Nikon D500 vs Canon 70D vs Pentax K-3 II vs Olympus E-M5 Mark II

January 8, 2016

Nikon D500 vs 70D, K-3 II and e-M5 Mark II

In this article I’ll compare the Nikon D500 versus Canon EOS 70D and Pentax K-3 II (all APS-C DSLRs) and we’ll add the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II MFT mirrorless as well.  The D500 is more expensive than any of the other cameras. But for those who still have doubts or not sure whether to pay premium price for an APS-C or go with a much cheaper and still good alternative, this comparison is for you.

Let’s first take a look at the prices, so you’ll know what you are up against:

* prices as for January 8th ,2016 via amazon.com. Visit amazon.com for updated prices. Body only offering, without lenses or additional accessories

As you can see from the above price comparison list, the D500 is considerably more expensive.   Yes, as of the time of writing the D500 is a brand new camera, but even so, this price is quite expensive for an APS-C camera. It costs even more than some of Nikon’s Full Frame cameras, like the D750 and D610. This might make some people think twice before putting their hard earned money on this APS-C body, but the D500 certainly packs some of the best features you’ll find in any APS-C camera on the market. For many photographers, this is The Dream camera they’ve been waiting for such a long time, and I’m not talking just about D300s owners.

OK, before we move on talking about the key differences between those four cameras, let’s first meet the D500 and see what so special about it.

Nikon D500

The D500 is Nikon’s flagship APS-C (DX) camera. The most versatile and powerful DX-format camera Nikon has ever created. It employs many technological advances to meet the high demands of the enthusiast photographer for both stills and video capture.

At the heart of the D500 is the brand new 20.9MP (effective) DX format CMOS sensor (without an OLPF) and Expeed 5, Nikon’s latest and most powerful image processor. Nikon wanted to made sure that there aren’t any tough compromises, ensuring that the D500 will answer most of the photographers’ demands.

Nikon D500 and D300s side by side (camerasize.com)

Nikon D500 and D300s side by side

One of the most important updates is the new 153-point AF system borrowed from the D5 and an Auto AF Fine-Tune feature (Focus in Live View → Automatic adjustment by the camera → Settings are saved for the particular lens).

This advanced AF system promotes superior subject acquisition performance, even under low-light situations.  Speaking of which, the D500 was designed to prevail in low-light with its ISO 1640000 upper limit, an updated and improved NR function, improved sensor and 180K pixel RGB light metering sensor.  This new metering sensor also employs more advanced Face Tracking and Scene recognition algorithms, better highlight analysis, more accurate auto white balance, better exposure control and more agile subject tracking performance across a wider range of situations.

The D500 body is made from a monocoque structure, while utilizing a magnesium alloy top and rear and reinforced front with carbon fiber. The D500 body was designed for enhance durability and to be able to maintain its operation under harsh weather conditions.  The shutter durability was tested for 200K cycles, even more durable than the D610 and D750 150K actuations.

Among it’s other key features are: 4K video recording, 4K and full HD time-lapse, 3.2-inch 2359k-dot tilting touchscreen display (3-hinge mechanism for when shooting above your head or down low; also useful when shooting with a tripod), SnapBridge for easy sharing via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (constant connection to a smart device, allows tagging, logo embed, date/time/geo-location information, real-time image transfer, etc.), Power Aperture in Live View (for smooth transitions), large optical viewfinder, 1/8000 sec shutter speed, dual XQD/SD card slot, NFC, 10 fps burst with a large buffer (200 losslessly compressed RAW with XQD card, want uncompressed? you get 71 shots), and much more.

The D500 was made to be an amazing hybrid camera. It has a wide range of advanced video features, including among others: 4K time-lapse, Active D-Lighting in full HD for challenging lighting situations, 3-axis electronic VR regardless of the lens (digital stabilization, not optical; compensated for vertical, horizontal and rotational movement), 1080p60/30/24, multi-area mode (DX, 1.3x, 4K/1.5x), simultaneous display of video and Live view on external display, 3.5mm mic and headphone connectors and Clean HDMI output – Impressive list, isn’t it?

