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Nikon D5300 vs D7100 : Which Should You Buy?

Nikon’s D5300, the latest update to their already class-leading entry/mid-level SLR, not only widens the gap between Nikon and their Canon competitors, it makes the choice to spend a little more money on the Nikon D7100 even harder. Below, I’ll briefly explain what has been added to (and what has been taken away from) the D5200 to derive the D5300, but I’ll primarily focus on the differences that remain between the D5300 and the D7100. Most entry and mid-level photographers will be perfectly happy with the D5300, but some types of photographers will need to consider the additional capabilities of the Nikon D7100.

NOTE: The D5300 has now been superseded by the almost identical D5500 (which lacks GPS, but adds a touch screen). Read the updated comparison of the D5500 vs D7100 here.

New In the D5300

If you’re deciding between this and the D5200, these are the things that are new in the D5300:

  • the Optical Low-Pass filter has been removed from the sensor for (potentially) sharper, higher resolution images
  • built-in Wi-Fi and GPS have been added
  • the processor has been upgraded to an Expeed 4
  • the top of the ISO scale has been increased by a stop, to 12800 / +25600
  • the ability to shoot 60 progressive frames per second at 1080p resolution
  • its a few milometers shorter and narrower, and about 50 grams lighter
  • the rear LCD is now a larger 3.2″ 1,037,000 pixel model

Nikon D5300 vs D7100: What’s the Difference?

To begin with, we can take a look at the most significant specs for the D5300 and the D7100.

 Nikon D5300Nikon D5200Nikon D7100
Price (body)
$597$696$797
Price (with 18-140mm kit lens)$897$1096$1097
Body MaterialSereebo, (carbon fiber reenforced plastic) body-chassisPlastic (separate body and chassis)Partial Magnesium Alloy Frame, Plastic
Sensor Resolution24.1 Megapixels
(Toshiba)
24.1 Megapixels
(Toshiba)
24.1 Megapixels
(Toshiba)
Anti-Aliasing Filter
(Reduces sharpness, prevents moire)
NOYESNO
ISO Range100-12800
+25600
100-6400
+12800
+25600
100-6400
+12800
+25600
Total AF Points393951
Cross-Type AF Points9915
AF Motor In Body
(For Using Older AF Lenses)
NONOYES
AF Light Level Range-1 to +19 EV-1 to +19 EV-2 to +19 EV
Autofocus Fine Tuning
Adjustments
NONOYES
Shutter Speed Range1/4000th - 30 sec.
+bulb
1/4000th - 30 sec.
+bulb
1/8000th - 30 sec.
+bulb
Expected Shutter Life100,000 Shots100,000 Shots150,000 Shots
Max Frame Rate5 fps5 fps6 fps
(7 shots in 1.3x crop mode)
Max RAW Burst
(buffer size)
6 shots, compressed 14-bit8 shots, compressed 14-bit7 shots lossless 12-bit
6 shots lossless 14-bit
Max JPG Burst
(fine, Large)
100*

*this number is so much higher than that provided for the D5200 and D7100, it may be a mistake
3533
Flash Sync Speed1/200th sec.1/200th sec.1/250th sec.
(1/320th* sec, or slower,)
Wireless Flash
(Built-in Commander)
NONOYES
Auto FP Flash Mode
(High Speed Sync)
NONOYES
Media Slots1 SD / SDHC / SDXC1 SD / SDHC / SDXC2 SD / SDHC / SDXC
LCD Size3.2"
1,036,800 pixels
3.0"
921,000 pixels
3.2"
1,228,800 pixels
LCD ArticulatedYesYesNo
Body Weight480g (no battery)
530g (with battery)
505g (no battery)
555 g (with battery)
675 (no battery)
Battery Lifenot provided500 shots
CIPA Standards
950 shots
CIPA Standards
Viewfinder Coverage95% Frame
.82x Magnification
95% Frame
.78x Magnification
100% Frame
.94x Magnification
Video CodecMPEG-4 / H.264
.mov
MPEG-4 / H.264
.mov
MPEG-4 / H.264
.mov
Video Resolutions1920 x 1080 (60p, 60i, 50i, 30, 25, 24 fps)
1280 x 720 (60, 50 fps)
640 x 424 (30, 25 fps)
1920 x 1080 (60i, 50i, 30, 25, 24 fps)
1280 x 720 (60, 50 fps)
640 x 424 (30, 25 fps)
1920 x 1080 (60i*, 50i*, 30, 25, 24 fps)
1280 x 720 (60, 50 fps)
640 x 424 (30, 25 fps)

