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6th November 2012
Nikon D5200 hands-on preview
by Ian Burley

Nikon's new advanced entry-level DSLR

Nikon has today revealed the D5200, which might be described as an advanced entry-level DSLR. We've had a brief hands-on and technical briefing and this article aims to highlight how the D5200 differs from the D5100, which Nikon says will continue alongside the new camera.

Updated D5100

The D5200 is an updated D5100 - no prizes for that assumption! It's actually quite a significant upgrade, starting with a new 24.1 megapixel APS-C sensor (which we're told is not the same as the sensor in the D3200). A fair bit of what's new in the D5200 has been lifted from the D7000, including the 39-point AF system and 2016 pixel '3D' RGB metering sensor that doubles as a low resolution scene recognition sensor. The D5200 is also blessed with Nikon's latest Expeed 3 image processor. Nikon also says that the D5200 incorporates video AF improvements including a continuous tracking AF mode thanks to help from the metering sensor. This would be quite a triumph for Nikon if it works as described because getting DSLR lenses to autofocus well in video mode is a big technical challenge.

Entry level

But the D5200 is an entry-level camera, so there is no option for a portrait orientation/battery grip and the sequential shooting rate is a modest 5 frames per second. On the other hand the D5200 shares perhaps the best and most versatile LCD screen in the entire Nikon DSLR range; a side-hinged 3 inch VGA vari-angle display that can be used comfortably on or off a tripod and which can be viewed from above, below and facing the front of the camera. It would have been even better if it was a touch screen, as many of Nikon's competitors are now featuring, but we're told the budget was spent on the excellent 39-point AF and 2016 pixel 3D RGB metering module.

Nikon D5100 and D5200 feature comparison

  D5100 D5200
Megapixels/sensor format 16.2 APS-C 24.1 APS-C
AF points 11(one cross type) 39 (9 cross type)
ISO range 100-6400 (extend to 25600) 100-6400 (extend to 25600)
Sequential shooting speed max 4fps 5fps
Touch-screen No No
LCD display resolution 921K dot 921K dot
Vari-angle display Side-hinged Side-hinged
Video modes 1,920 x 1,080, 30p/25p/24p 1,920 x 1,080, 30p/25p/24p (also 60i/50i)
Wireless option No Wireless Mobile Adaptor WU-1a
GPS option GPS Unit GP-1 GPS Unit GP-1
Battery grip option No No
Dimensions 128 x 97 x 79mm 129 x 98 x 78mm
Weight (camera body only) 510g 505g

The D5200 now includes a selection of special effects modes as well as scene modes and has a revised user interface. Nikon sees the D5200 as a tool for artistically minded photographers.

Connectivity options

Wireless connectivity was an omission with the D5100 but that has been addressed through compatibility with the WU-1a wireless module that provides wireless connectivity with devices like smartphones and tablets so you can send photos to your device and even take pictures remotely, triggering the camera via your device. The D5100 can also be remotely triggered over long distances using the WR-A10 wireless remote trigger system, which can also synchronise with multiple cameras.

How different is the new sensor?

From a marketing point of view the headline feature of the D5200 is probably the new 24.1 megapixel APS-C sensor. As previously mentioned, this is a new sensor and not simply a re-use of the similar resolution part from the D3200. Nikon won't say much about the manufacturer, although these days it does say that it uses a number of sensor manufacturers to make its sensors, which it designs in-house. One thing I was told was that the new sensor has slightly improved dynamic range compared to the D3200.

Style choices

Style-wise it's very difficult to tell, at a glance, which Nikon DSLR model is which and the D5200 is no exception. One interesting style choice that Nikon does offer is the choice of a glossy bronze finish along side glossy red and a more conventional black. My personal opinion is that the bronze finish could be a hit - it's understated but has subtle and rather unique quality that is rather attractive.

There is no doubt that the D5200 is, at least under the skin, a big step up from the D5100 and this could guarantee a good degree of success for Nikon's newest DSLR baby. One slight area of concern is pricing. Nikon is scheduling the D5200 to go on sale on 6th December with a guide price of 719.99 for the body only or 819.99 with the familiar 18-55mm VR kit zoom lens. Currently, you can source a D5100 kit for less than half that of the D5200 after cashback. In fact the D5200's guide price is pretty similar to that of the higher specification D7000. Well, the D7000 is a more solid design, more expandable and faster shooting, but the D5200 has a high resolution sensor and an articulating screen. Nikon seems to have made the job of choosing a mid-range model more difficult than ever!

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