Nikon D5300 digital SLR camera

This entry-level digital SLR is a great step up from a compact camera, gives great versatility and image quality

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Nikon D5300
  • Nikon D5300
  • Nikon D5300
  • Nikon D5300

Pros

  • Good size and comfortable to hold
  • 24MP sensor offers good clarity and potential for cropping
  • Wi-Fi for sharing photos while on the go

Cons

  • Slow performance in live view mode
  • Optical viewfinder misses about 5 per cent of details at the sides

Bottom Line

Nikon's D5300 is an entry-level digital SLR camera that will suit those of you looking to make the leap to a more advanced camera than a compact or smartphone camera. It can be a versatile shooter as long as you have the right lenses, and it's available in twin lens kits that offer good value for money.

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  • Nikon D5300: From Snapshots to Great Shots eBook 13.09

Nikon's D5300 is a camera that's designed for those of you who are just making the step up from a compact camera to a digital SLR. It has a small body with plenty of features, and it's one of those types of cameras where you can either let it do all the work for you, or you can take the reins and drive the exposure manually.

Note: Scroll down for sample images and kit pricing at the end of the review.

It's not like one of the more advanced digital SLR cameras on the market insofar as it doesn't have too many physical controls. There is a single control dial for changing exposure values, and a lot of other changes to settings need to be done through the menu system or a key combination. It can take a short while to get your head around how to use it, but the good thing is you can start capturing good quality photos right away by plonking the dial into Auto or Scene mode and letting the camera do the work while you learn its ins and outs.

As far as digital SLR cameras go, the D5300's body isn't large (about 125mm wide, 100mm tall, and 80mm deep), and it can be comfortably gripped and used in a couple of different ways. Either you can look through the optical viewfinder to frame your photos, which you'll want to do most of the time (be aware that about 5 per cent of what you capture can't be seen in the viewfinder, so perfect framing can be difficult), or you can enable the live view on the LCD screen. The LCD screen is hinged and can be used for selfies or when you want to take photos from a high-up or low-down angle — say, if you're in a crowd of people and want to shoot over them, or if you want to shoot something at ground level to get an interesting perspective on it.

Controls are located at the top near the shutter button, and also on the back around the screen. If you just use the camera in auto mode, or in scene mode, you don't have to play around with anything and you can just start shooting right away. If you use manual or one of the semi-manual modes (aperture priority or shutter priority), you can change the values by rotating the thumb control near the top on the back of the camera.

The menu system has improved slightly in the way that it looks since the previous model we saw, the Nikon D5200. You can see the values that you select for aperture, shutter and ISO speed on the LCD screen, and the menu system gives a visual representation of these settings (at least with the aperture the icon gives you a clear indication of whether the aperture is bigger or smaller), and some handy hints also come up on the screen to let you know if your scene is too dark or too bright. If you press the '?' button on the back, it tells you what to do to fix these problems.

All of the settings that you can change are located on the screen at once, and you can press the 'i' button above the screen and then use the thumb controller to navigate through values. Once you get the hang of it, it's a fairly easy camera to use, though if you want to do things such as change ISO speed often, then not having a dedicated button for this will be inconvenient. However, there is a function button on the front of the camera that can be set to change the ISO.

The camera is based on 24-megapixel sensor that is of a typical size for a digital SLR of this ilk — APS-C (or DX-sized). It sits behind a F-mount lens mount that allows you to equip the camera with the lens type of your choice (as long as that lens has an F mount). For our tests, Nikon sent us a wonderful 18-300mm zoom lens (its full name is AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR), which is a lens that provides a tremendous amount of the versatility — so much so that you might never need to remove it. However, a lens like this can make the camera very large and hard to carry around. You could always opt to attach a nifty 50mm prime lens (these are very cheap these days), or any of a multitude of Nikkor, Sigma, or Tamron lenses.

As for the camera's picture quality when using the 18-300mm lens, it was very good. We used the JPEG recording format and the camera's standard image settings and it produced clear and vibrant results. Because the sensor has so many pixels, pictures will look sharp if you're viewing them on a Full HD screen without zooming in to the pixel level. At the same time, there are so many pixels present, you can even crop photos heavily without losing too much sharpness. In low-light conditions, you can use an ISO speed up to 1600 with reasonably good results — as long as you don't heavily crop photos that have a high ISO, you won't notice any grain or muddiness in the photos.

We like the ease with which the focus point can be changed to suit the target in the frame (simply use the thumb controller on the back to change the spot), and the overall speed of the camera was decent as far as shot-to-shot performance is concerned. It was slow when used in live view mode, though.

It has a Wi-Fi mode, too. To use this feature, you need to download the Nikon smartphone app and then connect to the camera's Wi-Fi network. Using the app, you can view and download pictures from the camera, use your camera to stream pictures to a phone as you take them, and also use your phone as a viewfinder to snap photos (though you can't change exposure settings through the app). We think it's a useful implementation of Wi-Fi and it was reliable when used in our tests.

Overall, the Nikon D5300 is a very good camera if you're a digital SLR beginner, and if you invest in good lenses, you can keep those for the long-term as you as progress to a more advanced Nikon DX-sized body in the future.

Sample images

Here are some sample images. The results are straight out of the camera with no editing or cropping unless otherwise noted in the caption. They have only been resized to fit the width of this page.

Even in backlit conditions, the D5300 handled the overall exposure very well.
Even in backlit conditions, the D5300 handled the overall exposure very well.

This is another backlit shot where the Sydney Harbour bridge and its Bridge Climb participants look silhouetted against the sky.
This is another backlit shot where the Sydney Harbour bridge and its Bridge Climb participants look silhouetted against the sky.

The speed of the camera is good enough to let you fire off shots rapidly.
The speed of the camera is good enough to let you fire off shots rapidly.

When you use the 300mm lens for close-up zooming, you can really blur out the background and focus entirely on the image in the foreground.
When you use the 300mm lens for close-up zooming, you can really blur out the background and focus entirely on the image in the foreground.

The 18-300mm lens is very versatile, but when you use it at the widest angle, it will produced slightly skewed lines. You can see that here on the tall buildings, which look like they lean.
The 18-300mm lens is very versatile, but when you use it at the widest angle, it will produced slightly skewed lines. You can see that here on the tall buildings, which look like they lean.

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Because there are so many pixels to play with, you can crop photos a lot and still maintain a good level of detail. Here you can see we cropped out the background bars that were visible in the original photo.
Because there are so many pixels to play with, you can crop photos a lot and still maintain a good level of detail. Here you can see we cropped out the background bars that were visible in the original photo.

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When shooting events such as indoor sporting events, and you have to zoom in, you need to use a relatively fast shutter speed so the motion doesn't blur too much, and by consequence, you have to use a fast ISO speed. This one is at ISO 1600 and the shutter speed is 1/200sec.
When shooting events such as indoor sporting events, and you have to zoom in, you need to use a relatively fast shutter speed so the motion doesn't blur too much, and by consequence, you have to use a fast ISO speed. This one is at ISO 1600 and the shutter speed is 1/200sec.

Note that the 18-300mm lens is not a kit lens. The available kits for the D5300 include:

• Body only: $1000
• D5300 AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR: $1100
• D5300 AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR: $1500
• D5300 + 18-55mm VR + 55-200mm VR: $1300
• D5300: $1300 + 18-55mm VR + 55-300mm VR: $1400

The twin-lens kits offer the best value and versatility.

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