With Canon and Nikon both competing to dominate the beginner level category, they have both announced movie friendly DSLRs to tempt enthusiast and professional videographers. Despite the two DSLRs coming from different producers, they have a lot in common. They are both useful upgrades to current digital cameras (the Canon T3i and the D5100), and are designed to maintain their markets by extending into movie making, which both Canon and Nikon see as potential areas for expansion. It is clear that Nikon and Canon are regarding the entry level market as a major battleground, particularly in the United States.
The Canon T4i doesn’t feel quite so robust as the D5200, but it is solid enough for everyday use. It is a bit bigger than the D5200 though, and so much easier for anyone with average sized hands to hold. The scroll-wheel clicks reassuringly as it turns and the rear buttons are responsive. The modelling on the back of the Canon T4i is well thought out and has more buttons, making delving into the menu options a lot quicker and easier. Some are multi-functional, which can require a little thought. For example, the same button that starts recording video in movie mode also allows Live View in still shooting mode. The small downside of this is that some of the buttons are very close together. However, the Canon T4i does have a dedicated ISO button, and speedy access to white balance, drive mode, and AF settings (the D5200 doesn’t have any of these). There is an IR sensor on the front of the camera, but no Fn button as there isn’t really any requirement for it.
Both cameras have an articulated liquid crystal display backscreen. The Canon T4i has a recognizable higher resolution than that of the D5200. The Canon’s LCD viewingscreen has 1040 thousand dots, while the D5200 has 921 thousand. One of the the Canon T4i’s best selling points is that the LCD view screen is a touchscreen. This makes it much easier to program settings and, more importantly, it lets you pick a focus point through Live View. You can also take your photo by tapping on the location where you want the DSLR to focus. These are very progressive and useful features, taken from the Compact System Camera (CSC) categories that are out now. It is splendid to see this technology being adopted by the Canon T4i as it makes it far more useable than any other digital SLR in its category.
The Canon’s phase detect AutoFocus system is extremely fast. Whilst it has only 9-point Auto Focus system, as opposed to the 39-points of the D5200, it is both quick and accurate for every day photography. The Canon T4i doesn’t have a dedicated AF assist light, but it can use its built-in flash in these instances. The T4i supports full-time AutoFocus in video mode, which rivals the D5200 and, with Canon’s STM lenses, the focussing is quiet enough for shooting video. It also has an external Mic socket. It is reasonable to say that the Canon Rebel T4i is possibly the better DSLR for shooting movies. The LCD view screen, full-time AutoFocus, and external Mic make it ideal for your everyday video requirements.
The Nikon D5200 is a neatly packaged camera and smaller than it’s fore runner, the D5100. This could introduce problems for those of us with large (average!) hands. It doesn’t always have the feel of an ordinary DSLR, especially when fitted to a larger lens. While it cannot equal the build quality of the magnesium alloy D7000, the toughened plastic casing feels reasonably solid and sturdy. The layout at the back is easy to navigate with a good selection of buttons to make access to the various options straightforward. Live view is easily accessed and movie recording can be initiated with a press of a single button. It has just one control dial which is snappy and responsive. There is an IR port on the front of the camera and also a dedicated AF assist light, which the Canon T4i doesn’t have. On the right side there is a customizable Fn button which can be used to manage image quality, ISO, active-D lighting, or white balance (there are no dedicated single buttons for these functions). The pop-up flash automatic in green mode, meaning that the flash will open on its own if the camera thinks it is needed.
The liquid crystal display screen is inherited from the D5100, where it was very popular. As with with the Canon T4i, it is very handy for shooting at strange angles and is particularly useful when shooting movies. The help options are excellent and make the Nikon D5200 quite beginner friendly. The display rotates with the camera, meaning that information on the status screen won’t appear sideways when you’re taking uprights. The playback option is quick and efficient you won’t need to wait for images to load. And there is a wide-ranging info screen which lets you manage just about every shooting parameter that it has t choose from. However the four way selector is not as simple to use as the one on the Canon. The Nikon D5200 doesn’t have as many buttons on the back as the Canon T4i, making a few of the menu options hard to get to. The new(ish) Expeed 3 processor makes the Nikon quick and decisive in phase detect AutoFocus and extremely fast in Live View. The D5200’s articulated screen is excellent for shooting video, and Nikon have increased the number of frame rate options, introducing 60i and 50i. Like the Canon T4i, it will accept an external microphone and has full-time video AutoFocus.
At low very ISO, the Canon T4i equals the Nikon, though the D5200 is a little better at maximum (non-expanded) ISO. Overall, the Nikon delivers slightly better image quality than the Canon. Remember, the Canon T4i also has a physically smaller sensor than the D5200. It may not seem like much, but 1.6x rather than 1.5x, along with the increased resolution, puts the Nikon D5200 in the lead. For more information on the sensors, take a look at the sensor scores published by DxO labs.
To summarize, the Canon Rebel T4i has great AutoFocus, a splendid articulated touchscreen and is a truly superb video camera. The Nikon D5200 has excellent, fast AutoFocus, a good articulating screen, a great buffer/processor and very useful in-camera guides.