Nikon D5200 DSLR Review: D5100 made fancier
The Nikon D5200 is the D5100 plus some updated features added from the D7000 and D3200, nonetheless these new features make a big difference
Packaging, Design and Built
The huge sturdy box adorns Nikon’s signature black and yellow colour combination. Inside the box you’ll find the usual goodies really – the EN-EL14 rechargeable Li-ion battery (with terminal cover), MH-24 charging adapter, AN-DC3 strap, UC-E17 USB cable, EG-CP16 audio/video cable, DK-5 eyepiece cap, BS-1 accessory shoe cover, DK-20 rubber eyecup, BF-1B body cap, Viewing 2 CD-ROM and User’s Manual (Hooch!) apart from the camera body and kit lens.
There is also a no. of optional accessories available like the R10 receiver, external stereo mic, remote viewfinder receiver, shutter release cable etc. so basically you have an army of minions to help you in different situations.
We wished Nikon was so kind as to provide an HDMI cable as bonus.
Design and built
You would not find the design, built as well as the dimensions and weight much different from the D5100 – and we are delighted to know that! The D5200 looks typical of entry-level Nikon DSLR with all metal body with patches of rubber here and there. This increases the overall weight but adds the much-appreciated durability and stability while using handheld, especially with a fast telephoto lens. In that case even if you’re not using a tripod to hold the lens, the added weight of the camera does keep the system stabilized and not keep on tilting to the front.
The front side has the F lens mount, auto focus assist lamp, infrared receiver, the lens release button, flash and a multi-function button. No bracketing button then. You can set the multi-function button to any function available – I would set it to quick ISO change.
The top has, starting at the right side (while holding it), the eyelet for strap (there is another on the left side), exposure compensation button that also works as a toggle of the lone command dial, power lever with the shutter release button, info, the release mode button (also for remote and self-time set), quick video recording button, the mode dial with the live view toggle lever. More towards left is the accessory shoe cover, dual speakers, mic and the left eyelet.
The back side has the 3-inch bright 270-degree articulating LCD with the viewfinder on top, menu and another infrared receiver towards its left and a host of usual controls on the right including the diopter setting, info edit, exposure and focus lock, command dial, playback, multi-select button with the ok button, zoom in, zoom out and at last the delete button. There is also an indicator light just above the delete button that blinks whenever the camera is accessing data from the card.
The left side has the ports – ext. mic jack, USB out, HDMI out and the GPS out. The right side has the single card slot. We would’ve liked two cards slots for a 24.1MP and Full HD camera! Below you have the tripod mount, battery compartment and the optional power connector cover.
The mode dial
The mode dial is a joy to operate thanks to well spaced-out jagged outer surface which prevent the fingers from slipping while rotating. The prominent thud lets you know clearly that you’ve advanced one step. The dial has the usual Auto, P. A. S, M and various quick scene modes but also comes with an effect mode that gives you some of the point-and-shoot type quick effect fun.
270-degree articulating LCD
The 3-inch LCD monitor opens horizontally from 0° to 180° and flips up and down from +180° to -90°. It has VGA resolution with 971k dots, and looks quite good under sunlight. The hinge is solid so don’t worry about that.
UI, Usability and Features
Switch on the device and you’ll be greeted by a brilliant Info screen on the LCD. We absolutely adored it and make your job so much easier! Right in front are the three dials – shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Surrounding them is the crowd of information about the present status of settings. You can click the info edit button on the top to toggle between various options. There is so much of information and icons but they are laid in a very distinct and disciplined manner so that your eyes don’t need to fish for them every time. The more important settings are bigger in size so that you can quickly locate them. You can toggle the info screen on/off with the info button in front, but the screen goes away in a few seconds of idleness anyway.
Pressing Menu on top left will take you to the main setting table. The options are available subjected to the mode you’ve selected on the mode dial. The Menu has items that are not changed very often. If you are looking for settings that are frequently adjusted according to the situation, the info screen is more than enough.
Biggest draw of the D5200 for someone looking for usability is its 270-degree articulating LCD monitor. But the D5200 is otherwise also very user friendly, especially important in case of operating with hands. The most important buttons are on the right side, making using the camera with only the right hand possible. The body is not tall enough to accommodate all your four fingers while holding though, something that will irritate you for a long time if you’re migrating from a mid-range like the D90 or a full-frame like the D800 or D4.
