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Nikon D5500 versus Nikon D800

The Nikon D5500 and the Nikon D800 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in January 2015 and February 2012. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D5500) and a full frame (D800) sensor. The D5500 has a resolution of 24 megapixel, whereas the D800 provides 36.2 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Nikon D5500 vs Nikon D800

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D5500 and the Nikon D800 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the D5500 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Nikon D5500 vs Nikon D800
Compare D5500 versus D800 top
Compare D5500 and D800 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D800 is considerably larger (49 percent) than the Nikon D5500. Moreover, the D800 is substantially heavier (138 percent) than the D5500. It is noteworthy in this context that the D800 is splash and dust-proof, while the D5500 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor (as in the D800) will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, while more compact options are available for the smaller-sensor camera (D5500). You can find a comprehensive overview of suitable optics in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the D5500 gets 820 shots out of its EN-EL14a battery, while the D800 can take 900 images on a single charge of its EN-EL15 power pack.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Nikon D5500» 4.9 in 3.8 in 2.8 in 14.8 oz 820 n Jan 2015 899- i Nikon D5500
Nikon D800« 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 35.3 oz 900 Y Feb 2012 2,999- i Nikon D800
Canon M5« » 4.6 in 3.5 in 2.4 in 15.1 oz 295 n Sep 2016 979 i i Canon M5
Canon T6i« » 5.2 in 4.0 in 3.1 in 19.6 oz 440 n Feb 2015 749- i Canon T6i
Canon T6s« » 5.2 in 4.0 in 3.1 in 19.9 oz 440 n Feb 2015 849- i Canon T6s
Nikon D3400« » 4.9 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 15.7 oz 1200 n Aug 2016 499 i i Nikon D3400
Nikon D500« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D5600« » 4.9 in 3.8 in 2.8 in 16.4 oz 970 n Nov 2016 699 i i Nikon D5600
Nikon D3300« » 4.9 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 15.2 oz 700 n Jan 2014 499- i Nikon D3300
Nikon D810« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 34.6 oz 1200 Y Jun 2014 3,299- i Nikon D810
Nikon D5300« » 4.9 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 16.9 oz 600 n Oct 2013 799- i Nikon D5300
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Nikon Df« » 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.6 in 26.8 oz 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749 i i Nikon Df
Nikon D800E« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 35.3 oz 900 Y Feb 2012 3,299- i Nikon D800E
Nikon D3200« » 4.9 in 3.8 in 3.0 in 17.8 oz 540 n Apr 2012 599- i Nikon D3200
Nikon D5200« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 19.6 oz 500 n Nov 2012 749- i Nikon D5200
Nikon D700« » 5.8 in 4.8 in 3.0 in 37.9 oz 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700

The camera’s price is obviously a critical decision-making factor. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The D5500 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 70 percent) than the D800, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.

 

Sensor comparison: Nikon D5500 vs Nikon D800

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D5500 features an APS-C sensor and the Nikon D800 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D800 is 135 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.

Nikon D5500 and Nikon D800 sensor measures

With 36.2MP, the D800 offers a higher resolution than the D5500 (24MP), but the D800 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.88μm versus 3.91μm for the D5500) due to its larger sensor. However, the D5500 is a much more recent model (by 2 years and 10 months) than the D800, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the D5500 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

D5500 versus D800 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D800 offers substantially better image quality than the D5500 (overall score 11 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.2 bits higher color depth, 0.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Nikon D5500» APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.114.0143884Nikon D5500
Nikon D800« Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.314.4285395Nikon D800
Canon M5« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.412.4126277Canon M5
Canon T6i« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p22.712.091971Canon T6i
Canon T6s« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/30p22.612.091570Canon T6s
Nikon D3400« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.813.9119286Nikon D3400
Nikon D500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483Nikon D500
Nikon D5600« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.114.0130684Nikon D5600
Nikon D3300« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.312.8138582Nikon D3300
Nikon D810« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.714.8285397Nikon D810
Nikon D5300« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.013.9133883Nikon D5300
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594Nikon D610
Nikon Df« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280-24.613.1327989Nikon Df
Nikon D800E« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.614.3297996Nikon D800E
Nikon D3200« » APS-C 24.1 6016 40001080/30p24.113.2113181Nikon D3200
Nikon D5200« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60i24.213.9128484Nikon D5200
Nikon D700« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2230380Nikon D700

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the D5500 provides a higher frame rate than the D800. It can shoot video footage at 1080/60p, while the D800 is limited to 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Nikon D5500 vs Nikon D800

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D5500 and the D800 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D5500 and Nikon D800 along with similar information for a selection of comparators. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Nikon D5500»optical n 3.2 1037 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D5500
Nikon D800«optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n Nikon D800
Canon M5« »2360 n 3.2 1620 tilting Y 4000 9.0 Y n Canon M5
Canon T6i« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Canon T6i
Canon T6s« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Canon T6s
Nikon D3400« »optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D3400
Nikon D500« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n n Nikon D500
Nikon D5600« »optical n 3.2 1037 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D5600
Nikon D3300« »optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D3300
Nikon D810« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D810
Nikon D5300« »optical n 3.2 1037 swivel n 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D5300
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D610
Nikon Df« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 n n Nikon Df
Nikon D800E« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n Nikon D800E
Nikon D3200« »optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 4.0 Y n Nikon D3200
Nikon D5200« »optical n 3.0 921 swivel n 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D5200
Nikon D700« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n Nikon D700

Both the D5500 and the D800 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D800 was replaced by the Nikon D810, while the D5500 was followed by the Nikon D5600.

Review summary: Nikon D5500 vs Nikon D800

So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D5500 or the Nikon D800 – has the upper hand? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Advantages of the Nikon D5500:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60p versus 1080/30p).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 921k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (124x97mm vs 146x123mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 580g or 58 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (70 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 10 months of technical progress since the D800 launch.


Arguments in favor of the Nikon D800:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (36.2 vs 24MP), which boosts linear resolution by 23%.
  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (11 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.2 bits more color depth).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1 stops ISO advantage).
  • Easier setting verification: Has a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in February 2012).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D5500 comes out slightly ahead of the D800 (10 : 9 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision.

D5500 10:09 D800

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the D5500 or the D800 handle or perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is where reviews by experts come in. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Nikon D5500»Rec79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Jan 2015 899- i Nikon D5500
Nikon D800«HiRec82/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2012 2,999- i Nikon D800
Canon M5« »Rec82/1004/54.5/54/5 Sep 2016 979 i i Canon M5
Canon T6i« »-75/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 749- i Canon T6i
Canon T6s« »Rec77/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 849- i Canon T6s
Nikon D3400« »Rec76/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Aug 2016 499 i i Nikon D3400
Nikon D500« »HiRec91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D5600« »-79/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Nov 2016 699 i i Nikon D5600
Nikon D3300« »Rec77/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jan 2014 499- i Nikon D3300
Nikon D810« »-86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2014 3,299- i Nikon D810
Nikon D5300« »HiRec79/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 799- i Nikon D5300
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Nikon Df« »-81/1004/54/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749 i i Nikon Df
Nikon D800E« »-84/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2012 3,299- i Nikon D800E
Nikon D3200« »HiRec73/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Apr 2012 599- i Nikon D3200
Nikon D5200« »HiRec79/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Nov 2012 749- i Nikon D5200
Nikon D700« »89/100HiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please send me an email, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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