Nikon D5200 £819.99

12th Feb 2014 | 14:08

Nikon D5200

A more affordable alternative to the D5300

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Like:

High-res sensor; Proven AF system; Articulating screen; Good interface;

Dislike:

Special Effect JPEG only; No touchscreen; Few direct controls;

Introduction

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 these 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 as 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 D5200 review

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 flexile and effective than the Nikon D5100's.

Nikon D5200 review

This may make 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.

Nikon D5200 review

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.

Nikon D5200 review

Priced at £819.99/US$899.95/AU$1,047 with a 18-55 VR kit lens, the Nikon D5200 is in the same kind of price bracket as the Pentax K-5 II and Fuji X-E1, among others.

Build quality 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.

Nikon D5200 review

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 find it more comfortable to curl their small finger under the camera body while they hold the camera with their index finger on the shutter release.

Nikon D5200 review

Nikon has stuck with the same 3-inch 921,000-dot variangle 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 screen touch-sensitive.

Nikon D5200 review

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.

Nikon D5200 review

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 button and then selecting the desired option.

Nikon D5200 review

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.

Nikon D5200 review

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.

Nikon D5200 review

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 image. This makes it much easier to assess white balance.

Nikon D5200 review

On that subject, in the Standard Picture Control mode the Nikon D5200 generally delivers accurate and vibrant colours, but the automatic white balance system can make images shot in shade look a bit lifeless and under-saturated.

This is 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 mode over-enhances blues and greens so they look unnatural. The Monochrome mode, however, produces some nice results.

Nikon D5200 review

And, because the Picture Control modes can be used when shooting raw and JPEG images 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, but 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 system camera's, however, 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 live view remains best reserved for use with still subjects and when the camera is on a tripod.

Nikon D5200 review

We're 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 still 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 Color 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.

Nikon D5200 review

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Nikon D5200, we've shot our resolution chart.

If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Nikon D5200 is capable of resolving up to around 28 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.

For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

JPEG

Nikon D5200 review

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Nikon D5200 review

ISO 100, score: 28 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D5200 review

ISO 200, score: 28 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D5200 review

ISO 400, score: 28 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D5200 review

ISO 800, score: 26 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D5200 review

ISO 1600, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D5200 review

ISO 3200, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D5200 review

ISO 6400, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D5200 review

ISO 12800, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D5200 review

ISO 25600, score: 14 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw

Nikon D5200 review

ISO 100, score: 28 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D5200 review

ISO 200, score: 28 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D5200 review

ISO 400, score: 28 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D5200 review

ISO 800, score: 26 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D5200 review

ISO 1600, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D5200 review

ISO 3200, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D5200 review

ISO 6400, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D5200 review

ISO 12800, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D5200 review

ISO 25600, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

Here we compare the Nikon D5200 with the Pentax K-30, Nikon D5100, Canon EOS 650D and Nikon D7000.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Nikon D5200 review

These results show that the Nikon D5200 produces a similar signal to noise ratio in its JPEG images to the Nikon D5100 and Canon EOS 650D, but a weaker ratio than the Nikon D7000 at most sensitivity settings. At lower ISOs, the D5200's JPEGs have a weaker signal to noise ratio than the Pentax K-30, but at ISO 6400 and above, the Nikon takes the lead.

Nikon D5200 review

As you can see the Nikon D5200 beats all these competing cameras, including the Nikon D7100 and Canon 700D, apart from the Nikon D5300 at the higher sensitivity settings. In theory this means that the camera produces cleaner images, but the banding seen in images taken at ISO 3200 and higher is likely to be more problematic.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Nikon D5200 review

The signal to noise ratios of the TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Nikon D5200 are slightly stronger than its JPEG images, sitting above the Nikon D5100 at most sensitivities, and above the Nikon D7000 at ISO 400 and ISO 3200-12800. It also beats the Pentax K-30 at ISO 400 and above. The Canon EOS 650D beats the D5200 at every sensitivity.

Nikon D5200 review

Just like the JPEG files, the D5200's raw files (after conversion to TIFF) beat the Nikon D7100, Canon 700D and Nikon D5300 for the vast majority of its sensitivity range. However, banding is an issue at high sensitivities and the D5300 and D7100 have better detail resolution.

