Nikon's new D5500 is the successor to the Nikon D5300, which sits just above the entry-level D3300. So, the D5500 may be considered an upper entry-level DSLR camera.
Like the D5300, it has a 3.2-inch fully articulated display which can flip 180 degrees for selfie shots, but the display is now a touchscreen.
The sensitivity range has been boosted slightly to ISO 100 - 25,600 from the D5300's ISO 100-12,800. But the D5500 does not have the built-in GPS ability of the older camera.
The body of the newcomer weighs 420g, or 60g lighter than the D5300. Even with the AF-S 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR kit lens used for this review, the overall package weighs under a kilo - just 960g.
The weight loss is probably due to the D5500's monocoque structure, strengthened with carbon-fibre composite. Though lighter, it feels quite solid, with a more deeply contoured grip that comfortably accommodates my fingers.
In terms of button layout, there are only slight differences between the two cameras. Where the D5300 had a command dial at the rear, the D5500 has a circular metallic command dial at the top right.
The Info button, which is near the shutter release on the D5300, is now under the Play button at the back, near the thumb rest, so it is easier to press with your thumb. Together with the touchscreen display, it makes it easier for you to change settings using your thumb.
The Live View lever stays beside the Mode dial at the top right, and the dedicated video-recording button and exposure-compensation button remain close to the shutter release.
I like being able to change the autofocusing (AF) point quickly using the rear four-way controller. Overall, for this class of camera, it handles superbly.
The camera gets to work quickly, starting up almost instantaneously and shutting down in just one second. AF is quick and accurate in bright sunlight. In dim conditions, it takes only about one second to lock on to a focus, with the aid of AF assist light.
On the downside, AF is not automatic during video recording. You need to depress the shutter release half way to re-focus when you pan to another scene.
While shutter lag is negligible with the optical viewfinder, there is a one-second lag when shooting in Live View. Using an SD card with a writing speed rated at 45MB per second, the D5500 can capture eight RAW images in 2.5 seconds.
As you might expect from Nikon's APS-C image sensor, the image quality is outstanding. Images are sharp, colours are vivid with distinct details and skin tones are natural.
Image noise performance is equally superb. You will notice few noise artefacts up to ISO 3,200. Even at ISO 6,400, pictures are usable, though slight detail loss and colour desaturation are evident. But nothing above that setting is recommended.
Videos are crisp but pick up too much AF sound from the lens and ambient audio.
In battery life, the D5500 is much improved from the D5300 - 820 versus 600 stills. For this class of DSLR cameras, the battery life approaches that of mid-range and professional DSLR cameras.
If you do not need a tiltable touchscreen display, you can opt for the entry-level Nikon D3300. But for a lightweight and competent DSLR camera that lets you take selfies as well, the Nikon D5500 is a superb choice for an upper entry-level model.
Price: $1,449 (with AF-S 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR lens)
Image sensor: 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS
Display: 3.2-inch tiltable touchscreen LCD with 1,037,000 dots; optical viewfinder
Sensitivity: ISO 100 - 25,600
Shooting speed: Up to 5 frames per second
Weight: 420g (body without battery and memory card)
Value for money: 4/5
Battery life: 4/5
This article was first published on Mar 4, 2015.
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