Summary

Highly Recommended awardNikon's D5500 is an upper entry-level DSLR aimed at photographers looking for a step-up from a budget model without the expense or complication of a higher-end camera. It shares the same 24 Megapixel resolution as the models above and below it, but remains the only model in the entire range to feature a fully-articulated, side-hinged screen. Like the D5300 before it, the screen remains large at 3.2in, but in a welcome upgrade, it's now touch-sensitive. The GPS of its predecessor has sadly gone, but the Wifi remains, allowing you to wirelessly transfer images or remote control it with your smartphone. The collapsing kit zoom impacts the ultimate image quality, and the movie / live view autofocusing is slower and noisier than rival Canon bodies fitted with STM lenses. But none of this stands in the way of what's a very solid DSLR for the money. Do compare closely with Canon's EOS T6i / 750D, and in the mirrorless World, models like the Sony A6000.

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Nikon D5500 review

Quality

To compare real-life performance, I shot this scene with the Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II and Nikon D5500 within a few moments of each other, using their base sensitivities and taking care to match their vertical field of view. On this page I’m comparing out-of-camera JPEGs using the default settings. I’ll add a RAW comparison once both bodies are supported in Adobe Camera RAW. To make it interesting I’ve included three comparisons on this page using different lenses and quality settings to prove what you expect may not always be the case.My first comparison here is with the OMD EM5 Mark II fitted with the high-end 12-40mm f2.8 zoom and the D5500 fitted with the DX 18-55mm VR II kit zoom; the lenses were set to f4 and f5.6 respectively for the best quality results on each system. So the first question is which will win in terms of real-life resolving power? A 16 Megapixel camera with a good lens, or a 24 Megapixel camera with an entry-level lens.Even a cursory glance at my first set of crops below reveals that while the D5500’s 24 Megapixel images may be larger, they don’t actually contain any additional detail over the 16 Megapixel OMD EM5 Mark II. Indeed the crops made from the edges of the frame actually look crisper on the Olympus, even though the squarer aspect ratio means they’re actually made from closer to the edges than the Nikon.The moral here is the importance of a decent lens, especially for high resolution bodies. To be fair the Olympus 12-40mm is a pro grade zoom so it should easily out-perform an entry-level kit zoom, but even so you’d be surprised how many people assume having more Megapixels is the key to higher image quality.So the next natural question to ask is what happens when you fit the D5500 with something better quality, a lens that will allow it to enjoy its full resolution. To find out I reshot this scene with the D5500 fitted with the AF-S 50mm f1.8G, a prime lens that delivers excellent results.Scroll down for that next comparison, or see how the noise levels compare in my Nikon D5500 noise results, or if you’ve seen enough, skip to my Nikon D5500 sample images or verdict.

 

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II JPEG
Using Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 at f4
Nikon D5500 JPEG
Using Nikkor DX 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 VR II at f5.6
f4, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f4, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f4, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f4, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f4, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II vs Nikon D5500 (with AF-S 50mm f1.8G) JPEG quality


For my second comparison, I reshot the scene with the Nikon D5500 fitted with the AF-S 50mm f1.8G, a high quality, but affordable prime lens. As before the Olympus ODM EM5 II was fitted with the 12-40mm f2.8 pro zoom. 
This time the results from the D5500 are visibly crisper and enjoy higher contrast too, along with avoiding most of the edge softness seen in my first comparison above.

Look at the brickwork in the chimney stack on the second row of crops, the wrought-iron railings on the third row and the window frames on the fourth row, and you’ll definitely notice a little extra detail from the D5500 over the EM5 Mark II. But is it the extra you were expecting given the 50% higher pixel count? I’d also say the Olympus better avoids softness at the extremes of the frame, thanks to its slightly smaller sensor being easier to work with optically.

The OMD EM5 II also has an extra trick up its sleeve: by shifting its sensor and combining eight frames, it can effectively boost the resolution to 40 Megapixels. So for my third and final comparison on this page you can see how the EM5 II’s 40 MP mode compares against the native 24 Megapixels of the D5500 when both are equipped with decent lenses.

Scroll down for that next comparison, or see how the noise levels compare in my Nikon D5500 noise results, or if you’ve seen enough, skip to my Nikon D5500 sample images or verdict.

