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Sony A7 versus Nikon D500

The Sony Alpha A7 and the Nikon D500 are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in October 2013 and January 2016. The A7 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the D500 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a full frame (A7) and an APS-C (D500) 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 A7 vs Nikon D500

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Sony A7 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 A7 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Sony A7 vs Nikon D500
Compare A7 versus D500 top
Compare A7 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 notably larger (42 percent) than the Sony A7. Moreover, the D500 is substantially heavier (81 percent) than the A7. 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 Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D500). Mirrorless cameras, such as the Sony A7, 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 A7 gets 340 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 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
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)
Sony A7» 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699- i
Nikon D500« 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i
Nikon D7500« » 5.4 in 4.1 in 2.9 in 25.4 oz 950 Y Apr 2017 1,299 i i
Nikon D7200« » 5.4 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 1110 Y Mar 2015 1,199- i
Nikon D7100« » 5.4 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 950 Y Feb 2013 1,199- i
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Nikon D300S« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 33.1 oz 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799- i
Panasonic GH4« » 5.2 in 3.7 in 3.3 in 19.8 oz 500 Y Feb 2014 1,499- i
Sony A6300« » 4.7 in 2.6 in 1.9 in 14.3 oz 400 Y Feb 2016 999- i
Sony A6500« » 4.7 in 2.6 in 2.1 in 16.0 oz 350 Y Oct 2016 1,399 i i
Sony A7 II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 21.1 oz 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999- i
Sony A7S« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 17.2 oz 380 Y Apr 2014 2,499- i
Sony A5100« » 4.3 in 2.5 in 1.4 in 10.0 oz 400 n Aug 2014 549 i i
Sony A7R« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.4 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 2,299- i
Sony RX1R« » 4.4 in 2.6 in 2.8 in 17.0 oz 270 n Jun 2013 2,799- i
Sony RX1« » 4.4 in 2.6 in 2.8 in 17.0 oz 270 n Sep 2012 2,799- i

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 A7 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 15 percent) than the D500, 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Sony A7 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. 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 tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Sony A7 features a full frame sensor and the Nikon D500 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D500 is 57 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Sony A7 and Nikon D500 sensor measures

With 24MP, the A7 offers a higher resolution than the D500 (20.7MP), but the A7 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.97μm versus 4.22μm for the D500) due to its larger sensor. However, the D500 is a somewhat more recent model (by 2 years and 2 months) than the A7, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. 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.

A7 versus D500 MP

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"). Of the two cameras under review, the A7 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the D500 (overall score 7 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.8 bits higher color depth, 0.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.8 stops in additional low light sensitivity. 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
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Sony A7» Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890
Nikon D500« APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483
Nikon D7500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.314.0148386
Nikon D7200« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.514.6133387
Nikon D7100« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.213.7125683
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594
Nikon D300S« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770
Panasonic GH4« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34564K/30p23.212.879174
Sony A6300« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.413.7143785
Sony A6500« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.513.7140585
Sony A7 II« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990
Sony A7S« » Full Frame 12.0 4240 28321080/60p23.913.2370287
Sony A5100« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.812.7134780
Sony A7R« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.614.1274695
Sony RX1R« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.013.6253791
Sony RX1« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.114.3253493

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, but the D500 provides a better video resolution than the A7. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the Sony is limited to 1080/60p.

 

Feature comparison: Sony A7 vs Nikon D500

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A7 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 adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Sony A7 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
(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
Sony A7»2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n
Nikon D500«optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n n
Nikon D7500« »optical Y 3.2 922 tilting Y 8000 8.0 Y n
Nikon D7200« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n
Nikon D7100« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n
Nikon D300S« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 7.0 Y n
Panasonic GH4« »2359 n 3.0 1036 swivel Y 8000 12.0 Y n
Sony A6300« »2300 n 3.0 922 tilting n 4000 11.0 Y n
Sony A6500« »2300 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 4000 11.0 Y Y
Sony A7 II« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y
Sony A7S« »2400 n 3.0 921 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n
Sony A5100« »- n 3.0 922 tilting Y 4000 6.0 Y n
Sony A7R« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 4.0 n n
Sony RX1R« »- n 3.0 1229 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n
Sony RX1« »- n 3.0 1229 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n

The D500 is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the A7 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the A7 was succeeded by the Sony A7 II.

Review summary: Sony A7 vs Nikon D500

So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Sony A7 or the Nikon D500 – has the upper hand? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Advantages of the Sony Alpha A7:

  • 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.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (7 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.8 stops ISO advantage).
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More compact: Is smaller (127x94mm vs 147x115mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 386g or 45 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (15 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in October 2013).

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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 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: Has 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 1230k dots).
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1240 versus 340) out of a single battery charge.
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 2 months of technical progress since the A7 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the match-up finishes in a tie (10 points each). 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.

A7 10:10 D500

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the A7 or the D500. 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 expert reviews are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
  Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Sony A7»HiRec80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i
Nikon D500«HiRec91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i
Nikon D7500« »HiRec86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Apr 2017 1,299 i i
Nikon D7200« »HiRec84/1004.5/54/54.5/5 Mar 2015 1,199- i
Nikon D7100« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2013 1,199- i
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Nikon D300S« »HiRec82/1004/55/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799- i
Panasonic GH4« »HiRec85/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2014 1,499- i
Sony A6300« »Rec85/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2016 999- i
Sony A6500« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Oct 2016 1,399 i i
Sony A7 II« »Rec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999- i
Sony A7S« »-86/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Apr 2014 2,499- i
Sony A5100« »Rec-4.5/54.5/55/5 Aug 2014 549 i i
Sony A7R« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2013 2,299- i
Sony RX1R« »--4/5rev4.5/5 Jun 2013 2,799- i
Sony RX1« »-79/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,799- i

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. 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? 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 add information on that model to the database.

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