Nikon’s D5200 sits in the middle of the most current triumvirate of Nikon cropped sensor DSLRs — the D3200, 5200 and 7100. Its MSRP is $100 more than the D3200 but it offers an articulating 3 inch monitor, an extra frame per second in its high-speed continuous shooting mode and a more advanced autofocus system as recompense.
The D5200 produces good still and video image quality, offers quite clean high ISO performance at 3200 and isn’t too bad at 6400 if you can get away with small images or internet work only. Its 5 fps continuous high-speed shooting rate gives sports and action shooters a fairly decent burst capability for about 19 consecutive JPEG fine images. The 39 point autofocus system does a pretty good job tracking moving subjects for still image capture if you get the right settings in the camera, and holds its own when lighting conditions go towards the dim side. The camera and kit lens make a light, compact walking around combination but Nikon will be happy to sell you any of some 45 other AF-S design lenses should you need to move beyond that 18-55mm kit zoom.
Granted, it’s an entry-level DSLR but Nikon should have explained how to set the video component up for continuous autofocus — after all, it’s a movie; the subject can’t be guaranteed to stay in the same place. There’s nothing in the movie section of the user’s manual and the website makes an oblique reference to the camera using “AF-F” during video capture. After trying repeatedly to get the D5200 to maintain focus during a pan from a nearby subject to distant one, I finally stumbled upon the answer through trial and error. Photographers who want to simply point-and-shoot a high-resolution DSLR will feel right at home with the D5200; folks who tend to gravitate towards the semiautomatic or manual modes will probably find the lack of external controls to change camera settings unappetizing — you have to go through internal menus or the edit info button to change the vast majority of settings that you would ordinarily be changing on the fly. And finally, the camera and lens combination have no weather sealing yet their price point has them in direct competition with the Pentax K-30 (a midrange DSLR masquerading as an entry-level model) with its robust all weather construction.
The D5200 is a nice little camera with no glaring deficiencies and would make a fine first DSLR for someone moving out of the compact digital ranks. It would be a great follow-on camera for someone who’s cut their teeth on an earlier model Nikon DSLR but doesn’t want to go all the way to the prosumer D7100. I’m just left wishing Nikon had added a few more external controls and some weather sealing.
- Good still and video image quality
- Light and compact
- Competitive high ISO performance
- 5 fps continuous shooting speed
- Capable autofocus system
- Minimal external controls for adjusting camera settings
- Lacks weather sealing of some direct competitors
- 95% coverage of viewfinder makes accurate framing a bit problematic