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Sony A6500 versus Nikon D500

The Sony Alpha A6500 and the Nikon D500 are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in October 2016 and January 2016. The A6500 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the D500 is a DSLR. Both cameras are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Sony has a resolution of 24 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: Sony A6500 vs Nikon D500

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Sony A6500 and the Nikon D500 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth 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 A6500 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Sony A6500 vs Nikon D500
Compare A6500 versus D500 top
Compare A6500 and D500 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D500 is considerably larger (110 percent) than the Sony A6500. Moreover, the D500 is substantially heavier (90 percent) than the A6500. 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. Both cameras have similarly sized sensors, but DSLRs have a larger flange-to-focal plane distance than mirrorless cameras, which imposes contraints on the optical engineering process and generally leads to bigger and heavier lenses. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (A6500) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D500). Mirrorless cameras, such as the Sony A6500, have moreover the advantage that they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance and can thus use many lenses from other systems via adapters.

Concerning battery life, the A6500 gets 350 shots out of its NP-FW50 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 would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras 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)
Camera
Model
Sony A6500» 4.7 in 2.6 in 2.1 in 16.0 oz 350 Y Oct 2016 1,399 i i Sony A6500
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 D7500« » 5.4 in 4.1 in 2.9 in 25.4 oz 950 Y Apr 2017 1,299 i i Nikon D7500
Nikon D7200« » 5.4 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 1110 Y Mar 2015 1,199- i Nikon D7200
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 D300S« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 33.1 oz 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799- i Nikon D300S
Olympus PEN-F« » 4.9 in 2.8 in 1.5 in 15.1 oz 330 n Jan 2016 1,199 i i Olympus PEN-F
Panasonic GH5« » 5.5 in 3.9 in 3.4 in 25.6 oz 410 Y Jan 2017 1,999 i i Panasonic GH5
Panasonic GX8« » 5.2 in 3.1 in 2.5 in 17.2 oz 330 Y Jul 2015 1,199- i Panasonic GX8
Sony A9« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 23.7 oz 650 Y Apr 2017 4,499 i i Sony A9
Sony A6300« » 4.7 in 2.6 in 1.9 in 14.3 oz 400 Y Feb 2016 999- i Sony A6300
Sony RX10 III« » 5.2 in 3.7 in 5.0 in 37.1 oz 420 Y Mar 2016 1,499- i Sony RX10 III
Sony RX10 II« » 5.1 in 3.5 in 4.0 in 28.7 oz 400 Y Jun 2015 1,299- i Sony RX10 II
Sony A7« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
Sony NEX-7« » 4.7 in 2.6 in 1.7 in 14.1 oz 430 n Aug 2011 1,349- i Sony NEX-7

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 A6500 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 30 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: Sony A6500 vs Nikon D500

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have 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 more expensive and 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.

Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.

Sony A6500 and Nikon D500 sensor measures

Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the Sony A6500 offers a higher resolution of 24 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 3.91μm versus 4.22μm for the D500). However, it should be noted that the A6500 is a somewhat more recent model (by 9 months) than the D500, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that partly offset its pixel-size disadvantage. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the D500 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

A6500 versus D500 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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 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
Sony A6500» APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.513.7140585Sony A6500
Nikon D500« APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483Nikon D500
Nikon D7500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.314.0148386Nikon D7500
Nikon D7200« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.514.6133387Nikon D7200
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 D300S« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770Nikon D300S
Olympus PEN-F« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38881080/60p23.112.489474Olympus PEN-F
Panasonic GH5« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/60p23.913.080777Panasonic GH5
Panasonic GX8« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.512.680675Panasonic GX8
Sony A9« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.913.3351792Sony A9
Sony A6300« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.413.7143785Sony A6300
Sony RX10 III« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p23.112.647270Sony RX10 III
Sony RX10 II« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p23.012.653170Sony RX10 II
Sony A7« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890Sony A7
Sony NEX-7« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60i24.113.4101681Sony NEX-7

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, and both provide the same movie specifications (4K/30p).

