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Nikon D5200 Review

Overview and Tech Info by
Posted 11/06/2012

Shooter's Report by David Schloss
Posted

The Nikon D5200 marks the company's latest DSLR for "advanced beginners," upgrading the excellent Nikon D5100 with a brand new 24.1-megapixel CMOS image sensor and inheriting the relatively new EXPEED 3 image processor from the D3200, a slightly more affordable camera that debuted in April 2013. Meanwhile, the Nikon D5200 borrows the 2,016-pixel metering and 39-point autofocus system with 3D tracking from a more upscale model, the venerable D7000. Within Nikon's DSLR lineup, the D5200 currently sits between the entry-level D3200 and the enthusiast-oriented D7100.

As you'd expect, the D5200 retains its predecessor's useful Vari-angle 3-inch LCD display. And while it's been restyled, much of the body should be familiar to anybody who's spent much time shooting with the D5100. So should many of the remaining specifications. Although there are other updates -- such as a stereo microphone -- the new sensor, processor, metering and autofocus are the DSLR's key improvements.

Walkaround. At first glance, the Nikon D5200's front panel seems little-changed from its predecessor. The basic layout is similar, retaining a reasonable handgrip that's inset with an infrared receiver for a wireless remote control, and still nestling an AF assist lamp inside the grip adjacent to the Shutter button.

Look closer, though, and there are quite a few changes. Perhaps most notably, the sharply-defined crease lining the left side of the camera's front panel (as seen from behind) has moved inwards, creating more of a bevel around to the camera's side. Near its top, the crease runs beneath a raised area that provides a home to the D5200 logo, while at the bottom end it is covered by a rubber trim piece echoing that which covers the handgrip.

Nikon D5200 front

The red trim piece at the top of the handgrip has moved down just slightly, so that it is now entirely inset within the rubber grip surface as in other recent Nikon DSLRs, rather than simply occupying the space between rubber and plastic at the top of the grip.

Above the D5200 logo, another detail is conspicuous by its absence: the three-hole microphone grille of the D5100 is gone. The Function button on the left side of the lens mount has also lost its split personality, and no longer doubles as a Drive mode button.

Nikon D5200 top

Up top. A look at the top deck of the D5200 will answer how both of these changes were made. There's a new stereo microphone, sitting neatly in between the D5200's hot shoe and popup flash strobe. At the top of the hand grip, an extra button has joined the cluster from the D5100, and it serves as a dedicated Drive mode button.

In other respects, the top deck layout is much the same as before. The Mode dial still sits atop a lever controlling the Nikon D5200's live view mode, and the top of the handgrip is crowned with a Shutter button surrounded by a Power dial, plus dedicated Movie, Info and Exposure Compensation buttons. On the left of the viewfinder / flash hump is a five-hole speaker grille, and the D5200's shoulders are topped with recessed shoulder strap eyelets.

Nikon D5200 top

On the back. And so we come to the rear panel, dominated by that side-swiveling, Vari-angle LCD. There's still a pair of tabs at top and bottom of the screen, giving you a little purchase to pull it out from the camera body.

The changes from this angle are entirely cosmetic and ergonomic, with the control layout entirely unchanged. The protrusion adjacent to the rear grip is much taller, providing more leverage for your thumb, and so offering a more reassuring grip. (A rubber trim piece that rides most of the way up the protrusion also helps out in this regard.) The outer ring of the directional controller has also been restyled, removing the inner bevel and adding 45-degree markings between the arrows for Up, Down, Left, and Right.

Overall, the Nikon D5200 should feel welcoming to D5100 owners. The dedicated Drive button is the most significant change, and once you've become accustomed to this, you'll have the advantage of an extra dedicated control to help stave off the menu system.

 

Shooting with the Nikon D5200

by David Schloss

Nikon D5200 top

I can't get over the fact that the Nikon D5200 is geared for the "advanced beginner." Based on my experiences testing the camera in the real world, it's clear to me that with such a sophisticated feature set, budding photographers now have access to more advanced and easy-to-use shooting tools than ever before. For less than $800, you get a DSLR that can be used almost like a point-and-shoot (on steroids) in full Auto mode, but can also be tweaked and adjusted with almost as much versatility as a pro system. Indeed, when I started exploring the D5200 and its features, I was able to quickly configure it to mimic my own D3s test body in most key aspects.

Evolutionary design, inside and out. The D5200 appears to be a nearly identical twin -- at least physically -- to the D5100. However, Nikon has given the camera a significant upgrade internally, where it counts most, while making small tweaks to the exterior to accommodate additional features. At the core of the D5200 is a brand new 24.1-megapixel, DX-sized (a 1.5x crop factor) CMOS sensor that was designed to perform better at higher ISOs than the similarly sized sensor in the entry-level Nikon D3200 DSLR. (Standard ISO runs from 100 to 6400 but the camera has expanded shooting up to ISO 25,600.) The D5200 also upgrades its AF to a wide-area system with 39 points of focusing and 9 cross-type sensors, and supports 3D subject tracking.

Meanwhile, to accommodate the greater demand for HD video -- which the camera captures at Full 1080p -- Nikon has added a stereo mic to the top of the chassis. And the back of the camera houses an articulated 921,000-dot, 3-inch TFT LCD screen that provides a 170-degree viewing angle.

The resulting package is both relatively compact and definitely powerful, and I found the D5200 functions with the performance and quality expected from a mid-level Nikon DSLR, albeit with advanced features not normally associated with an $800 price point.

Controls and operation. Anyone familiar with a Nikon DSLR should be able to pick up the Nikon D5200 and start shooting with it immediately, although professionals and enthusiasts used to systems with an array of dedicated settings buttons will need to adjust to the D5200's menu-based system.

