Nikon D5300: An Affordable DSLR Camera for Amateurs & Pros [Review]
The Nikon D5300 is a mid-tier DSLR with a range of features that will appeal to a wide array of potential users. Its price, megapixel count, shooting modes, built-in GPS and Wi-Fi capabilities, and battery life are extremely attractive and explored in greater detail below.
Currently, the D5300 has an MSRP of $599.95 for the body only, and an MSRP of $699.95 for the D5300 bundle with kit lens. However, you can get fantastic deals elsewhere.
Table of Contents
What are the Nikon D5300 Specifications?
- Sensor: 24 Megapixels, 23.5 mm × 15.6 mm DX-Format, APS-C CMOS
- Number of Autofocus Points: 39 (The similarly capable Canon T5i and Pentax K-50 have 9 and 11 Autofocus Points, respectively) More autofocus points means you have more locations to direct the focus of your camera within the frame.
- Kit Lens: AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II (image stabilization up to 4 stops using this lens. The camera body, however, does not provide image stabilization)
- Continuous Shooting: 5 frames per second
- ISO Range: Native ISO 100-12800 (with “Digitally Boosted” ISO 25600)
- Continuous Shooting Rate: Up to 5 fps
- Video Recording Capability: 1080 (60p, 30p, 24p) HD video and 720 (60p, 50p) HD video (H.264/MPEG-4 output)
- Image Format: JPEG, Raw and Raw+JPEG shooting. The D5300 can take either or both of the most useful camera image formats at once, with different levels of quality available in JPEG mode. A “Basic” image takes up around 5 MB of space on an SD card. “Normal” uses about 8 MB and “Fine” uses about 15 MB. A RAW file will use around 30 MB of space, so purchase the largest SD card you can afford for your needs.
- Built in Wi-Fi and GPS: Unlike its predecessor, the D5200, the D5300 can geotag photos and videos with GPS data and use its built-in Wi-Fi capacity to upload them to smart devices
- Battery Life (CIPA rating): 600 images per charge
- Storage: Accepts SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards. UHS-I bus.
- Weight: 480 grams (1.06 lbs/16.93 oz)
- Dimensions: 125 x 98 x 76 mm (4.92 x 3.86 x 2.99 in)
The D5300 has a carbon fiber enhanced plastic body that not only provides a stronger casing over the slightly more basic plastic design of the D5200, but also allows for what’s known as a monocoque structure. Rather than a weight-adding inner frame, the monocoque body means the D5300 weighs 15% less than the D5200 (555 g. vs. 480 g.) while remaining as structurally strong and impact-resistant due to its very shape. The D5300 is one of the very first Nikon cameras in this series to use this design and has been used repeatedly since its release. However, the body is not weather-proof (a feature found in Nikon’s D7200), and certainly not waterproof, so keep an umbrella or camera case nearby.
The D5300 offers one of the highest quality camera sensors available at this price point. 24 megapixels is enough for an excellent quality (200+ pixels per inch) prints at 16″ x 24″ and good quality all the way up to 40″ x 60″. The average social media user can get away with far less, but at this tier, we are moving into an advanced beginner-intermediate skill level of photography, and potential print size is an important thing to consider.
The DX-format APS-C sensor the D5300 uses, makes for excellent photography; although the 1.5 crop factor is worth noting. If we were to use a 50mm camera lens with this sensor, your field of view is equivalent to using a 75mm lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing; as a result you gain “virtual zoom” with a less than full-frame sensor. Wildlife and macro photographers will appreciate the virtual zoom afforded by the APS-C sensor. For the landscape photographer however, a full-frame sensor is probably better to omit the crop factor as well as maintain the view of wide-angle lenses.
Anyone who shoots majority low-light or night photography should also strongly consider a camera with a larger sensor; such as any with Nikon’s FX-format full-frame sensor. The noise reduction will be much better. For everybody else, including the occasional low-light or night photographer, the DX-format sensor of the D5300 is more than enough and even beneficial.
The ISO of the D5300 increases up to a respectable 12,800 without too much noise. And from there, you can double the ISO to 25,600, which sounds promising but the major drawback of this mode is that it’s a digital boost. Similar to the difference between optical zoom vs digital zoom, the camera makes its “best guess” as to how the image would appear as if it actually had the innate sensor sensitivity of 25,600 and uses software to process the image. As a result, an already noisy low-light picture will become incredibly noisy at this sensitivity.
A noisy image is better than the dreaded “lack of light” indicator upon shutter press, and image noise can be reduced to a degree with software like Adobe Lightroom. But for professional-grade imagery, the end result at this sensitivity will be entirely unusable. Thus, ISO 25,600 is an interesting perk but it’s a feature that will be rarely used.
Scene Selection Modes
When not shooting Manual, the Scene Selection mode accessible with the main control dial allows for 17 different scenes with preset exposure and color balance settings. These are useful for subjects challenging to capture properly due to contrasting light and darkness, subject movement, wanting to isolate your subject, or other challenges that Manual is well suited for, but may seem too difficult for the casual user. And sometimes, you simply want to capture the moment quickly and with as little fuss as possible!
The 17 scenes are Autumn Colors, Beach/Snow, Blossom, Candlelight, Child, Close-up, Dusk/Dawn, Food, Landscape, Night Landscape, Night Portrait, Party/Indoor, Pet Portrait, Portrait, Sports, Sunset, and Special Effects Mode (located on its own setting: EFFECTS, which is actually 10 more modes: Color Sketch, Night vision, Toy Camera, Miniature, Selective Color, Silhouette, High Key, Low Key and HDR painting).
