Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot
  • Newly developed 24.2-megapixel DX-format (APS-C) CMOS image sensor
    • No OLPF (Optical Low Pass Filter)
  • EXPEED 4 image processor
  • 3.2-inch Vari-Angle LCD Display (1,037K dots)
  • Full HD 1080/60p Video Captures
    • Built-in Stereo
    • Improved full-time AF
  • 39-Point AF System
  • 5 Frames-Per-Second Burst Shooting
  • ISO 100-12,800 (expandable to 25,600)
  • Scene Recognition System
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Built-in GPS
  • Two new Special Effects modes
    • Toy Camera
    • HDR Painting
  • New Battery, EN-EL14A,
    • Increased battery life up to 600 shots (the camera can also use the older EN-EL14 battery from previous models)
  • Compatible with NIKKOR lenses and accessories
  • Very good image quality versus other entry-level DSLRs
  • Improved performance speed versus predecessor
  • Anti-aliasing filter removed for clearer images
  • ISO settings up to 25,800 (equivalent)
  • Noise in photos is limited, even at mid- to high-range ISO settings
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and GPS included
  • Stereo microphone for video recording
  • Both JPEG and RAW (NEF) formatting available
  • Sharp and bright 3.2-inch articulated LCD screen
  • Easy to use as a fully automatic camera, but contains plenty of advanced features too
  • No touchscreen feature with LCD
  • Battery drains quickly when using Live View mode
  • Camera's performance slows considerably in Live View mode
  • Autofocus sharpness is inconsistent when recording video
  • No eye sensor; viewfinder mode doesn't activate automatically when you raise D5300 to your eye
  • Limited to three resolution size options; could use more options, especially for sending photos over Wi-Fi
  • Price is at the high end of entry-level DSLRs
  • Wi-Fi is not as easy to use or as powerful as it could be
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 0.7 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused (Viewfinder mode) = about 0.1 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused (Live View mode) = about 0.1 seconds
  • Shutter lag with autofocus (Viewfinder mode) = about 0.1 seconds
  • Shutter lag with autofocus (Live View mode) = about 1.9 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/ flash = 1.1 seconds (Viewfinder mode), 4.8 seconds (Live View mode, review off), 9.2 seconds (Live View mode, review on)
  • Shot to shot delay w/o flash = 0.7 seconds (Viewfinder mode), 4.3 seconds (Live View mode, review off), 8.7 seconds (Live View mode, review on)
  • High Speed Continuous = 10 frames in 2.2 seconds at 24M
  • Low Speed Continuous = 10 frames in 3.5 seconds at 24M
All tests taken using Program mode, flash off, quick review off, and all other settings at default unless noted.
Bottom Line
The Nikon D5300 DSLR camera offers a very nice mixture of automatic and manual control shooting features, making this model a good first interchangeable lens camera. It offers fast image processing speeds when working in Viewfinder mode, and the camera's image quality is very good. A large articulated LCD and built-in Wi-Fi add to this camera's appeal. The D5300 has some performance issues when working in Live View mode, and its price is near the top of the entry-level DSLR market, which may limit the number of photographers who will consider this upgrade of the D5200.

Pick This Up If...
You are seeking an entry-level DSLR camera with an excellent set of features that can grow with you as your photographic skills improve, and you don't mind spending a little more versus some other entry-level models.

At first glance the Nikon D5300 DSLR camera doesn't look much different from its D5200 predecessor with a very similar shape, similar weight, similar design, and similar features.

However it's the changes you can't readily see that occurred inside the D5300 that set this model apart from the older version. Primarily Nikon has updated this entry-level DSLR camera with a new image-processing engine, the EXPEED 4, which provides the D5300 with better overall speed and response times than the D5200.

Additionally the Nikon D5300 includes an updated 24.2-megapixel DX-format CMOS image sensor (APS-C size, 23.5 x 15.6 mm) that offers slightly more resolution than the sensor included in the D5200. Nikon removed the optical low pass filter from the image sensor in the D5300, which helps the updated model to capture more detail in scenes than its predecessor.

Image quality is very good with the D5300, thanks in large part to its APS-C sized image sensor. However this camera cannot match the image quality that you're going to find with high-end DSLRs from Nikon.

In low light conditions you can increase the ISO to a 25,600 equivalent. The native ISO for the D5300 is between 100 and 12,800, which is a stop beyond what the Nikon D5200 offered at between 100 and 6400. Even at mid- to high-range ISO settings, you shouldn't notice problems with noise with the updated camera, which is great.

The D5300 has a popup flash unit available that's centered over the lens and that opens automatically as needed. It works pretty well for basic photography, but for those more precise low light photographs, you're almost certainly going to want to attach an external flash unit to the D5300's hot shoe. One slight complaint about the popup flash is that it sometimes opens and tries to fire in situations where it isn't needed. You can twist the mode dial to a "no flash" setting for fully automatic photography without the flash, which is handy.