Shooting menus. The D5200 presents a lot of information on the back LCD, but it's sometimes tedious to dig through menus to change settings.

That, generally speaking, is the basis for my one major criticism of the D5200. The D5200 not only lacks a touchscreen display, but also doesn't efficiently use its rear Control Pad. That makes changing settings more complicated than it has to be, often requiring you to dive fairly deep into the menu system to get the right setting.

When bringing up the rear display during shooting, the camera shows all current settings on the top part of the LCD display -- with a scrollable menu below that dives into each setting's options. In theory it should be easy to quickly change the WB or ISO via the menu, but instead there are always several steps needed to get to the desired selection. For example, changing the White Balance is accomplished by first pressing the Info button above the display, next to the AE-L/AF-L button, and then using the Control Pad to move through selections to get to White Balance. Then the shooter presses OK, and then again uses the control pad to move over to the desired setting and then presses OK again to select the White Balance.

If the camera screen goes to sleep before a selection is made, the menu defaults back to the main display. In other words, if I navigate down to WB and put the camera down for a few seconds before making and confirming a choice I'm thrown back to the main display, at which point I have to navigate back to WB and start again. That, of course, is quite a frustrating experience. (Editor's note: The short default menu timeout appears to be a bug. The D5200 has selectable timeout values for Playback/menus, Image review, Live view and Standby. The default "Normal" timeout for menus should be about one minute, not a few seconds. The good news is that you can select "Long" to extend menu timeouts to about one minute.)

By contrast, I've found that systems with a touchscreen LCD display usually allow the shooter to simply touch WB and then pick a WB setting. Cameras that use the Control Pad more efficiently would simply use the left and right buttons to move to a setting and then the up and down buttons to toggle between settings, with no confirmation necessary to make a change.

The result is that many competing cameras in this class often have a more direct approach to changing settings. This is something that could easily be addressed in firmware, so I'm hoping that eventually Nikon streamlines this process.

Nikon did add a button on the top deck to jump between shutter drive modes, and the front programmable Function button can be assigned to more than a dozen shooting parameters including WB or ISO. The AE-L/AF-L buttons can also be assigned to various exposure and focus lock settings, and within a few seconds of picking up the D5200, I had programmed it to function in AF-C with the AE-L/AF-L button set to activate the autofocus -- a customization tweak I picked up after years of shooting sports. All this means that I could seamlessly move between my D3s and the D5200 when testing the camera and expect to find functions in a similar position.

Features. The Nikon D5200 inherits a lot of features from its predecessor. For example, the camera has a built-in Intervalometer (a timer to take photos at specific intervals, usually used for time-lapse shots). It also doesn't have Depth of Field Preview. Some nice touches on the D5200 have to do with attention to detail and user interaction. For the wireless shooter there are both front and rear infrared receivers for the wireless IR shutter release, something you don't really realize is important until you're trying to trigger a time lapse photo from behind the camera.

Intervalometer. A feature that's great for time-lapse or even manual HDR photography.

The camera's Quiet Shutter mode purportedly dampens the noise made by the D5200 when it's capturing images. However, in my tests it was nearly every bit as loud as the normal shutter release -- though it takes longer for the procession of noises to occur. It delays lowering of the mirror until the shutter button is released, separating the noise of this operation from that of the mirror being raised and the shutter fired. This allows you to decide when the mirror return click occurs. This mode also silences the autofocus confirmation beep, though that can be disabled separately.

Owning to the advanced beginner focus, the camera features the various popular Scene modes on the top mounted dial where they're easy to find and use. Putting the camera in Scene provides access to a dozen more pre-programmed shooting modes. The camera's fully Auto mode allows the D5200 to make up its own mind as to what shooting modes to use for a given situation or shot, and it's where many beginners will likely start.

The Nikon D5200 also features a series of Special Effects settings, which performs in-camera processing much like a mini Photoshop. Many cameras have these settings buried in menus, but Nikon put them on the top dial for the D5200. There are just seven effects, including High Key and Low Key (which really aren't effects), and they're not terribly impressive (see the table below). With a dedicated space on the Mode dial, I'd have hoped for a greater range of creative expression. However, you can access the Retouch menu to alter photographs already taken and stored in camera on the memory card. Options range from Photoshop-like tools such as Trim (cropping), Distortion Control (nice!) and Color balance to more Instagram-esque filters such as Monochrome, Miniature effect and Selective color, among others.

The D5200 sports a built-in pop-up flash as is common on DSLRs in this category, which is welcome. Personally I think all DSLR cameras should have a pop-up flash, and for many years I carried a D700 in my bag as my backup body mostly because it had an integrated flash. The light from these small strobes is often just enough to provide great fill, radically changing the exposure of a scene.

The flash on the Nikon D5200 activates with the press of a side-mounted button, and that button doubles as a flash exposure compensation dial as well, which is a nice touch. (For fill, it's best to set the flash exposure a bit lower than full-power, and having an external button to set the flash power helps dial this in.)

Unfortunately, the built-in flash still cannot control the Nikon Wireless Speedlight system. However, you can purchase the optional SU-800 Commander unit (not a flash itself) or any one of a number of Wireless Speedlight flashes (SB-910, SB-900, SB-800 or SB-700) if you want to take advantage of Nikon's powerful and easy-to-use off-camera flash system. It's yet another way the D5200 opens up a world of sophisticated photographic capabilities to advanced beginners.

The optical viewfinder on the Nikon D5200 feels tiny and cramped, something that's the case with many DSLR bodies looking for a small form factor. However, the OVF did provide about 96% viewing coverage in IR's test, which is a bit better than most DSLRs in its class.

