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Performance

Overall Performance

The Nikon D5200 is a fairly responsive camera in daily use. Onscreen response to button and dial operation is brisk whether you're navigating through menu screens, zooming in and out of live view previews or changing shooting parameters. Although the camera has external controls and a shortcut '[i]' menu for commonly changed settings, users looking to take more refined control over operation such as enabling distortion control or adjusting Auto ISO parameters will have to delve into the main menu system. We'd love to see Nikon adopt touchscreen capability similar to that we reported in our Canon EOS T4i/650 review in order to make the process of changing settings even faster. At the very least we'd like to be able to use the rear thumb dial to scroll through menu options instead of relying solely on the 4-way multi selector.

Continuous Shooting and Buffering

The D5200 offers two burst modes. When set to its Continuous High (CH) mode, the camera can shoot as fast as 5 fps. A Continuous Low (CL) option lets you shoot at 3 fps. A relatively small buffer, however, limits your maximum burst rate significantly when shooting in a Raw-enabled mode. If you want to shoot more than 4-5 frames at the camera's fastest frame rate, you'll first need to put the D5200 in its JPEG-only capture mode. We wouldn't want to make too much of this particular limitation in a camera of this class. Those who shoot in live view, however, should be aware that once an exposure is made, the rear screen remains dark until the image data is written completely to the SD card, a process that takes a couple of seconds even for a single capture.

AF and metering systems

The D5200 has the same autofocus and metering system as the D7000 - a big step up from the D5100. The most obvious difference is that the D5200 has 39 autofocus points, rather than the 11 of its predecessor. Nine of the D5200's AF points are cross-type, i.e. sensitive to both horizontal and vertical detail, rather than the D5100's solitary central cross-type point.

In practice, the D5200 acquires focus fairly quickly, although users of a comparitively slow-focusing consumer optic like the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR kit lens should be aware that Nikon offers a range of lenses that can offer faster focusing performance. We've found focus on the D5200 to be reasonably accurate across its AF array regardless of which lenses we used. When light levels fall significantly, though, particularly with lenses having a relatively narrow maximum aperture we got more consistent results when using the camera's central AF points versus those on the outer edges.

In continuous autofocus mode (AF-C), the D5200's 2016 pixel metering sensor is also used to aid subject tracking - providing color information about the subject to the AF system to determine which AF point to use. The D5100's metering system had only 420 pixels, resulting in lower tracking precision. This means the D5200 can, for example, track faces when they're further away and smaller in the frame.

With the D5200 you also have the option to use just 11 AF points (Custom Settings a2). Do so, and the points you're left with are highlighted red in the above diagram. Reducing the number of available points makes it faster to select an off-center point if you don't need the level of precision that using all 39 provides. You can also overlay a composition grid into the viewfinder (Custom Settings, d2).

As you'd expect, contrast-detect AF performance in live view lags far behind that of the D5200's phase-detect viewfinder shooting. While the D5200 is an improvement over early-generation Nikon DSLRs in this regard, its live view AF performance still suffers in comparison to any recent mirrorless camera.

Flash

At its default settings, the D5200 works hard to avoid clipped highlights in flash exposures, which can sometimes lead to slightly heavy results. Flash exposure compensation can easily be set, however, from -3 EV to +1 EV.

The pop-up flash on the D5200 has the same specs as those on both the D3200 and D7100 with a guide number of 12m at ISO 100. This offers sufficient power for casual portraits and fill flash.

Shadow noise

Nikon's DSLRs have a well-deserved reputation for outstanding noise performance. And the D5200 is one of few DSLRs in its class to offer a 24MP sensor. So we thought it would be interesting to see how the D5200's Raw files perform against its APS-C rivals. In the comparison below we've drastically opened up the shadows using Adobe Camera Raw 7.4 with sharpening and noise reduction turned off, to shine a light on the sensors' inherent capabilities. We've compared the D5200 against both the 24MP Sony SLT-A65 and the 18MP Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D. All three cameras were shot at ISO 100.

