The entry-level Nikon D3200 was announced in April 2012 and caused a commotion by adopting an up-market 24.3Mpix CMOS sensor that immediately trumped the firm’s existing APS-C models. Several months on that model and that now been joined by the D5200, packing the more advanced features of the D7000 with a totally new 24.1Mpix sensor. Aimed at the enthusiast, the D5200 is a very capable DSLR that will easily adapt to various photographic genres but D3200 is no slouch and while the spec of the sensors permit faster continuous shooting and some additional video functions the sensors perform quite similarly.
In real world terms, the difference in the Portrait score is negligible (at 0.1 bit) as is the Low-Light score (at around 0.15 stop) but the D5200 has more than +2/3EV extra in Dynamic Range at base ISO. Given the comparable sensor sizes and pixel count this is a significant advantage, and further underlines the advances made in sensor design. The improvement in Dynamic range and dark noise levels over the earlier camera can also be seen throughout the ISO range. Both cameras score well in their sensor performance tests though, and if you don’t want the additional features of the D5200, the D3200 is extraordinary value.
If you’re contemplating whether to buy the D5200, you might also be looking at a bargain D5100 on the shelves or even the D7000 (as it’s close to the end of its product life, and will likely be replaced this year, 2013). Both those models are heavily discounted, but on sensor performance alone (disregarding the difference in resolution between them), the D5200 delivers some small but not insignificant advances.
With a Portrait (Color Depth) score of 24.2 bits, the D5200 has an 0.7 stop gain in color depth at base sensitivity over the older 16Mpix Sony sensor in the D5100 and D7000. In the overall DxOMark Sensor scores, the ‘extra’ 4 points attained by the D5200 over the two rivals can be explained by the 0.7 stop increase in color depth revealed by our Portrait category, as well as the consistently higher Dynamic Range from ISO400 onwards (although the DR at base ISO is similar), and the small increase in our Sports (Low Light) category. In fairness, the existing 16Mpix sensors do well, but the increase in pixel count hasn’t been sacrificed at the expense of performance.
Things get a little more interesting when looking at rival makes. Compared with the 18Mpix Canon EOS 650D (Rebel T4i) the Nikon D5200 is way ahead in the sensor performance stakes. That particular camera has an DxOMark overall score of just 62 compared with 84 for the Nikon. Canon’s again sensor design is very noticeable. With a score of 21.7 bits versus 24.2 bits, color depth is 1.6 stops behind the higher resolution Nikon D5200. And, it doesn’t stop there. The Canon EOS 650D has a Landscape score of just 11.2 Evs compared with 13.9 Evs of the Nikon, or 2.7 stops less Dynamic Range. In our Low Light scores, the story remains the same with the Canon trailing by some 2/3 rds of stop. The Nikon D5200 also compares well against Sony SLT Alpha 65, the firm’s most accessible DSLR (at around $900 USD) boasting a proprietary 24MP CMOS sensor. The overall DxOMark Score of 74 for the Alpha 65 is respectable, but still a full 10 points behind the new sensor in the D5200 (it is worth noting that Alpha 65 scores are limited by its SLT mirror). If we look at the individual categories, we can see the Nikon has just over 2/3rds of stop better Color Depth, Dynamic Range, and Light-Light ISO.