Whether you’re just starting out with DSLR cameras, or you’re looking to upgrade from an entry-level DSLR to something more advanced, both the Canon T5i and the Nikon D5200 are good choices. What separates them, and which might have the advantage, is what we’re going to be looking at here, to help you decide which one is right for you.
The Canon T5i was released in the middle of 2013 and replaced the rather short-lived Canon EOS 650D. Both cameras are quite similar, so if you already have a 650D you shouldn’t feel any need to upgrade to the T5i.
The differences between the Canon T5i and its predecessor are all about the details. The new camera offers life previews of the Creative Filters features, and a slight design on the mode dial that allows it to make a full 360-degree revolution for ease of use. There were also some slight upgrades to the camera’s body finish, making it a higher quality texture.
In terms of features of the Canon T5i, we can see at a base level that the camera offers an 18 megapixel sensor, an ISO range of 100-12800 standard, with up to 25600 expanded, a 9-point autofocus system, 1080p video recording, built-in stereo mics, continuous autofocus in movie mode and a touch screen, articulated display.
The Nikon D5200 replaces the D5100, and from the outside it may seem as though there have been very few changes. Certainly, if you already owned a Nikon D5100 you might not see the benefits in upgrading, although there are some things to consider. By comparison, the Nikon D5200 is a faster camera than the D5100 but the other aspects would not be noticeable. On the other hand, for those with a Nikon D5000 the D5200 would most definitely be a worthy upgrade.
However, the most impressive details of the Nikon D5200 are on the inside. Basic features on the Nikon D5200 include a 24 megapixel sensor, an ISO range of 100-6400 standard and up to 25600 expanded, 39-point autofocus system, 1080p video recording with built-in mics and an articulated screen with 170-degree viewing angle.
To get a better idea of the potentials of each camera, we’re going to break down the particulars of the cameras specifications, looking at where each one is stronger or lacking, and whether the other improves by comparison.
Megapixels: The megapixel rating is of less value than people think, with anything above 10 megapixels being more than adequate to blow an image up to poster size, which is rarely done now anyway. Some more seasoned users may notice a difference if upgrading from a smaller megapixel sensor, but it’s unlikely. The Canon’s T5i’s 17-megapixel rating will be more than enough for most amateurs, and even pro-amateurs to get the image quality they want.
However, we can see that the Nikon D5200 has considerably more megapixels than the Canon T5i, but exactly what difference does that make? Well, any megapixel measurement in the double digits will mean that your image quality is safe. The advantage of a 24-megapixel camera like the Nikon D5200 probably won’t be seen unless you do a considerable amount of cropping and editing postproduction.
ISO: The ISO indicates your camera’s sensitivity to light. The higher the sensitivity, the more ability you’ll have to capture images in lower light situations, such as indoors or even at night. ISO is also what can make lower light photography quite grainy, so you might find it only looks good to a certain point. The Canon T5i offer a very good ISO range, but reviews of the product have shown that higher levels of noise are typical above an ISO of 1600, compared to other cameras in the same bracket.
On the other hand, the Nikon D5200 appears not to have the edge when it comes to ISO, offering a range of 100-6400 standard and 25600 extended. However, the Nikon D5200 actually performs better than the Canon T5i, with a much lower noise level at higher ISO. Reviews of the Nikon D5200 have noted that noise isn’t obvious until around 1280 ISO, compared to just 680 ISO on the Canon.
Screen: The Canon T5i’s touch screen display is an interesting addition that many may find will suit them perfectly. The touch screen allows for easier movement through the menus, and less complex button entry to access different modes and settings, perfect for the beginning and the minimalist.
Both cameras feature a fully-articulated screen, although the Nikon D5200 has no touch screen features. Although it’s nothing new, the articulated screen is a welcome addition for many. Basically, the screen allows for a better range of vision when shooting, especially from very high or low angles. This makes it great for over the head, at ground level and even just awkward angled shots. It’s also pretty perfect for taking selfies and other similar photos as the screen comes all the way around.
Both touch screen and articulated screens have their uses, and ultimately it will depend on the specific needs of each photographer. Certainly, the addition of both touch and articulated screen to the Canon T5i seems to cover all the bases. However, we particularly recommend, if possible, trying out both in a display setting where a hands-on look might be useful in determining just what suits you.
Autofocus System: There isn’t much to say about the Canon T5i’s autofocus system, especially in comparison to the Nikon D5200’s system. For most people, particular beginners and those appreciating automatic photography, the 9-point system will be more than enough to serve their needs. It provides sharp, clear images that any photographer can be proud of. However, for those looking for something a little more, the Nikon D5200 provides a 39-point system.
