In today’s post, we will compare two highly popular, yet separate digital SLR cameras from Nikon, the D5300 and the D5500. Both are entry-level APS-C (DX) cameras, and both make for attractive entry-points into the Nikon ecosystem. The D5500 marks the successor to the older D5300, promising key improvements in functionality to help this line remain competitive amongst the innovations in mirrorless cameras. Both of these cameras aim to sway beginning photographers or those stepping up from a point & shoot camera to their first SLR. However, are the incremental updates and improvements worthwhile for those to get the newer camera and enough to justify the added expense? Let’s find out.
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Size & Dimensions
In dimensions, both cameras are identical, both measuring in at 124 x 97 mm. Their differences, however, come in the form of their weights. In this case, the successor weighs substantially less, now at 420 g compared to 480 g.
Physical Controls & Ergonomics
Physically, the button layouts between both cameras are similar but slightly different. The buttons themselves, however, are not lacking between either camera, their placements differ. The successor does feature a redesigned Mode selector dial, however, which simplifies the grouping of the SCENE modes into a single position rather than separately on the dial. Overall, a small change, but it does make switching between modes simplistic.
The successor also features a redesigned grip, now deeper than before, to provide a slightly more comfortable grip than the predecessor. In all, it produces a grip similar to the higher-end D750, in a smaller form factor.
Both cameras only feature a single adjustable control wheel.
Both cameras feature identical optical viewfinders that deliver 95% vertical and horizontal coverage of the imaging area along with an x0.82 magnification. The difference, however, is the successor now has Eye Sensor Control, a sensor beneath the optical viewfinder that automatically senses when the viewer’s eye approaches. Effectively, this feature automatically disables the rear screen when composing via the viewfinder. It’s good to finally see this feature here, as composing via the viewfinder was incredibly distracting on the predecessor for this reason.
Both cameras also feature 3.2-inch vari-angle TFT LCDs with identical resolutions of 1.03 million dots. However, the successor now features a touchscreen LCD that supports both touch focus and also acts as a secondary customizable dial. You can now customize the touchscreen to change exposure, allowing the camera to simulate the effect of having two dedicated adjustment wheels. Nice. It’s quite a unique feature to cameras in this range, but one that works incredibly well. The implementation here takes the standard touchscreen interface well beyond simply navigation or AF point selection alone and is a standout feature.
Both cameras feature identical 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensors and the EXPEED 4 image processor. However, the successor shows better performance in low light shooting at higher ISOs, where we see a noticeable reduction in overall noise appear. Outside of this, however, both cameras are identical in sharpness, dynamic range, and color rendition.
Both cameras support 1080p Full HD recording up to 60 frames per second. They also have identical recording limits, 20 minutes at 1080p 60p and 29 minutes and 59 seconds at 1080p 30p. Since both cameras offer identical sensors, video quality and sharpness are also largely the same. The only notable difference here is the successor now provides a flat picture profile that lends itself better for post-production grading. This picture profile is inherited from Nikon’s higher-end flagships, namely the D800 series, and is quite an advanced feature for the market these cameras aim to sway. However, it is a noticeable addition nonetheless.
Both cameras have identical 39-point autofocusing systems, 9 of which are cross-type compatible, along with 3D-tracking.
While both cameras use identical EN-EL14 batteries, the successor provides energy improvements to deliver better longevity. Battery performance is now up to 820 shots per charge, compared to the 600 shots of the predecessor.
User Interface & Menus
The user interface and menus between the cameras identical.
Both cameras have built-in time-lapse recording modes.
Both cameras have microphone inputs.
Both cameras shoot at a maximum continuous burst rate of 5 frames per second.
Both cameras provide built-in popup flashes.
While both cameras feature built-in W-Fi connectivity, however, the successor removes the presence of GPS connectivity, now making this particular feature solely available in the successor. Sure this is not a commonly used feature. However, it does mean GPS tagging will occur exclusively through the paired smartphone device and not natively in the camera.
Both cameras lack headphone inputs.
The predecessor lacks the proximity sensor underneath the optical viewfinder mentioned previously in the Display & Viewfinder section. Without this sensor, the rear LCD remains active when composing via the viewfinder.
Both cameras lack Live Exposure Previews when shooting in Live View. Instead, the display on the rear screen maintains a constant exposure and doesn’t reflect changes to exposure in real-time. Without this particular ability, you cannot rely on the back screen for visual cues to better judge whether a shot is over or underexposed.
So which is best?
So then, should you forgo the lower body and go with the D5500? Well, the main reasons to do so are if the following are essential to you: longer battery life, lighter weight, improved ergonomics, or touchscreen functionality. Outside of these features, however, many of the core features remain largely identical between both cameras. The predecessor remains more than sufficient to deliver both great photos and videos along with excellent value for money spent. However, the added improvements in the successor make it the better choice in the end. Its additions will serve you well along your journey.