Nikon D5600 Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slightly higher than average mean saturation with about average hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
100
200
400
800
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links to compare ISOs, and click on them for larger images.

Saturation. The Nikon D5600 pumps dark blues quite a bit, reds and greens moderately, and most other colors by small amounts, but slightly undersaturates cyans, bright yellow and light green. Mean saturation levels are a little higher than average, but remain fairly stable as ISO climbs except at the highest ISOs where saturation drops a bit. Mean saturation at base ISO is 111.5% or 11.5% oversaturated, a little higher than the 110% average, but as mentioned, much of that is because blues are pushed so much. Overall, we found the D5600's default saturation levels quite pleasing and vibrant without going too much overboard. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The Nikon D5600's Caucasian skin tones looked just about right when using manual white balance in simulated daylight. A very good job here. Auto white balance produced slightly warmer results. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. The Nikon D5600 shifts cyan toward blue by quite a bit at base ISO, with smaller shifts in reds and orange. (The cyan to blue shift is very common among the digital cameras we test; we think it's a deliberate choice by camera engineers to produce better-looking sky colors.) With a mean "delta-C" color error of 5.66 after correction for saturation at base ISO, overall hue accuracy is about average (lower numbers are better), and hue accuracy remains fairly stable across the ISO range. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Good color with the Manual white balance setting, but overly-warm results with Auto and Incandescent. No exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
0.0 EV
Incandescent White Balance
0.0 EV
Manual White Balance
0.0 EV

Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance was very warm and reddish-orange with the Auto white balance setting. (We'd say unacceptably so, though unfortunately this is common.) The Incandescent setting was also too warm, but with a strong yellow-green cast. The Manual setting by far produced the most accurate results, if just a touch cool. The Nikon D5600 required no exposure compensation when most cameras we've tested require +0.3 EV for this shot. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.

Outdoors, daylight
Pleasing colors outdoors, with about average exposure accuracy.

Manual White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
Default

Outdoors, the Nikon D5600 performed well, requiring +0.7 EV exposure compensation for our "Sunlit" Portrait shot to keep the face reasonably bright. (The average for this shot among cameras we've tested is about +0.7 EV.) We preferred skin tones from the Manual white balance setting as were a little pinker than Auto, but both were pretty good. Contrast is a little high as you might expect under such harsh lighting, but the camera did a good job of holding onto detail in the highlights and shadows, however very deep shadows have a yellow tint and are a bit noisy. The Nikon D5600 produced pleasing colors in our Far-field shot, but it overexposed the building a bit (above right) because of the dark trees, blowing quite a few highlights. However shadow detail is quite good, though very deep shadows are somewhat noisy with color casts. (We're talking very deep shadows here, so this won't be in issue for vast majority of properly exposed images.) Overall, very good performance for its class here.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
Very high resolution, ~2,850 lines of strong detail from JPEGs, a bit higher from ACR processed RAW files.

Strong detail to
~2,850 lines horizontal
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,850 lines vertical
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,900 lines horizontal
ACR processed RAW
Strong detail to
~2,900 lines vertical
ACR processed RAW

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns up to about 2,850 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and to about 2,850 lines in the vertical direction. Some may argue for higher numbers, but lines start to merge and aliasing artifacts interfere with detail at these resolutions. Extinction of the pattern didn't occur until around 3,400 to 3,600 lines. We weren't able to do significantly better with NEF files processed through Adobe Camera Raw, only about 50 more lines in both directions. Color moiré is a little more evident in the ACR converted RAW files, however it's not as high as we'd expect for a camera without an optical low-pass filter. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Sharp images but with visible edge-enhancement artifacts visible on high-contrast subjects. Mild to moderate noise suppression visible at base ISO.

Very good definition of
high-contrast elements,
but with evidence of
edge enhancement.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
though detail remains strong in the
darker parts of the mannequin's hair here.

