Nikon D5500

At last we have a touch­screen on a Nikon D-SLR. Amy Davies dis­cov­ers what else the D5500 has to of­fer

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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.

Compact com­pan­ion

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.

Fa­mil­iar fea­tures

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

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