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Nikon D5500 vs D7200: Which Should You Buy?

For most photographers, the new Nikon D5500 will be more than sufficient, but certain photographers will need a couple of features that it lacks. I'll explain below.
We have written an updated version of this article, comparing the new Nikon D5600 and the Nikon D7200. Click here to read the new article, or click here to open it in a new tab.

The newly announced Nikon D7200 has finally been given a significant performance boost, making the choice between it and the D5500 (a less expensive camera that provides identical image quality) a much more difficult one to make.  It’s also worth noting that the changes between the new D5500 and D7200 and their predecessors are not very significant, so you may prefer to save money and buy the older models while they’re still available. My general advice is always this: buy the least expensive camera that will meet your needs, and buy the best lenses that you can afford. Below, I’ll cover the differences between these cameras and explain which types of photographers will find the different features useful.

New In the D5500

If you’re deciding between D5500 and older D5300, here’s the difference:

  • a touch-sensitive screen has been added to the D5500
  • built-in GPS have been removed in the D5500
  • the top of the ISO scale has been increased by a stop to 25600, though it may be more accurate to say that the “expanded” ISO of 25600 has been incorporated as “native”
  • its a millimeter shorter and narrower, 5mm thinner, and about 60 grams lighter (about the weight of an egg) than the D5300

That’s it! The D5500 and D5300 are virtually identical, otherwise, so as the price drops on the D5300, many photographers who don’t care about having a touch-screen or who want built-in GPS will be able to pick it up at a great price. Currently, the D5300 body costs $597 while the newer D5500 body costs $747.

The Nikon D5500, left, is slightly smaller than the D5300, and about 60g lighter.
The Nikon D5500, left, is slightly smaller than the D5300, and about 60g lighter.

Nikon D5500 vs D7200: What’s the Difference?

To begin with, we can take a look at the most significant specs for the D5500, D7100 and the new D7200.

 Nikon D5500Nikon D7100Nikon D7200



Price (body)
$746$796$1096
Price (with 18-140mm kit lens)$1046$1096$1396
Body MaterialSereebo, (carbon fiber reenforced plastic) body-chassisPartial Magnesium Alloy Frame, PlasticPartial Magnesium Alloy Frame, Plastic
Dust/Weather Sealed BodyNoneYesYes
Sensor Resolution24.2Megapixels
24.1 Megapixels24.2 Megapixels
Anti-Aliasing Filter
(Reduces sharpness, prevents moire)
NONONO
ISO Range100-25600100-6400
+12800
+25600
100-25600
Total AF Points395151
Cross-Type AF Points91515
AF Motor In Body
(For Using Older AF Lenses)
NOYESYES
AF Light Level Range-1 to +19 EV-2 to +19 EV-3 to +19 EV
Autofocus Fine Tuning
Adjustments
NOYESYES
Shutter Speed Range1/4000th - 30 sec.
+bulb
1/8000th - 30 sec.
+bulb
1/8000th - 30 sec.
+bulb
Expected Shutter Life100,000 Shots150,000 Shots
Max Frame Rate5 fps6 fps
(7 shots in 1.3x crop mode)
6 fps
(7 shots in 1.3x crop mode)
Max RAW Burst
(buffer size)
6 shots, compressed 14-bit7 shots lossless 12-bit
6 shots lossless 14-bit
18 shots 14-bit
Max JPG Burst
(fine, Large)
10033100
Flash Sync Speed1/200th sec.1/250th sec.
(1/320th* sec, or slower,)
1/250th sec.
Wireless Flash
(Built-in Commander)
NOYESYES
Auto FP Flash Mode
(High Speed Sync)
NOYESYES
Media Slots1 SD / SDHC / SDXC2 SD / SDHC / SDXC2 SD / SDHC / SDXC
LCD Size3.2"
1,036,800 pixels
3.2"
1,228,800 pixels
3.2"
1,228,800 pixels
LCD ArticulatedYesNoNo
LCD TouchscreenYESNoNo
Built-in GPSNoNoNo
Built-in WiFiYesNoYes
Body Weight420g (no battery)
470 (with battery)
675 (no battery)675 (no battery)
Body Size124 x 97 x 70 mm136 x 107 x 76 mm136 x 106.5 x 76 mm
Battery Life820 shots
CIPA Standards
950 shots
CIPA Standards
1,110 shots
CIPA Standards
Viewfinder Coverage95% Frame
.82x Magnification
100% Frame
.94x Magnification
100% Frame
.94x Magnification
Video CodecMPEG-4 / H.264
.mov
MPEG-4 / H.264
.mov
MPEG-4 / H.264
.mov
Video Resolutions1920 x 1080 (60p, 60i, 50i, 30, 25, 24 fps)
1280 x 720 (60, 50 fps)
1920 x 1080 (60i*, 50i*, 30, 25, 24 fps)
1280 x 720 (60, 50 fps)
640 x 424 (30, 25 fps)
1920 x 1080 (60, 50, 30, 25, 24 fps)
1280 x 720 (60, 50 fps)
640 x 424 (30, 25 fps)
Video Length Limit29 min 59 sec.29 min 59 sec.29 min 59 sec.
Headphone JackNoYesYes
Internal MicStereoStereoStereo

