Although the D5300 looks almost identical to the D5200, there are a few changes.
It is the first Nikon SLR to be built using a monocoque construction, which means its shell is made from one single piece of material. This should make the camera stronger and because Nikon has used Teijin's Sereebo CFRTP (a type of polycarbonate) for its construction, it is also lighter than the D5200, at 480g.
Though it doesn't exactly have the tank-like feel of the Nikon D4, the D5300 certainly feels well-made and solid enough in your hand.
The navigation control, however, feels a little more lightweight and slightly cheaper than the D5200's, and considerably less robust than the Nikon D610's. It clicks at a slightly higher pitch than either camera, which is likely to be the result of the new materials.
Conversely, the control dial above the thumb rest on the back of the D5300 has a slightly more positive feel and is quieter in operation than the one on the D5200.
Apart from a few extra holes for the stereo mic above the viewfinder and the GPS and Wi-Fi icons, the top plate of the D5300 looks just the same as the D5200's. There's still a large mode dial with all the usual PASM options and automatic options along with the Scene Effects modes.
It's worth noting that the top of the Mode dial now has a slightly glossy finish and this makes reading the options a little trickier in certain lights than it is with the D5200's dial.
On the back of the camera the screen is noticeably bigger on the D5300 than it is on the D5200, and there's a bigger rubberised area for the thumb rest. But that's it for changes, aside from the slight relocation of a couple of green dots and a change in font for the 'I' on the Information button.
In short, D5200 users will feel right at home with the D5300's control layout. The menu is also the same, with the obvious additions of options for new features such as the Wi-Fi and GPS technology.
There are relatively few buttons on the D5300 and most settings adjustments are made via on-screen controls. Some will find this attractive, but it has the disadvantage that few controls can be accessed directly, and setting adjustments are slowed as a result.
Pressing the 'I' button on the back of the camera brings up the Information screen, which displays all the key features for adjustment.
Settings changes are made simply by navigating to the desired feature, pressing the OK button and then selecting the desired option. It's a simple approach which is reasonably fast to use, but could be made faster still by making the screen touch-sensitive.
There are up to 14 features available for adjustment, and the majority are things that you are likely to want to access on a fairly frequent basis, such as Picture Control, Focus mode, AF-area mode and Metering mode. However, it would be nice if the list was customisable so that if you never use the HDR option, for example, and don't need to be able to switch off raw recording on a regular basis, you could swap it for Exposure delay mode, or something that you might use more frequently.
Unlike the D7100, D610 and Nikon D4 further up the SLR line-up, the D5300 doesn't have the button and switch arrangement for setting the focus mode and focus point selection mode. As mentioned earlier, this is done via the Information screen. It works well enough, but you can't use it while the camera is held to your eye.
As on the D5200, live view is activated on the D5300 by flicking the sprung switch under the mode dial on the top of the camera. As it has a variangle screen, the D5300 is far more likely to be used in live view mode than some other Nikon cameras.
The new 3.2-inch 1,037,000-dot screen provides a nice clear view with a little more detail being visible, which is especially useful when using the enlarged view to focus manually.
The screen also copes reasonably well with bright light and doesn't suffer excessively from reflections.
It's very easy to connect the D5300's Wi-Fi system to a smartphone via Nikon's Mobile Utility app (iOSand Android), but it's disappointing that it is still only possible to set the AF point by tapping on the image on the phone screen and tripping the shutter remotely. It would be nice if it were possible to change exposure settings remotely, and perhaps even the shooting mode.
As on the camera, the self timer needs to be activated every time it is used, but it's quicker and easier to do it on a phone rather than via the menu on the camera. It's frustrating that there's no option to set the camera to self-timer mode until you decide to deactivate it. It seems especially odd given that the timer can be set to take up to nine images in quick succession and the Exposure delay mode is an activate/deactivate feature.
Nevertheless, we found that images upload quickly to the phone so it's a great way of sharing images on the usual social networking sites.