We spent two weeks field testing the Nikon D5600 which was more than enough time to get acquainted with all of the features of this Nikon reflex camera designed for amateur photo enthusiasts.
The Nikon D5600 is an APS-C reflex camera which fills the gap between the limited entry-level D3400 and the professional D7500 model which is more ergonomic, but also more expensive.
As a result, the Nikon D5600 occupies a prime position within the Nikon DX product line and is geared towards amateur photographers who are looking for a powerful camera, capable of taking high-quality video sequences without the need to invest as much as it would cost to purchase one of the higher category D7200/D7500 or D500 models.
The device equipped with the Nikon AF-P 18-55mm f/3.6-5.6 G ED VR zoom
As with all the other tests, I conducted the testing of the Nikon D5600 in different shooting conditions. I am giving you my personal opinion after having tested the device and I am presenting a selection of the photos taken during testing.
Presentation of the device
The Nikon D5600 has taken over for the Nikon D5500. This new version of Nikon’s amateur photographer reflex camera only adds one new features: SnapBridge – which allows for the automatic transfer of photos to a smartphone as well as automatic geo-tracking. As with the Nikon D3400, this upgrade is a modest one.
The Nikon D5600 is in all points similar to the Nikon D5500, as much in its appearance as in its buttons and menus. This reflex camera more closely resembles the entry-level models than the professional ones, which is good if you are looking for a compact and light-weight device; make sure to hold the camera before buying it, if you have large hands for instance.
The Nikon D5600 sets itself apart from the D7200/D7500 in the sense that its functionality is more simplistic with fewer buttons and controls, meaning that the user will have to make more frequent use of the menus. The command buttons are grouped together on the top right panel as well as at the rear. The touchscreen does however facilitate access to the main adjustments in both photo and video modes.
The command buttons at the top and the grip on the right
It has become commonplace for Nikon to use much more ergonomic grips than they did on previous models and the Nikon D5600 has a very deep grip which makes it easy to hold.
It is easy to hold the camera in one had without necessarily using the strap (for street photography for example) without having to worry about dropping it.
This is a list of all the buttons and controls:
- an ON/OFF switch on the top cover, located in proximity to the video trigger button and the exposure correction button,
- a toggle switch to access LiveView in order to use the display as a viewfinder in photo and video modes,
- a knob to choose the shooting mode: the four expert modes – P, S, A, and M as well as the scene and effects modes,
- a single wheel at the rear to adjust the different settings,
- 8 buttons to access the different functions located on the rear face of the device,
- a circular pad on the right rear side to change settings and navigate through the list of photos in the preview mode,
- a rear LCD touchscreen of good quality to preview photos and access the device’s different settings.
These controls allow access to the totality of the Nikon D5600’s functions. What follows is a list of the camera’s technical specifications:
- 24,2 Mpx sensor,
- sensitivity range of between 100 and 25 600 ISO,
- 39 collimator autofocus module,
- Expeed4 image processor which offers good responsiveness and fast image and video file processing,
- External flash mount making it possible to use a supplementary Cobra flash if the built-in flash is insufficient,
- USB, HDMI, and WiFi connectivity with SnapBridge capability for the transfer of photos and automatic (GPS) geo-tracking and remote shutter release via the mobile application.
The rear touchscreen, the command button pad and the SD card latch
The touchscreen complements nicely the collection of command buttons since it makes it possible to navigate by using the tip of your finger within the main settings pages without entering into more complex menus (accessible via the Menu button to the left of the viewfinder).
The touchscreen also allows you to easily adjust the ISO sensitivity, the shooting mode, the white balance, and the Picture Control. This represents a significant progress compared to the Nikon D3400 which does not have a touchscreen.
Ergonomics and access to the main functions
The Nikon D5600 is a model which has been conceived for amateurs – in the best possible sense of the term. Its technical specifications allows it to offer an identical image quality to those models in the more expensive product line (definition, sensitivity), and its responsiveness is also identical since it uses the same image processor as the D7200 (for example).
