Both the Nikon D500 and the Canon 7D Mark II are large DSLRs. In fact, despite featuring APS-C size sensors these enthusiast and pro-focused shooters are bigger than some full frame DSLRs, let alone rival mirrorless cameras.
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There's just 50 g difference in the weights of these two cameras when loaded with a battery and a memory card. Given you are going to need to add the heft of at least one lens, this difference is negligible.
With magnesium alloy constructions, both of these high-end DSLRs will feel solid. Additionally, they both also boast weather-sealing so that you don't have to worry about using the cameras in a downpour or in dusty situations, though you'll want to check you are using an equally weather-sealed lens.
Both the Nikon D500 and Canon 7D II use APS-C size CMOS sensors. This means the Nikon measures 23.5 x 15.7 mm to the Canon's 22.4 x 15.0 mm, making them very similar.
We defy anyone to notice the 0.7-megapixel difference between the Nikon D500 and Canon 7D Mark II. On APS-C sensors these are currently good resolutions which will be plenty for the typical users of these cameras, without being too pixel-dense and therefore overwhelming when it comes to processing images.
Both cameras use the latest image processors from their manufacturers. This allows them to deliver speedy performances and high quality images.
As you would expect, both cameras use their manufacturers' standard DSLR mounts and, as such, have access to a massive range of lens options. It's worth remembering that because of the APS-C sensors, these cameras will only use the center of a full frame lens and are subject to a crop factor.
The Nikon D500 looks to have leaped ahead of the already impressively-speedy Canon 7D II when it comes to autofocus. It has 153 AF points (of which 99 are cross-type) compared to the 65 cross-type of the Canon. These points also cover a wider area of the sensor, potentially making the Nikon better at tracking fast-moving subjects. That said, the Dual Pixel CMOS AF on the Canon could still give it the edge when shooting videos.
Along with their quick and accurate autofocus systems, both of these DSLRs can shoot at a quick 10 fps (frames per second) making them equally good choices for capturing action shots. That said, if shooting RAW files, the 7D II will slow down after 31 images at 10 fps, while the D500 carry on up to 200 14-bit RAW shots at that speed.
The ISO ranges of cameras has shot up in recent years and made it possible to shoot quality images in lighting conditions where it would previously have been impossible. However, of our duo the Nikon has the considerable edge when it comes to maximum ISO settings and its extended settings reach the sort of ISO number we never thought we'd see.
If you want to shoot 4K video, then the Nikon is the way to go of these cameras as the Canon simply can't do it. The D500 is capable of shooting 4K 3840 x 2160 UHD footage at 30/25/24 fps.
Full HD video
Dropping the resolution demands to Full HD 1080p and both cameras are able to shoot at frame rates of up to 60/50 fps.
Being DSLRs both the Nikon D500 and Canon 7D Mark II use optical viewfinders which cover 100 percent of the image frame. This means you can see the exact framing of your shot, though unlike the electronic viewfinders on mirrorless cameras, you can't see the live impact of changing settings.
The Nikon D500 is something of a welcome oddity among high-end DSLRs when it comes to the rear monitor. That's because its 3.2-inch monitor is both a touchscreen and can be tilted for easier shooting angles. This is something we've typically only seen in mirrorless cameras and entry-level DSLRs.
Unusually for a Nikon of this size, the D500 does away with the built-in flash and just features a hot-shoe for an external flash, while the Canon 7D II has both.
Both cameras can shoot JPEG images and the more post-processing friendly RAW files. As with other recent Nikons the D500 is also able to shoot large, medium and small RAW files, something Canon DSLRs (including the 7D Mark II) have been able to do for a longer time.
While both cameras feature dual memory card slots, which are good for instant back-up or sorting files as you shoot, the types of slot vary. The Canon 7D II pairs a SD with a CompactFlash, and the Nikon uses a SD with a XQD, which will be better for shooting 4K footage thanks to increased read and write speeds.
The Nikon D500 is one of the first high-end DSLRs we've seen to boast thoroughly modern connectivity. Using a new version of Nikon's SnapBridge, it has NFC, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to enable easy sharing and remote control functions via a smartphone. Meanwhile the Canon 7D II can only use the optional Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E7, or EyeFi cards to gain wireless skills, though it does have built-in GPS.
If you want to carry on shooting for longer, the Nikon D500, with its reported 1,240 shot battery life, looks like the way to go as it is almost double that of the Canon. That said, you could always just pop in a spare battery.
Though already announced, the Nikon D500 is yet to make its way onto the shelves of your favorite camera store, where it should arrive in March. Meanwhile the Canon 7D II was released in November 2014 after a September reveal at Photokina.
The premium specifications of these cameras demand premium prices. The prices given are body-only, though the chances are that if you are looking at investing in one of these DSLRs, you probably already have a lens or two lying around.
While the above prices are manufacturers' recommendations, because the
Canon 7D Mark II has been out for some time, it can now be snapped up
for considerably less, with prices now often in the US$1,300 to $1,500
Both of these cameras are very impressive DSLRs, each up there with the best ever made. They offer a combination of performance and durability, which makes them ideally suited to enthusiasts and professionals who might want them as a smaller or secondary camera.
The D500 arguably offers a more complete package, which Nikon appears to have thrown everything but the kitchen sink at. The improved autofocus system is joined by mod-cons such as built-in wireless connectivity and a tilting touchscreen. This makes the camera feel more modern than most high-end DSLRs, including the 7D Mark II, though that camera impressed us enough just last year to say it was "arguably the best camera available in this (enthusiast APS-C DSLR) category".
However, most photographers eyeing-up these cameras will already be invested in one system or the other. And if you've got lenses and compatible accessories, it makes jumping ship a lot harder, especially when a new camera from your current brand could be just around the corner.
Whichever of these DSLRs you opt for, you are getting a great camera.