Some of you probably why there is 1.5x for the UHD/4K videos. Well, because Nikon used a partial part of the sensor from the center of the sensor for the video feed, which is equal to 1.5x DX-crop setting. This allows the camera to provide the exact pixel-by-pixel resolution readout needed for 4K video capture. This ensures fast data readout and maximum quality because there is no interpolation in post processing (which would have result in even more CPU cycles).  1.3x crop mode is available as well for Full HD videos.

We’ll talk about about those features in-depth in the comparison section. As you can see, the Nikon D500 certainly means business. Expensive it is, but it was designed without compromises. Nikon know that today’s enthusiast photographers have a need for a great hybrid camera, especially considering that mirrorless cameras do that pretty damn well. To convince people to continue to trust not just the DX format, but the future of DSLR cameras, Nikon made the D500 to prove us that the DX format is here to stay – at least for a while.  This model is almost crossing the bridge and in some ways even threatens some of the Nikon’s lower-end full frame cameras.

It’s an excellent camera for not just for wildlife, sports and low-light photography, but for many type of scenarios where you need a superb AF and low-light performance. I personally was really impressed with the continuous shooting buffer. It beats the 7D Mark II and that makes this camera an excellent all-around action camera.

The Nikon D500 is also an amazing backup camera for professionals, especially those who plan or already have the D5. In fact, Nikon called it D500 and not D400 because of the D5 coupling, and of course both were announced at the same day. The D500 will appeal for new comers, those who upgrade from older models, and as a second camera for professionals.

One last thing, the D500 is compatible with the new radio-enabled Nikon SB-5000 AF Speedlight flagship flash (GN113/ISO100). You can then use the WR-A10 Wireless Remote Adapter and WR-T10 Wireless Remote Controller to remotely control up to six groups of SB-5000 flashes of up to 18 Speedlights. The D500 is compatible with the MB-D17 Multi-Power Battery Pack and the D500 also feature illuminated buttons which will make it easier to operate the camera in low light conditions and it’s the first DX camera to have this.

D500 vs 70D vs K-3 II vs E-M5 Mark II

So is the D500 worth it or you better of with a sub $1000 camera? In the section we’ll take a closer look at the differences between the four cameras. It will give you a better understanding how the D500 stands against the three other popular APS-C cameras, and as you’ll soon see, each one and one of these cameras have their own unique pros.

D500, 70D, K-3 II and E-M5 Mark II side by side

D500, 70D, K-3 II and E-M5 Mark II size comparison (via camerasize.com)

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I had to add this excellent video by Mathieu Gasquet YouTube user, which spreads more light about the E-M5 Mark II 5-axis stabilization. You must see this if your are serious about shooting videos. It shows the cons and pros of each stabilization mode.

Conclusion

It’s a complex comparison, no doubt about it. But you could clearly see what makes the D500 such and attractive cameras, not just compare to these other three cameras, but against many other mid-range DSLR and CSC cameras. The D500 is the largest among the four, but for the enthusiast photographer this might be the last thing to worry about. The focus is mainly on ergonomics, fast operation and advanced features that will allow him or her to be more creative. That camera should not just limit its creativity, but open the door for creative work.

This is what the D500 does extremely well. It perfectly suits for outdoor use and it also packs the performance to back it up. An excellent camera for wildlife and sports photography, but it boasts the resolution and low-light performance needed for almost any type of photography subjects.  The Pentax K-3 II and Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II do have better weathersealing and they are freeze-proof, so they can operate under freezing temperatures below that of the D500 (0 to 40°C/32 to 104°F). So if you plan a Polar Cruise, you probably want to consider one of these cameras.

In terms of the video performance, the the D500 is the only one that has 4K video recording. That said, the E-M5 Mark II 5-axis stabilization advantage cannot be ignored and it will help you produce very stable videos when shooting handheld.

In term of wireless capability, battery life, Autofocus performance and low-light capabilities, the D500 is ahead of the other cameras – a marvelous multimedia machine. The other cameras bring an excellent value, especially if you are on a tight budget. Some of you might be better of with one of the cheaper cameras, and invest in an additional lens and extra accessories. Keep in mind that there are many other options at the D500 price range, even some full frame cameras which are cheaper than the D500. I’m sure that the D500 will find itself in the hands of many enthusiast photographers that will take advantage of its benefits.

So which cameras convinced you the most? and do you think that the D500 is worth its premium price?



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