What makes these menu modes so appealing is that they not only reduce the need for Manual Mode, but also mimic effects sometimes only found in expensive post-shoot processing software like Photoshop or Lightroom. If you love HDR photography but don’t yet understand how to achieve it with software, or don’t know which Manual Mode combination of ISO, shutter speed and f/stop you need for shooting at a sporting event, the Nikon D5300 will allow you to easily get the results you’re looking for!
Below are sample images using some of the scene modes available on this camera.
GPS and Wi-Fi Capabilities
Two extremely under-appreciated tools the D5300 offers are its GPS tagging and Wi-Fi capabilities. By triangulating the position of the camera via GPS satellites, the camera can add GPS metadata into the image or video created. For wildlife, travel and landscape photographers, geotagging is a must-have feature; with a few clicks and the proper software, you or your viewer can see exactly where you were standing when you took the image.
Built-in Wi-Fi is increasingly useful in the camera world. While this is an excellent feature, what’s most important about the D5300’s Wi-Fi connectivity is that it’s specifically geared towards smart devices only. This means it will create its own hotspot to connect to your smartphone or tablet with Wi-Fi, but not your PC or Mac.
The upside is that you can make your smartphone or tablet a remote shutter with Nikon’s free Wireless Mobile Utility for Android and iOS devices. With a glance to your hand, you see exactly what your camera sees in its viewfinder. Click the shutter, and then download to and share from your smart device. However, you will still have to use either the included USB cable or removing the SD card from your camera and inserting it as you normally would, to access your pictures on your computer. Alternatively, you could also download them to your smart device and use a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi synced app to send them straight to your computer without even touching your camera!
No Anti-Aliasing Filter?
A major difference that the intermediate-advanced photographer will want to note is that the D5300 does not have a low-pass optical filter within the sensor. Reason being, a lack of a low-pass filter allows for increased sharpness, at the risk of increased moire effects. For those who may not know, a low-pass optical (or anti-aliasing, or blur) filter adds a slight blurring or fuzzing effect that keeps extremely detailed, repeating patterns from causing unwanted moire patterns in certain subjects, like a closeup of a bird’s feathers, a mesh screen, or fabric textures. However, if you’re photographing a landscape, the last thing you want is a blur effect you can’t control. The lack of low-pass filter is therefore useful for squeezing out the finest details possible for your dollar.
Is the Nikon D5300 bundle a good value?
The Nikon D5300 is in the middle of the top 10 best selling DSLR cameras in its class. Its collection of standard features for DSLRs and expansions of those features such as a rich selection of menu modes makes for an excellent purchase at any skill level. The Nikon brand is also a strong consideration; any F-mounted lens going back to 1959 can be used with this camera! Note that the D5300 has no internal autofocus motor, so older lenses will have to be shot with manual focus (which you’re often better off doing anyway).
One of the key selling points for the D5300 is the improved battery life; 600 shots at this tier handily beats out equivalent same year release compact SLR cameras such as the Canon T5i and Pentax K-50 (440 and 410 shots per charge, respectively). In addition, neither of these cameras opted for built-in Wi-Fi or GPS capability, however they do cost less (significantly less, in the case of the T5i). The higher megapixel count of the D5300 compared to the other two is a strong advantage for a photographer who needs larger prints, although it is worth noting that the other cameras offer definite advantages. The K-50 offers a weatherized body and native ISO to an impressive, if noisy, 51,200, making it vastly superior for the outdoor photographer.
How does the Nikon D5300 compare to the Nikon D5200?
The Nikon D5300 is quite often compared to the Nikon D5200, which was released earlier in the same year, and for good reason. Sharing identical sensors, near-identical ISO capabilities, 39 focus points, a similar price range and number of images taken per charge, the specifications are nearly equal at first glance. One might be tempted to downgrade to save a few more dollars, however there are a number of key differences that anyone considering this tier of camera should take note of.
Advantages over its predecessor, the D5200:
- Plastic body with metal chassis vs. carbon fiber reinforced plastic using monocoque design
- Native ISO to 6400 vs Native ISO to 12800, although both can use digital boosting to mimic 25600
- Low-Pass (Anti-aliasing/blur) Filter vs No Low-Pass Filter
- Battery life (CIPA rating) of 500 vs 600 shots
- Expeed-3 vs Expeed-4 processor. Faster image processing with newer model.
- 555 grams vs 480 grams (1.22 lbs vs. 1.06 lbs)
- No Wi-Fi or GPS functionality (however it can be outfitted with separately purchased devices) vs Built-in Wi-Fi and GPS functionality
As of the time of this writing, the D5200 sits at approximately $50-$100 cheaper than the D5300 on most websites. The upgraded features listed above are well-worth the money, however if price is a major issue, the D5200 will serve nearly as well with almost no loss of quality save for the included anti-aliasing filter (which may or may not be desirable for you).
Image Size Comparison
The Nikon D5300 is an extremely well rounded camera with an excellent make that’s earned its place as a top 10 best seller in its class. The collection of features appeal to every level of skill and its price tag suits nearly every budget. Compared to other compact SLR cameras of its age and price, such as the Canon T5i and Pentax K-50, it weighs less, shoots more images, boasts a higher megapixel count, and its GPS and Wi-Fi capabilities are extremely useful. However, one does pay for that quality as it is the most expensive of the three as well.
Nikon has more advanced models available and one might be tempted to jump straight to the D7200 for a weatherized body, 51 autofocus points, native ISO up to 25,600, and a host of other goodies. However, the D5300 is a powerful addition to any photographer’s arsenal with the strong backing of Nikon’s huge array of lenses and accessories, and comes highly recommended by Digital Camera Central!
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