Build and handling

  • Polycarbonate construction
  • Design virtually identical to D5500
  • Weighs 420g

Nikon has used a monocoque construction for the D5600, as seen in both the D5300 and D5500, with the shell of the camera forged from a single piece of material – in this case, a strong polycarbonate.

This has enabled Nikon to reduce the number of parts used and keep the weight down – the D5600 tips the scales at 420g, body-only) exactly the same as the D5500. And it's not only the weight that's the same, as the body appears to be pretty much identical to its predecessor – even the dimensions are the same, at 124 x 97 x 70mm.

If it wasn’t for the need for a reflex mirror, the depth of the D5600 would surely put some mirrorless rivals in the shade

This means the body retains its narrow portion between the lens mount and grip – if it wasn’t for the need for a reflex mirror, the depth of the D5600 would surely put some mirrorless rivals in the shade. The D5600 also keeps the well-proportioned handgrip, which makes the camera fit nicely in the hand and provides a very comfy grip.

The top of the D5600 isn’t overly cluttered with buttons, with a mode dial on the top of the camera that features the switch to activate Live View around its collar – it's quick and easy to flick on and off whenever you need to use the rear screen to shoot.

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Next to this is the fully-exposed command dial (pretty much every other Nikon DSLR barring the D5500 has only a small portion exposed from the body) that allows you to make adjustments to the aperture/shutter speed depending on the shooting mode you’re using, while the exposure compensation button just in front makes it easy to quickly fine-tune the exposure. If you’re shooting in full manual mode, you can hold down the exposure comp button to adjust aperture with the command dial.

Round the back of the D5600 the streamlined control theme continues. There’s a multi-directional D-pad for navigating the camera’s menus and settings, which also doubles as an AF point selector, while hitting the ‘I’ button brings up a range of core settings on the rear display.

You can navigate these options using the D-pad, hitting the OK button at the centre of pad to select the setting you want to change before toggling through the settings for that setting. This process could perhaps be refined by allowing you to simply navigate to the desired feature with the D-pad before using the command dial to flick through to the required setting.

The D5600 isn't overly-reliant on the rear screen if you prefer more tactile controls

That said, you can of course make use of the D5600's touchscreen functionality to change settings – you simply tap the ‘I’ icon on the display, then tap through to the required setting and adjust it with another tap of the screen.

The D5600 isn't overly-reliant on the rear screen if you prefer more tactile controls. There’s a programmable function button on the front of the camera that your left thumb can easily press when your left hand is cupping the lens, which when used in conjunction with the command dial can be used to quickly set ISO as the default option, although other functions can be assigned to the button if you prefer. 

There’s also a dedicated drive mode button just under the lens release which can toggle between the camera’s single and continuous shooting modes, as well as the self-timer.

Autofocus

  • 39-point AF, nine cross-type AF points
  • 39 or 11 AF points can be selected
  • 3D-tracking AF

The D5600 sticks with Nikon’s proven 39-point Multi-CAM 4800DX AF system. It may be starting to show its age against mirrorless rivals offering ever-more AF points, but it’s still a very solid and accurate system when shooting with the viewfinder.

Both single and continuous AF modes are fast and accurate, locking on with ease to static subjects, while the AF tracking modes on offer work well for moving subjects, although you don’t get the more advanced custom settings found higher up the Nikon range.

The D5600's AF system is fast and accurate

We did find that the bundled 18-55mm kit lens struggled a little when light levels dropped; this issue isn't unique to the D5600, but put some better (and faster) glass on the front – even the dirt-cheap 35mm f/1.8G DX prime – and you’ll be rewarded with snappier autofocus.

As we’ve found on the D5500, the D5600’s large vari-angle touchscreen display encourages the use of Live View, but is left a little wanting when it comes to AF performance. With well-lit subjects the D5600 delivers accurate and quiet (if slightly sedate) focusing, especially compared to mirrorless cameras, but in darker conditions there can be a fair bit of hunting as the AF struggles to acquire focus, and you’ll soon find yourself flicking the Live View switch so that you can shoot with the viewfinder.