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Differences Between Nikon D5200 and Canon t4i Digital Cameras

Updated on March 17, 2013

If you're shopping for your first dSLR camera, then you're facing a very tough decision: which brand of camera should you buy?

Not only are there dozens of models on the market, but there are several competing brands - Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc. Each has it's own line of bodies, lenses, and flashes, and once you commit to one brand you're pretty much stuck with it.

The Nikon D5200 and the Canon t4i 650D are the latest second-tier entry level cameras by their respective manufacturers. Both offer you the ability to make great images, and at the end of the day both would be a good choice.

But, before you make a final decision, you should compare the two. So what are the differences between the Nikon D5200 and the Canon t4i? Take a look at the following chart for a quick snapshot, then keep reading for an explanation.

Key Differences Between Nikon D5200 and Canon t4i 650D

Nikon D5200
Canon t4i 650D
24 MP
18 MP
Autofocus Points
39 Points
9 Points
Touch Screen
Wireless Flash Control
Dynamic Range
13.9 (Higher)
11.2 (Lower)
ISO Sensitivity
6,400 ISO Standard
12,800 ISO Standard

Difference #1: Image Resolution and Image Quality

The first difference you'll notice between these two cameras - and the easiest to market - is image resolution. Nikon has recently upped the resolution on pretty much all of its cameras, and the Nikon D5200 yields a whopping 24 megapixels compared to the 18 megapixels of the Canon t4i.

This means that your images contain more pixels, and you can reproduce those images at larger sizes without discernable pixelation. In theory, that's a good thing.

But, it's also kind of a pointless arms race. Your most common use for digital photos (online sharing) involves about 1 to 2 megapixels. A common print (4x6 inches) involves a shade over 2 megapixels.

Canon's 18 megapixels is enough to print an 11" x 17" photo at full resolution (300 dpi), whereas the Nikon D5200 can print 13" x 20" at full resolution. Unless you plan on doing enlargements like these, then there's effectively little difference between the 18 megapixels and 24 megapixels.

Besides resolution, there's also a difference in image quality - although it helps to define what we mean by image quality. Here, we're talking about two benchmarked measurements, dynamic range and color depth. Dynamic range is a measurement of the maximum difference between the brightest and darkest points of the photo, while color depth refers to how many different gradations of a given color the camera can capture.

The Nikon D5200 has greater dynamic range (by about 1 to 2 stops) and greater color depth (by 1 to 2 bits). So on paper, this is clearly the camera with the better image quality.

However, in actual practice, it gets a bit fuzzier. First, these differences are most pronounced at ISO 100 and at moderate to high ISOs (800 or higher) the differences shrink. Unless you're shooting in a studio, you'll rarely use ISO 100 and see that maximal difference.

Second, the dynamic range of each camera far exceeds that which can be stored in a common JPEG file. Both cameras capture more information in their native RAW formats, and this is then compressed into a JPEG file. If you shoot in JPEG and let the camera do the conversion, then you probably won't ever see much difference.

Where the difference will be more apparent is if you're a power user that shoots in RAW and do some heavy editing to your photos. The greater dynamic range of the Nikon D5200 will allow you to pull greater detail out of the deep shadows and the bright highlights before these end points are clipped to black or white (read more about black and white clipping here).

So on paper, the Nikon D5200 has better image quality than the Canon t4i. The average user may never see any benefit from these differences, but they may be important to power users who are looking to reproduce enlargements or use Photoshop to do some intense editing of their photos.

Difference #2: Autofocus

This is the first area where the average user might see an improvement. The Nikon D5200 has 39 autofocus points, including 9 cross-type focus points. The Canon t4i, on the other hand, only has 9 autofocus points (although they are all cross-type focus points).

Both of these represent improvements over their predecessors (the Nikon D5100 and the Canon t3i), but the Nikon D5200 shines a little brighter. The extra autofocus points will allow the camera to more easily identify the subject and track it in the frame.

For sports and action photography, these extra autofocus points would come in handy.

Shooting basketball requires high ISO, and gear can make a big difference.
Shooting basketball requires high ISO, and gear can make a big difference. | Source

Difference #3: ISO Sensitivity

This third difference is an advantage for the Canon t4i.

The Canon t4i 650D has a maximum standard ISO setting of 12,800 compared to the 6,400 ISO of the Nikon D5200.

Higher ISO settings intensify the light captured by the image sensor (read this hub for more about ISO sensitivity). This effectively lets you shoot at higher shutter speeds or smaller apertures, giving you greater control over the outcome of your photos.

This is especially useful for someone shooting indoor action photography. The average gym has very dim lighting, and the extra stop afforded by the Canon t4i would be a boon for anyone shooting something like basketball or wrestling.

Difference #4: Touchscreen and User Interface

The new standard in dSLRs is articulating screens. Both the Canon t4i and Nikon D5200 have flip out LCD screens that are high resolution.

Canon did introduce one nifty, unique feature with the t4i, though. It has a touchscreen LCD, something the Nikon D5200 does not.

Most people report that the touchscreen LCD makes the Canon t4i menus easier to navigate and more intuitive. You'll probably want to check it out and see for yourself before you make a decision. But it's definitely a cool feature that the Nikon camera is lacking.

Difference #5: Wireless Flash Control

This is another area where the Canon camera outshines the Nikon. The Canon t4i follows in its predecessors' footsteps, and its pop-up flash can operate as a commander flash to control other Canon speedlites. This is great for doing portraits or crafting complex scenes.

Ironically, the Nikon D5200 has no such capability. Nikon is well known for their speedlights, and it seems a bit strange to me that a lighting powerhouse like Nikon wouldn't include wireless capabilities in its cameras. Canon has done so for its last three cameras, and this is one particular area where Nikon is lagging behind.

So... Which Camera Is Better?

Great question!

I'll leave that final decision up to you. It's a tough one.

Personally, I'm a Canon man. I've owned Canon cameras for years, but I can appreciate that there are some ways in which Nikon outshines Canon. I wish Canon would improve its sensors to match Nikon's impressive dynamic range and color depth.

However, I would venture one conclusion based on these differences. The differences that favor Nikon (resolution, color depth, dynamic range) won't be noticeable to anyone but power users. So before you dive into Nikon because of these reasons, make sure that they're actually going to matter to you.

Canon's advantages, on the other hand, will appeal to more people. A touch screen appeals to everyone, and the advantages afforded by higher ISO sensitivity will be useful for many people who want to shoot pictures of their kids playing sports. The wireless flash control is a bit of an obscure feature, but still a useful one.

At the moment, the Canon t4i 650D is significantly cheaper on Amazon, but it was also released several months prior to the Nikon D5200. Over the next few months, the Nikon may drop in price. In the meantime, I would personally opt for the Nikon, but I might reconsider that if their prices become more comparable.

Either way, do your research, try out the two cameras in the store, and then make your decision.


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