Sharpness. The Nikon D5600 produces images that are crisp and sharp when coupled with a sharp lens as used for our lab images and in the above left crop. Edge enhancement artifacts are visible around high-contrast elements such as the sharpening halos around the border and text above left, but default sharpening looks to be a good compromise between crispness and sharpening artifacts for the target market, especially when printed. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows some mild to moderate noise suppression at ISO 100, as the darker and lower-contrast areas of the model's hair show some smudging where individual strands of hair are merged together. Chroma noise is effectively controlled, however subtle details in the red channel can be reduced as a result, as can be seen in the red flowers of our Indoor Portrait shots (click on the hair crop above right) or in the red-leaf fabric of our Still Life shots (click on the bottle label crop above left). Still, very good performance here for a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

Aliasing. You can see some aliasing artifacts or hints of them in a number of our D5600 test shots, however the Nikon D5600 does a pretty good job at suppressing color moiré in JPEGs for a camera that doesn't have an optical low-pass filter.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, the Nikon D5600 does a great job at capturing lots of sharp, fine detail in its JPEGs, but more detail can often be obtained from carefully processing RAW files, while at the same time reducing sharpening artifacts. Let's have a look at base ISO:

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare an in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to the matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 via DNG Converter 9.10 (right) using default noise reduction with some moderate but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (200%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

As is frequently the case, the demosaicing in Adobe Camera Raw and sharpening in Photoshop combine to deliver finer detail than the camera, with fewer sharpening artifacts. Looking closely at the images, ACR extracts some detail that wasn't present in the camera JPEG, especially in the red-leaf swatch where the conversion was able to resolve some of the fine thread pattern, while the camera's JPEG engine tended to blur it away as if noise (anti-moiré processing may also be a play here). The ACR conversion does however show more noise at default noise reduction settings than the camera at its default settings, and the image doesn't have as much "pop" as the camera JPEG, with lower saturation and contrast. This of course can however be adjusted to your liking in your favorite editor.

All-in-all, the D5600 did a very good job at reducing noise while maintaining excellent detail in most areas of our target. Still, for maximum detail (and flexibility), using a good RAW converter does yield slightly better fine detail than in-camera JPEGs, as is usually the case.

ISO & Noise Performance
Very good high ISO performance for a 24-megaxpixel APS-C model.

Noise Reduction = Normal (Default)
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200
ISO 6400 ISO 12,800 ISO 25,600

Noise levels are low at ISOs 100 through 400, though some minor detail is lost to noise reduction even at base ISO. ISOs 800 through 3200 show a nice, progressive increase in very fine noise "grain" but detail remains quite good, and chroma noise well-controlled. ISO 6400 shows a more dramatic drop in image quality with softer detail and more obvious noise, though some fine detail is left, but image quality drops off quickly from there. ISO 12,800 produces significant softness and chroma blotching, while ISO 25,600 shows much stronger noise "grain" that obliterates fine detail, stronger chroma noise, and an overall color shift towards yellow/green particularly in the shadows.

Overall, though, very good noise performance for a 24-megapixel APS-C model, just like its predecessor. See our Print Quality analysis section below for recommended print sizes at each ISO.

A note about focus for this shot: We used to shoot this image at f/4, however depth of field became so shallow with larger, high-resolution sensors that it was difficult to keep important areas of this shot in focus, so we have since started shooting at f/8, the best compromise between depth of field and sharpness.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range, and low light tests
Very good detail in both highlights and shadows, with good dynamic range. Very good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images in near darkness.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight
The Nikon D5600 handled the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above well. Though contrast is a little high, shadow and highlight detail are both very good. The +0.7 EV exposure did the best job here, producing a reasonably bright face without blowing out too many highlights, though folks printing directly from the camera may prefer the brighter +1.0 EV exposure even though it had a few too many blown highlights for our tastes. Despite the bright appearance in white areas, there are relatively few clipped highlights in the mannequins's shirt and the flowers at +0.7 EV. Some shadows are pretty dark, but remain detailed if a little noisy with color casts. Be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

Face Detection
Off
Aperture-priority
0 EV
Auto mode
(Portrait)
0 EV
Live View
with Face-priority AF
0 EV

Face Detection. Here, we can see the effect of the Nikon D5600's full Auto mode as well as face detection enabled in Live View mode. As you can see from the shots above, full Auto enabled the flash and selected Portrait Scene mode, producing a well-exposed subject and background, though it focused on the flowers (closest subject). In Live View mode, using Face-priority AF mode also improved the exposure without using the flash, and focus was improved as well (like most DSLRs, the D5600 does not offer face detection when shooting with the optical viewfinder and as a result most of our other "Sunlit" Portrait shots are not optimally focused on the face).

