Mid-Price Nikon Battle: The Nikon D750 vs. the Nikon D500

Nikon has been very busy over the past couple of years, introducing a variety of new cameras at various price points, with two of their most significant cameras falling into their mid-level or “enthusiast” lineup, which includes both “full frame” and “cropped” sensor camera bodies.  The D750, which was introduced in 2014, is a “full frame” camera body, while the D500, which was introduced in 2016, is a “cropped” sensor camera body.  Since both are at the same price point, the D750 and the D500 are basically competing for the same customer and one has to wonder, which one is better?

The Similarities

While the D750 and D500 are at the same price point and competing for the same customers looking for a high-end Nikon camera, they are really two very different cameras and share few similarities.  The most significant similarity is in the excellent viewfinder that is found included in both cameras.  The viewfinders provide 100% coverage; meaning that what is seen in the viewfinder when composing the image is what will be captured when the shutter is released.

Both cameras feature a 3.2” rear LCD display, which swivels on the D750 and only tilts on the D500.  These displays are bright and easy to read even in bright sunlight.  In addition to being used to navigate both cameras’ menu, the LCD is also used to review images and video in playback mode and is used to compose images when using “live view”.  The LCD screen on both cameras is securely mounted to the camera using a robust mounting system that appears to be quite strong and durable.

Other similarities include the use of the same EN-EL 15 lithium ion battery on both cameras that provides enough power to capture approximately 1,230 still images per charge.  The D750 and D500 also have “professional” grade build quality featuring extensive use of magnesium alloy in the cameras’ shell, as well as dust and moisture proofing seals.  In addition, both cameras have WIFI and wireless capabilities but do not have built-in GPS capabilities.

The Differences

There are many differences between the D750 and the D500, with the most significant difference being the type of CMOS sensor used in each camera.  In the case of the D750, a larger “full frame” sensor is used, which measures 36.0mm x 24.0mm, while the D500 uses a smaller “cropped” sensor, which measure 23.5mm x 5.7mm.  In the case of the D750 the sensor captures images at 24.3 megapixels, while the D500 “only” captures images at 20.9 megapixels.

While smaller, the D500’s sensor is still quite capable and produces excellent results even in low light conditions.  This is possible due to the D500’s higher native ISO range of 100-51,200.  In the case of the D750, the native ISO range is 100-12,500.  In both cameras the ISO can be expanded downward in both cameras to ISO 50.  As far as the upward expanded range, the D750 can be expanded to 51,200, while the D500 can be expanded up to 1,640,000!  Images shot at high ISO ranges in both cameras stay relatively free of noise, with the images retaining detail as the noise reducing software does its thing.  That being said, it is always best to keep ISO settings within reason to optimize image quality.  In many ways, these extreme ISO settings appear to be marketing ploys and have little use in the real world.

Another significant difference between the two cameras is the speed as related to frame rate.  While the D750 has the ability to capture images at a frame rate of 6.5 frames per second, the D500 can shoot at 10 frames per second!  The D500’s ability to shoot and process at this rate is due to the camera’s advanced EXPEED 5 processor, while the D750 uses the older EXPEED 4 processor.  In both cameras, files are written to the cameras’ two memory cards in JPEG or RAW format.  In the case of the D500, one of the two memory card slots holds a XQD card, while the second slot holds a SD, SDHC or SDXC card.  The D750 only uses SD, SDHC or SDXC cards in the two memory slots found on the camera.

While both cameras are capable of shooting video in a variety of formats including full HD, as well as other formats, the D500 can also shoot in 4k UHD with a frame size of 3,841 x 2,160.  This difference in video quality between UHD and HD is striking, making the D500 appealing to photographers that are seriously into making video!

The D750 is a significantly smaller camera measuring 5.3” x 4.2” x 3.0” compared to the D500’s 5.8” x 4.6” x 3.2”.  While smaller, the D750 is only slightly lighter at 26.5 ounces compared to the D500’s weight of 26.9 ounces.  Other differences between the two cameras s a slower shutter on the D750, the omission of a built-in flash on the D500, more autofocus points in the D500 and the lack of user defined U1 and U2 settings on the D500.

The Pros and Cons

The D750 and the D500 are both excellent cameras that produce excellent images and are a lot of fun to use.  Each camera has a number of positive and negative characteristics that the photography must consider before making a decision to buy either camera.  In many cases, the significance of these positive and negative traits depends on the type of photography that the consumer focuses on.

In the case of the D750, the biggest positive characteristic is the camera’s “full frame” sensor, which is traditionally preferred over the smaller “cropped” sensor found in cameras such as the D500.  Generally. this preference is due to the better image quality found in “full frame” cameras, especially in low light situations.

The biggest “con” of the D750 the slow shutter speed of the camera.  While 1/4,000 to 30 seconds is pretty standard for many cameras, including the other “full frame” cameras in Nikon’s “enthusiast” lineup, a shutter speed range of 1/8,000 to 30 seconds would help differentiate it from other cameras in the “enthusiast” lineup, such as the D610, which is a less expensive “full frame” camera.

As far as the D500 is concerned, the biggest positive feature of the camera is the excellent autofocus system, which is also found in Nikon’s flagship D5 “professional” grade camera.  In addition to easily locking focus quickly on moving subjects, the system is very accurate as well.  Another positive feature of the D500 is the fast frame rate, as well as the 1.5x crop factor found in the camera’s “cropped” sensor.  The crop factor essentially makes the lens used on the camera 1.5x longer.  All of these features will make the D500 a very popular camera with sports and wildlife photographers, who need fast frame rates to capture the action and are often not close to their subjects and need long lenses.

