Like previous D5*** models, the D5600 is primarily an entry-level camera, designed for photographers who want something a bit more up-market than the baseline model.
The addition of SnapBridge should appeal to photographers who enjoy sharing quickly and will make this easier than the basic integrated Wi-Fi in the D5500.
The D5600 can deliver high-resolution images, but it won’t suit anyone wanting full exposure control. As with the D5500, we think novice users could enjoy the in-camera effects modes and scene pre-sets and will appreciate the automatic re-setting of the camera when functions like the self-timer are used or the flash is switched off. But care needs to be taken with some of the automated shooting modes.
We tested the D5600 with the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens, which is a good, general-purpose lens that works well with the camera.
Nikon has developed a habit of releasing minor upgrades to existing DSLR cameras and the D5600, announced in November 2016, differs only marginally from the 18-month-old D5500. When we reviewed that camera, we described it as a ‘modest update to the D5300‘, which itself wasn’t hugely different from the D5200. You get our drift? Support for the SnapBridge app seems to be the highlight and this brings the D5*** series cameras into line with Nikon’s other DSLR lines.
Angled view of the Nikon D5600 with the 18-55mm kit lens. (Source: Nikon.)
Nikon was unable to supply us with a review camera in kit format but instead provided the camera with the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens, which we reviewed in September 2008. It’s a good, general-purpose lens that works well with the camera and has been previously offered in some Nikon DSLR kits.
So what’s new in the D5600?
Adding SnapBridge, Nikon’s gateway to wireless connectivity, is the main upgrade to the capabilities of the D5500’s built-in Wi-Fi functionality. Interestingly, unlike the similarly upgraded D3400, which is Bluetooth only, Wi-Fi connectivity is retained in the D5600 but is only usable after the camera has been paired with a smart device using Bluetooth.
SnapBridge has a certain appeal to ‘connected’ photographers. Setting up connections should be straightforward once you’ve installed the free app on your smart device (although a lot depends on the capabilities smart device).
We tried connecting the review camera to a Dell laptop and Samsung phone, using Bluetooth. Following the instructions supplied with the camera we found set-up to be quick and straightforward and SnapBridge worked as specified.
Once the camera and smart device have been ‘paired’ they should remain so indefinitely, even when the camera is switched off. If you select Send to Smart Device (Auto) in the setup menu, images captured by the camera will be automatically resized to two megapixels for sharing and transferred to the smart device whenever a wireless connection is established. You can also select images to transfer individually as you shoot and review.
Location data can also be transferred from the smart device and embedded in the image metadata. The Bluetooth connection will persist as long as both devices are on and within range with minimal drainage of battery power (unlike Wi-Fi, which is quite power hungry).
SnapBridge can be used for remote controls of some camera functions and to keep the camera on time and up-to-date. It is also used for uploading images to the Nikon Image Space cloud storage and image sharing service ““ once you’ve set up an account.
The other significant new addition is the ability to create in-camera time-lapse movies, although we’re not sure how many potential buyers will actually use this capability. These movies are recorded with the frame size, frame rate and movie quality settings selected in the Movie settings section of the Shooting menu. Audio is not recorded.
In Time-lapse mode, you can set the interval between frames and the total shooting time. It’s easy to calculate the length of the final movie on the basis of the frame size and frame rate; for example, a 96-frame movie recorded at 1920 x 1080, 24p will be about four seconds long. (The maximum movie length is 20 minutes.)
Highlighting Start and pressing OK initiates the recording. Note: the viewfinder eyepiece should be covered to prevent stray light from entering and affecting the shot. An exposure smoothing setting is available for evening out sudden changes in exposure between adjacent frames (it doesn’t operate in M mode). The camera’s built-in effects ““ including HDR ““ can’t be used for time-lapse movies.
The third new feature involves an update to touchscreen operations on the camera’s LCD monitor. Users can now flip through images in playback mode using the touchscreen. These last two functions could probably have been provided as firmware updates to the D5500.
In addition, the touch Fn function from the D5500 has been expanded to support the enabling and disabling of auto ISO sensitivity control and operation with viewfinder shooting has also been improved. There has been another minuscule change associated with the EXPEED 4 processor (which is the same as in the D5500): the top ISO setting has been changed from Hi1 to 25600.
Back and top views of the Nikon D5600. (Source: Nikon.)
Like its predecessors, the D5600 is made in Thailand and has a body made mainly from polycarbonate plastic. Build quality is virtually identical to the previous models.
Who’s it for?
Like previous D5*** models, the D5600 is primarily an entry-level camera, designed for photographers who want something a bit more up-market than the baseline model. The addition of SnapBridge should appeal to photographers who enjoy posting shots to social networks and will make this easier than the basic integrated Wi-Fi in the D5500.