The Nikon D5200’s autofocus system was an unusual addition by Nikon, primarily because this kind of system is most often seen on the more pro-sumer end of the Nikon line, for more advanced users. Basically, the autofocus system allows photographer to be more specific in the subject of focus in their photos. This might be hard to grasp for beginners, but the Nikon D5200 is a pretty good starting point to learn it and it can open up a photographer’s potential. Certainly, if you’re looking to learn more, or to get more out of your camera, this might be a useful way to begin.
Video: While video used to be optional, it’s now a necessity for most cameras, especially in the entry-level range where photographers want to be able to try a little bit of everything. The Canon T5i has catered well for this with 1080p recording and microphones built in. The camera also offers continuous autofocus in film mode, perfect for tracking a subject as they move.
The Nikon D5200 also offers movie recording, also at a 1080p quality level, and with built in mics, meaning there doesn’t seem to be that much difference between the two. However, on closer inspection we can see that although both do record in 1080p, the Canon T5i does so at a lower frame rate, 30 frames per second, compared to the Nikon D5200 at 60 frames per second. This higher frame rate per second reduces the amount of potential action blur, making it perfect for capturing your life on the move.
Both the Canon T5i and the Nikon D5200 are cropped body cameras, which means that the lenses fitted to them won’t be true to their lens measurement. Cropped cameras are the norm in the consumer and even semi-pro photography world so there is nothing to worry about in terms of lens suitability or quality.
The Canon T5i has a wide range of lenses, certainly offering a great variety for photographers both starting out and established. Of particular interest to us is the Canon T5i kit lens that was marketed with the body. The lens was a Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM, an upgrade from the lenses offered with the Canon T5i’s predecessors. It provides much better optical performance, but the difference worth noting is the inclusion of STM or Stepping Motor Technology. Perfect for photographers shooting video, the STM lenses allows for much higher quality video image, with far more silent motor noise.
Similar technology can also be found on the more versatile and longer-range Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens, which also ran as a kit with up to $200 saving on buying the lens separately. The 18-135mm lens is ideal as more of a beginner’s all round lens, as it provides both the flexibility of the wide-angle image, as well as an introduction into the world of zoom.
Like the Canon T5i, the Nikon D5200 is a cropped frame camera. But unlike the Canon T5i, to offset the distortion issues that can occur on cropped frame cameras, the Nikon D5200 has automatic distortion control built in.
The kit lenses on the Nikon D5200 are the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR or the 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR. For everyone from beginners to those upgrading, the Nikon 18-55mm is the perfect lens. Although it has a plastic mount if produces very sharp images and with the vibration reduction (VR) it’s great value at just $100 in the kit. It’s so versatile and a great all in one, we’d even be tempted to say it’s one of Nikon’s best kit lenses.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR, which is pretty average with soft corners and not that much functionality for the focal length. Although it might serve its purpose just fine for a beginner, most users will quickly see the lenses failings. If you’re looking for a quality deal, the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR is the way to go.
Of course, with both the Nikon D5200 and the Canon T5i, users might find that the kit lenses aren’t suited for their needs. Photographers need to look at the situation they’re in, noting that although kit lenses can be very cheap (in the kit) and are a great way to build up a lens collection, they’re not always suitable.
For photographers who already have previous kit lenses from previous cameras they might look into more Canon or Nikon branded lenses suited for their new bodies. Alternatively, compatible outsider brands like Tamron and Sigma might also be a possibility, particularly for those on a tight budget.
A Final Comparison of the Nikon D5200 and the Canon T5i
In comparing the two cameras, although both have their winning qualities, it is the Nikon D5200 that comes out on top. While the Canon T5i has touch screen features, a higher resolution screen display and better light sensitivity, it just cannot compare to the superior features of the Nikon D5200.
These features include lower noise levels at higher ISO points, better color depth and a greater dynamic range. The Nikon D5200 also has considerably more focus points (39 compared to the Canon’s 9) and a sensor that is 10% larger, bettering the Nikon’s image quality by more than 30%. In terms of the camera’s technology, the Nikon has shown itself to start faster, last longer and be easier to carry (it’s 10% smaller than the Canon T5i, and a little lighter). But, perhaps the most compelling reason to go with the Nikon D5200 over the Canon T5i is that it is cheaper, in some cases more retailing for more than USD$150 less than the Canon T5i.
Of course, there are always reasons that you might consider getting the Canon T5i. One of the main reasons would be staying with the brand, especially if you already own Canon lenses or find it challenging to pick up new camera interfaces. However, if you’re starting out or upgrading without a large range of lenses to consider, the Nikon D5200 certainly represents the smarter choice for photographers at this level.