Review: The Nikon D5500 (or, a solution to the compact 50-e problem)

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Yes, it still balances. Not taped up because I hadn’t gotten around to it at this point.

I’ll be the first to admit this is an unusual camera for me to bother reviewing, and an even more unusual one for me to land up buying and using fairly extensively. But I think all will make sense by the end of the post. The D5500 is the fifth and latest in the line of consumer-grade articulating-screen Nikon DSLRs, starting with the D5000. It has a single control dial, a fully tilting and reversing touch LCD, the 24MP AA-less Sony sensor of its senior D7200 sibling, 5fps 14bit (compressed, though) shooting capability, and the lightest, smallest, most compact body of any Nikon DSLR to date. Did I mention it has a carbon fiber monocoque to keep weight down and rigidity up?

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This is really a very, very small camera.

All of you will be aware that there are a lot of wide to moderately wide fixed-lens large-sensor compacts available; the choices in the 28 and 35mm range are so diverse there’s bound to be something for everybody. We have everything from the extremely compact Ricoh GR to the larger (but supremely versatile) Leica Q, and other niche cameras like the Fuji X100 series, Sony RX1RII and Sigma DP0 and DP1. I’m sure there are probably one or two others I’ve forgotten. Of these options, only the Sigma (in DP2 form, but that’s arguably another camera entirely) and Fuji (via teleconverter) offer any ability to reach a longer focal length. Most of the time, we can achieve the majority of the desired photographic results with no more than two perspectives: something wide, and something in the long-normal to short-tele range. Preferably, both of reasonable speed to maximise shooting envelope handheld. The problem is, there hasn’t been very much in the latter camp. Granted, we have the mirrorless options with compact lenses: M4/3 and 25mm (the most compact of which is the Panasonic GM series with a 20 or 25mm) – but tracking and low light abilities are questionable. There’s the Sony A7 series, but they aren’t that small or light or responsive. And the wide cameras have serviceable crop modes, to a degree. But for some reason, I’d never considered the more compact DSLRs – and here we are.

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APS-C means you can have a narrower field of view with a physically shorter lens, and maintain size; the whole body can be smaller, and the field of options is a very mature one. Consumer product cycles are so fast that if the current camera is missing something mission critical, chances are the next one will fix it. And they’re so cheap that if you wait a generation, you can get one for about the price of a Leica lens hood – and that price probably includes a kit lens or two, too. I’d actually argue that for the volumes produced, these things are actually almost binary products: either they work properly, and all of the machines involved in producing them are set up and calibrated correctly, or they don’t – they’re so out of whack you’ll be able to tell straight away. For the most part, all of the consumer DSLRs I’ve had have worked flawlessly – even shrugging off unintentional accidents (falls, mostly) from heights that would have at least dinged a metal body, and quite possibly put the mount, sensor and finder out of alignment.

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Initially, I wanted the even cheaper and more basic D3300, but two things stopped me: firstly, the camera’s pipeline is 12 bit compressed only, and the grip was nowhere near as comfortable as the D5500. The D5500 is the next logical step up, but costs almost twice as much (a whopping $695 or so for body only in the US, but I’ve seen them below $500 in Asia). I balked because relative values seemed somewhat skewed: that’s a lot of money to pay for a tilting screen, better grip, and 14 bit pipeline. In truth though, that’s probably about what my A7RII depreciates in a few months.

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Highlight handling is impressive. Many cameras I’ve tried fall flat when it comes to clouds and skies…

The D5500 has two (perhaps three, depending on the user) major limitations. Firstly, it has a single command dial – this means you have to push a button and turn for exposure compensation, and there’s no easy way to access exposure compensation in manual mode (I think of this as a deliberate meter bias). Secondly, the pipeline might be 14 bit, but it’s 14 bit lossy compressed. There are different compression regimes, of course – and it seems that Nikon’s isn’t quite as destructive as Sony’s. From my experience with a couple of thousand files though, the data loss is in the deep shadows and only visible if you push the shadow recovery, and sometimes for very long exposures. Secondly, there’s no AF fine tune function; this is by far a bigger problem because it will impact the overall crispness of your images in a far more visible way since small focusing errors can quickly erode resolution.

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I found that in daylight, autofocus was spot on out of the box with all of the Nikon G lenses I tried it with. But the camera would back focus dramatically under incandescent light; the warmer the source, the greater the back focus. I can only assume this has something to do with the phase difference path length for longer wavelengths; I remember even the D800 receiving a firmware update to rectify this at some point in the past. My other Nikons do not display this problem, but it’s been a known issue with some of the midrange lineup and some of the Pentax cameras, too. Sending the camera back to Nikon to be recalibrated did not yield an improvement. There are really only two solutions here: a filter to cut the more extreme wavelengths so the AF system does not see them in the first place; or shoot live view. I suppose one could get another body and have it adjusted to front focus in daylight so it would be correct in incandescent light, but that seems rather extreme. You could of course just go mirrorless to begin with, but you’d be giving up the D5500’s responsiveness and superior tracking ability in daylight (CAM4800DX, 39 points, 9 cross type).

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To me, the main reason to put up with these fairly major limitations is because it ticks the important boxes I had in mind for a tool of this purpose: it had to deliver decent image quality, be responsive in all ways, light and small enough, and offer the right lens selection. There’s a bit of a catch to the second requirement, though: too small and too light would compromise ergonomics and stability, and a small sensor doesn’t really cut it for printing or client applications. (I was also thinking if this could in some way replace another D800/810 body and occasionally used tele zoom for location work, then I’d gladly take the weight saving.) I think Nikon have done a great job with the grip and button placements: the camera’s overall size is tiny, weight negligible at 420g and grip comfortable even with very large lenses like the Otus 85 pictured above. Like all Nikons, it powers on and shoots instantly, and there is virtually no lag between half press and capture. Unlike the higher end cameras, it does not appear to have parallel processing so you must wait for the buffer to finish writing before reviewing an image (though all other functions work as normal). Fortunately, write times are very fast and there is almost no wait in practice if you are using a sufficiently speedy card. Battery life is very good, too: I’ve not been able to drain one fully in a day, and I estimate somewhere around 900-1000 shots/charge in practical use.

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What I find really perplexing (or surprising, depending on whether you’re using the D5500 or something else) are the features that are found on this camera only, and never made it to the pro bodies:

  1. Fully articulated LCD.
  2. Touch implementation – very well done, with a responsive interface and no unnecessary virtual button clutter. There’s touch to focus, touch to shoot and swipe to browse, but curiously double tap to zoom is missing.
  3. The LCD’s touch portion remains active even when the LCD is deactivated; you can use it to adjust exposure compensation, aperture, or move your AF point around like a trackpad (similar to the Panasonic cameras). The latter function is fantastic for tracking moving subjects or dynamically changing composition. I’d say it’s just as good as the Leica SL‘s joystick, or better.
  4. IR remote, with receiving ports on both front and back (I’m looking at you, Sony). Why we must be restricted to the cable only or an expensive solution that blocks the hotshoe is beyond me – surely that $15 button is good enough, and an IR receiver can’t cost that much?
  5. Manual focus rangefinder, showing you how far out of focus you are, and which direction to turn the ring. I find this gives me a very good idea of the depth of field transition of the lens and when I’m actually in-focus – the hit rate with this camera and it’s tiny finder seems higher than the binary left arrow/OK/right arrow of the D810.
  6. Live view implementation: firstly, there are guide marks for 16:9 aspect ratio (presumably for video use, but also useful for cinematic stills) and secondly, thanks to the touch screen, you can both quickly move the focus/zoom box to anywhere in the frame, and return to centre instantly (D-pad centre button). The pro cameras are very slow to scroll, and you either have return to centre or instant zoom, but not both.
  7. Carbon fiber body: the D5500 inherits this from the D750, but it’s an interesting haptic feel: light like plastic, but not hollow or creaky. The body is very rigid and feels good in the hand.

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There are also plenty of niggling things in addition to the big ones mentioned previously I don’t like, but can live with:

  1. No mirror lockup or EFC
  2. Unnecessarily crippled manual metering: unless your lens has a chip, you’re 100% manual only. Even in live view.
  3. Smallish raw buffer: just 7 shots at 5fps and then a noticeable wait even with very fast cards; pace your shooting and you’ll be fine, though.
  4. Drive mode defaults back to single or continuous after a single shot with the timer, and it doesn’t remember the remote option if you cycle power
  5. Useless button duplication: the ‘i’ and ‘info’ buttons do pretty much the same thing. Why not make at least one of these programmable?
  6. No way to toggle auto ISO from the shortcut screen or buttons
  7. No double tap to zoom to 100% in playback
  8. Post-capture review doesn’t always show automatically
  9. Compressed raw
  10. Notchy shutter release

And then I remember it’s a consumer body that will probably drop to the $400-450 price point by next year. It’s almost cheap enough to have a couple of them permanently set up differently for different shooting conditions.

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Lens options are one of the other fundamental reasons why you’d go for one of these over mirrorless. The D5500 has no built in focusing motor, which means you only get AF with AF-S/SWM lenses; but manual focus implementation is good, and you’ve got that rotating screen for waist level shooting plus fairly responsive live view. I’ve been using it mainly with the AFS 35/1.8 DX G, the AFS 55-200/4-5.6 DX VR II, and occasionally the AI-P 45/2.8 and Sigma 18-300/3.5-6.3 C and 18-35/1.8 lenses. The first two make for a very light and versatile pair; resolving power is high and the shooting envelope is fairly large. They’re also extremely inexpensive; in Japan the D5500 is bundled with the 35, 55-200 and 18-55 for under $900 – that’s insanely good value for more than enough capability to cover just about every photographic situation imaginable. The 18-55 is a bit of a dog and cannot adequately resolve for the sensor at seemingly any aperture. The 45/2.8 I really wanted to like on this camera for size and weight reasons, but it seems to be outgunned by the sensor until f5.6 or so, limiting usefulness. I’d rather carry the 55-200 with a little more bulk (but curiously, not much more weight) for the versatility and stabiliser.

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A word of warning, though: a 24MP APS-C sensor is a demanding thing. Equivalent to something like 57MP full frame – you’re actually going to need much better lenses than you think. Unsurprisingly, the Otuses still sing, as does the 180 APO-Lanthar and 2/135 APO, but other lenses that are very good even on the D810 – like the 45 PCE and 85 PCE – are starting to show their limitations. The humble 24-120/4 VR does well, but the 16-80/2.8-4 was a disappointment. Lastly, the Sigma 18-35/1.8 reveals itself to be a very, very impressive bit of optical engineering – it’s actually better than the other primes I’ve got in that range, and just as fast. Better still, if you invest in the USB dock, you now also have AF fine tune capability – at four points in the zoom range and four subject distances, too.

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It’s time to talk about the elephant in the room: image quality. All other considerations are secondary if the camera does not deliver here; fortunately, it does. Sony continues to once again demonstrate they can make an extremely impressive sensor, but fail to fully exploit its potential themselves. The 24MP unit has an impressive amount of dynamic range – in practice, it seems to be quite close to the D810 (which I’d rate at 14.5 stops or so). You probably lose 1/2-2/3 stop at the shadow end, which is an impressive performance considering the pixel density. Nikon has also managed to retain some of the tonal response characteristics of the D810, i.e. a very gradual/natural highlight rolloff and good color accuracy. Acuity is high, but not as high as the larger pitch sensor; you’ll need a bit more unsharp mask to get to the same perceptual sharpness at the pixel level (say 250 vs 180 or 200; but it is capable of getting there with the right lenses).

