Nikon D5300 Review - The Nikon D5300 succeeds the D5200 at the top of Nikon's entry-level range. Find out how it gets on in the What Digital Camera Nikon D5300 review
With many new camera models being updated so they provide the functionality to share images more easily, there’s an ongoing concern from consumers that manufacturers are adding wireless connectivity into new models and asking a premium for them without necessarily introducing other new and exciting features.
Is this the case with the new Nikon D5300, or have Nikon turned the already impressive D5200 into an even better performing DSLR?
Nikon D5300 Review – Features
As well as introducing Wi-fi connectivity, Nikon have made some other significant changes to the Nikon D5300 to ensure it’s not merely catering for those who’d demand the latest wireless technology. The latest sensor development to the camera pulls it further away from the entry-level D3200 and closer towards the D7100 – two models the D5300 slots in-between in Nikon’s DX-format DSLR lineup.
While its 24.2MP DX-format CMOS sensor and maximum 6000 x 4000 pixel output may not seem any different, it’s an entirely new proposition.
By removing the optical low-pass filter in front of the sensor in a bid to preserve the finest levels of detail and clarity, it suggests the D5300 should record sharper and crisper detail than its predecessor – something we’ll explore in greater depth when it comes to assessing image quality. Turning our attention to the D5300’s sensitivity range further highlights similarities between its sensor and the one used within the D7100.
Before entering the boost setting, the native ISO range runs between 100 and 12,800, whereas previously on the D5200 it stretched between 100-6400. If a low-light situations demand a higher ISO, the D5200 can be pushed to an equivalent of 25,600.
Whereas the D5200 gained a 1fps continuous burst improvement over the D5100, the same can’t be said for the D5300 and it shoots at the same 5fps rate as the D5200. This is a little surprising given that the camera is one of the first DSLRs to be rolled out with Nikon’s newly developed EXPEED 4 image-processing engine, which we half expected to increase the frame rate to at least 6fps.
Take into consideration that the D7100 shoots at 6fps and the D5300 appears to adopt the same sensor, it’s quite possible the D5300 has the processing power to shoot faster but has been capped at 5fps in an attempt not to tread too heavily on the D7100‘s toes.
Other similarities with its predecessor include a 39-point AF system, which uses the Multi-CAM 4800DX autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection. Of the 39 AF points, nine are the more sensitive cross-type, with the option to set the camera to an 11-point array should the AF point be required to be moved more quickly across the frame.
Despite the AF system not being as advanced as the D7100‘s 51-point array, which also benefits from having six more cross-type sensors, it’s well equipped with 3D focus tracking. Not only is this intuitive enough to follow the movement of a subject in a frame, it’s capable of predicting the position of the subject at the moment the image is captured based on the measurement of the subjects movement and speed.
In addition there’s single-point AF, dynamic area AF (9,21 or 39 points) and auto-area AF, with the focus modes consisting of auto-servo AF (AF-A) single-servo AF (AF-S), continuous-servo AF (AF-C), not forgetting manual focus.
For metering the D5300 uses the tried and tested 2,016-pixel metering sensor. This is designed to work in tandem with Nikon’s Scene Recognition System, which cleverly analyses a scene before refining adjustments to exposure, autofocus and white balance to deliver the best possible results.
Added to this, there’s the option to set exposure compensation over a +/-5EV range in increments of 1/3 or 1/2, but another feature not yet mentioned that’s improved on the D5200 is the 3.2in, 1,037k-dot Vari-angle screen. Though it sees an improvement in two key areas, these being its size and resolution, Nikon’s screen technology still lags some way behind Canon who has excelled with its touchscreen functionality for well over a year.
For an upper entry-level DSLR, the video output is suitably advanced for moviemakers. Fitted with a built-in stereo microphone and compatible with external microphones that attach via a 3.5mm jack, the D5300 records Full HD video at frame rates up to 50p/60p, with 30p,25p and 24p frames rates also available.
The option to select full-time servo, which allows the camera to continually autofocus while filming is approved of, but Nikon has again missed out on the opportunity to renew its 18-55mm kit lens to make it quieter and prevent it from disrupting audio footage with its constant whirring.
