Nikon D5200 Review

by Jim Keenan Reads (17,420)
Editor's Rating
8.20

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 8
    • Features
    • 8
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 8
    • Expandability
    • 9
    • Total Score:
    • 8.20
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Overview

  • Pros

    • Good still and video image quality
    • Light and compact
    • Competitive high ISO performance
    • 5 fps continuous shooting speed
    • Capable autofocus system
  • Cons

    • Minimal external controls for adjusting camera settings
    • Lacks weather sealing of some direct competitors
    • 95% coverage of viewfinder makes accurate framing a bit problematic

Quick Take

After spending a few weeks with the Nikon D5200 we decided it is a pretty great entry-level DSLR camera with some impressive specs.


Introduced here in the United States at the annual Consumer Electronics Show this past January in Las Vegas, the D5200 is, logically, the follow on camera to Nikon’s D5100. Combined with the introduction of the D3200 and more recently the D7100, this completes Nikon’s latest modernization of their entry-level and mid-range APS-C sensor DSLR fleet. All that remains is to roll out a pro-body successor to the D300s (D400?). If there is a D400 in the works Nikon has kept it a closely guarded secret, but the D5200 is here now and offers some incremental changes over the D5100, slotting into the current Nikon DX lineup between the aforementioned entry-level D3200 and prosumer D7100.

Resolution jumps to 24.1 megapixels from 16.2 million in the earlier camera; those of you tempted to think that Nikon has simply crammed more pixels onto the same sensor might want to consider this — the horizontal measurement of the D5200 sensor is listed as 23.5 mm while the D5100 sensor comes in at 23.6 mm. The size differential, however slight, could be an indication that the D5200 is carrying a different sensor than its predecessor. The processor is the latest generation EXPEED 3 versus EXPEED 2 in the D5100. ISO sensitivity ranges are the same for each camera, with a native sensitivity range of 100 to 6400, expandable to 25600. The D5200’s 5 fps continuous shooting speed trumps the D5100’s 4 fps and its full HD video capability adds a 60i capture rate along with a built-in stereo microphone not found in the earlier camera.

Like most entry and mid-level Nikon DSLRs, the D5200 body does not contain a focus motor so autofocus capability is limited to AF-S or AF-I CPU lenses (the “S” indicates a lens with the Silent Wave focus motor; the “I” an older lens with an internal focus motor  and CPU refers to contact points on the lens base). The current Nikon lens lineup includes about 45 AF-S models, but Nikon has used the same basic “F” lens mount on its 35mm film and DSLR bodies since 1960 and most older legacy glass will mount on the camera and can be used for manual focus and exposure captures.

The D5200 body is marginally larger than the D5100, but nearly 2 ounces lighter. It also contains the 39 point Multi-CAM 4800 autofocus system that first appeared in the D7000; the D5100 makes do with the Multi-CAM 1000 system that debuted in the D80. A NEF/JPEG (NEF is Nikonese for “RAW”) shooting option not found in the D5100 is also available. The camera accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC memory media; Nikon has approved cards from Lexar, Panasonic and SanDisk for use in the D5200. The camera is available as a body only or in kit form matched with 18-55 or 18-105mm lenses. Nikon includes a rechargeable Li-ion battery and charger, rubber eyecup, USB and A/V cables, camera strap, eyepiece and body caps, an accessory shoe cover, CD-ROM software and printed user’s manual with each camera. The 18-55mm kit is available with black, red or bronze bodies. Currently the Nikon D5200 kit with the 18-55mm lens sells for about $800. 

Build and Design
Conforming to the current practice in DSLR design, the D5200 features a pronounced handgrip on the right side of the camera body, which is topped with the elongated housing accommodating the built-in flash and eye-level pentamirror viewfinder. Dimensions of 5.9 x 3.9 x 3.1 inches situate the camera toward the smaller end of the DSLR size spectrum – small enough that it almost becomes an afterthought when mated up with a 600mm telephoto.

Body-only weight for the D5200 is 17.8 ounces, but the typical shooting weight (battery, memory card, 18-55 kit lens) is about 29.3 ounces. The camera is made in Thailand and materials, fit and finish appear appropriate to the price point.

Ergonomics and Controls
With the 18-55 kit lens the D5200 is fairly evenly balanced; I also shot the camera handheld with a number of my personal AF-S lenses including the 24-70, 70-200 and 105mm macro. Each of these lenses is significantly heavier than the D5200 (the 24-70 comes in a bit over 39 ounces) and as you would suspect shifts the center of gravity for the lens/camera combination forward. However, supporting the lenses with the left hand and bracing the elbow into the left front of the torso provides a very solid base and pleasant shooting configuration. The handgrip is covered with a rubberized material to promote a firmer grip and there is good clearance for the fingers of the right hand between the grip and the lens barrel/base. The tip of my shooting finger fell naturally just a bit past the shutter button and the little finger of the right hand has no place to go but curl itself beneath the camera body. After a short period of time I found myself almost subconsciously adjusting my shooting finger position slightly as I picked up the camera and found this modified grip perfectly satisfactory. Folks with large hands might find the camera bit small – try before you buy.

The top right portion of the camera body houses the mode dial and live view switch, shutter button and power switch, movie record, info, exposure compensation and release mode buttons. There is a focal plane mark on the top left of the camera body to help with determining close focus distance, but it’s the same color as the rest of the camera body and easy to overlook; the camera speaker sits adjacent to this mark.

