Nikon D5200 review: A camera that can keep up with the kids

Unfortunately, I still find the display a little too contrasty, frequently misleading me into thinking my exposures are off.

Shooting speed
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot
Raw shot-to-shot time
Typical shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim light)
Shutter lag (typical)
Canon EOS Rebel T4i
0.6
0.3
0.3
0.7
0.3
Nikon D5100
0.3
0.8
0.6
0.6
0.3
Nikon D5200
0.3
0.2
0.2
0.8
0.5
Typical continuous-shooting speed
(Frames per second; longer bars indicate better performance)
Nikon D5200
5.1

Design and features
Like many in its price class, the D5200 feels plasticky, but solid and relatively lightweight. On the top-right shoulder of the camera sits the cluttered-looking mode dial with the usual set of manual, semimanual, and automatic modes and a Live View toggle switch extending from it. The movie record button, info button, and exposure compensation buttons are behind the combo shutter button and power switch, with a drive mode button on the middle right. The back controls are arranged in a typical fashion. The information edit button -- not to be confused with the info button on the top -- brings up the interactive information display where you adjust most of your shooting settings. While there's still no way to lock the navigation switch to prevent accidental AF-point changes, I didn't have as much trouble with it this time around. I prefer a thumb-operated record button and find the drive-mode button a little small and hard to feel, but overall the camera delivers a streamlined shooting experience.

Autofocus points in the respective viewfinders. Nikon, from the users' guides

Though the viewfinder has similar specs to that of the D5100's, and it's still a little dim, it now has large, visible AF area markers and an optional grid overlay; as I really hate the tiny AF dots of its predecessor and Canon's Rebel series, to me this is a huge improvement.

Canon EOS Rebel T4i Nikon D5100 Nikon D5200 Pentax
K-30
Sony Alpha SLT-A65V
Sensor effective resolution 18MP hybrid CMOS 16.2MP CMOS 24.1MP CMOS 16.3MP CMOS 24.3MP Exmor HD CMOS
22.3mm x 14.9mm 23.6mm x 15.6mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm 23.7mm x 15.7mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.6x 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 12800/ 25600 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 6400/ 25600 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 6400/ 25600 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 12800/ 25600 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 16000
Burst shooting 5fps
6 raw/22 JPEG
4 fps
n/a raw/100 JPEG
5fps
n/a
6fps
8 raw/30 JPEG
8fps (10fps with fixed exposure)
13 raw/17 JPEG
Viewfinder (mag/ effective mag) 95% coverage
0.85x/0.53x
Optical
95% coverage
0.78x/0.52x
(corrected 2/19/13)
Optical
95% coverage
0.78x/ 0.52x
(corrected 2/19/13)
Optical
100% coverage
0.92x/0.61x
Electronic OLED
0.5 inch/ 2.36 million dots
100% coverage
1.09x/ 0.73x
Autofocus 9-pt AF all cross-type; center cross to f2.8 11-pt AF
center cross-type to f5.6
(Multi-CAM 1000)
39-pt AF
9 cross-type
(Multi-CAM 4800DX)
11-pt AF
9 cross-type
(SAFOX IX+)
15-pt phase-detection
3 cross-type
AF sensitivity -0.5 to 18 EV -1 to 19 EV -1 to 19 EV -1 to 18 EV -1 to 18 EV
Shutter speed 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/6,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/180 sec x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/160 x-sync
Metering 63-zone iFCL 420-pixel 3D color matrix metering II 2016-pixel 3D color matrix metering II 77-segment 1,200-zone
Metering sensitivity 1 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV 0 to 22 EV -2 to 17 EV
Video H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/ 50p 1080/30p/ 24p; 720/30p/ 25p/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/60i/50i/ 30p/25p/24p; 720/60p/50p/ H.264 QuickTime MOV H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/24p/ 25p/30p; 720/ 50p/60p AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28, 24Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps
Audio Stereo; mic input Mono; mic input Stereo; mic input Mono Stereo; mic input
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes Yes n/a Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time 4GB/12 min 20 min 20 min 4GB/25 min 2GB/29 min
IS Optical Optical Optical Sensor shift Sensor shift
LCD size 3 inches articulated, touch screen
1.04 MP
3 inches articulated
921K dots
3 inches articulated
921K dots
3 inches fixed
921K dots
3 inches articulated
921K dots
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless flash Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 440 shots 660 shots 500 shots 480 shots (lithium ion); 1600 shots (lithium) 510 shots
Size (WHD, inches) 5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1 5.0 x 3.8 x 3.1 5.1 x 3.9 x 3.1 5.1 x 3.8 x 2.8 5.3 x 3.9 x 3.3
Body operating weight (ounces) 20.8 19.6 19.9 22.9 (est) 22 (est)
Mfr. price $849 (body only) $799.95 (body only) $799.95 (body only) $849.95 (body only) $899.99 (body only)
$949 (with 18-55mm lens) $899.95 (with 18-55mm VR lens) $899.95 (with 18-55mm VR lens) $899.95 (with 18-55mm lens) $999.99 (with 18-55mm lens)
$1,149 (with 18-135mm STM lens) n/a $1,099.95 (with 18-105mm lens) n/a n/a
Release date June 2012 April 2011 January 2013 July 2012 October 2011

Like the body design, the feature set hasn't changed much, but it's reasonably well-rounded for its class -- as long as you don't yearn for on-board wireless file transfer or geotagging. The handful of decent effects options include the clever Night Vision mode, a very useful way to take advantage of the sensor's capability of increasing gain up to ISO 102,400. In color, the results would be useless. But by converting the results to black and white, you get the ability to shoot in near darkness and obtain usable -- though not optimal for high-resolution printing -- results. All operate in movie capture as well as still.

The two-shot HDR autocombine implementation remains annoying -- you have to go into the menus and re-enable it after every shot unless you assign it to Fn. But there are other things I want to assign to Fn. In either case, Nikon obviously views it as a one-shot override feature rather than a setting you'll need to use repeatedly for a short time. Furthermore, two shots don't really provide a "high" dynamic range, just a slightly extended one. It works OK for opening up some shadow detail, but does little to bring down the highlights. If you want to do HDR the old-fashioned way, you may not be thrilled with the D5200's options. It offers three-shot bracketing up to two stops.

On the other hand, Nikon's always been there for time-lapse shooters, and the built-in intervalometer remains a key advantage. There are also nine custom Picture Style settings slots, and you can define up to 99 in software and share them among multiple cameras. As with the T4i, though, there's no way to save and recall custom settings.

Like Nikon's other consumer dSLR bodies, the lack of an AF motor in the body means that the D5200 requires the company's AF-S lenses if you plan to use autofocus. That's not a significant drawback for the typical consumer who doesn't buy a lot of lenses, but it's disappointing if you want an inexpensive body to pair with more-expensive lenses.

For a complete accounting of the D5200's features and operation, download the PDF manual.

Conclusion

While on paper the D5200 doesn't really stand out from the specialized competition -- Canon has its video-optimized AF system, Pentax has its weather-resistant bodies, and Sony has its speedy models with built-in geotagging -- it more than succeeds as a general-purpose model for family and vacation photography.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Digital camera type SLR
  • Optical Zoom 3 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 24.1 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical
  • Optical Sensor Size 15.6 x 23.6mm
About The Author

Lori Grunin is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering cameras, camcorders, and related accessories. She's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 1988.