Nikon D5600 Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing Nikon D5600 image quality to its predecessor, the D5500, as well as against several competing models at similar price points or in similar categories: the Canon T7i, Olympus E-M10 Mark II, Pentax K-70 and Sony A6000.

NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved: click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Nikon D5600, Nikon D5500, Canon T7i, Olympus E-M10 Mark II, Pentax K-70 and Sony A6000 -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Nikon D5600 to any camera we've ever tested!

Nikon D5600 vs Nikon D5500 at Base ISO

Nikon D5600 at ISO 100
Nikon D5500 at ISO 100

Apart from very minor differences in color and contrast, the D5600's image quality is virtually identical to its predecessor's here at base ISO. This is no surprise, though, since the two cameras use the same sensor and processor.

Nikon D5600 vs Canon T7i at Base ISO

Nikon D5600 at ISO 100
Canon T7i at ISO 100

The Nikon D5600 and Canon T7i are both 24-megapixel APS-C DSLRs, but the D5600 does not have an optical low-pass filter while the T7i does, which contributes to the D5600's crisper image. Differences in default processing are also at play, though, with the Nikon applying stronger sharpening but using a tighter sharpening radius the Canon. Interestingly, the T7i shows stronger moiré patterns in the red-leaf swatch, which implies a fairly weak OLPF. The T7i's colors appear a little more accurate, however both cameras produce pleasing color and saturation.

Nikon D5600 vs Olympus E-M10 II at Base ISO

Nikon D5600 at ISO 100
Olympus E-M10 II at ISO 200

Here we compare the 24-megapixel APS-C D5600 to a 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds Olympus E-M10 Mark II, which may seem a little unfair. The resolution difference is discernible but at base ISO, the Olympus E-M10 II compares quite well otherwise. Both cameras produce a sharp, crisp image with noticeable sharpening halos. The E-M10 II's default noise reduction does a better job at reducing luma noise, however it leaves behind more chroma noise than the D5600 (but keep in mind base ISO for the E-M10 II is higher at ISO 200 versus 100 for the D5600). Both cameras produce nice, vibrant color, though the E-M10 II's is generally more accurate.

Nikon D5600 vs Pentax K-70 at Base ISO

Nikon D5600 at ISO 100
Pentax K-70 at ISO 100

The Nikon D5600 definitely has more realistic colors at default settings than does the Pentax K-70. The D5600's images look a little crisper than those of the K-70 as well, but that's down to higher default contrast and sharpening from the Nikon. The Pentax does noticeably better with fine detail in our tricky red-leaf swatch, however moiré patterns are more visible. (However be aware the Pentax has an adjustable AA filter simulator which was disabled for maximum sharpness in these shots.)

Nikon D5600 vs Sony A6000 at Base ISO

Nikon D5600 at ISO 100
Sony A6000 at ISO 100

These two 24-megapixel APS-C models offer very similar amounts of detail, but with some obvious differences in processing. Where the Nikon looks oversharpened with obvious halos, the Sony shows hardly any sharpening halos. The A6000 also offers much better detail and contrast in the red-leaf swatch while rendering it smoother than the D5600. The Sony does however leave behind a little more chroma noise in the shadows than the Nikon. Still, both cameras offer excellent detail at base ISO though colors are more accurate and pleasing from the Nikon.

Nikon D5600 vs Nikon D5500 at ISO 1600

Nikon D5600 at ISO 1600
Nikon D5500 at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, image quality from the D5600 continues to vary little from its predecessor, with just minor differences in color, contrast and perhaps a small tweak to default noise reduction strength in favor of the D5600. But image quality overall is essentially equal between these two Nikons.

Nikon D5600 vs Canon T7i at ISO 1600

Nikon D5600 at ISO 1600
Canon T7i at ISO 1600

Both the D5600 and T7i show similar levels of detail in the mosaic crop, however the Nikon has fewer noise reduction artifacts as well as warmer colors. The Nikon continues to produce a sharper, crisper image, and the noise grain from the Nikon in the shadows is also tighter. The Canon does a better job with our difficult red-leaf pattern, though.

Nikon D5600 vs Olympus E-M10 II at ISO 1600

Nikon D5600 at ISO 1600
Olympus E-M10 II at ISO 1600

It's clear from the shadow area in the bottle shoulder crop that the E-M10 II is applying stronger noise reduction, yet it leaves behind more chroma noise than the D5600. As expected, the D5600 continues to out-resolve the E-M10 II as shown by significantly better detail in the mosaic crop with a less "processed" look. The Olympus does however do a slightly better job in the red-leaf and pink fabrics.