The camera back is largely taken up by the 3 inch articulating monitor; at the upper left is the menu button. The upper right rear of the camera body features the information edit and AE-L/AE-F buttons along with the command dial, arrayed horizontally. Below them and to the right of the monitor in descending order are the playback button, OK button/multi selector, playback zoom in button, delete button and playback zoom out/help button.

There are also infrared remote receivers on the right front and right rear of the camera body and function and flash deployment buttons on the left front.

The information edit button is the primary tool for making camera adjustments on the fly; pressing the button brings up a display screen showing a number of camera functions and settings. Pressing the button a second time highlights one of the individual settings and you can use the multi controller to scroll to whichever setting(s) you wish to adjust. Here’s a look at the screen after pushing the information edit button the first and second times:

These settings include image quality and size, auto bracketing, HDR, active D-lighting, white balance, ISO, picture control, focus mode, autofocus area mode, metering mode, flash mode, flash compensation and exposure compensation. Depending on the individual shooting mode you have chosen, some of the above settings may not be available.

Menus and Modes
Menus in the D5200 are what you would expect from a relatively complex camera such as a DSLR, even an entry-level/midrange version: a one-page playback menu, three-page shooting menu and a one-page custom setting menu that offers six submenus covering settings such as auto focus, exposure, timers/AE lock, shooting/display, bracketing/flash and control functions. There’s a three page setup menu, a three page retouch menu and a three-page recent settings menu as well.

The menus and their contents are fairly intuitive for anyone who has spent some time around a DSLR, but might be a bit daunting for a first-time user. Fortunately, the D5200’s help button can come to the rescue in most, but not all cases. For example, let’s say you’re not sure what setting to choose under “color space”, Adobe or sRGB. Pushing the help button with “color space” highlighted provokes no response from the camera. Push the help button with “active D-lighting” highlighted and the camera provides a brief description of this function. The help button can be a handy backup in the event some camera function stumps you in the field, but nothing beats knowing your camera inside and out.

Shooting modes are typical entry-level/midrange DSLR: the fully manual and semiautomatic modes that characterize the pro-level DSLR along with automatic and scene specific modes requiring less user input.

  • Auto – a fully automatic mode with the camera handling most settings; the user can establish image quality and size, focus mode, autofocus area mode and flash mode but little else.
  • Auto (flash off) – same as auto except flash is disabled.
  • Scene – fully automatic mode that allows the user to pick from eleven scene specific situations such as night portrait, night landscape, party/indoor, beach/snow, sunset, dusk/dawn, pet portrait, candlelight, blossom, autumn colors and food. The user has limited inputs that may vary depending on the individual scene.
  • Portrait – fully automatic scene mode that can be called up quickly by the user via the mode dial; user has limited inputs.
  • Landscape – fully automatic scene mode that can be called up quickly by the user via the mode dial; user has limited inputs.
  • Child – fully automatic scene mode that can be called up quickly by the user via the mode dial; user has limited inputs.
  • Sports – fully automatic scene mode that can be called up quickly by the user via the mode dial; user has limited inputs.
  • Close-up – fully automatic scene mode that can be called up quickly by the user via the mode dial; user has limited inputs.
  • Effects – allows user to select from seven fully automatic scene modes consisting of night vision, color sketch, miniature effect, selective color, silhouette, high key and low key. These effects are not available in NEF (RAW) format — images will be converted to JPEG fine if shot as NEF files.
  • Program auto – camera sets aperture and shutter speed, user has a wide variety of settings and can vary the aperture and shutter speed combinations consistent with what the camera determines to be a proper exposure by rotating the command dial.
  • Shutter priority – user sets shutter speed, camera determines aperture and the user has a wide variety of settings.
  • Aperture priority – user sets aperture, camera determines shutter speed and the user has a wide variety of settings.
  • Manual – user sets aperture and shutter speed and has a wide variety of settings.
  • Movie – (NTSC mode)  capture video in the following formats: full HD 1920×1080 / 60i; 1920×1080 / 30 fps; 1920×1080 / 24 fps; HD 1280×720 / 60 fps; VGA 640×424 / 30 fps.
  • Movie – (PAL mode) capture video in the following formats: full HD 1920 x 1080/50i; 1920 x 1080/25 fps; 1920 x 1080/24 fps; HD 1280 x 720/50p; VGA 640 x 424/25 fps. Video is H.264/MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding; linear PCM audio. Maximum length for movies in either mode is 4 GB; maximum recording time at highest quality is 20 minutes, and 29 minutes 59 seconds at normal quality.

Display/Viewfinder
The 3 inch LCD monitor on the D5200 has a 921,000 dot composition and is adjustable for seven levels of brightness. The monitor is articulable: hinged at its left edge, it can be swung horizontally through 180° of travel. It can also rotate along its long axis through approximately 270° of travel. While the ability of the monitor to be moved can be helpful during image review in bright conditions, there were still times when bright ambient light made use of the monitor a difficult proposition.

The D5200 viewfinder features a diopter adjustment to account for varying degrees of eyesight acuity and offers about 95% coverage in both the horizontal and vertical planes. This degree of coverage means that there will be some objects along the edges of the frame that will not be visible to the user when the image is composed, but will be visible in the captured image. In practice this did not prove to be a problem for every day shooting, but if you’re composing very finely within the camera viewfinder to just exclude parts of the scene you’ll need to come in a little tighter than the viewfinder suggests.


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