With many of the same specifications as the D5300, but with an added vari-angle touchscreen and a tweaked body design, is the Nikon D5500 really offering enough to stand out from its predecessor?
Nikon D5500 First Look
At the Pre-CES Digital Experience event we had a chance to get our hands on the new Nikon D5500 enthusiast DSLR. In 2014, we awarded the D5500’s predecessor, the Nikon D5300 the Amateur Photographer Consumer Camera of the Year, so the expectations for the D5500 are obviously high.
While the D5300 was a solidly impressive camera, as we noted in our review, it took criticism for being a fairly minor upgrade. By the looks of things, the story seems similar with the Nikon D5500 – it sports the same 24.2-million-pixel sensor as the D5300, with no optical low-pass filter, and also keeps the Expeed 4 processor. Its video specs are also identical, with the same HD 1080/60p video shooting capabilities.
So what is new? First and foremost, the D5500 brings a 3.2-inch fully articulated touchscreen with a resolution of 1,037,000-dots. The touchscreen does everything you’d expect – allows the user to focus, adjust settings and shoot – but also comes with a Touch Fn function, which allows the user to make quick adjustments with a finger swipe while using the viewfinder. This could be particularly useful for moving the autofocus area around the frame quickly while shooting, but we’ll have to put the camera thought its paces in real-world shooting to decide how well it works in practice. An eye sensor by the viewfinder allows the screen to be automatically turned during eye-level shooting.
The touchscreen can also be used to change many camera settings, although crucially it does’t replace any physical controls – it only complements them. Pressing the camera’s ‘i’ button brings up the redesigned settings menu shown above; tapping a touch button then brings up a new screen for changing that parameter. This saves a lot of button-pressing when you want to change these options. It’s good to see Nikon finally catching up with its competitors in bringing a touch interface to this level of camera.
The other big draw of the D5500 is its overhauled body. Nikon bills it as ‘exceptionally portable’, and it is slightly slimmer and lighter than the D5300, with measurements of 124x97x70mm and a weight of 420g (without battery and memory card) – the D5300 weighed 480g. More importantly, the grip shape has been substantially overhauled, with a much deeper cut-out into the body to accommodate your fingers compared to the D5300. This may not seem like much, but it makes the camera feel noticeably more secure and comfortable in your hand.
The D5500 is able to shoot within an ISO range of 100-25,600, and it features a 39-point AF system with cross-type points in the sensor. Nikon claims that this contrast detect AF system will be 20% faster than that of the D5300 when used in live view.
However, the D5500 doesn’t keep everything from the D5300 – it drops the GPS functionality that was present on the earlier model. While it still has Wi-fi, so connectivity is possible, some photographers may be disappointed with the loss of the ability to instantly geotag their images, particularly in a camera designed to be portable enough to take everywhere.
The D5500 will be available in red or black versions, for around £640 body only, or £720 in a kit with the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II lens. Nikon has also announced a revised version of its budget telephoto zoom, the AF-S DX Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 VR II shown above, which will cost around £230. Like Nikon’s latest 18-55mm kit zoom, it can be retracted to give a slightly more portable package for transport.
Nikon D5500 Review: First Impressions
At first glance there appears to be few differences between the D5500 and the D5300 cameras. The 24.2-million-pixel DX-format sensor is essentially the same as on the previous D5300, so is the Expeed 4 processor, and the 39-point autofocusing system. None of these similarities is a bad thing, given the excellent performance of the D5300. Overall, like many recent cameras, the D5500 looks like a sensibly iterative update to the previous model, rather than a big step forward.
However, the big difference on the D5500 is that it’s the first ever Nikon DSLR to feature a touch-screen display. The body has also changed and been redesigned making the grip deeper. In-hand the camera feels very secure thanks to the reworked grip, while the touch screen is responsive and benefits from a reasonably user-friendly interface with well spaced touch-buttons. In addition, the ability to use the touchscreen to zoom into images to check focus should give a more intuitive experience than the Nikon D5300. Check back in the coming weeks for our full review of the camera.