Being connected - it's all the rage. Of all the slogans used by Nikon for its cameras, "Always share your moments" seems most apt with the Nikon D5600.
The D5600 is the sixth iteration of the well-established Nikon D5000 series - a DSLR camera range with APS-C size sensor - which is positioned one up from the entry-level model.
To date, each new version has brought minor improvements over its predecessor. This time round the changes are the most subtle yet and you'd be forgiven for thinking "is that it?".
Nikon D5600 review: All about the Bluetooth
- Always-on Bluetooth connectivity to SnapBridge
- Compatible with Nikon's MC-DC2 remote cord, plus WR-1/ WR-T10/ WR-R10 (wireless) transmitters/ receivers
- No infrared
The Nikon D5600 includes virtually all of the same key features as the D5500, which are hard to beat at this level: a 24.2-million-pixel sensor, 39-point phase detection AF, vari-angle 3.2in LCD touchscreen. It's all there.
So what is new? Bluetooth. Continuous connectivity to your smartphone via SnapBridge to be exact. This means you can connect the camera to a smart device through Nikon's free SnapBridge app, which is available for iOS and Android platforms.
In SnapBridge, it's possible to download images from the camera to the connected device or to Nikon Image Space, which is an online cloud storage subscription service (that is also available as an app).
Furthermore, it's possible to remotely control the camera through SnapBridge and access its live view in real time. This has resulted in Nikon doing away with the front and rear facing infrared receivers, so it's not IR compatible.
In one sense, such wireless features are regular fare these days. Yet, SnapBridge can be setup to automatically receive new pictures from the camera via Bluetooth, immediately after they are taken. Make a photo on your camera and then it's there on the phone, ready to share, in no time at all.
By default, SnapBridge creates web-ready 2-million-pixel JPEG photos, though the original size JPEGs can be imported too. We'd expect very few people to be interested in filling up their smartphone unnecessarily with full-resolution files, when the web-ready versions are plenty big enough to share on social media.
SnapBridge works well but it's not perfect. We mentioned our frustration trying to work the system out in our Nikon D7500 review - because it's not as intuitive as we'd like.
Take the "Download selected pictures" option, for example. SnapBridge is set to ask if you would like to revert to Wi-Fi first over Bluetooth in order to view videos. This is unnecessary - a separate video menu would suffice.
However, the bit that grates is the regular "Downloading information from the camera" message, especially the delay whilst this occurs. These delays happen when a new menu in Snapbridge is opened - which even includes moving from single image view to gallery view.
If you are anything like us, your patience will be tested while waiting for the images to load for viewing. On the flip side, you'll skip all this if the camera is set to auto-download all pictures and the downloads themselves complete quickly.
Nikon D5600 review: Size, build, screen and viewfinder
- 3.2in vari-angle LCD touchscreen with 1.04-million-dot resolution
- Optical viewfinder with 0.82x magnification and 95% coverage
- Small body with comfortable grip
- 970 shot battery life
In the new-age of interchangeable lens cameras, it's the battle between mirrorles and DSLR cameras that gets people talking. Mirrorless cameras are always smaller, right? Well, yes and no.
If you've used a DSLR camera at all, especially one of the big boys, one of the most striking things about the D5600 is just how small and light it is. You'd struggle to find a smaller DSLR, except for something like the Canon EOS 200D. We have an Olympus OM-D E-M1 with kit lens and its dimensions are very similar to the D5600.
The D5600 also has a lovely textured grip with a deep recess. You'll get a firm hold of this camera, which is great given how small it is and that your pinky may slip off the front, which can hinder comfort levels.
Key to the D5600's design is its 3.2in LCD touchscreen. It's the same wonderfully bright and vibrant display as found in Nikon's latest and greatest DSLRs, but this one is a vari-angle screen - meaning you can pull it away from the rear and turn it through angles for creative shots.
