Initially released fall 2013, the Nikon D5300 is the replacement to the highly popular D5200, and the newer iteration in Nikon’s D5000 advance entry-level series. With its release, Nikon promises improvements in the cameras sensor, processor, video, and added connectivity. And in several cases, these improvements are quite significant. However, are they enough for users to forgo the older and more budget-friendly D5200? Nikon aims this camera as a competitor to Canon’s 70D, T5i, Sony NEX-7, and a6000. Today, we assess the strengths, weaknesses, and address whether this camera should be a consideration in your search for a new camera.
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- What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Nikon D5300?
- Image Quality
- Video Quality
- Low Light Performance
- Focusing Performance
- Battery Performance
- Display & Viewfinder
- User Interface
- Physical Layout & Ergonomics
- Niche Features/Extras
- Autofocus Performance
- Lacking Features
- Is this a good beginner camera?
- Is the Nikon D5300 a good camera for you?
What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Nikon D5300?
It inherits a similar 24.2MP resolution sensor as the predecessor, but removes the Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF) like the higher-end end D7100. Surprisingly, even considering the cameras lacking OLPF, it doesn’t suffer from moiré patterns when resolving fine details. And, overall, its filter-free sensor produces excellent photos with added sharpness across a wide array of lighting conditions. The dynamic range it delivers is extraordinary. The longitude the 14-bit RAW files provide far surpasses expectations. The camera even performs well when using automatic or scene selection modes, surprisingly. However, the colors tend towards a green tint, particularly when shooting under artificial light. Nevertheless, automatic modes create well-exposed, sharp, high-quality images. And the color science used here renders colors faithfully, yet brings a level of saturation that makes them pop.
It’s the first Nikon camera to feature the next-generation image processing engine, EXPEED 4. This updated processor does several things, one of which is it allows the camera to now shoot 1080p Full HD video up to 60 fps, yet another first. Before the release of this camera, all Nikon cameras capped at 720p 60 fps. Overall, this was an excellent, but much-needed addition. Like image quality, the camera’s video quality is also excellent.
Nikon limits the cameras video recording time for 1080p 60 fps to the Nikon standard of 20 minutes or 29 minutes and 59 seconds for 1080p 30 fps.
It provides uncompressed HDMI output to external recorders.
It delivers a flat picture profile, which lends the captured footage to better post-production changes to exposure, contrasts, and grading.
Low Light Performance
The updated EXPEED 4 image processor also goes to increased low light performance, in the form of a wider native ISO range. The camera now features a native ISO range from ISO 100-12,800, expandable to ISO 25,600. Overall, low light performance is excellent for this class of camera. Users can easily expect clean images up to ISO 3,200 and usable images at ISO 6,400. Though, at this point, take caution, as minor post-production noise reduction is necessary.
It inherits the same Multi-CAM 4800DX 39-point AF system as the higher-end D610, where 9 of these points are also cross-type compatible. Like the D610, focusing is precise, consistent, and confident, though not the fastest. While 39 points may sound limiting, they do provide sufficient coverage over the imaging area and are more than enough for most circumstances.
It uses the newer high-capacity EN-EL14a battery, which Nikon rates for 600 shots, a notable increase from the predecessors 500 shot lifespan.
Display & Viewfinder
It now features a 3.2-inch vari-angle TFT monitor with a 100% frame coverage and a resolution of 1.03M dots. Compared to the predecessors fixed display, it delivers superior versatility when shooting at extreme angles, and better resolution as well.
It has an optical viewfinder with a 95% frame coverage and moderately large 0.82x magnification.
Like most Nikon cameras in this class, it features traditionally designed and logically structured menus. Previous Nikon users will feel immediately familiar with the layout, and it is quite intuitive for beginners.
It features an in-camera image rating system when in the Playback Mode and a retouching menu, convenient for editing images when a computer is not available.
Physical Layout & Ergonomics
The design and physical layout are fundamentally identical to the predecessor. However, it is slightly smaller and lighter, now weighing a meager 480g body only, which is incredibly light for a mid-range DSLR. Nonetheless, the camera maintains a robust build quality and a comfortable grip, which Nikon redesigned to increase the clearance between body and lens further. And it’s a noticeable improvement over the predecessor’s shallow grip in comparison. The button layout is excellent, and Nikon has placed the majority of the most used settings on the right-hand side of the camera, which delivers outstanding one-handed control.
Thankfully, it features a programmable function button, FN, which is helpful when set to change ISO, as the camera lacks this particular functionality naturally.
It has a continuous burst rate of 5 fps, the same as the predecessor.
It has a built-in pop-up flash.
