Nikon D5200 review

Like the Nikon D5300 that replaces it, the Nikon D3300 below it in the Nikon SLR range and the Nikon D7100 above it, the D5200 has a CMOS sensor with 24 million pixels. However, some may be surprised to learn that Nikon doesn’t use exactly the same sensor in this camera.

The Nikon D5200 uses a 24.1 effective megapixel sensor that has not been seen elsewhere.

Features-wise the Nikon D5200 is a blend of the Nikon D3200, Nikon D5100, D7000 and D7100, since it has the same pixel count as the Nikon D3200 and D7100, albeit with a different sensor. It also has an articulating screen like the Nikon D5100 and the same metering and AF systems because of the Nikon D7000.

The new camera’s control layout, however, is very similar to the Nikon D5100’s and is more streamlined than the Nikon D7100’s.

Nikon has paired the D5200’s 24.1 million effective pixel CMOS sensor with its EXPEED 3 processing engine, and this enables a native sensitivity range of ISO 100-6400. If light levels are very low, this can be expanded upwards to the equivalent of ISO 25,600.

Whereas the D5100 has Nikon’s Multi-CAM 1000 AF module with 11 focus points, including one cross-type, the Nikon D5200 has the Multi-CAM 4800 DX unit that is also found in the Nikon D7000.

This means that it has a total of 39 AF points, with nine being cross-type, which should make the Nikon D5200’s AF system considerably more flexible and effective than the Nikon D5100’s. This may create the Nikon D5200 more attractive to photographers wanting to try their hands at sports photography, and these users will appreciate the fact that it can shoot at a maximum continuous rate of 5fps, up 1fps on the Nikon D5100.

Another feature borrowed from the Nikon D7000 that improves upon the Nikon D5100 is the 2016-pixel RGB sensor for light metering and white balance assessment.

This feeds information into the improved Automatic Scene Recognition system that attempts to match the exposure settings, autofocus and white balance to the scene. According to Nikon UK’s Simon Iddon, product manager for DX products, the size of the minimum recognisable target for the Automatic Scene Recognition system has been reduced since the D5100, making it more precise. Its tracking performance has also been improved so that the camera is better able to expose faces across the frame.

Like the Nikon D5100, the Nikon D5200 has a collection of Special Effects and an in-camera HDR mode that combines two shots to create one image with greater shadow and highlight detail. Unfortunately, both modes can only be used when shooting just JPEG files.

Naturally, the Nikon D5200 is capable of recording Full HD videos, like the Nikon D5100, but the frame rate range has been expanded to include 60i and 50i as well as 30p, 25p and 24p. This should make for smoother footage of moving subjects, and gives scope for creating slow-motion movies.

 key features

  • 24.1MP DX-format CMOS sensor
  • EXPEED 3 processing
  • ISO 100-6400 standard, up to 25600 expanded
  • 5 fps continuous shooting
  • 39 point AF system, 9 sensors cross-type
  • 2016 pixel RGB metering sensor
  • 1080p30 video recording, built-in stereo mic
  • 921k dot 3″ vari-angle LCD monitor, 170° viewing angle

Build and Handling

Most people would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the Nikon D5200 and the Nikon D5100, since they look almost identical, although the new camera has a drive mode button on its top-plate and the Nikon D5100 doesn’t.

In addition, the specification sheets reveal that the cameras’ three dimensions each vary by 1mm (0.04 inch) and that the Nikon D5200 is 5g (0.18oz) lighter than the older camera.

This weight reduction hasn’t been made at the cost of build quality, however, because the Nikon D5200 still feels nicely put together and doesn’t protest when squeezed in the hand.

Those with small hands will find there’s just enough room on the rubber-coated grip to accommodate three fingers, but most users will see it more comfortable to curl their little finger under the camera body while they hold the camera with their index finger about the shutter release. Nikon has stuck with the same 3-inch 921,000-dot Vari-angle LCD screen seen in the Nikon D5100 for the Nikon D5200.

