Sony A9 versus Nikon D500
The Sony Alpha A9 and the Nikon D500 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in April 2017 and January 2016. The A9 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the D500 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a full frame (A9) 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 A9 vs Nikon D500
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Sony A9 and the Nikon D500. 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. 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 A9 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).
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 (39 percent) than the Sony A9. Moreover, the D500 is markedly heavier (28 percent) than the A9. 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 (A9) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D500). Mirrorless cameras, such as the Sony A9, 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.
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
|Sony A9 (⇒ rgt)||127 mm||96 mm||63 mm||673 g||650||YES||2017||4,499||latest||check|
|Nikon D500 (⇒ lft)||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||860 g||1240||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 D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||136 mm||107 mm||76 mm||765 g||1110||YES||2015||1,199||discont.||check|
|Nikon D7100 (⇒ lft | rgt)||136 mm||107 mm||76 mm||765 g||950||YES||2013||1,199||discont.||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||1,799||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||134 mm||91 mm||67 mm||574 g||440||YES||2016||1,999||latest||check|
|Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||139 mm||98 mm||87 mm||725 g||410||YES||2017||1,999||latest||check|
|Sony A7 III (⇒ lft | rgt)||127 mm||96 mm||74 mm||650 g||610||YES||2018||1,999||latest||check|
|Sony A7R III (⇒ lft | rgt)||127 mm||96 mm||74 mm||650 g||650||YES||2017||3,199||latest||check|
|Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||120 mm||67 mm||53 mm||453 g||350||YES||2016||1,399||latest||check|
|Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt)||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||625 g||290||YES||2015||3,199||discont.||check|
|Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt)||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||627 g||370||YES||2015||2,999||latest||check|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||599 g||350||YES||2014||1,999||discont.||check|
|Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt)||147 mm||111 mm||78 mm||812 g||500||YES||2012||2,799||discont.||check|
|Sony A77 (⇒ lft | rgt)||143 mm||104 mm||81 mm||732 g||470||YES||2011||1,999||discont.||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 D500 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 56 percent) than the A9, 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 A9 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. 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 Sony A9 features a full frame sensor and the Nikon D500 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D500 is 56 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.
With 24MP, the A9 offers a higher resolution than the D500 (20.7MP), but the A9 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 4.22μm for the D500) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the A9 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 3 months) than the D500, 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.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most cameras. 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 A9 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the D500 (overall score 9 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.9 bits higher color depth, 0.7 EV of lower dynamic range, and 1.4 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.
|Sony A9 (⇒ rgt)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||24.9||13.3||3517||92|
|Nikon D500 (⇒ lft)||APS-C||20.7||5568||3712||4K/30p||24.0||14.0||1324||83|
|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|
|Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/60p||23.9||13.0||807||77|
|Sony A7 III (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||14.7||3730||96|
|Sony A7R III (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||26.0||14.7||3523||100|
|Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||24.5||13.7||1405||85|
|Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||26.0||13.9||3434||98|
|Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||12.0||4240||2832||4K/30p||23.6||13.3||2993||85|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.9||13.6||2449||90|
|Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.0||14.0||1555||89|
|Sony A77 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24||13.2||801||78|
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, and both provide the same movie specifications (4K/30p).
Feature comparison: Sony A9 vs Nikon D500
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A9 has an electronic viewfinder (3686k 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 A9, the Nikon D500, and comparable cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.
|Sony A9 (⇒ rgt)||3686||no||3.0||1440||tilting||YES||8000||20.0||no||YES|
|Nikon D500 (⇒ lft)||optical||YES||3.2||2359||tilting||YES||8000||10.0||no||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|
|Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||3680||no||3.2||1620||swivel||YES||8000||12.0||no||YES|
|Sony A7 III (⇒ lft | rgt)||2359||no||3.0||922||tilting||YES||8000||10||no||YES|
|Sony A7R III (⇒ lft | rgt)||3686||no||3.0||1440||tilting||YES||8000||10.0||no||YES|
|Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||2300||no||3.0||922||tilting||YES||4000||11.0||6||YES|
|Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2400||no||3.0||1229||tilting||no||8000||5.0||no||YES|
|Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2400||no||3.0||1229||tilting||no||8000||5.0||no||YES|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2400||no||3.0||1230||tilting||no||8000||5.0||no||YES|
|Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt)||2359||YES||3.0||1229||full-flex||no||8000||6.0||no||YES|
|Sony A77 (⇒ lft | rgt)||2359||YES||3.0||921||full-flex||no||8000||12.0||12||YES|
Both the A9 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 A9 does not have a direct predecessor.
Review summary: Sony A9 vs Nikon D500
So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Sony A9 or the Nikon D500 – has the upper hand? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A9:
- 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 (9 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (1.4 stops ISO advantage).
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (20 vs 10 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (127x96mm vs 147x115mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 187g or 22 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
- Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization build-in.
- More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 3 months after the D500).
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D500:
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.7 EV of extra DR).
- 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 1440k dots).
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1240 versus 650) out of a single battery charge.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (56 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in January 2016).
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A9 emerges as the winner of the contest (11 : 9 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.
In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the A9 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. The full reviews are available, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.
|Sony A9 (⇒ rgt)||HiRec||89/100 Gold||5/5||5/5||5/5||2017||4,499||latest||check|
|Nikon D500 (⇒ lft)||HiRec||91/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||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 D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||84/100 Silver||4.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||2015||1,199||discont.||check|
|Nikon D7100 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||85/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2013||1,199||discont.||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||1,799||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||85/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2016||1,999||latest||check|
|Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||85/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2017||1,999||latest||check|
|Sony A7 III (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||89/100 Gold||5/5||..||5/5||2018||1,999||latest||check|
|Sony A7R III (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||90/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2017||3,199||latest||check|
|Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||85/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2016||1,399||latest||check|
|Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||90/100 Gold||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2015||3,199||discont.||check|
|Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||-||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2015||2,999||latest||check|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||82/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2014||1,999||discont.||check|
|Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||84/100 Gold||4.5/5||reviewed||4.5/5||2012||2,799||discont.||check|
|Sony A77 (⇒ lft | rgt)||91/100||81/100 Silver||-||4.5/5||5/5||2011||1,999||discont.||check|
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. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, 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.
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