 

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II JPEG
Using Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 at f4
Nikon D5500 JPEG
Using Nikkor AF-S 50mm f1.8G at f5.6
f4, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f4, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f4, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f4, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f4, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II 40MP mode vs Nikon D5500 (with AF-S 50mm f1.8G) JPEG quality

For my third and final comparison on this page I reshot the scene using the Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II’s new 40 Megapixel High Res Shot mode which shoots eight images, shifting the sensor fractionally between each one, before combining them into one composite image. Here I’m comparing its output against the 24 Megapixel D5500 when the Nikon is fitted with a decent prime lens.

 

From the crops below I’d say the 40 MP mode on the Olympus slightly out-resolves the D5500 on most of the crops. You can see it in the signs, the brickwork and the railings, but most notably in the final row which shows a distant transmitter. Here the EM5 II delivers a noticeably superior result thanks in part to its high res mode and a lens which delivers crisp quality right up to the edges.

The 40 MP mode may be the EM5 II’s secret weapon against higher resolution cameras, but it’s not without its limitations. If anything moves during the eight-frame capture, you’ll suffer from ghosting artefacts, and you’d be surprised how many things move even in what appears to be a fairly static scene. This composition, for example, may be a fairly tight 75mm equivalent view of a city skyline, but features numerous vehicles and people in motion. Even awnings blowing in the breeze can cause issues as seen in the first row of crops.

I’ve made a detailed report on the pros and cons of the 40 MP mode in the main review of the EM5 II, but if you can use it carefully with the right subject – and the right lens – you can enjoy some great results. Now let’s see how the noise levels compare in my Nikon D5500 noise results, or if you’ve seen enough, skip to my Nikon D5500 sample images or verdict.

 

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II 40 MP JPEG
Using Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 at f4
Nikon D5500 JPEG
Using Nikkor AF-S 50mm f1.8G at f5.6
f4, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f4, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f4, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f4, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f4, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
 To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Olympus OMD EM5 II and the Nikon D5500 within a few moments of each other at each of their ISO settings. Both cameras were set to RAW+JPEG with 14 bit set for the D5500. Active D-Lighting was disabled on the D5500 and High ISO Noise Reduction set to the defaults for both bodies. I’m presenting the JPEG results here and will add RAW results once both cameras are supported in Adobe Camera RAW. Note there are comparisons with the Olympus 40MP mode lower on this page.In my first comparison you can see both cameras shooting at their native resolutions: 16 Megapixels for the Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II versus 24 Megapixels for the Nikon D5500. With the crops taken from the middle of the frame where there’s no lens issues, both bodies are resolving a high degree of detail, but the D5500 enjoys a visible edge in resolution.This resolution advantage continues as the sensitivity increases – the benefit of a bigger sensor even when there’s more pixels on it. That’s not to say the EM5 Mark II is under-performing, it’s just that the higher resolution of the D5500 is resolving finer detail in this particular composition.In terms of noise and saturation based on these and other samples, I’d say both cameras perform very well up to 800 ISO, with the Olympus beginning to suffer a little more at 1600 ISO and above. As the sensitivity increases beyond 3200 ISO I’d say the larger APS-C sensor of the D5500 gradually gains an advantage of around one stop over the Olympus. But up to 800 ISO the noise levels are similar. I should also note the highly effective built-in stabilization of the Olympus means you’ll rarely need to shoot at high ISOs unless of course you need to freeze action in very low light, so when making comparisons do think carefully about how you’ll use the camera.Scroll down to see how the EM5 Mark II’s 40 Megapixel mode measures up or head over to my Nikon D5500 sample images or skip to my verdict.

 

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II JPEG
Nikon D5500 JPEG
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
12800 ISO
12800 ISO
25600 ISO
25600 ISO

Nikon D5500 vs Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II 40 Megapixel noise JPEG

In this second comparison I’ve pitched the 40 Megapixel composite mode of the EM5 Mark II against the native 24 Megapixel output of the Nikon D5500. From the subject below, I’d say the Olympus is resolving slightly more detail, and as noted above, can also better-avoid colour moire in the finest details.
Of course the downside is the 40MP mode requires the entire subject to remain static during the capture process, which rules out most situations. But in a controlled studio or reproduction environment, it can work very well.

 

Once again I’ll be updating these noise results with RAW comparisons when the EM5 Mark II and D5500 are both supported by Adobe Camera RAW, but in the meantime check out my Nikon D5500 sample images or skip to my verdict.

 

Nikon D5500
Native 24 Megapixel
Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II JPEG
40 Megapixel mode
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
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