature comparison: Pentax K-3 II vs Nikon D500

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The K-3 II and the D500 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 Pentax K-3 II and Nikon D500 along with similar information for a selection of comparators. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, 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
Pentax K-3 II (⇒ rgt) optical YES 3.2 1037 fixed no 8000 8.3 no YES
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft) optical YES 3.2 2359 tilting YES 8000 10.0 no no
Canon 80D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 1040 swivel YES 8000 7.0 12 no
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 922 tilting YES 8000 8.0 12 no
Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1229 fixed no 8000 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 E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 18.0 no YES
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1040 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Pentax KP (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 921 tilting no 6000 7.0 YES YES
Pentax K-70 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 921 swivel no 6000 6.0 YES YES
Pentax K-3 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1037 fixed no 8000 8.3 13 YES
Pentax K-5 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 921 fixed no 8000 7.0 13 YES
Sony RX10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 YES 3.0 1229 tilting no 3200 14.0 10.2 YES

Both the K-3 II and the D500 are current models that good online retailers will have in stock. You can check the latest prices, for example, at amazon. The K-3 II replaced the earlier Pentax K-3, while the D500 followed on from the Nikon D300S.

Review summary: Pentax K-3 II vs Nikon D500

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Pentax K-3 II and the Nikon D500? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


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Arguments in favor of the Pentax K-3 II:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (24.1 vs 20.7MP) with a 8% higher linear resolution.
  • High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
  • More compact: Is smaller (131x100mm vs 147x115mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization build-in.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (45 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in April 2015).

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Advantages of the Nikon D500:

  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60i).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 1037k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 8.3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1240 versus 720) out of a single battery charge.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (8 months) more recently.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D500 comes out slightly ahead of the K-3 II (7 : 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.

K-3 II 06:07 D500

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the K-3 II or the D500 handle or perform in practice. 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 where reviews by experts come in. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites. The full reviews are available, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
.com
dp
review
.com
ephoto
zine
.com
imaging
resource
.com
photography
blog
.com
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Pentax K-3 II (⇒ rgt) - - 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2015 1,099 latest check
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft) HiRec 91/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 1,999 latest check
Canon 80D (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 84/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,199 latest check
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 86/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2017 1,299 latest check
Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 84/100 Silver 4.5/5 4/5 4.5/5 2015 1,199discont. 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 E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,999 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 GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 1,199discont. check
Pentax KP (⇒ lft | rgt) - 82/100 Silver 5/5 - 4.5/5 2017 1,099 latest check
Pentax K-70 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 79/100 Silver 4.5/5 4/5 4.5/5 2016 649 latest check
Pentax K-3 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 83/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2013 1,299discont. check
Pentax K-5 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 83/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2010 1,099discont. check
Sony RX10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 4/5 2015 1,299discont. check

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.


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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