 

Feature comparison: Sony A6500 vs Nikon D500

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A6500 has an electronic viewfinder (2300k 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Sony A6500, the Nikon D500, and comparable cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

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)
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Sony A6500»2300 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 4000 11.0 Y Y Sony A6500
Nikon D500«optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n n Nikon D500
Nikon D7500« »optical Y 3.2 922 tilting Y 8000 8.0 Y n Nikon D7500
Nikon D7200« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n Nikon D7200
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 D300S« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 7.0 Y n Nikon D300S
Olympus PEN-F« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y Olympus PEN-F
Panasonic GH5« »3680 n 3.2 1620 swivel Y 8000 12.0 n Y Panasonic GH5
Panasonic GX8« »2360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y Panasonic GX8
Sony A9« »3686 n 3.0 1440 tilting Y 8000 20.0 n Y Sony A9
Sony A6300« »2300 n 3.0 922 tilting n 4000 11.0 Y n Sony A6300
Sony RX10 III« »2359 Y 3.0 1229 tilting n 2000 14.0 Y Y Sony RX10 III
Sony RX10 II« »2359 Y 3.0 1229 tilting n 3200 14.0 Y Y Sony RX10 II
Sony A7« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n Sony A7
Sony NEX-7« »2359 n 3.0 921 tilting n 4000 10.0 Y n Sony NEX-7

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The A6500 has one, while the D500 does not. While the build-in flash of the A6500 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The A6500 writes its imaging data to SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards, while the D500 uses SDHC or XQD cards. The D500 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the A6500 only has one slot.

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
Sony A6500»YstereomonoY-micro2.0YY-Sony A6500
Nikon D500«YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYYNikon D500
Nikon D7500« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0Y-YNikon D7500
Nikon D7200« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0YY-Nikon D7200
Nikon D7100« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0---Nikon D7100
Nikon D610« »YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Nikon D610
Nikon D300S« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D300S
Olympus PEN-F« »Ystereomono--micro2.0Y--Olympus PEN-F
Panasonic GH5« »YstereomonoYYfull3.1Y-YPanasonic GH5
Panasonic GX8« »YstereomonoY-micro2.0YY-Panasonic GX8
Sony A9« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YYYSony A9
Sony A6300« »YstereomonoY-micro2.0YY-Sony A6300
Sony RX10 III« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony RX10 III
Sony RX10 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony RX10 II
Sony A7« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7
Sony NEX-7« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Sony NEX-7

Both the A6500 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 D500 replaced the earlier Nikon D300S, while the A6500 followed on from the Sony A6300.

Review summary: Sony A6500 vs Nikon D500

So how do things add up? Is the Sony A6500 better than the Nikon D500 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A6500:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (24 vs 20.7MP) with a 8% higher linear resolution.
  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More compact: Is smaller (120x67mm vs 147x115mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 407g or 47 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization build-in.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (30 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 9 months after the D500).

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Arguments in favor of the Nikon D500:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check 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 922k dots).
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1240 versus 350) out of 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.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in January 2016).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D500 emerges as the winner of the match-up (12 : 10 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.

A6500 10:12 D500

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the A6500 or the D500 handle or perform in practice. 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 table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known 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
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Sony A6500»HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Oct 2016 1,399 i i Sony A6500
Nikon D500«HiRec91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D7500« »HiRec86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Apr 2017 1,299 i i Nikon D7500
Nikon D7200« »HiRec84/1004.5/54/54.5/5 Mar 2015 1,199- i Nikon D7200
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 D300S« »HiRec82/1004/55/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799- i Nikon D300S
Olympus PEN-F« »-82/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Jan 2016 1,199 i i Olympus PEN-F
Panasonic GH5« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2017 1,999 i i Panasonic GH5
Panasonic GX8« »Rec82/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2015 1,199- i Panasonic GX8
Sony A9« »HiRec89/1005/55/55/5 Apr 2017 4,499 i i Sony A9
Sony A6300« »Rec85/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2016 999- i Sony A6300
Sony RX10 III« »Rec84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Mar 2016 1,499- i Sony RX10 III
Sony RX10 II« »HiRec82/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Jun 2015 1,299- i Sony RX10 II
Sony A7« »HiRec80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
Sony NEX-7« »HiRec81/1004.5/55/55/5 Aug 2011 1,349- i Sony NEX-7

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time 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? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please contact me, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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