LCD and Live View. The Nikon D5200 boasts an articulating LCD screen that can be pivoted to just about any angle, and can be folded flat against the camera with the screen against the body and a protective plastic back facing out. This is actually a fantastic argument for articulating LCD screens as it can prevent the bumps and scratches that come with life in and out of a camera bag.

Nikon D5200 back

The screen is incredibly bright and vibrant, and is visible in just about any light condition and angle. For the "selfie" photographer the screen can be rotated so that the subject can see themselves in the display -- something my 2-year old son likes quite a bit. (Of course since he's 2, I have a lot of photos with him looking just off camera at the LCD display.)

Nikon D5200 back
The small size of the D5200 makes it convenient to carry around with you, and the articulated LCD makes it easy to get shots in difficult locations or angles -- or to occupy your child's attention while you're trying to take his picture!

As I mentioned earlier, the lack of a touchscreen interface makes the LCD screen less useful than some competing cameras in this class. I'd personally love to see this added in a future revision -- though I realize that plenty of photographers think touchscreens are overkill, at best.

Please note that while the D5200 can focus in Live View (something not possible with first generation LiveView cameras), the focus and operation isn't as fast as when using the viewfinder, naturally.

One unfortunate flaw we found with the Nikon D5200's Live View was that using magnified view for manual focusing isn't very accurate. The IR Lab had to reshoot its Still Life test shots because the first batch turned out just slightly out of focus, even though they looked sharp in magnified Live View.

Nikon Wireless Transmitter. The D5200 works with the WR-R10 and WR-T10 transmitters and receivers for camera triggering and remote operation. Unlike Nikon's Wireless Speedlight system, the WR series uses radio frequency to control camera operations much like third-party systems such as PocketWizard.

That's great for such an inexpensive camera because it allows for a level of remote operation not available with infrared-based remote controls. It also means that the mid-level D5200 could be used as a remote camera by pros using the WR-R10 and WR-T10 trigger systems with more expensive cameras and not worry so much about the cost of damage to equipment if something goes wrong.

Nikon D5200 back
With the right lens, the Nikon D5200 can capture portraits that demonstrate a nice, shallow depth of field. (An AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G at f/1.4 was used here.)

User interface and menu system. Nikon has always had a good user interface, and the D5200's is no exception; its UI is clean, logically laid out and doesn't get in the way of shooting. During normal camera operation the rear panel LCD screen displays current camera settings such as shutter speed, aperture, ISO, focus area and more. There are several themes available to control the display of the information, my favorite being an analog-style dial. It is a bright and beautiful display.

D5200 settings display. Current exposure settings are displayed prominently on top so you can check them at a glance, while the bottom section shows the status of fine-control settings.

Below the camera status displays are controls for every conceivable camera function. I addressed some of the challenges with the D5200's rear-panel LCD screen's functionality above, but to again summarize here -- to change a camera setting that's not assigned to a button, it's necessary to press the Info button on the rear of the camera, then navigate to the desired function with the control pad. Once on the correct function (white balance, ISO, etc.) the user has to press the OK button to enter the settings for that function, use the control pad to make the selection and then press the OK button again. That's a lot of button presses just to change the ISO.

Separate from the control settings is the camera's Menu, which looks similar to the Menus from every other Nikon camera, making it easy to transition to or from any other Nikon camera with relative ease. Many amateurs will likely avoid the Custom Settings Menu, but will likely need a trip to the menus nonetheless.

Help system. Though it's not extensive enough for our tastes, the help system quickly displays short descriptions for a variety of modes and settings that should help beginners somewhat.

Nikon has included its Help system on the D5200, and a button on the rear of the camera (also used to zoom out of images) brings up an on-screen description of a setting's function when pressed. (Not all functions and features have help; a question mark is illuminated on the display when help is available.) I found that, too often, the help isn't extensive enough. For example, the entire description available for D-Lighting is "Bring out details in poorly-lit subjects." I'm not sure that's enough to really assist a photographer looking to use this dynamic-range boosting feature.

The Nikon D5200 also will let photographers know why a photograph isn't likely to come out properly by flashing the settings and displaying help text such as "Subject is too dark" and pressing the help button brings up a bit more info such as "Subject too dark; Cannot adjust exposure. Use the flash."

Nikon also included a Recent Settings menu on the D5200 where any recent changes to the setup of the camera can be found. This is very helpful when you want to jump back to something you've done (focus mode for example) and change it back without digging through menus.

If you prefer to select which settings appear in a custom menu, you can opt for the "My Menu" feature, which lets you choose up to 20 options from the the Playback, Shooting, Custom Settings and Setup menus. Unfortunately it's not immediately clear how to activate the My Menu feature since it's hidden beneath the Recent Settings tab. You have to select Choose Tab and then select My Menu to place it on the top navigation bar on the left.

And finally, the Custom Settings menus are color coded so that related functions (control, exposure, flash) are grouped together and easy to find.

Nikon D5200 back
Overall, the Nikon D5200 produces very good color saturation and decent hue accuracy.

Nikon has placed a Live View switch on the top deck of the D5200 -- pulling back on the spring-loaded switch toggles Live View on and off. There's also a dedicated Movie Record button on the top of the camera to toggle video recording. For shooters who used earlier Nikon cameras where video recording required several button presses, this is a welcome improvement. Personally I wish the record button did dual duty, with a first press turning on Live View in video mode and a second press activating recording. Why? Because I often find that a moment suitable for video is fleeting, and toggling a switch and then pushing a button left me missing the start of a few moments I wanted to record.

Performance. Speaking of recording: One quick note about Live View -- in my testing I found that when used with an inexpensive (read "slow") SD card, the D5200 would produce an error message when trying to switch to Live View while the buffer was full of images. A super-fast SD card reduced this, but it's still not possible to jump to Live View while the D5200 has a buffer full of images. With a generic SD card it could take upwards of 10 seconds after the last photo in a burst before the Live View mode could be activated. With a high-end card only, this took only one or two seconds.

