Nikon has not only gone DSLR crazy this year, but also megapixel mad. And we mean that in a good way. The latest Nikon D5200 model - which Pocket-lint was on hand to try out at a pre-launch event - features a brand new 24-megapixel APS-C sensor at its core.
As it's brand new it's therefore supposed better than the 24-megapixel sensor found in the D3200 released earlier this year. Nikon wasn't exactly clear as to the exact anticipated differences between the two cameras' sensors, but based on how good the D3200 already is the D5200 sure seems to have a solid start. Unfortunately we were not permitted to take any shots away from this initial session.
READ: Nikon D3200 review
From a specs point of view the D5200 is rather like a head-on collision between the D3200 and D7000 models. The D5200 has the same resolution as that of the D3200, but is equipped with the D7000's 39-point autofocus system and 2,016-pixel RGB metering sensor.
Tie that up with the Advanced Scene Recognition system and Expeed 3 processing engine akin to the professional Nikon DSLRs found further up the range and, well, this increasingly looks like one pristine package.
READ: Nikon D7000 review
It functions like one too, from what we've seen. The windowless room in which we were testing the camera out was dim, to say the least - as you can probably tell from the high ISO sample shots of the camera itself on this very page. But such conditions weren't a bother for the D5200's autofocus system at all.
We happily snapped a variety of subjects, which slipped into focus at pace, as confirmed by the relevant focus point illuminating red in the optical viewfinder. It's certainly swift, just like the D7000, and the focus point array is spread widely across the frame, unlike the more central-confined array of the D600 model, for example.
READ: Nikon D600 review
The continuous shooting mode has been cranked up a gear too, and is now capable of shooting up to five frames per second at full resolution. That's faster than its predecessor despite the 50 per cent greater resolution and matches up to the Canon EOS 650D. None too bad, eh?
READ: Canon EOS 650D review
But one area that Nikon's not updated is the LCD screen. The 3-inch, 921k-dot, vari-angle-mounted LCD certainly looked good enough to us for preview and playback, but it's missing one thing that its nearest rival - the Canon EOS 650D - was the very first DSLR to introduce: a touchscreen.
For traditionalists this might not make a big difference to the way the camera functions, but it does mean that the Canon offers this unique feature for the time being.
It's perhaps a little more strange that there is no touchscreen as the D5200 also shows off a brand new graphical user interface (GUI) that displays all the major settings on the LCD screen. Rather than using the info button and d-pad to access these settings, a touch-sensitive screen would have made light work of dipping in and out of different options.
However, even in its standard form the D5200's screen is prone to fingerprints - as is abundantly clear in the above image - so maybe Nikon's made the right move here by avoiding the power of touch.
In the hand the camera feels much the same as its D5100 predecessor, simply because the chassis and body are the very same. Buttons and dials are positioned in the same locations: which includes a main mode dial on top, function button tucked to the left side and a selection of quick-access buttons all positioned within easy reach but not so that they'd be accidentally pressed.
READ: Nikon D5100 review
Picture effects also continue to feature on the main mode dial, although there aren't any new ones to be found - it's strictly the same as the D5100's color sketch, miniature effect, night vision and selective colour options. We had mixed feelings about these the first time around - some are useful, others a little too gimmicky, and competitors such as Olympus have a more versatile and striking selection of Art Filters to choose from.
The D5200's new GUI itself is cleaner and tidier than before. Its graphical nature shows up shutter, aperture and ISO settings in three main circles, which adjust in real time to show what the camera is doing when in any auto or priority mode. If you prefer the older layout, then dig within the menus and it's possible to shift it back to the standard D5100 version, or even select between black, white and blue/green background colour options as preferred.
An updated movie mode also means that 1080i capture is possible at 60/50i, though we suspect that the 30/25/24fps options at 1080p will be the preferred choices. The mode is complemented by a full-time autofocus (AF-F) option that's said to be better at tracking subjects than before.
We popped the camera into live view and, while focus is fast for a DSLR in this particular mode, it's still not a patch on Sony's SLT models or compared to a dedicated video camera. A step forward rather than a giant leap from what we've seen, though we'll dabble into this mode in much greater detail as and when we get a final D5200 review sample.
Due out just before Christmas this very December, the D5200 will cost around £720 for the body only, or £820 wrapped up with an 18-55mm kit lens. It comes in three rather festive colours too - black, cherry red and "bronze", though the last looks more like a dull brown to our eyes. Each to their own though, and it's what this mid-level marvel can do that really counts most.