DESIGN AND FEATURE
The D5200$614.00 at RytherCamera is rather compact for a D-SLR, but manages to squeeze quite a few controls into its small body. It measures 3.9 by 5.1 by 3.1 inches and weighs 1.1 pounds without a lens. The Pentax K-30$586.99 at TheNerds.net is just about the same size, varying by a tenth of an inch at most, but is heavier at 1.4 pounds. The extra weight is due to the K-30's weather sealing and solid glass pentaprism viewfinder. The D5200 uses a pentamirror finder, which is lighter but not as big or bright. If you're moving up from a point-and-shoot it will be a revelation when you compare it to using an LCD for framing your shots, but photographers who cut their teeth on 35mm SLRs will likely have to adjust to the smaller size. Nikon has put one feature into the viewfinder to set it apart from other cameras—you can set it to display a rule of thirds grid overlay to help you better compose your photos.
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If you opt not to enable that grid, the viewfinder displays a cross shaped overlay that displays the active autofocus area. You can tell the D5200 to automatically select the autofocus points from the 39 available, or select one manually using the directional pad on the rear of the camera. The active point will appear as a black square, but it does change to red as you move it for better visibility. Other rear controls include the "i" button, which gives you quick access to adjust shooting settings via the rear LCD, a standard control wheel, and an Auto Exposure Lock/Autofocus Lock button. There's no front control wheel, as dual wheels are a rare find on entry-level cameras. The weather-sealed Pentax K-30 has them, but other recent models are limited to one.
That control can be programmed to work in a number of ways, but by default it locks both the current focus and exposure settings for as long as you hold it down. You do have the option of making it act as only an Auto Exposure Lock button, which is helpful for those times when you're dealing with tricky lighting, but still want the autofocus system to engage as normal when grabbing a shot. Other available functions include Autofocus Lock only, or AF-ON. This last setting disables the autofocus system when pressing the shutter, engaging it only when AE-L/AF-L is held down. Photographers who shoot with pro bodies with a dedicated rear AF button will appreciate that functionality.
Top controls include the standard mode dial, which has a switch that enables Live View integrated in its design. There's also a dedicated record button that only works when Live View is enabled, an Info button that toggles what is shown on the rare display, a button to control exposure compensation, and another to control the drive mode. Like on other Nikon cameras, the power switch is integrated with the shutter release. This is a departure from most Canon bodies, including the EOS Rebel T4i$559.99 at 42nd Street Photo, that place it around the mode dial.
The 3-inch rear LCD is mounted on a hinge. The vari-angle design rotates so it can be viewed from above, below, from the rear, or from the front, at any angle. It can also fold flat against the body facing inward our outward—the former is great for those times when you want to use the viewfinder exclusively without reviewing images. The screen is sharp at 921k dots, which lets you review images for critical focus and manually focus in Live View with precision. When you're shooting, it displays an information screen that shows the current focus point, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, as well as how many photos can be recorded on the memory card. Pressing the "i" button allows you to change the recorded file format, enable bracketing and HDR capture, adjust active lighting, white balance, and JPG output settings, and adjust the ISO. It also gives you more control over metering, the focus mode, the flash output, and the exposure settings. The directional pad is used to navigate these settings, with the center OK button there to adjust and confirm settings. A contextual accompanies each setting in case you're not sure what is appropriate for your scene—for example, a surfer is shown to indicate the function of AF-C, which continuously focuses on a moving object until you press the shutter, an ideal method for capturing action and sports scenes.
You won't find a lot of bells and whistles on the D5200. There's no GPS like there is on the Sony Alpha 65$669.99 at 42nd Street Photo, nor do you get built-in Wi-Fi. Nikon does sell accessories to add these functions, though. The tiny $60 WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter plugs into the camera to add Wi-Fi connectivity, and the $300 GP-1A GPS Unit automatically adds location information to your photos. Serious geotaggers may want to consider the Alpha 65 as an alternative, since adding this feature to the D5200 isn't cheap. Just be aware that the Sony camera uses an OLED electronic viewfinder rather than a traditional optical one. It's an excellent EVF that's big, sharp, and bright; but some shooters may not be willing to give up tried and true optical through-the-lens viewing.
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