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High ISO/low light performance is similarly encouraging: I’d use it without hesitation up to 1600; up to 3200 with careful exposure (exposing to the right is extremely critical to keep noise down in the shadows, regardless of the final brightness intention). This puts it about a half a stop to a stop behind the D810, which is consistent with the dynamic range performance and suggests both sensors are ISO-invariant to a degree. With proper exposure, the camera retains very pleasing tonal characteristics even at the higher end of the spectrum; filmic is often overused but came to mind in this case. All in all, it’s safe to say you’re not going to be disappointed with the image quality of this thing. It’s a cut above M4/3, pretty much at the state of the art for APSC, noticeably above the 5D-series at low ISO (much better dynamic range, no AA filter) and a hair above the D750/D610 in both detail and dynamic range (again, no AA filter, newer sensor technology). It matches the Q in acuity with the right lens, and by extension, the SL. I went back a number of years to compare it with files from previous cameras, and honestly, it left the D3x in the dust, too. The repeated feeling I had was that this was really a 66% of a D810 for about 25% of the cost.

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I initially bought this camera mainly because I wanted a longer lens partner to the Q, but something a bit more responsive, fun and lighter than the A7RII. I then discovered it actually had a whole bunch of features that weren’t even in my D810, and that image quality was far beyond initial expectations (but also demands on optics) and more than good enough as a second camera for a lot of my professional work, too. I didn’t have very high expectations going in, given the price point and intended target market – but I’m now convinced that Nikon have done themselves a huge disservice by not marketing this thing properly. It is not a mirrorless camera, but it’s a really good reason why mirrorless has still got some way to go before it will unseat DSLRs even at the low end of the market.

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Even though the D5500 lacks a lot of bells and whistles, but perhaps because of that it is a very good camera; it gets the photographic part of things very, very right. I enjoy shooting with it much more than I initially expected, and keep coming away with two thoughts: firstly, it’s remarkable how far the consumer level product has come since the early affordable DSLRs, and that even at this level, there’s a firm feeling that the camera is far more capable than the operator. It makes me question why we are willing to pay many times more for not that much more utility. It felt like an enabler rather than an onerous drag – no doubt helped by the ‘less serious’ feeling which in turn encourages experimentation – and for that reason alone I think it merits a strong recommendation. MT

The Nikon D5500 is available in various body or kit combinations here from B&H and Amazon.

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Comments

  1. Andrew Peverini says:

    Would shooting on a DX sensor with FX lenses maintain the perspective of the lens and only change the focal length, or would both be affected? For example, shooting a 28mm FX lens on an FX camera gives a “spaced out” perspective. If the 28mm FX lens was then placed on a DX camera (like the D5500) the focal length would change to (28*1.5=42) 42mm. But would the perspective still be “spaced out” or would it be “more compressed” like that of a hypothetical 42mm DX lens?

    • There’s no difference between a ‘lens for DX’ and a ‘lens for FX’ – the real focal length remains the same. With a 28mm lens on DX, you’re seeing only the inner portion of the image circle.

  2. Hey Ming,

    I’ve been a Micro 4/3 guy for a while, currently with an E-M1 / GM5 and quite a few lenses. Tried several other larger-sensor mirrorless systems (Fuji X, Sony FF), but didn’t love either for different reasons. Looking to step up to something APS-C and really like the size and handling of the D5500, despite the OVF. I’m usually a still photography guy, but will likely be needing to learn video in the near future for parenting reasons. I’m not looking to replace my micro 4/3 setup necessarily, but do you think the D5500 is enough of a step up in terms of potential image quality (DR, high ISO, resolution) to justify buying in to a separate system? I’ve been looking at the new Olympus 12-100mm f4, but wonder if that same money couldn’t be better used with a D5500 and some good primes (or the Sigma 18-35mm f1.8) and maybe a telephoto zoom. What are your thoughts on the D5500 vs E-M1?

    Thanks!

    • It is a significant step up in IQ, though you need the right lenses for it. I’d stay where you are for the time being though – handheld video is much better on the E-M1 and I dare say it’s easier to shoot your kid with one of those. And congratulations in advance 😉

  3. Looking at your recommended list it seems that you sold the D5500. What did replace it?

    • Nothing, then I pinched the 100D my wife wasn’t using. It’s an inferior camera in every way, but Nikon has no AF pancake lenses making the whole carrying setup much larger. The 100D and 24 or 40mm fit in a large pocket.

      • Thanks 🙂
        I’ve been shooting with the first sony RX100 for long now. It’s still fantastic for travel and even social events in the evening.
        I recently borrowed a oly M1 and the 12-40/pro. Completely different experience in handling (of course), nice iso going up and the look and feel of images (perhaps because of DOF). I would love to take a step up in quality and shooting experience. I found your description of D5500 interesting but learned something different when I realised the price and weight of your lenses. Seems a bit heavy and expensive for a hobbyist. Also I don’t want to buy a camera and then have trouble with back focus. I probably want more than I need … 🙂

  4. Hi,
    Something caught my attention in your reveiw that I wasn’t aware of.
    You mention that one can use the touchscreen to select AF point even when th escreen is truned off.
    Does that mean I can keep my eye in the optical viewfinder (not in Live View mode), and select AF point and tyrack moving subject with my thumb on the touchscreen?
    Thanx for confirming.
    Also, deos the D500 exhibit a similar behavior?
    (can’t find any info on that)
    Thanx

  5. “The 18-55 is a bit of a dog and cannot adequately resolve for the sensor at seemingly any aperture”

    This is so true. This summer I’ve been trying out a D3300 (a compact lightweight DSLR with usable viewfinder size being something of a holy grail for me), and although loving the camera itself (I prefer the handle on the D3300 to the D5500, and it also has a larger viewfinder), but have been sadly disappointed with the kit lens. Yes its nice and small, but it has horrible IQ. In fact my 16 MP Sony Nex 5N with kit lens resolves far more detail than does my 24MP D3300 with its kit. I appreciate that I have an excellent copy of the Sony kit, but regardless, this is a poor show by Nikon.

    None of this would be a problem if Nikon provided a compact trade-up midrange zoom lens to go with the nice size/weight offered by the D3300 and D5500. But unfortunately they don’t. The Nikon 16-80mm on offer weighs in at 480g and as Ming also states here, doesn’t even cut it in the IQ stakes either.

    As so often before I find Nikon’s NPD department failing to join the dots. Yes the company needed some compact DSLRs to combat their size/weight conscious customers hemorrhaging to Sony’s NEX and A lines, and yes they did a great job with the D3300 and D5500. But then they blew it by offering only ONE compact lens to go with their compact DSLRs, namely the horrible 18-55 kit.

    All the other Nikon zooms on offer completely negate the size/weight advantage offered by their compact DSLRs.

    The bizarre logic, or perhaps just complete lack of logic which led to this sad state of affairs reminds me of the great Sony FF mirrorless – “size/weight advantage” – fiasco. But that’s another story. What Nikon compact DSLR’s need is a lightweight, compact 16-60mm f3.5 upgrade lens with an emphasis on stellar IQ, and an compact lightweight 12-20 mm also with stellar IQ to go with it.

    Anything else simply renders the rationale behind the creation of a compact, lightweight DSLR, meaningless, even if as reported here the D5500 itself is a great camera. Just my tuppence worth.

  6. Patrick Cork says:

    Hi Ming,

    Excellent review.

    I purchased the D5500 and a Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED Lens. I have the camera 6 months and I have yet to take a photo that I am actually happy with. I’m not sure if its me or this combination of camera and lens but my

    1st concern is that the photos are lacking sharpness as against my perception prior to purchase.

    2nd is that when on manual mode after inital setup, to change apture & white balance I have to switch off and on the camera to regain access to these controls.

    3rd Wifi features are so limited. that anyone looking to purchase this camera to use this feature should be aware of its limits.

    I’m at the stage where I’d love to be using it more but its not worth the effort against using my phone and using that camera..

    Thanks again for your review if you have any advice I would be most welcome.

    Patrick.

    • I think you likely have a defective camera. 1 and 2 are not normal; 3 I have no idea since I don’t shoot with wifi. There is quite a lot of sample variation with lenses, so this is an additional possibility. Beyond that, not knowing how you shoot, it may well be partially due to operator error too…

      • Patrick Cork says:

        Many Thanks Ming for your time & feedback. Going to return it and get it checked out and see what happens from there especially over my 2nd issue. . Again Thank you.

  7. I have done tests with D5500 and Nikkor AF-S 85 1.8 G on various AF points. Points on the left side give me +/- ok focus. Around center mostly front focus, smaller towards the top, bigger front focus on bottom points. On the right side: top right point – strong back focus, farthers right – front focus, etc… So, I have front/back/ok focus depending on the particular AF point. I’m afraid that AF micro adjustment would not help much for this (if there was one). Additionally approx one of ten photos taken is focused very strongly towards front. So strongly, that there is nothing sharp within the frame or maybe just little strip of the floor at the very bottom. I’ve repeated the test with another lens, Nikkor AF-S DX 35 1.8 G and I got very similar results.

    • That sounds like something in the AF system (sensor array, one of the mirrors) is misaligned/tilted rather than a lens problem – or as you point out, something AF fine tune cannot solve.

      • Ming, what you describe in the review is exactly what I’ve experienced in the past with several Nikon bodies….a shift in the focusing correlated with color temperature. In my experience, this is almost certainly autofocus mirror misalignment, a problem that from my reading of online material and talking to other Nikon users seems to have been quite widespread in Nikon bodies from the late 1990s up to about five years ago and still crops up occasionally. For a long time, my understanding is that Nikon tested focus accuracy only at 5500 K, which in practice meant they weren’t getting a proper alignment check which requires measurements at two color temperature settings. I don’t know if they have switched this routine or not. Tilted one way, a misaligned AF mirror would produce back focus at 2700K, correct at 5500K, front focus at 7000K, by bringing together the split beams of light for phase detect focus in the correct place only at the single color temperature at which Nikon had tested focus accuracy, and varying degrees of mild back focus with mixed indoor lighting depending on the source; tilted the other way (which I honestly haven’t encountered), you’d get front focus under incandescent, back focus with 7000K bright cloud.

        I noticed this phenomenon just a little with my D2HS but kind of blew it off. I noticed it some more with my D200 but again, kind of blew it off. A wedding where I rented a Fujifilm S5 that focused my 17-55 perfectly ought to have been the tipoff, but I kept muddling along. Then came the D7000, a camera which broke new ground for volume of autofocus-related complaints in web forums. With the D7000, of which I had two, it was too much for me to blow off–after a lot of trial and error on testing, I described in great detail to Nikon what was happening, including, crucially, the color temperature correlation, and also the fact that it was more pronounced with newer lens designs than with older ones and most of all with the 17-55, and after a week, the service order came back, as AF mirror misalignment, and I got a heck of a lot more educated about how phase-detect autofocus works. Both bodies were repaired under warranty, both adjusted, one of them also needing a new AF mirror, and I never had trouble after that; the focus reliability was rock solid.

        The D800 bodies, by the way, which both needed the left focus fix (physical alignment check and adjustment of every key focus related component in the camera, followed by loading in a new corrected stock AF profile from Nikon and then spot-checking it) even though they were quite late in the production run, have never had this mirror problem that I can see. There was clear and persistent back focus on the left side with every lens prior to the new profile…..but they already had the big firmware update from 2013 that addressed other focusing problems. They still occasionally get fooled under lights that cycle and with turbulence in the air.

        I hope this post is helpful and not too late. My sense is that this is happening far less with Nikon since the D7000, but it should still be something people check for if there’s any kind of a light-related pattern to focusing errors.

        • I agree – the pro level AF systems don’t appear to have the shift with color temp, though they had other issues (as I reported with the D4 and D800/E.) The later ones – D5, D500, D810, D4S, D750 – all seem to be okay.

  8. Shane Hick says:

    Hi Ming. Would this camera do landscape photography well? I shoot a lot of sunsets and really love Olympus and Fuji colors straight out of the camera and their compactness but this camera does warrant attention at the price point. Would you take the d5500 over most mirrorless offerings for landscape photography?
    Cheers

    • Yes. Dynamic range, and to a lesser extent color, are better than all of the small sensor mirrorless options.