Active D-Lighting. Active D-Lighting attempts to preserve detail in both highlights and shadows in high-contrast situations, while maintaining moderate levels of contrast. The series of shots below show the effect of the various Active D-Lighting settings available on the Nikon D5600 on our high-contrast "Sunlit" Portrait scene. Note that Active D-Lighting is different from the touch-up menu's D-Lighting, as it is performed during image capture instead of after. (It does affect only JPEG images though, Nikon very properly doesn't apply tonal adjustments like this to RAW file data. NEF files, however, are tagged so that Nikon software can automatically apply the effect when converted.)

"Sunlit" Portrait Active D-Lighting (0 EV)
ADL Settings:


Auto
(Default)


Off


Low



Normal



High



Extra High


Mouse over the links to see how the various levels of Active D-Lighting affects our "Sunlit" Portrait shot at default exposure. Click on a link to get to the full-res image. (Active D-Lighting's effect can be a little subtle in shots like those above, so we decided to use a mouse-over to better show how each setting compares to Off.)

As you can see from the images and histograms above, enabling and adjusting Active D-Lighting resulted in brighter, more balanced images with boosted shadows and midtones, however highlights remained roughly the same and intact, or slightly reduced. The effect of Active D-Lighting will vary quite a bit with the subject and lighting: The camera decides what needs adjusting, and by how much, so the effect can be quite a bit greater or lesser depending on what the camera "sees".

See below for how Active D-Lighting worked on our Far-field shot.

Far-field Active D-Lighting (0 EV)
Off
Low

Mouse over the links above to see the effect of Active D-Lighting on our Far-field shot. As you can see, Active D-Lighting brought up shadow detail while holding on to more of the highlights, though the difference between various strengths can be subtle.

HDR Mode. The D5600 offers an in-camera high-dynamic-range imaging function, something we've seen in several prior models as well as from most competitors. When enabled, the D5600 captures two images with one push of the shutter button -- one underexposed and one overexposed -- and combines them in-camera to produce a high-dynamic-range JPEG. (RAW format is not supported.) The Nikon D5600 seems to perform micro-alignment of the two images so the user manual warns of possible cropping but Nikon recommends the use of a tripod, so it can likely only correct for very small amounts of camera movement between shots. Obviously moving subjects should also be avoided.

"Sunlit" Portrait HDR (0 EV)
HDR Settings:

Off
(Default)



Low



Normal



High



Extra High



Auto


Unlike some higher-end Nikons which allow you to set the exposure differential between the two images from 1, 2 or 3 EV, and also adjust the amount of "smoothing" that is applied to the boundaries between the two images with selections of Low, Medium and High, the D5600 takes a simpler approach offering just four strengths in addition to Auto. Mouse over the links above to see how various levels of HDR affects our "Sunlit" Portrait shot and click on a link to get to the full-res image.

Although portraits aren't good subjects for HDR images, you can still see higher levels make quite a difference to the overall exposure by opening up shadow detail, but they can lead to artificial-looking shadows around bright objects or halos and glowing around dark ones.

Far-field HDR (0 EV)
Off
Low

Here are the same HDR settings with our Far-field shot. Again, some settings do a good job of taming hot highlights while bringing up some of the shadows and deeper midtones, while stronger settings cause a lot of glowing and halos. You can also see ghosting in the leaves and branches from movement between the exposures. Still, it's a useful feature for capturing static scenes with dynamic range that exceeds the sensor for those not willing to use manual HDR techniques (bracketing exposure and then combining images in post-processing), though we do wish there was an option to capture more than two images.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) For the technically-minded, you can find a discussion of the reasoning behind this here on the DxOMark website. Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Here, we compare the Nikon D5600's dynamic range to its predecessor's, the D5500, and also to the Canon Rebel T6i's (EOS 750D), probably its closest competitor (unfortunately, the T7i wasn't tested by DxOMark yet at the time of writing).

As you can see in the above graph (click for a larger image), the D5600's dynamic range is practically identical to the D5500's with just minor variances that are likely within normal test and sample variation. The D5600's dynamic range is however significantly higher than the T6i's at low to moderate ISOs, with the Nikon providing just over a two stop advantage (14.03 vs 11.96 EV) at base ISO. Between ISO 1600 and 3200, the Canon catches up, though, essentially matching the Nikon terms of dynamic range at higher ISOs.

