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In between a good point and shoot camera and a professional camera
on August 4, 2013
Updated November 25, 2013
Professional camera reviewer Ken Rockwell suggests that the 5200 body for about $800 can do mostly everything the can be done by the D600 $2,000 body so why pay the difference for some extra dials and buttons? I followed his advice and bought the D5200 and will keep it, but if a good used D600 body were offered for sale for $1,000 I'd gladly swap. While I realize the camera can do a lot, the lack of easy control buttons and extra modes bugs me. It's a downsizing I know, but to have to hold down one button while activating another ... not intuitive after shooting for years with a larger more expensive D300. Example: somewhere along the line I was trying to adjust the aperture in A mode and apparently wound up sending the exposure compensator to +4.5, thus way over exposing my shots beyond any use. This would not have happened with the additional dials and buttons on the more professional Nikon series. (My dog was happy to fetch another ball for another test.)
The camera can indeed take great images. After resetting the exposure compensator to zero I shot images of my dog running back with a ball. In Aperture mode with aperture set at f4 the auto exposure system chose a 1/1,600 speed and the auto focus worked well; the resulting image was very sharp, even for the eyes of the dog and the marks on the tennis ball in his mouth.
As another reviewer noted, this camera's auto focus feature works with some, but not all, Nikon auto focus lenses. For example, it works with my AF-S 70-200 and 18-200 lenses, but not with a 50mm Nikon auto focus AF lens nor with a Tamron auto focus lens that I own. That's understandable and should not be a problem for people buying new lenses. Just be aware.
This might be a good starter camera for someone who thinks he or she might grow into doing more creative photography than normally done with a simple point and shoot camera.
The D5200 might also be a relatively inexpensive camera body for someone wanting to do fast moving sports photography; I've not tested the fast tracking feature, but it sounds great and the large number of megapixels should allow wider angle photos. I.e., rather than zoom in on a galloping horse and perhaps later discover the nose is missing, one could take a wider photo of the horse and background to be sure all of the horse is in the photo and then in editing crop out the unwanted parts and still have a high resolution image of the entire horse. To me that's a fairly significant advantage.
The D5200 seems to me a great technological achievement in a compact plastic size. On the other hand, for about $1,000 for the D5200 and a compatible lens, perhaps most consumers (particularly those who won't be wanting to use various lenses)could do as well with a lower cost, more pocket size camera, while photographers who are used to a larger size camera with controls we can use without looking may find themselves a bit frustrated.
It's a matter of fit between the buyer and the camera. Good luck and have fun.
Nov 25 2013 I just returned from a month long trip on a large sailboat crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Because weight and size were concerns in traveling, after debating I took only my D5200 with only my Nikon 18-200 VR lens.
This worked well! I used the weight saving to take my older larger laptop with my familiar LR and PS software; accessing the "cloud" was mostly not possible / practical and I was glad I'd made this choice.
I found the video mode surprisingly useful. When I was at the helm of the huge sailboat, the person to whom I passed my D5200 camera could not quickly use it to shoot photos, so I put it in video mode and handed it back to her. The video mode worked well in full automatic, allowing anyone who can point and shoot to create good memories. The built in microphone picked up some wind noise, but that's to be expected on the deck of a moving sailboat.
With days at sea, I began playing with the video and to push the limits. I tried videoing flying fish which sometimes skimmed above the waves, which proved too difficult for the camera's autofocusing(at least in my hands). However that was asking a lot - with the photographer sailing forward while also moving up and down from sideways swells, the background consisting entirely of waves in motion, and airborne fish briefly skimming in a different direction! In another unfair test, I got acceptable results: Others on the boat had created a slideshow on a laptop using contributed photos and were attempting to record music to match the images. I essentially had my D5200 look over their shoulders to video the laptop images while also capturing the music being played. I instead of a tripod I used a bunch of masking tape to tape my camera to a brass rail to keep it stable relative to the subject (both gently rolling sideways at the same rate). In this interior setting we would want the aperture to remain constant because only the music is changing. However, the images on the laptop screen varied in brightness and the D5200 dutifully reacted, causing some unnatural changes in the overall result. My unusual situation made clear why the camera must be in automatic aperture mode when producing video: to keep a relatively stable brightness for later viewers despite changing brightness when recording moving subjects.
In another strange situation, which no one else should attempt, I risked ruining the camera by shooting it directly at the sun with no filter protection. I did so during a solar eclipse and only during the few seconds when the entire sun was blocked, with only the corona and solar flares being visible. My images turned out to be better / more interesting than those taken by some scientists on board. Luck sometimes triumphs over skill.
In summary, the lightweight fairly compact D5200 can perform a variety of tasks.
Another person also got surprisingly good images with a $250? point and shoot camera: a Panasonic with a built in Leica lens which an on-board technical employee of Leica said was a quality lens.