Two kayaks and a Nikon D5500. In NE Alabama, you head straight for the water in early summer. It’s hot, but the temps are perfect for a quick paddle over to Yellow Creek Falls near Leesburg, AL. Yeah, I live in the middle of nowhere.

Of course, we had to make it difficult. Go with the established trail, or try bushwhacking on the opposite approach. Honestly, we didn’t know about the trail until we saw two people easily walking back. And there goes an hour of barely making any progress towards the falls.

Back to the kayaks, it takes all of a minute to get over to the left side, and it’s the easiest walk straight to the falls. Hey, we like to make things overly complicated.

Shooting With Nikon’s D5500

Technically, the Nikon D3300 would qualify as the lowest entry-level DSLR. Having used both, I’d opt for the D5500 if you’re starting out. Faster processing. More autofocus points. An additional frame or two per second. And it feels better in your hand. It may sound like an odd plus, but the D5500 has a weightier feel over its cheaper cousin.


It isn’t heavy, but it loses the ‘toy’ feeling of the smaller DSLRs. It won’t blow you away with features found on the new D500, but for getting your feet wet in the world of DSLR photography, it definitely fits the niche quite well. The D5500 also serves as an excellent backup camera for photographers looking for a setup to leave a prime lens attached.


A feature all users will enjoy is the articulating touchscreen. It’s a nice addition when previewing shots, and you get to enjoy not being used as an armrest when someone is looking over your shoulder. Not that I’d ever do such a thing…


In this photo essay, we stuck with the kit lens throughout. However, if you are serious about photography, it’s hard to overstate the need for a prime lens or two in your bag. Yes, we are conditioned to have a zoom lens on everything, but a dedicated 35mm or 50mm?

It’s hard to beat, and you can always find a sale on quality glass. Make sure you grab the DX format – the D5500 is not a full-frame camera. Something to remember if you get click happy on Amazon.

Shot on an iPhone?

Yes, the advancements in smartphone camera technology are staggering. I remember the good ole days of the flip phone camera. Whatever, I’m 33. I’ve embraced I’m in this 8-year age bracket of using dinosaur technology and having the latest and greatest.

Smartphones can take fantastic pictures. No denying it. Look at Apple’s latest ad campaign. And who knows what they have planned for the iPhone 7, or better yet, the iPhone 8. It will be a tremendous leap.

Yep, there’s a but coming. What you see in a commercial or ad campaign isn’t realistic for the average user. You also can’t slap a dedicated macro lens on an iPhone and expect magazine quality. Yes, they have lens kits to snap on. No, they aren’t the same as a $1,000+ lens dedicated solely for that purpose.

It comes down to how you shoot. If you want to send a few selfies, a DSLR like the Nikon D5500 is overkill. If you want to annoy neighboring diners with your food photography, it’s great. Want amazing bokeh in your photos? A 35mm prime lens looks incredible jaw dropping. Or a 50mm for those enthusiasts out there. I have the 35mm for now.

Up a Creek With Paddles

After unnecessarily picking our way through the brush and returning to the kayaks. We are back at the falls. What can the kit lens accomplish on a sunny day with no filters?

Nikon D5500 review kayak trip

Making life a little less difficult and better position for the falls.


Our beachhead looking back.


The only one-face rock. Hey, it’s not the internet without a subtle Game of Thrones reference.


Imagine that. Life is easier with a trail. Sometimes it’s best to take the road actually traveled on.



A short walk and we see the falls. For those not used to the area, when it rains, don’t even attempt to get close. This is after two weeks of zero rain in the area.



It’s at this point I miss not using an ND filter or grabbing a prime lens. As an example of what an ND filter can do, you get this type of effect with the shutter set to a second:


Favorite Shot of the Day

At Yellow Creek, you are hemmed in by two cliff faces. When it dries up, you get an incredible effect of trickles of water spraying from the top. It looks like snow but feels great on a hot day.



Wrapping the Nikon D5500

What started as a nightmare hike turned into a leisurely stroll to the falls. The Nikon D5500 handled itself quite well with the kit lens. Perfect world? Keep the lens, but add a prime lens and maybe a dedicated macro lens. In upcoming pieces, I’ll show you the difference between the two and why it matters for the best photos.

But starting out? The Nikon D5500 hits the right balance of affordability and features. It won’t blow you away with incredible ISO numbers, 10+fps or 4K video. But a family trip to a state park? Check. Amateur photographer in the family? It’s a great gift.

Action shots are feasible with the kit lens. It’s better with a prime, but the fast autofocus handled my border collies with ease. In a future piece, I’ll dive into speed tips with the kit lens versus a prime.

It is an entry-level DSLR. If you are in the market for the best camera, this isn’t it. Nikon’s D500 fits the bill and comes with a hefty price tag. But sub-$1000 to get you shooting now? It’s hard to argue with the features you get.

**Nikon provided the loaner unit for the purpose of this review. All images shot with the included kit lens.**

Gear. TV. Movies. Lifestyle. Photography. Yeah, I’m the type who sees a shiny object and is immediately captivated. Wait... There’s another. You can reach me at marcus@newsledge.com

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