Review: Nikon D5200

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Nikon’s D5200 is targeted at the middle end of the consumer pool–meaning that it will give you more features or is just for a more experienced user. As a previous owner of the Nikon D5100, it’s only natural that I’d review its successor. At its heart, this camera has a 24.1MP ASP-C sized sensor with a 1.5x crop factor–effectively multiplying a focal length. It takes SD cards, has a 95% viewfinder, can shoot at up to 1/4000th, 5fps shooting, 3D color matrix metering, has a maximum ISO output of 6400 natively, and has 39 focusing points.

Seriously, what’s not to love about a camera with this much power?


Pros and Cons

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Pros

– Excellent image quality

– Very versatile RAW files

– Lots of focusing points

– Almost never misfocuses

– Timelapse mode, but it won’t stitch the images into a movie

Cons

– We really wish Nikon gave the 5000 series of cameras two exposure dials

Gear Used

For this review, we tested the Nikon D5200 with the Tokina 12-28mm f4 and the 18-55mm kit lens.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the B&H Photo listing of the camera

  • 24.1MP DX CMOS Sensor
  • EXPEED 3 Image Processing Engine
  • 3.0″ 921k-Dot Vari-Angle LCD Monitor
  • 39-Point AF System with 9 Cross-Type
  • Full HD Video with Full-Time Servo AF
  • Expandable ISO from 100-25600
  • 5fps Continuous Shooting Rate
  • Scene Recognition System
  • Compatible with WU-1a Wireless Adapter

Ergonomics

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The D5200 was designed with the idea of maintaining a balance between the higher end user and the entry level user. And with this in mind, there are controls on the camera that allow you to do nearly anything you want with two buttons and/or the dial. The front, for example, has a couple of controls. Not only do you have the lens release, but you also have a function button and the pop-up flash button.

The D5000 series typically sets the Fn button to control the ISO setting–and when held down, rotating the dial can do just that.

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The top of the camera is a bit more complicated. Here you’ll find the hot shoe, mode dial, live view switch around said dial, drive button, info, exposure compensation, and the video record button along with the on/off switch around the shutter release.

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The back of the camera features another info button, menu button, AFL/AEL button, exposure dial, playback, zoom, trash and more. Plus, there is a swivel-tilt LCD screen for shooting in tough angles and for video use.

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On the right side of the camera you’ll find the SD card port and the grip. It puts the card in sideways so if you want to use an Eye-Fi card, expect the performance to be a bit slower since the router is to the side instead of upward.

Build Quality

The D5000 series of cameras haven’t always been the most sturdy–and the D5200 doesn’t exactly feel like the most solid either. At the moment, we’re also testing the Rebel T5i and we consider the Rebel’s build and feel to be better for what it’s worth.

Ease of Use

Pro Tip: We very, very strongly recommend setting your exposure manually when shooting a time lapse. A camera's automatic metering system can otherwise throw the overall exposures off and produce what's called flicker. Using a program like Sequence to stitch your time lapse together can otherwise get rid of issues like this.

Pro Tip: We very, very strongly recommend setting your exposure manually when shooting a time lapse. A camera’s automatic metering system can otherwise throw the overall exposures off and produce what’s called flicker. Using a program like Sequence to stitch your time lapse together can otherwise get rid of issues like this.

When a user picks up to use the D5200, they should keep in mind the fact that you’ll need to use two buttons to accomplish most functions–that is if they’re shooting in an advanced mode. If you’re in auto mode, set it and forget it.

For the advanced user that wants to get into timelapse shooting, the interval shooting mode works just like the Nikon D7100’s, and it is pretty straight forward to use. We recommend this camera for anyone looking to get into timelapse shooting. Just see our Essentials kit.

When shooting in low light, we found the viewfinder to be a bit too dark for our liking. It was tough to see in the shadows during parties and just by being outside when peering into the looking hole. But once the camera was away from our eyes, it was clear as day–but just at night.

Metering

We ran the Nikon D5200’s meter against a handheld light meter and our standard Sunny 16 test in various locations. The camera underexposes by 1/3rd of a stop in most situations. In all honesty, that’s not too bad at all.

Autofocus

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 review images (7 of 7)ISO 4001-640 sec at f - 3.5

The D5200 has an extremely advanced focusing system as the user can use one focusing point, all of them, use 3D tracking, or use a focusing point with expansion into the ones around it. Not only that, but it’s also super accurate in most situations. When trying to track moving objects for street photography, the camera didn’t really give us much pause unless we couldn’t keep up with our subject in the panning process. But otherwise, it was super easy.

