Another year, another new iteration of the D5xxx series. Though it may seem boring now, the D5200 was a closely watched camera launch at the end of 2012, as may though that it would bear the sensor to the eventual (and still mythical) D400. Fast forward a year, and it's back to boring. The differences between old and new cameras are:
Same sensor as the D7100, no anti-aliasing filter
- Video recording to 1080p at 60fps
- New 3.2" LCD
- Built-in Wi-Fi and GPS
- Improved battery life.
Update: Since the D5300 was launched, we now know that the sensor is not the same as in the D7100, and has different deep shadow noise characteristics.
The B Word
"Boring" is likely to be the word over used to describe this year's upgrade, but many small improvements make for a better camera. You might wonder why the D5xxx series seems to be on a one year refresh cycle whereas the D7xxx series gets refreshed every 2. That's because the consumer end of the market is more spec-driven, where as the serious-enthusiast market is more capability-driven. Said another way, the D5300 is marketed on specs, but the D7100 tends to trade on reputation.
A curious thing about the D5300 is that even though it's an upgrade for the consumer, there's actually a bit of a cost savings going on for Nikon,
Even though the market didn't ask for the upgrade, it's something of a marketing necessity. As the global camera market continues to cool, the impression of forward movement is just as important as actual forward movement. Even if the industry is selling less cameras year over year, constant refreshment keeps the brand alive in the consciousness of the consumer. In more practical terms.... even if there is an excess of older models in the supply chain, the D5300 doesn't have to sell in volume to do its job, not immediately. Since it shares parts with other cameras (D610, D3200), the D5300 should be an inexpensive camera to produce in terms of tooling costs. If a value-oriented customer came into a camera shop to look at the D5300 but bought a discounted D5200 instead, then the D5300 would have done its job. In such a situation, the store would not need a large stock of the newer camera, just enough to lure people into drawing down their old stock while meeting the needs of anybody would insist on having the D5300 because it was newer.
18-140mm. See what just happened there? No more 18-105mm. As predicted, Nikon is shifting their average selling prices upward by moving consumers up to the new higher-spec but more expensive lens. Of course, you can buy any combination of lens and body that you wish, including the D5300 with an 18-105mm, but it's exclusion from the promotional material is a good indicator of what Nikon would like you to buy. The MSRP for the D5300 and 18-140mm is $400 more than the street price of the D5200 and 18-105mm. Affordable and capable body, but they get you in the lens.
D5300 Versus D7100
As always, the D5xxx series is the value leader in Nikon's lineup. If you only look at the spec sheet, the camera seems fairly close to its bigger brother. In practice, these are two different cameras for two different types of photographers. Bigger, faster, stronger is a fairly good way to describe the D7100. Bigger, as in bigger and heavier. Faster as in faster camera operation and faster camera performance. Stronger as in having a sturdier build. If you don't need all of those things, aren't an action photographer and don't have AF-D lenses in your collection, then the D5300 is as always good value for the money.