The D5300 is the first Nikon DSLR to offer built-in Wi-Fi. It's been available previously by way of Nikon's WU-1a optional adapter. With so many high end mirrorless and compact cameras offering built-in Wi-Fi, the adapter method was starting to feel like a way of offering Wi-Fi without really having to offer Wi-Fi. It's a welcome addition to this model.
Getting started includes downloading Nikon's Wireless Mobile Utility app for your iOS or Android device. With that installed, the connection process begins by selecting Wi-Fi in the 'Settings' menu on the camera and turning the network connection on. Once the camera screen displays a 'Waiting for connection' message, find the network in your mobile device's Wi-Fi settings, open the app and you're ready to go. A connection is signified by a remote icon in the top left corner of the app home screen.
|The Wireless Mobile Utility home screen for iOS is minimalist, to say the least. 'Transfer photos' rather than 'View photos' may have been a more clear description of what the second option is for.||Choosing 'View photos' presents three options, the first of which will allow image transfer from camera to smartphone.|
The options on the home screen are simple and straightforward: 'Take photos' offers remote control of the camera from your device, and 'View photos' will allow you to view, select and transfer photos from the camera.
|Choosing to view photos on the D5300 brings up a screen of thumbnails which can be selected for transfer.||App settings include the ability to change thumbnails from 'standard' to 'large.'|
You can speed-up the process of transferring images from the camera by pre-marking them for transfer - either by using the 'Send to smart device' menu option or by pressing 'Info' when you're reviewing an individual image. If you've done this, then hitting the 'View photos' option in the app will give you the option of transferring all the pre-selected images.
Alternatively you can use the app to browse images on the camera from the app (and, oddly, choose to check your smartphone's camera roll), and mark the images for transfer that way.
To transfer images from the camera to smartphone, they can be marked as 'send to smart device' in the camera's playback menu, as well as by pressing the 'info' button when reviewing an image. On selecting the 'View photos' option a dialog box will appear prompting you to commence transfer of photos already marked to send. You can also select photos for transfer on your smartphone by choosing to view pictures on D5300 (why you would visit this app to view your smartphone's camera roll is not clear) and marking the images you'd like to transmit that way.
|Remote shooting in landscape orientation shows only live view, a thumbnail of previously captured image and a shutter button.|
Shooting portrait orientation reveals more thumbnails and a bit more shooting information including aperture, shutter speed, camera battery life and shots remaining.
The good news is that the Wi-Fi connection is reliable and works consistently (which we didn't always see with the push-in accessory). Switching between remote shooting and image transfer is easy and doesn't require another connection or app - more good news. The bad news is that remote shooting offers very little control in the way of camera operation. It provides touch AF, shutter release and access to self-timer, but that's about it. In portrait view exposure parameters are displayed (along with a questionably accurate battery life reading) but none of them can be changed from your device.
Changing exposure settings requires a quick trip to the settings menu on the remote shooting screen, where you can opt to shoot with the camera rather than 'WMU,' as the app refers to itself. Change exposure to your heart's content, press the shutter button and the image is saved to both memory card and mobile device. You can continue shooting this way as long as the app stays open and your phone doesn't go to sleep, or return to live view operation from your smartphone.
The ability to mark images for sharing prior to making a Wi-Fi connection is useful, and connecting was reliable. Switching between remote control and image transfer is easily done. I had no trouble using it and as a consequence, used Wi-Fi a lot while working on this review.
GPS Location Tagging
The D5300 is also equipped with location data tagging. When it's turned on and receiving a signal, the camera will save location information (latitude, longitude and altitude) in EXIF data with each image recorded. This comes at the expense of some battery life - more noticeably so if you enable location logging, which continues to record your position regardless of whether you're taking pictures (or even whether the camera is on).
|Location tagging is enabled via the setup menu. Turning on the 'create log' option records the user's position even when turned off.||A satellite icon appears on the shooting display when GPS is turned on. The icon blinks when no signal is detected; when it locks to a signal, it will remain static.|
As you'd imagine, the D5300's location tagging system relies on satellite communication. When a signal is scarce, no position is recorded. Nikon's D5300 user manual cautions that tall buildings, bridges and other large structures can block satellite signals, and that when turning location tagging on for the first time the user may experience a long delay in signal acquisition (this proved true in testing). A satellite icon on the information display indicates whether a signal has been received and how strong it is.
I found that as long as I was in a relatively open space, the camera would correctly tag my location, however, the signal dropped in and out. Most of my photos on a 20 minute walk through the city surfaced with correct tags, but about one in three in the same position wasn't tagged - usually the first one, but sometimes at random.
The D5300 can record location data for individual images, and on top of this, offers location logging to track your path whether or not you're shooting. In fact, it will keep tracking the camera's position even when it's turned off. Position can be recorded at intervals of 15, 30 and 60 seconds, and a length can be set to 6, 12 or 24 hours.
|Recording a GPS log was a mostly successful, if battery-draining affair. A couple of times on this test run the camera incorrectly recorded my path veering off the road I followed, but overall tracked my location faithfully.|
GPS logs are saved as .LOG files and can be viewed in various web applications and software, including Nikon's Image Space (using Google Maps, as shown above). Use of the logging feature drains battery significantly - at the end of a 12 hour log (with the camera turned off mostly) my battery was almost totally drained. An extra battery is strongly advised for those intending to use the logging function for a day of shooting.
In theory, built-in GPS is a nice feature, especially for travel - and that mostly holds up in real-world use. When moving from an indoor space with no signal to an outdoor space, often the first one or two images I recorded did not save with location data as the camera needed a moment or two to acquire a signal again. After that, location tagging was reliable as long as I took more than one photo per location. It's also nice to have that extra bit of information in metadata, making it all the more likely that you'll find a photo later on when you go looking for it.
It's a nice-to-have feature, but I'd be sure to pack an extra battery if I planned to use GPS for a day of shooting.
The D5300 offers in-camera HDR in five options: Low, Normal, High, Extra High and Auto. For each setting the camera captures two exposures and layers them together in-camera, resulting in a single JPEG. Note that HDR is available in JPEG only shooting. As seen in the example below, Auto takes a more conservative approach, landing somewhere between Low and Normal in the test images below.
HDR Extra High
The highest settings are decidedly more on the 'art effect' side, while low and normal might be used to brighten a dark subject in the foreground without going overboard. For a more subtle approach, Active D-Lighting is offered, an alternative that we test in the Dynamic Range section of this review. Though this example was shot using a tripod, the camera does a good job of compiling two shots taken handheld with a reasonably steady hand and canceling out moving objects in the frame.