Use of the touchscreen is unavoidable for adjusting the shooting settings since it allows you to adjust:
- the image recording format (RAW/JPG or RAW+JPG),
- the white balance,
- the flash mode,
- the ISO sensitivity,
- the autofocus mode,
- the light measurement mode,
- Picture Control,
- other things such as the exposure correction of the flash.
Test of the Nikon D5600: shooting settings screen (touchscreen)
While this type of control over the settings might seem slower than the methods offered by more professional models, you should know that you will quickly become accustomed to using the touchscreen in this regard. With a little bit of practice, you will end up choosing your settings before you begin shooting and selecting the shooting mode with the help of the dial on the top of the device.
It is however a shame that the camera does not have a programmable button (function button) which would allow it to memorize the settings most commonly used.
The pad on the rear of the device, with its four circular buttons, allows for the adjustment of a good number of settings among which is the choice of autofocus collimeter while shooting. The camera is very responsive and the various notches are well labeled. I would have preferred a slightly larger size since it can be a little bit difficult to operate when wearing gloves – it is at the limit of what is ergonomic among the cameras in this series.
The buttons to the right of the LCD allow you to:
- view the photos you have taken,
- enlarge the photos you have taken to see greater detail,
- display the shooting information.
The button located to the left of the viewfinder allows access to the menus for configuring the device. I found it a little bit eccentric compared to other menus, but you should realize that you will be using it very seldom since the main settings can be adjusted via the I(nfo) button and the touchscreen.
The touchscreen is a real advantage over the Nikon D3400. It is readable in any lighting conditions and can be completely reversed for its protection during transportation. It can also be pointed forward to allow you to take photos and videos while watching yourself on the display in the LiveView mode.
Size and feel in your hand
The D5600 is a small, light-weight and compact reflex camera in comparison with the professional models. Equipped with the Nikon AF-P 18-55mm zoom, often sold together in a kit, it will go with you anywhere without taking up too much room.
It does however deserve to be equipped with a more considerable lens. I used the Nikon AF-S 18-140 lens during testing which is equivalent to a Full Frame 27-210mm. This camera/lens pair is very flexible without being bulky – as opposed to the mega zooms (18-200) which don’t add enough extra capability to justify their extra bulk, size, weight and cost.
Nikon D5600 – Video mode
I do not perform extensive testing of the video capabilities of reflex cameras. I did however take advantage of the Nikon D5600’s tiltable display to record several episodes of my show about photography. While recording, I was using a 18-55mm zoom and small lapel microphone connected to the camera’s microphone jack.
I found it unfortunate that once the microphone was connected, it was no longer possible to freely adjust the display’s orientation. It is therefore necessary to adjust the display’s position before connecting the microphone. The audio adjustments take into account the presence of an external microphone and you can either manually adjust the recording volume or allow the camera to do it automatically – this is the option that I choose while recording the series of videos.
In this configuration, it is still possible to use the autofocus and face detection. However, I always prefer to focus manually since the autofocus has a tendency to travel backwards and forwards a little bit, which can be seen on the video, even if it always recovers very quickly. In manual mode, with a sufficient depth of field, you can avoid this undesired effect.
Autonomy and connectivity
The D5600 has a smaller battery than its bigger brothers, yet surprisingly its autonomy is not that much reduced. I was able to take pictures for two days without worrying about the battery level. I was also able to record nearly an hour of video with the display turned on without needing to recharge the battery.
Testing of the Nikon D5600: bottom loading battery
You will have enough charge for a weekend away or only need to recharge the battery once every two days during your travels. One full charge will allow you to easily take from between 500 to 600 photos.
In terms of connectivity, there is not much to mention if not for the fact that the SnapBridge feature can sometimes be a little bit capricious depending on the type of smartphone you are using. Once properly adjusted, it is more or less stable, but some readers are still having difficulty despite the recent updates.
Don’t hesitate to make use of this function if you are interested in easily sharing your photos or automatically adding GPS coordinates to your photos. This is perhaps the most interesting use of the feature since it appears to be more accurate than the integrated GPS modules of some other devices.