      • Shane Hick says:

        Thanks Ming. A few of the online forums claim that the lack of autofocus adjust can mean trips to the manufacturer when you buy new lenses. Is this something potential buyers should be concerned about?

        Cheers

        • Two ways around this: buy in person and test at the time of purchase, or get Sigma Art lenses like the 18-35 and 50-100 (which would be my choice for this camera anyway) and use their USB fine tune dock 🙂

  9. Christian says:

    Dear Ming, I admire your work and writing. Thanks a lot for sharing!
    I currently shoot with a GR and a D700 + 50 1.4 and 85 1.8. Mostly shooting street, available light portraits and my daughters. After having read your impressions on the D5500 I feel tempted to swap bodies mainly due to the reduction in weight
    1) Apart from that, would I loose in IQ and/or potential for BW conversions?
    2) Would the Nikkor 35 AFS 1.8 G ED (FX) a + the 50 1.8G be a decent replacements of the lenses mentioned above?
    Many thanks for your thoughts.

    • Hard to say as I’ve not shot the two side by side, and it’s been a long time since I last used a D700 body. My gut feel is that the D700’s AF is probably still superior, but the D5500 is likely to exceed it in image quality.

      35DX > 50/1.4 in resolving power and sharpness, but not necessarily in rendering.
      The 85/1.8 G is still better than the 50/1.8G. The 50/1.8G is not that good a lens on the D5500 because it simply doesn’t have the resolving power wide open.

  10. Mahendra says:

    DxoMark has almost equal specs for D5500 and Sony A6000. In the case will the IQ of these two camera will be identical.

  11. Whow what a review, thanks a lot
    I am planning for a Nikon D5500
    But I am able to decided which lens to buy with it.
    My choices are Nikon 18-140,
    Nikon 35 -1.8mm and 55-210 4.5-6
    Or the sigma 17-70,17.50
    Please suggest.

    • I’d go with primes where possible.

    • bakermo says:

      Hi Mahendra. I’m probably too late to respond, but anyway. I have bought D5500 with 18-140 kit lens and was not disappointed at all. Especially if you stick to the aperture priority for most shots and use f5.6 or f8 and everything in between as this is a sharpest aperture for this lens according to dxomark. It has a really useful focal range and at 140mm you get nice portrait shots. I’ve just purchased 18-35mm Sigma as everybody is crazy about it online and though I really enjoy wide aperture I can definitely feel lack of zoom range and Vibration reduction. The pictures come out a little bit sharper on Sigma but not by much (if you stick to sharpest f stops on Nikon). And it is because of VR, which makes massive difference when hands are shaky. I like Sigma and I will keep it, because of the f/1.8 which offers a lot of advantages, but I also love my 18-140mm and I’m not gonna sell it as I originally planned when purchasing Sigma.

  12. Great review Ming, and I’ve been thinking along the same lines since I saw the review at dpr for this camera. Since I’ve sold my D810 and a couple of other things (long story), I’m free to think a bit out-of-the-box, and I made a suggested setup that could be very interesting to try out:

    http://www.getdpi.com/forum/nikon/58131-selling-stuff.html#post687517

  13. Thanks Ming,
    I couldn’t agree more with your assessment. I have been a M43 user for quite some time and decided to buy a d5500 last Xmas on a terrific deal here in HK (around US$ 430 for the body!!!!). Along with the d5500 I bought a Sigma 17-50 f2.8 EX DC OS HSM lens (which is again on a terrific deal here) and a Nikon 85mm f1.8g. I’ve been using these 2 lenses for 2 months now and am very happy with this combination. I mainly shoot stills and nighttime street stuffs. The dynamic range and the high ISO performance of d5500 is excellent and on par of that of d7200 (I borrowed my friend’s d7200 to compare the IQ using the same lenses with same settings and conditions). I can’t really tell the difference in the IQ between d5500 and d7200, and it appears that the sensors in these 2 camera are pretty much the same in performance. The Sigma lenses, albeit a five years old model, holds up beautifully with the 24 MP sensor and I can extract a lot of details from the raw files shoot at under-exposed conditions. Just wondering why not much has been mentioned about this lens in this post. Cheers, happy shooting!!!

    • There is a difference between the 5500 and 7200 – the 7200 has a lossless compressed raw option, which might be visible under more extreme conditions where you do heavy tonal manipulation and posterization may become visible – but 99% of the time, the compression algorithm is pretty good and you won’t be able to tell the difference. 14 stops of usable DR in my experience.

  14. Hey Ming.

    I have an olympus em5 with kit lens and I’m tossing up between the d5500 the em1 w 12/40 or the cheaper Sony mirrorless models up to $2000 AUD for an upgrade.

    Would you choose this camera over the others.? (I’m guessing its probably the same 24mp sensor in the sony a6xxx range?)

    I mostly shoot landscapes and a little bit of action.

    Cheers 🙂

    • Yes, because the image quality is higher – Sony somehow never quite manages to get as much as Nikon out of the same sensor. The A6300 may well follow action better though – bigger spread of AF points. No idea though as it isn’t a camera that’s ever interested me to be honest – nor is it even available…

  15. Hey Ming, what about D5300? Its almost 5500 without touch screen right….

  16. Hey Ming, if price is not an issue (it is and is not, I could get the prime lens for the difference) , what could really convince me to take this camera instead of D7200? Btw. D7100 is only slightly more expensive, would you share some light on how does it fare with both?

  17. Hello Ming. Very interesting and informative article. Thank you. I have two questions. Do you think It would be worth buying a D5500 if I own a D5100 based on IQ? & what is your critique of the 50 1.8g over the 35 1.8g for DX? I have owned the 50mm for years but recently switched to the 35mm. I miss the cinematic look and the smoother focusing i got from the 50mm, it also performed better with long night exposures and CA but the 35mm is sharper wide open and i find the 52mm equivalence is more versatile. I take a lot of photos of my 1yo daughter (your recent review on this was great) so the extra FOV is very useful, especially indoors.
    I would own both as they are both so cheap but it made my head hurt trying to decide which one to use every time i picked up my camera. As there is only 15mm difference, would you recommend getting the 85 1.8g? (I owned the 55-200, it wasn’t for me). The 85mm is a lens i have been tempted to match with the 35mm for a while (especially after reading your review) but have previously used the 50mm in their place as a one lens approach, which it did quite well until it became too tight for purpose. I, like most people wish Nikon would release more dedicated DX lenses, especially at the wide end.
    I was all set on buying a Fuji X100T for ultimate portability as i travel to London often for business, but for that price i could upgrade to a D5500 (or get a 85 1.8g) and buy a Ricoh GR.

    • D5500 has more dynamic range and much better highlight tonality. (I owned a D5100 previously). The 50/1.8G is not sharp wide open on the D5500, the 35DX is. I’d personally go with the 85 if you want reach and a more cinematic rendering. Sharper than both the 35 and 50, too.

  18. I now wonder how, or even if, the D500 fits into some sort of multi-body and compact setup. The body is bigger and considerably more, but it is a high-grade run and gun camera. The DX lens choices kind of leave a void in dramatic wide-angle prime territory, something a PJ, street or documentary photographer would want. So, like we have seen with Ming, the DX provides the reach and isolation in a small package and another body (like the Leica Q) provides the 28mm FOV. Interesting times for gearheads.

  19. Hi Ming, I took your suggestion and bought a GR and am very happy with it. I need more flexibility and am intrigued with the 5500 and the Sigma 18-35/1.8. Given the admitted variability of the quality of the Sigmas would it be a difficult task to test the lens? Would having the lens on a D7200 make it easier to test? You have to excuse my lack of knowledge. The only other digital camera I have owned was a D70 wit the 18-70 kit lens and I really didn’t give focusing issues a second thought, although I probably would now.

  20. A J Pearson says:

    I picked up a D5500 after reading your thoughts about it on the site. I’m always on the look out for something I can carry easily- the best image quality in the lightest package. Compromise, compromise. The sheer weightlessness of the body is remarkable, half the weight of my K3! Sits in the hand rather well. But Nikon lenses are a mystery to me, most of my stuff is Pentax. So where would a happy snapper like me go for something a little more polished than the permanently stopped down 18-55 vr kit? Seems there’s some pretty strong opinions on here about where Nikon are with their lenses. It’s a shame we can’t expect our purchases to be consistently good through the zoom range. I’ve also realised I would have to pay three-times-as-much-and-a-bit more than I paid for the Nikon to get an X Pro 2 without a whiff of a lens. Ouch.

  21. Very true about how far the lower-level products have come. The D7200 and even D5500 feel more solid and well designed to me than even the D100 did (or so I recall, it’s been a while). And if you compared it to, say, an N90s….jeez.

    • Yet I suspect a lot of N90s still work, but will the D5500 in ten or fifteen years? I don’t know. I don’t see that many D200s around these days, let alone D100s and D70s…

      • True, but as we agree the D5500 is a lot more solid than either of those cameras, so maybe digital has matured to the point that we’ll start seeing more longevity.

        • One can only hope. Digital has also matured upwards in price, too 😦

        • You make a good point, Lee.
          As digital has progressed, the improvements of new models have become more incremental.
          By the year 2020 I’m guessing a 2016 or 2018 camera will both be quite capable and that the 2018 model won’t be appreciably more desirable than the 2016…or even than he shinny new 2020 model.

          Might be a bright future buying and using digital cameras.
          “Yes sir, the new Pixelflex IV is $4500 but you could have this Pixelflex III for $3200.”
          “Whats the difference?”
          “Well, the Pixelflex III cannot be programed to start your car when you turn it on in the morning.”

  22. Your focusing problem is quite likely due to mirror-angle misalignment. If the AF mirror on these cameras is even slightly out of alignment, the camera’s response on AF is correlated to the color temperature, leading to back focus under incandescent and front focus under bright cloud if it’s tilted one way, or front focus under incandescent and back focus under bright cloud if tilted the other way. Nikon’s default is to only test at 5500K. Both my D7000 bodies arrived like this and I strongly suspect my D200 and D2HS had a bit of the problem as well. Fortunately, none since. Nikon repaired both D7000 bodies under warranty and “AF Mirror Alignment” is what showed on the repair order, along with a handful of replaced parts. Some lenses produce a more severe effect with this situation than others, with the 17-55/2.8 being particularly persnickety on this point. I found I had to describe the pattern of focus response in considerable detail to Nikon to get them to get it right, but basically testing at any two different color temperatures will reveal the nature of the problem (e.g. incandescent and sunlight).

    • Thanks for the tip. I’ll get in touch with Nikon again to see what they can do…

    • Thanks for the tip. I’ll get in touch with Nikon again to see what they can do…

    • I do love my D5500 but I’m also mad because of it’s autofocus inaccuracy with AF-S DX 35 1.8 G and also AF-S 85 1.8 G. I’ve sent it three times to the Nikon service and they did calibration but no real improvement could be seen. Probably they just moved the slider in the software a little bit towards front focus but that didn’t eliminate variations. At the fourth time at the Nikon service I managed somehow to speak to the manager and then they did also – as they said “little hardware correction”. I think it was AF sub-mirror alignment regulation. That produced better result, but still not what I want. Now I have pretty good AF accuracy with above lenses in daylight and in bulb light but only within small to mid subject distance and not all AF points. At far distance to the subject, like 50 metres or more there is growing front focus. This is not practically visible with kit zoom lens (this is comprehensible because DoF is bigger with kit lens).

      • It could also be focus shift with distance with those lenses?

        • Probably so. And also the most right-top AF point gives significantly different focusing result than other AF points – really back focus. It’s so pity, because I’m so happy with all the rest of this camera.

        • Mahendra Doshi says:

          sad to note that a company like Nikon is sending such products in Market. High time Nikon and Canon improves their product line up or they will not exist in some years to come

        • The 85 lens is brand new and both lenses have been tested at Nikon service and no problems found. My lenses also work very fine with my D70s and F80 cameras.

    • Did you ever get a reply from Nikon? Regards.