Since viewfinder use and storage card speed aren't directly connected, it appears the Nikon D5200 doesn't have enough processing power to churn through images and also perform live focusing and exposure calculations. That's not an issue -- the D5200 isn't designed to be a pro level camera, but it does point out how storage cards can be an integral part in the performance of a camera.

Just how fast is the Nikon D5200? Find out by clicking here to see our full battery
of rigorous, objective speed and operation tests conducted in the IR Lab.

Generally speaking, the Nikon D5200 is fairly peppy. Some modes are faster -- and some slower -- than other DSLRs in its class. When shooting JPEG-only Normal mode it's possible to just keep taking pictures continually (I got tired of holding down the button around 100 frames) at about 2 frames per second, but the camera also features a burst mode that lets you shoot about 5 frames per second in JPEG, RAW and RAW+JPEG. Shooting RAW-only (with a fast card) the camera can capture a burst of up to seven images and then, beyond that limit, continues to capture photos at about 2.3 fps. With RAW+Fine, this dropped to a burst of five shots and then it slowed to about 1.5 fps. Since most photographers using the D5200 will likely shoot JPEG, that's a great level of performance.

In terms of autofocus speed, I found the camera's 39-point AF system to be only average for its class. The D5200's AF proved to be reasonably responsive and accurate, though it struggled a bit to lock onto focus in low lighting situations.

Nikon D5200 front
Images shot with the kit lens were fairly sharp, particularly in the center. There's some distortion wider than 35mm, but it's not extreme and it's easily fixable in post-processing.

Image quality and the kit lens. When I write camera reviews I don't always comment on the kit lens, but in this case I feel there are a few important things to keep in mind with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR NIKKOR Zoom lens. The first is that many users of the D5200 are likely to want a faster, brighter optic than the f/3.5 to f/5.6 maximum apertures the kit lens is limited to -- because the camera really is so good. For a photographer on the upper end of the amateur scale but trying to save some money, it might be better to buy the body and then get a lens with a larger max aperture.

How well did the Nikon 18-55mm kit lens perform in the lab?
Find out by clicking here to see our optical test results.

But that's not to say the kit lens is awful. The images I captured with it were bright and clean (if a little soft), and didn't suffer from much visible distortion. Since it comes at just a $100 premium over the D5200 body, it's not a bad investment since the lens itself costs $200 when purchased separately. However, I do feel most shooters will quickly outgrow the 18-55mm and want a more long-range zoom for everyday use, plus a few primes to captures portraits and landscapes, as well as a longer telephoto zoom.

Nikon D5200 front
The D5200 captures images with good dynamic range and lots of subtle detail, thanks to its impressive 24.1-megapixel DX-format (APS-C) sensor and EXPEED 3 processor.

As for overall image quality, consider me quite impressed with the Nikon D5200. When I asked some friends and colleagues to pick which images were taken with my Nikon D3s or the D5200, they had a difficult time differentiating the two. (I did not shoot wide open on my D3s to avoid identification based on lens blur). Both cameras produce vivid and accurate images, and I would have expected nothing less from a Nikon DSLR.

Nikon D5200 front
The D5200 was able to deliver delicious-looking images, even in questionable lighting situations, though the AF struggled at times to lock onto focus.

As far as sensitivity versus noise goes, I found that images taken up to around ISO 6400 from the D5200 were quite acceptable for my tastes, a fact that emphasizes how far entry-level DSLR cameras have come. And even up to extended range ISO 12,800, the camera's images were usable at small sizes, including 4 x 6 prints.

You can view the IR Lab's in-depth Nikon D5200 image quality test results by clicking here,
or read further on for side-by-side comparisons against the D5200's top competitors.

Video. I didn't spend too much time recording movies with the Nikon D5200, but I did find that it produces quite good looking HD video (1080p30) for most consumer purposes. Additionally, the camera packs in some video features I wouldn't normally expect at this price point. In addition to the stereo microphone built into the pentamirror housing, the camera also features an external microphone jack, something that should really be on any camera capable of recording Full HD video. Nikon has also included Mic Sensitivity controls and a Flicker Reduction feature for shooting under sodium or fluorescent lights. Of note, there's a 4GB limit per video clip, but that won't be an issue for most users.

Summary. Overall, Nikon delivers what it promised with the D5200 -- a DSLR that's suitable for beginners and capable of producing beautiful, detailed images with very little effort. But at the same time it provides them with enough features and shooting modes to grow into, and rewards those willing to take the effort to push the camera's photographic limits.

 

Nikon D5200 Additional Shooting Modes and Video

by William Brawley

To demonstrate more of what the Nikon D5200 has to offer, we shot additional images using a variety of the camera's built-in creative effects and recorded a Full HD 1080p movie to illustrate its video chops.

Effects: The D5200 features both an Effects mode and various exposure modification settings for enhanced creative looks. The Effects mode offers a variety of filter effects, some of which are shown in the first table below, that can really alter your photos to fit your creative style. Not pictured is a special night mode effect called "Night Vision" for use in night or dark scenes. The Effects modes keep most exposure settings on automatic, but users have the option of adjusting ISO. For the Selective Color effect, users must choose the color(s) they wish to filter out before taking a photo.

Nikon D5200 Effects filter modes
Color Sketch
Miniature Effect
Selective Color
Silhouette
High Key
Low Key
The D5200's Effects mode offers a fairly limited range of creative effects that provide an opportunity to expand your creative vision.