If you’re a parent and you want to photograph your kid’s sports game, just make sure that you’ve got a good monopod and a long telephoto lens. Then you’ll be all set.

In low light, the camera can hunt quite a bit unless you’re focusing on a high contrast point. Otherwise, expect it to look for a point for a couple of seconds.

Image Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 review images (2 of 7)ISO 2001-100 sec at f - 3.5

Overall image quality with the Nikon D5200 is nothing to complain about. For what it’s worth though, the D5100 before it also had some stellar quality–but Nikon put more megapixels on a smaller sensor than some full frame cameras currently have during the time of publishing this post.

In a nutshell, one can equate the D5200 to the dwarves in the Lord of the Rings universe. They’re small, they’re powerful, they can be extremely surprising, and though they can be a tad weird there is really nothing to complain about because they’re gruff, tough and can do nearly anything you really need them to.

The 24.1MP APS-C sized sensor in this camera surprised us. It has some fair color rendering, good high ISO results and produces some very versatile raw files. However, when you look at the images from this camera there is something about them that doesn’t look like a Nikon product. Nikon images have characteristically had vibrant colors, second to none white balancing abilities and showed off an extra sharpness that you can’t really get out of the camera from anyone else except for maybe Leica. But with this new sensor, things aren’t so. It looks and feels more like a combination of what Sony and Canon might do if they got together and decided to produce a sensor for the entry level crowd. With that said, you’ll get Canon’s white balancing abilities with Sony’s color rendering out of the camera in the standard color mode–except that your Nikon D5200 will be set to Vivid.

And even for me, that’s just a bit weird. But if you’re totally new to the camera system, this shouldn’t bother you a single bit. The Nikon D5200 has some overall excellent image quality and we can’t complain about much that it has to offer. However, note that it still can’t outdo the likes of Fujifilm’s X Trans sensors and that Sony’s sensors can also still deliver quite a punch.

RAW File Versatility

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (17 of 23)ISO 2001-1600 sec at f - 4.0

In our tests, we were able to pull back around 2.3 stops of information from the highlights and push around three stops in the shadows until we started to see major problems with noise. All of our testing was done in Adobe Lightroom 5. Folks shooting HDR images will be very pleased with this and anyone complaining about the versatility otherwise needs to learn how to meter.

If anything, metering is really what it all comes down to.

High ISO Images

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 review high iso images (3 of 6)ISO 64001-80 sec at f - 4.0

As is characteristic of all APS-C sensor cameras, any high ISO noise has very tight grain. The Nikon D5200’s in particular looks very film-like is and is easily nerfable with a couple slides of a noise reduction level in Lightroom. There is no chroma noise that we’ve seen at all–and instead it is all just luminance.

Once again though, you might want to embrace it rather than getting rid of it. Additionally, when looking at an entire image, it’s tough to spot. You’re only really going to see it at 100%.

Extra Image Samples

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (23 of 23)ISO 1001-125 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (13 of 23)ISO 2001-1000 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (14 of 23)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images (10 of 10)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images (5 of 10)ISO 2001-100 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images (2 of 10)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 first impressions (9 of 14)ISO 2001-400 sec at f - 4.0

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 review images (3 of 7)ISO 2001-640 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 review images (4 of 7)ISO 2001-1600 sec at f - 3.5

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 review images (5 of 7)ISO 2001-1250 sec at f - 3.5

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 review images (6 of 7)ISO 4001-500 sec at f - 3.5

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 review images (7 of 7)ISO 4001-640 sec at f - 3.5

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 review images (1 of 7)ISO 2001-2000 sec at f - 3.5

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 review high iso images (1 of 6)ISO 64001-80 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 review high iso images (6 of 6)ISO 64001-80 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 review high iso images (5 of 6)ISO 64001-50 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 review high iso images (4 of 6)ISO 64001-100 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 review high iso images (2 of 6)ISO 64001-100 sec at f - 4.0

Conclusions

Nikon has always produced some of the best DSLRs–but they’ve mostly been known and noted for on the higher end. This year though, we feel like they’ve taken the lower end as well. The D5200 exhibits exceptional autofocusing in most lighting conditions, decent coloring, great RAW files, fast shooting abilities, a timelapse mode, and it does it all at a damned good price.

We have very little to complain about with the Nikon D5200–and anything major that we’d like to see are just personal quibbles.

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