Nikon launches the D5500 advanced beginners DSLR

Nikon's D5000-series DSLRs are aimed at advanced beginners, photographers who are still learning but keen to experiment with creative techniques and effects.

The previous D5300 looked a hard act to follow, with its 24.2-megapixel non-anti-aliased sensor and articulated screen – it even had GPS and Wi-Fi built in – so it's no surprise that the new D5500 looks like an evolutionary step forward rather than a major breakthrough.

Touch-screen control

Nikon might not see it that way, though. The company is very excited about its new touch-control screen. These are common enough on compact system cameras, and Canon's been using them on its DSLRs for a while – but this is the first time Nikon has embraced touch-screen control in its D-SLR range.

The 3.2-inch, 1,037,000-dot screen is the same size and resolution as the one on the older D5300, but you can now use it to focus, shoot and change camera settings like the lens aperture, ISO and shutter speed.

It's active even when you're composing shots in the viewfinder – with the D5500's 'Touch Fn' feature you can use touchscreen gestures to control up to eight different camera settings, including focus points, AF area modes, aperture, and ISO.

In playback mode, the touchscreen uses gestures every smart device user will know off by heart – you swipe to flick through your photos and pinch to zoom in.

Nikon D5500 vs D5300

Nikon has swapped over to a 'monocoque' construction for the D5500, which makes it 60g lighter and 6mm slimmer than the D5300. It also has a new, deep grip for improved handling.

The sensor specifications stay the same, but as with other new Nikons recently there have been a host of minor improvements which do add up.

The standard ISO range has been increased to ISO 25,600 (on the D5300, this could only be accessed in 'expanded' mode), but the 5fps continuous shooting speed is unchanged.

The D5500 also has Nikon's Picture Control 2.0 system as seen on the D750, including a new 'Flat' mode which will be especially useful to videographers because it preserves the maximum dynamic range and is ideal if you're intending to edit your video later. Otherwise, the video specs are the same as the D5300, offering 1,920 x 1,080 full HD at frame rates up to 50p/60p.

There is one more significant, if unglamorous improvement – the battery life has been boosted considerably, so that while the old D5300 managed a respectable 600 shots on a single charge of its EN-EL14a battery, the D5500 can manage 820 shots. That is really good for an amateur DSLR, and one area where DSLRs have a clear advantage over CSCs.

Only one thing is missing. The D5300 had GPS built in, but there's no mention of this in the D5500's specs or in Nikon's D5500 vs D5300 comparison table.

Prices and availability

The D5500 will be available from February 5th 2015. It comes in black or red versions, and in a choice of lens configurations. The body-only price is £640/US$900 (about AU$1,110), or if you buy it with the Nikon retracting 18-55mm VR II lens it's £720/US$1,000 (about AU$1,230). It's also available with Nikon's longer-reach 18-140mm VR kit lens for £900/US$1,200 (about AU$1,480).