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Nikon D5300 Review

Overview by Roger Slavens with Hands-On by
Posted: 10/17/2013

Updates:
02/19/2014: Image Quality Comparison and Print Quality Analysis
: Review finalized with Shooter's Report by Jason Schneider

Nikon D5300 Review -- Front left view with flash deployed

The Nikon D5300 may mark an evolutionary -- rather than a revolutionary -- upgrade over the 15-month-old D5200. However, the camera's improvements are quite considerable, positioning the DSLR as a compelling, more affordable option for advanced amateurs who may be eyeing the higher-end, prosumer D7100, as well enticing owners of Nikon's consumer-level DSLRs to take a step up. The most noticeable enhancement appears to be the D5300's built-in Wi-Fi functionality, which makes it the first Nikon DSLR that doesn't rely on an accessory dongle (WU-1a/b) to share images wirelessly or provide remote control capture when paired with smart devices. The D5300 is also the first Nikon DSLR to feature built-in GPS.

Improved sensor, sans OLPF. In addition to its Wi-Fi savviness, the Nikon D5300 holds a few other advantages over its predecessor, the D5200, and in some instances rivals the D7100. For one, the D5300's enhanced DX-format, 24-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor helps maximize the camera's resolving power by omitting the optical low-pass filter (as Nikon did earlier with the D7100). Forgoing the OLPF in a consumer-friendly DSLR opens up a realm of incredible detail and sharpness to a mass audience, though with a risk of more moiré and other aliasing artifacts.

Nikon D5300 Review -- front view without lens

Processor and performance. What's more, the D5300 incorporates Nikon's latest processor -- the EXPEED 4 -- which even the company's most recently announced full-frame prosumer DSLR, the D610, doesn't have. This next-generation imaging engine purports to better optimize the DSLR's detail-versus-noise output and enhance color accuracy. The Nikon D5300's sensitivity has also been bolstered, now spanning a standard ISO range of 100 to 12,800 (compared to a standard max 6,400 for the D5200), as well as reaching as high as ISO 25,600 in expanded sensitivity mode. Meanwhile, the D5300's continuous shooting speed clocks in at about 5 frames per second at full JPEG resolution, roughly the same as the earlier model, but still above average for high-resolution DSLRs in its class.

Nikon D5300 -- rear view with LCD extended

Size and design. While the D5300 retains the same basic design and form as the D5200, it's now even more compact, measuring 4.9 x 3.9 x 3 inches (125 x 98 x 76mm) compared to the 5.1 x 3.9 x 3.1 inch (129 x 98 x 78mm) dimensions of its predecessor. The new model is also a bit lighter, weighing just 16.9 ounces (480 grams) empty and 18.7 ounces (530g) with battery and memory card, versus 17.8 ounces (505g) and 19.6 ounces (555g), respectively, for the D5200. The biggest physical difference between the two models can be found on the back of the camera, in the form of the larger 3.2-inch Vari-angle (full tilt-swivel, which provides terrific shooting flexibility) LCD monitor that features a whopping 1,037K dots of resolution. And unlike the D5200's 4:3 aspect ratio LCD, the D5300's display now matches the sensor's 3:2 aspect ratio.

Nikon D5300 -- Movie menu

Video. Another upgrade on the Nikon D5300 is its video capabilities. The DSLR now records in Full HD 1080p at 60 frames per second, a huge improvement over the D5200 which could only film at 30p, or a max of 60i. Recording at 60p results in much smoother video, and the camera also provides flexibility by also being able to record at 50p, 30p, 25p and 24p frame rates. The D5300 features built-in stereo audio mics, and full-time AF is said to have been improved.

Autofocus and exposure. Like its predecessor, the D5300 employs Nikon's 39-point AF system, which works in conjunction with the company's Scene Recognition System and 2,016-pixel RGB metering system.

Other features old and new. The D5300 brings back a lot of familiar functionality, including Nikon's Active D-lighting mode to optimize dynamic range. Also returning is a two-shot HDR mode, and a selection of special effects filters ranging from High Key to Miniature. Two new filters have been added: Toy camera (creative vignetting) and HDR painting that applies a drastic HDR effect that posterizes the sky.

Wi-Fi and GPS. Again, the camera's built-in Wi-Fi functionality stands out as a highlight, and when used in conjunction with Nikon's Wireless Mobile Utility app, can not only transfer files to connected smartphones and tablets, but also allow for remote control operation of the camera in Live View mode, including touch AF on the paired devices. You can see aperture and shutter information displayed on the phone or tablet you're viewing remotely, but you can't change the settings using those devices. The Nikon D5300's built-in GPS, again a first for Nikon DSLRs, allows photographers to geotag images and share location information with friends and family.

Nikon D5300 review -- top view

Flash and hotshoe. Like its predecessor, the D5300 includes both a pop-up flash, and an iTTL hot shoe for external strobes. The camera supports Nikon's Creative Lighting System, but unlike higher-end Nikon DSLRs, the built-in flash does not support commander mode. You'll have to use a mounted SB-910, SB-900, SB-800 or SB-700 flash, or an SU-800 Speedlight commander to control remote flashes wirelessly.

