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Nikon D5600 review: Still a great slightly-more-than-cheap dSLR

There are only some minor tweaks over the almost 2-year-old D5500, but it remains a great, slightly-more-than-cheap dSLR.

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Lori Grunin
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Lori Grunin

Senior Editor / Reviews

I've been writing about and reviewing consumer technology since before the turn of the century. I'm also a photographer and cat herder, frequently at the same time.

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Nikon sprinkles a tiny pinch of update dust on the D5600, a minor improvement to its small but excellent and inexpensive D5500 dSLR.

The Good

The Nikon D5600 delivers excellent photo quality for its price class, as well as performance that can keep up with your kids and pets.

The Bad

It may be too small for people with larger hands and it turns off the self-timer after every shot in single-shot mode.

The Bottom Line

Lightweight and compact with everything the family photographer needs, the Nikon D5600 maintains its position as a great general-purpose dSLR for its price class.

The camera comes in a few kits. Nikon typically charges $700 for the body (AU$1,100); the main kit with the AF-P 18-55mm lens is $800 (£800, AU$1,250); the main kit with the 18-140mm lens is $1,200 (£990); and for the two-lens kit with the AF-P 18-55mm VR and AF-P 70-300mm lenses, the price is $1,150 (AU$1,500). Note that the US kit offerings are a superset of those in the UK and Australia.

In addition to the hardware tweaks, though, Nikon finally updated its awful SnapBridge app (AndroidiOS) at the end of November 2017, bringing its feature set up to par with other manufacturers' and ostensibly improving performance and stability.

For a camera with an APS-C-size sensor at $800 or less for the kit, the D5600 is your most well-rounded option. It delivers noticeably better photo quality than Canon competitors like the T7i, and while Pentax's K-70 is probably its closest competitor with a lot of feature perks (including a weather-resistant body), Pentax is sadly fading from view and possibly endangered. Its closest mirrorless competitor is the slightly more expensive but fast and compact Sony A6300. Micro Four Thirds models from Olympus and Panasonic at similar prices just don't deliver the photo quality of APS-C with their smaller Four Thirds sensors, although you can get better speed from the former.

A bit better

While there aren't that many significant changes in the camera over its predecessor, it does seem like there are small improvements in speed and photo quality. They're probably attributable to the usual firmware updates made when a new model comes out.

canon-t7i-vs-nikon-d5600
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canon-t7i-vs-nikon-d5600

On the left is the ISO 400 shot from the T7i in the Fine Detail mode; on the left, a normal ISO 400 from the D5600. Its photos are sharper because Canon still uses an antialiasing filter (aka an OLPF) on its sensor, which blurs edges slightly.

Lori Grunin/CNET
Nikon D5600 ISO 100
Enlarge Image
Nikon D5600 ISO 100

This shot shows typical color, sharpness and background and highlight defocus characteristics (bokeh) of the AF-P 18-55mm lens.

See full-resolution image

Lori Grunin/CNET
d5600-dsc-0563-1600-edited
Enlarge Image
d5600-dsc-0563-1600-edited

The JPEGs at ISO 1600 and above lose a little sharpness, but this underexposed shot, boosted by 1.7 stops in the raw file, has more detail because I used far less aggressive noise reduction than you get in-camera. It's grainier than some people might like, though.

See full-resolution image

Lori Grunin/CNET

The video looks good as well, and Nikon's autofocus in Live View smoother than before -- it's certainly better-than-adequate for general movie capture. Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS still outperforms it for smoother, more accurate autofocus during video, though.

The D5600 improves its single-shot autofocus over the D5500, and its continuous-shooting performance remains very good for its class (though the T7i tests at 6fps, there's no way to force it to autofocus to get a real result, so that's without AF). In practice, the tracking autofocus is kind of unreliable, frequently wandering off, but if you just use 9- or 21-area continuous AF you should be OK for most action, since the camera's not insanely fast, anyway. With those settings, it does a great job of ignoring things popping in between you and the subject.

You'll also experience some irregularity in the frame rate if the movement is challenging for the autofocus or autoexposure systems, but that's pretty common on the low end. If you want something with better, faster AF for action, you should think about spending a little more for the D7200; it's older, but that means the price has dropped and it's far more suited to action shooting.