Bottom line, Nikon D5600 continues to offer excellent dynamic range with practically no change over its predecessor. Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Nikon D5600 for more of their test results and additional comparisons.


  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc
No NR
ISO
100
Click to see D5600LL001003.JPG
2s, f2.8
Click to see D5600LL001007.JPG
30s, f2.8
Click to see D5600LL001007XNR.JPG
30s, f2.8
ISO
3200
Click to see D5600LL032003.JPG
1/15s, f2.8
Click to see D5600LL032007.JPG
1s, f2.8
Click to see D5600LL032007XNR.JPG
1s, f2.8
ISO
25600
Click to see D5600LL256003.JPG
1/125s, f2.8
Click to see D5600LL256007.JPG
1/8s, f2.8
Click to see D5600LL256007XNR.JPG
1/8s, f2.8

Low Light
The Nikon D5600 performed well on the low-light test, capturing bright images at the lowest light level (1/16 foot-candle) even with the lowest sensitivity setting (ISO 100). Of course, noise is higher at ISO 3200 but remains well-controlled and very fine-grained. As expected, the maximum ISO of 25,600 is however quite noisy with noticeably less detail, and is best avoided except for small prints and in emergencies. We didn't notice any issues with hot pixels, banding (pattern noise) or heat blooming.

Color balance was good with the Auto white balance setting at one foot-candle, just slightly cool, however there's the strong shift towards magenta at lower light levels that we often see from Nikons.

LL AF: The camera's phase-detection autofocus system was able to focus on our standard low-contrast AF target down to -0.9 EV, and on our new high-contrast AF target down to -1.3 EV unassisted with an f/2.8 lens. That's typical for the class, and roughly agrees with Nikon's -1.0 EV rating. The Nikon D5600 is able to focus in complete darkness with the AF assist enabled, as long as the target is in range and has sufficient contrast. In Live View mode the camera's contrast-detect autofocus was able to focus on our low-contrast target down to -0.5 EV, and on our high-contrast target down to -2.4 EV, which is good.

Keep in mind that the longer shutter speeds here demand the use of a tripod to prevent any blurring from camera movement. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Digital SLRs like the Nikon D5600 do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Excellent 30 x 40 inch prints at ISO 100/200; a very good 13 x 19 at ISO 1600; a good 5 x 7 at ISO 12,800.

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageISOs 100 and 200 yield superb prints at 30 x 40 inches and higher, with vibrant, natural colors and excellent fine detail. Larger sizes are also possible until you run out of resolution at your intended viewing distance.

ISO 400 prints are excellent at 24 x 36 inches. Larger 30 x 40 inch prints show only a minor loss of detail in a few areas and are fine for less critical applications.

ISO 800 produces a quality print at 16 x 20 inches. There is a minor and very typical loss of contrast detail in our red-leaf fabric swatch, and mild noise in flatter areas of our target, but it's still a high quality print overall for ISO 800.

ISO 1600 delivers a very nice 13 x 19 inch print, with only minor apparent issues similar to the 16 x 20 inch print at ISO 800. In fact, the 16 x 20 inch prints here aren't bad at all, and can certainly be used for less critical applications.

ISO 3200 images are quite good at 11 x 14 inches. There is now a more noticeable decline in contrast detail in our red-leaf swatch, and the very typical appearance of minor noise in flatter areas of our target, but full colors are still on display as well as very good fine detail rendering throughout.

ISO 6400 prints are good at the still versatile print size of 8 x 10 inches, and this is very much one of the better 8 x 10's at this ISO from the APS-C world. A mild loss in saturation and vibrance is quite common by this ISO, and for this we generally recommend avoiding it for anything shy of a full-frame camera if you intend larger print sizes.

ISO 12,800 delivers a solid 5 x 7 inch print that is quite good for this ISO, with nice colors and detail still in place. A worthy effort for this ISO indeed.

ISO 25,600 yields a good 4 x 6 inch print, which is better than most cameras in the crop-sensor world can boast at this lofty ISO.

The Nikon D5600 continues in the tradition of this mid-level DSLR line in producing superb prints for the price point. While the imaging pipeline remains the same as that housed in the D5500, we can confirm that our sample held true to that high imaging performance level across the board and delivered worthwhile prints at every available ISO. This is a camera that you can very much have confidence in for both general purpose and higher-end printing.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageTesting hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Nikon D5600 Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Nikon D5600 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!



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