The Nikon D5100 was a solid workhorse that catered well to the photographer wanting something a little more than just an entry-level camera. Its follow-up, the D5200, continues to improve on an already-strong package by adding a few more usable features and continuing to deliver excellent images.
Design and features
In terms of design, the D5200 does not deviate too much from previous Nikon SLRs of this class, and houses all buttons and controls within easy and logical reach. The mode dial at the top of the camera gives access to full program, aperture, shutter and manual modes, while also making it easy for photography newcomers to pick up, thanks to a range of preset modes such as portrait and landscape.
Specific scene modes grab their own notch on the dial, while filters for images can be found under "Effects". All the standard options are available, such as miniature effect, selective colour, silhouette, high key and low key. There's a built-in HDR mode as well; however, it only takes two exposures and stitches them together, which doesn't really deliver the same sort of effect as a manually derived HDR photo.
A regular exposure (left) and HDR photo (right).
The D5200 comes with a 3-inch rotating 921,000-dot LCD screen that can pivot out from the side of the camera, making it useful for photographers who like to shoot from different angles. Graphics have had a bit of an overhaul, too. When shooting using the viewfinder, the screen can display exposure information with a series of three circles representing shutter speed, aperture and ISO. When adjusting the settings, the dials on-screen turn accordingly, which is a nice touch. There is no sensor that turns the screen off automatically when lifting your eye to the viewfinder, though.
Photographers who prefer to compose using Live View can easily flick this feature on and off, thanks to the dedicated switch underneath the mode dial.
Rather impressively, Nikon has equipped the camera with a 39-point AF system and nine cross-type sensors at the centre. The AF overlays in the viewfinder have also been improved and enlarged, which makes it easier to see what the camera has picked as its focus point.
As is the case with other Nikon SLRs released in 2012, video shooters will not feel left behind, with a range of features catered to movie recording. The D5200 can shoot at 1080p or 1080i, at 30/25/24fps and 60/50fps in each respective setting. A stereo microphone that sits just in front of the hotshoe will ensure in-camera audio recording is improved over the D5100, though photographers also get access to a 3.5mm microphone jack, as well.
The D5200 is compatible with two devices for remote shooting: the WR-R10 transceiver and WR-T10 transmitter. They allow functionality such as half pressing the remote button for autofocus, movie recording, continuous shooting and quiet release mode. Wireless connectivity is not built in, unfortunately, but it is accessible using the optional WU-1a wireless mobile adapter that lets photographers share photos and videos across Android or iOS devices. The D5200 supports both SDXC and UHS-I cards.
Though it won't trouble the majority of users, the D5200 does not have a built-in AF motor, meaning only AF-S lenses will autofocus on the body. This is the same as all other Nikon cameras of this class. While not a major issue, it is worth flagging for anyone who expects to be able to use old glass on the camera and have autofocus abilities.
Like several other Nikon models, the D5200 comes with a built-in intervalometer for easy access to time-lapse photography.
One interface quirk that might frustrate some photographers is the lack of a dedicated ISO button. When shooting in manual modes, to change the ISO setting you need to press the "i" button to switch through options.
|Nikon D5200||Nikon D7100||Canon EOS 650D|
|24.1-megapixel APS-C CMOS||24.1-megapixel APS-C CMOS||18-megapixel APS-C CMOS|
|3.0-inch, 921,000-dot articulating LCD screen||3.2-inch, 1229K-dot LCD screen||3.0-inch, 1040K-dot articulating touch LCD screen|
|Full HD video (1080p, 1080i, 30/25/24fps, 60/50fps)||Full HD video (1080p, 1080i, 30/25/24fps, 60/50fps)||Full HD video (1080p, 24/25/30fps)|
|39-point AF system||51-point AF system||9-point AF system|
|No wireless flash control||Wireless flash control||Wireless flash control|
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Start-up to first shot time
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- RAW shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
Canon EOS 650D
Canon EOS 60D
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Continuous shooting speed (in frames per second)
Canon EOS 60D
Canon EOS 650D
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Autofocus performance is very good on the D5200, with the camera responding well to a range of general shooting situations from fast-moving subjects to static objects. It's not lightning quick, but definitely fast enough for most photographers — and, more importantly, accurate. Low light does increase the time it takes to grab focus.
In line with the previous generations of cameras, the D5200 delivers excellent photo quality for its class. In automatic modes, colours appear vibrant, but not oversaturated.
We tested the D5200 in conjunction with the 18-105mm lens. This lens proved to be a responsive and capable companion to the camera, ensuring quick and accurate autofocus and a generous focal length range for beginner and intermediate photographers.
Though the D5200 uses an entirely new 24.1-megapixel sensor from the D5100, the way the camera renders dynamic range has not changed much at all. Exposures are even, and without too many blown highlights. While quite a lot of shadow detail can be recovered when shooting RAW, more extreme recovery measures involving several stops of compensation in post will produce a fair amount of grain.
Straight out of the camera on default settings, there is a touch of softness to JPEG images when inspecting at full magnification. The D5200 handles noise quite well, though the bump in resolution does result in a few more artefacts on images at lower resolutions, compared to the D5100.
In general, noise is well controlled up to and including ISO 1600, with ISO 3200 showing up some coloured noise at full magnification. Details do begin to look a little smeared as the sensitivity climbs higher.
The D5200 does make its JPEG images look a little more rich and vibrant than the original RAW files.
Video quality is very good. Continuous autofocus is available — Nikon calls this AF-F — though it is a little twitchy, and you can quite clearly see the lens pulling in and out of focus to lock on to a subject. For casual use, it works just fine, though, and anyone seriously looking at improving their video recordings will be choosing to shoot with manual focus anyway. You can hear the lens movements in very quiet situations when using the internal mic, but outdoor use presents no problem.
Photographers can choose to shoot video using manual exposure modes, as well as tweak audio levels of the external microphone.
Speaking of sound quality, the internal stereo microphone is very good for most purposes, though there is a fair amount of wind noise picked up outside. There is no wind-cut feature for the internal mic.
Exposure: 1/200, f/11, ISO 200
Exposure: 1/200, f/4.5, ISO 200
Exposure: 1/60, f/14, ISO 3200
Exposure: 1/50, f/11, ISO 200
The D5200 is a very good all-rounder, ideal for beginners dipping their toes into SLR photography, or for more advanced users looking for good image and video quality with a small body.