*only in 1.3x crop mode
Video Length Limit29 min 59 sec.29 min 59 sec.29 min 59 sec.
Headphone JackNoNoYes
Internal MicStereoStereoStereo

Build Quality

Perhaps the most obvious difference between the D7100 and the D5300 is in their construction. The D5300 body is significantly smaller and lighter, with a body made entirely of polycarbonate, while the D7100 is heavier and built for durability, with a metal (magnesium alloy) back and top. Since the D5300 also uses a smaller battery, the carry-around weight of the D7100 is about 30% more than the D5300.

Whether this is an advantage or disadvantage depends on your photographic needs; some photographers (especially those with larger hands) prefer a larger camera with some ‘heft’ to it, while others prefer something more lightweight and easy to carry around, especially travelers and hikers. Needless to say, those who work in harsh conditions will also prefer the D7100’s weather sealing and heavier-duty construction, as a matter of practicality.

The Sensors : Exactly the Same

The success of the D800e may have led directly to Nikon’s decision to produce an APS-C camera without an optical low-pass/anti-aliasing (OLP/AA) filter, but whatever led to the fact, the D7100’s sensor is naked. Before the D800e, all of the major SLRs produced their sensors with an AA filter: essentially an extra layer in front of the sensor that blurs the image slightly, in order to reduce the jagged edges and moire 1 that have traditionally been associated with digital capture. With modern improvements in image processing software, though, Nikon was confident that the moire and jaggies could be avoided without the AA filter, so they opted to remove it and allow the cameras to capture finer image detail.

Now, with the success of the D7100, Nikon has also decided to remove the AA filter from the D5300’s sensor. Though this does provide the potential to for the camera to produce sharper images, don’t expect too much.

Comparisons of images produced by the D800 (AA Filter) and D800e (no AA Filter) have shown that the principle works; there are subtle improvements in fine detail in the D800e’s images. However, we should not expect such significant improvements in the D7100’s images. The receptors on the 24 megapixel sensor of the D7100 are already much, much smaller than those of the D800e. In fact, the D7100 and D5300 fit about 56% more pixels into the same sensor area than the D800e2.

Why does that matter? Even with the much larger receptors of the D800, lens resolution has become a serious bottle-neck for image quality3. The dramatically higher pixel density of Nikon’s 24 megapixel sensors will tax lens resolution even more, meaning that the D7100’s images won’t get much sharper unless lenses get sharper first.

So, using the best quality lenses at their optimal aperture settings, photographers using a properly stabilized camera might see slight improvements in the sharpness in the center of their images, and in the best circumstances, also towards the corners. For most snapshots, though, there would be no difference between this and the D5200’s sensor.

Auto Focus Systems

Unlike most entry and mid-level SLRs, the Nikon D5300 has a very sophisticated autofocus system. While cameras like the Canon T4i and 60D have 9 autofocus points, the D5300 has 39, though only 9 of them are cross-type 4. As you can see from the chart above, this autofocus system, which also incorporates color information, has been adopted from the Nikon D7000.

The D7100, however, shares the same AF system with the flagship Nikon D4 and the D800: 51 AF points, including 15 cross-type… the best system available in a Nikon body.

