It’s not the small­est or light­est cam­era on test, but it re­ally is the best

NPhoto - - Test Team -

It’s easy to for­get that travel pho­tog­ra­phy isn’t just about sunny beaches and rolling land­scapes. For in­door shots of cathe­drals, mu­se­ums and the like, and for cityscapes af­ter dark, you need a cam­era that gives good hand­held re­sults in low light­ing con­di­tions. Both of the D-SLRs on test give much bet­ter image qual­ity than the 1 series and Coolpix cam­eras in these con­di­tions, with greater re­ten­tion of fine de­tail and less image noise. The D5500 edges ahead of the D3300 for clean­look­ing im­ages, the J4 and V3 per­form rather less well but slightly bet­ter than the AW1, and the Coolpix com­pact cam­eras pro­duce much nois­ier im­ages, even at low ISOs.

In well-lit scenes the D5500 wins out again, with un­beat­able sharp­ness, ex­cel­lent dy­namic range, sump­tu­ous colour ren­di­tion and su­perb all-round image qual­ity. Again, the D3300 comes a close sec­ond, fol­lowed by the 1-series cam­eras, while the Coolpix mod­els bring up the rear. The Coolpix P610 is about the same size as the D-SLRs, and is only worth con­sid­er­ing if you’re des­per­ate for its mon­strous 60x zoom range, at the ex­pense of image qual­ity. In­deed, it’s the Coolpix P7800 that gives the best over­all image qual­ity of any of the com­pact cam­eras with in­te­gral lenses, al­though the S9900 gives an ar­guably bet­ter com­pro­mise be­tween qual­ity and ver­sa­til­ity with its 30x zoom lens.

The Nikon 1 bod­ies are all slim and light­weight, but the AW1 is much chunkier when you add its ‘all-weather’ zoom lens. The later-gen­er­a­tion J4 and V3 de­liver bet­ter image qual­ity, but with­out the AW1’s thrill-seek­ing spirit. Over­all image qual­ity is a step up from the Coolpix cam­eras.

Un­de­ni­ably, the D5500 and 18-55mm VR II kit lacks tele­photo reach, but pop an ad­di­tional Nikon 55-200mm VR II (just 300g) into a spare pocket and you’re good to go. You might also con­sider buy­ing just the body, to use with one of the lat­est gen­er­a­tion of Sigma 18-200mm or 18-250mm lenses, both of which are sur­pris­ingly small and light­weight for DX-for­mat su­per­zooms.

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