Shooting with the Nikon D5600
(a personal perspective)

By Richard Butler

The D5600 isn't designed for me, and I say that as someone who once owned and enjoyed an entry-level Nikon DSLR. Part of this is because Nikon has become better at targeting its different models at different camera buyers: if a would-be enthusiast was pretty satisfied with a basic model, how do you sell the mid-range models? But making cameras a better fit for their intended users is a good thing, so that's not something I'd criticize a camera for.

The reason I didn't especially enjoy the D5600 isn't because it's designed for less hands-on control than I personally tend to like, but because it's designed for someone with a different brain. And no, I'm still not talking about the sophistication of its user interface. Instead, it's because one of the D5600's best features - touchpad AF - only really works if you shoot with the camera to your right eye.

And this is a shame, because all the right-eyed shooters in the office really liked the D5600. It's comparatively small, it fits nicely in the hand and, thanks to the touchscreen interface, there's considerably less button-pressing to be done if you do get adventurous and start trying to change settings.

It's got a good autofocus system which, when set up properly is one of the cleverest in terms of simply being given a target and then left to the job of keeping that subject in focus. It's actually this capability that makes the touchpad autofocus so valuable (and its inaccessibility so frustrating). This combination of simplicity and ability is still surprisingly rare in a mass-market camera.

Sure, it didn't excel in my attempts to shoot sports, with 5 frames per second and a small buffer, even when shooting just JPEG files. However, autofocus was still quick enough that it delivered plenty of usable photos, which is more than many of its peers would manage.

While the D5600 couldn't cope with the full complexity of a game of rugby, its autofocus was fast enough to still get some usable photos.

That's not all. Nikon's JPEGs are bright and punchy and are derived from one of the best sensors on the market, and SnapBridge means that these images can be delivered to your phone with the least possible fuss. In a great many respects, this makes it a stand-out camera for its intended audience. If you're shopping for a camera like this, I could ask you to hold it up to your eye and immediately know whether to recommend it to you (use your left eye and I'd equivocate).

And, although I think there's something to be said for the size and consistency-of-experience that many mirrorless cameras offer (and the fact that these systems often have more lens options that have been specifically designed for them), the D5600 is a really good mass-market camera that should be at or near the top of many peoples' shopping list.

Taking control:

Settings changes we'd recommend, if you want to take control over what the D5600 focuses on.

Setting Default setting Recommended setting Effect
Autofocus mode
(i menu)
AF-A AF-C AF-C mode constantly attempts to refocus the lens to keep moving subjects in focus
Autofocus area
(i menu)
Auto-area AF 3D Tracking 3D Tracking will follow your initial subject as it moves around the frame
Custom setting F3 : Assign Touch AF
(Main menu)
Viewfinder grid display Focus-point selection Right-hand side of the rear LCD can be swiped to position the initial AF point quickly when shooting through the viewfinder

That said, as I shot with the camera, I found a number of minor quirks and missed opportunities. These don't necessarily detract too much from the camera's suitability for its audience but, if addressed, could make it a better and more flexible camera.

The first irritation is that you have to go into the main menu to activate or inactivate Auto ISO mode. Nikon stands alone in offering cameras that don't simply list 'Auto' as an available option everywhere you encounter ISO in the interface. Worse still, if you've got Auto ISO on, changing the camera's ISO setting via a button or the 'i' menu means you're actually defining the minimum available ISO, which is a pretty confusing result.

For all its foibles, the D5600 is an undeniably capable little camera

The second issue is that the interface doesn't appear to have been significantly redesigned to take account of the touchscreen: some settings show all the available options on a single page so that you can just tap to select, but others show a single value with arrow buttons to change it. This is much slower than it needs to be (and at no point can the camera's dial be used to speed-up the process).

In hindsight, perhaps it's not that I didn't enjoy shooting with the D5600, it's that, without being able to use the touchpad AF, I didn't enjoy it anywhere near as much as my right-eye shooting colleagues. In combination with the camera's AF capability, it's enough of a 'killer-feature' that they could more easily overlook its other foibles. And, after all, nobody likes to feel left out.