Nikon D5300 Review -- ports

Additional connectivity. The Nikon D5300 can be connected to a computer or printer using a USB (2.0 High Speed) cable with a Micro-B plug connection on the camera side. This is a combined USB/AV port used for both data transfer and standard-def composite video/stereo audio output. There's also a Mini HDMI (Type-C) port for high-def output with CEC support. The D5300 includes an accessory terminal for use with an MC-DC2 cable remote, WR-R10 wireless remote transceiver, or GP-1 GPS unit (all available separately). A 3.5mm stereo microphone jack for attaching external microphones for video recording is also provided. Like its predecessor, the D5300 also features front and back IR receivers compatible with Nikon's inexpensive ML-L3 infrared remote control.

Nikon D5300 Review -- card slot

Storage and battery. The Nikon D5300 provides a single slot for SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards, and both UHS-1 and Eye-Fi cards are supported. Still images can be recorded and stored as JPEG, 12 or 14-bit RAW (.NEF) and RAW+JPEG files. Videos are recorded and stored as H.264/MPEG-4 AVC MOV files with stereo sound.

Nikon D5300 Review -- battery compartment

The camera is powered by a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery pack (EN-EL14a) and comes with a dedicated charger (MH-24 Quick Charger). The battery is CIPA-rated for 600 shots on a single charge -- a 20% improvement over the D5200, which only provided 500 shots per charge. An optional AC adapter kit (EH-5b AC Adapter) is available separately, but requires an additional EP-5A Power Connector.

Analysis. The Nikon D5300 is entry-level when it comes to ease of use, but decidedly high-end in terms of image quality and features. With built-in Wi-Fi, GPS, and extensive video capabilities, it's an extraordinary package.

Pricing and availability. As mentioned previously, the Nikon D5300 is available in two kits, either bundled with the 18-140mm VR lens for about US$1,400 (on sale for ~$1,100 at time of writing), or the 18-55mm VR II lens for about US$900. It's also available body-only, for about US$800. The body comes in black, red or -- a brand new DSLR color for Nikon -- gray.

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Hands-On with the Nikon D5300

by Dave Etchells

The Nikon D5300 will be immediately familiar to anyone who's shot with its predecessor, the D5200. Most controls are all pretty much in the same positions, although the drive mode button on the top panel has sadly disappeared, to make room for the GPS and/or Wi-Fi radios.

Nikon D5300 Review -- hands-on front

Design and ergonomics. While I didn't have a D5200 simultaneously available to compare handling with, as far as I could tell, the grip and body ergonomics of the D5300 seem very similar to those of the earlier model. The viewfinder bulge on the top seems a bit narrower and more elongated, possibly giving the flash head a tad more height when it's popped up, but any increase would be minor, more cosmetic than likely to affect red-eye any. As we mentioned earlier, the biggest physical difference is the oversized 3.2-inch Vari-angle LCD display, and I found to be crystal clear, with excellent (1,037K dots) resolution.

I'm a bit of a dilettante when it comes to grip design, and the Nikon D5300's is very well executed. The front grip is very comfortable, even with my rather long fingers, but also works very well for people with smaller hand sizes. Holding the camera with a relaxed grip, your index finger naturally falls directly over the shutter button, and your thumb lands right on the rear command dial control. Shooting two-handed, it's easy to get your thumb over to the "i" and AE-L/AF-L buttons, and only a bit more of a each to drop down to the Playback and Four-way controller buttons. The Menu button is easily accessible in the upper left corner of the rear panel, and the Fn button is easy for your left thumb to get to upon releasing the zoom or focus rings.

Nikon D5300 Review -- hands-on rear

Smaller viewfinder eyecup. One of the more noticeable changes is in the optical viewfinder eyecup. While the cup on the D5300 is a good bit smaller than the D5200's, I didn't find the difference significant when shooting with the D5300. I suppose the wider cup would prevent a bit more glare from ambient light, but as far as I'm concerned the D5300's smaller one means just that much less to smudge my eyeglasses. The D5300's optical viewfinder itself also sports a very useful enhancement, a very useful higher magnification factor of 0.82x vs the 0.78x of the D5200. A larger field of view in the viewfinder is almost always a good thing, so this increase in OVF effective magnification is very welcome.

New kit lens. This was the first chance we'd had to see the new 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED DX VR lens that is kitted with the D5300, and we liked what we saw. Longer-ratio zooms always involve some compromises in optical quality so we didn't expect amazing performance. That said, 18-140mm isn't pushing things as much as the 18-200mm or 18-250mm optics that are on the market, and Nikon's earlier 18-135mm lens was very sharp, its main failing being excessive chromatic aberration. That lens debuted in the days before in-camera CA correction was common, though, so as expected, this new 18-140mm doesn't show much CA in JPEGs. Overall, the 18-140mm performs well for its type, with good to excellent sharpness in the center across the zoom range, though distortion is a bit high.

With such a compact body, a 18-140mm zoom adds a fair bit of bulk, but the balance between the two felt quite comfortable, not nearly as front-heavy as we would have expected. With the zoom at its wide-angle position, the center of gravity between lens and body is maybe a quarter-inch or so in front of the lens mount flange. Surprisingly, zooming to full tele only moves the balance point another quarter-inch or so further forward. Holding the camera and lens in both hands, there's no sense of front-heaviness whatever.

Nikon D5300 Review -- right side view

Video prowess. One very welcome addition is full 1080/60p HD video recording; the earlier model was limited to 30p, and 60p provides both much smoother recording of fast action, as well as the opportunity for great slow-motion -- by recording at 60p, and then playing back at 30p or 24p. (You'll need video editing software to accomplish this, though; the movie file itself contains information saying it should be played at 60p.) The D5200 supported 60i recording, but we at IR frankly don't find interlaced recording very useful or interesting; it plays fine on HDTVs, but some computer playback systems don't cope well with the "tearing" that happens when your subject moves in the interval between one scan field and the next.