The D5300 was Nikon's first DSLR to offer built-in Wi-Fi, which is a nice addition to this model. It is a little awkward to set up the Wi-Fi, as you must connect the camera to a smartphone type of device rather than connecting directly to a router. You'll also need to download an app on your smartphone before the connection can be made. In addition to uploading photos to the Internet, you can use your smartphone or Wi-Fi enabled tablet to remotely control the D5300. However quite a few of the camera's features cannot be accessed, such as either of the D5300's burst shooting modes or any of the camera's manual exposure setting options. This remote control feature is very limited, and it will be basically useless for some photographers.

The Wi-Fi used with the D5300 does offer a good option for sharing photos quickly with social networking sites. Unfortunately Nikon chose to only offer three image size options with the D5300 -- 24M (6000x4000 pixels), 13.5M (4496x3000), and 6M (2992x2000). Even the 6M image size is probably larger than you'll want to try to upload to a Web site through the Wi-Fi connection, as it will take a long time. Most sites will then reduce the size of the photo anyway. You can use the D5300's in-camera editing options to reduce the resolution to as low as 0.3M, but the editing requires a time-consuming extra step versus shooting at the reduced resolution initially.

The physical design of the D5300 is basically identical to the D5200 and is similar to most entry-level Nikon DSLRs. The D5300 weighs 18.7 ounces, about 5% less than the D5200. The camera is a good size to hold comfortably.

While I'd like to have the camera automatically switch from Live View mode to Viewfinder mode whenever I lift the camera to my eye, the placement of the camera's controls makes a lot of sense. Using Viewfinder mode is desirable with this model, because its shutter lag and shot to shot delays are not noticeable when using the D5300's viewfinder. The autofocus system (with up to 39 points of autofocus) works very quickly in Viewfinder mode. A manual focus option is available too.

The D5300's offers two burst modes, 3 or 5 frames per second, and both are available in either Viewfinder or Live View modes, although the sluggish autofocus in Live View usually will force a delay of a few seconds before the burst mode begins. To switch between Live View and Viewfinder modes, you'll press a toggle switch to the right of the mode dial, which is a well-designed position.

Speaking of beginners, they should feel pretty comfortable with the D5300, even if it's their first interchangeable lens camera. This model works very smoothly in fully automatic mode, and Nikon included quite a few special effect functions to make the D5300 fun to use. As your photography skills improve, you can then migrate to making use of more of the camera's intermediate and advanced manual control shooting modes.

And for beginners who are more comfortable framing photos with the LCD screen (Live View mode) versus using the viewfinder, Nikon gave the D5300 an above-average LCD screen that measures 3.2 inches diagonally and offers more than 1 million pixels of resolution. It's also an articulated LCD screen, allowing you to tilt and twist the LCD in almost any direction, making it easy to shoot self-portraits, to shoot odd-angle photos, or to use the D5300 on a tripod. The D5300's LCD is set at a 3:2 aspect ratio, which matches the aspect ratio of the camera's image sensor and allows the stored images to fully occupy the screen as you're viewing them.

Although the D5300 works more quickly than its predecessor, this model still has some sluggish performance when using Live View mode versus Viewfinder mode. If you're in a hurry, make sure you're using Viewfinder mode.

When shooting movies you must use Live View mode, and video results are good with the Nikon D5300 with one exception: the autofocus mechanism in Live View sometimes works very slowly, leaving as many as several seconds of the beginning of some videos out of focus. This is an especially troublesome problem in low light. You may want to get in the habit of pressing the shutter button halfway to prefocus on the scene before you begin recording a video, which should help give the autofocus mechanism faster results when shooting video.

Nikon has included a new type of battery with the D5300, which it claims will allow you to shoot up to 600 photos per charge. My tests showed this number to be fairly accurate ... as long as you use the camera in Viewfinder mode only. Using the D5300 in Live View mode, either for videos or for still images, will drain the battery much more quickly, as will using the built-in Wi-Fi or GPS features.

Bottom Line - The Nikon D5300 DSLR camera is a very nice entry-level DSLR camera, offering features that are at the upper end of the entry-level DSLR range, including a fast image processor and a 24.2-megapixel image sensor. Nikon upgraded the D5300 over its predecessors with a 3.2-inch articulated LCD and built-in Wi-Fi and GPS capabilities. Image quality is very good with the D5300, especially in low light thanks in part to this camera's very wide native ISO range. The D5300 is a good model for the photographer looking for a first interchangeable lens camera, as it's almost as easy to use as a point-n-shoot camera when working in fully automatic mode, yet it has plenty of advanced and manual control features that allow you to grow in your photographic skills as you become more familiar with the camera. Because the D5300 is so similar to the Nikon D5200 in its design though, the potential list of photographers who will be willing to make the upgrade will be limited. Those who are happy with the D5200 will be hard pressed to part with another $800 (body only) for the list of upgrades with the D5300, even though the new model is able to work faster. Photographers who may have an older model in this family, such as the D5000, or who are looking for a first DSLR camera will want to strongly consider the D5300, as long as they can fit it in their budgets. The D5300 does cost a bit more than most entry-level DSLRs, but its built-in Wi-Fi, built-in GPS, and articulated LCD provide some advantages over those models. If you need to save a bit of money but still want the fast EXPEED 4 image processor, consider the Nikon D3300, which doesn't offer quite as many features as the D5300 for a couple of hundred dollars less.

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