Nikon D5300 Review – Design
The quality of the Nikon D5300’s overall finish is, as you might expect a blend of the D3200 and D7100. Notoriously, Nikon’s D5000-series has always been of similar size to the entry-level models, but thanks to inconspicuous tweaks to the D5300’s design it now feels fractionally larger in the average sized hand.
The Nikon D5300’s designers have also opted for a less curvaceous body (most noticeable above the model number) making it appear more squat than the D5200 when viewed from above.
The larger thumb rest at the rear contributes to a more comfortable feel in the hand and by shifting the playback button and d-pad controls down, albeit by a few millimetres, they now feel more accessible and better positioned. Other improvements see the info button that’s used to change a whole host of settings on the fly, shifted down so it’s parallel with the AutoExposure-Lock button.
One of the consequences of the larger screen are small buttons below the d-pad for zooming in playback mode. On the subject of the screen, it’s now made easier to pull out thanks to a section of the body being calved out beside the playback button. The screen fulfils the majority of space at the rear and though it’s a thinner unit than we’ve seen previously on the D5000-series it protrudes a few millimetres from the body. Thankfully this doesn’t have an adverse affect on handling.
Weighing 195g lighter than the D7100 and 20g less than the D5200, the D5300 is only 15g heavier with a battery and memory card installed than the D3200. Everything else about the D5300’s design is very well thought through and superbly executed.
The Live View switch is now labelled to make its purpose a little clearer when viewing the camera from the rear and while the mode dial offers a reassuring click in use, it offers no locking mechanism like on the D7100 to prevent it accidently being knocked, though we never found this to be an issue.
Possibly the biggest exclusion on the D5200 is that of a secondary command dial to adjust aperture independently – a feature only found on more advanced DSLRs in Nikon’s DSLR lineup. In its absence the exposure compensation button has to be used in combination with the rear scroll dial to adjust aperture in manual mode.
What with more and more smaller system cameras offering the benefit of twin control dials, we’d like to see Nikon rival the competition and introduce twin control dials to its entry-level range.
Nikon D5300 Review – Performance
Prior to the Nikon D5300, Wi-fi has only been supported on previous Nikon DSLRs by the use of an optional WU-1a wireless mobile adapter (£48). Its been a long time coming, but the introduction of built-in Wi-fi on the D5300 suggests we can expect it to appear built into other Nikon DSLRs in the future.
To take advantage of the wireless connectivity, Nikon’s Wireless Mobile Utility app (WMU) needs to be installed – a free download for both iOS and Android operating systems. Regrettably, unlike other manufacturers’ apps, many of the common settings such as aperture, shutter speed, ISO and exposure compensation can’t be controlled via the app. Instead, the app is very basic in terms of its appearance and functionality.
Despite shutter speed and aperture settings being displayed beneath the live view feed (of which there’s no lag or delay we must add) there’s no way of accessing them to change them, meaning the app is essentially acting as a remote trigger to fire the shutter in its take photos mode, nothing more.
Autofocus can be controlled from the app provided you’re using a lens that features an inbuilt motor, but rather disappointingly it’s not possible to change the cameras settings on the fly and instead you have to go to the menu options and switch the shoot mode to camera, adjust your settings, and then switch it back to WMU – a painstaking task that should be made a whole lot easier.
By far the best use of the app is for viewing images you’ve already taken. You’re given the option to select the photos you wish to download to your mobile device at either the original size or a recommended size which down samples images to a smaller resolution.
After download the images will appear in the devices camera roll from which they can be uploaded to social media or exported via email. One other observation was the incorrect orientation of portrait images in the app when viewing shots prior to downloading them. On more than one occasion we found it frustrating having to turn our mobile device to view the image the right way, only for the auto-rotate function on our device to rotate it by 90-degrees.
Much like the D5200, the D5300’s autofocus system impresses, especially when it’s paired with a premium lenses in the DX range. While the 18-55mm kit lens will be sufficient for beginners, its fairly noisy operation in AF mode can interrupt audio footage when recording HD video and there’s a tendency for it to hunt back and forth too in low-light. As before, the 3D-tracking mode worked well yet again on test, managing to keep apace with high-speed rally cars to ensure pin-sharp results were delivered shot after shot during a continuous burst.
