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Hands on with the Nikon D5500 – the small touchscreen DSLR

Nikon D5500 hands-on lens screen rotated

High-quality entry-level DSLR gets new controls, a touchscreen and a smaller body

It’s rather surprising to note that Nikon hasn’t yet had a DSLR with a touchscreen on it, although that all changes with the introduction of the D5500. Designed as an upper-entry-level camera for enthusiasts, the new model sits above the older D5300, which will still be available, and the D7100 in the company’s DX range of cropped sensor models. We popped down to the Nikon School in central London to get a first look at the camera.

The sample D5500 that we saw wasn’t the final product, so while we were able to test handling and try the touchscreen display, we couldn’t take any sample shots with it. Final quality and performance ratings will have to wait until we get our hands on a full review sample.

The first thing to note about the D5500 is the completely redesigned body, making this model both smaller and lighter than the D5300. While the measurements of the D5500 (124x97x70mm, 420g) and D5300 (125x98x76mm, 480g) give you a sense of the changes, it’s not until you pick up the new camera that you really appreciate the size difference.

Nikon D5500 hands-on handgrip

In the hand, the D5500 feels considerably lighter than the older model and definitely a camera that you could happily carry around all day. It’s also better designed than the old model, with the handgrip deeper than on the D5300. It makes the D5500 a lot easier and more comfortable to hold.

The D5500 has a slightly redesigned control layout, too, with the control dial now sitting on top of the body. It’s a tad neater and more modern looking than the old camera.

Nikon D5500 hands-on new controls

At the rear is the brand-new touchscreen. This is the same size (3.2in) and resolution (1,037k-dot) as on the D5300. It also has the same articulated design, with the screen able to pop out to the side and swivel round, giving you huge flexibility on where you position both it and the camera. Of course, the exciting thing this time around is that the new display is a touchscreen.

Nikon D5500 hands-on touchscreen

Nikon has tweaked the menu system to make it touchscreen friendly. It’s now a doddle to quickly tap on the screen and change common settings, including the shooting mode, ISO sensitivity and so on.

Switch the camera into live view mode and you can tap anywhere on the screen to focus the camera on that point and to automatically take a photo (you can disable the shoot option and make this a focus-only mode). In stills mode this is a quick way of focussing on what you want, but it’s arguably more useful in video mode, letting you quickly change the focal point. It’s good to see that Nikon automatically disables the beeping noise the camera makes in stills mode to let you know that it’s focussed when in video mode.

One of the issues of having a touchscreen display is that you can accidentally use it when you look through the viewfinder. For that reason Nikon has added an eye sensor, which turns off the screen when you put your eye to the viewfinder.

With your eye pressed to the viewfinder, the touchscreen can be used with a swiping motion to change camera settings. For example, you can set it to adjust the aperture. Combined with the control dial on the rear, this gives you almost the same level of control as on the higher-end cameras with dual control dials, such as the D7100.

Inside the camera, the specifications are similar to those of the D5300. There’s still a 24.2 megapixel sensor with no OLPF, and the ISO range is still 100-25,600 natively. It’s good to see that the 39-point AF system remains, which puts the D5500 a long way ahead of its nearest competition.

There’s still built-in Wi-Fi, so that you can control the camera via your phone and upload shots automatically. Strangely, GPS, which was built into the D5300, has been removed here.

Nikon is promising better performance, with the EXPEED 4 image processing engine inside. Another side effect of using this is that battery performance, using the same battery, has improved from 600 shots on the D5300 to 800 shots on the D5500.

The D5500 will be available as body only (£640), as a kit with the 18-55 VR II lens (£720) or with the 18-140mm VR lens (£900). We’re also likely to see dual-lens kits with the new 55-200mm lens, which collapses down to just 83mm long. This lens will sell for £280. All of the products mentioned here are available from the 5th February 2015 and we’ll bring you full reviews when samples are available. 

Nikon D5500 hands-on 55-200mm lens extended

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