User Interface

Although it has external controls for many common shooting settings, most work in conjunction with onscreen icons and menus. Nikon has redesigned the user interface of the D5200, adopting a more logical layout than that of its predecessor, the D5100. Both the 'classic' and 'graphic' displays have had a makeover, and are now split into two 'panels'. The top one shows the major exposure parameters and the AF system status, while the lower one displays an array of secondary settings in two rows .

The 'graphic' display now gives shutter speed, aperture and ISO equal billing, so you can keep track of all three at a glance. This is one of the more effective methods we've seen for visualizing the camera's key settings.

The three virtual dials in the 'graphic' interface are all animated, and 'turn' onscreen when you change a setting. As you can see, the iris closes down too. Turn the physical mode dial and the ISO display is temporarily replaced by a virtual mode dial. This neat touch lets you verify the mode change without having to look at the top of the camera.
 
You have a choice of three colour schemes for the display. And you can make separate selections for the Auto/Scene/Effects and PSAM modes (using graphic in PSAM and classic in Auto, for example).  

As with many DSLRs, the lower panel of the D5200's control display is interactive, allowing you to change settings without a trip to the main menu. You trigger this behavior by pressing the '[i]' button, which activates the double row of icons along the bottom of the screen.

Sadly, and unlike most of its rivals, the D5200 doesn't allow you to change the settings from the initial screen. Instead, after confirming which parameter you wish to change, you're then taken to a second screen where you actually select the desired setting. This rather under-uses the control dial, and makes changing settings slower than it needs to be.

The 'classic' display (shown below) presents all the key settings on the back of the camera, but with a simple numerical display of shutter speed, aperture and ISO.

'Classic' mode presents the same two rows of camera settings present in 'graphic' mode. And as in 'graphic' mode, you adjust the settings first by pressing the [i] button... ...which activates the panel, allowing you to navigate to the parameter you wish to change using the four way controller. To actually change a setting though, requires you to press the OK button and visit another screen, where you're presented with the available options.

File numbering sequence

One seemingly minor but genuinely annoying behavior of Nikon's lower-tier DSLRs like the D5200 and D3200 is that by default, both cameras are configured to reset the file number sequence each time you format your SD card. This results in several images with identical names, making it all too easy to overwrite existing images when uploading files to your computer. We're hard-pressed to imagine any situation in which having multiple images with the same name is advantageous. As such we recoomend enabling a continuous numbering sequence via the D5200's custom menu option (d:4) by setting this option to 'On'.

Live view displays

With only a single stills/movie live view mode, you're limited to the same four information screens regardless of whether you're preparing to shoot stills or capture video. You cycle through these screens by pressing the camera's 'info' button.

As you'll notice below, the preview for each view is in a stills-oriented 3:2 ratio. The only way to preview a 16:9 video framing is via the gray bars overlaid along the top and bottom of the screen area when you select the movie information view. Unfortunately, their low opacity makes these bars impossible to distinguish when shooting video of darker subjects or in low light conditions.

An 'information' view displays key camera settings. A grid view is available.
Here is the image-only view. The video indicator screen displays sound levels, recording time and quality setting. Gray bars along the top and bottom are the only indication of the 16:9 framing that will be captured. Sadly there are difficult to distinguish atop darker scenes.

With live view enabled and the camera set to manual exposure mode, you can control shutter speed and ISO, but not aperture. Adjustments made to shutter speed or ISO will result in the preview image becoming brighter or darker, reflecting the resulting exposure.

Auto ISO

The D5200 gains the same Auto ISO configuration options as Nikon's D4, D800 and D600 - making it the most sophisticated Auto ISO system on the market at present. The system can be set up in a number of ways, depending on whether it's camera shake or subject movement that you think is most likely to ruin your image.

You can either specify a minimum shutter speed, or allow the camera to select the value for you based on the lens in use. But, even with this 'Auto' option, you can fine-tune its behavior towards using faster or slower shutter speeds.

Minimum Shutter Speed

If you're more concerned with freezing subject movement (when shooting sports for instance), then you can specify a fixed minimum shutter speed that the Auto ISO system will always attempt to maintain. You might also appreciate the control this direct setting gives if you're shooting with a fixed-focal-length lens.

Auto

The Auto setting varies the minimum shutter speed in relation to the current focal length, which makes it ideal for avoiding camera shake (the effect of which is focal length dependent). If you find you're more or less able to keep the camera steady at the shutter speeds that 'Auto' uses, you can fine-tune its behavior to maintain faster or slower shutter speeds than its default.

Overall this gives plenty of control over the behavior of Auto ISO (you may find that just fine-tuning the Auto shutter speed setting gives you the results you're looking for). However, turning Auto ISO on and off, as well as adjusting any of the finer settings, is conducted by navigating to the 14th (of 18) menu item in the second tab of the main menu - rather than simply having 'Auto' as a selectable setting via the Fn button (when set to ISO) or through the interactive control panel.