A photographer develops a special bond with their camera. It doesn’t happen immediately but when the bond is made, things just start to click (pun intended). You may not realize it at first. It starts off subtly. Sometimes it begins with a smirk, as you look at the LCD screen and appreciate a really good shot. Maybe you changed a setting without bringing the camera down to look at it. Eventually, you realize that you’re really good at using your camera. You begin to love it, cherish it, bring it with you everywhere. It becomes a part of who you are on a daily basis.
The bond is made.
I came upon this realization recently. The love I have for my camera goes beyond any enjoyment, or love, for other shiny new tech and toys. It even surpasses my attachment to my phone.
I create art with my camera. It’s my art and I enjoy the creative process even more because of the familiarity I have with my camera. It extends further though; I’ve made money with my camera. I’m not a professional photographer but this awesome device has made me money.
Let’s get into the specifics of my camera.
My camera is the Nikon D5600. It is a what Nikon calls a “DX” camera, meaning it has a complimentary metal-oxide semiconductor, or CMOS, crop sensor. Crop sensor cameras are considered “beginner” cameras but that doesn’t mean the quality is diminished in any way. All of the photos on my website were taken with this camera. Crop sensor cameras are considered “beginner” cameras because they cost less than a full-frame camera. The main reason for the affordable price is that CMOS sensors cost less to manufacture. They’re also (generally) smaller and lighter than their full-framed (“FX”) counterparts. You can get a D5600 body (no lens) on Amazon for just under $600. This is a great price for a workhorse of a camera.
I’m going to briefly explain what having a crop sensor means. By using a smaller sensor, you’re seeing less of the image that a full frame would see. The D5600 CMOS sensor is 23.5 mm x 15.6 mm and has a crop factor of 1.53. For the purpose of this review, I’m not going to go into the calculation to figure the crop factor. You can look up the specific crop factor for your camera online because they can differ.
Crop factor is also known as focal length multiplier. This is important to understand when it comes to lens choices. Nikon makes a good assortment of DX lenses. I have the 35 mm f 1.8 prime (or fixed focal distance), 10 mm-20 mm, 18 mm-55 mm kit lens that came with my old D60, a 55 mm-200 mm telephoto zoom, and 70 mm-300 mm telephoto zoom. When you use a DX lens on a DX camera body, there crop factor is not applied. A DX 35 mm focal length is 35 mm on a DX body. The crop factor is taken into account when using a compatible FX lens on a DX body. Yes, you can do that. 2 of my favorite lenses are FX lenses. My go-to lens is the Nikkor 24-120 mm f4 G, this replaced my 18-55 mm kit lens. My other FX lens is the 50 mm f1.4 prime. The 50 is an incredibly fast lens and generates a wonderfully crisp picture and performs wonderfully in low-light.
For the sake if this explanation, I’m going to use the 50 mm lens as my example, as the math is easy. The 50 mm is an FX lens. I use it on my DX body with a crop factor of 1.53. In order to learn the actual focal distance you have to multiply the focal length of the lens by the crop factor. Therefore, 50 x 1.53 = 75. This means that the 50 is actually a 75 mm lens on the D5600.
There are situations where having a crop sensor is beneficial. If you’re shooting sporting events or wildlife and want a shot where you want to be zoomed in on a subject, you can get a closer shot using an FX lens on a DX body. For example, using the Nikkor 80-400 mm f/4.5-5.6G on the D5600 would make this lens a 122.4-612 mm by applying the crop factor. You get a closer zoom.
Where crop factor is not beneficial is in situations where you have a wide shot and don’t want a wide-angle warp by using a wide angle lens or a fisheye lens. The Nikkor 24-120 mm is an excellent lens for landscape or architecture photography; however, when I apply the crop factor to the 24 mm focal length, the focal length becomes 36.72 mm. At that point, I might as well use my 35 mm fixed lens with an f1.8, as it’s faster than the minimum f4 on the 24-120 mm.
Now that we understand the crop factor, let’s get into the specifics of what makes this a great camera:
The D5600 is a 24.2 megapixel DSLR camera, which is pretty good. The camera produces a crisp image with plenty of detail. Especially at ISO 100—more on ISO later. I’m not saying that megapixels do not matter, but I’ve produced photos of comparable quality to more-expensive full frame cameras that boast megapixels in the 40s. I feel that a higher-quality lens and proper technique can yield results just as good as an image taken by a camera with a higher pixel count.