The coverage of AF points in the frame is excellent for a camera of its pedigree and its relatively quick to move the AF point around the frame using the d-pad when composing through the viewfinder. The same can’t be said for Live View however and with its lack of touchscreen there’s a long delay in getting the AF point where you need it to be.
That, combined with the fact that when the mirror is flipped out of the way it relies on contrast-detect AF, it’s plainly more sluggish at acquiring focus in Live View than DSLRs implementing the latest technology of building phase-detect pixels into the sensor.
Video AF speed
The outcome of this is that it also has an affect on focusing speed when shooting video. Set to Full-time-servo AF (AF-F) we’d like to see the lock-on speed faster for video – an obvious area for improvement on a camera of this type and Nikon’s other DSLRs going forward. Loaded with a SanDisk Extreme Pro card, the D5300 is capable of shooting six frames at its maximum permitted burst of 5fps set to Raw+JPEG.
This figure is exactly the same as recorded previously on the D5200 and a second after the buffer interrupted shooting, the camera fired again with a shot-to-shot time of 1.5secs. To shoot an unlimited number of frames at 5fps on the D5300 you can do so by using one of the three JPEG compression settings (Fine, Norm, Basic). Interestingly, these performance tests prove the speed and buffer performance is little different to the D5200, despite it allegedly having more processing power with the inclusion of the new DIGIC 4 image processor.
Nikon D5300 Review – Image Quality
Colour and White Balance
The D5300’s Auto White Balance rarely misses a beat and can be relied on to render faithful colour temperature in a variety of different scenes, both indoors and out. Too add to this, colours straight out of the camera are rich, punchy and vibrant, leaving you with little or no work to do with the Saturation slider in post-processing. The only colour issue was experienced at the expanded ISO 25,600 setting, where an obvious magenta cast spoils and otherwise faultless colour and white balance performance.
The D5300’s 2016-pixel RGB metering sensor goes about its business effectively, offering spot, centre-weighted and matrix metering modes. Rarely did we find ourselves dialling in exposure compensation, other than maybe 0.3EV-0.7EV in particularly high-contrast scenes. For a majority of users, Active D-Lighting will want to be permanently set to Auti. In high-contrast scenes the automatic digital processing helps to preserve saturation and detail in the brightest or darkest areas. Without it users could find their results appear slightly more washed out, particularly in areas of the sky as per the example image.
The removal of the anti-aliasing filter does give the D5300 the edge over the D5200 when it comes to level of detail the sensor resolves, however it is marginal and unless you inspect images incredibly closely like we did our resolution chart, it’s hard to spot the difference. Resolving 28 lines per millimetre (lpmm) is an impressive readout from the sensor – great for zooming in and inspecting details much more closely, but also cropping tightly without having a disastrous effect on image quality.
Comparing the D5300’s ISO results alongside the D5200‘s revealed the D5300’s noise performance is the superior, both in Raw and JPEG images. Although a faint trace of luminance noise is introduced at ISO 800, it can be removed in post using noise reduction techniques. As for colour noise, this doesn’t appear until ISO 6400. ISO 3200 and 6400 are useable on a day-to-day basis and while the results at ISO 12800 and 25,600 feature less noise than the D5200, these high ISOs should be avoided, even in low-light if you’re after resolving the very best image quality from the sensor.
Nikon D5300 Review – Verdict
The Nikon D5200 impressed us last time around, but Nikon have managed to go one-better with the D5300. While its new features don’t make it a groundbreaking release, they add up to make it a better specified product for the entry-level and advanced amateur photographers it’s out to target.
It’s been a long time coming, but it’s great to finally see Wi-fi built into the body of a Nikon DSLR. It’s not all-good news however. Nikon’s mobile utility app is in need of development to offer greater functionality to those who want to control the camera remotely. In addition, we expected the camera to shoot slightly faster and provide a better buffer performance, but we found little change from the D5200 in this respect despite the new EXPEED 4 image processor.
Possibly the biggest disappointment on the D5300 is the lack of a touchscreen. Rival products like the Panasonic Lumix G6 and Canon EOS 700D both boast this feature and we’re now at the stage where we expect such functionality from a camera of its price and pedigree. If a touchscreen isn’t one of your main concerns, it remains an excellent DSLR and it’s hard to pick faults in terms of image quality or its build and finish.