      • I’m not Ming but wanted to mention that after seeing this problem on my D7000, I finally fixed it by getting out an Allen key and adjusting the stop that determines secondary mirror angle. That, plus a tiny tweak of the main mirror stop and the variation of focus with light temperature is essentially gone and I can leave the fine-tune value at zero. I aged a decade in an evening while making the adjustments but it was worth it.

        • The D5500 no longer has these adjustments…

          • Hi,
            In fact it has. It can be tuned exactly as explained here : http://afpphoto.com/2012/06/d3200-backfocus/
            After a bit of diving I found how to adapt the process to the D5500. It’s quite the same as described in the above linked page, only not the same tool : the wrench must be a star/torx one with size T6 (can be found in any good tools shop here in France, maybe we are lucky, don’t know). You can-not use a 2mm hex wrench on this camera, it won’t work at all, only the T6 will do. Of course, still have to be careful not to touch the sensor with the metallic tool.
            I only tuned the autofocus (deepest screw) because the presumably manual one (front screw?) seems to be just OK on my copy.
            I had a serious back focus on all my lenses (others than the 18-55 kit one) and the correction works well for most of them now. I only had to turn the screw a bit clockwise (down, so) and in 4 or 5 times tests+tune cycles it was OK. I did that on the 16-80 (for which I seem to have a good copy too… though I guess I’m far from being as picky as you are with lenses :D) and it comes to work as well on the 50 1.4 and the 35 1.8 DX too (the only two other lenses I put on this camera on occasion). What is also cool is that the AF seems to be much more accurate too in incandescent light and bad light conditions. As it is really easy to do and not expensive (in time and money) I bet it can be tried before sending back the camera to Nikon (with probably no success, at least here in France the service is totally inefficient when it comes to that kind of fine tuning work for standard customers).
            Hope it will help, because your blog has learnt me so much these last couple of years, I would be glad if I can do something for you.
            Cheers.

  23. Ming, I own the Nikon 16-80 as do two pro friends of mine. I am a retired pro of some 45 years and I can say your comments about this lens are totally off base. I have tested the long end both on charts and at infinity. Sad. Makes me seriously question your other reviews.

    • I’m not ruling out that I had a bad sample, but several bad samples is extremely unlikely. If you guys have good samples, great! Enjoy them.

      Perhaps you should also ask yourself what possible motive I might have for reporting anything other than the truth. What’s really sad is that you imply any disagreement with you as a lack of credibility on my part without asking yourself if there might be legitimate reasons why first.

      • Reading the reviews (e.g. from lenstip.com) and user experiences, there must be at least significant sample variation or QC issues. And why not, the somewhat similar Canon 15-85IS had its own share of problems, some of the more critical users reported having to try multiple copies before finding one that was even acceptable. And the Nikon 16-80VR is 1/2 to 1 stop brighter!

        Such a 5x WA-to-tele zoom for larger sensor is extremely vulnerable to alignment issues etc.

  24. Interesting post. I’ve had the X-T1 for about a year now and like the files but not as much as my D700. The lenses are really very nice but for quickness and capturing “the moment” in candid photos I always seem to miss a beat which never happens with the DSLR. I bought it for travel after becoming frustrated with Nikon’s lack of response to my oil spluttering D600 (of course they then replaced all those shutters after I sold it). I have really come to enjoy the tilty screen for low and high angle shots and hadn’t really considered the 5500 but it’s almost the same weight, has the screen and can share my other Nikkor lenses. Wish they had some nice DX primes like Fuji does but this article is food for thought; perhaps I will take the plunge and get one. Did you really have to try 3 35mm primes before getting a good copy? I’ve got the Fuji 14, 35 and 56 which really shine; wish I could make that system work for me but maybe it’s smarter to just move on.

    • The ‘miss a beat’ is EVF lag: you’re seeing something slightly after it happens, and you either have to learn to anticipate that or keep both eyes open when shooting.

      35 primes: yes; the cheaper something is, the less money goes into production. The first thing to go is usually QC. The target audience is unlikely to know any better anyway…

      • Best Buy here in the U.S. had a sale (unintended) for $500 for the D5500 w/ 18-55mm VR II so I couldn’t pass on that opportunity to give it a try. So far, I like what I’m seeing and the touch screen is really a nice feature which hopefully will creep into all their bodies. It makes this camera quite usable without the usual buttons…haven’t decided if it will stick with me or not as I’m still sorting out what to do about lenses on the wide end. Wish I could have traded the 18-55 for the 35 mm f/1.8. Still, it’s wider that anything I have in my FF kit so for now it’s useful. Now that the D500 has been announced, I’m hoping that there will be some DX primes in the WA spectrum. Until then, any thoughts on the 18-35 Nikkor (which I could also use on FF)?

  25. Hi Ming,
    Just curious, would you recommend any of the Voigtlander or Rokinon lenses to go with the D5500?
    I’ve heard that the Rokinons (also Samyang?) are surprisingly good for the price.
    As I get older, the idea of a fast, light, cheap and always with you camera appeals to me more and more.
    Plus, it fits in with the “do more with less” (it’s more the photographer than the camera) ideal.
    Thanks!

  26. Ming; my comments are perhaps a little late but I wanted to add my thanks for streerinf me towards the D5500. Your review as usual captures the spirit f the camera as well as its technical capabilities and features. As a ‘street’ camera I’ve given it a solid workout over the past month or two and I have to say I am very impressed with its AF speed and above all the quality of the RAW files you get from this little wonder. I can’t help thinking that Nikon should be making more of this camera. Anyway, if anyone wants to check out some more street images shot with the D5500 – here’s a link to some from London’s streets:-
    https://flic.kr/s/aHskrYuK9x
    All the best for 2016
    Mike

  27. As I haven’t had a current (Olympus E-1, E-5) dSLR, I ended up buying the D7200 but was steered toward the D5500.

    This blog entry has helped confirm my feelings about the D5500. Thanks!

    I’ve probably become too comfortable with micro Four-Thirds, but it’s a great way for me to get work done. I’m continuing to learn how to work through Nikon, but it feels as though every problem is a new user problem.

  28. Awesome review, I have always wondered how these little cameras would hold up to a discerning pro’s use. As someone who has switched from mirrorless back to SLRs twice now, I still just can’t get my head around mirrorless cameras. I prefer SLRs, even if they have a few less features and are bit more bulky. The consumer DX SLRs seem like a great compromise.

    I also think this product tier is one of the areas where Nikon just wipes the floor with Canon. The lower end Nikons feel like a well engineered product made for a crowd that wants a simpler, more beginner friendly camera whereas the Rebel line feels like they stopped designing it halfway through. I use a Rebel at work sometimes for some menial photo tasks and I am just blown away by how plasticy it is and just how poor it feels in the hand. And that’s before diving into those menus…

    Nikon makes no junk (well at least in their SLR line 🙂 )

    • Short answer: just fine. It’s our expectations that need a bit of a recalibration. If you gave any pro one of these back in say 2006/7, they’d be over the moon – it would probably have been the A7RII of it’s day 😉

      I quite liked the smaller Rebels, but I agree that they didn’t really have the precision feel of the Nikons; all of them could use AF fine tune though 🙂

      And don’t get me started on the ergonomics of the DF!

      • first of all, thanks for the great review (and others thanks for many good comments). Indeed this looks like a great camera but it needs AF fine tune; my other concern is (S)WA lenses for DX.

        I’m currently using a Canon 450D with the 15-85IS and 10-18IS for general/landscape shots and several macro and long tele lenses mostly for ‘wildlife’. The Rebel AF is so slow and inaccurate that with the tele lenses I mostly use MF … I have been looking for a replacement for a long time with a better sensor, tilt screen, fast and reliable AF and a bit higher framerate. I like small/light cameras but can accept more size/weight in return for a great viewfinder and much better AF.

        Canon doesn’t make the camera that I want but several recent Nikons come very close in features. The Nikon sensors (especially the better low ISO DR) are a major advantage compared to Canon, and the Nikon 4/300PF lens (with TC?) looks very attractive to me for hand-held wildlife shots instead of my current Canon 4/300IS. D7200 is out because of lack of tilt screen. With D5500 I’m wondering if I will have similar AF woes as with the Rebel (working in daylight most of the time). I’m even looking at the new D500 because it gets so many things right including a great viewfinder and very capable AF, but it is relatively heavy and I don’t need the high framerate and the potential shutter noise that goes with it. I have also considered the D750 because of its potential for landscape style shots (many good lens options), but for wildlife FX sensor has obvious disadvantage plus D750 still has some IS issues with the 300PF lens.

        Regarding lenses I’m surprised how many mention the Sigma 1.8/18-35. I know it is a great lens optically but due to size/weight it doesn’t make sense to me with this camera. I haven’t found any alternative yet that could get the most out of this 24MP sensor in the 24-50mm equiv. range (extra tele reach considered a bonus), either a zoom or 1-2 primes. There doesn’t seem to be a Nikon lens in this range that does this sensor justice (maybe the same would go for my current 10-18IS and 15-85IS when upgrading to a 24 MP sensor, don’t know …). I don’t need a bright lens, as long as it has AF and is sharp into the corners for landscape/city shots.

        Any suggestions?

        • Unfortunately there are no tradeoffs when it comes to optics…good is almost always large, too. All of the other alternatives I’ve tried have been pretty disappointing.

  29. I get it – it’s a joke. Very funny, but not very constructive.

  30. Hi Ming,

    How would the Nikon 5500 with the 20mm Sigma Art compare to the Leica Q?
    And would this combination be superior or similar in performance (although not size) to the Ricoh GR for travel and carrying a camera daily?

    Excellent review! Wrapping my head around it!

    • Not such a simple question to answer, actually.

      The Q still has a considerable edge. You give up a stop on the sensor, gain 2/3 stop on the lens (though the Leica’s lens feels a bit better to me optically, so for equivalent performance perhaps it’s a wash) and of course IS and size. The shooting envelope of the Q is much larger in practice. Compared to the GR – the 5500/20 would gain a bit on the sensor, two stops on the lens, and stability – but you also need higher shutter speeds because you now have a moving mirror and more pixels per angle of view. That means in practice perhaps two stops better shooting envelope, but at the expense of much size.

      I don’t think I’d want to carry the 5500/20 daily though – simply you’re carrying around a lot of extra glass to cover FF, and ~600g plays ~1.3kg(!)

      This is not to take anything away from either 5500 or 20 Art – both are exceptional bits of kit in their own right – but I don’t think this combination makes much sense in practice unless you happen to already be carrying one or the other for some other reason, and then adding one is incrementally marginal.

  31. “Carbon fiber body: the D5500 inherits this from the D750, …”

    This statement is actually incorrect on at least two points – the material used is not carbon fiber “as is” and the technology/material is not inherited from D750. The material is still plastic, it is just reinforced with some amount of carbon fibres. The material is carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastics (CFRTP) called Sereebo, produced and trademarked by the Japanese company Teijin Limited, which developed Sereebo in 2011. So we cannot say D5500 is made of “carbon fibre” like we can say for some tripods, that are actually made from carbon fibre itself. The Sereebo just uses a small amont of this same carbon fibre material, used for strongening the plastic which is the base of the new material. Read more:
    http://www.teijin.com/news/2013/ebd131017_13.html

    And while Nikon really did use Sereebo for the production of the D750, the first camera using it was D5300, announced in October 2013, followed by D3300 in January 2014. Only then followed D750 in September 2014 and D5500 in January 2015.

    • Technically true, however: Carbon fiber ‘as is’ in tripods is still carbon filaments (though longer) in a resin/ plastic matrix. The only difference for the 5500 is the length of the fibers and the type of matrix…

  32. Hi Ming,
    I had a bad experience with old school sigma lenses. They always seemed to have focus or qa issues.
    Ever since, Sigma started cranking out their Art lenses… Is this largely a problem of the past?
    Or is it necessary to get the usb dock to fine tune sigma lenses?
    The D5500 sounds like a bargain, based on your review.
    Thanks, as always!