Also there is no way to see the controls in dark, so to make change in the info screen you’ll have to fish for buttons if you don’t remember their positions.
The body is little heavy when you use it with one hand and might shake unnecessarily if held consistently for too long. However this added weight improves the durability and stability while using a long lens. That’s why we miss the space for the little finger all the more. The trick here is to keep your index finger on the shutter release button, always.
The D5200 uses the sensor from the D3200. Such a high amount of pixels help achieve very great level of details in every photographs, even when cropped to a great extent. On the downside, each photo in RAW format takes about 25MB space, and there is only one card slot. So you better keep a few high capacity cards handy.
EXPEED 3 Image processing engine
The EXEED 3 engine provide great colour depths and proper skin tones. It also helps bring out relatively less grains even at a very high ISO.
The 270-degree articulating LCD monitor can be used as live-view in almost all sides possible. This way you can view your subject while keeping the camera at an angle where you’re not looking at the LCD head-on. This feature was present and appreciated in D5100 as well.
39 auto-focus points
The D5200 borrows the auto-focus system from the D7000, with 11 points for quick focus and 39 points for high dynamic focussing. This many focus points help focus on a small object (your pet’s eye) even while the subject is moving. However most of the time you’re not gonna need it.
Brilliant Info screen
The info screen arranges all settings you need to customize frequently with surprising poise. There are three main dial that customizes the Shutter speed, Aperture and Multi-function function. The next most important function icons are slightly smaller, and so on. You almost never need to go to the main menu.
Modest 5fps burst shooting mode
The camera shoots at a max 5fps in burst mode which is good for moving subjects but not high speed mechanical movements like cars and bikes.
Full-HD recording at a decent fps
The D5200 records at 1980 x 1080 px at up to 60fps Interlaced. There’s no 60fps progressive option. For progressive you need to come down to 30fps max, or reduce the resolution to HD 1280 x 720 px where 60 fps progressive is available. The camera auto-focuses while movie recording and you can adjust both Aperture and Shutter speed.
The D5200 supports all wired connectivity, except the Infrared that’s mostly used by the remote. You have the mini HDMI out, USB out, A/V out. The fourth port extends to GPS and some optional accessories like the remote viewfinder receiver.
It’s about time camera manufacturers start incorporating wireless transfer means.
The shutter release is very quiet, making stealth shooting possible. Another good outcome was that we could achieve a 5.5fps with a class 10 SDHC card. The screen rotates very smoothly thanks to the flexible but solid hinge. The live view lever at times takes a couple of seconds to bring up the live view, and a few times we had to pull it again.
The colours come out true thanks to the EXPEED 3 Image processing engine. The skin tones are proper and under low enough ISO, you can see the skin textures perfectly.
However, under broad daylight, the images appear a bit soft and I had to sharpen almost all non-test images (you’ll know what I mean from the untouched soft images). We’ve also noticed a slight brown tinge on the sky in Auto and Program modes, with both Matrix and Center-weighted metering.
The filter modes output format is JPEG, so not much of an option remains for post-processing. However the quality and accuracy of the effects are brilliant and almost never deserves post-processing.
The low-light performance of the D5200 alone is a deal-stealer! We were mesmerized by the results even at ISO levels that we did not generally recommend for any camera. Even at 6400 the results are commendable. Adding to it, the 24 odd million pixels capture great details so that you can recover much of the details in post-processing.
The D5200 records video at a max of 1080i @60fps. There is a dedicated video recording button that lets you quickly start shooting. You can ofcourse record in the liveview mode only.
While shooting you can continuous auto-focus and even change certain like Shutter speed and ISO but only in full Manual mode. This feature atleast brings Nikon video recording experience at par with competitors like the 650D.
Auto focussing while recording is fast and continuous enough.
The 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens is an excellent everyday lens and performs pretty well within its limit. The best thing about the lens is that the minimum distance to focus on the subject is so less that you can use it almost like a macro lens. The depth of field is also brilliantly shallow with beautiful bokeh at the background. The downside is that you’d be shooting 55mm at f/5.6 which is dismally slow, but you can’t ask much from a 6k lens anyway.