At last we have a touchscreen on a Nikon D-SLR. Amy Davies discovers what else the D5500 has to offer
We go hands-on with Nikon’s latest D-SLR and give it a serious testing!
D-SLR Nikon D5500 £709, $996 (with 18-55mm kit lens) www.nikon.com
Nikon generally replaces its entry-level models every year, so it’s no surprise to see the D5500, which sits above the D3300, making its debut in 2015. As we’ve seen with other recent additions to the Nikon line-up, however, the new model offers an incremental upgrade, rather than a complete overhaul.
Just like the D5300, the D5500 has a monocoque construction (ie its shell is made in a single piece). However, it is slimmer than its predecessor, especially in the area between the lens mount and the grip. This thinning has meant that the internal layout of the camera has had to be redesigned, but it results in a deeper grip which makes the D5500 feel more secure in the hand.
The top plate sees a slight redesign, with a simplified mode dial which contains just eight different exposure modes, including automatic, semiautomatic and manual settings. Around the mode dial is a switch for activating Live View shooting, which is very easy to quickly flick on and off when you need it.
As standard, the D5500 ships with the same innovative 18-55mm collapsible kit lens that comes with the D5300. You can also buy the D5500 body-only if you already have some lenses in your kit and just want a new D-SLR. To use the 18-55mm kit lens, you’ll need to hold down a button on the side of the lens to extend it first before you take your shot. Once that’s done, you can leave the lens extended for the next shot to speed things up.
Give it a poke
The most talked-about difference between the D5500 and D5300 is that the 3.2-inch, 1,037,000-dot vari-angle LCD on the back of the camera is now touch-sensitive – indeed, it’s the first Nikon D-SLR to have this feature. This has a number of practical applications: you can, for instance, make settings changes simply by tapping the ‘i’ icon in the bottom-right-hand corner of the screen. From here, you can tap the setting you wish to change (such as white balance) and then tap the exact setting you want to use.
If you don’t like using touchscreens, there is an equivalent physical button marked with the same ‘i’, and after pressing it you can navigate to the setting you want to use using the directional keys instead.
The touchscreen does make it possible to do things that would previously have been difficult, if not impossible. You can set up the D5500 so that it’s possible to change a particular setting (for example,
The most talked-about difference between the D5500 and D5300 is that the 3.2-inch vari-angle LCD on the back of the camera is touch-sensitive – it’s the first Nikon D-SLR to have this feature
selecting the autofocus point) via the touchscreen while you’re using the viewfinder. This is a good idea in principle, but in practice results were mixed. Unless you articulate the screen away from your face – which feels a little awkward – you risk changing settings with your nose.
When you use Live View, you can also use the touchscreen to set the autofocus point. Just tap the point on the screen where you want to focus. You can also enable ‘touch shutter’, which means that the camera will take a shot when you tap the screen, once focus has been acquired.
One down side to the D5500’s reliance on the touchscreen is that it can seem to take longer than you’d expect to change certain settings, as you have to go through the i menu every time. There is one function button near the lens mount to which you can assign an often-used setting, such as ISO, though.
It’s easy to connect to Nikon’s Wireless Utility app on your smartphone, but sadly, within the app it’s still only possible to set the AF point and fire off the shutter release remotely. You can’t change any other settings. Nevertheless it’s still useful for some things, such as taking group shots.
The D5500 features the same 24.2 million pixel APS-C sized (DX-format) sensor as its predecessor, the D5300. Like other recent Nikon D-SLRs, the sensor has no anti-aliasing filter, which makes it better suited to capturing fine detail. Given this, and the fact that the D5500 also has the same EXPEED 4 processor as its predecessor, we weren’t anticipating any real surprises in terms of image quality or performance.
As with the D5300, and just as we’d anticipated, images are very pleasing, with bright, but accurate, colours in the majority of situations, while the lack of an anti-aliasing filter ensures some great detail is captured in photographs, even when using the kit lens.
If you wish to change the colour settings, you can use Picture Controls, such as Vivid, to boost colour. There are also other options, such as Landscape and Portrait. These are useful to have to hand and
you can use them while shooting in RAW should you need a clean version of the image down the line. In addition, there’s a host of digital filters available under Creative Mode. It’s worth giving these a look to see if any strike your fancy, but you can’t use them while shooting in RAW, so if you decide down the line that Photo Illustration (for example) was a mistake, you’re stuck with it.
Nikon cameras have a good reputation for their performance at high ISOs, and the D5500 doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Overall, detail in JPEGs balances well with the appearance of noise when looking at images taken at higher sensitivities at normal printing and web sizes. It’s only from around ISO3200 and up that you can see image noise present at these kind of reproduction sizes, while even those taken at ISO6400 remain usable at small sizes.
Lock and load
As we have found in the past, Nikon’s 39-point phase-detection autofocus system is fast and accurate. Even when using the supplied kit lens (kit lenses generally being fairly basic things), the D5500 is generally able to lock onto a subject with ease, especially when you’re working in good lighting conditions.
Unfortunately, shooting using Live View remains a frustratingly slow process. While it’s useful for shooting still-life macro subjects to get an enlarged view of the scene, for other subjects it’s just not practical to use.
On the whole, the D5500’s metering system does a pretty good job of helping to produce accurate exposures, but dialling in a touch of exposure compensation can be useful in some situations (such as high-contrast ones, which are always tricky anyhow) to get a more pleasing exposure. Similarly, the automatic white balance does a good job, although it can sometimes err ever so slightly towards unnatural, yellowish tones under artificial light – in which case, it’s beneficial to set a more appropriate white balance setting, such as Tungsten.
Hang on! When viewed from the top, the redesigned, deeper grip is immediately obvious. It makes the D5500 feel much more secure in the hand than its predecessors did.
Colours are punchy direct from the camera, without going over the top with vibrance
Even at high ISOs, there’s not too much evidence of noise appearing at normal printing sizes. This image was taken at ISO3200