The Nikon D5600 in use
For this test of the Nikon D5600 I used the camera for over two weeks and in a variety of shooting conditions in order to be able to offer you the most thorough review possible. This is something that I do for all my tests since it places the camera in the same types of real-world situations that you will be using it in.
The photos illustrating this review were taken with the Nikon AF-S 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. They are in JPG format, exactly as they were produced by the camera.
Nikon D5600: 18-140mm to 140mm – ISO 200 – 1 / 1600s – f / 5.6
The Nikon D5600 proved to be very responsive, turning on almost instantaneously. It also focuses and releases the shutter very quickly. In AF-S (Spot autofocus), positing the active collimator on the subject of your choice will result in very fast focusing.
If you prefer to use the rear display for framing the image, switch to LiveView, use your finger to choose the zone that you would like to focus on, and the photo will be taken in the process. This touchscreen controlled shutter release can be easily deactivated in order to avoid accidental shutter releases.
The autofocus module’s 39 collimators allow for the coverage of a good portion of the scene being framed; their positioning is far more interesting than that of the 11 (only) collimators found on the Nikon D3400. By playing around with the focusing distance and the aperture settings you will be able to take photos with a very pleasant blurred background effect.
Nikon D5600: 18-140mm to 140mm – ISO 200 – 1/1600s – f/5.6
In low-light conditions, the autofocus responds well, so long as there is contrast in the image. If this is not the case for the image you are framing, shift the frame slightly and refocus, this method works rather well. The vibration reduction system of the Nikon VR lenses does a good job as can be seen for example in the following photo taken freehand at 1/8 seconds.
Nikon D5600: 18-140mm to 35mm – ISO 3200 – 1/8s – f/7.1
Light measurement (and consequentially, exposure) is fairly well managed in all types of situations. While the camera has no problems when the light is homogeneous, it may have some difficulty with backlighting or in high contrast situations.
The Nikon D5600 manages these situations rather well, and you will only need to correct the exposure slightly to cope with these types of lighting conditions. The photo below illustrates a case of backlighting to which the camera responded well:
Nikon D5600 : 18-140mm to 18mm – ISO 100 – 1/200s – f/8.0
When the difference in contrast is great, as in the photo below, the Nikon D5600 is able to expose the intense light without overexposure as well as to provide detail in the areas of low light, as can be seen in the following photo:
Nikon D5600: 18-140mm to 18mm – ISO 400 – 1 / 250s – f / 9.0
While it does not provide the 100% coverage of the professional models, the Nikon D5600’s optical viewfinder is still enjoyable to use and has a diopter adjustment for people who wear glasses. While framing, you are able to consult the focusing information and correct any settings without ever taking your eye off the viewfinder.
The LiveView mode allows you to frame a scene with your arms raised above your head in a crowd or to take photos very low to the ground. The ability to change the orientation of the display is an undeniable advantage when searching for unique and creative angles. You can see an example in this photo taken on the bank of a stream in which I placed the camera just above water level while framing the image from higher up.
Nikon D5600 : 18-140mm to 32mm – ISO 200 – 1/160s – f/5.0
If you are a fan of JPG format photos, you will need to take the requisite time to adjust the Picture Control settings in function of the types of photos you will be taking and the available light. Doing so will allow you to take good quality photos that do not necessarily require any post-processing, as is the case with the photo below taken at nightfall (with a tripod).
Nikon D5600 : 18-140mm to 18mm – ISO 3200 – 1,6s – f/11
Nikon D5600: sensitivity and ISO value
Increasing the ISO value allows the camera to take photos with the minimum of digital noise in low-light conditions.
The Nikon D5600’s sensor offers a native sensitivity range of between 100 and 25 600 ISO. In the series of photos below, you can see that the image remains free of visible noise up to ISO 3 200 and the noise can just start to be seen around ISO 6 400. These are good results for a camera in this category.
