Image Quality

The Nikon D5300's 24MP APS-C sensor is powerful indeed, both in terms of resolution and the dynamic range it renders. It shares this feature with the semi-pro D7100, and like that model, lacks an anti-aliasing filter. It's likely that the D5300's sensor is more than most of its users will really need - especially those who shoot JPEGs, and/or those who will only shoot with a kit lens.

ISO 200, f/10, 1/400sec, 18-55mm VR II 100% crop
ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/500sec, 18-140mm VR 100% crop
ISO 5600, f/4.5, 1/60sec, 18-140mm VR 100% crop
ISO 12800, f/3.5, 1/40sec, 18-140mm VR 100% crop

No AA Filter

One of the key changes in the D5300 compared to its predecessor is that it lacks an anti-aliasing filter. Sensor resolutions have reached the point that they can accurately sample very high levels of detail. This means that the frequencies which might cause moiré interference patterns are now so high that many lenses cannot resolve them – particularly inexpensive ‘kit’ zooms. In effect this means that the lens ends up playing the same role as the expensive optical low-pass filter that has traditionally been used to blur away those frequencies.

The trade-off is that sharper lenses may show increased amounts of moiré in the images created without an OLPF. When testing the OLPF-less D7100, we found that top quality optics were needed in order to see any gains in sharpness over the D5200 that did have an OLPF.

Click here to see a demonstration in our D7100 review

To summarize our findings, you need a good lens stopped down to its optimal aperture to see any difference, and even then results are only noticeable at 100% magnification. This also meant that we rarely saw much in the way of moire - the theoretical downside of the removal of an OLPF.

Lens Corrections

Original JPEG - Auto Distortion Control On
Uncorrected Raw file
Corrected Raw file

The D5300 applies distortion correction to JPEG images, an option that can be turned on or off in the shooting menu. It does an effective job of straightening out noticeable barrel distortion at wide angle as shown above. You can apply this correction yourself in ACR if you like, and with the 18-140mm Raw files will need to be manually corrected since Adobe doesn't currently have a profile for it.

Nikon's consumer DSLRs have offered automatic (lateral) chromatic aberration correction for several generations, and the D5300 inherits this useful feature. While looking at the Raw files shows that the 18-140mm kit lens produces noticeable CA at the long end of its zoom range (seen on the left below), the D5300 does a good job of removing it from the JPEG automatically. Though it's present in Raw files, CA is easily removed in ACR.

This uncorrected Raw conversion shows the CA produced by the 18-140mm kit lens at its 140mm setting. Thanks to automatic correction the out-of-camera JPEG seen here is relatively CA-free. You can easily get a similar result from Raw.

Raw noise floor

A major advantage in shooting Raw is the ability to recover tone and detail from parts of an image that the camera's JPEG engine hasn't revealed. The example below shows how far you can take the D5300's 14-bit Raw files in Adobe Camera Raw. The left image was converted in ACR 8.3 at default exposure settings, and the example on the right reflects increases in exposure and shadows. No noise reduction was applied in ACR to either image.

ACR default settings with NR off ACR with Exposure +0.30 exposure, +80 shadows with NR off
100% crop 100% crop

The D5300's matrix metering has chosen to preserve highlight tones in the reflective surfaces, sky and buildings that occupy a good portion of the frame, leaving some of the greenery detail lost to shadows. By boosting exposure and shadows in ACR we've recovered a good level of tone and detail that wasn't visible in the default Raw conversion with a very low level of noise. At base ISO especially, the D5300 provides a lot of latitude for shadow detail recovery in Raw conversion before it shows any sign of noise.

If you'd like to experiment with the D5300's .NEF files yourself, download the examples below:

Flash

The D5300's built-in flash has a guide number of 12 at ISO 100, with a sync speed of 1/200 sec. Flash compensation is available from -3 to +1 EV in 1/3 or 1/2 EV increments. For wireless flash control with the built-in flash unit, you'll have to look to the DSLR above the D5300 in Nikon's lineup - the D7100's pop-up flash can act as a master, the D5300's can't.