Though the D5300 is still a great camera, it probably makes sense to spend extra on the newer D5600
Since it first launched in 2015, the Nikon D5300 has been superseded by the D5500 and D5600. Though you can still buy the D5300 for less than £600 with an 18-55mm kit lens, the D5600 can be found only from only £70 more and represents a solid upgrade on the older model. Along with a touchscreen, better battery performance (820 shots vs 620 shots), the newer model has both Bluetooth and NFC, making transferring images to your phone a cinch. The D5600 also comes with the newer 18-55mm VR AF-P kit lens that focuses more quickly and quietly than its predecessor. For more info about the D5600, click the link below to read our full review.
READ NEXT: Nikon D5600 review
Original review continues below: It has been a few years since we first reviewed the Nikon D5300, where it’s still a perfectly capable device, even if Nikon’s rivals have been battling it out. Since launch, Nikon released the D5500 (not long after the D5300’s launch mind you) with its superb sensor yet disappointing kit lens and middling controls. Sure, it’s a fine camera, but it just lacks consistency and brings forward problems found in its predecessors.
Back to the D5300, though, which graced our store shelves less than a year since the D5200. Its main raison d’etre was its impressive 39-point autofocus sensor, which really set it apart from the 700D’s 9-point and the K-50’s 11-point sensor. At the time its confusingly awkward controls and mediocre RAW performance set it back. A few years on, though, has it stood the test of time or has it fallen behind the pack?
Nikon D5300 review: Build quality
Externally, there’s not much to distinguish the D5300 from its predecessor. It has shed 25g and a few millimetres here and there. The 3.2in, 1,036,800-dot screen is a little bigger and sharper than before, and keeps its fully-articulated design – a big asset for video, macro and self-portrait shots. The drive mode button has been relocated from the top plate to the left side, just below the lens release button. That arguably makes it easier to reach, but harder to find when you’re still getting accustomed to the controls.
As before, the self-timer function deactivates after each frame, which is pretty annoying when using it to avoid shaking the camera when it’s mounted on a tripod. Our other grumbles about the controls remain unresolved, too, with few labelled buttons making it over-reliant on menu navigation. Some key features such as the auto ISO mode are buried deep within the main menu.
Nikon D5300 review: GPS and Wi-Fi
GPS and Wi-Fi are built in. These features are relatively rare among SLRs, and it’s the first time they’ve been built into a Nikon SLR; they won’t appeal to everyone but they do to us. GPS provides a fun way to browse photo collections in Lightroom or Picasa, and Wi-Fi means you can transfer photos to a smartphone or tablet and upload to social media without waiting until you get home.
GPS initially proved to be extremely flaky, frequently forgetting its position. It transpired that the Standby Timer option, which was on by default, meant that the GPS radio switched off after just a few seconds of inactivity. After disabling this feature, GPS worked much more reliably. There’s also a log function, which keeps the GPS radio running even when the camera is off, although this drained the battery in about four hours.
Wi-Fi transfers to iOS and Android devices were handled elegantly. The process starts by sending low-resolution copies from camera to app. This took about 20 seconds for 100 photos but made subsequent browsing extremely responsive. Transfers are at a choice of resolutions from VGA to full size. The app can browse, transfer and display RAW files too, but these aren’t converted to JPEG format so other apps are unlikely to be able to read them. It can transfer videos but not play them.
^Control the focus point via a smartphone app
The app also acts as a remote control for taking photos, complete with a live view stream. There’s touchscreen control over the autofocus area. The shutter button captures a photo without focusing, giving a shutter lag of around 200ms. The camera’s controls can’t be used in this mode, but there’s yet another mode that lets the user take photos with the camera in the normal way and transfers them as soon as they’re captured. This should be perfect for inspecting photos on a high-resolution tablet, but the implementation could be better. It only works if the app is specifically waiting to receive a photo rather than inspecting the previous one. Because the iOS app isn’t a native iPad app, it doesn’t take advantage of retina displays.
Nikon D5300 review: Video and shooting speed
The video mode now captures 1080p footage at a choice of 24, 25, 30, 50 and 60fps. The D5200’s 50 and 60fps modes were restricted to 1080i capture, which is best avoided in our opinion. We don’t have much call to shoot at frame rates faster than 25fps, but the ability to slow footage down in software for atmospheric slow-motion shots makes this change worthwhile. 50 and 60fps clips are limited to 10 minutes, while slower frame rates run for up to 20 minutes. Sadly, there’s no improvement to the D5200’s clunky video autofocus, which must be invoked manually by half-pressing the shutter button, whereupon it darts back and forth and adds audible whirrs to the soundtrack.
Shooting performance was broadly in line with the results we got from the D5200. It took 0.6 seconds between shots in normal use, while continuous mode hit the claimed 5fps speed. With a fast SDHC card it kept this speed up for 40 frames before slowing a little, to 4fps. However, enabling digital correction for lens distortions saw performance slow to 2.4fps after eight frames. Raw continuous performance saw a bigger drop, slowing to 1.6fps after six frames. Still, that’s better than the D5200, which slowed after just four frames. It’s also great to see that battery life is up from 500 to 600 shots.
