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Nikon D5500: Performance, Image Quality and Verdict

By Callum McInerney-Riley

Updated:

Summary

Our Score:

8

Nikon D5500 – Sensor, AF and Performance

The Nikon D5500 has a DX sensor of 24.2 megapixels. If you’re not entirely au fait with Nikon’s naming convention, the DX sensor size is in-line with the APS-C standard. That’s pretty much the only size you’re going to get from a DSLR at this price.

You’ll have to pay a bit more for a full-frame camera.

Nikon D5500 3

Nikon hasn’t really upgrade the performance of the Nikon D5500 over the D5300 either. It uses the same Expeed 4 processor, which gets you burst performance of 5fps. This isn’t really a sport/action DSLR, but that speed is enough for the odd bit of action if your demands aren’t too great.

Just as important is AF performance. The Nikon D5500 uses the Multi-CAM 4800DX module, which gets you 39 AF points, nine cross-type. It’s the same AF brain seen in the Nikon D7000.

AF performance in general is great. Focusing is fast and accurate, even in low-light (with the help of the AF light). It’s only when you switch to Live View or video that performance takes a dip.

There’s no on-sensor phase detection here so in these situations the Nikon D5550 has to step down to contrast detection. It’s slower, but still reliable. You just lose out on speed.

Nikon D5500 13

Metering performance is great too. The Nikon D5500 has a 2016-pixel metering senso with matrix, centre-weighted and spot metering modes. It doesn’t have the highlight-led mode you get with higher-end cameras like the Nikon D810, which is a shame, but the sensor offers good dynamic range at lower ISOs, meaning there’s plenty of shadow detail to be regained in post-processing. When in doubt, underexpose slightly.

Nikon D5500 – Image Quality

The Nikon D5500 can produce excellent photos, especially when you team it up with a lens slightly higher-end than the 18-55mm kit lens. At the lowest ISO settings you can expect 3400l/ph detail and 12.3EV dynamic range. Both are great results for an APS-C camera of this resolution.

Performance is strong up to ISO 1600, and very usable at ISO 3200. It’s only above these that we start to see more significant loss of detail and shadow detail. The Nikon D5500 can go a fair bit higher than this, though.

It has a native ISO sensitivity range of 100-25,600, where in the D5300 the top sensitivity (25,600) is a non-recommended ‘extended’ mode. It’s a clear sign Nikon has put some extra work into its noise reduction algorithms. But still doesn’t mean we recommend using the very top ISO settings apart from in emergencies. ISO 25,600 images are quite scrappy.

Here are some sample images:

Nikon D5500 3Nikon D5500Nikon D5500 5Nikon D5500 9Nikon D5500 7

The Nikon D5500’s shots rank among those of the top APS-C cameras, and its colour tone is excellent too. Even when shooting drab grey London skylines the shots look vibrant. Colours are punchy and well-saturated.

Excellent JPEGs mean you don’t have to rely on post-processing to get good results too, although you’ll want to turn on turn on Active D-Lighting for the best photos. This plays with shadow level and contrast to provide better dynamic range.Nikon D5500 9

Nikon D5500 – Video

The Nikon D5500 doesn’t make any obvious improvements on the video side, but should prove a perfectly good video shooter if you’re not a flat-out videographer. It can shoot video at 1080p 60 frames per second or below. There’s no 4K video capture, but then we never expected it. It’s just not a common DSLR feature yet.

There’s a stereo microphone built into the Nikon D5500, and also a microphone input with a hotshoe up top on which you can mount the mic. Optical stabilisation is not built-in, though, so you’ll want to be careful about the lens you use.

Nikon D5500 7

Should I buy the Nikon D5500?

The Nikon D5500 isn't exactly a dynamic camera. Look at how similar it is to the D5300 and D5200 and it seems like Nikon is iterating a bit too conservatively.

However, this isn't an area that really needs outright innovation right now. Here’s the thing: the Nikon D5500 feels great, performs very well for general shooting and takes images that can stand up to any APS-C camera, especially when used with a good lens.

Many of you may be perfectly happy with the Nikon D5300 instead, although we recommend trying out the D5500, too. The £100 extra may seem a lot for a touchscreen and a tweaked design, but the new grip really is a delight.

Verdict

No eyebrow-raising specs, but excellent handling and rock-solid performance win out.

Overall Score

8

Scores In Detail

  • Build Quality 8
  • Design 9
  • Design & Features 7
  • Image Quality 8
  • Performance 8
  • Value 8

chaosdefinesorder

January 9, 2015, 4:19 pm

I was under the impression that the main reason DSLRs have avoided touchscreens for the most part is due to the user's nose activating things unintentionally when using the viewfinder...

