Pros Cons
  • Excellent image sensor
  • Solid JPEG output, great Raw quality
  • Good ergonomics, aided by touchscreen
  • Great battery life
  • Good, easy-to-use autofocus
  • SnapBridge can be excellent for transferring web-sized images to your phone
  • Touchpad operation only useful to right-eye shooters
  • SnapBridge isn't dependable on all devices
  • Video autofocus is poor and there's no aperture control while you're recording.
  • No USB charging
  • Control of Auto ISO potentially confusing

Overall Conclusion

The D5600 is a very subtle revision of the D5500 but that sole added feature – always-connected smartphone transfer – has the potential to be a massive benefit to its target market. And let's not forget that the D5500 is the standout DSLR in its class: small, straightforward to use and able to take great photos with ease.

The D5600 produces the same likeable JPEG images as its predecessor

Photo by Jeff Keller
AF-P Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR | ISO 500, F4.2, 1/100th sec |Reprocessed from Raw in-camera to Picture Control Vivid

DSLRs aren't the only game in town, of course, but the D5600's through-the-viewfinder autofocus helps the camera maximize the advantages of its DSLR design, while Nikon has done everything it can to reduce the size disadvantages. If you want a user-friendly mid-level DSLR, this is a good one.

So is SnapBridge good enough to make the D5600 the correct choice over Sony's still-competitive a6000, Canon's increasingly video-friendly Rebel series or its own predecessor, as the remainder stock is sold off?

Body and Handling

The D5600's body is small but without that having too much of a negative impact on handling. The buttons are small but generally spaced well enough that they don't become fiddly and everyone in the office who used the camera found the hand grip comfortable.

It's not as quick to operate and change settings as a twin-dial Nikon, but that's not this model's role. More significantly, the touchscreen makes it reasonably quick and easy to control, for a camera of its type.

Being a DSLR, the D5600 has an optical viewfinder, which means you see through the lens with no lag between something happening and you seeing it. However the D5600's viewfinder is very small and doesn't accurately represent the framing of the final image, so there are disadvantages to it, too.

The ability to quickly choose the starting point for the camera's very good AF tracking system (3D Tracking) is one of its best features. How well it works depends on whether you shoot with the camera to your left or right eye.

Access to arguably the D5600's greatest feature pivots on the behavior of its touchscreen when the camera is held to your eye. Right-eyed shooters are likely to love being able to quickly move the AF target to get the most of the best focus tracking systems in its class. Left-eyed shooters are likely to be stymied by the decision to only make the right-hand side of the panel 'active,' making it much less slick. To a significant extent, this defines how easy it is to access the camera's greatest differentiating feature which, in turn, should perhaps dictate how seriously you consider buying the camera.

Image Quality

The D5600's image quality is a match for anything in its class. JPEGs are vibrant and, thanks to the Active D-Lighting system, are able to make good use of the sensor's dynamic range in high contrast scenes. Raw image quality is as good as we've seen for an APS-C camera, both in terms of dynamic range in good light and noise performance in low light.

The camera's color response isn't up with the very best of its peers, but it's usually not unattractive, and this is of course somewhat subjective. The camera's default sharpening leaves the images looking a touch soft if you look at pixel-level, and its noise reduction is a touch unsophisticated, but neither of these undermines the general likability of the results.

Click here to download a higher quality (ProRes 422 LT) version of this file

The D5600's video is reasonable but it wouldn't be our first choice for video shooting. The latest, AF-P lens makes autofocus smoother than previous versions but it's still prone to juddering and jumping around while shooting and there's still no ability to change aperture while shooting. There are several mirrorless cameras that will shoot good quality 4K video and Canon's most recent DSLRs have better video autofocus, so there are better choices for the money.

Autofocus and Performance

The D5600's autofocus is consistent with its predecessor, which is to say one of the most capable systems available for the money. While DSLR autofocus doesn't guarantee perfect accuracy, it is fast and remarkably good at following your subject around the frame and keeping it in focus, with minimal need for user input.

Live view and video autofocus is certainly improved when you use one of Nikon's AF-P lenses, but it's still not in the same league of reliability as the through-the-viewfinder experience.

I shot this image with SnapBridge's auto image transfer engaged and was hugely grateful that it arrived on my phone without the need to remove my gloves. This version was processed from Raw, but the original JPEG was more than good enough for Facebook.

AF-P Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR | ISO 100, F5.6, 1/160th sec |Processed from Raw using Adobe Camera Raw. White balance and curves adjustment. Slight image obstruction at lower left processed-out.

SnapBridge is a simplistic (and, theoretically, simple) method for transferring web-sized images from the camera to a smartphone, either automatically or as selected by the user. We had more than our fair share of troubles with SnapBridge but many of these seemed to be resolved by resetting the camera and apps, suggesting users who are only connecting a single device, once, will have a more positive experience. Once working, the system does what it promises: steadily (though not rapidly) sending social-media-ready files so that they're as easy to access as the ones shot with your smartphone.

The Final Word

The D5600 isn't a cutting-edge camera, but most of its fundamental features are pretty polished. The user interface is (for the most part) well designed for the target audience, its ability to keep moving subjects in focus is very good for its class and, most importantly, it'll readily take excellent photos.

And, although it's not always as slick and straightforward as it should be, when it's working the D5600's SnapBridge feature is a genuinely useful differentiator. Until its rivals gain similar or better implementations (which could well happen within the D5600's model life), there's no camera that makes its easier to get your photos onto your phone.

And it's this combination of convenience and quality that earns it an award. But it's the combination of rough edges that stops it getting the top rating.


Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system
and what these numbers mean.

Nikon D5600
Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The D5600 is a capable DSLR with an added always-connected system for communicating with smart devices. It does many things well but what should be the cool features aren't as polished as the underlying camera.
Good for
Family and casual photographers looking for a fairly simple, highly capable camera.
Not so good for
Keen enthusiasts looking to take increasing amounts of control. Buyers for whom video is a significant consideration.
79%
Overall score

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