Eleven months have passed between Nikon releasing their mid-entry-level D5200 and its replacement, the D5300. It might not sound like a long time, but the march of technological advancement means this latest release offers measurable improvements on the spec sheet. Will these feature-tweaks be enough to persuade owners of the D5200 to upgrade their cameras? Or is it more of a tempting option for those looking to purchase their first D-SLR in a highly competitive market? We got our hands on one to find out exactly what the D5300 offers...
Features & Build
Lurking within the D5300, you’ll find the same 24Mp CMOS sensor as you will in the previous incarnation. It offers a maximum resolution of 6000x4000px but this time the Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF) has been removed. These filters were first included on sensors to combat the effect of moiré (strobing of similar patterns), but recent releases are increasingly seeing their removal as images are sharper with the absence of the filter, and moiré doesn’t seem to be a problem.
The enhanced sensor is paired with the new EXPEED 4 processor, which Nikon states helps reduce Noise at higher ISOs and renders more life-like colours. Evidence of the processor in action can be seen with a doubling of the native ISO range, from 6400 in the D5200 to 12,800 in the D5300, meaning the latest release can perform much better in low light. The sensitivity can be expanded to 25,600 if needs must, but Noise always dramatically increases when venturing into expanded ISOs. The new processor doesn’t offer any advancements on the frame rate though, as the D5300 continues in offering a maximum shooting speed of 5fps.
The key new feature of this release is integrated Wi-Fi, and it’s the first time Nikon have included it as part of the standard build on a D-SLR. There are two main benefits of the ability to connect your camera to a smartphone or tablet. Firstly, it makes sharing pictures on the move that bit easier. You can wirelessly transfer your latest shot to the phone in your pocket and then instantly upload it to social media sites, sharing your view with family and friends wherever you may be in the world. Secondly, it means you can control your camera with your smart device remotely, so you can set up your camera and bag shots of wildlife – or anything else – from a distance.
The D5300 also has built-in GPS, so you can geo-tag your images on a map and know precisely where you were when they were taken.
Composing shots is made that bit easier with the D5300, as the viewfinder has been made marginally larger, and offers 95% frame coverage. The size of the vari-angle TFT monitor has been increased too; it’s now a 3.2in screen with a higher resolution of 1037k-dot.
The focusing system matches that used in the D5200; it’s the Multi-CAM 4800DX AF sensor module with phase detection and 39 focus points. It can be set to five focusing modes: Autofocus (AF), Single focus (AF-S), Continuous focus (AF-C), auto AF-S/AF-C selection (AF-A) and Manual focus (MF).
Focusing modes are set via an on-screen menu. This also gives control over options such as metering modes and ISO settings, and this is essential as there’s no dedicated body buttons for these. The body features a mode dial with the usual MASP modes as well as a selection of 16 Scene modes. There’s a pop-up flash, a hotshoe and a smattering of buttons to adjust the most frequently-accessed controls. It comes bundled with the 18-55mm f/3.5-f/5.6 VR II lens.
Performance & Handling
The D5300 sits very comfortably in the hand. It’s lightweight, at just 480g (body-only), and the rubberised front and rear grips provide an excellent purchase. The shutter button and command dial fall naturally under the thumb and index finger so you’re always primed for shooting. The other buttons and controls are intuitively laid out and the on-screen menus are simple to navigate.
The phase-detect AF system is fast and accurate, locking on to a range of different targets, though it hesitated when focusing on low contrast subjects. In dim lighting the AF assist beam kicks in to illuminate the subject for more accurate focusing. When using Live View, contrast-detect AF is used, and this was slightly slower and tended to hunt when attempting to lock on.
The bright 3.2in LCD monitor gave a really crisp display, and the ability to flip out and rotate the screen made composing shots from awkward angles easy.
The Wi-Fi function is simple to set up and use. First you need to download the free App to your smart device and set up the Wi-Fi via the in-camera menu. You’re then ready to connect the two and begin sharing your images. Jpeg files took 6secs from capture to appearing on the smartphone, making it great for uploading shots on the go. When using a smartphone to remotely control the camera, we found it operated without a glitch up to a distance of 20m.
With our 16GB PNY 95MB/s test card inserted, the D5300 could fire a burst of 100 JPEGs– its capped limit – at the maximum 5fps. These files took 57secs to be written to the card. A single JPEG took just 0.59sec to be saved. When using RAW, the camera was capable of firing six files in a burst before the frame rate slowed (though it sluggishly fired 100 shots), and these six pics took 5secs to be recorded. When set to single shot, the D5300 saved the RAW file in 0.66sec.
Value for Money
If you’re looking for your first D-SLR, or thinking of upgrading from a much older model, then the D5300 is certainly a good option at £649. If that’s above your price point, the D3300 is Nikon’s entry-level D-SLR and is available for £429. It uses the same sensor and processor, so offers the same image quality, but lacks features such as the vari-angle screen, Wi-Fi and GPS.
If you’re considering upgrading from the D5200, then this release doesn’t offer great value. Much of the camera remains the same and you’ll only be getting a few additional features.
Other options available are the Canon EOS 700D for £579. It has a lower resolution at 18Mp but offers the same ISO range. It also sports a flip-out screen and comes with an 18-55mm lens. The Pentax K-5 II costs £649 with an 18-55mm lens. It has a smaller 16.3Mp sensor and the screen doesn’t rotate, but it does offer a faster frame rate at 7fps.
Overall, the D5300 is a good option if you’re looking to take the next steps in creative photography and want to take advantage of Wi-Fi connectivity.
The D5300 is perfect if you want to upgrade from an older entry-level model, or don’t mind spending a bit more on your first D-SLR. It’s packed with modern features and offers great image quality along with an impressive low-light performance. The key addition is the Wi-Fi connectivity. Some users may find they have no need for it, but others may not be able to live without it. If you want a D-SLR that lets you share pics on the go, then this is the one for you.
- Street price: £389 (Body only as of June 2016)
- Resolution: 24.2Mp (6000x4000px)
- Sensor: CMOS Nikon DX format
- Processor: EXPEED 4
- ISO range: 100-12800 (expandable to 25600)
- Shutter range: 30-1/4000sec
- AF system: Phase-detect (stills), Contrast-detect (LIve View)
- Focusing modes: Autofocus (AF), Single (AF-S), Continuous (AF-C), Auto selection (AF-A), Fulltime (AF-F), Manual (MF)
- Burst rate: up to 5fps
- Monitor: 3.2in, 1037k-dot, vari-angle TFT LCD
- Flash: Pop-up
- Hotshoe: Yes
- Video: Full HD 1080p @ 60fps
- Storage: SD, SDHC, SDXC
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi
- GPS: Built-in
- Weight: 480g (body only)
- Dimensions: (WxHxD) 125x98x76mm
- Visit: www.nikon.co.uk
This review was first published in the August 2014 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.