back view nikon d7200 and d5500

Build Quality

Perhaps the most obvious difference between the D7200 and the D5500 is in their construction. The D5500 body is significantly smaller and lighter, built of carbon-fiber reenforced plastics (Sereebo), while the D7200 is heavier and built for durability, with a metal (magnesium alloy) back and top, and importantly, it is weather sealed. Since the D5500 also uses a smaller battery, the carry-around weight of the D7200 is about 40% more1 than the D5500.

Whether this is an advantage or disadvantage depends on your photographic needs; some photographers (especially those with larger hands) prefer a larger camera with some ‘heft’ to it, while others prefer something more lightweight and easy to carry around, especially travelers and hikers. Needless to say, those who work in harsh conditions will also prefer the D7200’s weather sealing and heavier-duty construction, as a matter of practicality.

Nikon D7200 with grip
Nikon D7200 with optional battery grip

The Sensors : Exactly the Same

Like the previous generation, Nikon’s D5500 and D7200 both have 24-megapixel sensors, and neither one makes use of an anti-aliasing filter. Consequently, if you shoot RAW files, you will not be able to detect any difference in image quality between these two cameras, and since both cameras now use the same processor, the JPGs should be equally indistinguishable.

More AA Filter Info
The success of the D800e may have led directly to Nikon’s decision to produce an APS-C camera without an optical low-pass/anti-aliasing (OLP/AA) filter, but whatever led to the fact, the D7200’s sensor is naked. Before the D800e, all of the major SLRs produced their sensors with an AA filter: essentially an extra layer in front of the sensor that blurs the image slightly, in order to reduce the jagged edges and moire 1 that have traditionally been associated with digital capture. With modern improvements in image processing software, though, Nikon was confident that the moire and jaggies could be avoided without the AA filter, so they opted to remove it2 and allow the cameras to capture finer image detail.

With the success of the D7100, Nikon also decided to remove the AA filter from the D5300 and D5500’s sensors, and now the D7200. For all practical purposes, there is no difference between the sensors the D7200 and D5500, so there should be no difference in image quality if you shoot RAW. Though this lack of AA filter does provide the potential to for the camera to produce sharper images, don’t expect too much.

Why does that matter?
Comparisons of images produced by the D800 (AA Filter) and D800e (no AA Filter) have shown that the principle works; there are subtle improvements in fine detail in the D800e’s images. However, we should not expect such significant improvements in the D7200’s images. The receptors on the 24 megapixel sensor of the D7200 are already much, much smaller than those of the D800e. In fact, the D7200 and D5500 fit about 56% more pixels into the same sensor area as the D800e.