    • It seems to be a problem of the past. I’ve got three Art lenses here, and they haven’t required any more tuning than my Nikon lenses – all of which required some degree of fine tune. Worse, some cannot be adequately tuned because different points in the zoom require different amounts of correction. The 5500 lacks any fine tune capability, so you can at least get some adjustment latitude with the Sigma Arts that you wouldn’t have with the Nikon. Even if you don’t have AF issues, I’d get the dock anyway since the difference in performance is significant when tuned properly…

  33. A longish while ago I tried one of the 5000 series and couldn’t see the tiny autofocus points light up. I always use centre-point focus, but I recall that it was easy to knock the focus point off the centre point. So, two things: What are the focus points or areas in the viewfinder like compared to rather nice rectangles in the the 7000 series? And can the focus point be locked so it stays where it is put?

    • They’re glowing rectangles but not intensely lit ones like the D3/4 etc. I think they’re similar to the D7000. There are no ‘extra rectangles’ other than the active point. I don’t think it can be locked to centre, but by default the centre button on the multi selector resets to middle.

      • I have an X100s and I was thinking of an X-E2 with 18-55mm. But I also have Nikon, so I have the lenses. The only thing is that I like the colour rendition and the less contrasty look of the Fuji compared to any Nikon I have owned – so your comment about a filmic look on the D5500 is helpful.

        • Easy to process to whatever you wish if you have sufficient dynamic range. The problem I found with Fujis is the blacks block up fast and leave little room for recovery. Default Nikon colors tend to be a bit Disneyland, but thankfully there are other profiles…

          • Hi Ming, great review and images as usual. Forgive my question, but when you talk about profiling the camera, what are you referring to?

            • Thanks. I’m talking about creating a default set of HSL adjustments for the camera to automatically neutralise color (or shift to taste) on import into ACR. In my case it’s neutralise as I do it against a reference standard and it’s more important for most of my work that color is accurate (especially for product photography) – pleasing is easy to shift later, but not the other way around.

              • René Sterental says:

                Are you referring to the X-Rite camera ICC profile creation? Or is there another method you recommend?
                Thanks!

                • I do it by eye with a calibrated monitor because all of the spectrometers I’ve used seem to land up with a very linear profile; this isn’t the way our eyes work (less saturation as things get darker as we switch from one type of retinal cell to another). I haven’t found a more consistent or better way yet, unfortunately.

                  • René Sterental says:

                    Wow. Do you mean you photograph the target and then visually match it in ACR in the calibrated monitor? Is this described in any of your videos?

                    • Yes, but that only works if you also calibrated your monitor. It’s in PS Workflow II – and the Xrite Passport has red/orange/yellow/green/cyan/blue/purple/magenta swatches that exactly correspond with the HSL channels, too.

  34. Hi Ming, After reading your review of the Ricoh GR I purchased the camera and found its dynamic range and sharpness (no low pass filter) to be superior to that of the A6000. However, it is limited in other areas such as having a fixed lens, no EVF or flip screen, and dust issues. Comparing the D5500 to the GR http://www.digicamdb.com/compare/ricoh_gr-ii-vs-nikon_d5500/ would I also be disappointed with the dynamic range on this camera (see pixel size and Pixel pitch) as compared to the GR. I shoot mostly B&W raw files and I am looking for light/travel alternative to my Nikon D7000. I would “graduate” to a FF but that means more weight less reach. I appreciate your thoughts.

    • Not true. You also have to remember generational changes in sensor technology – the huge 8.8u pixels of the D700/D3 generation have considerably less dynamic range than the 4.8u pixels of the D810. In practice, the D5500 yields a bit more DR than the GR – I find it to be very close to my D810, and confirmed by DXO – 14 EV for the D5500, 14.8EV for the D810, and 13.5EV for the GR.

  35. Lennart Hansson says:

    Thanks for an excellent review, Ming! The D5500 looks interesting to me, but I have two Fx Nikon lenses for my F100: the f/3.5-4.5 24-85 AF-S G VR, and the f/4.5-5.6 70-300 AF-S G VR. Considering what you mentioned about the D5500 sensor’s demand on lenses, would you say that these two lenses are good enough?

    • Sorry, can’t honestly say as I haven’t tested either on the D5500. Extrapolating from the D810, my guess would be the 24-85 is okay, but the 70-300 would not be (or only okay up to ~200mm or so).

  36. Pentax ks2 has two dials, is wr, accepts all heritage lenses, is smaller (though heavier) than d5500 and in some respects has better iq, not in others. I don’t want to bash Nikon or praise Pentax over it, my point is that in the market there are more than one camera that offer almost top notch iq in small size and affordable package (d5500, ks2, a6000 (I don’t know about Canon)). Happy times.

  37. Nice review Ming. I agree, the D5500 is surprisingly sturdy feeling in the hand – it was first thing I noticed when I first held the camera at last year’s CES (wrote about it here: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/55074262). In terms of controls I’ve actually come to prefer the single dial of the D5xxx line (I have a D5100) vs two-dials of the D7xxx when shooting in manual mode – it’s oddly more intuitive (and faster) once you get accustomed to it. I agree regarding the need for AF tune – it’s ridiculous to leave that feature out of a 24MP camera, esp on PDAF systems that have a history of requiring tuning. Btw a quick way to determine if a body+lens would benefit from AF tuning even if they don’t support it in firmware is by manually focusing in LV and then exiting LV with AF enabled and using a half-shutter press with back-button focusing enabled (ie, so that the shutter press doesn’t trigger a new AF cycle) – if you get anything other than a solid AF confirmation dot in the VF then the body+lens need tuning. This is based on my DotTune method.

    • That’s a clever way of checking pdaf calibration! Though I don’t see why the cameras don’t have automated calibration programs…

      • That’s an even better question. Shoot one image through PDAF, switch to LV, AF, shoot one, adjust by the difference in AF position. Easy. You could even do it at multiple distances and points in the zoom range – a sort of automated version of Sigma’s calibration.

      • An age-old question. Some of the “but we can’t, reliably” reasons have been related to the similarity of a real scene to an AF test target (the latter always flat and at right angles to the optical axis, with no regular patterning that could confuse the system), subject identification for comparison, relative size of focus zones in LV and VF modes, yadda, yadda…the bottom line, I suspect, beside the obvious one that they don’t really think casual users will be shooting anything with sufficient precision or shallow DOF to need AFFT, is that manufacturers don’t trust the average user to set up the calibration conditions properly, even if the measurement and calibration process is automated. They may have a point…I see way too many test targets using phalanxes of batteries, or Seimens Stars, or angled rulers…Ming, I’m sort of surprised that you use that… 😉

    • Thanks. You could also AF with the finder, switch to LV, then magnify without focusing – if it looks soft, PDAF is off.

  38. So glad to come across someone reputable and rigorous describe the problem of back focus problems in incandescent light. The Nikon UK support people I spoke with on the phone were astonished to hear me try to explain this exact same problem with the D7000 (which also uses the CAM 4800). I returned it but there was no change – presumably, they test only at 5500K. It’s very frustrating – Nikon’s other focus modules (even the simpler, 11-point unit used by the D90) don’t have this alarming degree of back-focus. I love the combination of lightness and button function offered by the consumer/prosumer Nikon DSLRs but won’t be buying another that uses CAM4800– low-light autofocus is too important for me, and fiddling with AF fine-tune for different light temperatures gets old very quickly.

    • If you have AF fine tune, at least you can just do a global shift. Impossible if your body doesn’t have it to begin with!

      I don’t know if the back focus was still there on earlier cameras, but resolution wasn’t quite enough for us to see it. I do know they only do focus calibration at 5500K, though.

      • The irritating thing is that, even if you describe the problem exactly to Nikon’s service folks, they don’t address it. Clearly, there are some CAM 4800 focus modules that are working correctly in both incandescent light and in daylight (in cool light as well, for that matter, with no focus adjustment required – mine requires focus tune in the opposite direction, as you’d expect); there are also photographers who’ve had faulty cameras with the exact symptoms you’re describing who’ve had those symptoms addressed. For example, see this comment:

        http://www.fotozones.com/live/index.php/topic/48101-front-focus-in-incandescent-light/page-2#entry487464

        There are many on DP Review and other sites who’ve persisted and have had their cameras fixed, as well. I wish Nikon would better educate its own support staff!

        • They don’t fix it because apparently they cannot test under incandescent light (!) – at least here. Or it may be some cameras lacking the correct adjustment (my guess: sub mirror parallax, or an inadequate filter pack over the AF sensor leading to the ‘in focus point’ shifting when the dominant wavelength of light shifts). But yes, it’s really frustrating. 😦

  39. To prevent front-focus in incandescent light, “a filter to cut the more extreme wavelengths so the AF system does not see them in the first place” – please Ming, what filter would you suggest for this purpose? (I have no experience or knowledge of filter use)

    • A UVIR or IR only cut filter will work. It’ll probably help color accuracy, too 🙂

      • Would this definitely solve the focusing issues under different light conditions? Considering getting a d5500 but I don’t want to buy one and have a plethora of issues if it is possible.

        • It should do. Still waiting for mine to arrive to confirm.

          • Thanks for the reply. I’m currently using an LX100 but finding at 1600+ iso there is a fair amount of detail lost. Considering changing to an APS-C and since you are so happy with the d5500 seems like an excellent choice. I do however, take a fair few pics indoors of my kids so the focusing issue could be a concern, although would a slave flash solve it?

            How are the JPEG as well?

            Do you think given my situation a change would be worth it?

            Thanks 🙂

            • I don’t think a slave flash would solve AF issues since focus is acquired before shooting. No idea on JPEGs, I don’t shoot JPEG, sorry.

              I do think there’d be a massive difference between the LX100 and D5500 providing you use a decent lens…

              • Cheers Ming,

                Would a 35 1.8g / 55-200 suffice as decent?

                Thanks

                • Yes, if you get a good copy – there is quite a lot of sample variation with both of those lenses unfortunately…

                  • Thanks again,

                    I’ve been thinking more,

                    Basically my current situation is that I cannot process RAW files as I only have a Chromebook (though I think Nikon is supported with one app on it in fact) and will generally use JPEG. I am a novice photographer looking to learn more over time. I have the LX100 currently as I have said before and find it OK, it is a generally average/good all-rounder but I do find above 1600iso is an issue, and the JPEGs are generally more mushy than RAW.

                    With that in mind, would changing to the d5500 and starting with the 18-55 or 18-105 to begin with be worthwhile? I don’t want to spend too much to begin with as I want to let my skills catch up with the camera (which currently they are no where near) or would persevering with the LX100 be a better idea?

                    • I think the LX100’s limit is about where you put it to be – but a much slower kit lens and less effective VR isn’t going to expand your shooting envelope much…

                    • Thanks,
                      What might you suggest would be a good alternative?

                      I was considering an EM10 + 14-42/45 1.8 as they’re fairly cheap these days. However still a m4/3 sensor.

                      Or a D5500 + 35 1.8 to begin with though I am concerned by the focusing issues indoors.

                    • You’re not gaining anything with the E-M10: same M4/3 sensor, same high ISO performance, similar lens speed, similar stabiliser effectiveness. Honestly – to see a big jump, you’re going to have to go to FF or M4/3 and much faster lenses. APSC loses out because the available stabilisers just aren’t as effective.

                    • Thanks again Ming – sound advice.

                      Are you suggesting I am best sticking with the LX100 then and learning/using RAW? Thanks.

                    • For now, yes. Often limitations are not hardware based at all…

          • Anthony Pavone says:

            Were you able to test the IR filter in incandescent lighting? If so, did it help? I had significant focussing issue’s with the Nikon 35 1.8G. I returned it and am getting much better results with the Nikon 50 1.8G. Not sure if it was a poor copy, but I was thinking about trying it again as 35mm works better for me indoors. I love to bokeh on the 50mm though. Thanks for your insight.

