Nikon D5200: Same sharpness issues as some D7000 models experienced?

Amid the madness of last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Pocket-lint was able to prise away a final firmware version of the Nikon D5200 for an extended play. The glitzy red devil has a brand new 24-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor at its core, but does it drop photographic bangers or has the increase in resolution caused it to bomb?

It seems we've stumbled upon an issue with our particular D5200 sample: a closer inspection of shots reveals they're just not as sharp as they ought to be.

ISO 500 - 100 per cent crop

Could this be the same as the previously reported issue that some D7000 users experienced when that DSLR first launched? Both cameras share the same 39-point autofocus system although we never experienced the talked-about issue first in the D7000.

The giveaway was when shooting some tripod-mounted shots to test manual focus, live view autofocus and viewfinder autofocus. The first two were fine - they're impressively sharp - but the latter was soft each and every time, which is exactly the same issue as reported by some D7000 users. It's plausible that mirror slap could be causing the sensor to move slightly, thus the blurring.

Here's a simple tripod-mounted shot of some glasses (excuse the fingerprints) captured using live view's contrast-detect autofocus system, shown cropped at 100 per cent scale. It's a raw conversion without any adjustments made, bar from Pocket-lint's own automated processing that occurs during the upload and watermarking. There's lots of detail, so plenty of good to shout about.

Shot from a tripod using live view's contrast detection autofocus

Here's the same scene, this time relying on the optical viewfinder and, therefore, the camera's phase-detection autofocus system, again shown at 100 per cent scale. It's the same ISO setting and direct raw conversion, with no different processing applied, but as nothing is bitingly sharp it may be "mirror slap" rather than the autofocus system causing the problem. Still, it is a problem:

Shot from a tripod using the optical viewfinder's phase-detection autofocus

We've shot and re-shot the same sorts of tests and the results have been consistent on every occasion with this particular D5200 camera body. A wide range of shutter speeds appear to be affected, not just long-to-medium exposures. It's likely an isolated issue, but one that mirrors a previously reported and recognised problem.

It's not the fault of the 18-55mm lens either - which we used both with and without vibration reduction - as even swapping over for a 24-70mm f/2.8 didn't resolve the level of detail that we had expected at any ISO value, in both raw and JPEG shots.

So we can only base our image quality words on shots we fired off when using live view. The D5200's images have a 50 per cent larger canvas than the D5100 predecessor, but it's a palette filled with a similar levels of image noise and dynamic range potential. Now that's great from a sensor that's so much more resolute, so it's a "yay" for the sensor at least.

We're getting a second body sent over from Nikon with which to do a side-by-side test and will report back once we can test it more thoroughly. Hopefully it's just a minor blip in the system, but if anyone else has experienced the same issue please do let us know in the comments below.



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