Nikon D5200 In-Depth Review
Nikon has outfitted the D5200 with many specs that will appeal to videographers looking for a small, inexpensive camera. In fact, it shares most of the video-oriented features found on the enthusiast D7100, including 1080 60i (from 60 fps sensor output) recording and uncompressed output over HDMI. And while it lacks the headphone socket found in Nikon's larger-bodied DSLRs, the D5200 includes built-in stereo microphones and is the only recent-model Nikon DSLR to offer an articulated screen.
|The D5200 features an articulated screen that can provide video shooters with a much more comfortable viewing position than DSLRs that use a fixed screen.|
Video quality options
The D5200 can shoot 1080 movies at 60i, 50i, 30p, 25p or 24p frames rates, at bit rates of up to 24Mbps. An option in the Setup menu allows you to choose either NTSC or PAL-compatible frame rates. The D5200 has built-in stereo microphones in addition to a socket for plugging in an external stereo mic of your choice. Microphone sensitivity controls allow you to manually adjust the recording level. Video footage is compressed using B-frame data compression of the H.264/MPEG-4 video codec, which tries to optimize the capture of motion with an eye towards maintaining manageable file sizes.
|Sizes|| Frame size/frame rate
1920 × 1080 60i
1920 × 1080 50i
1920 × 1080 30p
1920 × 1080 25p
1920 × 1080 24p
1280 x 720 60p
1280 x 720 50p
640 x 424 30p
640 x 424 25p
|Audio||Stereo internal mic, Linear PCM|
|File compression||H.264/MPEG-4 (Advanced Video Coding)|
|Recordable time||29 min. 59 sec.|
Video over HDMI
Like all of Nikon's recently released higher-end DSLRs, the D5200 offers the ability to record uncompressed video over its HDMI port. For video professionals, the benefits of shooting uncompressed video lie in avoiding compression artifacts that can hinder grading options in post-production. Whether using HDMI-enabled output to record the highest possible quality footage or to simply use an external monitor as viewfinder, this is a feature that is becoming more common, though in the case of Canon and Sony, it is reserved for decidedly higher-end models like the EOS 5D Mark III and SLT-A99.
Uncompressed video can only be sent to an external recorder that's connected to the D5200's HDMI port. This footage is enormous, so it makes sense that you're prevented from recording it straight to your SD card. Unfortunately though, you cannot record 1080p video to the SD card as a 'safety' backup while recording to the external HDMI device simultaneously. Whenever video is recorded to the card, the HDMI output drops to 720p. We'd like to see the option to record full HD alongside the uncompressed footage.
Handling in Video mode
Recording video on the D5200 first requires you to engage live view via a lever that sits alongside the camera's mode dial. You can then initiate a recording by pressing the red movie record button sitting just behind the shutter release. To prevent accidental operation, the record button is disabled when live view is turned off.
|The 'LV' lever next to the mode dial is used to turn live view on and off. Once live view is enabled you press the shutter release to capture a still image or press the red movie record button to both start and end video capture. This button is inactive until live view is enabled.|
Unlike the higher priced D7100, the D5200 lacks a separate live view toggle for stills and video shooting. With live view active, the sole determinant of a still image versus video capture is which button you press (shutter release or movie record). As we noted on the operations and controls page of this review, the biggest obstacle this presents is that the rear screen always displays the stills-shooting 3:2 aspect ratio (albeit with the option of vague grey framing overlays).
As with Nikon's other current APS-C DSLRs, it's not possible to manually adjust the aperture during video recording. And even with the camera dial set to manual mode, you only have direct control over shutter speed and ISO for video recording (and even then, only before you press REC). Yet to get even that functionality first requires a trip to the main menu where you must enable the manual movie settings option. The D5200 will always record video at the last aperture selected before live view was initiated.
|Setting 'Manual movie settings' to 'On' allows the shutter speed and ISO sensitivity for movies to be selected manually. Rotate the mode dial to M, and you can choose the shutter speed and sensitivity before movie recording.
Set this to 'Off' and shutter speed and aperture will be set automatically even in manual mode.
Contrast-detect AF is the only option available when shooting videos. It is not only slower than the camera's 'normal' phase-detection mode but lags significantly behind the contrast-detect AF performance of most mirrorless models we've seen. While you'd expect a performance dip as a result of having to use a contrast-detect AF system in movie mode, be aware that the lens' AF hunting is prominent both visually and audibly in movie mode. As such, we recommend that when filming static subjects, you focus the camera before you begin recording.
|The D5200 offers control over the microphone recording level. You can set the gain manually in 20 steps, with a stereo decibel meter as a visual aid.|
The image quality of the D5200's video is practically identical to the output we saw in our review of the D7100. As such, at its default sharpness setting the D5200 displays a bit more softness than we'd like. And at base ISO it lags noticeably behind the results we saw in our review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3.