Why does that matter? Even with the much larger receptors of the D800, lens resolution has become a serious bottle-neck for image quality. Nikon has already produced a special list of lenses that can allow you make the most out of your D800 sensor. The dramatically higher pixel density of Nikon’s 24-megapixel APS-C sensors will tax lens resolution even more, meaning that the D7200 and D5500’s images won’t get much sharper unless lenses get sharper first.

Auto Focus Systems

Unlike most entry and mid-level SLRs, the Nikon D5500 has a very sophisticated autofocus system. While cameras like the Canon T6i and 70D have 19 autofocus points, the D5500 has 39, though only the central nine of them are cross-type 3 . This autofocus system, which also incorporates color information, has been adopted from the Nikon D7000.

The D7200, however, shares the same AF system with the flagship Nikon D4 and the D810: 51 AF points, including 15 cross-type… the best system available in a Nikon body.

For all but the most dedicated action photographers, the system in the D5500 will be more than sufficient, even if you’re buying a camera primarily for shooting sports. If your paycheck, however, is going to depend on your focusing system, the extra several hundred dollars will be well spent on the D7200.

Speed

When it comes to speed, the differences between the D5500 and D7200 are more modest that you might expect. The D7200 does have a top shutter speed that is one full f-stop faster than the D5500’s (ie, 1/8000th vs 1/4000th). When it comes to shooting bursts of photos, though, the D7200 only provides an additional frame per second over the D5500’s 5 fps (unless you’re shooting in 1.3x crop mode, in which case it will give up an additional frame per second).

However (unlike the D7100) the D7200 has a significantly larger buffer, allowing longer continuous bursts of shooting. While the D5500 (and D7100) can only shoot 6 14-bit RAW files in a row before filling the buffer and getting bogged down, the D7200 can shoot 18 RAW images in a row, three times more than the D7100 (though it still lags significantly behind Canon’s original 7D, which could shoot 25).

Shooting JPG gives you even more freedom to hold down that shutter button. The D7200 can shoot bursts of 100 frames or more (at 6 fps), just like the D5500. The D7100 was only capable of shooting 33 in a row.

The D5500’s Downfall

Flash. With the popularity of “Strobist” techniques over the past several years, flash photography has become increasingly important to amateur and semi-pro photographers, and this is where the D5500 falls short: it lacks high-speed-sync4 (Auto FP Flash, henceforth AFP) and external flash control with the built-in flash. External flash control may not be a big deal; many of us prefer to use radio-units instead… though the built-in IR system can be very useful with Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS).

The lack of AFP, however, is a serious problem. Consider this situation: you’re shooting a portrait outdoors during the day, and you want to use a large aperture to blur the background… perhaps f/2 or f/1.4 . This will push your shutter speed beyond 1/1000ths of a second, much higher than the camera’s 1/200th sec. maximum sync speed. So, if you want to use a flash to soften the shadows or create a catch-light in the eyes of your subject, forget it: the flash will not sync. The same is true if you want to use flash for sports and a high shutter speed, and while you can purchase external command modules or radio transmitters for off-camera-flashes, there’s nothing you can buy to work around the lack of AFP. You’d need to buy the D7200 instead.

In some instances, a neutral density filter can be used to bring the shutter speed down within the range of the D5500’s sync speed. There are several problems with the method, though: the image through your viewfinder can become quite dark, making it hard to frame your shot and making it hard for your camera’s AF system to pull focus, you lose flash power, if you’re shooting with a telephoto lens, shutter speeds at the camera’s sync speed might not be safe for hand-holding, and they’ll always be too slow for sports or fast action (if you’re balancing flash and ambient light).