The Nikon D5300 also supports full manual exposure control in movie mode, but still has the limitation that you can't adjust the aperture setting in Live View mode for videos, but instead must drop back to normal viewfinder operation, set the aperture, and then pop back into Live View for the new aperture to take effect.

Added creative effects. Continuing a general trend in the industry, the Nikon D5300 sports a couple of additional creative effects / filter options, adding Toy Camera and HDR Painting modes to the previous set, making a total of nine different available effects. This doesn't include built-in HDR, which of course was brought back.

Control limitations. While I'm once complaining about things, I'll also mention the slight disconnect I feel when using the quick menu system (accessed by pressing the "i" button) to change various settings. The rear control dial only adjusts program shift (flexible program), shutter speed, aperture, scene or effects mode depending on the mode dial position; other settings can only be changed with the arrow keys of the 4-way controller if there isn't a dedicated button to hold down (like exposure compensation or flash mode). While you need to use the arrow keys to select which parameter you're adjusting anyway, I initially found myself wanting to hit the "OK" button on the parameter I selected, and then use the control dial to rapidly scroll through the options. Instead, you must use the arrow keys to make your choices. This isn't much of an issue for settings with few options available, but I found it a bit of a pain when faced with a lot of options, as is the case with ISO (though you can program the Fn button to select ISO and use it in conjunction with the dial).

Nikon D5300 Review -- rear view

We don't have any (easy) way of verifying the numbers, but Nikon reports that battery life has been considerably enhanced, going from 500 shots in the D5200 to 600 in the D5300, using the CIPA battery-life measurement protocol. That's a noticeable step up in performance.

Hands-on summary. Overall, we're excited about the improvements in the Nikon D5300, especially its Wi-Fi and video capabilities, and we're pleased that it performed well in the lab and in the field. Read on for all the details.

 

Shooting with the Nikon D5300

by Jason Schneider

Nikon D5300 Review -- gallery image
24mm, f/3.8, 1/80s, ISO 100, +1.0EV

Nikon's D5300 is essentially a thoughtful upgrade of the popular, much admired D5200, which, at the moment, is still available brand new at about $150 less. Like its predecessor, the D5300 is perched at the upper end of the entry-level tier. It's a broad-spectrum model designed to appeal to those buying their first or second DSLR, but also with enough performance, panache, and advanced features to satisfy budding photography enthusiasts. Overall, it's compact and solid, and its large, ergonomic handgrip, excellent balance, and well-placed shutter-release button contribute to its fine handling.

Nikon D5300 Review -- gallery image
116mm, f/5.6, 1/200s, ISO 320

I put the D5300 through its paces using the higher-end kit lens, the AF-S Nikkor 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED DX VR, which provides a 35mm equivalent field of view range of 27-210mm. While this lens increases the price of a D5300 outfit by at least $200 compared to the standard 18-55mm VR II short zoom, I would strongly recommend it to any prospective D5300 purchaser -- it balances beautifully on the camera, considerably extends the camera's shooting versatility, and its imaging performance is good for a kit lens with its range.

How good is the AF-S NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED DX VR kit lens?
Click here to see our kit lens test results of this optic.

As mentioned, the D5300 is compact (it's actually tad smaller than the D5200, but it's not something you'd notice), and it feels very comfortable and secure in your hands. On the top deck you'll find a large classic mode dial with the usual P, S, A, M exposure modes, a green basic Auto mode, a convenient "flash off" setting, and a selection of scene mode icons including Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports and Close-up. More interesting are the detents labeled SCENE and EFFECTS. Select the former and turn the command dial above the back thumb rest and a much wider selection of selectable scene modes is displayed sequentially on the LCD including Night Portrait, Beach/Snow, Candlelight, Food, etc. Turn the dial to EFFECTS and you can choose from a fairly extensive array, including Toy Camera, Color Sketch, Miniature, Silhouette, HDR Painting, Selective Color, Night Vision, etc. This system of selecting creative options is very cool, very intuitive and commendably easy to use.

Nikon D5300 Review -- gallery image
140mm, f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 100
Nikon D5300 Review -- Shooting menu

For the most part, the controls on the D5300 are pretty straightforward and easy to understand. Press the MENU button and you'll find an array of menu options appear on the LCD, including Playback, Shooting, Setup, and Custom Settings. Scroll down to the menu you want, toggle the 4-way controller to the right, toggle down to the setting you want and press the OK button to enter and set the sub-menu, and press the OK button to activate your setting. Warning: The use and functions of the custom settings are not described in detail in the otherwise well organized instruction manual.

Nikon D5300 Review -- Info screen with Quick menu

Press the "i" button to the right of the eyepiece and an info display appears at the top of the screen and a selection of 14 different variables appears at the bottom (quick menu), with the setting in use highlighted in yellow. These settings include frequently adjusted parameters such as image quality, metering pattern, exposure compensation, white balance, focus mode, ISO, etc., and available settings change depending on the exposure mode. For example, if you highlight Metering and press the OK button, you can now scroll to set metering mode to Matrix, Center-weighted or Spot using the 4-way controller. It's a logical system but not as direct as the dedicated buttons found on other cameras. There is a dedicated exposure-compensation button next to the movie button behind the shutter release that can be quickly set by turning the command dial, a dedicated flash button on the left-hand side of the camera that can be used to set flash mode with the dial (and even flash compensation when both the flash and compensation buttons are held down), and a Fn button below the flash button that can be assigned for quick access to a variety of frequently used settings or menus. Options include image quality/size, ISO, white balance, Active D-Lighting, HDR, +RAW, bracketing, AF-area mode, viewfinder grid and Wi-Fi menu (I assigned it to the ISO setting).

