D5200 vs T4i (650D) Real World Use

After nearly three months of using the Canon T4i side by side with the Nikon D5200, I  thought an updated comparison and discussion of the two cameras would be helpful.   I am not going to tell you which camera to buy. They both have strengths and weaknesses and depending on the type of photography/videography you do or plan to do.

Key Points or Differences Nikon D5200 & Canon T4i (650D):

Image Quality

  • In most day to day photos (auto mode or manual) you see little difference between the two camera.  There are some shots where extra detail is visible from the D5200 but only after I stopped using the kit lens.  The Canon kit lens seems better and the fact that the T4i with 18-135 currently costs less than the D5200 with a less sharp and less convenient 18-55 lens is worth noting.
  • When the pop up flash is used the Nikon wins every time, flash exposure is significantly better with the D5200.
  • In lower light the D5200 does an excellent job, The T4i is close but not on par.  You also see a higher dynamic range from the D5200, a better ability to handle a range of light. In lower light the T4i does not do as well and you notice a loss of detail in some areas, a neon sign is a good example.   You see these differences in photos and video.

Performance & Usability

  • The T4i feels responsive with very little lag in navigating the menu, switching modes etc.  The t5i is said to be even slightly improved with no mirror flip down while switching modes on the dial.   The D5200, from time to time, exhibits just a bit of lag, mostly I notice it when waiting to review a shot taken with live view on, it takes noticeably longer which leads me to next point
  • The Nikon has greater focus point covereage but I find myself using a single point often and have not seen any noticeable differences with focus speed but I have noticed a hesitation from the Nikon when trying to get a burst of shots in, granted these are larger files but the T4i doesn't suffer from this and the other day I was using both side by side on some skateboarders and missing shots with the D5200 because of the hesitation.  Shot for shot in RAW though they do end up very close, both manage about 6 or 7 shots before the buffer fills and they start to slow down.
  • The touchscreen makes the T4i a breeze to use and I often find myself using a hybrid approach of buttons and touchscreen, this approach feels very efficient.  I have knocked the Nikon for usability and it does lack the touchscreen but the "i" button does provide quick access to commonly used settings and the programable function button (fn) gives you some customizability that the T4i lacks, though you can program the SET button on the T4.
  • The touchscreen is also lovely for reviewing images - pinch to zoom works and "flipping" through images is snappy.
  • After shooting the T4i provides quick menu (Q) with a variety of operations, anything you want to do with an image on the D5200 needs a few clicks into the menu system
  • Getting picky, there are times when I notice just a bit of distortion around the edges of the Nikon viewfinder, I don't see that with the Canon.
  • Arghh - the D5200 does not allow you to change aperture when you are in live view.  The Nikon does let you adjust shutter speed and ISO but does not update live view, for learning and teaching I love the real time feedback you get on Canon as you change shutter speed, ISO or aperture and watch the LCD simulate your exposure.  You can display an exposure indicator.
  • The D5200 is not nearly as fun to shoot video with, mostly because of the aperture lock out and lack of exposure simulation in live view. I usually shoot a 1/60 of a second and adjust my aperture and ISO as needed, with the Nikon D5200 this requires a few trips out of live view and back before I am happy.   The upside is the video quality out of the D5200 at the higher ISOs it is quite impressive.

Feature Set

  • There really aren't any features on the T4i that are fun, this isn't necessarily a bad thing but when you compare say the HDR mode on the Canon(very barebones) against the HDR mode on the Nikon which actually takes fewer shots but gives you control over processing power - it feels like a pretty simple camera there is wireless flash control which is quite nice and the D5200 lacks but the HDR and the effects menu is fairly simple.
  • Nikon D5200 offers effects and scenes and allows you to shoot video in with some of those effects applied in realtime.  The t5i will offer a similar option but this isn't something the T4i allows.
  • The Retouch menu in the D5200 is quite robust, not so much on the t4i.  I don't recommend you spend lots of time retouching in camera but the options are there if it is important to you.
  • The Magic Lantern folks are working, an Alpha version is available, and this certainly ups the feature set but I am not sure it is fair to talk about in this review, it doesn't come with the camera.

Bottom lineNikon D5200 - Power camera, excellent quality, nice feature sets that suffers from a few quirks, tad slower performance and needs a lens other than the kit to really shine.Canon T4i -  Simple and snappy with tools that help you grow as a photographer, paired with the 18-135 STM is a very friendly and easy to use photo and video machine. Support this site.  Buy the Canon T4i(or T5i) or Nikon D5200 from Amazon  

Quick Thoughts - T4i(650d) mini and 70D

Update - The latest information does NOT mention the 70D - it looks like we will see the T5i (700D) and a smaller rebel 100D. 700D Specs are mildly improved over the 650D with one item worth noting, an 18-55 STM lens will be available in April. The 100D will be available in May. Canonwatch is talking about a smaller form factor DSLR from Canon that may be coming soon - specs sounds basically the same including using the same sensor used in the T4i(650D). FYI it is quite difficult to shrink a DSLR down as it needs a mirror and the space required is a significant percentage of the total camera size. My excitement level is a 4 out of 10. The next exciting announcement is later this month when we should hear about the 70D, a 60D replacement. The rumor is a return to the higher level occupied by the 50D. 50D 60D 70D Released in 2008, the 50D was placed solidly above the Rebel line, it offered a camera with magnesium body (think pretty tough) and professional features like Micro-AF adjust (not all lenses focus perfectly with all bodies, Micro AF allows you to tweak the alignment to get better results for each lens) and a fast burst rate with large buffer. Two years to the day later the 60D was announced and was seen by many as a departure from the prosumer line and a blurring with the Rebel line.  The 60D was slightly smaller, lost the magnesium body and the Micro AF adjustment.  It did gain video recording features and the articulated screen.   With the feature set of the T4i it is likely that the 70D will return the XXD line to a more professional level. This will increase the price with a kit costing somewhere in the neighborhood of $1500. This also puts it on par with Nikon's recently released and excellent D7100. If you follow all of the different Canon lines you may wonder where that leaves the 7Ds replacement, the rumor there is that the 7D Mark II will come in at much higher level too, close to $2000 and offering a high-end focus system and burst rate that is needed by sports and wildlife photographers. miniT4iBack to the idea of a smaller T4i- eh.  Traditionally Canon has offered a dumbed down rebel and budget friendly rebel that uses a similar form factor with cheaper sensor and missing a few features.  This sounds like the opposite - a smaller camera with the current T4i guts crammed inside.   I don't know how this will fit in the pricing scheme but Canon is certainly feeling pressure from the mirrorless and Micro 4/3 systems otherwise they wouldn't have rushed the EOS-M out the door with admittedly slower AF.     The smaller rebel rumor isn't very exciting unless it comes with a new feature or two and knowing these companies desire to extract every penny from our wallets those features will only appear in the second version. Someone left a comment on one of my videos "If only Canon and Nikon would combine we would have one Awesome camera"   Noooo this is exactly what we do not want.  Competition is good and I am pretty convinced now that the price of the T4i really dropped over the last months to get a solid install base before the D5200 was released though the Nikon still doesn't seem to be selling well and probably won't until it sees a price drop too. I'd love to hear your thoughts?