          • Did you ever solve the back focus problem? Regards.

  40. “Unnecessarily crippled manual metering”? What does this mean specifically? Are you suggesting that in M mode there’s no meter showing whether the current settings under/over expose the image? Surely that’s available in the VF and live view.

  41. scott devitte says:

    Have you tried the 30mm F1.4 DC HSM | A? Works with USB dock.

  42. When I first handled the D5500, I came away impressed, and hopeful that the D7200 would follow in the D750 and D5500’s DSLR-on-a-diet footsteps. But it was not to be – the D7200 is basically an internal imaging chain upgrade correcting the missteps made with the D7100. In any case, the D5500 represents Nikon’s sweet spot as far as price/performance is considered – the D7200 is more of a full-control-enthusiast’s tool, the D3300 too basic. It also demonstrates why there probably should be only one, maybe 2 DX bodies, and why that one DX body should be a slightly taller D5500 with a front control wheel. The other DX body would quiet the D400 whiners. But Nikon may have different ideas in store…replacing the D3K and D5K series with mirrorless f-mount bodies. As build-cost-conscious as the D3K and D5K series are, they can’t match mirrorless for mechanical simplicity – and DX will continue to under price pressure.

    But a D5500 with Sigma glass – 18-35 and something, or 17-70 and something else, along with a USB dock, it would be fairly hard to pull away a tracking AF loving photog from a DSLR.

  43. You really made me think. A Nikon D5500 combined with the Sigma 18-35mm 1.8 would leave most if not all aps-c sensored mirrorless in the dust, IQ and cost wise……

  44. Images are superb. I really like the last one for whatever reason.

  45. Gee, I hope Nikon will not revive Coolpix A with this marvel sensor otherwise I`d have a decision problem as a happy GR owner.

    • It will still need VR and a finder of some sort, though…as does the GR(VII).

      • Yeah and better autofocus than either the GR or the A. Zone focusing is hard enough with 16mp, but I found the autofocus basically unreliable with both models.

        • I often shot from the hip or in hurry not having time for finding focus spot. You have a person at some 1,5m and another at 5m. You want both of the to be “reasonable” sharp. How faster AF would help me in such situation, I wonder. I choose f:5,6, snap at 2m and should be there. Of course I would love a DOF button which would with two consecutive presses on near and far object calculate required DOF. Maybe next year?

          • Stanislav, your request for a camera that can calculate the required depth of field in the manner you describe has been around since 1989. Clearly, from this date, you will realise it is a film dslr, Canon’s very first camera in its new EOS range, the EOS 650. In the menu is a setting “Depth” and once set one simply points the camera at the near point, hold down the shutter release half way until focus confirmation is heard, then take ones finger off. Then point the camera at the far point and half press the release again. Wait for AF confirmation then press the shutter release all the way to take the picture. The 650 will set the appropriate aperture and shutter speed. The later EOS 5, the first camera with eye focus points, can also do this this trick and, usefully, has a focus point top left of screen that when your eye looks at it, the camera will give you a DoF preview. All this 26 years ago.

            • Which makes us wonder where the technology disappeared to since 🙂

              • Interestingly, some Canon bodies still have it! I remember an A-DEP mode on my 1000D’s mode dial, that mode automatically tries to have both foreground and background in focus.

              • Ming, speed, speed, and more speed. It seems a main factor demanded today is AF speed where the holy grail seems to be near instantaneous, and of course this runs counter to this slow procedure. But you are right to question where the technology went, even more surprising now, given the more powerful processors used.

          • It won’t help you. MF lenses with proper depth of field scales are best, but even then DOF scales aren’t actually that useful either since the circle of confusion (‘acceptable sharpness’) limits were calculated for film; you need to be a stop or two down for digital (i.e. f8 is really more like f4).

  46. Paul Stent says:

    Hi Ming, Any shutter shock issues with the D5500 ?

    • Intermittent – sometimes I see them at 1/125, sometimes not. Usually with a VR lens, which makes me think it’s some strange interaction between the electromagnetics in both VR system and shutter.

      • I see the same thing with my D7000. Quiet mode seems to help for some reason, but it’s not always appropriate to use.

  47. Once again, great review, superb images and interesting comments below the line.
    Question: for someone with a limited budget who wants to buy into the Nikon system, is new to the medium and has been shooting oly em-5 up till now, is this the one to go? I was thinking along the line of a refurbished 7100 but this article and some previous writing on the site makes me wonder…
    Thanks for sharing your points of view Ming, and all you gems below the line!

    • Thanks Roel. I’d say yes, but with the caveat that if you buy Nikon glass you have no means of AF fine tuning so everything has to be spot on. However, if you get Sigma Art lenses (I’d suggest the 18-35/1.8 and 50/1.4) with the USB dock, you can perfect focus to your heart’s content.

    • Roel, if you’re coming from the land of EVF and CDAF, DLSRs with their PDAF are a totally different beast. You’d best think long and hard about what the Nikon system offers you that your current M4/3 system cannot, and whether the pros are worth it over the cons.

      • There are really only two big things: firstly, image quality; secondly, the optical finder. That’s about it.

      • Thanks for the input. My mane reasons would be DR, low light possibility and image quality. I might always wait for a full frame option to get within my reach, but patience isn’t my strongest quality…

        • Then the switch would make sense, except the low light possibility equation is somewhat negated by the IS system and more accessible fast lenses – you may actually be better off with M4/3 for that purpose.

          • Ok, good to know. Thanks!

          • I was also kind of curious how much overall image quality increase you would gain over the Olympus when shooting handheld? I’ve been printing some 16mp images from my Nikon A that I like, so I really don’t think that 16mp would be as limiting to me. I was pretty set on picking up an em 1 that I can get cheap till I read this article. Also which is going to work in freezing temps with gloved hands?

            • If you have enough light, considerable – both resolution and dynamic range. Low light, not so much because of IBIS.

              Neither is ideal for freezing temps and gloved hands – buttons are too small on both cameras, IMO. The E-M1 has better sealing though.

    • If it’s an option where you live, I recommend renting whatever you’re looking at for a long, busy, weekend of shooting to see if it’s what you’re hoping for.

      • Renting is always a good option (and I keep forgetting it’s a possibility if you live in Europe or the US) – my part of the world the best you can do is buy a second hand one and flip it at your dealer…

  48. It was interesting to learn about the demands of 24mp APS-C sensor. I never realized it but it makes sense. Along that thinking, the D750 is less demanding (i.e. optics and technique) than the D5500, right?

    • It was for that reason I opted for the 750 over an 810, etc. (until I feel that my photography is truly held back by those last megapixels or last 1/10 of 1% of precision i’d rather have a little more leeway) I just grabbed a 5500 for my wife and I have played with it for a few minutes before wrapping it. It is nice and small and it is also good that my lenses will work in addition to those I got for her. Since I won’t be getting a Q anytime soon it’s a nice, compact alternative (assuming I’m allowed to borrow it) and a nice middle ground between the GR and the 750 or bigger. Having said that, I’m really just relying on Mings quality assessment because I have barely shot with it. Thus I’m really speaking form factor and touchscreen focus points etc.

      • Don’t worry. They’re nice files, but it’s mostly redundant since you already have the D750 (unless of course you’d like to have something that gives you a bit more reach with the same lens set, or you want a small backup).

    • Less demanding of optics (except for wides in the corners due to higher ray angles) but equally demanding of technique – you still have the same number of pixels per degree angle of view.

  49. Gary Morris says:

    What a terrific review… despite having a cabinet full of Leica stuff, I also keep a D7100 around due to it’s relatively light weight and faster-than-Leica auto focus. With the 35 1.8 DX and 85 1.8 FX lenses, this camera has proven itself to be an all-around great performer and more than adequate for almost any situation. I picked the D7100 over the D5300 (the D5500 had not come out when I bought my D7100) because of the AF Fine Tune feature.

    I appreciate your breadth of tools… it’s nice that you’re not just in the Otus atmosphere but that you are open to and can find use for equipment across the cost spectrum.

    • Thanks. I do regularly use my iPhone, too – plenty of photoessays from that thing here. Additionally, a lot of the other stuff I use(d) regularly isn’t that exotic or pricy at all – the pedestrian 24-120/4 VR, the 85/1.8G, the GR…

      • Michiel953 says:

        That’s actually (one of) the great thing(s) when you describe/review gear Ming. No pre-conceived ideas, no bias, no hyperbole. Just well worded experience of an expert user.

  50. Peter Greenwald says:

    Great review (as usual). A couple of points that might be of interest: My D5500 back-focused with several of my lenses under artificial lighting (the 35mm f1.8 DX and 20mm f1.8G were particularly bad). I exchanged the camera and the new one works fine — no noticeable back-focus. Also, I believe exposure compensation works in manual mode if auto ISO is on. You can adjust it using the touch screen.

    • Mine does the same (and I believe it was mentioned in the review). Nikon couldn’t fix it after three trips there; the other bodies I tried appear to do the same.

      Exposure comp in manual mode – yes it does, I stand corrected. Not an obvious/quick access control, though.

  51. I’ve said this here before, but wish Nikon would get a grip on the features/niggles list (IR remote would be top of my list as a D810 user). I realise there are technical and marketing reasons why small things end up on one camera and not another, but the constantly moving cheese drives me nuts!

  52. Ming, I referred to the Nikon 200-500 above, but to ask more directly – have you found a super-telephoto (I don’t think you use the huge primes) that can hold up to the demands of the sensor? For example, have you used the new Nikon 200-500 with it? Or the 80-400? Thank you for the review. I debated a bit between this and the D7100, but the refurb price for the D7100 and the superior AF system (I’m becoming a hobbyist wildlife photographer) made it an easy choice for me.

  53. Interesting review, I’m a fan of the D5500 too. I sorta fell for it the moment I picked it up, especially after I had setup the touchscreen to control the AF point. I’d beg Nikon and others to consider putting this function in higher end cameras, it’s far more intuitive than a d-pad or combination of button presses.
    One query- which 18-55 did you get? I use the VR II, with the collapsible design, which I found surprisingly competent for a kit lens.
    Agreed on AF pancakes, and while I’m wishing, I wouldn’t mind an equivalent to the Canon 10-18mm I’ve heard so much about.

    • It was the VRII. Could be sample variation. Wasn’t that excited by it (I have a very good copy of the Sigma 18-35/1.8) so I didn’t bother searching for another copy.

      • I haven’t tried the Sigma, but I gather once you’ve used it, it’s pretty hard to get excited about anything else?

        • I assume the 18-35 – it’s not a case of excitement (though it is an excellent lens, and my copy at least is better than my Nikon 1.8G primes were) so much as there being nothing equivalent…

          • The Sigma 18-35mm is an excellent lens. If they made it in native m4/3 I would be first in line to get one, 35-70mm equiv. is a very useful focal range and could easily replace several primes. There’s always the Speedbooster/Smart adapter route, but the cost would be nearly double. It would open up some other interesting options though, like Sigma 30mm f/1.4. With Speedbooster it would come out 43mm equiv. at f/1.0. If the AF really works as advertised then it could be a pretty neat combo.

            • Actually, why they don’t make one in M4/3 is a good question – but the size would be imbalanced at best, I think.

              • I’m actually wondering why there is no modern 35-70mm zoom available for any system. It would allow a rather compact design even at f/2.8 constant aperture, not to mention f/4. It would make a lot of sense on many smaller bodies, especially smaller mirrorless ones. Anyway, I don’t think the Sigma 18-35mm would be that imbalanced on say an E-M1 with battery grip. That may just be me, I’m used to the weight of the 50-200mm SWD and other 4/3-format zooms, those things are a hand full.

  54. Greetings – thanks for the review. Mention is made of the 16-80. I was hoping that it represented a DX functional equivalent to the 24-120. Apparently not. Do you have enough experience w/ the 16-80 to offer more specifics? Or is it simply a case of not enough performance for the 24 MP bodies, particularly at the price. Thanks.