The D5300's LCD is very good -- it's large, bright, displays live and captured images in crisp detail at the same aspect ratio as the sensor, swings to the side and rotates upward and downward for low- and high-angle viewing, and can be turned outward against the camera body for convenient image review or composition, or turned inward to protect the screen while the camera is being transported. In bright sunlight, the glossy LCD screen is prone to glare and reflections making it slightly difficult to see, which could aggravate some, but thankfully the articulated design lets you maneuver it a bit to a more optimal angle. And of course, there's always the optical viewfinder for stills.

Nikon D5300 Review -- gallery image
85mm, f/5.3, 1/500s, ISO 180

The viewfinder is about par for the course for a penta-mirror finder, which is to say it's OK but hardly stellar in terms of either brightness or magnification, and it does have some of the accursed tunnel effect. With an increased magnification of 0.82X and displaying ~95% of the captured image both vertically and horizontally its specs are actually better than many of its rivals, but it's the most obvious compromise that's been made to keep the price of this full-featured camera competitive. Of course, many shooters won't notice or even care, but if you hanker for a real solid glass pentaprism viewfinder that provides a truly brilliant viewing image, take a look at the pricier Nikon D7100.

Want to learn more about the Nikon D5300's TTL optical viewfinder?
Click here to see our viewfinder test results.

Nikon D5300 Review -- gallery image
50mm, f/4.5, 1/80s, ISO 320, +2/3EV

One area where the Nikon D5300 definitely excels is sheer image quality. The quality of the RAW NEF and JPEG files is spectacular at low and moderate ISO settings in the ISO 100-800 range. However, this level of performance is maintained with minimal artifacts and impressive color saturation all the way up to ISO 6400 in my experience. The combination of a high-end-sensor without an optical low-pass filter and the EXPEED 4 processor really accounts for this camera's great image quality performance.

View the IR Lab's in-depth Nikon D5300 image quality test results by clicking here, but be sure
to read further on to see side-by-side comparisons of the D5300 against its top competitors.

Click here to see how the D5300's default and lowest noise reduction settings
compare to RAW files without noise reduction across the ISO range.

Nikon D5300 Review -- gallery image
High ISO Sample. 40mm, f/6.3, 1/160s, ISO 12,800

I mostly used the 2016-pixel RGB Matrix Metering exposure mode and it delivered about 95% perfect exposures under a wide variety of lighting conditions. Only when shooting snow scenes and severely backlit portraits did I resort to using up to +1.0 EV exposure compensation. This is commendable performance indeed.

While I tend to favor available light photography and shoot mostly still images, I did shoot about a dozen flash pictures and can confirm that the built-in flash (guide number in feet, 39 at ISO 100 in Auto mode) is powerful and delivers good coverage, in my experience. However, the IR lab tests showed some rather inconsistent exposure results with the built-in flash and 18-140mm kit lens. The lens also cast a shadow at the bottom of our test frame at wide angle. So, depending on your focal length and distance to your subject, your mileage may vary, as they say.

Want to see how the Nikon D5300's built-in flash tested in the lab?
Click here to see our standard flash test results.

The camera also provides a simplified Auto HDR setting that combines two sequential exposures and lets you adjust the exposure interval between them up to 3 stops. It's easy to set and for most situations it's an adequate work-around for capturing subjects with an extended brightness range, but it can't capture the same tonal range or subtlety as the multi-shot Auto HDR systems found in more expensive pro-caliber cameras. As we saw with the HDR modes in the D5200, the more extreme High and Extra High modes (and even the Normal mode to a lesser degree) reduced highlight areas, such as the sky, to the point of producing an artificial-looking halo-effect around the trees and building in the shots below. Scenes with greater tonal range would likely fare better.

Nikon D5300: HDR Modes
Nikon D5300 -- HDR series shot Nikon D5300 -- HDR series shot
Off
Auto
Nikon D5300 -- HDR series shot Nikon D5300 -- HDR series shot
Low
Normal
Nikon D5300 -- HDR series shot Nikon D5300 -- HDR series shot
High
Extra High (High+)
Nikon D5300 Review -- AF points

I was also impressed with the camera's AF performance and decisiveness, and the fact that selecting AF zones is simple, quick and intuitive -- just use the 4-way directional buttons. Part of the camera's excellent AF performance is attributable to the 39-zone phase-detect AF system including 9 cross-type AF sensors distributed in the central area of the image field. The cross-type sensors can lock onto to subjects having either horizontal or vertical line patterns, and this certainly enhances AF performance and speed with challenging subjects and in low light. For the record the AF system's detection range is -1 to +19 EV at ISO 100 and 20°C/68°F, so it's not surprising that it performs well in a variety of lighting conditions.

