Gear

Nikon D3200 vs D5200 – Should I Upgrade?

With the release of the Nikon D5200, should I upgrade from a Nikon D3200 (or D3100) to the newer, sexier D5200? Upgraditis. It is one of the most dangerous diseases known to a camera owner. Most of us have suffered from it at one stage or another. In fact, most of us have made several purchases when suffering from it.

The bottom line is, you are constantly bombarded with reasons to upgrade. The major camera manufacturers spend millions of pounds worldwide on advertising campaigns and celebrity photographer endorsements etc. to make you want to buy a new camera. The promise of you becoming a better photographer simply by flexing your credit card is a big temptation.The higher frames per second offered by the D5200 gives you a better chance to catch the action

There are often logical reasons to upgrade your equipment, but rather than look at what the new camera will be able to do for you, flip it, look at what your current camera cannot do for you. If you find that this is affecting your photography, then it really is time to upgrade.

With this in mind let’s look at the one of the common questions people are asking themselves. Should I upgrade?

 Nikon D5200Nikon D3200
Effective pixels24.1 million24.2 million
Image sensor23.5 x 15.6 mm CMOS sensor23.2 x 15.4 mm CMOS sensor
Frame advance rateUp to 3 fps (L) or 5 fps (H)Up to 4 fps (manual focus, mode M or S, shutter speed 1/250 s or faster, and other settings at default values)
Metering modeTTL exposure metering using 2016-pixel RGB sensorTTL exposure metering using 420-pixel RGB sensor
ISO sensitivityISO 100 – 6400 in steps of 1/3 EV. Can also be set to approx. 0.3, 0.7, 1, or 2 EV (ISO 25600 equivalent) above ISO 6400; auto ISO sensitivity control availableISO 100 – 6400 in steps of 1 EV; can also be set to approx. 1 EV above ISO 6400 (ISO 12800 equivalent); auto ISO sensitivity control available
Active D-LightingAuto, extra high, high, normal, low, offOn, off
AutofocusNikon Multi-CAM 4800DX autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection, 39 focus points (including 9 cross-type sensor), and AF-assist illuminator (range approx. 0.5-3 m/1 ft 8 in.-9 ft 10 in.)Nikon Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection, 11 focus points (including one cross-type sensor), and AF-assist illuminator (range approx. 0.5 – 3 m/1 ft 8 in. – 9 ft 10 in.)
Focus pointFocus pointCan be selected from 11 focus points
AF-area modeSingle-point AF, 9-, 21-, or 39- point dynamic-area AF, 3D-tracking, auto-area AFSingle-point AF, dynamic-area AF, auto-area AF, 3D-tracking (11 points)
Monitor3.0 inch , approx. 921k-dot (VGA), vari-angle TFT monitor with 170 ° viewing angle, approx. 100% frame coverage, and brightness adjustment3.0 inch, approx. 921k-dot (VGA) TFT LCD with 160 ° viewing angle, approx. 100% frame coverage, and brightness adjustment
Dimensions (W x H x D)129.0 x 98.0 x 78.0 mm125 x 96 x 76.5 mm
Weight505g (camera body only)455g (camera body only)

Let’s look at the advantages of the D5200 over the D3200 in some key areas and look at who they could benefit.

Exposure Bracketing

The D3200 does not offer exposure bracketing whereas the D5200 offers exposure bracketing in camera. This is of interest to those who create a lot of HDR work, but in reality it is an upgrade that will be of interest to few, but not many.

Who will benefit from this in an upgrade: Those who shoot a lot of HDR images, or shoot in static situations with challenging lighting, such as landscape photographers. Having this function in camera makes things easier. Whether it is worth paying out for this, only you can decide.

ISO Test

This is a setting that may interest those who shoot a lot in low light. Truth be told though, the settings over ISO6400 are going to be pretty noisy and shooting at ISO12800 or indeed ISO25600 should be reserved for emergencies only. The maximum ISO figure is secondary to the way in which the noise is handled in the more normal higher range (ISO1600-6400)

Looking at this more objectively, the D5200 does have a new EXPEED 3 image processing which is claimed by Nikon to process noise a better than the D3200. Now these claims are bold, but the noise handling of the D5200 is slightly improved over what the D3200 can offer.The D5200 shoots 14bit RAW files vs 12bit on the D3200.

Who will benefit from this in an upgrade: Those who shoot in low light situations regularly, such as those who shoot live music or indoors frequently without flash. Low light ability is one of the main reasons a lot of people tend to upgrade body. The ability to shoot higher ISO with lower noise that your current model is a very tempting reason to pull out your cash.

