Nikon D5200 review
Well specified, especially with its 39-point autofocus, but the controls could be more elegant and our test shots tended to be slightly soft
Review Date: 19 Mar 2013
Price when reviewed: £630
Reviewed By: Ben Pitt
Price and review based on the 18-55mm VR lens kit
The D5200 is Nikon's latest mid-range consumer SLR, nestling between the entry-level Nikon D3200 and the recently announced Nikon D7100. Nikon has fitted 24-megapixel sensors across all three models, although as we'll explain below, it's not the same sensor across the board.
The D5200's best feature is its 39-point autofocus sensor, with a central block of nine cross-type points for increased sensitivity. It's the same autofocus sensor that we first saw in the Nikon D7000, and it's far more sophisticated than anything else at this price. The dense array of points mean it's easy to focus precisely on someone's eye or another small detail in a scene without having to first focus, then recompose and shoot.
It's also a great benefit to the 3D Tracking focus mode. Here, the camera uses its 2,016-pixel metering sensor to track moving subjects around the frame and keep them in focus. More autofocus points mean more accurate tracking. This lets you think about the composition when shooting moving subjects rather than having to follow their every move to ensure that the selected focus point lines up.
There's the same 3in, 921,000-dot articulated screen as on the outgoing Nikon D5100, which is a great asset for video and shooting stills in live view mode. Continuous performance is faster than both the D3200 and the D5100, delivering 4.9fps for 32 frames before slowing to a still-excellent 4.2fps in our tests. This was only possible when lens distortion correction was disabled, though – otherwise, it lasted for just six frames before slowing to 1.9fps. Raw continuous performance was similarly short-lived, slowing to 1.6fps after just four frames. The D5100 and D3200 maintained their top 4fps speed for ten frames in raw mode.
Another change compared to the D3200 and D5100 is that the LCD screen's default display makes it much clearer what the current ISO speed is, including when the speed has been raised automatically in Auto ISO mode. With three circular displays for shutter speed, aperture and ISO speed, it's easy to see how adjustments to one affect the other two. The ISO speed isn't displayed through the viewfinder window by default but there's an option to show it instead of remaining card capacity.
Cosmetically, there are barely any other changes compared to the D5100. A drive mode button has been added – it sensibly groups continuous and self-timer modes together but bracketing and HDR options are located elsewhere. Other buttons cover exposure compensation, AE lock and a customisable function, assigned to ISO speed by default. The four-way pad moves the autofocus point when it's not navigating menus. White balance, JPEG/raw settings, bracketing, HDR and metering options are accessed by pressing a button labelled 'i' and navigating the on-screen display.
There's nothing wrong with a menu-driven control system as long as it's quick. Sadly, this one is rather inconsistent. It's easy enough to change the ISO speed, enable the self-timer or pick a white balance preset, but toggling Auto ISO on and off, adjusting the self-timer length or calibrating the custom white balance requires a trip to the main menu. This is spread over numerous pages, and we find it slower to navigate than other SLRs' menus.
In fact, it is possible to calibrate the white balance via the 'i' button by selecting manual white balance, hitting OK, pressing OK again and holding it down until the word PRE starts flashing, and then taking a photo to calibrate from. We doubt many people will ever figure this out, though – a white balance option labelled Calibrate would have been much better.
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