Nikon D5200 - ACR +3.0EV 100% crop
Sony SLT-A65 - ACR +3.0EV 100% crop
Canon EOS 650D - ACR +3.0EV 100% crop

As you can see, the D5200 exhibits impressively little chroma noise. It easily surpasses the noise performance of the lower resolution Canon EOS T4i/650D. And while the older Sony SLT-A65 also bests the Canon, it can't quite match the D5200 in terms of noise performance or very fine detail retention.

Real world sample

While the results of our studio scene reveal interesting information about the sensor's maximum capabilities, it's important to place those results in the context of real-world photography. Below is an image shot outdoors at ISO 100 using the D5200's matrix metering. We've taken the image's .NEF Raw file and converted it in ACR 7.4 twice - once at ACR's default exposure settings, and again with the Basic Panel adjustments detailed below. Noise reduction was disabled in both examples.

ACR default settings with NR off ACR with Exposure +0.40, Shadows +80 with NR Off
100% crop 100% crop

In the first example, you can see that, while the camera has metered quite reasonably in order to retain highlight details while providing pleasing contrast, the default conversion does block shadow information inside the parking garage. In the second conversion we were able to boost exposure and open the shadows substantially with only a minor noise penalty. This means that, when faced with high contrast scenes, exposing for the highlights can provide the option of later opening up shadow areas in your Raw converter. The amount of noise that this exposes is far from objectionable, and can of course be minimized via your software's noise reduction settings.

Overall image quality

The D5200's image quality is impressive, particularly in Raw mode. As we demonstrated in our Nikon D7100 review, the D5200 gives up little to its higher-end (and non-AA filtered) sibling with regard to image detail at base ISO sensitivity. At higher ISO values the D5200 does a very good job of retaining fine detail while keeping chroma and luminance noise at levels that place it among the top of its peers. The camera's Raw files can also tolerate a fair degree of low-radius sharpening for crisp-looking results without prominent edge halos.

In our Nikon D7100 review we shot the D5200 side by side with its more expensive sibling, for which Nikon omitted the image-softening AA filter. Have a look at our results (click on the image above) and you'll see that the D5200 suffers very little by comparison, which speaks highly of its imaging capabilities.

As we've come to expect from Nikon DSLRs, the default JPEG settings of the D5200 produce files that lean more towards a more natural, 'unprocessed' look, avoiding sharpening-induced edge halos and overly aggressive smearing at high ISOs. This means that at high ISO settings, JPEGs tend to be gritty - compared to those from Canon and Sony, for example - but relatively detailed.

The D5200's Auto white balance setting is consistently accurate. Its matrix metering does a good job, in a range of lighting conditions, of protecting highlight details and providing pleasing overall contrast. In high contrast situations you may find yourself boosting exposure compensation by 0.3–0.7 EV for a more pleasing overall exposure, but this relatively conservative approach to metering is generally preferable to inadvertently clipping highlight data.

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Comments

Total comments: 18
BobFoster

Hi!
I currently have a Panasonic point and shoot camera and find that the kids are often blurry especially in low light, and also find that my outside shots are often either to bright or to dark. I've been thinking of getting a SLR for a few years now but want one that's automatic as Im usually taking pics of the kids and they generally move pretty quick, what would your recommendation be? D5200??

1 upvote
gadgetcoder

The 3xxx series cameras have fixed displays, the 5xxx cameras have pivoting displays, and more toys, bells and whistles. 3/51xx are 16MP, while the 3/52xx are 24MP. I have a 5200, and I love it...

0 upvotes
Michael 59

I recently upgraded from a D5100 to the D5200. Even though I've only taken snapshots here and there, I think the cameras image quality is great. I also have a D3200 which I bought for the higher MP. The 3200 takes beautiful pictures in my opinion, but lacks the bells & whistles I've got used to with the 5100. Even though the image quality in the 5100 was great, I liked the higher MP's, better auto-focus system, faster processor, and misc. other tweaks in the 5200. I still have the 3200 as a backup. The way I see it, The D5200 is like having all the great features "plus some others" of the 3200 and 5100 rolled into one camera. If you can afford the D5200, I recommend you purchase one. Something worth checking into is refurbs. Nikon as well as others sell those at a nice discount and they are inspected and practically like a new one. That how I got the one I have.