There are 3 factors that adjust when taking a picture: Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO. ISO stands for International Standards Organization. ISO measures light sensitivity of the camera sensor. The D5600 has an ISO sensitivity of 100-25600. Through my use, I’ve discovered that the most noise I am willing to accept in an image is with my ISO set at 16000. There is a good deal of image noise, and even more so above 16000, but below 16000, the noise level is acceptable. The camera functions admirably below 800. This, of course assumes that you’re shooting in full Manual, and are controlling the settings yourself.
Despite being lumped in with the “entry-level” DSLR cameras, the D5600 has a great deal of settings in common with the professional-level DSLRs. The mode dial is smaller than older model Nikons, as they combined the different scene modes into one category in the dial; “Scene.” Nikon added another mode category, called “Effects,” which I don’t use unless I accidentally over-spin the dial past Manual. There are some cool features in Effects, that some people may want to use for social media purposes. I view this dial as an upgrade to the cell phone camera and its in-device filters. There’s an interesting comic-looking setting called Photo Illustration. Toy Camera adds a bit of a color pop and corner vignetting to highlight the subject. Miniature Effect focuses on the subject, then adds an in-camera lens blur bokeh effect. I don’t use these settings because with the proper lens, a bit of skill, and Adobe Lightroom, I can achieve similar, if not better images.
The dial also has an auto and auto (no flash), which should be self explanatory. Of course, this means that the dial is finished off with the Program (P), Shutter Priority (S), Aperture Priority (A), and where I like to live, in full Manual (M). Just because I prefer to shoot in full Manual mode, to control, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, doesn’t mean I don’t use the other modes. I often switch to Shutter Priority if I know the speed I want to shoot, but due to environmental factors, it will take too long to adjust the aperture and ISO. Like, you want a little motion blur to show movement. My son moves around much too fast for me to adjust every setting in manual, so I click it over to Shutter Priority, bring the shutter speed to 1/60 and let the camera handle the aperture and ISO settings. If I want a wide open aperture in light that isn’t ideal for that, switching to Aperture Priority will save a lot of space on your SD from shooting until you find the right shutter speed to give you a properly exposed shot.
I don’t really use Program mode much. Program mode selects the shutter speed and aperture, which means only the exposure is automatic, whereas in full auto, everything is automatic. As I always try to shoot at the lowest possible ISO, depending on the shot, if I have time to adjust my ISO, I have time to adjust the shutter speed and aperture. I also don’t own a light meter, so any changes I make to the ISO on Program mode would be a guess.
These aren’t the only examples of why you would use one mode over another but they are examples that are easy to understand.
The D5600 does video! It does it well too! I’m getting amazing quality shots and once I learned how to use Adobe Premiere Pro well and what settings to put into my camera to make the most of of my footage in post production. The camera doesn’t have a LOG picture setting. This is a flat color profile that allows for better color correction in Premiere. I’ve created my own flat color profile by adjusting the Flat setting to simulate shooting in LOG.
The fact that the D5600 is small camera makes it susceptible to camera shake, but it also fits well on a gimbal and using the 10-20 mm wide angle lens helps a lot (even without a gimbal). I get great b-roll footage with this camera; however, it doesn’t shoot in 120 frames per second. The fastest it shoots is 60 fps at 1080—which is still great! The slow-motion is still noticeable at 60 fps and it adds something to the b-roll. I usually shoot at 24p at 1080, you can also shoot at 25p, 30p, 50p, and 60p, all in full HD. It doesn’t do 4K, but that doesn’t bother me. I’ve cut a video using my D5600, DJI Mavic Pro drone, which shoots 4K, and my GoPro Hero Session, which also shoots 4K. There isn’t that noticeable of a drop in video quality from the 4K drone footage to the 1080p D5600 footage. The reason is because humans don’t see in 4K. Further, although 4K TVs and monitors are becoming increasingly available, there is more than a fair chance that a viewer won’t see your videos in 4K, especially since there aren’t many 4K mobile devices and mobile is where a majority of video is consumed.
