Performance

Overall camera performance is exactly the same as it was with the D5200; it's a fairly responsive camera in daily use. Onscreen response to button and dial operation is brisk whether you're navigating through menu screens, zooming in and out of live view previews or changing shooting parameters. Although the camera has external controls and a shortcut '[i]' menu for commonly changed settings, users looking to take more refined control over operation such as enabling distortion control or adjusting Auto ISO parameters will have to delve into the main menu system.

We still feel that a touchscreen would be an excellent addition here, and would help speed up the process of changing settings. At the very least we'd like to be able to use the rear thumb dial to scroll through menu options instead of relying solely on the 4-way multi selector. Canon's EOS Rebel T5i/700D provides a touchscreen, and numerous mirrorless cameras on the same level also provide a touch panel.

The D5300 uses the same 39-point (9 cross-type) AF system as its predecessor and the D7000 (D7100 offers a more robust AF system culled from the pro D4). Autofocus with the 18-140mm is speedy and accurate enough for most purposes. In very low light, the D5300 displays an occasional habit of confirming that a scene is in focus when it isn't.

Outside of these challenging situations, AF-S and AF-C were relatively accurate. Focus speed with the 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6 VR is decent, and the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II is a bit faster. D5300 owners should also note that Nikon offers faster-focusing lenses. It can be cumbersome picking a single AF point from the D5300's 39-point array - mercifully, there's an 11-point option that's much more manageable. Some informal testing of tracking focus found it to be reliable and quick to keep up, no doubt thanks to some help from the 2016-pixel RGB metering sensor.

Continuous Shooting and Buffering

The D5300 offers burst shooting in two speeds: High and Low. Continuous focus is available in either mode, but will lower the frame rate as the camera pauses for a second to adjust focus. In live view shooting the LCD is completely blacked out in both modes, and focus (though not exposure) is locked from the first frame.

The D5300 hit its top burst rate of 5.0 fps in JPEG-only shooting. In Low continuous mode, it consistently meets a 3.0 fps burst rate no matter what compression mode you're in. When the buffer fills to its frame limit (noted below) the camera will hesitate, but will continue shooting after this pause at a reduced and less consistent rate. You can continue shooting while the camera is writing images to the memory card, so there's no significant amount of 'lockup' time.

 
Raw+ Fine JPEG
Raw
JPEG
High
4.0 fps (5 frames) 4.2 fps (~8 frames) 5.0 fps (~8 frames)
Low
3.0 fps (~7 frames) 3.0 fps (~6 frames) 3.0 fps (~20 frames)

Battery Life

The D5300's included EN-EL14a rechargeable lithium-ion battery is rated to 600 shots per charge, a 100 shot improvement over the D5200 and its EN-EL14 battery pack. The camera ships with an MH-24 Quick Charger that will bring a spent battery up to a full charge in a couple of hours. The CIPA rating does not take into count Wi-Fi and/or GPS use. I didn't find occasional Wi-Fi use to have any significant impact on battery life.