Even though the D5600 can deliver high-resolution images, it won’t suit anyone wanting full exposure control or even those looking for a camera to learn on. And, with the proliferation of similarly-priced cameras with 4K movie capabilities, it’s a poor choice for those who shoot a lot of video.
As with the D5500, we think novice users could enjoy the in-camera effects modes and scene pre-sets and will appreciate the automatic re-setting of the camera when functions like the self-timer are used or the flash is switched off. But care needs to be taken with some of the automated shooting modes.
We found this particularly true of the HDR (high dynamic range) setting, which captures and combines two frames averaging out their brightness levels to produce an image with the maximum captured highlight and shadow detail. Unfortunately, the two frames are recorded roughly half a second apart, which means moving subjects (and any camera motion) will result in double images, as shown in the image below.
An example of an HDR shot taken with the camera hand-held and featuring moving subjects.
We haven’t included the usual Build and Ergonomics and Sensor and Image Processing sections in this review since these aspects of the camera haven’t changed noticeably since the previous models. Readers should refer to our reviews of the D5500 and D5300 for more information.
Not unexpectedly, both still images and movie clips from the review camera were similar to those we obtained from the D5500, although the overall resolution obtained in our Imatest tests was slightly lower. Lateral chromatic aberration was slightly better in JPEG files, although not as good in NEF.RAW files. These disparities can probably be explained by the different lenses used for each review.
Imatest showed colour accuracy to be slightly better in the new camera, however, saturation in JPEGs was slightly higher in the D5600. Both are expected outcomes of tweaks to the EXPEED 4 processor chip. Raw files converted with Adobe Camera Raw (our preferred conversion software) were slightly under-saturated (which is good for subsequent editing) and small improvements to colour accuracy (also good), both attributable to improvements to processing parameters.
Aside from these differences we found no measurable differences in exposure metering or sensitivity performance. High ISO performance was almost identical to the D5500, with little noise visible in either long exposures or flash shots at settings up to ISO 6400 followed by a gradual increase in noise and progressive softening at the two higher settings. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.
We noticed a colour shift in our night exposure test shots between ISO 1600 and ISO 3200. It was small enough to be easily corrected in even a basic image editor. However, the shift towards blue-green became progressively stronger as sensitivity was increased. Noise also became increasingly visible.
By ISO 6400 blotches had begun to appear in parts of the frame and images were visibly softened. This trend increased and by ISO 25600 (the highest setting) shots had a distinct green cast and were soft and blotchy. We would advise against using this setting.
The built-in flash was able to record almost evenly balanced exposures across the camera’s sensitivity range with the lens at 157mm. There was slight over-exposure at the two highest sensitivity settings and the top four settings became progressively softer and lacking in contrast.
The auto white balance setting produced similar results to the D5500, providing good correction for daylight-balanced fluorescent lighting and complete correction for shots taken with LED lighting and the camera’s built-in flash. The warm cast of incandescent lighting wasn’t completely corrected but adjustments were readily available for tweaking colour balance in-camera.
The pre-sets over-corrected to varying degrees with all types of lighting, with flash faring much better than either incandescent or fluorescent lights. Manual measurement is also supported and delivers good results in most situations.
The autofocusing system performed similarly to the system in the D5500 and showed a tendency to hunt in low light levels, even when the viewfinder was used for composing shots. Fortunately, in bright conditions, the camera locked onto a subject quite quickly and, once achieved, focus tended to be maintained.
We noticed some improvements to tracking AF when shooting movie clips, although using Live View made re-focusing in movie mode slower than it was when shooting stills. However, the new camera appeared faster when focusing on subjects that changed position within the frame as well as during moderately fast pans.
The review camera was also less susceptible to recording camera sounds while shooting movie clips. However, wind noise could still be problematic, even when the wind cut filter was engaged.
We carried out our timing tests with the same 32GB SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC UHS-1 card as we used for testing the D5500. Like its predecessor, the review camera powered-up in roughly half a second and shut down almost instantly.
When the viewfinder was used for shot composition, we measured an average capture lag of just under 0.2 seconds, which was eliminated with pre-focusing. In Live View mode, capture lag was a consistent 1.1 seconds, a significant improvement on the D5500.
Shot-to-shot times averaged 0.6 seconds when the viewfinder was used, the same as we found for the D5500. But with Live View, the intervals were reduced from 5.4 seconds to 3.2 seconds. Shot-to-shot times with flash averaged 4.1 seconds when the viewfinder was used, a slight improvement in performance over the D5500.
Going by the indicator light on the rear panel, there has also been a small improvement in image processing times . It took 0.5 seconds on average to process each JPEG file, 0.8 seconds for each NEF.RAW file and 1.1 seconds for each RAW+JPEG pair.
In the continuous high-speed shooting mode, the review camera recorded 50 high-resolution JPEGs in 13.3 seconds without slowing, which equates to a rate of just under four frames/second and is slower than specified for the camera. It took 32.5 seconds to process this burst. With the continuous low-speed mode, the capture speed was very close to the specified three frames/second.
