Our choice for Best Compact DSLR

d5500_1

The Nikon D5000 series has long been a good choice for photographers who wanted a very capable compact DSLR that offer a higher level of enthusiast features than the D3000 series that sits below it. Nikon’s latest model – the D5500 – continues that trend, though the differences between it and the D5300 that came before it aren’t enormous. The D5300, introduced in the fall of 2013, impressed us with its image quality, flip-out LCD, and feature set. We were less enthused about its menu system and live view performance.

So what’s changed? In brief, the D5500 has a smaller and lighter body with an improved grip, a faster processor, touch-enabled LCD, ‘flat’ picture control, and built-in Wi-Fi. We’ll see later if the company addressed some of the issues that we encountered with the D5300.

To say the D5500 sits in a crowded field is an understatement. On the DSLR side it competes against the Canon EOS Rebel T6i (750D) and Pentax K-S2, as well as the Fujifilm X-T1, Olympus E-M10, Panasonic DMC-G6, and Sony a6000 mirrorless cameras.

 

Nikon D5500 key features

24.2MP CMOS sensor with no optical low-pass filter
Ultra-compact and lightweight body
Multi-CAM 4800DX 39-point autofocus system
2,016-pixel RGB metering sensor, used for 3D subject tracking in AF-C
Sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600
5 fps continuous shooting
1/4000 sec maximum shutter speed
3.2″, 1.2M dot fully-articulating touchscreen LCD display
1080/60p video with clean output over HDMI and Flat Picture Control
Built-in Wi-Fi

The D5500 appears to use the same 24.2MP CMOS sensor as the D5300, though it is interesting to note that its top ISO setting of 25,600 is no longer an ‘extension’, as was the case previously. There’s continues to be no optical low-pass filter in front of the sensor, which maximizes resolution, though moiré may be an unwanted side effect. The D5500 also features Nikon’s latest Expeed 4 image processing engine.

The design of the D5500 has changed for the better. It uses what is known as a monocoque design which allows the body to be a single unit that also ‘increases durability without weighing it down’, according to Nikon. Indeed, the camera is very light and compact – even more than the D3300. The grip is also much deeper than on the D5300, making it a whole lot easier to hold onto. Nikon has also added touch functionality to the already-nice 3.2″ fully articulating LCD, making menu navigation a bit less tedious.

In the video department, the D5500 continues to support 1080/60p recording but now offers a ‘Flat’ Picture Control, which allows for easier color grading in post-production.

Something has disappeared though, and that’s the built-in GPS that was featured on the D5300. It’s probably a safe bet that Nikon is assuming that people will use their smartphone app to handle geotagging on the D5500.

And that’s about it as far as major changes go. Let’s see how the D5300 and D5500 compare:

Compared to D5300

 

Nikon D5300
Nikon D5500
Pixel count 24.2MP
Processing engine
Optical low-pass filter No
ISO range (expanded) 100-12,800
(expandable to 25,600)
100-25,600
AF system Multi-Cam 4800DX (39-point)
Maximum frame rate 5 fps
Maximum video quality 1080/60p
Flat picture control No Yes
LCD specs 3.2″ 1.2M dot fully-articulating
Touch-enabled LCD No Yes
Eye sensor No Yes
Wi-Fi Yes
Built-in GPS Yes Optional (GP-1A)
Battery used EN-EL14(a)
Battery life 600 shots 820 shots
Dimensions 125 x 98 x 76mm 124 x 97 x 70mm
Weight 480 g 420 g

As you can see, the D5500 is an upgrade in every respect, save for the lack of a GPS, though we wonder how often that feature is used in general.

The body is incredibly light (it weighs 15% less than the D5300), yet doesn’t feel cheap. The size of the grip is better than what’s found on Nikon’s more expensive D7200. While the LCD itself hasn’t changed, the addition of touch functionality makes the somewhat frustrating shortcut menu easier to use.

One addition that many won’t even notice is an eye sensor, which will turn off the LCD when you put your eye to the optical viewfinder.

While the size of the D5500’s body has gone down, its battery life has risen by over 35% compared to its predecessor, using the same battery.

d5500_2

 

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