Nikon SB-910, SB-700, and SB-500
A Nikon Flash Trio

All the Little Things

There are a few other assorted differences that deserve mention here, but they’re mostly the same differences that we saw between the D5100 and D7000. First, the D5500 does not have an autofocus motor built into the camera body, so it will not be compatible with the full range of (old school) Nikon lenses, while the D7200 does posses the motor. And speaking of “focus”, the D7200 is capable of micro adjustments to correct for front or back-focus problems on lenses, while the D5500 is not.

Nikon D5500 articulated screen
The Nikon D5500’s swivel screen.

As should be obvious from the images above, the D5500 has an articulated LCD screen, which some people find helpful for ground-level shots and video but others find a breakage hazard or amateurish.

The D7200 has dual SD card slots. It’s can be nice to have two slots if you want to record JPGs to one card and RAW to the other, perhaps sending JPGs to an Eye-Fi card, for example. However, if you only need storage space, a single slot is fine. These days, a single 64GB SDXC card costs only $30, and I rarely shoot more than 32GB per day, even at all-day events.

The D5300 has built-in GPS tagging, a feature that requires additional equipment with the D7200. This feature was dropped in the D5500, perhaps the result of the ubiquity of smartphones and apps such as GeoTag Photos Pro, but there are also reports of problems with battery drain using the GPS in the D5300, among other issues that I have yet to confirm.

Finally, if you are interested in video, the D7200 has been given a headphone jack for monitoring audio while you shoot. The jack is absent in the D5500 (and D5300, D7000). All of these cameras can shoot video at up to 1080p 60fps, except for the D7100, which can only shoot at 30fps at that resolution.

Which to Buy?

The Nikon D5300 and D5500 are great cameras, and I’d recommend them for the vast majority of amateur photographers, with the exception of those who need superior flash capabilities.

To summarize, you should buy the D5300 if you:

  • want a great, all-around camera
  • shoot primarily with natural light or studio strobes
  • need an articulated LCD screen for video or photos
  • want built-in GPS
  • want to save some money to buy the best lenses possible. At Amazon, the price for the D5300 body is $597

Buy the D5500 ONLY IF you:

  • really care about the weight of your camera. The D5500 weighs about 60g less than the D5300; that’s about the weight of a large chicken egg.
  • think you’ll really enjoy using a touchscreen.
  • find that the current prices are very similar. At Amazon, the price for the D5500 body is $747

Buy the D7100 if you:

  • don’t shoot bursts of action in RAW format and want the other features of the D7100
  • At Amazon, the current price for the D7100 body is $797

Buy the D7200 if you:

  • shoot lots of action, especially in long bursts
  • are hard on your equipment and need a more durable body
  • use flash for action or fill and need high-speed sync
  • use Nikon’s CLS and want to use the built-in command module
  • shoot macro (or other focus critical work) and need to make micro adjustments to your lenses
  • shoot a lot of video and want a simple headphone jack on your camera
  • don’t need to worry about spending a little more. At Amazon, the price for the D7200 body is $1097

For the sake of simplicity I’ve tried to focus on only the differences that, in my experience, will actually be important. There are, of course, numerous differences between the two cameras, though, and some features may be more important to particular photographers. If you think that I’ve left out something important, please feel free to let me know.

Please Comment!

If you have additional questions or comments, please let me know, below. I’ll do what I can to answer questions and clear up any confusion.

  1. Actually 38.6%
  2. To be more precise, the Nikon D800e does have an AA filter, but it also has an AA-canceling filter, so it does not have one in practical terms. The D810 does not have an AA filter at all, nor do the D5500 and D7200.
  3. If you’re not sure what cross-type points are, or why they’re important, check out our short video on the subject, here.
  4. For a quick explanation of what high-speed-sync is, watch our video here.
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288 Comments

    • Hi Rogerio,

      There isn’t a huge difference in low-light performance, but I’d say that the D7200 is slightly better… about 1/2 stop. Similarly, the D7200 may be a bit sharper or more contrasty because of the lack of AA/OLP filter on the sensor. I don’t think that either one of those really should be big enough differences to make a person choose one camera system over another. They both can shoot/save JPGs at a very fast rate… more than any person would practically use (100 or more shots in a row).