Autofocus frame coverage is quite generous for its class, however as is usually the case with dedicated phase-detect AF systems, there are no AF sensors at the periphery or corners of the field. So, it's essential to place what you're focusing on somewhere near the center of the frame (particularly if you want to use the cross-type sensors), and recompose if you want to place this subject at the edges or corners of the picture. Theoretically this can lead to focusing errors that can be eliminated by focusing manually, which the camera does very efficiently whether you're in AF or manual-focus mode by simply turning the focusing ring on the lens until the image in the finder is sharp where you want it to be -- a nice feature that lets you touch up the focus at any time. It is however difficult to nail critical focus manually at wide apertures without a focus aid, especially using a penta-mirror viewfinder on a high resolution camera such as the D5300. The D5300's Live View mode does however offer 100% AF coverage, allowing you to move the focus area anywhere in the frame, but focus speed with Live View's contrast-detect AF is rather slow.

Nikon D5300 Review -- gallery image
140mm, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 180, +2/3EV

Using Live View on the D5300 is handy, especially when using a tripod and shooting at awkward angles in conjunction with the articulated LCD screen. However, as mentioned, autofocus performance leaves a lot to be desired as it uses much slower contrast-detect AF that is quite prone to hunting and "wobbling" while achieving focus. Therefore, it's not the best choice for fast-moving subjects or small objects, unless you plan to manually focus. And speaking of which, the D5300 let's you magnify the scene up to 8.3x for really precise control over what area of the frame is in focus. However, oddly, beyond the first magnification level, the Live View image becomes quite laggy, which makes it a little awkward to use. There's also no focus peaking option.

Daytime Sample Video
1,920 x 1,080, H.264/MOV, Progressive, 60 fps
Download Original (163MB MOV)
Continuous AF Sample Video
1,920 x 1,080, H.264/MOV, Progressive, 60 fps
Download Original (134MB MOV)

Shooting video with the D5300 is very similar to other Nikon DSLRs, with quick flip of the live-view lever and a press of the dedicated record button. One big pro-level feature on the D5300 is the ability to output clean, uncompressed video (60p, 30p, 24p only) via HDMI for use on an external HD monitor or HD video capture recorder.

By default, the D5300 automatically sets the exposure for video (although, exposure compensation is available), but photographers willing to get their hands dirty can also manually adjust exposure settings by enabling "Manual Movie Settings" in the menu, which gives you control over shutter speed and ISO. Like on other non-pro (read: D800, D4S) Nikon DSLRs, you cannot adjust the aperture while Live View is enabled, due to the way the aperture mechanism is designed. You'll need to leave Live View mode, adjust the aperture, and re-enable Live View. You can change shutter speed either before or during recording, but doing so during recording will produce very loud clicks in the audio track, as you rotate the control dial. Available shutter speeds range from 1/4,000s down to 1/60s for 60p, and down to 1/30s for 30p and 1/25s for 24p. ISO sensitivity can be set from ISO 100 to 25,600, however ISO can only be changed before recording begins.

Recording times are relatively limited, unfortunately, with only a 10 minute maximum recording time for High movie quality at 1080/60p (this increases to 20 minutes at Normal quality setting). The rest of the 1080p and the 720p framerates have 20m/29m:59s (High/Normal) recording limits. Standard definition video is also available with a 29:59 limit.

The few Full HD movie clips I shot at 60 fps looked excellent on my 52-inch TV and the sound quality was much better than average. The camera will also provide AF when shooting movies, but you first have to enable Live View to get the option to select AF-F mode (full-time servo AF), and even then it will focus using contrast-detection AF which is quite precise, but much slower than phase-detection AF and may result in visible "hunting" in your videos.

Audio features for video recording for pretty standard fare, with a 3.5mm microphone input jack -- though no headphone jack -- and 20-step adjustable audio recording levels for the built-in stereo mic (though you can opt for automatic audio level adjustment). There's also a wind filter, and the ability to completely disable the mic.

Nikon D5300 Review -- Wi-Fi app screen shot

The Nikon D5300 is the first Nikon DSLR with Wi-Fi and GPS built-in to the camera. The Wi-Fi functions were very straightforward to setup -- enable Wi-Fi on the camera, then connect your smart device (iOS or Android) to the camera's wireless network and then open the companion app. Once connected, I was able to view and transfer photos as well as remotely control the camera (with live view if I chose to). The app itself is pretty basic, and the remote shooting features equally so. While it worked as a nice remote trigger, I wasn't able to change any of the exposure settings like shutter speed or aperture via the app or by adjusting a dial on the camera itself while I had the remote live view enabled. There's also no remote video recording capabilities, but you do have the ability to have nice touch-to-focus via the app.

Whereas getting Wi-Fi to work was pretty straightforward, GPS was less so. I was not able to get it to work, at least at first. When the instruction manual recommends having an "unobstructed view of the sky," they mean it. Initially, I had a hard time getting the camera's GPS receiver to sync to the satellites, even if I thought I had a clear view of the sky. However, nearby tall trees must have blocked or interfered with the signals, as it wasn't until I had a very open, clear view of the sky that the camera reported that it had GPS reception. It would also easily drop reception often if I moved around a bit, seemingly into areas where some obstruction blocked or reduced the signals. However, when it had a signal, the GPS worked as expected and attached geotag info to the photos' metadata.

Nikon D5300 Review -- View NX 2 GPS map view
Using Nikon's ViewNX 2 software, you can get a map view showing you the locations of your photos. Overall, it worked well, and apart from that one outlier, the GPS was accurate.

The camera also provides a quiet (Q) shutter-release mode, which attenuates shutter and mirror noise by slowing down the mirror action a bit. It also delays lowering of the mirror until the shutter button is released, separating the noise of this operation from that of the mirror being raised and the shutter fired. This allows you to decide when the mirror return click occurs. This mode also silences the autofocus confirmation beep, though that can be disabled separately. Frankly, the camera's shutter/mirror noise is so quiet to begin with any slight decrease is generally not worth the slightly longer shutter delay, especially when shooting action subjects.