More FPS (5 vs 4)

This is of interest to the sports shooters. The higher frames per second offered by the D5200 gives you a better chance to catch the action, but 1 more frame per second is not enough to be a significant step up from the D3200. Also 5 FPS doesn’t quite put it into the category of a camera for capturing action sequences. For example, when shooting sports such as skateboarding I would say 6 FPS is really the minimum needed to really show intricacies of tricks etc.

Who will benefit from this in an upgrade: This is something that will appeal to amateur sports shooters, but it would have been nice to have had a jump to 6 or 7FPS where the difference would really be noticed.

More In Camera Special Effects

Meh. That is really all I can say about this. If your main reason for upgrading to a new camera is the in camera effects modes then you have upgraditis badly. There is nothing that a decent editing program cannot do, and in most cases do better.

Who will benefit from this in an upgrade: No one. It is not a reason for upgrading. There, I said it.

Exposure Metering

The D5200 has a 2016-pixel metering sensor whereas the D3200 only uses a 420-pixel metering sensor Technically, this will improve exposure accuracy and subject recognition, but in actual day to day use it will be hard to notice much of a difference in practical terms.

Who will benefit from this in an upgrade: It does improve metering, but it is questionable how much improvement you will see in actual use and I am not sure anyone will directly benefit from just this feature.

Video

Both cameras will shoot full HD resolution and do a very good job of it. The D5200 however can also shoot in 50 and 60FPS (interlaced). This will be good news for those who shoot a lot of action video such as sports, but generally the difference in video quality over the D3200 is negligible.

The D5200 also has the benefit of an upgrade to a stereo microphone. It is a nice touch even though the left and right channels are right next to each other. If you are really interested in getting better sound from your camera, you could buy an external microphone and get a much larger improvement in sound for a much smaller upgrade price.

Who will benefit from this in an upgrade: Those who shoot a lot of action video will appreciate the smoother footage from shooting 50 or 60FPS. For non action video shooters, there is no major benefit.

Articulated LCD Screen

The D5200 features a fully articulated screen that allows you to rotate the screen to create allow you to compose through the screen. This is useful in situations such as when the camera is raised above your head or when shooting close ups or any awkward angles.

Who will benefit from this in an upgrade: Those who frequently find themselves shooting from more awkward angles frequently.

Autofocus

The D5200 uses a much more sophisticated autofocus system which it has taken from cameras even higher up the range, the D7000. It features much better coverage of the frame and is much more customizable in terms of which part of the image you want in focus. If you shoot a lot of action, want more precise control of you focus point, or just spend your time chasing your fast moving children, you will notice a difference from the improvement in the autofocus system that comes from the D5200.

Who will benefit from this in an upgrade: Sports shooters who find the focussing system on the D3200 lacking and those who want a more precise control of exactly which part of the frame you want in focus. This is a major step up from the D3200.

Image Quality

This is the biggie. It was initially speculated that the sensor in the D5200 was the same as the D3200, but Nikon have now stated that it is a new improved Nikon sensor (whether you believe this or not is a different question).

The D5200 shoots 14bit RAW files vs 12bit on the D3200. This theoretically means in improvements in image quality, it’s pretty obvious that 14 bits can store more data, right? In theory this is the case, but in reality you will not be able to tell any difference between a 14bit and a 12bit RAW file. There are people who have looked at this in nerd like detail and have concluded that the only real benefit is in extreme shadow recovery, but even that is subjective. In everyday use, with well exposed or slightly under or overexposed images, you will see virtually no difference.The D5200 also has the benefit of an upgrade to a stereo microphone.

Who will benefit from this in an upgrade: If you are regularly underexposing your shots by 3 stops then you might see a little benefit from the 14bit RAW files, but otherwise there is not enough difference to justify it as a reason to upgrade.

So should you upgrade?

As an upgrade from the D3200 it has to be said the D5200 is a bit of a non starter. Sure, you get the autofocus system of the D7000, but not much else that makes me be able to recommend an upgrade. If you are looking to upgrade from a D3200 or D3100, I would suggest bypassing the D5200 and go to the D7000 (or whatever Nikon bring out to replace it in the near future).

I am also not sure it is a perfect beginner camera, as the D3200 is much better priced and offers most of what those looking for their first DSLR will need. The D5200 kind of sits in the middle ground between the D3200 and the D7000. Those who buy it as a first camera may get a longer use before looking to upgrade but the additional cost of the camera will not offer anything of major benefit for those just starting to shoot with DSLR’s.

Lastly and perhaps more importantly, ask yourself, do I really need to upgrade? What is it I am missing in my current camera? You may just find yourself realizing that you have just been suffering with a case of upgraditis all along.