Nikon D5200 Optics

Kit Lens Test Results

Fair performance with the 18-55mm VR kit lens.

18mm, f/8 55mm, f/8

The Nikon D5200 comes bundled with the same Nikkor AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR (Vibration Reduction) kit lens the D5100 did. This 3.1x zoom lens has a 35mm equivalent focal length of about 27-83mm because of the D5200's 1.5x "crop factor." Sharpness and contrast were fairly good across much of the frame at full wide-angle and f/8, though images were a touch soft overall. There's minor coma distortion and softening in the corners, though chromatic aberration wasn't an issue because it was suppressed by the D5200's image processor (see below). Results at full telephoto were also fairly good at f/8, with decent sharpness across most of the frame. Overall, not a bad performance for an inexpensive kit lens, but you'll likely want to invest in premium glass to get the most out of the D5200's 24-megapixel sensor.

An average-sized macro area with the kit lens, with good detail. Flash throttles down well.

Macro with 18-55mm Kit Lens
55mm, f/8
Macro with Flash
55mm, f/8

The Nikon D5200 captured an average-sized macro area with the standard 18-55mm kit lens, measuring 2.46 x 1.64 inches (63 x 42 millimeters). Detail is actually pretty good, just a touch soft, and there is some minor additional softening in the corners despite being stopped down to f/8. (Most lenses have some softening in the corners at macro distances.) The Nikon D5200's flash throttled down well at minimum distance, resulting in a well exposed image with fairly even coverage.

Geometric Distortion
High barrel distortion at wide angle with the 18-55mm kit lens, though hardly any distortion at telephoto.

Barrel distortion is 1.2 percent at 18mm
Almost no pincushion distortion at 55mm

The Nikon D5200's 18-55mm kit lens produced about 1.2 percent barrel distortion at wide angle, which is higher than average and noticeable in its images. At the telephoto end, distortion was negligible with only one or two pixels worth of pincushion. This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel -- usually at wide-angle) or inward (like a pincushion -- usually at telephoto).

Auto Distortion Control
Low geometric distortion when Auto Distortion Control is enabled.

Barrel distortion at 18mm is 0.3 percent
Barrel distortion at 55mm is 0.1 percent

The Nikon D5200 offers an Auto Distortion Control feature to reduce geometric distortion automatically with most recent Nikkor lenses. As you can see it worked quite well with the 18-55mm lens, reducing barrel distortion at wide angle significantly, though some of the image was cropped away in the process. At the telephoto end, distortion was actually a bit higher than the uncorrected image, but still quite low. Since this option is database driven, it's only available for Nikkor D and G-type lenses with certain optics such as Fisheye and Perspective Control lenses excepted. Auto Distortion Control is Off by default.

You can also apply Auto or Manual Distortion Control to JPEGs after the fact, in the Retouch menu. Manual mode works with images from any lens.

Chromatic Aberration and Corner Sharpness
Low to moderately low C.A. in JPEGs, much higher in uncorrected RAW files at wide angle. Corners are soft at wide angle and telephoto with the kit lens.

Maximum Aperture
Wide, f/3.5: Upper left
C.A.: Moderately low
Softness: Soft
Wide, f/3.5: Center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Fairly sharp
Tele, f/5.6: Upper right
C.A.: Low
Softness: Soft
Tele, f/5.6: Center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Soft

Chromatic Aberration. Chromatic aberration was moderately low at the full wide angle setting of the Nikon D5200's 18-55mm VR kit lens, suppressed by the D5200's image processor. (See below for crops from uncorrected RAW files.) At telephoto, chromatic aberration was even lower and hardly detectable. (This distortion is visible as a slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

Corner Sharpness. The Nikon D5200's 18-55mm VR kit lens produced soft corners at full wide angle. All four corners were moderately soft at wide angle, with some of the softness likely stemming from C.A. suppression. Softness didn't extend very far in the frames, though, and the center was fairly sharp. At full telephoto, all four corners were also soft, with the upper right being the softest, but the lens is softer overall at telephoto than at wide angle.

Corner Shading. There's some moderate corner shading ("vignetting") at both ends of the zoom when wide-open, as indicated by the darker corner crops.

f/8 Aperture
Wide, f/8: Upper left
C.A.: Moderately low
Softness: Minor blurring
Wide, f/8: Center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Fairly sharp
Tele, f/8: Upper right
C.A.: Low
Softness: Soft
Tele, f/8: Center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Soft

f/8. Stopped-down to an aperture of f/8, corner performance did improve markedly at wide angle, and sharpness in the center improved just slightly. Corners were still soft at telephoto, however, as was the center. Vignetting was negligible.

Uncorrected RAW
Higher levels of C.A. at wide angle and telephoto from uncorrected RAW files.

In-camera JPEG Uncorrected RAW
Wide: Upper left
C.A.: Low
Wide: Upper left
C.A.: High
Tele: Upper left
C.A.: Low
Tele: Upper left
C.A.: Fairly low

As you can see from the crops above comparing camera JPEGs to uncorrected RAW files (taken at f/8), levels of lateral chromatic aberration are much higher in uncorrected RAW files, particularly at wide angle.


Nikon D5200 Viewfinder


Viewfinder Test Results

Slightly better than average coverage from the optical viewfinder. Fairly good accuracy from the LCD in Live View mode.

60mm, Optical
60mm, Live View LCD

The Nikon D5200's optical viewfinder showed about 96 percent coverage with our reference Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 macro lens. This is a bit better than average for a consumer DSLR and exceeds Nikon's specification of 95% for the D5200, however the viewfinder image is slightly shifted horizontally compared to the imaging sensor, which unfortunately is not that uncommon in consumer models. In Live View mode, the Nikon D5200's LCD showed just over 98% coverage which is fairly good, though we often see 100% coverage in Live View mode.


The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Nikon D5200 Photo Gallery .

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