I’ve recently bought a Nikon D5300 for using as a stills AND video camera. Before buying it, I did a lot of research on the internet to find out whether it would do what i actually wanted. As you’ll know, there’s a lot of conflicting information on the internet, but over the last few weeks, and in the time i’ve owned the camera, this is what I’ve learned. If there’s anything I’ve missed, or anything you think is wrong, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
What I Wanted:
Firstly, I was selling my other Nikon stills bodies to fund the purchase – my venerable D50 and more modern D3100, so the D5300 had to be a good stills camera that would replace them both easily. As it happens, it absolutely does. In fact, I’m utterly gobsmacked by the quality of the stills from the D5300 – it truly is one of the best APS-C sensor cameras on the market, as many have told me it is.
Secondly, I wanted a DSLR that would fulfil the following, as regards video:
- 1080p videos in 24p (for shooting film-look music videos)
- Nikon (so I can use my 35mm f1.8 DX G lens which I love)
- Fully manual video controls (which the D3100 doesn’t have)
I spent a lot of time on the internet reading about this, and it turned out that the two Nikons to look at were the D7100 and the D5300. As the D5300 is cheaper, I plumped for that one as budget is a consideration. That may be a decision I come to regret a little (more on that later) but a good second hand example was found on eBay and the purchase was made. It will do everything I initially specced, but let’s look at this in more detail now, and cover a few of the points that get discussed and asked about a lot on the internet.
PROS TO THE D5300
Excellent Stills Quality
As I said above, the stills on this camera are excellent. I won’t go into massive detail here, but if you’ve got an older Nikon you’re going to be surprised how much better this is. It’s just so damn fast. ISO goes so high and stays clean, and even if you push it right to the max it’s still usable in a gritty kinda way. f1.8, inside, with ISO maxed I’m getting 4000sec shutter speeds! Flash? No thanks.
Uses Your Existing Nikon Lenses
This camera uses the standard Nikon mount, so you’ll be able to use existing Nikon lenses in most cases – more on that later. If your lenses are the more modern ‘G’ series (with no aperture ring) you can put those on and use them straight away.
Quality video at 1920×1080
Yes, the D5300 shoots great quality HD video at 1920×1080. You can choose between 24, 25, 30, 50 and 60 frames per second too, all in HD. 60 frames, slowed down to 24, makes for awesome slow mo. Not all of the new DSLRS can do that in full 1080.
Full Manual Video Controls
The D3100 had video, but the controls weren’t fully manual. With the D5300 you can view your scene through live view and adjust shutter speed, aperture and ISO and see the results instantly. The aperture selection is something that confuses many though – more on that later (again). You can use AF if you want (although it’s crap in live view mode) but that’s okay as manual focus is widely accepted as the way forwards when shooting video.
Flip Out Screen
This might sound silly, but the flip out screen (at 3.2 inches!) is a real boon. If you want to shoot video from a low or high vantage point without knee pads or a stepladder, this will enable you to at least see where you’re aiming. Sure, unless you’re right up to the screen it’s not going to help you with focussing (you’ll need a bigger monitor for that) but it’s better than nothing. And the kids love it.
Some lower end DSLRs don’t have an input for an external microphone which is a real problem as the built in mics are absolutely crap. Sure, you can use a separate audio recording device, but this means synching the video and audio afterwards using software which you aren’t always going to want to have to do. With the D5300 you can buy a Rode VideoMic Pro and away you go. Quality sound.
CONS TO THE D5300
No Screw Drive for Older AF Lenses
Older Nikon autofocus lenses, like the ‘D’ series, don’t have built in autofocus motors. Older Nikon bodies, like the D50, and the more ‘Pro’ newer bodies like the D7100 have a motor in the body that focuses the lens via a screwdriver-like protuberance that mates up with the lens when you fix it on. This means that to use a lens in full autofocus mode you need lenses that have the built in focus motors, mostly called AF-S. The newer ‘G’ lenses (with no aperture ring) fall into this category.
Is this a problem? Well, it’s not ideal, as we will see. This is one area where the D7100 might have made for a better purchase, as it has the built-in focus motor.
No Manual Aperture in live view with lenses like ‘D’ series, as you can with the D7100
With the D7100 you can use lenses such as the ‘D’ series as autofocus lenses. You can also (via a menu selection) use them as a video lens, and use the aperture ring on the lens to adjust the aperture in live view. I don’t care what you see on the internet, but you can’t do this on the D5300 because there’s no menu selection on the D5300. When you try, you get an error message when you move the aperture ring away from the smallest setting. We’ll look at a workaround later on.
Poor AF in Live View
When shooting video in live view mode you can select autofocus if you want, but it’s terrible slow with a lot of hunting. This is something to do with the mirror being up and is true of most DSLRs. Just learn how to use manual focus.
ADJUSTING APERTURE ON THE D5300 IN LIVE VIEW MODE
This is what the internet is asking.
“In live view mode, I can adjust ISO and shutter speed but not aperture. How can I do this?”
The short answer is you have to go out of live view mode by flipping the lever, change the aperture, then go back into live view. Many make this out to be a massive pain in the balls, but in reality I find that it’s not. I set the shutter speed to 50 (as per the film-look), set the aperture for the depth of field effect that I want for the shot (and leave it) and then adjust the exposure using the ISO and ND filters as required. That’s one way.
You may also have read that if you use AF lenses with aperture rings (such as the ‘D’ series lenses) you can use the ring to change the aperture without leaving live view mode. if you have a D7xxx, this is true. There’s a menu setting that lets you tell the camera that you want to use the aperture ring to select the aperture, rather than the thumbwheel. Hey presto – live view aperture change. You can also use the same lens as a stills lens with AF, as the D7100 has a built in focus motor. This is why the D7100 makes sense. it doesn’t have the flip out screen though…
If you try the same thing on the D5300 you get an error message when you try to turn the aperture ring off its smallest setting. There’s no menu selection on the D5300 so that you can override this. There are 2 ways round this:
- Don’t click the lens fully onto the body. This stops the electronic contacts on the lens from fully mating with the contacts on the body. It’ll go fully manual when you do this.
- Cover the contacts on the lens with tape, or paint over them – this has the same effect.
Obviously, neither of these ideas are brilliant. A lens not fully clicked into place may fall off. Tape inside the camera isn’t ideal as it may come loose. Painting over the contacts will affect the resale value of the lens. So what’s the solution? You need older, manual focus lenses, such as Nikon’s excellent AIS series. There are a few about, but start with the 28mm f2.8 AIS (just shy of 50mm on a DX body) and go from there. Awesome quality. Super smooth focus mechanism. Works on the D5300. Keep your autofocus lenses for stills.
You’re going to need two sets of lenses – some for video and some for stills. Keep the autofocus lenses for stills (like the DX G stuff) and then buy used, older lenses, for the video. They’re amazing quality (for the most part – do your research), designed to be focussed manually, and will keep their value over time. Alternatively, buy a D7100 so that you can buy autofocus lenses that include an aperture ring, and use your lenses for either stills or video.
Which way is best? Well, you want the flip-out screen, right?