Higher resolution, better autofocus, and faster bursts—not to mention a swiveling LCD, all for a swoon-worthy price
The navigation pad also lets you change the autofocus point when you have set the camera to selectable-point AF. (There is no clear indication of this on the body, a good reason to read the instruction manual.)
And the D5200’s 39-point AF system is a considerable upgrade from the 11-point array of its predecessor and of the current D3200. It provides both more coverage across the frame and more granular selection.
Fans of live view will be pleased that a flip switch next to the mode dial lets you access this shooting mode very quickly and easily. The downside is that we inadvertently entered live view numerous times during our field tests; if you leave the camera turned on while walking around, it’s pretty easy to make this mistake. Not a big deal, as you can exit live view quickly enough, but occasionally annoying if you’re rushing to bring the camera to eye for a grab shot.
The new camera lets you shoot in bursts of up to 5 frames per second, compared with 4 fps with the D5100 and D3200. This puts it at the lower-end cutoff for what we consider adequate for serious sports shooting, so it’s a decent choice for action shooters on a budget.
For burst shooting, you’ll get more shots before the buffer fills with JPEGs than with RAW images: Full-resolution Fine JPEGs will fill the buffer after 35 images, while RAW brings that number down to 8. If you want to capture RAW and large Fine JPEGs simultaneously, you can only expect 6 shots per burst. Not great, but it beats Canon’s T4i, which, while also capturing at 5 fps, will poop out after only 3 RAW + JPEG shots, 5 RAW captures, or 30 Large Fine JPEGs.
In our field testing, the D5200’s continuous AF did a good job of tracking along with moving subjects. We were able to get sharp shots of cars zipping through city streets at 5 fps. As long as you allow for the first shot to lock on, the camera will generally keep up from there.
We were pleased with video captured by the D5200. Footage had nicely saturated and accurate colors, and it showed minimal video artifacts. Given that Nikon hasn’t implemented phase-detection autofocus during movie capture, Canon has a slight edge here, but only if you are using one of Canon’s STM lenses, of which there are only a few to date.
The Bottom Line
Nikon has made a compelling DSLR in the D5200. If you like the convenience of an articulated LCD screen and are invested in the Nikon system, it’s basically your only option other than the D5100. But that is hardly a limitation, given that the D5200 performs well and delivers very fine images.
If you are not invested in any system, you should strongly consider the D5200, a very solid choice for a DSLR at this price.
But if you’re open to an ILC, the decision becomes harder. Your options include Micro Four Thirds as well as APS-C-sensor models from Samsung or Sony. (Nikon’s own System 1 cameras are less compelling, given their smaller sensors and very limited lens line that can’t match the breadth of lenses available for Micro Four Thirds, or, of course, the vast catalog of Nikon F lenses that work with the D5200.)
The plain truth is that if you want a DSLR kit for less than $900, you likely won’t regret opting for the D5200.
Imaging: 24.1MP effective, DX-format CMOS sensor captures images at 6000x4000 pixels with 14 bits/color in RAW mode.
Storage: SD, SDHC, SDXC. Stores JPEG, NEF RAW, or RAW + JPEG files.
Video: Records up to 1920x1080i60 (30 fps also available) in MPEG-4 H.264 format; built-in stereo microphone; stereo microphone input; approx. 20-min maximum clip size at highest quality.
Burst Rate: Full-sized JPEGs (Fine), up to 35 shots at 5 fps; RAW, up to 8 shots at 5 fps; RAW + JPEG, up to 6 shots at 5 fps; using a UHS-I compatible SD card.
AF System: TTL phase-detection with 39 illuminated focus points (9 cross-type points); single-shot, continuous, predictive focus tracking; tested sensitivity down to EV –1 (at ISO 100, f/1.4).
Live View: Full-time contrast-detection, or single-shot phase-detection AF with mirror interrupting view momentarily.
Shutter Speeds: 1/4000 to 30 sec, plus B (1/3-EV increments); shutter life not rated; flash sync to 1/200 second.
Metering: TTL metering using 2,016-pixel sensor; evaluative (Matrix), centerweighted (75% weight given to 8mm circle in center of the frame), and spot (approx. 2.5% of finder at center); range, 0 to 20 EV (at ISO 100), 2 to 20 EV when using spotmetering.
ISO Range: ISO 100–6,400 (in 1- or 1/3-EV steps), expandable to ISO 100–25,600.
Viewfinder: Fixed eye-level pentamirror.
LCD: Articulated 3-in. TFT with 921,000-dot resolution, 3-step brightness adjustment.
Output: Hi-Speed USB 2.0, mini-HDMI video, and composite video.
Battery: Rechargeable EN-EL14 Li-ion; CIPA rating, 500 shots.
Size/weight: 5.1x3.9x3.1 inches, 1.2 lbs with a card and battery.
Street Price: $797, body only; $897 with 18–55mm f/3.5-–5.6G AF-S DX VR lens.