Hands-on preview : first contact with the Nikon D5200

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Nikon D5200 DSLR
The Nikon D5200 is a fusion of the latest generation D5100 and the more advanced D7000 with a glimpse of the D3200 (at least, the sensor).

The Nikon D5200 really is a fusion camera that gets the best of some of its brother DSLRs and it is is going to be a best-seller just like its predecessor has been, and still is according to the Nikon DSLR product manager I talked to last week while I was discovering the D200 for the first time. The D5100 is still selling like crazy and no doubt so will the D5200 announced last week. With a 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor, a swivel 3″ / 921,000 dots rear LCD, a powerful EXPEED 3 sensor and the D7000’s fast, accurate and efficient AF module, the Nikon D5200 is a well engineered camera. It will be sold $899 body only. I had a chance to grab a D5200 sample piece last week in Pais photo event and to play around with the camera for a few moment on Nikon’s booth. Here are my first impressions and thoughts about this DSLR.

The Nikon D5200
The Nikon D5200 3″ / 921,000 dots vari-angle LCD is precious. I wish Nikon would offer a more decent viewfinder though.

 

The Nikon D5200 is obviously based on the D5100 philosophy and to sum it up roughly, I’d say it is an entry level Nikon D3200 camera body featuring some great and powerful additional functions like a 3″ / 921,000 dots vari-angle LCD. This screen which we know already, is good and will come in handy to photographers depending on their needs and habits. It can be quite useful if you are shooting video to hold the camera still.Of course, when shooting with creative angle, the vary angle screen will be a life saver and allow you to get over the crowd in some occasions. Finally, if you don’t want any scratch on your nice LCD, just close it face facing the camera when you travel.If the screen is a major asset of the D5200, one can not be fully satisfied with its optical viewfinder which image coverage reaches a poor 95% and which is neither really bright nor wide but that is a budget camera viewfinder, based on a cheap and compact mirror system, not a prism. If you are not used to taking pictures with a D7000 or a full frame D600/D700/D800 for instance, you will like it anyway. But if you are used to other kinds of viewfinder quality, you will have a hard time getting comfortable with it. But at $899, is the D5200 really is a budget camera ?

Compact and lightweight, I liked the Nikon D5200 format. It only weights 555 hrs. whicj os 100 grs.lighter than the new Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM of the new ART range that I discovered on Sigma’s booth. A DSLR lighter than a single prime lens ? Yes, the D5200 is light and compact which gives it some arguments to fight against some no so compact mirrorless cameras. If the camera is light, it is due to some low-cost kind of hard plastics used in production which does not give the user a really solid touch and feel but again : price, weight, compactness…. Yet, to avoid any surprise, when choosing the D5200, wonder if the camera built quality is important for you or not and keep in mind that you will by a high-tech camera in an entry level body.

 

Nikon D5200 DSLR
The Nikon D5200 UI is great for amateur photographers. Not so great if you are used to more advanced cameras and use ISO settings, exposure compensation, PSAM modes a lot. The nice AF system can not be set as easily as it can be on the D7000.

 

The D5200 user interface is thought for amateur photograhers who will appreciate the main dial which gives access to icon modes for portrait, landscape, action or macro in addition to the scene mode and the PSAM modes. When taking photos in a museum or wherever you can not use your flash, you have a flash-free mode which will rather user high ISO. The main photography parameters settings can be access through the “i” button but I wish that Nikon had placed a dedicated ISO button… which is not there and will force users to sacrifice the Fn button to program it with the sensiblity setting. As, sinve a few amateur DSLR ago, the secondary LCD is not part of the plan and that benefit some extra buttons like the drive (single shot, burst, timer, remote control) and the efficient liveview switch that also makes the video recording available. Of course, you will see an exposure compensation button, but you will have to make only one with your camera if you want to change the exposure compensation while keeping your eye in the viewfinder.

The Fn button that you see here can be quite helpful but unfortunately, as Nikon did not plan any ISO button, you will certainly have to assign the Fn button this setting and loose the benefit of the Fn button extra feature. You will have to upgrade to a D7000 to get the ISO button on your DSLR.

 

NIkon D5200 AF
The Nikon D5200 offers a 39-point AF system with 3D subject tracking mode and EXPEED 3 processing power.

 

I was expecting it… yet, I have been surprised by the 39-point AF when I first put my eye in the Nikon D5200 viewfinder ! Finding such a high-end autofocus module in such a compact, light and amateur grade camera is really neat and to me, the adoption by Nikon of the Multi-cam 4800DX autofocus module of the D7000 on the D5200 is the camera’s most precious asset while many will focus on the new 24-megapixel sensor which is not a major upgrade in my opinion. I got to play around with the autofocus of the Nikon D5200 as I wanted to make sure it was as efficient as on my D7000. And I have to say that, thanks to the new EXPEED 3 processor, it really is fast and should offer the D5200 tack sharp images which is paramount with such a high definition sensor which tends to magnify blurry photos. I switched the D5200 to 39-point 3D subject tracking mode, locked on a subject, a face, an object, zoomed in, zoomed out : the AF never gave up on the locked subject. The new autofocus system of the D5200 is a major plus compared to the poor 11-points AF of the D5100 in many areas and offers a wider coverage of the image. But, if you come from the D7000, you will sure miss the AF button located on the front side of the camera which lets you choose the number of AF detectors, the AF mode… without having to look at what you are doing. The nikon D5200 is not so fluid with that regards. You will have to digg into the menus to set up the autofocus. Nikon had to think of ergonomics differences to build a range effect.

There is an other neat feature that the Nikon D5200 gets from the D7000 : the 2016 pixel RVB color sensor for scene recognition to offer accurate exposure metering and white balance.

Sold in between an amateur entry level camera and an enthusiast photographer, the Nikon D5200 is also quite good for video recording with Full HD 24p, 25p and 30p, its vari-angle screen and the availability of an external microphone line it which will improve the camera’s sound capture for decent sound tracks in addition to the built-in stereo mic.
Its connexion is pretty generous too : HDMI, Video out, USB 2.0 high-speed and an accessory plug which will can accept the new tiny little Wi-Fi transmitter Nikon Wu-1a and the GPS sensor, Nikon GP-1. I bought a Nikon GP-1 for my D7000 / D5100 / D800 cameras… and never even plugged it in. I like when GPS sensor are built-in like in my Sony HX20V. But Nikon did not dare adding Wi-Fi and GPS to its D5200, as native functions and that is a real disappointment for me. They failed to take this well-though DSLR into the new 2012-2013 era of connected devices. I don’t want to use an Eye-Fi Wi-Fi SD card, nor an external GPS sensor that I have to cary with me all the time and think of using it. I want all these features built-in. Do you get it, Nikon ?

 

Nikon D5200 menu
I also appreciated the new design of the menus on the D5200. The Nikon D5100 graphical menus were already quite good looking. It gets even better on the D5200.

 

 

 Nikon D5200 hands-on preview : what I liked about the camera

  • Compact and lightweight
  • kick-ass high-end autofocus
  • vari-angle LCD
  • generous connexions
  • UI perfectly suits the amateur photographers needs
  • new design menus

 

Nikon D5200 hands-on preview : what I wish would be different

  • cheap feeling polycarbonate camera body
  • 95% cverage only low-end viewfinder
  • no GPS nor Wi-Fi built-in

Stay tuned for the Nikon D5200 review coming soon…

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