With only £110 being the difference between the D5300 and D7100 at the time of writing, we’d be tempted to go the whole hog and sacrifice the D5300’s in-built Wi-fi and tilt screen for the D7100’s more advanced AF system, 100% viewfinder and weather-resistant build quality.
The advantages of doing so would be appreciated in the long run, plus it’s a better-tailored product for photographers who’ll quickly find themselves progressing to an enthusiast level.
Nikon D5300 Review – Sample Image Gallery
These are just a small selection of images captured with the Nikon D5300. For a wider selection of images head on over to the Nikon D5300 review sample image gallery.
Nikon D5300 Review – First Look
It’s just under a year ago since we witnessed the arrival
of the D5200 and Nikon has announced the Nikon D5300. Slotting in above the D5200 in the Nikon line-up, the D5300 is designed to appeal to aspiring users looking to upgrade from a compact, as well as what Nikon terms ‘networkers’, which hints at its Wi-fi functionality, but more on that shortly.
While it shares a virtually identical resolution to the D5200, Nikon claims the 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor inside the D5300 is newly developed and like its big brother the D7100, the sensor does away for the need of an anti-aliasing filter for improved sharpness.
New EXPEED 4 image processor
The D5300 is the first Nikon DSLR to feature the EXPEED 4 image processor, improving the performance of the camera in a number of areas over its predecessor, including better Auto White Balance control and ISO performance at higher sensitivities – the D5300 sports a native ISO range up to ISO 12,800, but can be expanded to an ISO equivalent of ISO 25,600.
One of the strengths of the D5200 is its relatively sophisticated AF system, and it’s no surprise to see the 39-point Multi-CAM 4800DX unit transfer across to the D5300. We’ve been impressed with its performance in the past, particularly the 3D tracking system that’s linked to the D5300’s Scene Recognition System to cleverly track your subject across the frame, so it shouldn’t through up any nasty surprises on the D5300.
Interestingly though, where Canon has made efforts to improve the live view AF performance of the EOS 700D by adding phase-detect photosites onto the sensor, the D5300 continues to rely solely on contrast-detect AF during live view and video capture. We’d have welcomed some innovation here from Nikon or at least built-in phase-detect photosites on the sensor as this in the past where some Nikon DSLRs have struggled – not only against the likes of the 700D, but the growing range of system camera rivals too.
With the trend for built-in Wi-fi connectivity increasing on new cameras, it’s nice to finally see a Nikon DSLR offering this built-in functionality, rather than as a optional accessory as we’ve seen with both the D3200 and D5200 for example. Expect easy transfer of images from the camera to your iOS or Android device via the dedicated free Nikon App to share in social networking sites, as well as offering the ability to remotely shoot, with feed from the D5300 transmitted to your smart-device.
At the rear of the camera, the vari-angle screen remains, but increases in size to 3.2in with an aspect ratio of 3:2 and a boosted resolution of 1037k-dots. Curiously, while touchscreen functionality is becoming more wide-spread on cameras in this sector, the D5300 goes without.
There’s also a dedicated HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode that captures two images in quick succession at different exposures before merging them together in a single image with a much broad range of shadow and highlight detail compared to a single exposure. The Active D-Lighting mode has also been tinkered with, now with a specific Portrait mode to balance the exposure.
As the D5300 is likely to be used as a dual-role camera for both stills and movies, you’ll find Full HD 1080p video capture at either 60/50p, while there’s a built-in stereo microphone too.
Nikon revealed that the D5300 is based around a new monocoque construction that does away with the need for a separate chassis and is formed from a new material that Nikon remained tight-lipped on on what it actually was. That said, if you’ve handled a D5200, you’d be hard-pushed to differentiate the look and feel of the D5300 once in the hand.
While we’ve seen a fair bit of innovation recently across the market, Nikon plays it much safer with the D5300. Looking at the specification and at first glance at least, appears to be a suitable upgrade of the D5200,though there are still some areas that we feel need attention if it wants to be the best there is for the aspiring photographer. We can’t make any real judgements though until we’ve gott our hands on a final production sample to find out how it really performs.
The Nikon D5300 is expected to be available mid-November
with a body-only price of £729, and a kit price of £829 with the 18-55mm VR lens.
Watch our First Look video preview: