Looking for a decent mid-range SLR? The D5300 should tick most of your boxes with its comfortable shooting design and a great set of features.
Design and features
Even though the outside of the camera may look much the same as the earlier D5200, Nikon has managed to shave off 100g of weight. This brings the body down to just 408g without a battery.
The D5300 sits neatly in the hand, with most dials and buttons within comfortable reach. The Live View switch now surrounds the mode dial, which makes it much easier to flick on and off than on previous Nikon cameras. However, its positioning means you may need to unbalance the camera from your right hand to use the switch as it's a stretch to reach it with your right thumb.
The back of the camera has a comfortable grip for your thumb, but the Live View switch has been repositioned next to the mode dial, which makes one-handed operation more difficult.
There are other key differences inside that set the D5300 apart from its predecessor. Most important is the new 24-megapixel sensor, which does away with the optical low pass filter (also called an anti-aliasing filter). Removing it helps to deliver the maximum resolution from the sensor, as well as improve image sharpness. There is a tradeoff, however, which can come in the form of increased moire.
For video fans, the D5300 is a capable performer, able to shoot at 1080/50p (PAL) though if you switch to NTSC you can get the full 1080/60p option. As well as the increased frame rate, users also get the option to use continuous autofocus during video recording. Incidentally, the AF system is inherited from the earlier D7000 camera, coming in at 39 points.
Connectivity options are plentiful, including a 3.5mm microphone input, mini HDMI, USB and AV out. The D5300 supports either 12 or 14-bit RAW capture, as well as a few in-camera editing options that are available through the Retouch menu.
The app is quite basic.
For beginner photographers, Nikon has provided plenty of different options to help make the transition to an SLR particularly easy. On top of automatic mode, there are plenty of scene modes as well as icons on the mode dial that will set the camera up specifically for the stated condition such as macro or landscape.
The Effects mode (found on the dial) lets you add a number of different filters to images. To see what these look like in real time, before pressing the shutter, switch into Live View mode.
The rear LCD screen gets a boost in size, now sitting pretty at 3.2 inches. It is also a rotating screen that pivots around 270 degrees on the left side of the camera, making it ideal for capturing shots from unconventional angles. There is one annoying quirk about the design of the D5300, and that is the lack of a dedicated ISO button. Instead, this is relegated to the single customisable function button at the front of the camera, the same as all earlier D5000-series cameras.
Nikon has finally added Wi-Fi and GPS to the camera body rather than making photographers fork out for separate dongles. The integration in-camera is decent, but the Nikon Wireless Mobile Utility app is lacklustre and only performs very basic functions. The app is limited to pulling across photos and videos from the camera, as well as acting as a remote viewfinder. There is no option to change the exposure from within the app which is disappointing.
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Start-up to first shot time
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- RAW shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
Canon EOS 70D
Canon EOS 60D
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Continuous shooting speed (in frames per second)
Canon EOS 70D
Canon EOS 60D
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The D5300 can shoot off 5.1 frames per second in high-speed continuous mode, with focus fixed from the first shot. With continuous focus on every frame, this rate is reduced to 2.5 frames per second. The camera can take a near-unlimited number of JPEG shots in continuous mode, but can only fire off 5 frames in RAW before stopping completely to process the burst.
Overall the D5300's AF system performs very well in a variety of situations, whether that is low-light, indoor or bright outdoor situations. Users can opt to leave focusing in auto-area AF; switch to dynamic AF with either 9, 21 or 39 points in use; use 3D tracking; or choose single-point AF.
Like other Nikon cameras, there is a quiet shutter release mode, as well as a 10-second self-timer. Shutter lag measures 0.4 second indoors with reduced light, or 0.2 second outdoors in more regular photographic conditions.
We tested the D5300 in conjunction with the kit 18-140mm lens. It offers a bit more reach than the older 18-105mm Nikon lens, and much more than the standard 18-55mm lens.
If all you plan to do is leave the D5300 on automatic settings or even Program auto mode, you won't be disappointed with the results that this camera delivers. Exposures are accurate, perhaps a little conservative, but this gives you a lot more latitude to avoid blowing out highlights when it comes to tricky lighting situations. Naturally, for those wanting to push the limits of the camera with manual modes and RAW capture, the D5300 will cater to your whims very nicely indeed.
Two of the in-camera filters available through the Effects tab on the mode dial: HDR painting and toy camera.
The 18-140mm lens is an ideal partner for the D5300, though we would have liked the opportunity to test out some high-end Nikon glass to really push the capabilities of this sensor.
Images stay clean up to and including ISO 800. The camera does a very good job of keeping noise under control on both its JPEG and RAW images, though you will notice there is more detail retained on high-ISO photos shot on RAW.
RAW images on the D5300 retain just a touch more detail when shooting at higher ISO sensitivities. Exposure: 1/100, f/5, ISO 1000.
Compared to images from the D5200, the removal of the optical low pass filter on the D5300 does appears to increase image sharpness slightly. However, we were not able to compare images shot with the same lens on both bodies so our assessment is down to just being able to eye off the difference.
Despite the new sensor and image processor, there isn't all that much extra that you can pull out of the RAW files from this camera compared to its predecessor. For example, when recovering shadow areas there is little to no difference from that of the D5200. You get about 2 stops of latitude before noise creeps into those shadows.
Fortunately, the camera exhibits no real evidence of moire on still images, even when photographing subjects with busy patterns.
Nikon has done a lot to push the bar in terms of video recording in its entry-level and mid-range SLRs. Video quality from the D5300 is very good, with shooting at 1080/50p producing smooth and fluid motion. There is no noticeable moire on the video image.
You get full control over exposure for video, so recording can be started in any of the PASM modes. Continuous AF is also available during recording, though you do need to turn it on by selecting AF-F from the info menu. Focusing during video is smooth with the 18-140mm lens, though not as quick as that on cameras such as the Canon 70D. In quiet situations when using the built-in microphone, you can hear the focus movements of the lens when using continuous AF.
Audio quality from the built-in stereo microphone is good. The wind cut feature does well in reducing clipping in high-wind areas. Users can select manual audio overrides for the microphone, with a 20-level increment. Video recording is limited to 10 minutes at a time, indicated by a countdown timer on the LCD screen.
Exposure: 1/125, f/5.6, ISO 1600
Exposure: 1/100, f/13, ISO 1250
Exposure: 1/1250, f/9, ISO 640
Exposure: 1/400, f/10, ISO 250
There is nothing revolutionary about the D5300 that would give D5000-series owners the impetus to upgrade. But taken on its own merits, the D5300 is a competent SLR that has enough features to set itself apart from the pack.
The D3200 is available in black, red and grey.