Nikon D5600 vs Pentax K-70 at ISO 1600

Nikon D5600 at ISO 1600
Pentax K-70 at ISO 1600

The Pentax K-70 clearly trails in the fabric swatches here at ISO 1600, but holds onto a good bit more fine detail in the mosaic label while at the same time producing fewer sharpening halos. Noise levels are pretty similar between the pair, as you can see in the top bottle crop.

Nikon D5600 vs Sony A6000 at ISO 1600

Nikon D5600 at ISO 1600
Sony A6000 at ISO 1600

Here again both cameras delver similar detail in most areas, despite different approaches to noise reduction and sharpening. The Sony A6000's noise reduction tends to cause a slightly hammered effect in flat areas, while the D5600 shows a more natural-looking and consistent grain. In areas with fine, higher-contrast detail, the Nikon also looks more natural with fewer artifacts, but it also doesn't look quite as crisp as the Sony. The A6000 comes out ahead in the red-leaf and pink fabrics, though, with better detail and contrast, however much of the apparent detail is distorted instead of blurred.

Nikon D5600 vs Nikon D5500 at ISO 3200

Nikon D5600 at ISO 3200
Nikon D5500 at ISO 3200

Once again, very similar performance from the two Nikons at ISO 3200, with very similar noise levels, sharpness and colors, with perhaps just a slight edge given to the D5600 in the mosaic crop.

Nikon D5600 vs Canon T7i at ISO 3200

Nikon D5600 at ISO 3200
Canon T7i at ISO 3200

The D5600's image has slightly lower noise that is more fine-grained, warmer colors and crisper details, though sharpening halos are more obvious. This time the T7i blurs our red-leaf fabric more than the D5600, but offers slightly more contrast. Overall, it's a fairly close race here but we'd give the edge to the Nikon.

Nikon D5600 vs Olympus E-M10 II at ISO 3200

Nikon D5600 at ISO 3200
Olympus E-M10 II at ISO 3200

As we saw at ISO 1600, the E-M10 II works harder at reducing noise and it shows, with a slightly smoother image but higher chroma noise and more noise reduction artifacts. Fine detail suffers more from the E-M10 II, on top of its resolution handicap, resulting in a somewhat painted look in our mosaic crop. Both cameras offer similar detail in the red-leaf fabric, but the E-M10 II's rendering is cleaner and smoother-looking.

Nikon D5600 vs Pentax K-70 at ISO 3200

Nikon D5600 at ISO 3200
Pentax K-70 at ISO 3200

The Nikon D5600's color is still noticeably more realistic than that of the Pentax here at ISO 3200. The K-70 does better with fine details in the mosaic crop but the D5600 holds onto much more detail in our troublesome red-leaf fabric swatch. It's pretty much a wash in terms of noise levels between this pair, though the D5600's noise grain is tighter.

Nikon D5600 vs Sony A6000 at ISO 3200

Nikon D5600 at ISO 3200
Sony A6000 at ISO 3200

Again, the A6000's image is somewhat cleaner-looking than the D5600's, but has a more "processed" look, with more noticeable noise reduction artifacts and more distortion in the red-leaf fabric. The Nikon continues to produce more pleasing colors as well a somewhat crisper image, though sharpening halos remain evident.

Nikon D5600 vs. Nikon D5500, Canon T7i, Olympus E-M10 II, Pentax K-70, Sony A6000

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
E-M10 II
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. High-contrast detail is also important, pushing the camera in different ways, so we like to look at it separately. Here again we can see the D5600 performs virtually identically to its predecessor with perhaps just a slight advantage at higher ISOs. Although the Canon T7i competes fairly well with both Nikons at base ISO, image quality degrades more quickly as ISO rises. The Olympus E-M10 II performs very well with good contrast and sharpness, but detail can't compete with the higher megapixel APS-C models. The Pentax K-70 trails the pack, lacking crispness and contrast, while showing some false colors as well. The Sony A6000 does very well at base ISO and ISO 3200, but image quality falls off noticeably at ISO 6400, and it also shows the most false colors.


Nikon D5600 Print Quality Analysis

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.

ISOs 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"

Testing 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.)


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