D3200 vs D5200

In the D5200‘s favour (in roughly decreasing order of importance):

  1. Better AF (39-point vs 11-point and focuses down to f/8 vs f/5.6).
  2. Articulated LCD.
  3. Exposure bracketing.
  4. Higher sensitivity (ISO 25,600 vs 12,800).  Update: 102,400 in a special B&W mode.  Also, see the note at the bottom about banding.
  5. Higher quality RAWs (14-bit compressed vs 12-bit compressed).
  6. Mirror lock-up.
  7. Slightly larger sensor (2.6% larger).  Update: marginally lower noise in practice.
  8. Higher FPS (5 vs 4).  Update: but not actually five photos in one second.  Three in three-fifths of a second, and then it gets slower.
  9. Ostensibly higher frame rate video at 1,920 x 1,080 (60i vs 30p, albeit using a subset of the sensor).
  10. White balance bracketing.
  11. “Stereo” built-in microphone (vs mono).
  12. In-camera movie editing.  Update: just trimming.
  13. Side-by-side image comparison.
  14. GP-1A GPS add-on support (in addition to the GP-1 the D3200 supports).  Update: though the GP-1A is more expensive and has no apparent difference, so it’s not clear what the point is.

In the D3200‘s favour:

  1. Update: much larger buffer (at least seven shots versus just three).  Claiming 5 FPS is pretty bogus when you can’t actually take five shots in a single second.
  2. Lighter (10%).
  3. Smaller (~7%).  Update: the D5200 feels a lot more than 7% bigger in person.  It’s a noticeable difference.
  4. Cheaper ($600 vs $900).
  5. Better battery life (540 vs 500 shots).
  6. Imperceptibly more pixels (24.2 vs 24.1 megapixels).

In neither’s favour:

  1. Neither has a built-in autofocus motor, and so both require AF-S lenses in order to autofocus.
  2. Both come with the same kit 18-55 lens which is okay but won’t show you what the camera is really capable of.

Other notes of interest:

  1. Same batteries.
  2. Most buttons are placed differently (as a consequence of the LCD hinge getting in the way on the D5200).  Update: as to which is better, it’s a bit of a wash… some buttons are better placed on the D5200, some are much worse (like the Info button).
  3. D5200 is available as body-only.

What’s not known yet:

  1. If it’s a genuinely new sensor with improved quality beyond one higher stop ISO sensitivity.

Update: Nikon have stated it’s an “all new” sensor, from Toshiba (as opposed to the Sony sensor in the D3200).  So it could be interesting.  There’s no particular reason to believe it’s better, either way – Sony makes really good sensors too – but I’m optimistic.  Alas I have not been able to find actual image quality reviews yet, and haven’t yet compared them formally myself.

From my perspective it’s a “cool” upgrade in the blasé sense.  It’s a good improvement over the D5100.  Expected.  It’s notably better than the D3200, but as a D3200 owner already, I’m not compelled to upgrade.  If I were buying new I’d have to think really carefully about whether the 50% price premium is worth it (especially since you can easily pick up a D3200 discounted by another $100 or more). ‘course, it doesn’t necessarily use the same sensor as the D3200, despite being similar spec, so it’s possible it offers substantially better image quality.  If that turns out to be the case, it might become a much more compelling option.  As it is, I see it as not quite fitting into the awkward niche that is between the D3200 and the yet-to-be-released D7100.

Update: But I bought it anyway.  I can’t be trusted in a camera store.

Further update: After a couple of months of use, I’m happy with the D5200.  In practice what I appreciate most about it, relative to the D3200, is:

  1. Better autofocus.  Much better.  Especially for tracking moving subjects, it’s just night and day better.  The only possible downside is now I’m wondering if the D7100’s autofocus system is as big a jump again, in which case, gimme gimme gimme…
  2. The articulating LCD screen.  Mainly just because I can hide the LCD when I don’t need or want it, such as when it’s in a bag or at night when it’s too bright.  Helps keep it protected, and save the battery.  Note that I didn’t think much of this at all before I bought the D5200 – even derided it slightly – but in practice it has been useful and I now value it surprisingly highly.
  3. Exposure bracketing.  It results in a lot of photos, many of which are throw-aways, but I have used it for a little bit of HDR, and it is pretty handy in high-contrast environments to let you be a bit lazier about shooting (or to cope better under time pressure).
  4. Slightly better low-light performance.  Note that I have seen the banding issue others have noticed, but only in exactly one photo out of many thousands.  And while that photo was crap anyway (a failed neutral-density filter experiment), nonetheless at 27″ screen size the banding didn’t detract from the image at all – I was able to push exposure & shadows way up and actually somewhat recover the shot.  Still, I probably wouldn’t get a large print with that banding – it is quite noticeable at 100%.  But I went back and looked very carefully at some darker photos, including star photos, and couldn’t find any banding at all – if it was present it was completely swamped by noise even at e.g. ISO 800.

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