It has a microphone input that has manual audio control to hone the desired microphone gain.
It features built-in Wi-Fi and GPS, both of which are a first for a Nikon DSLR. Overall, these were much-needed additions that finally remove the need to purchase secondary accessories for these features, namely the WU-1A dongle. With the addition of Wi-Fi, users can now connect to smartphones or tablets for wireless image transfer and remote control, though a bit limited in functionality.
Unfortunately, autofocus performance in both video and Live View isn’t great. The camera hunts sporadically during these modes, even when objects are stationary and no other motion occurs in the frame. Overall, it doesn’t supply any level of confidence to convince users to opt with using autofocus in video. Additionally, both the internal microphone and attached shotgun microphones pick up the movement sounds from the lenses built-in AF motor. Problematic because it’s immediately noticeable and becomes incredibly distracting during recordings. Thus, manually focusing is the only real option here.
Unfortunately, while the added flexibility of the rear monitor is welcomed, this addition is quickly overshadowed by the lack of a touchscreen display. Considering it’s a feature found on much of the competition at this price, it’s a shame to see the screen begging for touch capability, but not get it, setting it apart in a negative way.
The menus lack any contextual information, particularly explaining why settings are unavailable, or other hints. Considering how much available space lies on the user interface, it unfortunate to see that extra space not go to benefiting new users.
While the camera features full manual control, oddly, manual settings are disabled by default. Enabling this feature requires a deep dive into the menu to unlock the settings. Why is it off? That doesn’t make any sense.
It lacks a few physical buttons to access critical functions such as White Balance, Focus, and Drive Mode. So, unfortunately, all these changes are strictly menu-driven. Considering the camera lacks a touchscreen, this means changing standard settings is a dance with the d-pad, which is cumbersome.
Like many consumer Nikon cameras, you cannot change the Aperture in Live View, only Shutter Speed and ISO are adjustable. Instead, adjusting Aperture only occurs in still mode. Why is this a problem? Well, when the situation arises where drastic changes in exposure occur while filming, you will first have to stop the recording, make the change then restart recording. Incredibly tedious. And there’s no way to avoid doing this process.
While the camera has a continuous shooting speed of 5 fps on paper, the truth is it only does so for a single second. At which point, you find yourself running into the buffer, and its speed slows dramatically. Overall, the camera’s buffer depth is incredibly weak and doesn’t make it a confident option for sports photography.
While connecting to the camera via Wi-Fi works relatively seamlessly, the camera lacks NFC to smooth any kinks during the connection process. And once connected, the app has limited customization and shooting capabilities. At its core, it functions merely as a remote shutter release. Also, the GPS is slow in acquiring a signal lock, especially when the sleep time is enabled. The caveat is that disabling the sleep timer reduces battery performance, so there’s a trade-off here.
Like the predecessor, it lacks a built-in AF motor, which makes it incompatible with older generation Nikon lenses that require built-in motors.
It lacks headphone input.
Is this a good beginner camera?
Overall, yes, it is a good beginning camera, though it has some stiff competition in today’s marketplace. Nonetheless, it delivers the specifications, features, and build quality of Nikon’s higher-end DSLRs in a budget-friendly package. The image quality easily rivals Nikon’s higher-end D7000 series cameras and considering it offers the same focusing system as the D610; it’s quite a capable little package.
Is the Nikon D5300 a good camera for you?
For the price, it performs incredibly well and easily delivers high-quality images. And it’s an excellent choice for amateur, enthusiast, or hobbyist photographers looking for a step-up in image quality over their smartphones.
For aspiring hybrid shooters or videographers, the poor autofocus performance in Live View will be a huge disadvantage and a setback for you. It does not make for a reliable enough system to recommend for those looking to seriously shoot video unless you are willing to forgo autofocus entirely.
Should current D5200 users upgrade? Yes. This camera delivers five distinct advantages over the older camera: the updated EXPEED 4 image processor, no OLPF, improved display, better video capabilities, and built-in connectivity. However, if you’re not particular about the extra-fine details or the improved progressive recording, then the D5200 remains a good option.
In the end, this is an excellent option for those looking for a camera with a robust feature set and excellent image quality without upgrading to the larger D7000 series cameras. It delivers all of the controls and performance of the D7100, but with added versatility with its articulating display.
Though it has some stiff competition in today’s marketplace, it delivers the specifications, features, and build quality of Nikon’s higher-end DSLRs in a budget-friendly package. And its image quality easily rivals Nikon’s higher-end cameras. In the end, the D5300 is an excellent alternative for those looking for a camera with a robust feature set and excellent image quality without upgrading to Nikons larger D7000 series cameras.