D-Photo reviews the Nikon D5500 DSLR

 
Richard Wong sizes up Nikon’s latest DSLR response to mirrorless popularity

Published in D-Photo Issue No. 65, we printed that the Nikon D5500 DSLR was 740g in weight (body only). This was an error and should have read 470g (body only). Here's the corrected review for you to see what Nikon's latest DSLR can achieve.

Every year or so, Nikon updates its mid-range APS-C DSLR, and the latest arrival in its D5000 series is the D5500.

On paper, the D5500 is quite similar to the feature-loaded D5300: it inherits the excellent 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, 39-point autofocus system, and Expeed 4 processor. The maximum burst rate remains at a respectable 5fps.

But that doesn’t mean the D5500 is just a D5300 with a new model number. Nikon has actually redesigned the whole body, and the result is an even smaller and lighter model than the already very small D5300. I put the D5500 next to an Olympus OMD EM1, and guess what? They are virtually identical in size, despite the fact the D5500 has a much bigger sensor and is not a mirrorless camera.

I really like this Nikon’s main grip. It’s not big, but it is very deep and very comfortable to grip. Holding the D5500 single-handed, even with a medium-size lens attached, doesn’t put too much stress on the fingers.

140mm, 1/250s, f/5.6, ISO 250

Just like the D5300, the D5500 also has an articulated LCD screen. While the size and resolution is the same, it is now a capacitive touchscreen. You might think the touchscreen is just a gimmick and question why we need it for a DSLR, after all, none of the previous Nikon DSLRs has a touchscreen, and they all work great. While there’s some truth to that view, once you try the D5500, I’m betting you’ll become a touchscreen convert.

The D5500’s menu system is largely unchanged, so don’t worry, you can still do everything the old-fashioned way. Reviewing photos is also a lot easier thanks to the support of pinch to zoom, and swipe gestures. The touchscreen is very sensitive, and the touchscreen control makes the camera more intuitive to use. But to me, there are two main benefits with the new touchscreen.

Firstly the live view is finally alive. When you are in live view, instead of using the directional pad to change the autofocus area, you just need to tap on the screen like a smartphone, and it is just so much faster and more intuitive. It makes me wonder why we were doing it in the old clumsy way for so long. Shooting photos or videos in live view is so much easier, and I can finally give the DSLR to my non-photographer friends and not have to worry about photo being out of focus. The only negative is autofocus in live view is still not quite as fast as some mirrorless models.

52mm, 1/40s, f/16, ISO 100

If you rarely use live view, preferring the optical viewfinder, you can use the touchscreen like a secondary control wheel. When taking photos, just put your thumb on the touchscreen and you can now adjust one of the camera settings, ISO for example. My personal favourite is to use the touchscreen to adjust the autofocus point. I just slide the thumbnail around the touchscreen, and the autofocus point changes immediately following my thumb’s position. The operation is so much faster and straightforward, especially when you are shooting fast-moving objects.

While on paper the D5500 looks like very similar to the D5300, its smaller size and the inclusion of the touchscreen means the camera is much easier to use and carry around. Traditional DSLR users will definitely love the D5500, as it offers great image quality and ergonomics. And people who have never used a DSLR before, and are tempted to buy a mirrorless camera, will find the D5500 just as easy to use. Its size is very comparable to some of the popular mirrorless cameras, but with the added benefits that only a DSLR can give you (battery life, optical viewfinder, etc.).

This is by far Nikon’s best response to the increasingly popular mirrorless-camera market, evolving the DSLR, and combining the best of both DSLR and mirrorless cameras into one.

RRP: $1499 (18–55mm kit)

Specs:

  • Image sensor: 24-megapixel CMOS
  • Shutter speed: 1/4000–30s
  • Metering: Matrix, centre weighted, spot
  • Continuous shooting: 5fps
  • ISO: 100–25,600
  • Viewfinder: Pentamirror single-lens reflex
  • Monitor: 3.2-inch 1037k-dot TFT vari-angle
  • Video: 1080/60p
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 124x97x70mm
  • Weight: 470g (body only)
  • Contact: nikon.co.nz