      I’d go with the Nikon D7200, unless you want to shoot video with autofocus. In that case, go with the Canon T7i.

  • BIG ERROR on this post, the D5500 DOES HAVE A MICROPHONE JACK!!

    I have the D5500 and it has a microphone/headphone jack.

    • I think you’ll find that I said that the D5500 has no HEADPHONE jack, and it does not. It DOES have a microphone jack, but that’s not the same thing… they are not interchangeable.

  • Hey thanks for this great info.
    I’m about to buy my first DSLR and lens.

    With your recommendation to buy the less expensive camera that meet my needs – Nikon D5500.

    I know that most of my shootings will be portraits and some street and travel photography.

    I thought getting the Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 as my first lens and buy thr Nikon 50mm 1.8g in the future.

    What do you think?

    • I think that sounds like a great combination. I own a Sigma 17-50 f/2.8 myself, and I’ve used it much as you would… and it has been just about flawless. There are times when you’ll want to stop it down to f/4 to get the best sharpness in the corners, but the center of the frame is always excellent, and even the corners are always good. Good luck!
      – Matthew

  • I’ve learnt the hard way that most parties happen in low light and that cheaper cameras just struggle to focus in that situation.
    So for me being able to focus down to -3EV is crucial, all else is secondary.
    Though I’d like to have the live view to be as responsive as the Canon 80D, I’d choose the D7200 if I were to choose a Nikon. I’m in that lucky position that I can choose a new system again.
    Having looked at all the systems, it’s quite clear there’s no ideal camera – they all force you to compromise in some area or the other whilst gaining a few points over the competition in others.

  • I am looking to upgrade from my D50. I want to take close-up landscape/flower photos as well as action shots of wildlife. Any preference between the 3400 and 7200?

    • The one that springs to mind is that the D7200 has micro-focus adjustment, which is most important for people who shoot a lot of close-ups, and it’s also faster action camera in general. Any reason why you’re not considering the D5500/D5600?

  • Hi Matthew,

    Just wanted to say thank for your advice to buy the D5500. I’ve been using it now for a little over 3 months and I’m really happy. The image quality (and hopefully I) has really improved compared to the D5100. I’m really happy with the camera, so thanks a lot for your help!

  • Dear Matthew

    I’ve spent the last couple of days reading many different blogs about Nikon cameras. But your website stands out… it is absolutely amazing, so informative!

    I am an architecture student and really interested in capturing architecture, art and landscapes as well as portraits.

    The options so far (here in super expensive Switzerland):
    Nikon D5500 : 18-105mm f/3.5-3.6 – $899
    Nikon D7200: 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 – $1200

    This is going to be my first big investment in a camera and i am so confused which one i should pick.
    I really care for good quality pictures that i can print quite big and sharp. Sports/wildlife isn’t really my thing but i don’t want to miss out on quality if i feel like it some time in the future.
    At the same time for a student like me this is a big price difference. As already mentioned in a couple comments, i would like to get a good camera without regretting my choice one year later that i should have gotten the more expensive one.
    What do you think about the combinations and lenses mentioned above?

    Any advice/opinion would be very much appreciated.

    Kind regards,
    Suri

    • Hi Suri,

      I was just in Switzerland in September, and it was the most expensive hotel of my trip. Beautiful city (Zurich), though.

      Anyway, my general advice (as you’ve probably already seen) is to buy the least expensive camera that will meet your needs and buy the best lenses you can afford. When it comes to image quality, there is no difference between the D5500 and D7200 if you shoot RAW. If you shoot JPG, they will be processed slightly differently by the camera, but the differences are not significant. So, don’t worry about that.