Nikon D5300 review: Image quality
The resolution remains at 24 megapixels, but unlike on the D5200, the sensor doesn’t include an optical low-pass filter (OLPF). This should deliver sharper details at the expense of a higher risk of anti-aliasing artefacts, although in the Nikon D7100 we found that both effects were extremely subtle.
On the D5300, any improvement in fine detail was masked by the same sharpness problems that we experienced with the D5200 and its kit lens. Taking the same shot with three cameras that we had in for testing at the same time – the D5300, the Samsung Galaxy NX and Sony A3000 – the D5300 consistently took last place for detail, despite its higher resolution and lack of an OLPF.
Based on our tests we’d put this down to a number of contributing factors. The default JPEG settings use very light digital sharpening, so the finest details are glossed over in JPEG output. Meanwhile, focus from the kit lens isn’t able to match the capabilities of the sensor. We also spotted the same optical stabilisation issues that we’ve seen before from this lens, whereby details tend to be sharper when the VR (for vibration reduction) switch is set to Off for shutter speeds between 1/100s and 1/200s. The difference is pretty subtle, but it’s unfortunate considering these are the shutter speeds that the camera’s automatic modes tend to choose when shooting in bright light.
^Comparing the kit lens with a 35mm 1:1.4G (SRP £1,299) shows what this sensor is capable of, but also, the extent to which the kit lens fails to deliver (the 35mm focal length equates to 52mm as 35mm-equivalent value)
^Corner focus from the kit lens is particularly vague
^The kit lens doesn’t compare well with rival cameras’ kit lenses, either. There’s a slight haziness to these details compared to the 20-megapixel Samsung Galaxy NX (which shares its sensor and lens with the Samsung NX20, a closer match on features and price to the D5300)
^That haziness is more acute here, and details in the masonry and grass are all but lost
^The D5300 falls way behind the Galaxy NX in this dense, dark foliage, too
^Comparing the D5300’s JPEG and RAW output (processed in Lightroom 5), it’s clear that the JPEG engine is partly to blame for the soft details
^These 1:1 pixel crops show the centre of ten frames taken at 1/100s, the top half with optical stabilisation, the bottom half without. There’s some variation across the set, but the top five are, on average, a little soft compared the bottom five
^The difference is more consistent at 1/200s, although we must admit that it’s pretty subtle
Colour accuracy and noise levels gave us no cause for concern, though. The automatic white balance behaved itself well and JPEGs exhibited a flattering colour palette. Noise was carefully controlled up to ISO 6400, and higher settings were still usable at modest viewing sizes. It narrowly outperformed the D5200 and Canon EOS 700D for low noise at ISO 6400 and above, with the Pentax K-50 and Panasonic G6 trailing further behind.
^ISO 3200 produces JPEGs that are good enough for critical use
^ISO 6400 is looking pretty respectable, too
^ISO 12800 has swapped shadow detail for a fine grain, but it’s fine when viewed at modest sizes
Nikon D5300 review: Verdict
Perhaps it’s unfair to mark a camera down because its sensor (which can’t be replaced) significantly outperforms its kit lens (which is easy to replace). However, we see a lot of people using SLRs with their kit lenses, so it’s not a trivial matter. Our concern isn’t so much that the kit lens doesn’t match the sensor, but that it doesn’t live up to the standards of rival cameras’ kit lenses.
Since we first reviewed the D5300, Nikon announced the entry-level SLR, the Nikon D3300, which comes with a redesigned, collapsing kit lens. The D5300 kit has now been updated with this new kit lens. We were hoping that our D3300 tests would alleviate our concerns with the original kit lens, but sadly it wasn’t to be. Our studio scene wasn’t appreciably sharper with the newer lens, although its focus was mostly OK. It’s a small improvement then, but not one that lifts the D5300 kit above its current, could-do-better status.
That means there’s still a number of cameras we’d recommend ahead of the D5300. The Canon EOS 700D has more accessible controls and better video autofocus. The Pentax K-50‘s viewfinder and controls are a big step up from both the 700D and D5200. The Panasonic G6 has superior Wi-Fi and video features, and is available with the superb 14-140mm lens for around £650. As it currently stands, the D5300 doesn’t quite measure up. If none of these fit your needs then check out our regularly-updated Best Cameras list and buying guide.
|CCD effective megapixels
|Viewfinder magnification, coverage
|LCD screen size
|LCD screen resolution
|Zoom 35mm equivalent
|optical, in kit lens
|Maximum image resolution
|JPEG, RAW; QuickTime (AVC)
|Battery Life (tested)
|USB, AV, mini HDMI, 3.5mm mic input, wired remote, Wi-Fi
|Focal length multiplier
|Kit lens model name
|AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR
|USB cable, neck strap
|two year RTB
|program, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual
|30 to 1/4,000 seconds
|f/3.5-22 (wide), f/5.6-36 (tele)
|ISO range (at full resolution)
|100 to 25600
|auto, 12 presets with fine tuning, manual
|Additional image controls
|contrast, saturation, sharpness, brightness, hue, Active D-Lighting, noise reduction, auto distortion control
|Closest macro focus
|multi, centre-weighted, centre
|auto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, rear curtain, red-eye reduction
|single, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket, WB bracket, interval, multiple exposure, HDR