The buffer memory filled after nine 14-bit NEF.RAW files, which were recorded in 2.9 seconds at a frame rate of three frames/second, even though the camera was set to use the continuous high mode. Processing time for this burst was 13.1 seconds. The buffer was limited to five RAW+JPEG frames, which were also captured in 1.2 seconds. It took 10 seconds to process this burst.
Like the D5500, the D5600 is a very competent camera that can meet most of the needs of its target market and produce high quality still pictures and passable video clips. However, from a purely photographic point of view, it doesn’t offer much incentive for owners of either the D5500 or even the D5300 to upgrade. Upgrading to the new model could be justified for owners of two or three year old D3*** models.
As with the D5500, 24 megapixels is more than most potential purchasers of this camera actually need and it’s significant over-kill for those who only shoot to share pictures on social networks. However, for these folk, the addition of SnapBridge to the D5500’s built-in Wi-Fi could be an incentive.
Unfortunately, like most of Nikon’s entry-level DSLRs, the D5600 isn’t an exciting camera. We’re still waiting to see at least one exciting technological advancement ““ or even a decent step forward in functionality.
With technology developments seemingly at a standstill, it’s no surprise to read that between 2012 and the beginning of 2017, sales and income in Nikon’s Imaging Division have almost halved and the company faces negative growth. To quote Nikon ‘guru’ Thom Hogan: Until such time as Nikon launches something below the D7200 that has traction, that’s going to continue to be the case.
Nikon doesn’t disclose recommended retail prices (RRPs) to journalists in Australia but some local retailers have listed the body price of the D5600 at AU$999. If you shop around you can find the D5600 body for less than AU$900 and the body plus Nikkor AF-P 18-55mm VR lens for less than AU$950, which is a bit less than you would pay if you purchased the camera off-shore, without shipping and insurance costs included. Alternatively, the D5500 is still available in local shops for less than AU$850 with kit lens.
Image sensor: 23.5 x 15.6 mm CMOS sensor with 24.78 million photosites (24.2 megapixels effective)
Image processor: EXPEED 4
A/D processing: 12- or 14-bit
Lens mount: Nikon F mount (with AF contacts)
Focal length crop factor: 1.5x
Image formats: Stills: JPEG (DCF 2.0, Exif 2.3), NEF.RAW, RAW+JPEG; Movies: MOV (H.264/MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding with Linear PCM audio)
Image Sizes: Stills ““ 6000 x 4000, 4496 x 3000, 2992 x 2000; Movies: 1920 x 1080; 60p (progressive), 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p 1280 x 720; 60p, 50p Actual frame rates for 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, and 24p are 59.94, 50, 29.97, 25, and 23.976 fps respectively; options support both high and normal image quality
Image Stabilisation: Lens based
Dust removal: Image sensor cleaning, Image Dust Off reference data (Capture NX-D software required)
Shutter (speed range): Electronically-controlled vertical-travel focal-plane shutter (1/4000 to 30 seconds in steps of 1/3 or 1/2 EV plus Bulb and Time); X-sync at 1/200 second
Exposure Compensation: +/- 5EV in 1/3EV or 1/2EV steps
Exposure bracketing: 3 frames +/-2EV
Other bracketing options: White balance, ADL
Self-timer: 2, 5, 10 or 20 seconds delay; 1 to 9 exposures
Focus system: Nikon Multi-CAM 4800DX autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection, 39 focus points (including 9 cross-type sensors), 11 focus points; AF-assist illuminator (range approx. 0.5 to 3 m)
Focus modes: Single-servo AF (AF-S), Continuous-servo AF (AF-C), Auto AF-S/AF-C selection (AF-A) ; predictive focus tracking activated automatically according to subject status Manual focus (MF): Electronic rangefinder can be used
Exposure metering: TTL exposure metering using 2016-pixel RGB sensor; Matrix (3D colour matrix metering II with type G, E, and D lenses; colour matrix metering II with other CPU lenses), Centre-weighted and Spot metering patterns
Shooting modes: Auto modes (auto; auto, flash off); programmed auto with flexible program (P); shutter-priority auto (S); aperture-priority auto (A); manual (M)
Scene presets: Portrait, landscape, child, sports, close up, night portrait, night landscape, party/indoor, beach/snow, sunset, dusk/dawn, pet portrait, candlelight, blossom, autumn colours, food
Picture Control modes: Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, Landscape, Flat ; selected Picture Control can be modified; storage for custom Picture Controls
Effects modes: Night vision, super vivid, pop, photo illustration, toy camera effect, miniature effect, selective colour, silhouette, high key, low key
Active D-Lighting: Auto, Extra high, High, Normal, Low, Off
Colour space options: Adobe RGB, sRGB
ISO range: ISO 100 to 25600 in steps of 1/3 EV, Auto ISO sensitivity control available