    • The 80mm end is just soft everywhere towards infinity, lacking contrast, and never reaches ‘acceptable’ – even when focusing with LV on a tripod. I tried several copies with similar results, and none was decentered leading me to think it is a limitation of the optical design. Very disappointing, given the size and price…

  55. William Rounds says:

    I would like to hear your thoughts on the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art series zoom on a Nikon APS-C like the D5500. Have you tried this lens out on this or another Nikon APS-C camera? Perhaps better IQ can be found there?

    • Actually, I own one. It’s one of the most impressive zooms I’ve used so far, period. It is more than a match for the D5500 even at f1.8, and made the 2015 list… 🙂

      • But do you think it’s too big and unbalanced for d5500? Especially for travel?

        • No problems; I found the D5500 grip to be very comfortable – and had no problem with larger lenses even up to Otus 85-size. However, it will of course depend on your own hands…

        • I wondered the same thing – luckily, I already own the body and was able to put a couple of really big and heavy lenses on it to check, namely the Sigma 24-105mm Art, the 50mm Art (that’s just about the same weight as the 18-35mm) and the Nikon 70-200mm f/4.0G. While neither of those big (and in the case of the Sigmas, definitely hefty) lenses felt uncomfortable to hold and shoot, they somewhat defeat the idea of a compact solution – and the 18-35mm is longer (though a tad lighter) than the 24-105mm! That said, the grip on the D5500 is indeed amazing – I was able to shoot the 50mm one-handed in the gloom of nightfall. So I’d say it’s definitely manageable, and considering the fact that the zoom replaces at least three very good primes (and everything in between!), it’s not even that big *and* more versatile. I’ll probably end up buying it at some point in time if Nikon (or someone else) don’t manage to release a couple of smaller (DX) primes soonish. For the time being, I use the big stuff on the D750 – with its even more comfortable grip – and the smaller (Nikon) primes on the D5500, with a strong preference for the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G.

          M.

  56. Remove the mirror, add a EVF. You’ve a Sony A6XX and Fuji XT killer already. Don’t know what has prevented Canon from doing something along these lines. It would be even better hit as the EF mount is more well suited for adapters for all legacy lenses than the F mount.

  57. Have you also considered the Fuji X mirrorless system? Perhaps the X-T1 or X-T10, coupled with the new 35mm f/2, will be even nicer as a compact 50-e setup. It definitely looks quite a bit smaller: http://j.mp/1TZvhNw

  58. Wrapped under the tree for my wife with the 55-200 and 18-55. Figured was a good ” thanks” for her travel-tolerance in letting me zip off to Tokyo for your class ;-). Love the touch-screen-focus-point using FV!! Sorry to hear 18-55’s “a dog”. Paid $615 for kit (nikon cert refurb) plus $135 for 55-200 (raw packaging per your link in recent year-end/xmss gear post). Will soon see if its true generosity or a selfish, self-serving self-gift in disguise…

    • Either one is good, Caleb. The 55-200 is usable at all apertures, and reaches ‘excellent’ at most FLs and f8. The problem is the 18-55 never gets truly sharp everywhere…good enough if you only look at the middle, not so good at the edges. But hey, it’s also not that much money 🙂

  59. Apologies for grammar nitpicking, but it gave me a gentle laugh: “unintentional accidents”…bit like unintended tautologies, 😉

  60. The first time i handled d5500 from my friend while shooting my d750, i couldn’t believe how compact and light the camera is, and even more impressed by the image quality from it in day light, not so diffferent from my d750. I thought at that time i should buy one as travel, back up camera and can use some of fx lenses (50f1.8g, 24f1.8g) to have nice set offl aways-carry camera.
    But the down sides, resulting from dsrl are the thickness, cannot compact enough for everyday-carry bag, and for travel, as I love wide angle, the FF camera always have its seat on my backpack. I wwish nikon can produce this in mirrrorless form, thinner, EVF, then surely I can sell my fuji x-e2 set to have all nikon loyalty.

  61. Steven Lawrence says:

    The Voightlander 28mm 2.8 and 58mm 1.4 might be a good pair for this camera.

  62. Add IBIS and an EVF and you gotta genuine mirrorless killer 🙂 Great review Ming!

  63. Thanks for the review – this might come handy one day as a second body or for wildlife shooting. The main reason I decided to skip APS-C format was lens requirements and availability – you have to go all the way to Otus grade to find any sharp samples at 24mpix, and almost all of those lenses are big, heavy and designed for full frame anyway. I think it will be very useful for many readers that you’ve weeded out the ones that work best.

    While the questions are flooding in, here’s one more: How quick is the live-view AF? Tilting screen on the D750 is virtually useless because of the horribly slow CDAF and shutter lag. Olympus E-M5 is my baseline, so it’s difficult to use any DSLR that way.

    • I agree. Having the lenses already helped 🙂

      There are some small gems, though: the 35/1.8G DX is one, a converted Contax Yashica Zeiss 85/2.8 MMG is another, and there’s the 55-200. The Sigma 18-35/1.8 is a good all-roudner paired with either of the aforementioned teles, and the Nikon 85/1.8G is pretty good, too.

      LV AF: like all Nikons, and nowhere close to mirrorless designed for that purpose to begin with 🙂

    • If you want wildlife shooting with the APS-C, have you tried the new Nikon 200-500 on an APS-C? No, my standards aren’t Otus-level, but I was (and continue to be) delighted by the photos I made with the 200-500 + D7200 when I barely knew what I was doing (I’m mainly a Sony a6000 shooter). Sure, the 200-500 isn’t going to be $5k+ prime sharp, but I thought it was hand-holdable for a full day, the VR was shockingly good, and the resolution for high frequencies like bird feathers was more than I could have hoped for.

      Ming, what do you think? I know you like the 200-500, but did you use it with this demanding little guy?

  64. Gerner Christensen says:

    First the images Ming: Wow .. those might sell some Nikon D5500’s out there. I might even have one two to improve my images >.<

    Fun aside, I actually had a D5500 for a week's time. I have to admit the IQ shown in the files were pretty convincing a certainly both good enough and big enough for what I do.
    I had the vision shooting this little gem with my super selected 24-120/4 lens translating the FL to a 35-180/4 lens and supplemented with my Q I would have all FL's covered in a relative compact set with low weight compared to the shooting envelope available.
    So far so good, but it turned out that a camera body actually can be too small for me, which showed to be the case with the 24-120/4. It became nose heavy and the way I handle the camera during a day's shoot caused pain in my hand wrist at the end of the day.
    I also thought the OVF was a tad too dark for a slow lens like the 24-120/4. That would of course not be the case throwing some fast glass on the body, but f4 seemed to me too much and I felt distanced to, and separated from the scene.
    My needs were too specific and I had the wrong attitude to how this camera could fill in the gaps for me. Nothing negative said about its merits .. it's a fantastic camera all in all.

    • Thanks Gerner. I know the ergonomics didn’t work for you, which is a shame – the IQ is really surprising.

      As for the finder – given how poor the pro finders are already, I don’t think we can expect much more from the D5500. Sadly, they’re all like looking through drinking straws…

      • Michiel953 says:

        That’s the one aspect I found missing in your (informative and well written as always) article Ming; what do you think of the viewfinder? I recall my wife’s 5100’s (long since succeeded by a V3…) viewfinder, which really had a porthole viewfinder compared to say a D700. Now owning an 810, I really can’t imagine that viewfinder to be no better than a 5500’s…

        Viewfinders are important to me.

    • Did you try D7200? It’s probably not that much bigger in a bag, and might balance better. Next year it’s likely to be discounted, too, and costs a fraction of the Q’s price anyway.

      • It’s a good point Tarmo and actually I did. I would have achieved the goal of translating the 24-120/4 into the wanted 35-180/4. But there’s another very important issue that lead me to the D5500, and it was the low weight.
        BTW http://j.mp/1mvOfky approaching D750 weight class.
        I could wish there were more options among the Nikon DSLR’s where weight had priority rather than smallest possible size. I have not the slightest against carbon materials and using those would most probably do the job bringing weight down without giving up strength at all.

      • The Q comes in as a totally different approach to cover the 28 mill focal length. The Q offers and covers something that no DSLR would answer to 🙂

      • Peter Boender says:

        I tried both briefly at my dealer. The D7200 is actually a much bigger and heavier camera. Well, to be honest, it’s the other way around: the D5500 is really surprisingly small and light. There’s no contest here.

  65. Ming, a very interesting review of a consumer orientated camera.

    What this shows, to me, is that what is really important is final image quality, and this depends upon the sensor and processing engine. Your review is rather like a film camera; you can own the best there is, but the IQ will still be down to the film used and how it is processed.

    • Thanks. Processing: partially true, but digital is also restricted by the input data. So if you’re working with small pixels, there’s no way (given equal generations of technology) a smaller sensor can equal a larger one. And some things are physical limitations directly related to physical pixel size and light collection ability, like dynamic range…

  66. Given such high pixel density, will reducing its pixel in camera improves the ISO performance or even improves the performance from a lower performing lenses?

    And I think your review is equally impressive as the otus, in both subjective approach as a user and the choice of words. Thanks for such informative articles.

    • No, you’re better off downsampling in PS – you can do some noise reduction first and then downsample a cleaner file without losing any detail at the lower pixel level…far more processing power in the computer than the camera 🙂

  67. Francois Kaplan says:

    Hi Ming, have you thought of a combination J5 + 32mm 1.2? It is small, fast, good focus and the 32mm is excellent. You get more limited in the lenses, the 32mm is really better than the rest, but it does complement a small wide camera. I asked you a similar question in the past 🙂 but the new J5 combined with the 32mm seems a game changer

  68. Hey, Ming. Thanks for the review! I thought it was due after discovering how many images from this camera were in your Flickr stream! Actually, I acquired one myself just recently – at an insanely low price ($420 or so – not bad, eh?), and I’m really impressed by the image quality so far. I do have a question, though: You state that you bought it initially to have a compact option with a normal-to-long lens, but – have I missed the images from the 35mm f/1.8, or is that lens not up to snuff in your eyes? I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this; I hadn’t intended to buy any new lenses for this camera (thankfully, it balances amazingly well with the Sigma Art primes – and the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G performs exceedingly well, virtually nixing me wishing for a fast 105/135mm …), but the Sigma 18-35mm really tickles my fancy, and the 35mm appears to have its weaknesses, but maybe it’s just my copy, or maybe I haven’t found out to use it to its fullest potential on this very potent body. However, the zoom would somewhat defeat the idea of a compact solution (even though it’d be supremely handy on the street). So, is the 35mm f/1.8 up to the job, or isn’t it? Thank you very much for your considerations! M.

    • A very good price indeed. I was on the fence – as usual – about reviews; sometimes I prefer to enjoy the camera before I inadvertently insult somebody’s religion by publishing one 🙂

      The truth with the 35 is that I always seem to have the 55-200 on it instead; it’s no heavier, not much bigger, and a great good-light pair for the Q. Embarrassingly, I have a 35/1.8 in my dry box but have only used it a couple of times. It’s up to the job, I just haven’t need it yet. But there is sample variation, and check that it focuses properly with your body since there is no fine tune…

      • Thanks a lot, will do – I’m going to “test” it anyway today (i.e. shoot with it alongside other lenses of the same type) and see if my worries are actually unwarranted.

      • Okay, just a little report from today’s test drive of the 35mm f/1.8G DX (among others): The lens definitely needs stopping down to come into its own on the D5500. Wide open, it’s pretty disappointing, even in the center. Bokeh’s rather busy, too. At f/2.8, it gets a lot better – so that’s what I’d consider shooting it at if I want a reasonably wide aperture. Again, this might be my copy, but I thought I’d share this. Still, it seems to be a decent lens for the price – closed down a little, its image quality is quite satisfying. I really wonder if someone has shot this camera with the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 Art – I read mixed reports about that lens, and the 18-35mm zoom seems to be preferable, but I’m still more into compact primes on this body.