Speaking of sports, the 5 fps maximum burst rate is quite sufficient for all but the most extreme sports, and the buffer size enables you to capture long sequences of JPEGs without having the camera bog down. In our IR lab tests, the D5300's JPEG shooting performance was quite impressive with the buffer clearing at a quick rate allowing you to shoot continuously without stopping or worrying about the buffer when using a fast card. When shooting 14-bit RAW, on the other hand, we found the D5300's buffer to fill only after 4 frames. Switching to 12-bit RAWs helps, though, increasing buffer to 8 RAW files or 6 RAW+JPEG pairs.

Just how fast is the Nikon D5300? Find out by clicking here to see our full battery
of rigorous, objective speed and operation tests conducted in the IR Lab.

Nikon D5300 Review -- gallery image
23mm, f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 100

Another nice feature is the increased battery capacity. Nikon claims you can shoot up to 600 exposures on a freshly charged battery according to CIPA standards, and while I can't actually confirm that figure based on my experience, I did shoot 300-400 pictures over the course of a few days and still had battery capacity to spare.

Summary. The Nikon D5300 is certainly a worthy successor to the D5200. It's sturdy, reliable, responsive, handles very well, and it's a lot of fun to shoot with. And it definitely delivers the goods when it comes to capturing high-quality pictures and awesome videos. If you're already into the Nikon system and are seeking middle-tier performance at a somewhat less than middle-tier price you can hardly do better. On the other hand at a current street price of about US$1,100 with the 18-140mm Nikkor lens and US$900 with 18-55mm Nikkor lens it falls smack in the middle of a fiercely competitive segment of the market that includes enticing models from Sony, Canon, Pentax, and (yes!) Nikon. Can the D5300 hold it own among such rivals? Yes, but make sure to check which features and specs are most important to you before pulling the trigger.

 

Nikon D5300 Image Quality Comparisons

The crops below compare the Nikon D5300 to the Nikon D5200, Canon T5i, Nikon D7100, Samsung NX300 and Sony A58.

Note that these images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction. Each camera was shot with one of our very sharp reference prime lenses.

Nikon D5300 versus Nikon D5200 at Base ISO

Nikon D5300 at ISO 100
Nikon D5200 at ISO 100

Although not strikingly different, the updated 24.2MP sensor on the D5300 helps produce more fine detail than the 24.1MP sensor of the D5200, thanks primarily to the removal of the optical low-pass filter. The D5300 does excellent in all three comparison areas, though it does show hints of moiré in the red-leaf fabric which the D5200 does not. Detail in the red-leaf fabric is also a bit softer than the D5200, likely due to stronger default chroma noise reduction.


Nikon D5300 versus Canon T5i at Base ISO

Nikon D5300 at ISO 100

Canon T5i at ISO 100

The T5i does well here with lots of fine, sharp detail. However, the D5300's noticeable advantage in resolution and crispness of fine detail makes it the clear winner in this comparison.


Nikon D5300 versus Nikon D7100 at Base ISO

Nikon D5300 at ISO 100
Nikon D7100 at ISO 100

Head-to-head with two of Nikon's 24MP OLPF-less APS-C cameras! Both cameras produce very similar images here at ISO 100, with the first two crop comparisons looking nearly identical. However, although both do great with the pink fabric, the D7100 pulls ahead with slightly better detail in the red fabric. Both cameras only show hints of moiré, with the D7100 showing perhaps a touch more.


Nikon D5300 versus Samsung NX300 at Base ISO

Nikon D5300 at ISO 100
Samsung NX300 at ISO 100

Both cameras show impressive detail with the mosaic crop at ISO 100. The most striking difference is with the red fabric, with which the NX300 really struggles compared to the D5300. Both do well with the pink fabric, however.


Nikon D5300 versus Sony A58 at Base ISO

Nikon D5300 at ISO 100
Sony A58 at ISO 100

As in the previous comparison, both cameras show impressive fine detail in the mosaic tiles. The bottle crops also show crisp, noise-free detail, and both cameras also do very well with the fabric crop. However, the new AA-filter-less sensor of the D5300 just edges out the A58 by starting to show individual threads of the red fabric.


 

Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent ISO 100 shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1600, 3200, and 6400. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

Nikon D5300 versus Nikon D5200 at ISO 1600

Nikon D5300 at ISO 1600
Nikon D5200 at ISO 1600

Both the bottle and mosaic crops show fairly similar results here at ISO 1600, though the D5300 manages to out-resolve the D5200 with fine detail in the mosaic area. Interestingly, the D5200 manages to produce a better, more detailed image of the fabric swatches compared to the D5300.


Nikon D5300 versus Canon T5i at ISO 1600

Nikon D5300 at ISO 1600

Canon T5i at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, noise is well-controlled from both the D5300 and T5i, as you can see in the bottle crop comparison. Also, apart from the difference in resolution, both cameras do very well with fine detail in the mosaic crop. The biggest difference is with the fabric, with which the D5300 excels as compared to the T5i.


Nikon D5300 versus Nikon D7100 at ISO 1600

Nikon D5300 at ISO 1600
Nikon D7100 at ISO 1600

Like we saw with the ISO 100 comparison, here at 1600 both cameras display similar results in the bottle and mosaic crops. The D7100, however, does noticeably better at handling the red fabric swatch.


