Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Conclusion - Pros
- Excellent low ISO performance in both JPEG and Raw files
- Class-leading noise performance at high ISO sensitivities
- Very good default JPEG settings
- Articulated rear screen
- Effective auto white balance in a variety of lighting conditions
- Auto ISO selection can be linked to lens focal length
- Generous frame coverage of 39-point AF array
- Customizeable Fn button
- In-camera Raw processing
- Ability to output uncompressed HD video to an external recorder
- Manual audio recording levels
- 3.5mm Stereo mic input
Conclusion - Cons
- Slow AF in live view and video modes (compared to mirrorless APS-C cameras)
- No real-time aperture adjustment in live view
- Relatively small image buffer limits burst capacity in Raw-enabled modes
- Soft video output at default settings
- No aperture control in video mode
- Upsampled video at default 60i output
- When shooting in live view, rear screen is blacked out until data is written to the card
- File numbering default that resets after every card format
The Nikon D5200 is a solid performer that offers an impressive array of specifications for a camera of its class. Indeed, the number of features it shares with its higher-end Nikon stablemates is to be applauded. In addition to an excellent 24MP sensor that gives up precious little to that of the (non-AA filtered) D7100, the D5200 boasts a 39 point AF system, lens-dependent Auto ISO implementation and class-leading high ISO noise performance.
The D5200 stands out as the only recent-model Nikon DSLR to sport an articulated screen which comes in handy for both stills and video shooters, though we can't help but wish it was touch enabled as is the one on the Canon EOS T5i/700D. The D5200 offers a reasonable number of external controls, but as you'd expect on a camera of this class, more advanced users will have to satisfy their needs with visits to the main menu. You do have a customizeable Fn button though, and the camera's '[i]' button allows more direct access to 14 separate camera and shooting settings. If we nitpick, we'd like to see even faster access that omits a second confirmation click before you can actually change a setting in this manner. Overall though, we find that the D5200 strikes a nice balance between providing essential shooting controls without overwhelming novice DSLR users.
The plastic build of the D5200 feels reasonably solid in hand, certainly in line with its peers from Canon and Sony. And while those with larger hands may find the grip a bit on the shallow side, the camera balances well with the consumer-grade zoom lenses many will be likely to put in front of it.
Image quality is certainly one of the D5200's greatest strengths. And this goes beyond the fact that it delivers 24MP output, which is impressive in its own right. At base ISO, the camera's Raw files show impressive levels of detail, particularly if you're prepared to move beyond either of the kit lenses to higher quality optics. At high ISO sensitivities, the noise performance of the D5200 is the best that we've seen from a DSLR at this price point. Noise reduction is very effective - concentrating on chroma noise to avoid unnecessarily blurring image details.
The camera's auto white balance does a fine job of rendering accurate colors in all but the more extreme lighting conditions. We also find that the camera's default JPEG settings produce pleasing files that don't display prominent sharpening artifacts. As always, you have the option of tweaking these settings to taste, but we haven't found much to complain about in the D5200's out-of-the-box JPEG output. Users who demand the utmost in detail and dynamic range will of course be shooting in Raw mode and we've found the D5200's files offer plenty of latitude for sharpening adjustments, retention of highlight detail and - at low ISOs - the opening up of shadow areas with minimal noise penalty.
While the camera's video specs are impressive, there are a couple of disappointments. If you want to record at 1080 50i or 60i, you should know that this involves a crop of the sensor area which is then upsampled to 1920 x 1080, resulting in noticeably soft results with tell-tale upsampling artifacts. On a pixel level we found the default out-of-camera video files to be a bit soft but, to be fair, the D5200 delivers files that can withstand relatively aggressive sharpening in post-production, resulting in crisp-looking video.
The D5200 handles in a very similar fashion as its predecessor, the D5100. And this is a good thing, as we were quite pleased with the earlier model. The most essential shooting controls have direct access control points. And a dedicated '[i]' button allows access to a greater selection of options without entering the main menu.
The camera's main feature from an ergonomics/handling feature may well be its articulated screen. Whether shooting with the camera mounted on a tripod, grabbing a shot above your head or below waist level, or simply angling the screen away from glare in bright daylight, there are many instances in which an articulated screen can come in handy.
A respectable 5 fps maximum frame rate makes the D5200 suitable for casual action shots like recreational sports. And if you shoot in JPEG mode, you aren't likely to have to wait on the camera as it writes to the SD card. In our time spent shooting real world images, the D5200 proved itself a good, brisk performer overall and was generally ready to shoot when we needed it to be.
The Final Word
The D5200 is a solid performer that, while geared towards beginning DSLR users from an operational standpoint, shares many specifications with more expensive enthusiast offerings. It combines excellent image quality and impressive high ISO performance with an articulated screen and video capabilities that hold appeal for video shooters with a post-production workflow.
The D5200 doen't have the touchscreen capability of the Canon EOS T5i / 700D and is not as feature-laden as Sony's SLT-series cameras with sweep panorama and built-in GPS. But, if the D5200 is a bit conservative by comparison, for those looking for traditional photographic basics done well, Nikon has provided an option worthy of consideration.
We do find fault with limitations such as lack of aperture control with live view engaged and the combined stills/video live view implementation makes accurate framing for video output difficult in many situations. Users wanting to shoot in live view mode will have to settle for slower autofocus performance than they'd get from nearly any mirrorless camera. And we're also disappointed in the camera's 60i video output, which contains upsampling artifacts.
On the whole, however, Nikon has gotten a lot more right than wrong, with the D5200 offering significant upgrades over its predecessor, the D5100. It inherits genuinely useful features from higher-end models, including focal length-dependent Auto ISO behavior and a 39 point AF system. That this all comes in a package with a very reasonable body-only list price of $800, speaks to the impressive value available to DSLR shooters on a budget. As such, the Nikon D5200 easily earns our Silver award.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
Users who demand the utmost in image detail at low ISO values and videographers who can make use of uncompressed video footage.
Not so good for
Photographers who work primarily in live view and videographers who want high quality 60i output.
The Nikon D5200 is a solid performer that delivers excellent image quality and impressive high-ISO performance, along with an articulated screen and a control interface that's appropriate for users stepping up to a DSLR.
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