Let’s be honest though, if 4K video is your priority, you’re probably not looking to purchase a Nikon DX camera. So, 4K shouldn’t factor into your decision to purchase this camera. If you’re considering this camera, it’s because it offers you the best of both worlds; it shoots great photographs and great video. It is an incredible camera for someone looking to do more with their social media. I post my videos to my YouTube channel, in 1080p HD, and the quality is great.
Battery consumption depends on usage but I would say it’s excellent. Especially compared to my old D60. I can shoot a mix of photos and video throughout the day on a single battery. If I’m not shooting video at all, the battery can actually last a couple of days. If I’m shooting a lot of long videos, the battery only lasts about three to four hours. It seems like the battery life is predicated by the amount of time you have the LCD screen activated. If you keep the camera in Live View, the LCD screen stays on continuously, until the camera shuts it off after a while of inactivity. If you’re shooting multiple 20-minute video clips, with limited down time, the screen will be on for a while and you’ll burn through batteries.
The batteries aren’t too expensive; you can find the Nikon EN-EL 14a Li-Ion batteries on Amazon for $45. My biggest complaint about the batteries is the charger. Nikon’s charger for the EN-EL 14a batteries is a wall charger with a plug that pivots into the base. It only accommodates 1 battery at a time and takes up a lot of room on a power strip. The batteries charge pretty fast, though; about 30-45 minutes from empty to full.
Feeling and Usability
The Nikon D5600 feels great in your hand. The battery compartment creates a strong, deep grip and for the most part, the controls are placed well for my right hand. With my bottom three fingers in the grip, my index finger covers the shutter button comfortably. It can easily reach the Live View switch, the record button, and the exposure compensation button. The body itself is extremely stable, even when gripped by only three fingers. My favorite thing about the way this camera feels is the weight. It is so light.
Once I learned a few customizations, I began flying through the controls and I can even change shutter speed, aperture, and ISO without pulling the camera away from my eye to look at it (sometimes—more on this soon).
The biggest improvement in my ability to use the camera like a pro is learning to set the “Fn” button to change the ISO. So, now, the dial adjusts the shutter speed, holding the exposure compensation button, then thumbing the scroll wheel, controls the aperture, and holding the Fn button, while thumbing the scroll wheel increases or decreases the ISO.
The biggest issue I have with this camera is that sometimes, depending on ambient light, you can’t see the image controls in the viewfinder. That isn’t a criticism of the camera itself but it’s really the only reason I have to pull the camera away from my eye.
I love this camera. Before I got it, I was “kind of” into photography. After getting this camera, I can say I am a full-fledged shutter bug. I love how my skills have grown and continue to grow. I love how I now look at the world; I think with a cinematic or photographer’s eye. For example, I was driving west on the Belt Parkway, in Brooklyn, approaching the Verrazano Bridge, and as I was driving, the eastern bridge tower was framed perfectly in the middle of the highway with a couple of trees on either end and I was a little disappointed that I was driving on a highway and couldn’t stop to take the photo. I look to see how things are framed. I’m always thinking about composition and visual interest. This camera is, bar-none, my favorite Christmas present, ever (great job, honey).
The title of this review says how I really feel about it. It’s a workhorse. I’ve shot thousands upon thousands of photos and countless hours of video with it, it’s made me money, but most importantly, it’s made me happy. I’m creating better photos than I ever have before. It really is an amazing camera for the price.
The best thing is, this camera is still being sold. It may be around two-years old, but it hasn’t been replaced yet.
If you’re looking for a great camera, above the bottom of the “beginner” cameras or are looking for an upgrade but can’t afford one of Nikon’s full-frame, pro cameras, this is the one for you.
A Few Tips I Wish I Knew When I Got It
You can reassign buttons - Go to menu, the pencil icon denotes the custom settings menu and scroll down to the purple “f” menu for controls. This is where you assign ISO to the Fn button.
Live View Screen Information - While in Live View, if you tap the “info” button, the screen toggles through different information screens. I like to keep mine on the video info, since that’s usually when I’m using Live View.
The Auto Exposure-Lock/Autofocus-Lock (AE-L/AF-L) button can be used in more than one way - If you push the shutter button to focus and then hold the AE-L/AF-L button, you hold the focus point and can move the camera to get the composition you want. You can also enable Autofocus Lock in the “f” control menu and then hold that button to focus and using the shutter button to only take the photo. This is handy when operating on a tripod and trying to limit vibration.
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