0 upvotes
Smartmil8

This is one of the best cameras in the world!

1 upvote
mumbai architect

Hi I am an architect and need to shoot interiors and buildings. I have been seeing D800E as a choice for the camera on the net. I don't have the budget to buy D800...Will D5200 suffice if I go for additional wide angle.? Please advise.

0 upvotes
Rusdy

it will be suffice. just buy a wide-lens and there you go

0 upvotes
Christie123

Is this better than D5100? I have D3100 and am planning to upgrade... but I am confused between D5100, D3200 and D5200...

0 upvotes
sophi loren

I was confused in between nikon D5200 and Nikon D3200 and at last I go with Nikon D5200 for its ultimate power and obviously the ability of great videoing. DPreview really helps me a lot in this case. Recently I read a review aabout Nikon D5200 best buy and the writer really explain lots of intersting facts about D5200 ad alos offer a great price deal there. I think that will help you guys.

Review Link:

http://www.squidoo.com/nikon-d5200-best-buy-a-personal-review

Enjoy with your Nikon and I really proud for my D5200
Thanks

Comment edited 22 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
sophi loren

I hope you will get help from that review :)

Comment edited 36 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Zac boy

Sophi loren How are you....?? I wanna ask you something...?

0 upvotes
draleks

I don't get it, what is the actual dynamic range of this camera? Without the ADL it seems to be a pretty mediocre 10EV, with ADL extra high it's 13 EV. Is ADL actually extending the dynamic range of the captured information, or is it just some "clever" post-processing?

1 upvote
Swinterschorr

I have the same question!

0 upvotes
OceanFroggie

Was torn between the extra physical controls of the D7100 and the tilting screen of the D5200 along with its lighter more ergonomic feel in hand. Image quality between the two seems similar. I opted for the D5200 and so far happy I went for it rather than the slighlty larger D7100. Thought I'd spend the cost difference in better lens quality. The D7100 screw drive would have focused by old film Nikkor lenses, but I thought it better to move to newer DX lenses with the amazing VR which didn't exist when I used film.

Only grip is I would prefer a second dial, but the tilt screen was worth the compromise. I don't bother using the ridiculously high 24mp image size, instead opting for 'medium' which is about 16mp which is more than enough. A very happy camper so far. After defecting from Nikon film SLRs to Fuji compact bridges a decade ago, now very pleased with the compact feel of the D5200 and the images it produces with ergonomic ease.

0 upvotes
DidYouConsider

I am trying to decide between the Nikon D5200 and the Canon T5i (700D).
I am *totally* confused by the JPG/Noise/ISO data on this page.

DPReview gives higher ratings to the Nikon, both for image quality and for noise. But, when I see the data above, I see the exact opposite. I must be mis-reading the data. I am only interested in the JPEG data. I don't like to use RAW - just takes up way too much space on my harddisk....

From what I see above, the Canon image seems much crisper - much much less noise. Can someone explain why DPReview gives the nod to the Nikon??

When I downloaded the sample image for both cameras, I also think the Canon seems so much crisper and sharper. Why would someone think the Nikon picture is better? They must be seeing something I am missing.

Any insight would be appreciated....

1 upvote
Duncan Dimanche

big cloister of dead pixels visible in that last visible video sample…. in the center…argh

0 upvotes
PeterDost

"particularly if you're prepared to move beyond either of the kit lenses to higher quality optics"

Which lens would provide better image quality providing a similar range like the 18-105?

Recommendations are welcome.

0 upvotes
AdamLeszko

considering that You have plenty of pixels to crop from 24M, and pretty average performance of mentioned lenses on long end, I would rather use tamron's or sigma's 17-50s with 2.8 light. Both in proce range of about $300-$400. They will actually allow You to take benefit of such big number of pixels.

cheers

0 upvotes
moeskoetie

why is the D5200 better for sports than the D5300?

0 upvotes
Total comments: 18