Nikon D5300 versus Samsung NX300 at ISO 1600

Nikon D5300 at ISO 1600
Samsung NX300 at ISO 1600

The Samsung NX300's default noise reduction is more heavy-handed than the D5300's, but it does well removing grain from the shadows while still keeping good detail. Both cameras do well with fine detail in the mosaic, but the Nikon is the winner in the red fabric.


Nikon D5300 versus Sony A58 at ISO 1600

Nikon D5300 at ISO 1600
Sony A58 at ISO 1600

Both cameras do well with noise at ISO 1600, but the A58 is a bit cleaner in the shadows in comparison. Fine detail also looks sharper though more "processed" from the A58 in the mosaic crop, and the Sony handles noise in the red fabric better than the D5300, albeit with slightly less detail. However, the pink fabric in the A58 looks a bit distorted from noise reduction, whereas the D5300 handles that area better.



Today's ISO 3200 is yesterday's ISO 1600 (well, almost), so below are the same crops at ISO 3200.

Nikon D5300 versus Nikon D5200 at ISO 3200

Nikon D5300 at ISO 3200
Nikon D5200 at ISO 3200

Very similar noise in the shadows, but the D5300 has the clear advantage with fine detail in the mosaic crop. Yet the D5200 produces a more discernible leaf pattern in the red fabric.


Nikon D5300 versus Canon T5i at ISO 3200

Nikon D5300 at ISO 3200

Canon T5i at ISO 3200

Similarly low levels of noise, but the D5300 does better with fine detail in the mosaic as well as the red fabric (though the leaf pattern is difficult to discern in both images).


Nikon D5300 versus Nikon D7100 at ISO 3200

Nikon D5300 at ISO 3200
Nikon D7100 at ISO 3200

Tough comparison here at ISO 3200. There's ever-so-slightly more chroma noise in the D7100 bottle crop, but in the mosaic both cameras show a similarly high level of fine detail. The biggest difference is the noticeably better handling of the red fabric by the D7100.


Nikon D5300 versus Samsung NX300 at ISO 3200

Nikon D5300 at ISO 3200
Samsung NX300 at ISO 3200

It's clear here at ISO 3200 that the NX300 applies much stronger noise reduction by default, though it does a good job of maintaining high-contrast detail. The fine mosaic pattern detail looks more clearly defined in the D5300 image, however. The red fabric is most telling, though, with the D5300 retaining much more detail.


Nikon D5300 versus Sony A58 at ISO 3200

Nikon D5300 at ISO 3200
Sony A58 at ISO 3200

The D5300 shows a bit more shadow noise at ISO 3200 in the bottle crop comparison, but noise reduction distorts and mottles the fine mosaic pattern in the A58 image. The A58, on the other hand, arguably does better at handling the red fabric swatch.



Detail: Nikon D5300 vs. Nikon D5200, Canon T5i, Nikon D7100, Samsung NX300 and Sony A58

Nikon D5300
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon D5200
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon T5i
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon D7100
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Samsung NX300
ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Sony A58
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. Apart from slight exposure differences, the cameras do very well with high-contrast fine detail at base ISO, with the D5300 taking the crown not only with the crisp black lettering, but also the clean, sharp red lettering as well. As the ISO rises, the D5300 handles higher ISOs very well -- similar to the D7100 -- and improves over the D5200's performance.

 

Nikon D5300 Print Quality Analysis

Very good 30 x 40 inch prints at ISO 100; a nice 11 x 14 at ISO 1600; a good 5 x 7 at ISO 12,800.

ISO 100 prints are very nice at 30 x 40 inches, with terrific color reproduction and nice detail for such a large print. Wall display prints are possible up to 36 x 48 inches.

ISO 200 makes an excellent 24 x 36 inch print with very crisp detail and color.

ISO 400 images look very good at 20 x 30 inches, and 24 x 36 inch prints have only a minor trace of noise and are usable for all but the most critical of applications.

ISO 800 prints are good at 16 x 20 inches, and the D5300 does a nice job of controlling noise levels for such a large print at this ISO. In addition, subtle contrast detail is really good in our difficult red swatch, something enthusiast and professional grade Nikons tend to shine at.

ISO 1600 produces a very good 11 x 14 inch print. 13 x 19s have a bit too much noise in flatter areas to make our "good" grade, but are still usable for less critical applications or where a mild film-grain look is desired.

ISO 3200 prints begin to show a slight decline in detail in the red fabric area, but 8 x 10s still look quite good.

ISO 6400 is the first ISO where the D5300 outshines its predecessor, besting it by a print size and producing a good 8 x 10 inch print.

ISO 12,800 yields a good 5 x 7, once again besting the D5200 by a print size.

ISO 25,600 does not yield a good print and is best avoided except for less critical applications.

The Nikon D5300 follows in the excellent footsteps of the D5200, producing large prints for its price range and doing a great job with fine detail and color. As compared to many APS-C cameras we have seen recently, the D5300 does a nice job of controlling noise, and when it does appear it tends to look more like film grain than many other cameras' default processing in this class, which can often look more like splotches than grain in flatter areas. It bests the D5200 by a print size at ISO 6400 and 12,800, and almost passes the test at the extended setting of 25,600. Well done, Nikon, for an affordable DSLR that prints this nicely straight out of the camera.