For all but the most dedicated action photographers, the system in the D5300 (and D7000) will be more than sufficient, even if you’re buying a camera primarily for shooting sports. If your paycheck, however, is going to depend on your focusing system, the extra several hundred dollars will be well spent on the D7100.

Nikon D5300 and D7100, backs

Speed

When it comes to speed, the differences between the D5300 and D7100 are more modest that you might expect. The D7100 does have a top shutter speed that is one full f-stop faster than the D5300’s (ie, 1/8000th vs 1/4000th). When it comes to shooting bursts of photos, though, the D7100 only provides an additional frame per second over the D5300’s 5 fps (unless you’re shooting in 1.3x crop mode, in which case it will give up an additional frame per second).

More importantly, though, the under-sized buffer in the D7100 does not allow longer bursts than the D5300; in fact, the D5300 comes out dead even. The D7100 and D5300 can both only shoot 6 14-bit RAW shots before the buffer is full (the D5200 could manage 8). Compare this to the 15 RAW shots allowed by a Canon 60D or 25 in a 7D5, and it will be clear that neither Nikon is probably ideal for photographers who rely on the machine-gun method of action photography.

That said, shooting JPG changes things dramatically. The D7100 can shoot bursts of at least 33 frames (at 6 fps) while the D5300 may be able to shoot 100 or more frames (at 5fps).

Nikon D7100 and D5300, overhead view

The D5300’s Downfall

Flash. With the popularity of “Strobist” techniques over the past several years, flash photography has become increasingly important to amateur and semi-pro photographers, and this is where the D5300 falls short: it lacks high-speed-sync (Auto FP Flash, henceforth AFP) and external flash control with the built-in flash. External flash control may not be a big deal; many of us prefer to use radio-units instead… though the built-in IR system can be very useful with Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS).

The lack of AFP, however, is a serious problem. Consider this situation: you’re shooting a portrait outdoors during the day, and you want to use a large aperture to blur the background… perhaps f/2 or f/1.4 . This will push your shutter speed beyond 1/1000ths of a second, much higher than the camera’s 1/200th sec. maximum sync speed. So, if you want to use a flash to soften the shadows or create a catch-light in the eyes of your subject, forget it: the flash will not sync. The same is true if you want to use flash for sports and a high shutter speed, and while you can purchase external command modules or radio transmitters for off-camera-flashes, there’s nothing you can buy to work around the lack of AFP. You’d need to buy the D7100 instead.

All the Little Things

There are a few other assorted differences that deserve mention here, but they’re mostly the same differences that we saw between the D5100 and D7000. First, the D5300 does not have an autofocus motor built into the camera body, so it will not be compatible with the full range of (old school) Nikon lenses, while the D7100 does posses the motor. And speaking of “focus”, the D7100 is capable of micro adjustments to correct for front or back-focus problems on lenses, while the D5300 is not.

As should be obvious from the images above, the D5300 has an articulated LCD screen, which some people find helpful for ground-level shots and video but others find a breakage hazard or amateurish.

Finally, if you are interested in video, the D7100 has been given a headphone jack for monitoring audio while you shoot. The jack is absent in the D5300 (and D7000).

Which to Buy?

The Nikon D5300 is a great camera, and I’d recommend it for the vast majority of amateur photographers with the exception of those who need superior flash capabilities.

To summarize, you should buy the D5300 if you:

  • want a great, all-around camera
  • shoot primarily with natural light or studio strobes
  • have smaller hands, or need the lightest body while maintaining high performance
  • need an articulated LCD screen for video or photos
  • want to shoot video at 1080/60p

Buy the D7100 if you:

  • are hard on your equipment and need a more durable body
  • use flash for action or fill and need high-speed sync
  • use Nikon’s CLS and want to use the built-in command module
  • shoot macro (or other focus critical work) and need to make micro adjustments to your lenses
  • shoot a lot of video and want a simple headphone jack on your camera

For the sake of simplicity I’ve tried to focus on only the differences that, in my experience, will actually be important. There are, of course, numerous differences between the two cameras, though, and some features may be more important to particular photographers.
If you think that I’ve left out something important, please feel free to let me know.