Compared to the entry-level Nikon D3400, the screen in the D5600 limits the number of physical buttons present on the camera - as there is nothing to the left of the screen. Yet, controls can still be accessed quickly via the touchscreen, which is a more than adequate alternative.
Image playback can be navigated through the touchscreen, including swipe to scroll and pinch to zoom. A new cropped version of an image can be made from the displayed (zoomed in) version, which is handy.
In all this you may then forget that the D5600 has an optical (pentaprism) viewfinder - which is the main reason DSLR cameras are larger than their mirrorless cousins. The viewfinder has a 95 per cent coverage, which means you do not fully see what you get in the final image - the outermost five per cent of the frame is absent in preview only.
The physical size of Nikon viewfinder displays - as in the scale you'll see to the eye - increase as you move up the range. At 0.82x magnification (that's 0.55x full-frame effective), the D5600 display appears bigger than the one in the D3400, smaller than in the D7500, and positively dwarfed by the class-leading full-frame Nikon D850.
A neat feature is Assign Touch Fn, where you can select any one from eight controls that the touchscreen operates while using the viewfinder. The most logical use for this function is to touch and swipe the screen to select the focus point, which will then display in the OLED overlay of the viewfinder. Olympus offers a similar feature in its OM-D cameras. This Touch Fn feature can also be used to select exposure controls such as ISO and aperture.
Nikon D5600 review: Autofocus and video capture
- 3.5mm microphone port, no headphone monitoring
- Full 1080p HD videos unto 60fps
- 5fps maximum burst shooting
- 39-point phase detection AF
It's much the same between Nikon D5600 and D5500 on the features front. That means continuous high-speed shooting remains at a rather modest 5fps, which is no patch on competitor mirrorless cameras.
There are the usual beginner-friendly scene modes and picture effects - the latter of which we feel is now largely redundant, given how easy it is to connect to smart device and find all those picture effects and more using image-editing apps.
There's also no 4K video, which Nikon does provide in its higher-end cameras, but the D5600 offers Full HD 1080p capture at up to 60fps, with no sensor crop. You won't find slow-motion modes at any resolution. It's possible to connect an external microphone, but there is no headphone port.
When it comes to AF, Nikon has again forged a clear difference between its DSLRs. In the D5600, the phase-detection AF is made up of a 39-point AF array, none of which are cross-type for heightened sensitivity in both portrait and landscape orientation. That's more than the 11 AF points of the D3400 and less than the 51-AF points of the D7500.
Autofocus sensitivity operates down to -1EV, which makes for sharp focusing in low contrast light, like a room in the house at night with the lights on. That's not to the same level of the D7500, which has a -3EV sensitivity good for shooting under moonlight. Equivalent Canon EOS DSLR cameras are a few stops ahead in this regard, too, which puts the D5600 a shade behind.
In live preview - where you use the rear LCD screen to compose in real-time - autofocus is a contrast-detection system, where the AF point can be selected anywhere in the frame by touch of the LCD screen. In high-contrast light like outdoors during a bright day, it's snappy - not the most snappy around, but quick none-the-less. It's in low-contrast light where the system struggles, often hunting for the subject or even failing to latch on at all. Again, Canon has a better live preview mode.
One thing to make a song and a dance about is the D5600's battery life. At this level, it lasts for a staggeringly good at 970 shots per charge - which is a good three times the life of a comparable mirrorless camera. Bluetooth wireless operation does not drain the battery in the same way as Wi-Fi operation would.
Nikon D5600 review: Image quality
- 24.2-million-pixel APS-C sensor
- ISO 100-25,600 sensitivity
- Expeed 4 processor
- TTL exposure metering using 2016-pixel RBG sensor
It's all familiar on the imaging front, too, as the D5600 features the same 24.2-million-pixel sensor and Expeed 4 processor as found in the D5500. As such, the results are the same - making this a camera for newcomers, not upgraders.