This is useful for composing images from a wide variety of angles – even table-top still life images can be shot more comfortably because there’s less neck craning. But it’s a little disappointing that the company hasn’t made the display touch-sensitive. While the control layout of the Nikon D5200 is the same as that on the Nikon D5100, the graphic user interface (GUI) has been updated, and it looks cleaner and more modern. Also like the Nikon D5100, there are relatively few buttons on the Nikon D5200, and most settings adjustments are made via on-screen controls. Pressing the ‘I’ button on the back of the camera brings up the information screen, which displays 14 features that may be adjusted – depending upon the shooting mode.

Settings changes are made by navigating to the desired feature, pressing the OK switch and then selecting the required option. While this a simple and effective approach, many enthusiasts may prefer to have a few more direct controls.

If the screen was touch-sensitive it would also make changing the on-screen settings quicker.

Performance

Given its high pixel count, we would expect the Nikon D5200 to be able to resolve plenty of detail, provided that image noise is controlled well. Happily, Nikon’s new DSLR doesn’t disappoint in this respect.

Predictably the amount of detail that is recorded drops at the highest sensitivity settings, with a significant drop at the top native sensitivity setting (ISO 6400).

This is generally within acceptable limits, but we recommend reserving the expansion settings for emergencies and staying to ISO 3200 or below where possible. Even at ISO 3200, the size at which some images can be used may be limited by the presence of slight banding in some of the darker mid-tones. On the whole, the Nikon D5200’s 2016-pixel RGB Matrix metering system does an excellent job with most scenes, and it isn’t easily tricked into under or over-exposure. In most cases, it can be left to its own devices, but in extreme situations – so for example in snowy conditions – it may be necessary to dial in a little exposure compensation.

Nikon has had issues with some DSLR screens showing colours inaccurately, but we found that the Nikon D5200’s screen consistently shows colours as they appear in the captured picture. This makes it much easier to assess white balance.
On that subject, in the Standard Picture Control mode, the Nikon D5200 generally delivers accurate and vibrant colours, but the automatic whitened balance system can make images shot in shade look a bit lifeless and under-saturated. That is very easily addressed by setting a custom white balance, which warms things up considerably – in some cases a bit too much.

We also find that the Landscape Picture Control setting over-enhances blues and greens so they appear unnatural. The Monochrome mode, however, produces some nice results. And, because the Picture Control modes may be used when shooting raw and JPEG pictures simultaneously, it’s possible to produce a monochrome JPEG as well as a raw file with all the colour information.

With 39 phase-detection AF points, the image frame is fairly well covered, however, the outer edges are still beyond reach. However, we found the system very responsive, and subjects were brought quickly into focus even with the 18-55mm kit lens mounted on the camera.

Compared with the average compact program camera’s, nevertheless, the contrast detection system available in the Nikon D5200’s live view mode is slow. It’s no different from most other DSLRs‘, but it can’t be used with moving subjects, and the live view remains best reserved for use with still subjects and when the camera is on a tripod. We’re just a little surprised that Nikon hasn’t made any changes to the special effects modes available on the Nikon D5200 via the mode dial. It’s the same seven that are available on the Nikon D5100: Night Vision, Color Sketch, Miniature, Selective Colour, Silhouette, High Key and Low Key. These are nevertheless JPEG-only options for stills photography, unfortunately.

Such effects are a matter of personal taste, but we could give most of this selection a miss. The Miniature and Colour Sketch effects are good fun, though.

The good news is that the new processing engine makes the Live View feed a little smoother than on the Nikon D5100 when these modes are selected, although there is sometimes still some lag.

Check Out: Best Nikon D5200 Lenses

Verdict

The Nikon D5200 is a solid performer that delivers images with well-controlled noise and plenty of detail, albeit with slight banding in some images taken at IS0 3200 and above. It’s also a nicely constructed camera, and the limited number of buttons and dials make it unintimidating to novice photographers, while enthusiasts will find that they have all the control that they want within easy reach.

However, given the better fine detail reproduction and lack of banding produced by the Nikon D5300, we recommend that potential D5200 buyers save a little longer and opt for the newer camera.

Check Nikon D5200 Price

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