JPEG dynamic range

Nikon D5200 review

Results for dynamic range are competitively stronger than those for signal to noise ratio, with the Nikon D5200's JPEG images showing the greatest dynamic range at lower ISOs, before slipping below the Nikon D7000 at ISO 1600 and above, and then dropping off more at ISO 3200 and above, where it also falls slightly below the Nikon D5100 and roughly level with the Canon EOS 650D. It stays roughly level with thePentax K-30 at ISO 3200-6400, before beating it at ISO 12800 and above.

Nikon D5200 review

The D5200 impresses here proving it is capable of recording a wide range of tones in a single image. While the Canon 700D's dynamic range may look poor in comparison with that of the Nikon D5200, Nikon D7100 and Nikon D5300, it produces images with a pleasant level of contrast that look great straight from the camera.

Raw dynamic range

Nikon D5200 review

Dynamic range in TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Nikon D5200 are very impressive, beating the Pentax K-30, Nikon D5100, Canon EOS 650D and Nikon D7000 throughout the sensitivity range, except at ISO 25600 where it drops ever so slightly behind the Canon.

Nikon D5200 review

The D5200 competes well with the other cameras for raw (after conversion to TIFF) dynamic range.

Sample images

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The Nikon D5200's automatic white balance system has overcompensated for the warm tones of this subject and has produced a low-saturation image.

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Setting a custom white balance value has produced a much warmer and more pleasing result.

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

With the correct white balance selected, the Standard Picture Control setting produces nice vibrant images that are a good match for the scene.

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

These dark cherries fooled the Matrix metering system into overexposing a little, and -1EV exposure compensation was required to get them looking just right.

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

This shot was taken at the highest sensitivity expansion setting, equivalent to ISO 25,600. It looks good at small sizes, but as you start to zoom in - or make it larger - slight banding is visible in some areas (see below).

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Sensitivity and noise images

JPEG

Nikon D5200 review

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 100

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 200

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 400

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 800

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 1600

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 3200

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 6400

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 12800

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 25600

Raw

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 100

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 200

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 400

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 800

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 1600

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 3200

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 6400

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 12800

Nikon D5200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 25600

Verdict

It's a bit disappointing that the Nikon D5200 doesn't introduce anything new since to the Nikon feature set apart from the sensor, and it is a fairly predictable upgrade to the Nikon D5100 that borrows features from the Nikon D7000.

It would have been nice if Nikon had added a few new special effects, perhaps a high-contrast black and white mode, and made these effects available when shooting raw and JPEG files, rather than just JPEGs.

We'd also have liked to have seen a touchscreen and Wi-Fi connectivity built in, since these could be hot features in 2013.

Provided you are happy not to have an array of buttons and dials giving you very quick access to key features, the Nikon D5200 looks like a great option for enthusiast photographers looking for a small, versatile camera, as well as those wanting to step up from an entry-level camera such as the Nikon D3100.

We liked

The Nikon D5200's 24.1-million-pixel sensor is capable of recording lots of detail, especially in raw files at low sensitivity settings, and the articulating screen makes it easy to compose still life, landscape and macro images as well as to check critical focus by magnifying the on-screen image.

At the lower sensitivity settings the D5200 can resolve as much detail as the Nikon D7100 which has the same resolution, but no anti-aliasing filter. However, images look very slightly softer straight from the camera. At mid to high sensitivity settings the D7100 is able to resolve more detail, but the images are a little noisier.

We disliked

Nikon's smaller DSLRs are in competition with compact system cameras (CSCs) for the attention of photographers looking for something better than a compact camera. Many CSCs now have touchscreen control - often backed up by a healthy collection of buttons on the camera body - and this makes them quick and easy to use, especially by the smartphone generation.

Wi-Fi connectivity is also often built-in to CSCs to enable sharing of images direct from the camera, as well as remote control of the camera. Including Wi-Fi connectivity rather than making it an optional extra, and adding a touchscreen, would have made the Nikon D5200 seem a little more forward-thinking.

Final 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 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.

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