Nikon recently announced the launch of its first DSLR to feature a touchscreen monitor, but what other improvements does the new D5500 have over its D5300 predecessor? Gizmag takes a look at the key specifications and features of the two entry-level DSLRs to see how they compare, and which one would be right for you.
Nikon has proudly stated that the new D5500 is smaller than its predecessors. However, with only a couple of millimeters in it, we'd be surprised if most users were able to discern much of a difference without measuring the cameras first.
That said, any reduction in size is a good thing for a DSLR which will undoubtedly be vying for attention amongst smaller mirrorless cameras.
The Nikon D5500 has managed to shed 60 g from the weight of the D5300, making the new camera one of the lightest DSLRs currently available. As anyone who has carried a DSLR around with them on vacation will know, any reduction in weight is a good thing. Figures are with battery and memory card but without a lens.
Build and handling
Both cameras use a monocoque structure with a carbon fiber reinforced plastic material for the camera body. This allows them to be both more compact than other cameras while at the same time durable.
In terms of handling and design, anyone who is familiar with Nikon DSLRs will find themselves instantly at home with either camera. Minor design tweaks include a simplified mode dial on the D5500 which no longer features a cluttered selection of icons, and the adjustment dial has been moved to the top of the camera.
The large APS-C CMOS sensors in these cameras are larger than those found in most compact and many mirrorless cameras, meaning they should be able to deliver better image quality than their smaller-sensored rivals. That said, there's nothing to call between the two.
Both cameras also feature the same megapixel count, with their 24.2-megapixel offerings being more than enough for most people, and arguably a good match for the sensor size. Because they lack an optical low-pass filter, these sensors should be able to capture a greater level of detail than otherwise equally megapixeled cameras.
Nikon's Expeed 4 image processor features in both cameras and is the same one that also appears higher up the Nikon line-up in cameras like the D750 and D4S. It should keep things running smoothly and help to deliver quality images in a variety of lighting conditions.
No surprises here. Both the D5500 and D5300 feature the Nikon F-mount. As such they can be used with a wide selection of lenses whether full frame FX glass, or DX lenses which have been designed for the APS-C sensors, and can therefore be smaller and lighter.
Both of these cameras can be purchased either body-only, or bundled with a kit lens. As the addition of a kit lens can add as little as US$100 to the total price, this can offer great value. The lens most typically bundled with both cameras is the Nikkor 18-55-mm F3.5-F5.6 G VR II DX, which offers wide to standard zoom (27-82.5-mm equivalent on these cameras) with a variable maximum aperture and built-in image stabilization.
While this lens is a perfectly good place to start your DSLR journey, the whole point of buying a DSLR is that it give you the ability to change lenses. As such, you might also want to check out our guide to buying your next lens.
There's not much to call between the two cameras when it comes to autofocus, as both feature a Nikon Multi-CAM 4800DX autofocus sensor module. 39 phase-detection focus points, of which nine are the more accurate cross-type sensors, mean both cameras should be able to keep up with all but the fastest moving subjects.
Nikon has stated the D5500 features improved full-time autofocus for video recording, though given we've not heard much more than that about it, this isn't going to be the sort of performance boost we saw when Canon introduced its hybrid AF system with the EOS 650D.
Both cameras boast a top continuous shooting speed of 5 fps at full resolution. This is comparable with other DSLRs in this category, but is beginning to look a touch sluggish in comparison with what some mirrorless cameras are able to deliver.
With a wide maximum ISO range of 100 to 25600, either of these cameras should be able to deliver high quality images in a variety of lighting conditions. While the D5300 has a narrower standard ISO range of 100 to 12800, it can be extended to shoot at ISO 25600 equivalent.
Full HD 1080p video recording is possible at up to 60/50 fps on both cameras, as is HD 720p video. The Nikon duo also feature an audio input for connecting an external microphone, though lack an audio out for monitoring level while recording. The D5500 also boasts the option of using a "Flat" color profile, which could be useful when it comes to post processing footage.
Being DLSRs, both cameras use optical viewfinders, in this case with 95% horizontal and vertical frame coverage, meaning users will see a slightly cropped version of the image produced by the lens.
Optical viewfinders differ from the electronic type which is commonly used on mirrorless systems in that they they do not suffer any lag between what is happening and what you can see. However, they're unable to show what effect camera settings will make on the final image.
The big change between these cameras is the rear LCD monitor. While both are 3.2-inch articulated offerings with 1,037k dots, the newer D5500 monitor has been updated to a touchscreen, a first for any Nikon DSLR. This means users can use the screen to control settings, touch to focus, or review images with familiar gestures like pinch-to-zoom.
This will no doubt help the camera appeal more to some potential buyers who are used to using smartphone screens, and could also be looking at mirrorless cameras which probably also have a touchscreen.
As is standard for most Nikon DSLRs, both cameras feature a pop-up built-in flash and a hot-shoe for mounting an external one.
As you would expect, both of these cameras are able to shoot either JPEG or RAW (14-bit or 12-bit), or a combination of the two.
As is typical of most entry-level and mid-range DSLRs, these cameras both use SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards. Each has just one slot, rather than the two which tend to feature on higher end DSLRs.
The Nikon D5300 was the first Nikon DSLR to feature built-in Wi-Fi connectivity (previous models relied on an optional adapter) and the D5500 follows suit making it easy to share images instantly, or even use a compatible smartphone or tablet to remotely control the camera.
However, the older D5300 does have one notable feature which has been removed from the D5500, built-in GPS for geo-tagging images with location data. Users of the newer D5500 will need to use the optional GP-1A accessory if they want their camera gain GPS powers.
The Nikon D5500 is able to carry on shooting considerably longer than its predecessor on a single charge of the standard battery. This brings the new camera's endurance in line with higher end models.
It's clear Nikon has not re-invented the wheel with the D5500, it is very-much an evolution of the D5300, which featured in our 2014 round-up of the best entry-level and mid-range DSLR. That said, the changes will make it more appealing to potential buyers who are probably also looking at mirrorless systems, which we guess was the point.
The addition of an LCD touchscreen to the D5500 is an interesting one. While the jury is still out on whether cameras really need a touchscreen (they don't currently feature on high-end and pro models), it's certainly a feature that many camera buyers are looking for. Other changes which also make the camera more appealing are the, albeit minor, size and weight improvements and the increased battery life.
In terms of photographic potential, there's not really much to call between the D5500 and D5300, they both feature 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensors, the same Expeed 4 image processor, and the equivalent 39-point AF systems. As such, we'd say that if you already have the D5300, you probably shouldn't upgrade to the newer model unless you really want that touchscreen.
If you are deciding between the two cameras it probably again comes down to how much you value that touchscreen. For some it will no doubt be worth the extra $150 with a kit lens, or $200 body-only, while others might rather make the saving and put the difference towards their next lens.