Nikon D5500 DSLR Review - We review the new D5500, the updated Digital SLR features a new touch-screen and a more compact and ergonomic body design. Is this the best entry into the Nikon DSLR range to date?
The Nikon D5500 Digital SLR is an update to the Nikon D5300, with a new 3.2 inch tilting LCD touch-screen, and a new, more compact body. The camera features a 24 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, with no OLPF (Optical Low Pass Filter) designed to give the sharpest image quality possible. It features full HD video recording with stereo sound, built-in Wi-Fi enables quick sharing to social media websites (via the Nikon app). The Nikon D5500 is available in black, and red.
Nikon D5500 Features
The Nikon D5500 features a 24.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, with no optical low-pass filter, which should enable sharper and more detailed images. The camera features full manual controls, as well as automatic and scene modes to make it easier to use for beginners. Effects are available including Night Vision that boosts the ISO setting and switches to black and white to take photos at quick shutter speeds even in extremely dark conditions, without the need for a tripod.
The Nikon D5500 is the first Nikon Digital SLR to feature a touch-screen, this can be used to change settings as well as set the focus point. Built-in Wi-Fi lets you transfer photos to a smartphone or tablet, as well as let you remotely control the camera, using live view, with the touch-screen used to set the focus point. From the app you can upload to social network sites such as Facebook. Alternatively, you can select the photos you'd like to share from the camera itself, which will be uploaded to the smartphone when next connected.
FullHD video is recorded at 60p, 50p, 25p and 24p with stereo microphones built in as well as a mic socket built in for those who want to improve sound quality and / or use an off-camera microphone.
Nikon D5500 Key Features
24.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
No OLPF (Optical Low Pass Filter)
Optical viewfinder, magnification (approx. 0.82x)
3.2 inch tilting vari-angle touchscreen, 1037k dots
ISO100 - ISO25600
EXPEED 4 image processor
39-point AF, 9-cross type AF
5fps continuous shooting
2,016-pixel RGB metering sensor with Nikon’s Scene Recognition System
Full HD movies at 1080/60p, 50p, 25p, 24p
HDMI output supported
Built-in stereo microphone and compatibility with Nikon’s ME-1 Stereo Microphone
HDR and Active D-Lighting
Special effects for still images and movies
16 Scene Modes
14-bit RAW recording
Nikon D5500 Handling
The Nikon D5500 has an impressively clear and bright 3.2inch touch-screen with very good viewing angles, and despite the reduction in body size, Nikon has still managed to include a large screen. The screen can be tilted for viewing from in front of the camera, or for shooting at awkward angles. The camera uses a 39-point AF system, with 9 cross-type sensors, and the focus area is shown in the optical viewfinder clearly with red sections, although the viewfinder isn't the largest, it is much quicker to use the camera with the optical viewfinder rather than live-view.
With a noticeably smaller body than the D5300, we were concerned that the hand-grip could be more difficult to use, however, the thinner camera body has enabled a much deeper and wider handgrip, giving more space for your hand between the grip and lens. This makes it very comfortable to use, and the camera is impressively small compared to the D5300.
The body is made from a monocoque design, which enables the camera to be smaller, it feels solid and well built, with a number of premium touches such as a stylish finish on the mode dial and command wheel. There is now an eye-detection sensor above the optical viewfinder so that the camera knows when you are holding the camera up to your eye. This is useful so that you don't accidentally adjust camera settings on the rear touch-screen.
The control system on the camera has been improved with the command dial on the back of the camera working as expected when you use any of the buttons on the camera, and the ability to use the touch-screen as well makes the camera very easy to use.
The other main method of changing settings and options is using the i button, and this lets you set the options on the rear screen without having to go into the menus. Unlike other cameras, you can't assign functions to the 4-way controller, and for more direct access to settings, you'll need to look at the Nikon D7100. Thankfully the menus are neatly and clearly laid out with each section colour coded, and if you need any help you simply press the ? button.
The buttons on the camera are quite small, due to a smaller body, and large screen, and the info button has been moved to the back of the camera. The drive mode button is flush with the body, which can make finding it difficult when shooting in dark conditions.
Wi-Fi - The Nikon WirelessMobileUtility (all one word) app is available in the Android or iOS app store, and lets you browse photos or remotely control the camera. You can set the focus point with the touch screen on the smartphone, and take photos, although options are quite limited.
Battery life - Battery life is rated at an impressive 820 shots according to Nikon / CIPA test results, and the camera comes with a high power EN-EL14a battery with 1230mAh rating.
Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.
0.05 / 0.25 Live view
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response
0.2 / 1.2 Live view
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response
0.2 / 1.2 Live view
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo
Shot to Shot without Flash
Shot to Shot with Flash
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
4.5fps (57 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash
Continuous Shooting - RAW
4fps (10 shots)
Tested using a Sandisk Extreme Pro (95MB/s) Class 10 / UHS 1 card. Shutter response is excellent, and focus speeds are good with the new VR II kit lens. Using live view focus and shutter response speeds are slow, making it a more frustrating process using the live view feature for photos, although there does appear to be a slight improvement over the D5300. Switch on time and continuous shooting speeds are good.
Nikon D5500 Performance
The performance section is where we look at the image quality performance of the camera. Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.
Nikon D5500 Sample Photos
Sample Photos - The camera produces images with excellent colour reproduction and exposure is reliable. Portrait photos with flash shows no signs of red-eye, and detail is very good. There are a number of options for capturing shots in a variety of conditions, including a Night Vision effect mode, and night shooting scene modes.