      The AF system of the D5500 is not as good as that of the D7200, technically, but it is way better that almost any camera available just 5 years ago. I used to shoot college and professional sports with 5 AF points, all along a horizontal row. The D5500 is just fine for most action shots, for most people (with the understanding that shooting action is not simple, regardless of what camera you use… it takes practice to get good shots).

      So, I’d go with the D5500, as long as you don’t think that you’re going to regret it later. That’s a pretty personal thing, so there’s not much I can say on that front.

      The 18-105mm lens is just fine, though I prefer the 18-140mm as a general, walk-around shooting lens. Neither one has amazing image quality, but they’re both very good.

      For architectural work, you’ll probably be better off working with either a prime lens (fixed length) or at least a shorter zoom range, because zoom lenses tend to create more distortion lenses than fixed focal length lenses. Wide-angle lenses are popular for architecture. A truly excellent lens is the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8; super sharp with minimal distortion (well, there is some, but it’s regular and easy to correct). There are a few good wide-angle zooms Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 is a good ultra-wide).

      So, if buying the less expensive camera will help you on your way to buying some high quality glass, then I’d stay stick with the D5500. If not, then get the D7200 and allay your worries about future buyer’s remorse! Good luck :-)

      • Hi Matthew

        Thank you so sooo much for your advice! :-)

        No “professional” salesman was able to give me so much information.

        I’ll take a look in to the Sigma lens… and try to finally decide which one i should purchase. Probably in the end it is all about practice.

        Greetings from sunny Zurich!
        Suri

  • I have the D5500 for the past year and I LOVE it! I am a growing photographer and upgraded from the D3200 to the D5500. I bought it with body only and bought a fixed 50. The combination works great for my portrait and landscape photography. Living in Alaska, I have the amazing opportunity to be surrounded by such beauty and find that the D5500 does a great job capturing it!
    About the touch screen, I am absolutely for it. I wasn’t so sure at first, but it can get better control of zooming in on detail in my pictures when Im looking back on them with clients. The flip screen is also great because I can close it when I don’t want water/oils to get on it. I use it a lot when I film, so I can get a good view of subject I’m filming and the screen.
    I vote if you are a photographer who is intermediate (or just beginning and have the extra money to spare) get the D5500 (and don’t forget that fixed 50!!). It’s a wonderful combination, and a wonderful camera. I haven’t been happier with a camera!

    • I’m thinking about getting the d5500 or the canon t6s. I’m a starter and just using it when I travel for landscaping, buildings, portraits etc.. would d5500 be good enough for me then? Ive read articles about the d5500 lags or has two clicks when taking photos in the live view mode. Just wondering if there is way to take faster photos without waiting 2 seconds each shots in the live view. Would changing the shutter speed make it not lag? Thanks!

      • Hi Leon,
        Generally speaking, shooting in Live View is going to be slow on any DLSR, compared to shooting through the viewfinder. I never use Live View with Nikon; it’s just too slow to focus. However, if you shoot with it normally, looking through the optical viewfinder, it’s nice and fast and you’ll have no problem with it. The shutter lag is just hundredths of a second. I don’t remember if there are ways to speed this up with the D5500… some cameras give you a mode that quickly switches over to the normal AF system and then switches back to the live-view system to speed up the focus process, which creates a couple of clicks as the mirror comes back down.

        The T6s is much faster focusing than the D5500 when using live view because of Canon’s hybrid phase detection AF system (similar to what is used in the optical viewfinder), but it’s still not going to be as fast as just using the viewfinder.

        Either way, changing the shutter speed won’t help, I’m afraid, since it’s not the shutter that’s causing the lag… it’s the contrast-detection autofocus system.

        • Thank you very much for replying. Another thing is for Nikon live view it doesn’t change in real live when I play w the exporsure makes it hard for me to know what the photo will turn out. I guess I’m so use to using my mobile for photos where I can play w the exposure before I take the pic :) Still deciding on the t6s or the d5500.

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