Operation and controls

Top of camera controls

Most of the D5200's main shooting controls are arranged on the top plate. A mode dial provides acces to PASM and automated scene and effects modes. The on/off switch is concentric with the shutter button, with the exposure compensation and red movie record buttons immediately behind. The latter is inactive unless live view is enabled, which is done via the lever next to the mode dial.

Just behind the 'info' button - which toggles the rear LCD on and off - is the D5200's new drive mode button. With it you can choose from single, continuous (5 or 3 fps), self-timer, and infra-red remote release mode. Nikon's quiet mode (Q) is also available. When enabled, it delays the mirror return until you release the shutter button, and also disables operational beeps and the autofocus illuminator.

Next to the mode dial is a sprung lever which sets the camera to live view mode, allowing you to compose your shots on the rear screen rather than in the viewfinder, as well as record video.

Rear Controls

The back of the rather petite D5200 is dominated by its 3.0 inch articulated LCD screen, with buttons arranged around it. The Menu button is isolated on the top left shoulder, but all of the others are positioned for operation by the thumb of your shooting hand. The rear dial is used to change exposure settings in the PSAM modes. When holding down the +/- button behind the shutter release, turning the dial also allows you set exposure compensation or, in manual mode, the aperture value.

The '[i]' button to the right of the viewfinder 'activates' the rear screen, allowing you to change the two rows of onscreen settings below the virtual dials. The autoexposure/autofocus lock button (AE-L/AF-L) beside the rear dial is configurable. It can be set to lock either focus or exposure, or both together. It can also be configured as 'AF-ON' to permit focus acquisition independently from a shutter button press, a feature often used by action and wildlife shooters.

The playback button is placed at the upper right of the monitor, and below it is the four-way controller that's used to navigate menus and settings, with a central 'OK' button to confirm changes. The controller also moves the autofocus point around the frame when in Single-point AF mode, with a press of the OK button resetting the focus point to the centre of the frame.

Towards the bottom of the body are the magnification buttons, used to zoom in and out during live view and playback modes. The 'zoom out' button also doubles as a help ('?') key. Pressing it displays information about the currently-selected setting or menu item. Beneath the card indicator lamp is the camera's delete button.

Front Controls

The D5200 has just two controls on the front, above the lens release. The flash button has multiple functions, two of which will not be obvious to first-time Nikon users. A simple press releases the built-in flash. Yet hold it down while spinning the rear dial and you can set the flash mode. Hold it and the +/– button simultaneously while turning the rear dial and you can set flash exposure compensation.

The Fn button below it is customisable, and offers a range of settings, which are listed below:

D5200 Fn button options
 • Image quality/size
 • ISO sensitivity
 • White balance
 • Active D-Lighting
 • HDR (High dynamic range mode)
 • + NEF (RAW) mode
 • Auto Bracketing
 • AF-area mode
 • Live View
 • AE/AF lock
 • AE lock only
 • AE lock (Hold)
 • AF lock only
 • AF-ON

It's worth noting that the Fn button is the only direct way way of setting the White Balance or ISO (although you can also use the rear control screen). But with the D5200's improved Auto ISO program, this at least is something you can now plausibly leave to the camera most of the time. The last five options replicate those available on the AE-L button, so in principle you can use Fn as Autoexposure lock or AF-ON (although it's inconveniently-placed for this).

As on previous models, the Fn button's close proximity to the flash button, coupled with it's identical size and feel, means it's all-too-easy to find yourself inadvertently releasing the flash by mistake when attempting to engage the button by feel.