Shooting speed

Nikon D5600 0.3 0.4 0.2 0.2Canon EOS Rebel T7i 0.4 0.4 0.2 0.2Nikon D5500 0.6 0.6 0.2 0.2
  • Shot lag (bright)
  • Shot lag (dim)
  • Typical shot-to-shot time
  • Raw shot-to-shot time
Note: In seconds (smaller bars are better)

Typical continuous-shooting speed

Canon EOS Rebel T7i 6.0Nikon D5500 5.1Nikon D5600 5.0
Note: Frames per second (longer bars are better)

Nice, with just a couple irritants 

Overall, the body design, like its predecessors and many of its competitors, is for people who won't be changing settings frequently. The only way to change basics like metering, white balance or ISO sensitivity -- unless you program the Fn button for one of them -- is through the back control panel.

Not much has been added to the feature set and by now it's got a more typical set of features for its price class. However, it still covers all the bases for a snapshooter, with a variety of filter effects, quiet shutter release (nice for school plays and sleeping babies) and the flip-and-twist display. It also has perks like interval shooting (though no in-camera time-lapse movie creation) and in-camera two-shot HDR which produces decent results and is faster than a lot of competitors.

The small size means it's got a small grip. Even the pinky on my medium-sized girl hands is forced to curl underneath the grip slightly. So big-handed folks may find their hands uncomfortably overshooting the grip on the bottom.

My one nitpick is Nikon's multiway navigation switch, which feels very flat and you have to really concentrate to not move in the wrong direction. A littler pickier nit: It still turns settings off after one shot when using modes like HDR and self-timer. If you use those often, I can guarantee you'll be grinding your teeth.

Worth the money

Like its predecessor, the D5600 strikes a solid balance between quality, speed and features for its price.


Canon EOS Rebel T7i

Canon EOS 800D

Nikon D5600

Sensor effective resolution

24.2MP Dual Pixel CMOS

24.2MP CMOS

Sensor size

22.3x14.9mm

23.5x15.6 mm

Focal-length multiplier

1.6x

1.5x

OLPF

Yes

No

Sensitivity range

ISO 100 - ISO 25600/ISO 51200 (exp)

ISO 100 - ISO 25600

Burst shooting

4.5fps

27 raw/unlimited JPEG

(6fps with fixed focus)

5fps

100 JPEG/raw n/a

Viewfinder 

(mag/effective mag)

Optical

95 percent coverage

0.82x/0.51x

Optical

95 percent coverage

0.82x/0.55x

Hot Shoe

Yes

Yes

Autofocus

45-point phase-detection AF 

all cross-type

39-pt AF

9 cross- type

AF sensitivity

-3 - 18 EV

-1 - 19 EV

Shutter speed

1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync

1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync

Metering

7,560-pixel RGB+IR

2,016-pixel 3D color matrix metering II

Metering sensitivity

1 - 20 EV

-1 - 19 EV

Best video

H.264 QuickTime MOV

1080/60p,30p, 25p, 24p

H.264 QuickTime MOV

1080/60p, 25p, 24p

Audio

Stereo, mic input

Stereo, mic input

Manual aperture and shutter in video

Yes

Yes

Maximum best-quality recording time

4GB

20 minutes/29m59s

Clean HDMI out

Yes

Yes

IS

Optical

Optical

LCD

3 in/7.7 cm

Articulated touchscreen

1.04m dots

3.2 in/8.2 cm 

Articulated touchscreen

1.04m dots

Memory slots

1xSDXC

1xSDXC

Wireless connection

Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth

Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth

Flash

Yes

Yes

Wireless flash

Yes

No

Battery life (CIPA rating)

600 shots

(1,040 mAh)

820 shots

(1,230 mAh)

Size (WHD)

5.2x4.0x3.1 in

131.9x100.9x77.8 mm

4.9x3.9x2.8 in 

124x97x70 mm

Body operating weight

19.3 oz

536 g

16.8 oz

476 g

Mfr. price (body only)

$750

AU$1,310

$700

AU$1,200

Primary kit

$900

£902

AU$1,430

(with 18-55mm f4-5.6 IS STM)

$800

£800

AU$1,300

(with AF-P 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 VR lens)

Alternate kit

$1,300

$1,730

(with 18-135mm STM lens)

$1,200

£990

(with 18-140mm lens)

Release date

April 2017

January 2017

Nikon D5600
8.0

Nikon D5600

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Image quality 8