While a great camera, the D500 does have one major negative feature and that is the lack of use defined U1 and U2 settings, which are found on every other camera in Nikon’s “Enthusiast”, line up of cameras including the D750.  These settings allow the photographer to store custom settings into the camera that can be instantly recalled by simply twisting a knob!  These settings make a big difference in the shooting experience, especially if the photographer is changing settings often, but has a couple of preferred settings that they constantly use.   Once a photographer gets use to these settings, it is hard to use a camera that does not have them.  It is somewhat interesting that Nikon has not included this feature on the D500 or any cameras in the “professional” lineup.

A minor negative feature of the D500 is the absence of a built-in flash unit, which is a standard feature on the D750.  While there are a number of lightweight flash units on the market, some photographers may be put off by the necessity to carry a ‘speed light” with them, especially in the field.  That being said, the D500 does have high native ISO capabilities and there are many fast lenses on the market that will minimize the need for using a flash in low light situation.

Just the Facts, A Side-By-Side Comparison

While most serious photographers look at image quality over technical specifications, many feel that the specifications are equally important.  The Nikon D750 and Nikon D500 both have excellent image quality, as well as technical specifications, which are shown in the table below.

Item Nikon D750 Nikon D500
Year Introduced 2014 2016
Format Full Frame DX
Megapixels 24.3 20.9
Sensor Type CMOS CMOS
Processor EXPEED 4 EXPEED 5
Image Format RAW or JPEG J RAW or JPEG PEG, RAW, TIFF
Sensor Size 36.0 mm x 24.0 mm 23.5mmx 15.7mm
Sensor Cleaner Yes Yes
Auto-focus Points 51 With 15 Cross Type 25, 72 And 153
Scene Modes Yes Yes
Creative Exposure Modes No No
Metering 3D Color Matrix Metering III TTL With RGB Sensor
Exposure Modes Aperture-Priority (A), Manual (M), Programmed Auto With Flexible Program (A), Shutter-Priority (S) Aperture-Priority (A), Manual (M), Programmed Auto With Flexible Program (A), Shutter-Priority (S)
View Finder Type Eye Level Pentaprism Single-Lens Reflex Eye Level Pentaprism Single-Lens Reflex
View Finder Coverage 100% 100%
Live View Yes Yes
Frames Per Second 6.5 10
ISO 100-12,500 100 – 51,200
Lowest Expandable ISO H-1 (ISO 50) 50 (Lo 1)
Highest Expandable ISO H-2 (ISO 51,200) Up To 1,640,000 (Hi 5)
Shutter Speed Range 1/4,000 – 30 Seconds 1/8,000 – 30 Seconds
Built In Flash Yes No
Card Slots 2 2
Card Type SD, SDHC or SCXC SD, SDHC, SDXC and XQD
LCD Size 3.2” 3.2”
LCD Fixed or Swivel Swivel Tilt
Video Yes Yes
Video Type / Speed Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 / 60 FPS 4k UHD (3,840 x 2,160) And Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) At Speeds Ranging From 24-60 FPS, Depending On Format Used
Video Format .MOV .MOV
Internal Autofocus Motor Yes Yes
GPS Yes, Optional Accessory Yes, Optional Accessory
Wireless Yes Yes, Via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Technology
WIFI Yes Yes
Battery EN-EL 15 Lithium – Ion EN-EL 15 Lithium – Ion
Battery Life, Photographs Only Up to 1,230 Shots Up To 1,240 Shots
Body Construction Partial Magnesium Alloy Magnesium Alloy
Unique Features Tilt Screen, U1 and U2 Settings Professional Build, High Frame Rate
Size Without Lens 5.3” x 4.2” x 3.0” 5.8” x 4.6” x 3.2”
Weight Without Lens 26.5 oz. 26.9 Ounces
Manufactured In Thailand Thailand
Body Only or with Kit Lens Both Options Available Both Options Available
Included Accessories EN-EL15 Lithium-Ion Battery, MH-25A Charger, UC-E17 USB Cable, AN-DC14 Strap, BF-1B Body Cap, DK-5 Eye Piece Cap, DK-21 Rubber Eyecup and Nikon View NX-2 CD-Rom EN-EL15 Lithium-Ion Battery, MH-25A Battery Charger, DK-17F Flourine Coated Finder Eyepiece, UC-E22 USB 3.0 Cable, USB Cable Clip, HDMI Cable Clip, AN-DC17 Replacement Camera Strap, BF-1B Body Cap, BS-1 Accessory Shoe Cover and a Nikon View NX-2 CD-Rom
Cost, Body Only $2,299.95* (For the latest prices and discounts.) $1,999.99 (For the latest discounts and prices.)
Cost With Kit Lens (Various Lens Options Available) Varies Depending On Lens Selected Varies Depending On Lens Selected

* While this is the suggested retail price of the D750, the camera is readily available “On Sale” for $1,999.95 on a regular basis from both retailers, as well as Nikon USA.

**Information from Nikon’s website, including pricing.

The Final Frame: My Overall Recommendation

The D750 and D500 are in many ways the best cameras in Nikon’s lineup at any price point.  They are both excellent cameras that produce excellent image quality and are a lot of fun to shoot with.  That being said, I prefer the D500 to the D750, despite the D500 not having many of the D750’s features, such as the U1 and U2 settings, as well as the built in flash.   I pursue a mix of sports, wildlife and street style photography and found the D500 to be excellent for that style of photography due to the faster shutter speed and frame rate of the camera, as well as the extra reach that I get out of my lenses due to the 1.5x crop factor found in the “cropped” sensor.  In my view, the gap that existed between images produced by “full frame” cameras such as the D750 and “cropped sensor” cameras such as the D500 has been eliminated.  Now if only Nikon would put a built in flash and a U1 and U2 preset dial on the D500 then we would be looking at the “prefect” DSLR!

The Camera Guide Team
 

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