It should be noted that RAW capture is not supported for most Effects modes as well as HDR mode. If RAW or RAW+JPEG mode is selected, Night Vision, Color Sketch, Miniature Effect and Selective Color modes will only capture JPEG images, and the HDR option is disabled. Active D-Lighting is still available in RAW mode, however depending on the post-processing software you use, the effect of the ADL processing might be ignored. To ensure that RAW images with Active D-Lighting are processed properly, we recommend you use Nikon's included ViewNX 2 software, or the more advanced but optional Capture NX 2 package.

Nikon D5200 HDR Effect
Off
Auto
Low
Norm
High
Extra High
The D5200's HDR Mode appears to have little effect on this scene, unless you use High or Extra High mode. Even then, there appears to be little resulting boost to shadow details as one would expect in an HDR photo. The only difference is that in the higher-strength HDR modes, the highlight levels are lowered, and with the Extra High mode, the highlights in the sky are reduced to the point of producing an artificial-looking halo-effect around the trees. Scenes with greater tonal range would likely fare better.

Nikon D5200 Active D-Lighting
Off
Auto
Low
Normal
High
Extra High
The D5200's Active D-Lighting Mode is designed to help balance the shadow and highlights in high-contrast scenes. Compared to the "Off" photo, the "Extra High" photo's contrast is noticeably reduced. Again, scenes with greater tonal range would likely show more dramatic improvement.

Scene modes are similar to what's available on many other digital cameras, and includes standard presets such as a Landscape, Portrait, Night and Macro modes. The D5200 also features other Scene modes such as Pet Portrait to capture images of active pets or other moving objects, Candlelight for warm-toned scenes shot by candlelight and Blossom for fields of flowers or trees in bloom.

Continuous AF Sample Video
1,920 x 1,080, H.264, Progressive, 30 fps, High
Download Original (45MB MOV)

Video: The D5200 provides a fairly robust set of video recording capabilities including full-time autofocus, support for Aperture-priority and Manual exposure modes, built-in stereo mics and an external mic jack. There's also a wide selection of resolutions and frame rates. 1,920 x 1,080 resolution can be captured at 60i, 50i, 30p, 25p, or 24p, and 1280 x 720 can be 60p or 50p. A VGA mode at 30p or 25p is also offered.

I took the D5200 out by a local pond to shoot a few short videos, particularly to see how the full-time AF behaved. While the AF worked, I felt it was a bit slow to lock focus, and racking from near to far subjects took longer than I expected. Also, I could hear the AF motor working quite loudly while autofocusing. Not surprisingly, this noise was picked up in the recordings by the built-in mics. This could vary depending on the lens you use, but when using the included 18-55mm kit lens, it was definitely noticeable.

Despite a few limitations, the D5200 captures great movies at Full HD 1080p30, and marks a noticeable step up from its predecessor's capabilities.

See our detailed Nikon D5200 video analysis page, with insight on how the camera handles a variety of recording situations, ranging from night-time shooting to rolling shutter tests.

 

Nikon D5200 Technical Info

by Mike Tomkins

Sensor. The Nikon D5200 digital SLR is based around a newly-developed APS-C sized CMOS image sensor. (That's DX-format in Nikon parlance.) Effective resolution is 24.1 megapixels, similar -- but not identical -- to that of the chip used in the D3200.

Processor. Output from the new image sensor is handled by Nikon's proprietary EXPEED 3 image processor, also seen previously in the D3200. In the Nikon D5200, this combination provides five frames-per-second burst shooting. That's one frame more each second than either the D5100 or D3200 can provide.

Sensitivity. Despite the increased resolution, the D5200's sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to 6400 equivalents, and the upper end of the range is expandable to ISO 25,600 equivalent. That's exactly the same range offered by the earlier camera.

Lens Mount. Like its predecessor, the Nikon D5200 accepts Nikon F-mount lenses, but its AF-S lens mount lacks the in-body screw-drive motor needed to provide autofocus on older Nikkor lenses that lack the AF-S or AF-I designation. (You can still use older lenses; you'll just have to focus manually. Some lens types will also have a few limitations with regard to availability of individual focus, metering, and exposure modes.)

Viewfinder. You have two ways of framing images on the Nikon D5200. Of course, there's a pentamirror viewfinder with a built-in diopter adjustment; alternatively you can frame on the LCD panel in live view mode.

LCD. The panel looks to be unchanged from that in the D5100, with the same three-inch diagonal and 921,000 dot resolution. (That equates to roughly a VGA array of 640 x 480 pixels, with each pixel comprised of separate red, green, and blue dots.)

The LCD's articulation mechanism -- branded by Nikon as Vari-angle -- is also unchanged. The side-mounted swivel allows viewing from most angles, and you can close it with the LCD facing inwards for a modicum of extra protection from bumps and knocks.

Autofocus. The Nikon D5200 inherits its 39-point, wide-area Multi-CAM 4800DX phase detection autofocus system from the enthusiast-friendly Nikon D7000 digital SLR. Nine autofocus points feature cross-type sensors, which are sensitive to both horizontal and vertical detail. Seven of these points at the center of the frame work all the way down to f/8, allowing use with teleconverters and longer lenses. When using live view mode, full-time contrast detection autofocus is used for both still and video imaging. By way of contrast, the D5100 had just 11 autofocus points, of which there was only one cross-type point.

Exposure Modes. Exposure modes are unchanged since the Nikon D5100. You have a choice of Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, and Manual exposure modes in which experienced shooters will spend much of their time, plus consumer-friendly Auto and Scene modes. There's also a Flash Off Auto mode, an Effects mode, a Scene position, and five Scene modes that merit their own separate Mode dial positions. The Nikon D5200's Effects-mode options are the same as those offered by the D5100: Selective Color, Miniature, High and Low Key, Silhouette, Color Sketch and Night Vision.