Stephen Middlehurst

January 9, 2015, 6:40 pm

Hmm, £40 more expensive for a touch screen, no GPS and very minor tweaks. Not so sure about that, especially as the D5300 kits will inevitably drop in price to clear inventory. Considering a D5300 body only goes for around £500 and the VR2 lens is around £100 I'd have to say that anyone interested in a midrange DX camera might want to look there for the best value for money...

Marcello

March 15, 2015, 11:24 am

Touch can be deactivated.

Andrew

March 20, 2015, 4:38 am

Actually the touch screen is awesome, the body ergonomics is awesome, the image quality has increased noticeably, and Nikon has moved things around on the body to make this a big upgrade. If you love taking pictures, then the way the camera feels in your hands is very important. I plan to buy the D5500 for all those reasons and more; and because of its small size and weight.

P.S. The sample pictures are awful, they are not representative of the camera.

Jack Thrams

March 26, 2015, 7:56 pm

I've been looking at the D7200 to upgrade from my current D7000, but then I read the specs on the D5500. Despite carrying the stigma of an "entry-level" camera, this thing is comparable to the D7200 which I have been wanting for the built in WiFi...and it's cheaper. Any other semi-pros out there having a similar dilemma of wanting to buy this one vs. the D7200? I have a battery grip for the D7000 which gives it a sturdy feel, but more & more I shoot with it off in favor of the small size. This D5500 is even smaller and lighter. What to do...

NSRajaram

April 15, 2015, 11:09 am

I find D5500 and the whole Nikon 5000 series not noticeably better than the 300 series and poor value compared to the Canon 70d which I find the best intermediate level camera.

Simon65

January 18, 2016, 11:25 am

Why the tiny viewfinder?

It's a real irritation and shows how little Nikon understand the game they're playing in.

The unique selling point of compact DSLRs over their frequently more sexy mirrorless rivals is the optical viewfinder. Yes?

So it really doesn't take the marketing genius of Steve Jobs to realise that Nikon needed to play to its strengths with the D5500 and make the viewfinder as large, bright and usable as possible.

So what do they do? Give it an itsy bitsy, tiny weeny claustrophobic
tunnel viewfinder with a mere 0.82x magnification.

For the purposes of correct composition anything under 0.85x is unusable imo and
the D5500's cramped viewfinder compares very poorly with the 0.87x viewfinder found in the diminutive Canon EOS 100D, and even with the 0.85x viewfinder Nikon itself has put in its base DSLR, the D3300! Go figure...

Unfortunately both Nikon and Canon now seem to be on a roll downhill with regards viewfinder sizes, which means that between them they are likely to kill off the compact DSLR market, sooner rather than later.

Selvakumar M

February 26, 2016, 4:06 pm

Dear Simon, actually i have a plan to upgrade my gear from canon Rebel T3i to Nikon. because recent releases from canon not attract me well. so i have D5500 and D7100 in my mind. but after i seen your review in this page, it is sad. could you please suggest me which is best either D5500 or D7100? Thanks, regards, Selva, maniselvaa@gmail.com

nmharleyrider

February 26, 2016, 8:01 pm

yes but it does have the wifi connection which I find necessary. I agree that the sample pictures suck. The camera is way better than that.

Arclight101

March 1, 2016, 10:47 am

The Nikon D7100 wins hands down if you don't mind the extra weight. It weighs 765 g versus 420 g for the D5500.

But for that you get 51 focus points (39 in the D5500), a 100% optical pentaprism viewfinder (far far larger than the pentamirror in the D5500), a higher resolution rear screen, max top shutter speed of 1/8000 sec (1/400 in D5500), 6 fps (5 fps), and optional GPS (none).

Image IQ and video is the same.

The only thing the D5500 has over the D7100 is wireless connectivity. In the D7100 it's optional.

But the D7100 is far larger and heavier, so pick it up before you decide Only you know if you can live with it. I used to use an Olympus OM1n (a small 35 mm SLR) which nothing to this day touches in terms of size and bang for weight ratio. That''s the problem. Nikon could have pushed the boat out and stuck a decent sized viewfinder in the D5500 (it's big enough to take one), but it opted not to. That means those of us still waiting for a decent compact DSLR with a proper viewfinder, remain disappointed. There is no DSLR equivalent of the Sony A6000. And that's the fault of the DSLR manufacturers. Engineering wise its perfectly possible.

Selvakumar M

March 1, 2016, 5:32 pm

Thanks Arclight... d7100 has max iso 6400. But d5500 has more than that. So, will d7100 perform well in low light conditions compared to d5500?

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