        • I think you might have a bad copy. Mine is acceptable in the centre at f1.8, needs f2.8-4 to match in the corners. But I’d say it’s usable wide open.

          • Thanks again for your assessment – I’ll look into it further, though after finding out that the problems seem to be limited to that lens at maximum aperture, I’d rather enjoy what the camera can do before solving what can be considered a marginal problem.

  69. Alex Carnes says:

    I was tempted to do likewise, but opted instead for an X-Pro1 (they were practically giving them away!) with the 35/1.4. I’m not wild about the X-Trans, but I have to say the camera suits me and the lens is wonderful. It’s fast enough for my purposes and the real world image quality is generally excellent. AF certainly isn’t the fastest, but is very accurate… unlike my D810/Sigma Arts which, despite my best efforts, focus wherever they feel like (in PDAF)! Tripod, magnified live view and manual focus only there, I’m afraid.

    Anyway, a great review as always with some stellar images. Lets hope that lovely sensor finds its way into the next version of the Ricoh GR!

    • The Sigma lenses benefit massively from fine tuning with the USB dock – mine are spot on now.

      • Alex Carnes says:

        Yeah I think I’m going to give that a try. Meantime I’ve ordered a 50/1.8 G. It’s nice and light and the 1.8Gs have always worked well for me in the past (with respect to AF performance anyway!).

    • Alex, X-Pro 1. A recent addition for me, too. And I love it, even the X-Trans. This is the closest I get to my M6 shooting experience. No, the Leica M digitals don’t do it for me. With the Fuji I get quasi-M handling and AF to boot. And the f1.4/35 is a cracker of a lens, too.

      • Alex Carnes says:

        I like it a lot more than I expected to, Terry. I’d had an X100S for a time and didn’t really get on with it, mostly due to the lens though: despite the tosh you read on the internet, it’s actually not THAT sharp and it’s very susceptible to flare. Most of the annoying X-Trans artifacts (I’m thinking of the swirly-whirly fine details in particular) rear their ugly heads when you sharpen the images, but the 35/1.4 is so damn sharp I actually find Lightroom’s default settings excessive and reduce the sharpening more often than not! The X100S’s files were often quite mushy, and reacted very badly to sharpening. But anyway, I quite agree: it’s great fun to shoot, built like a tank, and Fuji’s standard lens is lovely. My only serious grumble is that I’m one of those idiots who likes to take night shots with the lens stopped down to produce nice big ‘sun’ stars around street lamps, but the Fujinon doesn’t seem to do them very well. Hopefully it’ll cure me of this daft addiction! 😀

        • Processing Fuji files in Iridient Developer solves ALL fine details issue and gives fuji images the non-AA filter pixel detail of a d800. As far as the software goes, it’s an exact copy of ACR

          • Alex Carnes says:

            I might take a look at Iridient, but I don’t really want to be messing with two commercial applications. If you’re patient and don’t mind messing, rawtherapee does a very good job with X-Trans files, but I’ve long since given up on trying to get what I want out of the software. I salute the effort and commitment from the developers, but man hath but a short time…

        • Hi, Alex. I’ve not really noticed anything untoward with the images I’m getting, so exactly what do you mean by “swirly-whirly fine details”? Have you an example subject matter that could help me look for it? I read that early on RAW converters had issues with the sensor, so could it be a converter problem, or do you also see these artifacts in jpegs as well?

          • Alex Carnes says:

            The problem rears its ugly head with fine textures and patterns; foliage, fine branches, cairns and grass get particularly ugly, and being an archaeologist, I spend a lot of time shooting such things! It took me a while to figure out what the problem was, and it’s more or less due to the way sharpening algorithms interact with Fuji’s weird colour filter. So if you use nice sharp lenses like the 35/1.4 at the right apertures (anything from f/2.8-f/11 is fine) then you’re golden. The X100s’s files tended to need a good bit of sharpening, with results that put you off your breakfast! I got back from a trip to Caithness, reviewed my images, and sold the bloody thing in disgust! That said, I got the closest thing I have to a famous image using the X100S:

            DSCF6330

            Nothing else would’ve got me the shot under the circumstances (I left my DSLR in the car, and =35mm is just right), but you don’t want to go looking too closely…!!

            • How do they print, though?

              • Alex Carnes says:

                Well, my printer is A3+, and the image above just about scrapes home at that. Fortunately that one doesn’t need giddying sharpness to tell its story, so I sharpened as much as I dared without getting a halo over the horizon (which is to say, not much!). In my opinion, you’re pushing your luck with the X100s at such sizes, but the X-Pro1 + 35/1.4 is fine.

    • L. Ron Hubbard says:

      I found the X Pro 1, specifically with the 35mm f/1.4 lens to focus very inaccurately. It was both excessively slow and often misfocused when it did lock. I promptly returned my X Pro 1 and 3 Fujifilm lenses due to the very poor autofocus. Performance on this level is at least 15 years behind the current level of autofocus performance.

      • Everything is relative. Your excessively slow is compared to what? Without a doubt there are faster focusing systems out there, but for my style I don’t need Ferrari speeds of AF; it would appear you need this. In damning the X-Pro 1 it would be useful if you could comment under exactly what shooting conditions it failed you. Otherwise, the comments have little meaning and don’t really assist anyone contemplating it.. I find the X-Pro 1 is totally adequate regardubg AF, it isn’t the fastest, but nor do I find it limiting for my style of photography. Your comment about inaccurate AF focusing is a little odd, albeit you found it so. I’ve never experienced this. Again under what shooting conditions did it fail you? Did you contemplate you may have had a duff unit?

        • Alex Carnes says:

          I gather it was a bit duff with early versions of the firmware. I updated it to the latest version before I even took a shot with mine so I can’t really comment. With the latest firmware for the X-Pro and the 35/1.4, it’s usually deadly accurate although by no means the fastest out there. (My personal experiences with DLSRs leads me to prefer the accuracy of mirrorless despite the fact they don’t lock on as quickly.) It’s also worth mentioning that the 35/1.4 is my only Fuji lens, so it mightn’t work as well with some of the other very early X-mount lenses. From what I’ve seen on the Internet, the recent offerings are very lovely, if expensive.

          • Alex, firmware updates, or lack of them being implemented, is a good point that could have impacted on LRH’s personal experience. Something I hadn’t thought of. Ignoring speed, on-sensor focusing is generally noted to be very accurate.
            My only other Fuji X lens is the f2/18mm and I can report that my sample is inferior the f1.4/35 in every respect. This may be a contender for early upgrade.

            • Alex Carnes says:

              If Fuji make a new version of their 18mm then I would be very happy. An =28 that’s as good as their more recent primes would be a treat, and would probably cause me to buy another X-Something-or-other body and the lens. At the moment, when the D810 is too much hassle (which is a lot of the time!), I carry my X-Pro + 35/1.4 and a Ricoh GR. I reckon Fuji could surpass the admittedly wonderful 18mm that Ricoh have designed…

      • I had similar misfocusing as LRH on X100, X100s and X-Pro1. I’d use the OVF to focus on an eye or some exact spot, only to have the camera focus on the background or something else. I figure misfocusing was caused by parallax or similar error between the OVF and the AF system, but whatever the cause, the OVF hybrid system, while a nice parlor trick, just wasn’t predictable for real world use. I really tried to like the system (I tried all three, and have gone to B&H to try Fuji’s EVF offerings too)–on paper it’s a champ–but for me these Fuji experiences convinced me to stay with Leica Ms and Nikon DSLRs (and m43 for casual).

        • I think all CDAF systems are fallible in a similar manner: it’s isn’t always clear what’s the highest contrast thing in the box – it may not be the thing you intended or the thing nearest to the camera.

  70. Thanks for the review Ming, now this is actually a contender to replace the lost Canon 100D. The D5500 seems to tick a lot of boxes that the 100D did for me (and it’s really not that much bigger or heavier than the 100D).

    Now if only Nikon made some excellent pancake lenses like the Canon 40mm STM.

    • It handles better, too. I’ve played with the 100D on so many occasions with an eye to buying one, but never could bring myself to do it because the price-performance ratio wasn’t quite there – Canon charging far too much of a premium for the size. The 5500 may be a little larger, but it’s also a lot more comfortable in the hand.

      Agreed on Nikon AF pancakes…

      • Oh yes, I forgot to inquire, you mentioned the manual focus rangefinder, is that in Live View only?

        Also since you shot with the Otuses as well, I assume you manual focused using LV-only? How was the experience?

        • No, you just switch to MF and see the indicator in the VF – I didn’t know this, Ming’s review made me look for it. It’s really handy once you get the hang of it.

          M.

        • No, that’s using the exposure compensation bar in the viewfinder – in all modes. I MF’d using the finder actually – LV is much easier but less stable or responsive.

  71. If you want compact, it’s hard to beat a Canon Rebel SL1 with the 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake. No carbon fiber chassis, but very compact and a decent touch UI. I use one with a 55-250mm f/4-5.6 EF-S IS STM as my birding camera (400mm-e at the long end, thus equivalent to the 8x magnification of my binoculars). I have a better body (5DmkIII) and lens (75-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM), but the weight savings from the lighter body and lens mean it’s the SL1 I take with me more often.

    • I’ve been so close to buying the SL1/100D on so many occasions (probably in ‘storm trooper white’, for the hell of it) but always felt it was overpriced – and it never seemed to go on sale in the last couple of years. The samples I’ve seen have been not bad, but not that impressive, either. I went the D5500 route because it has one of the most impressive APSC sensors I’ve ever seen; not far off the D810 at the pixel level. I think it’s pretty similar size-wise, too.

  72. I’ve considered buying one for a while. This might tip me over. Good review, thank you 🙂

  73. Don’t the consumer type dials drive you crazy though? Would for me.

  74. Hi Ming, love the images above and the use of excellent lenses on an affordable consumer APS-C camera – particularly the aerial and cloud shots. Minor correction – my understanding is that after a tear down, Chipworks states the D7200 has a Toshiba CMOS Image Sensor featuring 3.9 µm pitch pixels.

    https://chipworks.secure.force.com/catalog/ProductDetails?sku=NIK-D7200_Pri-Camera&viewState=DetailView&cartID=&g=&parentCategory=&navigationStr=CatalogSearchInc&searchText=nikon%20d7200

    This is identical in all ways to the D5500 sensor, so it would seem that both have a Toshiba sensor. Given the incredibly high DR rating for this APS-C sensor (was in the top 2 for any camera with DxOMark for awhile, the D5500 is a great way to access that sensor.

    http://www.digicamdb.com/compare/nikon_d5500-vs-nikon_d7200/

    Again, many thanks for a professional approach to reviewing an accessible consumer camera.

  75. I agree with your choice – the articulating screen is not of so much value to me as the two dials, the lightweight body as much as the weather sealing. I would even consider 7100 vs. 5500.

Trackbacks

  1. […] series was shot with a Nikon D5500, 55-200/4-5.6 DX VR, Sony A7RII, Zeiss 2.8/21 Loxia, Zeiss 1.8/85 Batis, and Contax Zeiss 2.8/85 […]

  2. […] series was shot with a Leica Q, Nikon D5500 and 55-200 VR II, Sony A7RII, Zeiss Batis 1.8/85, FE 55/1.8, and Contax-Zeiss 2.8/85 Sonnar. […]

  3. […] series was shot with a Leica Q, Sony A7RII, Zeiss 85 Batis, Contax-Zeiss 2.8/85 MMG, Nikon D5500 and 55-200/4-5.6 VR II. You can learn the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop […]

  4. […] series was shot with a mix of the Canon 5DSR and 40/2.8 STM Nikon D5500 and Zeiss 1.4/55 Otus, and post processed with Intro to Photoshop Workflow (not Workflow II: reason […]

  5. […] images in this article from the factory were shot with a Leica Q. Color images were shot with a Nikon D5500 and Sigma 18-300/3.5-6.3 DC OS Macro […]

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