Hands-On Review: the Nikon D5300
I shoot primarily with a D7000, which isn’t a huge camera, but the Nikon D5300 seems significantly smaller; it's a comfortable camera that felt great in my hands. When you’re accustomed to handling a camera body daily, size differences are readily apparent—in fact, the first thing you notice about the D5300 is its size. It’s smaller and lighter than its predecessor, the D5200, and while it's reminiscent of the D40, my first DSLR, all I can say is, "Wow, how things have changed since then." Nikon has packed the D5300 with features that make it shoot like a much bigger camera. And—it has the same sturdy ergonomic grip as the heavier pro-level bodies, but it is so lightweight that it’s a joy to carry around.
The response to our recent announcement was overwhelming, so I decided to take the camera out for a hands-on review, and what I found was pleasantly surprising. As soon as you turn on the camera you won’t want to put it down. The LCD almost had me forgoing the optical viewfinder, which is normally my preferred method of composing. Measuring a respectable 3.2" with 1037k dots, it swivels, is very bright, and extremely intuitive. Using the menu to make adjustments is exceptionally user friendly, and if this is your first DSLR, the LCD on the D5300 may help you transition from your point-and-shoot to a camera that gives you more control over settings.
A simple press of the Info button and all of the necessary camera controls pop up on the LCD. With the easy-to-use multi-selector button, you can quickly navigate between ISO, white balance, autofocus, metering, and many other settings. The menu also has numerous features that simplify making camera adjustments. For example, when choosing the ISO, there are small images to illustrate examples of scenes for which each ISO speed is ideal: bright sunlight for the lower speeds and dark night scenes for the higher ones. This can really help you make informed decisions when choosing your settings in order to get the best shots.
Grand Central Clock
The 24.2MP sensor and EXPEED 4 image processor produce stunning images with incredible color rendering in both RAW and JPEG formats. The sensor is a DX-format APS-C CMOS sensor with a 1.5x crop factor. This means that a 50mm lens has the focal length equivalent angle of view of a 75mm lens in the 35mm format—a very serviceable focal length for portraiture. I felt completely confident shooting at ISO speeds up to 6400 without worrying about any noise issues. The expandable ISO range stretches all the way to 25600, a remarkably high ISO that will let you shoot in extremely dim environments. The focusing was blistering fast with my 35mm f/1.8 lens, thanks to the 39-point Multi-CAM 4800DX autofocus system, and shooting at 5 frames per second is plenty fast for almost all shooting situations.
If you are a “pixel-peeper” like me, and want the sharpest photos possible, this camera might be just what you’ve been looking for. One of the most anticipated features of the D5300 isn’t something added to the camera, but something that has been omitted: the optical low-pass filter. By removing this filter, the camera’s sensor is able to maximize the high resolution and high pixel count, allowing lenses to render sharper images.
Coin Operated Binoculars on the Empire State Building
Have you ever wished that you could upload your photos right from your camera to your smartphone or tablet? Well, the D5300 makes this possible. Two great features included on this camera that were unavailable on the D5300’s predecessors are Wi-Fi connectivity and GPS location tagging. Both features are built in, and allow you to share your images directly via social media, or store them in the cloud while simultaneously geo-tagging them. The fact that my images are backed up in the cloud gives me peace of mind, knowing that they are safe, even if I lose or damage my memory cards on the way home from a shoot.
If you shoot indoors or in other low-light environments, the built-in pop-up flash on top of the camera is a feature that you will definitely appreciate. It utilizes Nikon’s i-TTL flash metering system, which means that the camera reads the scene in front of the lens and adjusts the flash’s power accordingly. There is also a hot shoe right behind the pop-up flash so that you can attach a speed light for even more power and control over your lighting. Adding a speed light to the hot shoe also allows you to use it as a commander to control off-camera flashes, something the pop-up flash doesn’t do.
Grand Central Terminal
As if all of the features I’ve mentioned weren’t impressive enough, the D5300 has full HD 1080p video with full-time autofocus. Having the ability to not only shoot great images but also incredibly detailed high-definition video is a huge plus, and this camera does both very well. It focused extremely fast while I was shooting video—so fast in fact, that I continued to change my focal point just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things.
I love shooting videos at concerts, and the vari-angle LCD is indispensible when trying to shoot over people’s heads while still being able to see what it is I’m filming. It is also great for holding the camera down by the ground for low-angle shots, such as action shots of skateboarders. The screen rotates, allowing you to make sure that you’re in focus and in frame when taking self-portraits ("selfies") with an extended arm. An added bonus to having the swiveling screen is that it can flip over and be hidden from view, which will protect it from harm when it is not in use.
For instant shooting during different situations, you can choose between16 different scene modes, such as the standard Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, and Close-up, as well as scenes such as Sunset, Candlelight, and Food. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of shooting, and the extensive array of built-in features will help you get the most out of your shooting experience. Choosing from these preset scenes will help the novice achieve better results, while more advanced shooters can move right on to shooting in aperture or shutter priority, and full manual modes.
If you’re a fan of Instagram and other smartphone photo apps that add filters to images, you will love the 9 special effects that you can choose from for in-camera editing, such as Toy-Camera, Selective Color, and HDR Painting. This is a great option if you’d like to apply filters to your photos, but aren’t sure about using post-processing software, or if you just want to save time.
Empire State Building
After a few days of shooting with the D5300, I can honestly say it was a breeze to use. The combination of a small, lightweight body with the form and function of a large DSLR was the perfect blend of form and function. It was so light to carry around that I never once thought about putting it back into my bag. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for either an upgrade from an older DSLR, or someone making their first foray into the DSLR market.