Nikon D5300 review

New 24MP sensor and EXPEED 4 processing engine give better images

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It would be easy to dismiss the changes made with the D5300 as minor, but there is much more to a camera than its pixel count. And a processing engine is just as important as a sensor when it comes to image quality.

The new sensor design and the removal of the low-pass filter enables the D5300 to record more sharp detail than the D5200, and although there is more noise in some images, it is controlled well, especially at the highest sensitivity settings.

Thankfully, the banding that troubled higher sensitivity images from the D5200 seems to be a thing of the past and although they are a little noisier the D5300's images can be used at larger sizes.

While Nikon has introduced some modern technology in the form of Wi-Fi connectivity and GPS, it hasn't really embraced the design of the D5300 by giving it a fast, live view AF system or making the variangle screen touch-sensitive.

The Nikon brand may be attractive to novice photographers, but many are likely to find the intuitive controls of a touch-screen-enabled compact system camera more attractive.

We liked

A pixel count of 24 million is more than enough for most photographers and we're happy that Nikon has stuck with this for the D5300, but taken steps to improve the quality of the sensor's output.

The addition of Wi-Fi connectivity is also good news because users are increasingly keen to share images quickly.

While GPS is a nice-to-have feature, it tends to be power-hungry and as a result few photographers tend to use it that often.

We disliked

The D5300 is aimed at those upgrading from a compact camera or who want to be more creative with their images.

Nikon regards it as an 'upper-entry-level' camera.

Lots of buttons and dials can be intimidating to relative newcomers to photography and Nikon uses an attractive Graphic User Interface (GUI) and menu system for most setting selections and adjustments. While this may suit some, it's not as quick to use as direct controls. We'd like to see a few more on the D5300 to make it faster for enthusiasts to use.

It would also be nice if Nikon would allow users to opt to use the self-timer for more than just one shot (or sequence of shots) at a time.

And it's a shame that Nikon hasn't improved the Effects and HDR mode to allow raw file recording. This would make these creative modes more attractive to experienced photographers who want a 'clean' file to work with post-capture.

Final verdict

Although the upgrades made to the D5200 by the D5300 are solid, they are unlikely to attract D5200 users to upgrade.

They may make the camera more attractive to photographers without a brand commitment, but they aren't especially forward-looking or novel. The variangle screen and Effect modes encourage the user to shoot in live view mode (and compose the image on screen), but the live view AF system's performance lags behind that of many compact system cameras, and the screen isn't touch-sensitive.

However, a 24-million-pixel SLR with a 3.2-inch articulating screen, 39-point AF system and built-in Wi-Fi connectivity is still a good option for someone looking to take their photography more seriously. The control layout is relatively simple, too, so you can find the settings that you want and get to grips with the camera quickly.

Enthusiast photographers, however, may find themselves torn between the articulating screen of the D5300 and the greater number of direct controls of the Nikon D7100.


Head of Testing, Cameras

Angela (Twitter, Google+, website) is head of testing for Future's photography portfolio, writing and overseeing reviews of photographic equipment for Digital Camera, Photography Week, PhotoPlus, NPhoto and Practical Photoshop as well as TechRadar's cameras channel. Angela has a degree in photography and multimedia and prior to joining Future in October 2010 was Amateur Photographer magazine's technical editor.