Nikon D5500 review

It's not a huge upgrade from the D5300, but at last we have a Nikon DSLR with a touchscreen

Nikon D5500

With an identical sensor and processor to its predecessor, we weren't in any real doubt that image quality from the D5500 would be good. As before images are very pleasing, with lovely bright, but accurate, colours in the majority of situations.

Outright resolution

The lack of an anti-aliasing filter over the 24.2 million-pixel sensor makes for some great detail in shots. I used a macro lens for part of this test, which I think really shows just how capable the camera is of picking up detail – see the shot of baby sweetcorn in high resolution for an example.

Nikon D5500 sample image

The D5500 can capture very high levels of detail.

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If you wish to change the colour settings you can use Picture Controls, such as Vivid to boost colour. There are also other options, such as Landscape and Portrait. The new "Flat" mode is great if you want to take control in video recording, but it can be good if you want to adjust a JPEG in post processing on a computer.

Read more: Nikon D3400 review

Nikon D5500 sample image

Skin tones are accurate while other colours are bold and punchy.

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ISO and noise

The overall impression of detail in JPEG images, balanced with the appearance of noise is pretty good when looking at images taken at higher sensitivities at normal printing and web sizes. It's only from around ISO 3200 where you can see image noise present at these kind of sizes, and even those taken at ISO 6400 are usable at small sizes. If you examine a JPEG image taken at ISO 800 at 100%, it's possible to see some image smoothing, but noise is kept to a minimum.

Nikon D5500 sample image

At ISO 3200, detail is still good if you view at normal printing and web sizes, but if you examine at 100%, you'll see some image smoothing and noise starting to appear.

Click here for a full resolution version.

Travel up to higher sensitivities, such as ISO 3200, and at 100% it's possible to see some chroma noise speckling, but it doesn't have too much overall impact on the picture when viewed at a normal size. Of course it's better to have a shake-free picture with some noise than a blurry shot taken at a low ISO.

You can cap the camera's ISO Auto range if you don't want to use those very high sensitivities, and also useful is the ability to set a minimum shutter speed. This helps to ensure you're not using a slower shutter speed than is safe to use handheld, and therefore prevents image blur.

Focus performance

As we have found before, Nikon's 39-point phase detection AF system is fast and accurate. Even when using the supplied kit lens, the D5500 is able to lock onto a subject with ease, especially in good light. If the light drops, there is a little more indecision as the lens will sometimes hunt to acquire focus – however, it's only in very dark conditions where the camera struggles to find focus at all. If you can, changing to a higher quality lens with a wider aperture lens is beneficial in these circumstances.

Nikon D5500 sample image

There's a big range of lenses available to use with the Nikon F mount, including a 10-24mm lens designed for APS-C sized sensors and allowing you to capture ultra-wide scenes.

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With the introduction of a touchscreen, along with the ease with which you can activate Live View, it would be easy to assume that shooting in this fashion is desirable. Although it is very useful for some shooting conditions, for example still-life macro subjects where an enlarged view can be beneficial for checking critical focus, for other kinds of subjects it's less than desirable. In lower light, or if the subject is moving, the speed of autofocusing is not quick enough to make it particularly workable. In these cases, it's generally better to stick with the viewfinder.

Exposure and white balance

On the whole, the D5500's metering system does a pretty good job of helping to produce accurate exposures, but dialling in a touch of exposure compensation can be useful in some situations (such as high contrast scenes) to get a more pleasing exposure. Similarly, the automatic white balance does a good job, although it can sometimes err ever so slightly towards unnatural yellowish tones under artificial light. In which case, it's beneficial to set to a more appropriate White Balance setting, such as Tungsten.

Nikon D5500 sample image

The D5500 offers a range of creative effects. This one is called 'Pop'.

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There's a host of digital filters available under Creative Mode. It's worth giving these a look to see if you enjoy using any of them. It's a shame that there's not a greater variety available, but Toy Camera is quite fun if you like that thing. It's a shame you can't shoot them when shooting raw and JPEG format images simultaneously though, leaving you with a clean version of an image if you decide down the line that Photo Illustration isn't quite the look you want.