Drive Modes. Beneath the Mode dial is the Live View lever, while to its right is the new Drive mode button, used to select between single frame, burst shooting (5fps or 3fps), self timer, remote control modes (delayed or quick) and Quiet shutter release mode. There's also an Interval Timer mode as well as Multiple Exposure support.

Metering. The Nikon D5200 also inherits the D7000's 3D color matrix metering II exposure metering system, which is based around a dedicated 2,016 pixel RGB sensor. The system has a working range of 0 to 20 EV, and it ties into Nikon's Scene Recognition System. This compares the metered scene to a built-in database of over 30,000 different images, and uses this information while determining suitable settings for exposure, autofocus, and white balance. The D5100 had the same system, but it had to make do with much coarser-grained information from a 420 pixel metering sensor. For every one metering pixel on the D5100, there are almost five pixels on the D5200's metering sensor.

Flash. Like its predecessor, the D5200 includes both a pop-up flash, and a hot shoe for external strobes. The D5200 supports Nikon's Creative Lighting System, but unlike higher models the built-in flash does not support commander mode. You'll have to use a mounted SB-910, SB-900, SB-800 or SB-700 flash, or an SU-800 Speedlight commander for that.

Movie mode. The Nikon D5200 also retains Full HD (1080p) high-def video capture, with full-time tracking autofocus, but with a couple of important changes. It's now possible to record interlaced video at up to 60i / 50i frame rates, as well as match the progressive-scan 30p maximum of the D5100. Importantly, this comes from a matching sensor data rate, unlike some cameras that merely span a single sensor data frame across two interlaced frames. That should translate to smoother videos with a better perception of motion. Also, where the D5100 had a monaural microphone on the front deck, the newer model has a stereo mic on its top deck, snuggled in between the popup flash strobe and hot shoe.

Connectivity. The Nikon D5200 can be connected to a computer or printer using a USB (2.0 High Speed) cable with a Mini-B plug connection on the camera side. This is a combined USB/AV port used for both data transfer and standard-def composite video/stereo audio output. There's also a Mini HDMI (Type C) port for high-def output with CEC support.

The D5200 includes an accessory terminal for use with an MC-DC2 cable remote, WR-R10 wireless remote transceiver, or GP-1 GPS unit (all available separately). A 3.5mm stereo microphone jack for attaching external microphones for video recording is also provided.

WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter. Control and share photos online wirelessly with your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet.

Other connectivity features not shown here are the dedicated hot shoe for attaching a Nikon Speedlight (or third-party) accessory flash unit, and the dual infrared receiver ports (front and back) for use with an optional ML-L3 IR remote control. The WR-R10 transceiver / WR-T10 transmitter allow remote control of multiple cameras at one time on one of three different radio channels.

The D5200 does not feature built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, but the optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter allows Wi-Fi remote control of the camera (including a low-res live view stream) from Android and iOS devices.

Power. The Nikon D5200 is powered by a rechargeable 7.4v 1030mAh Lithium-ion battery pack (EN-EL14) and comes with a dedicated charger (MH-24 Quick Charger). The battery is CIPA-rated for 500 shots on a single charge. An optional AC adapter kit (EH-5b AC Adapter) is available separately, but requires an additional EP-5A Power Connector.

Storage. The camera uses SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards, and both UHS-1 and Eye-Fi cards are supported. Still images can be recorded and stored as JPEG, 14-bit RAW (.NEF) and RAW+JPEG files. Videos are recorded and stored as H.264/MPEG-4 AVC MOV files.

 

Nikon D5200 Image Quality Comparisons

The crops below compare the Nikon D5200 to the Nikon D5100, Canon T5i, Nikon D7100, Pentax K-30 and Sony A58.

Note that these images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction. Each camera was shot with one of our very sharp reference prime lenses.

Nikon D5200 versus Nikon D5100 at Base ISO

Nikon D5200 at ISO 100
Nikon D5100 at ISO 100

The D5200 compares closely against its 16-megapixel predecessor. Other than the increased resolution of the D5200, image detail is similar in the first two crops. However the D5200 does better with the fabric swatches, and noticeably so on the pink fabric.


Nikon D5200 versus Canon T5i at Base ISO

Nikon D5200 at ISO 100

Canon T5i at ISO 100

The Nikon matches closely with the Canon in the first two images, but does better with the red fabric swatch in fine detail. Even at a lower resolution, the 18-megapixel T5i resolves fine detail slightly better in the mosaic image. And other than slight color tone differences, the detail in the pink fabric swatch is fairly close between the two.


Nikon D5200 versus Nikon D7100 at Base ISO

Nikon D5200 at ISO 100
Nikon D7100 at ISO 100

We've included the D7100 in our comparison for those of you wondering if its image quality is noticeably better. With both cameras housing a similar (if not identical) 24-megapixel DX sensor, it's no surprise that their images are so close in quality. All three image crops are nearly identical, although the D7100 appears to capture a bit more detail across the board, likely thanks to its lack of a low pass filter.


Nikon D5200 versus Pentax K-30 at Base ISO

Nikon D5200 at ISO 100
Pentax K-30 at ISO 100

In all areas but the pink fabric swatch (with which Pentax cameras seem to have saturation and hue issues), the 16-megapixel Pentax bests the Nikon. The K-30's higher default sharpening and contrast produce much crisper detail in the mosaic and a more natural (if a bit soft) rendering of the red fabric swatch.


Nikon D5200 versus Sony A58 at Base ISO

Nikon D5200 at ISO 100
Sony A58 at ISO 100

The 20-megapixel Sony A58 does really well here against the D5200, and it actually appears to beat the Nikon in all crops, most noticeably in the mosaic. However the D5200 yields a touch more detail in the red fabric swatch, although the A58 does significantly better at resolving fine detail in the pink fabric swatch.