Please Comment!

If you have additional questions or comments, please let me know, below. I’ll do what I can to answer questions and clear up any confusion.

  1. The Wikipedia article on moire patterns is very helpful, if you’re unfamiliar with the term.
  2. Further details and measurements can be found on DigicamDB.
  3. See this DxO Mark article for further details.
  4. If you don’t know why cross-type points are so important, I recommend watching the first half of our Photography Notes video
  5. with the most recent firmware upgrade. Originally, the 7D also shot about 15 RAW frames before filling the buffer

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Gwen Hardie
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Hi Matthew- what an amazing thread to read for someone who is trying to choose between a Nikon D7100 or D5300!! I need to take raw files of my paintings on a wall….using a tripod and tungsten lights, a Circular polarizer and gels to eliminate glare. I prefer to operate manual focus so I can magnify a section in live view and get it really sharp in focus. I dont need the camera for too much other than that though I will use it sometimes to make a video of public talks. the main thing is accurate reproductions of my work.I am thinking to use a prime lens Nikkor Lens AF 50mm f/1.8D in manual mode with the D5300..I understand that I wont be able to use it in Autofocus mode, so maybe the D7100 will be better suited to the lens …would there be any compromise in image quality? Many thanks for your attention!

Peter
Guest
Peter

Hi Matthew. I am trying to decide what to get my father-in-law as a replacement for his Nikon D3100. This camera is knackered and getting near it’s properly working cycle I think. He still uses it, nearly on a daily basis (but just as an enthousiast). He has the 18-55 and the 55-200 (and a couple of old manual lenses, but I don’t think he uses them much).

Since he’s helping me remodeling my house, I want to replace the D3100 for him. I am torn between two choices:

D7100
D5300

Both will probably also get a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G (or D in case of the D7100), to get him started with a better lens.

Are both of these still good options these days? Or is there anything else you would suggest for his situation?

Thanks in advance!

Peter

RAJASHI DEKA
Guest
RAJASHI DEKA

Hi Matthew,
I have read everything and its sad that it doesn’t support high speed sync flash. If i buy Godox X1t-N trigger and Godox AD200 will it still work high speed or it will not support. I’m about to worried but confused so i want to confirm before buying.
Thanks in advance.

Sukesh
Guest
Sukesh

Hi Matthew, I own a D7100 as per your suggestion and now I am confused to buy which portrait lens to buy out of below.

50mm F/1.8G
85mm F/1.8G

I tested 50mm and I am okay with the performance.. but I heard great things about 85mm one. Could you please let me know which is best for D7100. Thanks!

Sukesh
Guest
Sukesh

Thanks in advance!

Sukesh
Guest
Sukesh

I think you suggested 85mm earlier too.. hence I wanted to know the advantages of this lens over a 50mm one

Dwayne
Guest
Dwayne

How could you not emphasize the wifi and gps capabilities of the D5300 as compared to the 7100, which has none? That’s major to a lot of us both amateur and professional.

Joao
Guest
Joao

Hi,
I have the D5300 and I want to buy the “new” af-s 200-500 nikon lens for telephoto.
Even if is technically compatible in stationary mode I want to take action pictures as wild birds or sports pictures as surf.
Do they match without problem on handheld mode only or should always use tripod to get sharp images? Or not even choose this lens…

thanks

Geo
Guest
Geo

Matt,
I happened to check into a DSLR shop this weekend and had my hands on to D7100 and D5500. But the 5500 seemed so small for my palm which was a downer for me. Right now i have two options : D7100 with a 18-105mm kit lens and D5300 with 18-55 and 70-300 kit lens. Which one out of the both would you suggest or do you have any other options to suggest for the long run? . Eagerly awaiting your reply.