For our D5600 test we used the supplied AF-P Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G DX VR kit lens, plus as a few others, including the Nikon 12-24mm f/4 (DX), Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art (FX) and Sigma 105mm f/2.8 (FX) macro lenses.
Our impressions of image quality are positive indeed - even the kit lens is capable of sharp detail. Around 24-megapixels is currently the sweet-spot for APS-C size sensors, hence most cameras at this price point and above offer the same if not very similar resolution. As such, the D5600 holds up well, and yet it doesn't distinctly stand out from the crowd either.
The ISO sensitivity range operates from ISO 100 to ISO 25,600, ensuring bright and low light can be tackled with relative ease. When viewed at 100 per cent scale, well-exposed shots taken up to ISO 800 are very sharp. At around ISO 1600 and beyond results start to get grainy - yet even at ISO 12,800 images are respectably sharp, all things considered.
Detail in shadow areas displays luminance noise from ISO 1600, which steadily increases up the ISO range. It's only really at ISO 25,600 where detail takes an obvious turn for the worse - it is smudged due to luminance noise and vibrancy is lost even in well-exposed areas. No surprise there.
There is not much new to say about the way that the D5600 renders colours. Like most Nikon DSLR cameras, auto white balance (AWB) can produce natural looking tones for JPEGs.
It's a matter of taste, but we often opt for the more muted Neutral picture setting as a good starting point, from which we then add a little more vibrancy. Use the Vibrant and even Standard picture settings and some colours can look too saturated, especially reds.
Nikon's 3D Color Matrix Metering II method is used here, while version III is used in the Nikon D7500. It's still a very capable through-the-lens (TTL) evaluative metering system, mostly producing exposures that are spot-on right off the bat.
As the autofocus and metering systems are linked, so exposures do vary greatly depending on the subject and what is in focus. Centre in on a person's face in the foreground and the detail in the brighter sky behind will blow out. The exposure compensation button is right there to see, should ± exposure need to be dialled in. We rarely needed to use it, save for creative effects like intentional silhouettes.
Given the small scale of the Nikon D5600, it sometimes feels almost like using a mirrorless camera. Its ergonomic design ensures single-handed use is no problem, while the large touchscreen makes it a capable piece of kit for newcomers and enthusiast photographers alike.
In use it doesn't feel as much like a mirrorless camera, however, as live preview isn't especially perfect. That said, the optical viewfinder - which is the main differentiator between DSLRs and mirrorless cameras - is pleasant to use, but lacks a 100 per cent field of view, opting for 95 per cent instead.
Then, of course, there's the way the D5600 comes connected. SnapBridge is not without its flaws, but on the whole the always-on Bluetooth connectivity makes accessing pictures on your phone quick and easy.
In the end, though, it's all about the images. The D5600 is capable of taking the sort of images you really do want to share, even with the standard kit lens. That's where Nikon continues to show strength, despite the otherwise minimal updates for this model compared to the outgoing D5500.
Alternatives to consider
Nikon's own D5500 is the most obvious competition! The predecessor of the D5600 is virtually the same camera, save that it does not offer Bluetooth/ NFC connectivity. Being approximately 18-months older, the D5500 is of course cheaper, but it's actually rather hard to find new now.
Read the full article: Nikon D5500 preview
Canon EOS 800D
Try working out which Canon camera competes with the D5600, go on. There are so many in the company's confusing line-up and we've whittled it down to the EOS 800D and possibly ESO 200D. Both these cameras have remarkably similar specs to the D5600, with the Nikon offering a superior battery life. The advantage Canon maintains at this level is its Dual Pixel AF, which provides quicker and more accurate AF in live view.
Read the full article: Canon EOS 800D preview
Still available despite being three-years-old, the Sony a6000 is smaller and lighter, yet you'd need three of its batteries to match the one D5600 battery life. Many key features are the same, except the A6000 can shoot at 11fps to the 5fps of the D5600, while its LCD screen is tilt rather than vari-angle and its viewfinder is the electronic type.
Read the full article: Sony A6000 review
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