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Nikon D5500 Camera Review

Nikon D5500 – First Impressions from CES 2015

The Nikon D5500 is very similar to the D5300 it replaces. It looks as though it’ll offer no appreciable improvement to image quality, but alters the design and feature set a little to give it a slightly more up-to-date flavour.

A touchscreen and slimmer, lighter body are in, while GPS has been sacrificed, presumably to keep the price at a similar level. At £720 with an 18-55mm kit lens, it’s not pocket money for what’s predominantly a beginner’s DSLR. But as it offers access to the great Nikon lens library, there are few better places to start.

We took a look at the camera at CES 2015 ahead of our review. It comes in red and black, but we checked out the more traditional black one.

Related: Panasonic Lumix TZ70 – First Impressions

The Nikon D5500 looks very much like a traditional DSLR, and is similar to the D5300. However, numerous tweaks to the design make it a better body for many than the last.

At 420g it’s 60g lighter than the D5300, and measuring 124x97x70mm it’s slightly smaller in each dimension too.

You may think: smaller dimensions are going to harm the Nikon D5500’s handling, right? However, from our first-hand test of the new camera, the feel has actually improved.

Nikon has re-sculpted the D5500’s handgrip, making it dig deeper into the body for a surer hold. A smaller, lighter body with no loss of handling is a wholesale improvement. Nice work, Nikon.

The other serious design change is that the Nikon D5500 now has a touchscreen. It’s the first Nikon DSLR to use one – DSLRs often avoid touchscreens as they can seem gimmicky and often are no better than, or worse than, using physical controls.

Once again, Nikon has made sure it’s a no-sacrifice upgrade. You still get the same physical controls, including the rear thumb dial that makes changing settings in the PASM modes dead eay and quick.

It’s a 3.2-inch LCD 1,037k dot screen that is fully articulated, meaning you can tilt it up and down, as well as away from the body on a dynamic hinge. It makes shooting at extreme angles with the Nikon D5500 a lot easier.

This articulation is something the D5300 also has, though – it’s just the touch element that has changed.

Other than a slightly smaller, lighter frame and touchscreen, the Nikon D5500 is extremely similar to its predecessor. They share the same 24.2-megapixel sensor and the same Expeed 4 processor.

Image quality and performance should be more-or-less identical. You can shoot at 5fps with the D5500, and the APS-C sensor should provide reasonably good low-light performance – it’ll be a solid upgrade from almost any compact camera.

Despite using near-identical core hardware, Nikon does seem to have made some slight improvements, though. The very top of the 100 – 25600 ISO range goes from being an ‘extended’ (ie not recommended) mode to becoming part of the standard ISO canon.

Nikon also claims to have improved the contrast detection autofocus used when the Nikon D5500 is in Live View mode (where the preview image is displayed on the rear screen), by 20 per cent. You’ll ideally want to spend most of your time using the viewfinder, though, which allows the 39-point phase detection AF to kick in.

If these are pure firmware improvements, it’s possible they’ll be added to the D5300. But don’t hold your breath.

So far it all seems like good news for the Nikon D5500: small improvements, but improvements nevertheless. However, there is one thing missing. GPS has been cut out, meaning you won’t be able to have your pictures automatically geo-tagged. It’s a shame, but it does have Wi-Fi, letting you transfer photos to a phone relatively easily.

Early Verdict

The Nikon D5500 is a very conservative tweak of the popular D5300. It doesn’t mess with the image quality or performance, instead deciding to make the camera a mite more accessible.

We’ll have to see whether the touchscreen’s actually worth using when we get to a full review, but we certainly appreciate the improved ergonomics. After all, a good firm grip is one of the key reasons to pick a DSLR over a smaller CSC.

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