The Nikon D5500 was premiered at CES today and the new features packed into it are stunning. Marketing has been focused on the touchscreen and the smaller size. It’s a completely new feature in Nikon’s line-up. Even other companies have been slow to implement it. It’s used mostly in lower end, or beginner cameras, like the Canon 650D and 700D. Big companies reserve only the best, tried and tested features for the professional level cameras. We think that the ability to focus anywhere on the screen with merely a touch of the object is key in many situations. Several applications, like macro photography, where you can’t recompose easily to accommodate the position of your classic AF system poins are in dire need of this feature. Portraits shot to the side of the frame, random objects you want to catch in focus, focusing in video – these are all examples where touch to focus works much better than moving the point with buttons, a joystick or wheel. Live-view auto-focusing is not as fast as the traditional, trough the viewfinder, but it’s definitely more useful in many situations. When the day comes that the first is as fast as the later, the DSLR will be an obsolete concept.
Wi-Fi is finally included within the camera. No more adapters are needed to transmit your files straight to your computer. Other companies have been quicker to adapt this into all their cameras. Nikon finally came to their senses and made it a built-in feature. You can use the program to copy files to your smartphone and computer, and even shoot remotely using Android and Apple devices. It seems that the Nikon D5500 is where the Japanese company finally decided to join in with the rest of the pack.
The swiveling screen on the Nikon D5500 is very similar to the ones on Canon 650D and 700D. You can pull away and to the side from the body (where it’s facing in the default position). Being to the left of the camera you can tilt it 270 degrees, so you can shoot from virtually any angle behind, above and under the camera. This is most useful for low angles in landscape photography and higher angles for events, where you might need to stretch above a crowd. Nearly impossible to get right the first time without the swiveling screen. It’s also very useful for waist-level shooting, which is often use in lower-standing portrait sessions.
Videographers will rejoice as well about the features of the Nikon D5500. Apart from the flexibility of the angles with the new screen, you get 60 fps fullHD video. Combined with a flat picture control and mic-input makes this a powerful video recording tool. Nikon also made a microphone for its DSLR cameras to prove their commitment to video. In the recent past, Canon has been the only DSLR accepted as a good camera system for shooting video.
Frame rate is adequate for the 5 series line-up. 5 pictures per second – which is just right. Fast enough to shoot sports, which is complemented by the 39 AF points, 9 of which are cross-type. That is a good set of specifications for a second tier camera (the D3xxx series being the first and lowest). The 24 mp resolution is plenty to work with for most people. The differences in the megapixel race, at this level, is indistinguishable. 24 seems to be the gold standard for high resolution cameras since 2008, but there’s really no need for more with crop sensors and the lenses made for them. To aid in the picture sharpness Nikon have done away with the Optical Low Pass Filter. The lack of an OLPF clears the sensor from the associated blur with this addition. This technology was first introduced in the Nikon D7100, carried on to the D800E and the D810. The Nikon D5500 is the first entry-level camera to omit this filter.
The company didn’t come up with an explanation as to why it skipped the D5400 name. It’s a somewhat known fact that in the Japanese culture the number 4 is unlucky. Olympus made the PEN 3 and then jumped straight to 5 for this particular reason. But with the existence of the Nikon D4, D4s, D40, etc, we know this is not the case. We think the real reason is that they wanted to embed the leap made forward with the features on this camera into its name. The Nikon D5500 brings many innovations to the market, making it just right for users starting out, but also a very useful tool for more experienced photographers as well. Its biggest leap ahead is the versatility of the tilting and swiveling touchscreen, combined with a great AF system and smaller size that still incorporates great ergonomics, it proves Nikon are looking forward and innovating. To this we say: finally!