 

In the Box

The Nikon D5300 retail kit w/18-140mm lens (as reviewed) contains the following items:

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Nikon D5300 Conclusion

Pro: Cons:
  • Excellent image quality and resolution (similar to D7100) thanks to AA-filterless 24-megapixel, APS-C CMOS sensor and EXPEED 4 processor
  • 39-point AF system with 9 cross-type sensors
  • Compact and portable but fairly robust camera build with a comfy handgrip
  • Longer than average zoom kit lens, with decent performance for its type
  • Virtually no shutter lag when you pre-focus
  • Fast start-up and shot-to-shot speeds
  • Decent 5 fps burst speed (when shooting JPEGs or 12-bit RAW)
  • Generous JPEG buffer lets you keep shooting in burst mode
  • Improved resolution and high ISO performance compared to predecessor
  • Excellent available light camera; very usable images at ISO 3,200 (and even higher in certain cases)
  • Large, hi-res articulated 3.2-inch LCD is bright with crisp details
  • Higher viewfinder magnification than predecessor
  • Vibrant colors
  • Excellent dynamic range (in RAW)
  • In-camera CA correction and optional distortion correction
  • Fast download speeds
  • Straightforward controls are easy to use and ergonomically placed
  • Logical and clear menu and button layout for quick navigation
  • In-camera HDR mode
  • Built-in interval timer like Nikon's higher-end DSLRs
  • Very good full 1080/60p HD video quality with full-time AF
  • Built-in stereo microphone
  • 3.5mm external microphone jack
  • Clean HDMI output signal
  • Built-in Wi-Fi features include image sharing and remote control shooting with a smart device, bolstered by a new Wi-Fi interface that's one of the best we've seen on a camera
  • Built-in GPS for geotagging
  • Wired and wireless remote support
  • Improved battery life
  • Penta-mirror viewfinder not as big and bright as full pentaprism OVF
  • Glossy LCD is prone to glare and reflections; can be hard to read in bright sunlight
  • Built-in HDR mode only uses 2 exposures; High and Extra High HDR modes can produce strange halo effect
  • Built-in stereo mics very susceptible to handling noises and wind (though there is a wind filter option)
  • No headphone jack for monitoring sound levels during video recording
  • Higher than average geometric distortion from the 18-140mm kit lens
  • Macro performance from 18-140mm kit lens is not great
  • Auto and Incandescent white balance settings too warm in tungsten lighting
  • Inconsistent flash exposures with the kit lens
  • Burst mode slows down with 14-bit RAW files, with shallow buffer depths
  • Lack of AA filter means more susceptible to aliasing artifacts than predecessor
  • Live View has slow AF and laggy magnification mode
  • No video recording option with Wi-Fi remote app
  • Can't change exposure settings via the Wi-Fi companion app or with camera when viewing live feed with the app
  • GPS receiver doesn't seem as sensitive as most

At first glance the Nikon D5300 may look just like the D5200, but there are some decidedly big upgrades under the hood that make it an even more attractive option for more serious beginner photographers and budding enthusiasts as well. One of the major upgrades comes in the form of a new, high-resolution 24.2MP sensor without an optical low-pass filter, putting it on par with the resolving power of the D7100. Nikon's also squeezed in their latest EXPEED 4 image processor for not only improved JPEG image quality and battery life, but also better video recording capabilities as well -- now up to 1080/60p Full HD video. The D5300 is also the first Nikon DSLR to feature built-in Wi-Fi connectivity (no more WU-1a/b dongle) and GPS.

While the design of the D5300 looks fairly straightforward for a consumer-oriented DSLR, the camera nevertheless is very comfortable in the hand with a nice, solid feel thanks to the use of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic. Nikon's also managed to cram in a larger, 3.2-inch hi-res LCD, while still making the D5300 a few cubic centimeters smaller than its predecessor. The screen is bright and crisp to read in good lighting with the same 3:2 aspect ratio as still images, but the glossy outer surface can be prone to glare and reflections.

In terms of image quality and performance, the D5300 is a solid performer for its class of camera. Not only does it have great image quality, but the improved resolution and better high ISO performance makes it a clear winner over the D5200. RAW images also have excellent dynamic range, though uncorrected RAW files can display noticeable CA, distortion and vignetting produced by the 18-140mm kit lens (some of which the camera corrects in its JPEG processing). Still, the 18-140mm lens offers a lot more reach than the typical kit lens, and offers decent optical performance for its type.

There are some downsides, however, but none that are too severe. One thing to watch out for is moiré and other aliasing artifacts. With the lack of an optical low-pass filter, the D5300 can produce crisper and sharper fine detail than the D5200, but at the risk of more moiré and aliasing. The D5300 does a pretty good job at suppressing moiré in JPEGs in most cases, though. Also, continuous burst shooting gets bogged down with highest quality 14-bit RAW files, and the buffer fills quite quickly as well. Other quibbles include slow Live View AF, limited Wi-Fi remote control capabilities, and a GPS receiver that can struggle with satellite reception when you're not out in the clear.

However, all in all, the D5300 is another solid consumer DSLR from the folks at Nikon. With comfortable ergonomics, good performance and excellent image quality, plus nice higher-end bonuses like built-in Wi-Fi, GPS and 1080/60p video with clean HDMI output, the Nikon D5300 is a first-rate choice for photographers looking to upgrade from a compact camera or a more entry-level DSLR, as well as those more enthusiast-oriented photographers who want higher-resolution photos, better high ISO performance and high quality Full HD video. Given its high image quality and added features, the Nikon D5300 is a sure-fire winner of a Dave's Pick.

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