Nikon D5500 Lens test images
Lens Performance - The new VR II kit lens performs well with a small amount of barrel distortion at the wide-angle end of the lens and a little pincushion distortion at the telephoto end of the lens, with the camera correcting for this when auto distortion correction is switched on. There is not much vignetting to be seen, and the lens performs well for a kit lens. Purple fringing or chromatic aberrations aren't a problem, unless you go looking for it, where you may find it in the far corners of the image in areas of high contrast. There is a slight drop in sharpness in the corners of the image, although for the most part images are reasonably sharp, and to improve the levels of sharpness and detail recorded you could adjust the settings in camera, or process the raw images. The kit lens also gives good macro performance, although for the closest focus, manual focus is recommended. For a step up in image quality, and to get the best out of the sensor, we would recommend using a prime lens.
Nikon D5500 ISO test images
ISO Noise Performance - ISO performance is good with low noise between ISO100 and ISO400, this continues to be low at ISO800 and ISO1600 with just a slight drop in levels of detail, which is more noticeable at ISO3200. Detail is reduced further at ISO6400, but colour is good. Noise increases again at ISO12800, although results are much better than the D5300 and D3300. Noise becomes much more noticeable at ISO25600, with a noticeable colour shift. Noise performance is improved when compared to the D5300.
Nikon D5500 White-balance test images
White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) gives a warm image under tungsten lighting, with the Tungsten / Incandescent preset giving a more neutral result. AWB performs well under fluorescent lighting, with the fluorescent preset also giving a good result.
Nikon D5500 Outdoor images
D-Lighting improves photos, retaining more detail in highlights and shadows, however to extend dynamic range further you can use the HDR mode that combines a number of shots at different exposures for much more detail in highlight and shadow areas. The HDR mode can be used handheld in good light.
Nikon D5500 Digital filters
Digital Filters - The camera doesn't feature a built in panoramic mode, instead you will need to do this manually on your computer. Effects on the mode dial let you shoot with a number of different effects applied. The effects available are: Night vision, colour sketch, miniature, selective colour, silhouette, high key and low key. A number of additional effects can be applied in playback. Picture control lets you choose from standard, neutral, vivid, monochrome, portrait, landscape or flat, and these can be customised letting you adjust sharpening, clarity, contrast, brightness, saturation and hue.
The retouch menu is worth highlighting as there is a large number of options available including: D-Lighting, Red-eye correction, Trim, Monochrome, Filter effects, Colour balance, Resize, Image overlay, RAW processing, Quick retouch, Straighten, Distortion control, Fisheye, Colour outline, Perspective control, Colour sketch, Miniature effect, Selective colour, and Movie editing.
Video - The camera has a number of video options including 60p, 50p, 25p and 24p frame rates, and stereo microphones built in, as well as a microphone socket. Audio options include a wind filter, microphone settings (auto or manual) and the movie mode can be used with manual controls. Quality is good although focus can be slow when using continuous AF, and the focus noise is picked up by the camera.
Value For Money
The Nikon D5500 is available for £629 body only which makes it good value for money considering the features on offer, with built in touch screen and Wi-Fi. Alternatives to look at include the following cameras:
The Nikon D5500 takes the tried and tested Nikon D5x00 series and updates it with a new more compact and ergonomic body, upgrading the screen in the process to a 3.2inch touch-screen version and adding built in Wi-Fi. Along with this the 24 megapixel sensor now features no optical low pass filter, which will give improved image quality when shooting with high quality lenses, and we would recommend using prime lenses to get the best out of the camera. In terms of specifications and features, the Nikon D5500 outperforms the competition with built in Wi-Fi, and a larger 3.2 inch touch-screen, and there is now noticeably improved battery life and noise performance. However, live view focus is still slow, with cameras like the Sony Alpha A65 and Panasonic Lumix G6 offering much quicker performance in live view modes. Combined with the compact 18-55mm VR II kit lens, as well as improved controls and handling, this is one of the best entries into Nikon Digital SLR shooting so far.
While some alternatives offer a weather sealed body, or a lower price, few offer Wi-Fi, and for anyone with Nikon lenses already this would make an excellent upgrade. For those looking for their first Digital SLR, the touch screen and good handling, despite the small size, makes this camera easy to use. The Nikon D5500 provides excellent image quality, with a compact stylish Digital SLR body, with useful features including built in Wi-Fi, and an excellent 3.2inch touch-screen. With a 24.2 megapixel sensor, with no OLPF, the camera is capable of taking some very detailed and sharp photos, making it a camera you can grow into, and if you are prepared to invest in additional lenses, then you should be able to get the best out of the camera.
The Nikon D5500 makes some subtle but impressive updates that make the D5500 one of our favourite compact Nikon Digital SLRs.
Built in Wi-Fi
Improved ISO performance
2 year warranty
Large 3.2inch touch-screen
Touch-screen is easy to use and changing settings easy
Improved battery life of 820 shots
24 megapixel sensor without AA filter
Good colour reproduction
Compact and well-built camera
Night vision mode
Built in help
Nikon D5500 Cons
No automatic panoramic mode
Remote control app very basic
Slow live view focus speeds
4-way controller buttons can't be customised
GPS no longer built in - smartphone app doesn't feature GPS tagging either
Rubber Eyecup DK-25, Body Cap BF-1B, Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL14a (with terminal cover), Battery Charger MH-24 (plug adapter supplied in countries or regions where required; shape depends on country of sale), Strap AN-DC3, USB Cable UC-E23, AV cab
We review the Panasonic Lumix G80 / G85, which has just been announced, and is Panasonic's weather-sealed DSLR-styled mirrorless camera with 4K video and 5-axis image stabilisation.
19 Sep 2016 12:15PM