Even when there's only a muted palette to play with, it's able to pull out a good range of colours, so skies and areas otherwise lacking in features are smoothly graduated and contain sufficient depth that the result is a true reproduction of the original scene.
Contrasts are well handled and you'll have to look extremely carefully indeed to find any evidence of chromatic aberration when using the kit lens. This manifests itself as a turquoise and pink fringe on opposite sides of a darker object as it meets a lighter background, and in this case the instance is so fine that it's only visible when zoomed to 100 per cent.
Details are sharp, and with 24.1 megapixels to play with there's plenty of opportunities for cropping if you want to recompose the shot in post production. The level of focus falls off slightly as you move towards the corners of the shot when using the 18-55mm kit lens, but this isn't uncommon, and it's certainly not pronounced enough to have a detrimental impact on the overall frame, unless you're cropping fairly tightly away from the centre.
Still life test
The still life test involves shooting a selection of everyday objects with the camera set to auto, allowing it to make up its own mind on the best way to expose the shot.
Under all lighting conditions -- studio lights, ambient light and using the on-board flash -- it produced the same punchy colours and balanced result as was evident in general outdoor photography. Prime colours, such as red and blue, were particularly well reproduced, while natural wood textures, and fur, were detailed and finely-rendered.
There was a fair amount of shadow in the flash-lit shot, but it wasn't so severe that it became a distracting element within the composition. With the studio lights switched off however, the D5200 not only slowed down the shutter speed, but also widened the aperture, which in turn shortened the depth of field, so less of the composition remained sharp.
The D5200 shoots full HD video at 1,920x1,080 pixels at 60fps or 50fps interlaced, or 30fps, 25fps or 24fps progressive. You can perform progressive capture at 60fps or 50fps if you trim the resolution to 1,280x720, and you can cut it still further to 640x424 if you're shooting primarily for the web.
Although you can set the sensitivity of the stereo mics manually there's no wind-cut feature, so the noise of a stiff riverside breeze was pretty obvious in my test footage, but other than this the D5200 performed well.
The image was crisp, with accurate colours. It coped well with significant movement, such as walking while filming, even with the lens' vibration-reduction feature turned off. It also compensated swiftly and smoothly -- without any stepping -- to changes in the level of available light.
Nikon has put barely a foot wrong here. The only thing that might count against it is the price comparison with. Sure, Nikon has the higher pixel count at 24.1 megapixels, compared to the 650D's 18 megapixels, but when you're talking high teens and beyond, those extra pixels become less important.
The EOS 650D also has a touchscreen display, and for many users that's becoming more of a draw, which is lacking on the D5200. So it's good to see Nikon has put so much thought into the physical layout of the hardware controls, which when combined with the speedy access it gives to the most common settings makes this a camera that's easy to learn and quick to adjust.
In truth, then, the two are neck and neck, and when the price of the D5200 starts to fall -- as is inevitable -- your choice will likely be determined by whether or not you already have a stock of compatible lenses for one brand or the other. If not, know that you won't be disappointed with either camera. Both will impress, and have sufficiently decent specs and features to serve you well for years to come.