There are two points we'd like to stress, however. First, the D5200's output is by no means objectionable for the needs of most stills-oriented owners who want to capture the occasional video. Colors are rendered in a natural-looking manner with auto exposure and white balance settings producing pleasing output in a variety of lighting scenarios.
The second point is that experienced videographers will not typically be presenting footage straight from the camera. And while the D5200's files are a bit soft, they stand up very well to sharpening in post-production, giving the appearance of crisp output without the introduction of prominent edge halos or other artifacts.
As you'll see in the samples below, the D5200's low-light capabilities are impressive, allowing you to shoot at very high ISO sensitivities and still come away with appropriate detail. Also in its favor, is that we have found instances of color moiré to be few and far between in our real world shooting with the D5200.
The built-in stereo mics are prone to picking up sounds emanating from behind the camera, so users looking for more pristine audio will be better served by an external unidirectional microphone. Wind noise can become distracting in breezy conditions, but in general was kept reasonably well in check.
Something to be aware of though, even for casual video shooters, is that selecting the 1080 60i (or 50i) option degrades image quality. At the 60i setting, the field of view is automatically cropped and then upsampled to fill the 1920 x 1080 frame, with tell-tale sampling artifacts as well as a noticeably softer image, as you can see in the samples below.
We reported very similar behavior on the video page of our D7100 review. The differences in the higher-end camera are twofold. First, on the D7100, shooting at 60i requires you to manually set the camera to a discrete crop mode. On the D5200, there is no such option, as the crop and upsampling are done automatically behind the scenes. Second, the recorded area on the D7100 works out to a 1.3x crop, presumably chosen to match the (rather helpful) crop factor used in stills mode. The D5200, by contrast, lacks a crop mode for stills shooting and we've measured the 60i output to be roughly a 1.23x crop over the 30p output.
|1080 30p||1080 60i|
|100% crop||100% crop|
The 1920 x 1080 still images above have been extracted from D5200 video files. You can see both the change in field of view and resulting loss of image quality when shooting video at 60i versus 30p. As such, although the D5200 is capable of sensor readout at 50-60 fps, and this crop could be thought of as a 'built-in' focal length multiplier, we wouldn't recommend the 60i option to videographers. Complicating matters unnecessarily for even casual video shooters is that Nikon has chosen to make 60i capture the default video setting. This could easily give new users the mistaken impression that the D5200's video quality is unacceptably poor.
The video samples below, hosted on YouTube were all shot using the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens with the camera mounted on a tripod. The 'Standard' Picture Control was used at its default settings. Because the video quality of the D5200 is essentially identical to that of the D7100, we encourage you to review the several samples we included in the video section of our D7100 review. Below we'll demonstrate the camera's output at both 30p and 24p settings as well as its low light performance.
This video sample demonstrates the low ISO image quality of video shot at 1080p30. The lens was pre-focused before recording began and the camera was panned while mounted on a tripod. Viewed at full size, you can see that the video is somewhat soft at the camera's default sharpness setting.
Towards the very end of the clip you can see the effects of the D5200's matrix metering as it adjusts brightness. The stereo mics do pick up a fair amount of ambient noise emanating from behind the camera and you can also here some wind noise.
|1920x1080 30p, MOV, 37 sec, 106 MB Click here to download original file|
This night scene shows the high ISO performance of the D5200 shot at 1080p30. While noise patterns are certainly visible in areas of solid tone, the results are nonetheless quite impressive with very pleasing color saturation and a good amount of detail in pedestrians' backpacks and lettering on the food cart. The D5200's metering system delivers a well-judged exposure and although the scene has a decidedly warm cast, mixed outdoor lighting at night would present a challenge for any auto white balance system.
|1920x1080 30p, MOV, 24 sec, 66 MB Click here to download original file|
This clip was shot under the same conditions as the previous video. This time the camera was set to record at 24p. Again, the D5200's high ISO performance is impressive, with good shadow detail and image noise that, while visible, is not overly distracting. Again, the D5200's auto white balance setting was used.
|1920x1080 24p, MOV, 31 sec, 87 MB Click here to download original file|