Nikon has two DSLR series aimed at beginners. The cheaper D3000-series cameras like the D3300 are for outright novices, while the D5000-series digital cameras, including this D5500, are designed for people still learning but ready for some more advanced techniques.
The D5500 is the newest version of Nikon’s popular top-end entry-level camera, which is updated fairly regularly and, as such, with each new version the camera improves incrementally without facing too much of a massive overhaul.
In fact, the D5500 features the same 24.2 million pixels APS-C sized (DX-format) sensor as its predecessor, the D5300. This sensor has no anti-aliasing filter, which makes it better able to resolve detail than those with an optical low pass filter. This does mean that there is a possibility of moire patterning appearing in certain images, but it hasn’t proven to be a problem for the D5300.
The camera also features exactly the same EXPEED 4 processor and a 3.2 inch 1,037,000-dot LCD screen on a vari-angle bracket. The biggest difference to be found here is that the screen is now touch-sensitive. Along with the display, there’s an optical viewfinder which offers 95% coverage. The sensitivity range stretches from ISO 100-25,600, which is the same as the D5300, but the top-end 25,600 figure is now the native capability of the D5500, rather than an expansion set. It will be interesting to see if this means that image quality at higher sensitivities has been improved.
Like the D5300, the D5500 features a lightweight and slim monocoque construction, and there’s been a slight redesign internally as the shape has changed somewhat.
Build and Handling
Just like the D5300, the D5500 uses a monocoque construction, which means its shell is made from a single piece of material. However, at 124x97x70mm and 420g (body only) the new camera is lighter and slimmer than the D5300, which measures 125x98x76mm and weighs only 480g (body only).
If you place the D5500 and D5300 next to each other you can really see the difference. The D5500 is considerably thinner between the lens mount and grip. This thinning has meant the internal layout of the camera has had to be redesigned, but it has enabled Nikon to make the D5500’s hold deeper while still reducing the overall depth of the digital camera. As a result, the D5500 feels more secure in your hand and is very comfortable to hold. When you’re using the D5500 with the 18-55mm collapsible kit zoom lens, you’ll need to hold down a button on the side of the lens to extend it first before you take your 1st shot. Of course, it is possible to leave the zoom lens extended ready for the next shot to speed things up.
The top plate of the camera has been slightly redesigned. The mode dial has been simplified and now features just eight different exposure modes: the standard P (Program)/A(Aperture Priority)/S(Shutter Concern)/M(Manual) and Scene, Effects, Auto and Car no flash. This makes it easier to reach different exposure modes. Around the setting, the dial is a switch for activating Live View shooting, which is very easy to quickly flick on and off whenever you need to use it. Another visible difference between your D5500 and the D5300 is the change in the control dial at the top of the camera. On the D5500 this is now wholly visible, rather than just a small section protruding from the back of the digital camera, making it better to access and use. This dial controls different settings depending on the publicity mode you’re using. For instance, it settings aperture in aperture priority setting, or shutter velocity in shutter concern mode. If you’re shooting in manual mode, you simply need to keep down the direct exposure compensation button on the top of the camera to switch between changing the two settings. The back of the camera is very similar to the D5300, with the majority of key buttons within easy reach of your thumb, making it very quick and easy to change settings. The only exception to this is the menu button, that is found just to the left of the viewfinder, but that is something you’ll probably have to use less frequently. A small indent can be found on the trunk of the digital camera, which helps you to easily release the screen and move it into an articulating position. The hinge itself feels very secure and robust and, what’s more, you can also fold the display away into the body of the camera to protect it when not in use.
With an identical sensor and processor to its predecessor, we weren’t in any real doubt that image quality from the D5500 would be good. As before images are very pleasing, with lovely bright, but accurate, colours in the majority of situations.
ISO and noise
The overall impression of detail in JPEG images, balanced with the appearance of noise is pretty good when looking at images taken at higher sensitivities at normal printing and web sizes. It’s only from around ISO 3200 where you can see image noise present at this kind of sizes, and even those taken at ISO 6400 are usable at small sizes. If you examine a JPEG image used at ISO 800 at 100%, it’s possible to observe some picture smoothing, but noise is kept to a minimum. Travel up to higher sensitivities, such as ISO 3200, and at 100% it is possible to notice some chroma noise speckling, but it doesn’t have too much overall impact on the picture when viewed at a normal size. Of course, it’s better to possess a shake-free image with some sound than a blurry shot taken at a low ISO.
You can cap the camera’s ISO Auto range if you don’t want to use those very high sensitivities, and also useful is the ability to set the very least shutter speed. This helps to ensure you’re not using a slower shutter speed than is safe to use handheld, and therefore prevents image blur.
- 24.2MP CMOS sensor with no optical low-pass filter
- Ultra-compact and lightweight body
- Multi-CAM 4800DX 39-point autofocus system
- 2,016-pixel RGB metering sensor, used for 3D subject tracking in AF-C
- The sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600
- 5 fps continuous shooting
- 1/4000 sec maximum shutter speed
- 3.2″, 1.2M dot fully-articulating touchscreen LCD display
- 1080/60p video with clean output over HDMI and Flat Picture Control
- Built-in Wi-Fi
While Nikon hasn’t exactly created a game-changer with the Nikon D5500, it’s nevertheless a very pleasing entry-level camera that brings a lot of very useful features to the beginner user. It’s ideal as your first DSLR, or perhaps as an upgrade from a much older model. The images it produces are great and the introduction of a touchscreen makes it a tad more intuitive to use than the previous design – but that does come at a cost premium. If you’re on a budget, the older D5300 has the same image quality at a cheaper price.