At ISO 12 800 the noise can clearly be seen although it will not be that noticeable on a 10×15 format print. At ISO 25 600 the noise level is vastly superior to the acceptable level for printed images, but could still be used for applications which do not require much enlargement such as for display on the internet.
The limit for good quality images is around ISO 6 400 in JPG format. You will be able to go one notch higher in RAW format if you subsequently apply a noise reduction filter with image editing software.
Nikon D5600 : ISO 1600
Nikon D5600 : ISO 3200
Nikon D5600: ISO 6.400
Nikon D5600: ISO 12.800
Nikon D5600: ISO 25.600
Nikon D5600: detail of the previous picture at ISO 6.400
Nikon D5600: detail of the previous picture at ISO 12.800
Nikon D5600: detail of the previous picture at ISO 25.600
Zooms with a limited maximum aperture are of no help to the D5600 in low-light conditions since they will require you to significantly raise the ISO value (during nighttime events, indoors, in the shade…). You can always select the Auto-ISO mode to allow the camera to choose the most appropriate ISO settings, in order to avoid choosing an overly elevated ISO value.
My opinion about the Nikon D5600
The Nikon D5600 does not offer any innovations compared to the D5500 in terms of image quality, sensitivity or autofocus. The only new functionality it offers is its integration of the SnapBridge feature for image transferring and geo-tracking.
This reflex camera is an interesting option since the quality of the images it is able to take as well as its overall technical specifications make it a much more affordable alternative for amateur photographers than its professional counterparts. It is mainly in terms of ergonomics that you will have to make your choice between the cheaper Nikon D5500 and the more higher end Nikon D7200 or the more recently released Nikon D7500 which both have similar performance characteristics, but much higher prices.
The difference in price between the D5600 and the D7xxx series will allow you to invest in a supplementary lens kit to complement the default zoom; this will help you take better photos in low-light conditions or to make use of a lens that can deliver the high amount of detail that the sensor is able to capture (the Nikon AF-S 16-80mm f/2.8-4 for example).
You can complete your camera/lens bundle by the addition of a fixed focal length lens such as the 35mm f/1.8 DX or the Nikon 40mm Macro DX depending on your needs.
The lack of any visible noise on JPG photos up to ISO 3 200 is an big advantage for everything from taking family photos to photographing daily events. If you feel the need you can switch to ISO 6 400 or even ISO 12 800 before needing to post-process your images.
The D5600 compared to other Nikon SLR cameras
Nikon D5600 or Nikon D5500
The only real difference between these two models is the implementation of the SnapBridge feature on the D5600. This feature allows for the automatic transfer of photos to a smartphone in order to be able to quickly view and share them. The D5500 remains an interesting choice if you do not require this particular functionality.
Nikon D5600 or Nikon D3400
The D5600 has some serious advantages over the Nikon D3400: tiltable touchscreen, 39 collimator autofocus, better ergonomics, better button layout. It is the model recommended by amateur photographers who are looking to develop their skills and not to remain at the entry-level of Nikon devices – which are even less ergonomic. For taking video, the D3400 shows its age with its fixed display. As a result, my preference is for the D5600.
Nikon D5600 or Nikon D7200
The difference between these two devices is significant in terms of ergonomics: the D7200 is a professional model which has more buttons to directly access the camera’s internal functions which also makes it more complicated to use. It is better suited to photographers who already have a good degree of practice. It will also last you a longer time if you are just starting your initiation into the world of photography.
The D5600 is limited to the use of AF-S and AF-P lenses with internal motorization and autofocus whereas the D7200 allows you to use any compatible Nikon lens, AF-S or not – namely certain older lenses which are cheaper than their new AF-S counterparts.
The Nikon D5600 offers a device for amateurs which is among the best available APS-C models at the moment. Its technical specifications place it at the same level as the D7xxx series models (sensor and image processor).
The D5600 is a flexible reflex camera which will serve you well on a daily basis for taking photos and videos. It is also far less bulky than a professional model, making it easier to carry with you on your travels.