 

Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent ISO 100 shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1600, 3200, and 6400. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

Nikon D5200 versus Nikon D5100 at ISO 1600

Nikon D5200 at ISO 1600
Nikon D5100 at ISO 1600

Detail-wise all images look fairly similar between these two cameras, other than the obvious difference in resolution.


Nikon D5200 versus Canon T5i at ISO 1600

Nikon D5200 at ISO 1600

Canon T5i at ISO 1600

There's not an easy winner in this comparison. There is more fine-grained noise in the bottle crop from the D5200, and the T5i does better with fine details in the mosaic crop. In the fabric swatch, the Nikon does much better with the red fabric, while the Canon produces a slightly better pattern in the pink fabric. Call it a toss up.


Nikon D5200 versus Nikon D7100 at ISO 1600

Nikon D5200 at ISO 1600
Nikon D7100 at ISO 1600

Much like the previous comparison at base ISO, the images are very close. However, the D7100 (with no low pass filter) exhibits just a bit more fine detail and better noise-versus-detail optimization.


Nikon D5200 versus Pentax K-30 at ISO 1600

Nikon D5200 at ISO 1600
Pentax K-30 at ISO 1600

Here, the Nikon does much better with the fabric, while the Pentax does better with the mosaic in terms of fine detail. Interestingly, the Pentax produces crisper text in the bottle image compared to the Nikon, while the shadows and bottle surface suffer from what appears to be heavy noise reduction.


Nikon D5200 versus Sony A58 at ISO 1600

Nikon D5200 at ISO 1600
Sony A58 at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, the Sony fares favorably compared to the Nikon, handling noise well in the first comparison while still producing sharp text on the bottle's label. The mosaic crop is also much more detailed from the Sony camera, as is the pink fabric, whereas the Nikon does better with detail in the red fabric area.



Today's ISO 3200 is yesterday's ISO 1600 (well, almost), so below are the same crops at ISO 3200.

Nikon D5200 versus Nikon D5100 at ISO 3200

Nikon D5200 at ISO 3200
Nikon D5100 at ISO 3200

At ISO 3200, both Nikons here look very similar, particularly in the first two comparisons. The D5100, however, appears to produce a more realistic leaf pattern in the red fabric swatch.


Nikon D5200 versus Canon T5i at ISO 3200

Nikon D5200 at ISO 3200

Canon T5i at ISO 3200

The Nikon easily wins in the red fabric area compared to the Canon, however both cameras look similar in terms of noise and detail in the first two comparisons.


Nikon D5200 versus Nikon D7100 at ISO 3200

Nikon D5200 at ISO 3200
Nikon D7100 at ISO 3200

Here at ISO 3200, again, both cameras produce similar results, with the D7100 getting the slight nod in terms of fine detail and how it handles noise.


Nikon D5200 versus Pentax K-30 at ISO 3200

Nikon D5200 at ISO 3200
Pentax K-30 at ISO 3200
This is a strange comparison. The Pentax produces crisper text on the bottle's label compared to the Nikon, but the rest of the crop has a heavy amount of noise reduction. The mosaic image looks much better from the Pentax, but at the same time the K-30 struggles to produce any kind of leaf pattern in the red fabric swatch.

Nikon D5200 versus Sony A58 at ISO 3200

Nikon D5200 at ISO 3200
Sony A58 at ISO 3200

The Sony does better in producing finer details in the mosaic crop and sharper text on the label in the first image, while the Nikon handles the red fabric swatch much better.



Detail: Nikon D5200 vs. Nikon D5100, Canon T5i, Pentax K-30, Nikon D7100 and Sony A58

 
 
 
  Nikon D5200
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon D5100
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon T5i
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon D7100
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Pentax K-30
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony A58
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. At ISO 100, all cameras do pretty well, with the Pentax being the standout winner. Compared to its predecessor, the D5200 does much better in terms of fine detail. As ISO increases, the overall sharpness decreases, but the D5200 does reasonably well. At both ISO 3200 and 6400, the Pentax K-30 and the Sony A58 cameras appear to do better than the D5200, producing sharper detail in the lettering (although the Pentax does have some issues with the small red lettering). Compared against the higher-priced yet similarly sensored D7100, these two camera produce images that are very close in terms of detail and noise handling, with the D7100 getting the slight nod likely because it lacks a low pass filter.

 

Nikon D5200 Print Quality Analysis

Very nice 30 x 40 inch prints at ISO 100; makes a good 16 x 20 inch print at ISO 800 and a usable 4 x 6 at ISO 12,800.

ISO 100 images are very detailed with bright, accurate colors up to 30 x 40 inches. 36 x 48 inch prints are quite suitable for wall display.

ISO 200 prints are very similar to ISO 100, but just a bit lower in fine detail and showing a minor amount of noise, thus making great prints at 24 x 36 inches. 30 x 40 inch prints here are great for wall display.

ISO 400 images start to show some noise in the shadows. Prints look great up to 20 x 30 inches, while 24 x 36 inch prints are suitable for wall display.

ISO 800 images look good at 16 x 20 inches. There is some noise, but you only really see it in the shadow areas, and even then, the grain is reminiscent of film grain and not present over the entire image.

ISO 1600 makes a pretty good 11 x 14 inch print. At 13 x 19, the image is a little too soft in finely detailed areas. Noise levels in the the highlights and midrange areas are excellent, but it's quite noticeable in the shadows (although still appearing more like film grain). If the image was of a brightly-lit scene, noise would be virtually unnoticeable.

ISO 3200 prints start to show a fair amount of noise, but it still produces a nice 8 x 10 inch print. As before, shadow noise is apparent, but otherwise the image looks great.

