PROS / The Nikon D5300 has best-in-class image quality.
CONS / This camera's Wi-Fi functions are limited.
VERDICT / The Nikon D5300 offers exceptional image quality and video-recording capabilities with no major drawbacks.
Nikon is a top choice for photographers of all levels. A long-standing record of excellence and a host of compatible lenses and accessories make Nikon a smart selection for someone looking to expand their potential.
Although it looks much the same as its peers, the D5300 sets itself apart as one of Nikon's top entry-level DSLR cameras. With high-quality components and design, it manages to incorporate excellent image quality, advanced features and impressive video capture within a light DSLR body. For this reason, the Nikon D5300 is our Top Ten Reviews Silver Award winner.
As far as beginner DLSRs are concerned, the D5300 has outstanding image quality. It delivers good image detail, is excellent in low light and has a 24.2-megapixel image resolution. Like most entry-level DSLRs, it features an APS-C image sensor. Despite its typical sensor size, it outperforms almost any entry-level DSLR that we reviewed in the categories of dynamic range, low-light performance and color depth.
No camera we reviewed has a higher dynamic range than the D5300. Having a high dynamic range means that your photographs will have more details in the shadows and highlights. It has a DxOMark score of 13.9 exposure values (EVs), and 12 EVs is considered excellent. The wider this range is, the less likely it is that your highlights will be blown out, or that your shadows will be overly dark.
Although there's really no circumstance where good dynamic range isn't a plus, it's particularly useful for landscape photography, where you have less control over available light. In high-contrast situations, like a bright sunset with a shadowy foreground, it's advantageous to capture the fullest range of information possible.
With a DxOMark low-light performance rating of ISO 1338, this camera performed as well as or better than the best beginner DSLRs we tested. Low-light performance refers to the highest ISO that you can use while still maintaining acceptable image quality. Higher ISO settings make for brighter images in low-light conditions. Unfortunately, as the ISO number grows, so does the level of noise in your pictures.
The D5300 is also a top contender for color depth. It can capture slight nuances in color to produce accurate representations of a frame. The color depth is most important where light is plentiful and image quality becomes less about reducing noise and clipping, and more about producing the most accurate representation of a subject.
It's also worth noting that the D5300 is the only entry-level DSLR available from Nikon that lacks an optical low-pass filter (OLPF). While this increases your chances of finding moiré and other artifacts in your images, it also makes for sharper images than you'll find from comparable cameras that feature an OLPF.
Exposure settings, like ISO and shutter speed, are fairly standard. The sensor offers a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 and a minimum speed of 30 seconds. These numbers should be more than sufficient for capturing everything from high-speed action shots to long exposures after dark.
An optional 18 mm to 55 mm kit lens is typical of entry-level DSLRs. Its aperture begins at f/3.5 at 18 mm and as you zoom in, the aperture slowly shrinks until you reach f/5.6 at 55 mm. Two switches allow you to toggle vibration reduction and auto or manual focus.
Battery life is another important factor when deciding on an entry-level DSLR. Usually, it ranges from 400 to 700 shots per charge. The D5300 ranks well among its peers at 600 shot per charge.
Offering up to five frames per second, the D5300 is fairly average when it comes to continuous shooting. Although Sony's Alpha a58 provides up to eight, you'll typically have to spend much more on a mid-range or professional camera to get much faster. Still, five frames per second is more than enough for most applications.
When it comes to auto-focus points, the D5300 provides many more than most entry-level DSLRs. All told, there are a whopping 38 focusing points. These points help to provide accurate and timely focusing from many locations within a frame. Aside from other Nikons equipped with the same system, the next greatest number belongs to the Sony a58, which only has 15.
Features & Design
The D5300 has a lot to offer in the way of additional features and settings. We recommend manual shooting for the best results, but for quick shooting, the D5300 offers 16 scene modes that make it easy to capture properly exposed images in a variety of situations. It also offers a good selection of video shooting options. Depending on whether you want to prioritize quality or file size, you can shoot in 1080p, 720p or 424p at a variety of frame rates. At its highest setting, the D5300 produces beautiful full 1080p HD video at 60 frames per second – a feat not many entry-level DSLRs can replicate.
A built-in GPS makes it easy to automatically tag your photos with geographic information. Using a computer, you can retrace your steps and record exactly when and where you were when you captured certain shots. Leaving the GPS on all the time will take a toll on your battery life, however, so it's a good idea to purchase additional batteries if you plan to make regular use of it.
Wi-Fi connectivity is widely available in point-and-shoot cameras and compacts, and it's slowly beginning to make its way into entry-level DSLRs. Presumably because the D5300 is one of the first to incorporate this feature, it's still quite limited. You can download photos and release the shutter using a dedicated mobile application, but unfortunately, the functionality stops there. You can't remotely shoot video or adjust any of the camera's settings.
Ergonomics, a user-friendly interface and battery life are important aspects of any DSLR. When shooting with the D5300, we found the grip to be comfortable and secure, and the buttons well placed. Higher-end DSLRs offer more physical controls, but the D5300 performs as expected for an entry-level camera.
Its 3.2-inch articulating LCD screen is bright and makes getting shots from awkward positions more convenient than using the viewfinder alone. Unlike some competitors, there are no touchscreen capabilities on the D5300.
Help & Support
As a top-tier camera manufacturer, Nikon offers solid support. The D5300 comes with a one-year warranty against manufacturer defects. If you have any questions, you can use the knowledgebase section of Nikon's website, or contact a representative through phone or email.
The Nikon D5300 is an outstanding all-purpose DSLR. It offers best-in-class image quality and video-recording capabilities with virtually no major drawbacks. The Wi-Fi options are lacking, but then again, most DSLRs don't even offer Wi-Fi connectivity. Its design remains similar to previous models, but internally, it offers improvements that make it one of the best entry-level DSLRs available.