White balance: Auto, incandescent, fluorescent (7 types), direct sunlight, flash, cloudy, shade, preset manual, all except preset manual with fine-tuning
Flash: Built-in pop-up TTL flash, GN 12 (m/ISO 100)
Flash modes: Auto, auto with red-eye reduction, auto slow sync, auto slow sync with red-eye reduction, fill-flash, red-eye reduction, slow sync, slow sync with red-eye reduction, rear-curtain with slow sync, rear-curtain sync, off
Flash exposure adjustment: -3 to +1EV in 1/3 or 1/2EV increments (P, A, S,M and SCENE modes only)
Sequence shooting: Max. 5 frames/sec. (4 fps for 14-bit NEF.RAW)
Buffer capacity: 11 NEF.RAW frames or 100 Large/Fine JPEGs
Storage Media: Single slot for SD, SDHC, SDXC cards (UHS-I compliant)
Viewfinder: Eye-level pentamirror with approx. 95% frame coverage, 0.82x magnification, 17 mm eyepoint, Type B BriteView Clear Matte Mark VII screen, dioptric adjustment of -1.7 to +0.5 dpt
LCD monitor: 3.2-inch TFT vari-angle LCD touch screen with 1,036,800 dots, 170 ° viewing angle, approx. 100% frame coverage, brightness adjustment, and eye-sensor controlled on/off
Playback functions: Full-frame and thumbnail (4, 12, or 80 images or calendar) playback with playback zoom, playback zoom cropping, playback face zoom, movie playback, photo and/or movie slide shows, histogram display, highlights, photo information, location data display, auto image rotation, picture rating, and image comment (up to 36 characters)
Interface terminals: Hi-Speed USB with Micro-USB connector, Type C HDMI connector, 3.5 mm microphone jack, accessory terminal for remote controllers/GPS units
Wi-Fi function: IEEE 802.11b/g, 2412 to 2462 MHz (channels 1 to 11), WPA2-PSK authentication, NFC Forum Type 3 Tag, Bluetooth Specification Version 4.1 (SnapBridge)
Power supply: EN-EL14a rechargeable Li-ion battery pack; CIPA rated for approx. 400 shots/charge
Dimensions (wxhxd): Approx. 124 x 97 x 70 mm
Weight: Approx. 415 grams (body only); 465 grams with battery and card
Distributor: Nikon Australia,1300 366 499; www.nikon.com.au.
Based on JPEG files
Based on 14-bit NEF.RAW files converted with Adobe Camera Raw.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
Auto white balance with LED lighting.
Auto white balance with flash lighting.
30-second exposure at ISO 100, 24mm focal length, f/4.
10-second exposure at ISO 400, 24mm focal length, f/6.3.
10-second exposure at ISO 1600, 24mm focal length, f/6.3.
10-second exposure at ISO 3200, 24mm focal length, f/6.3.
3-second exposure at ISO 6400, 24mm focal length, f/7.1.
2-second exposure at ISO 12800, 24mm focal length, f/8.
2-second exposure at ISO 25600, 24mm focal length, f/11.
Flash exposure at ISO 100, 105mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
Flash exposure at ISO 400, 105mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
Flash exposure at ISO 1600, 105mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
Flash exposure at ISO 3200, 105mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/7.1.
Flash exposure at ISO 6400, 105mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/8.
Flash exposure at ISO 12800, 105mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/10.
Flash exposure at ISO 25600, 105mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/13.
18mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/320 second at f/9.
35mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/320 second at f/9.
75mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/320 second at f/9.
105mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/400 second at f/8.
Close-up;105mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/160 second at f/5.6.
Close-up; 50mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/250 second at f/8.
Strong backlighting; 18mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/11. Auto D-Lighting.
Flare; 18mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/640 second at f/13. Auto D-Lighting.
45mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/250 second at f/5.6.Auto D-Lighting.
105mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/5.6.
Crop from the above image at 100% magnification showing detail recorded and lack of coloured fringing.
85mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/1000 second at f/11.
28mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/160 second at f/8.
30mm focal length, ISO 360, 1/250 second at f/8.
25mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/400 second at f/10.
58mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/5.6.
Still frame from Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) video clip recorded in 50p mode.
Still frame from Full HD video clip recorded in 25p mode.
Still frame from HD (1280 x 720 pixels) video clip recorded in 50p mode.
RRP: n/a ARP: AU$999; US$699
- Build: 8.5
- Ease of use: 8.4
- Autofocusing: 8.5
- Still image quality JPEG: 8.7
- Still image quality RAW: 8.9
- Video quality: 8.4
Ease of use: 8.4
Still image quality: JPEG – 8.7; RAW – 8.9
Video quality: 8.4