ISO 6400 makes a decent 5 x 7, but noise and a reduction in fine detail is taking its toll on the image quality, preventing us from calling anything larger acceptable.

ISO 12,800 images are fairly heavy on noise at larger sizes, but can still produce a decent 4 x 6 inch print. Colors still look good, but fine detail, such as in the red fabric and mosaic area, is almost nonexistent.

ISO 25,600 does not produce good prints at 4 x 6, and is best avoided if possible.

The Nikon D5200's 24-megapixel APS-C sensor produces excellent results for very large prints at low ISO levels. Additionally, this camera is capable of images that retain fantastic color and fine details even as the ISO rises. In fact, this was a somewhat difficult camera to grade because its results in some areas exceeded expectations. At the higher ISO levels between 1600 and 12,800, we were on the fence many times for which way to go in calling an acceptable size. The D5200 retained a great amount of fine detail at high ISOs, but we saw noticeable noise in the shadow areas. Even still, the noise on these high ISO prints reminded us of film grain, and users might like the way noise looks on higher ISO prints for certain purposes. Overall, this DSLR packs a ton of pixels in a consumer-grade camera and produces stellar low-ISO prints at very large sizes, while still doing a fantastic job with prints at higher ISO levels.

 

In the Box

The Nikon D3200 ships with the following items in the box:

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Nikon D5200 Conclusion

Pros: Cons:
  • 24.1-megapixel CMOS sensor delivers high resolution images and generally great image quality
  • Comfortably familiar body design that features some welcome refinements
  • Excellent high-ISO performance for its class
  • Excellent dynamic range
  • Standard ISO from 100 to 6400, with extended range up to 25,600
  • Generally good UI and menu system
  • Recent Settings function allows you to quickly recreate exposure settings from previous shots
  • Sophisticated 39-point, wide-area AF system with 9 cross-type sensors
  • Decent burst speed for its class, with deep JPEG buffer
  • Fast buffer clearing
  • Automatic chromatic aberration suppression
  • In-camera retouching, ranging from cropping to distortion control to various filter effects
  • Intervalometer allows for interval shooting
  • Full HD 1080p video capture at up to 30p or 60i with full-time tracking autofocus and a built-in stereo microphone
  • Bright 3-inch, Vari-angle LCD monitor
  • Built-in pop-up flash
  • External mic jack
  • Wireless image sharing via the optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter
  • In all, a ton of advanced photographic capabilities for a beginner to grow into, offered at a competitive price
  • Slightly slower than average autofocus speeds
  • Low-light AF performance not as good as some competing models
  • Changing some basic settings takes more time and effort than it should
  • Optical viewfinder is tiny and cramped
  • Special Effects (accessible from Mode dial) are limited (just seven), and the 2-shot HDR mode leaves something to be desired
  • Magnified Live View not accurate when manually focusing
  • Built-in flash cannot control Nikon Wireless Speedlight flash system (though optional Nikon flash units can)
  • Mediocre kit lens
  • Yellow cast in deep shadows
  • Severely underexposed our "Sunlit" Portrait lab series
  • Auto and Incandescent white balance too warm in tungsten lighting
  • Shallow buffers when shooting RAW
  • Below average battery life
  • Quiet Shutter mode not so quiet

 

The Nikon D5200 is a lot of camera for the money, and though it's aimed at advanced beginners in terms of image quality and capabilities, it's not too far removed from DSLRs geared for more serious photographers. Thanks to its 24.1-megapixel CMOS sensor and EXPEED 3 processor -- which seems to be the same sensor-processor combo packed into the bigger, better, newer D7100 -- the D5200 offers more resolution in a mid-level camera than Nikon's ever offered before.

The camera's clean, highly detailed images rivals those of direct competitors such as the Canon T5i, as well as full-blown enthusiast models such as its big brother, the D7100. (In fact, the only thing that appears to differentiate the image quality between the Nikon D5200 and the D7100 is the latter's lack of a low pass filter, a move that earns it some better fidelity at the risk of incurring moiré.) The D5200 also produces great images at high ISOs; you can even make an acceptable 4 x 6 print at ISO 12,800.

Design wise, the D5200 looks and feels very much like its predecessor, the D5100, though a few tweaks have been made to the body -- most notably a beveled crease that runs around the front of the camera, and a new, dedicated Drive mode button on top. But it's what's inside that truly differentiates the new model from the old. In addition to the increase in megapixels, the Nikon D5200 upgraded to a sophisticated 2,016-pixel metering and 39-point autofocus system (with 9 cross-type sensors) that it inherited from the D7000. The DSLR also gained improved burst speed up to nearly 5 frames per second (in JPEG, RAW and RAW+JPEG!), expanded video recording options with a built-in stereo mic, and wireless-compatible functionality via Nikon's optional WU-1a adapter.

Some of the camera's new features feel a bit tacked on and incomplete. The Special Effects mode, which is accessible straight from the Mode dial, doesn't really warrant such placement. It features just seven effects, and none of them are particularly impressive. (There's more creative control available in Retouch mode, available for photos already captured.) Meanwhile, the D5200's built-in two-shot HDR mode didn't work well in our tests. More troublesome is the camera's less than swift AF system, which can struggle a bit in low light. Finally, though the Nikon D5200 boasts a simple, almost elegant UI and menu system, you still have to deep dive sometimes to change the most basic settings.

The Nikon D5200 marks a significant upgrade in the company's entry-level offerings, packing a ton of advanced photographic capabilities into a DSLR that beginners will find easy to use right out of the box, and perfect to grow with as they build their skills. The D5200 is on our short list of the best consumer-oriented DSLRs on the market today, and a bona fide Dave's Pick!

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