Joann
Guest
Joann

Hello

I am trying to decide between the d5300 and the d7100. I take sports photography for our local high school and need to upgrade. the problematic areas are local football fields with sub par lighting and gyms for volleyball and basketball. Can you help with this decision?

Artur
Guest
Artur

Does the d5300 have that crop mode too?

Dani P
Guest
Dani P

Thanks for your article, very helpful!

Leslie
Guest
Leslie

I have decided to trade in my Sony Cybershot for a DSLR after using my sister’s Canon Rebel T5i. I have done A LOT of research and my head is still spinning quite q bit. There re so many choices! I had decided on the Nikon D5300 because it seemed that it would fit all my needs for photographing while hiking and capturing my dogs in action. After reading about the D7100, I am concerned that I may be missing out on potential aspects of moving targets while hiking (and of my dogs in action). I love photography and used to shoot and develop with an old 35mm film camera. I miss the manual input of creating my own photographs. I also have several possible side jobs that would be mostly portrait photography but some would be pets. Is there any reason the D5300 would not fit my needs? Thank you for an input.

Nitin
Guest
Nitin

Hi Matthew,
Loved your post and responses. Now would seek some advice, I am enthusiast level photographer and was almost sold on Nikon D500 but then felt that in future by it I think will be missing couple of things like
Auto focus motor – confines me to AF-S lense
AFP issue for portraits
Lens micro adjustment, if needed
1/8000 of shutter speed
Quick buttons to change settings instead of going to Menu and touchscreen all the time in 5500
Additional 1.3 crop factor could be used something for additional reach for wildlife
Capability of using center autofocus at F8

Do you agree that this miss in D5500 could held me back a little from growing into photography, I love what all rounder things they have added in new D5500 but going back D7100 looks more semi pro with more function and room to grow, would like to buy D7200 but my budget doesn’t allow that :( , please suggest would you recommend going for allround D5500 or D7100. I will persue more of wildlife and portraits. Thanks so much
Nitin

Nitin
Guest
Nitin

Sorry for typo errors in the first few lines, I ment Nikon D5500 not D500.
Thanks
Nitin

david taite
Guest
david taite

Thank you Matthew , you have made up my mind d3500 it is so , and the availability of extra lenses is a plus thank you for your speedy response

david taite
Guest
david taite

Hi I’m looking for my first camara ,this would be used for mainly for wildlife , portrait and sports photos , I’m trying to decide between the d3500 and the p900 , as my first camara and not know much about phoyography any advice would be most welcome ,

Steven
Guest
Steven

Thanks for the article Matthew I’m trying to decide between 7100 and the 5300 leaning towards 5300 until I read in your article about shooting macro. I want to take photos of plants and insects in hd would the 5300 be fine? Thanks

Branko
Guest
Branko

Hello Matthew. My interest is taking pictures for Virtual 360 Panorama/Walking for Apartment Rentals (inside and outside-around house, building etc… )
Which camera and lens do you recommend for begginner with strong will to learn and make progress?

Wally Walter
Guest
Wally Walter

Hi Mathew,

I own D5300. Am contemplating of going for Sigma 24-70 f/2.8. What are your views on its compatibility on performance? My interests are prone to landscape, portrait, street photography.

Wal

Matt Fellows
Guest
Matt Fellows

I am not so sure the D7100 and the D5300 share BID sensors. I think the D7100 is using the Toshiba (TOS) 5105 (HEZ1 die) and the D5300 is Sony Exmor IMX193. Chipworks might have better information. Sony owns the BID CMOS space right now…the light efficiency of the Sony sensors is unparalleled…currently. If you flip the mirror up and the edge of the die is blue then Sony…black then Toshiba…I think that’s the easiest way to tell visually. Nikon does not really want you to know…me thinks…but iFixit and lots of folks tear everything down to the last screw…so there’s not much way to hide any more…and still have parts be serviceable/replaceable.

My experience thus far with D5300 is great color capture…even at absurdly high ISO…