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Is there much difference between Nikon and Canon’s latest DSLR cameras?

With Canon and Nikon both struggling for dominance in the the beginner level category, they have both released movie friendly digital cameras to tempt enthusiast and professional videographers. Despite the two digital SLRs coming from different companies, they have a lot in common. They are both useful upgrades to current digital SLRs (the D5100 and the Canon T3i), and are designed to strengthen their markets by extending into video making, which both Canon and Nikon recognize as potential areas for growth. It is clear that Nikon and Canon are regarding the entry level market as a major battleground, particularly in the USA. [I:http://www.photographyadvice.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/JeremyBayston21.jpg]

The Canon T4i doesn’t feel quite as tough as the D5200, but it is solid enough for day to day use. It is a slightly larger than the D5200 though, and so much easier for someone with average sized hands to hold. The scroll-wheel clicks comfortingly as it turns and the buttons on the back are responsive. The layout at the back of the Canon T4i is well set out and has more buttons, making diving into the menu settings a lot quicker and easier. Some are multioption buttons, which can require some thought. For example, the same button that commences recording video in movie mode also enables Live View in still shooting mode. The minor downside of this is that some of the buttons are quite close together. However, the Canon T4i has a dedicated ISO button, and immediate 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 articulating LCD view screen. The Canon T4i has a recognizable higher resolution than that of the D5200. The Canon’s liquid crystal display view screen has 1040 thousand pixels, while the D5200 has 921 thousand. One of the the Canon T4i’s best selling points is that the liquid crystal display viewingscreen is touch sensitive. This makes it much easier to arrange settings and, more importantly, it lets you select a focus point through Live View. You can also take your photo by tapping on the point where you want the camera to focus. These are very clever and useful functions, taken from the Compact System Camera (CSC) categories that are out now. It is great to see this technology being utilized by the Canon T4i as it makes it far more useable than any other digital SLR in its bracket.

The Canon’s phase detect AF system is exceptionally quick. Whilst it has only 9-point Auto Focus system, as opposed to the 39-points of the D5200, it is both fast and accurate for every day picture taking. The Canon T4i lacks a dedicated AF assist light, but it is able to 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 fair to say that the Canon Rebel T4i is possibly the better DSLR for shooting movies. The liquid crystal display viewingscreen, full-time AF, and external Mic make it appropriate for your everyday video needs.

The Nikon D5200 is a solidly built camera and smaller than it’s fore runner, the D5100. This could cause issues for those of us with large (average!) hands. It can sometimes not have the feel of a proper DSLR, especially when fitted to a big lens. Although it fails to equal the build specifications of the magnesium alloy D7000, the toughened plastic body feels reasonably solid and sturdy. The layout at the rear is easy to navigate with a good selection of buttons to make access to the multiple functions simple to follow. Live view is easily accessed and video recording can be started with a press of a single button. It has just one control dial which is snappy and responsive. There is an IR spot on the front of the body and also a dedicated AF assist light, which the Canon T4i lacks. 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 options). The pop-up flash automatic in green mode, meaning that the flash will open on its own if the camera thinks it is required.

The LCD screen is has come from the D5100, where it was enormously popular. As with with the Canon T4i, it is very appropriate for shooting at different angles and is really useful when shooting video. The help features are superb and make the Nikon D5200 quite novice friendly. The visual display rotates with the camera, meaning that text on the status screen won’t show sideways when you’re shooting uprights. The playback function is quick and efficient you won’t have to wait for photos to load. And there is a comprehensive info screen which lets you change just about every shooting parameter that it has to offer. However the four way selector is not as easy to use as the one on the Canon. The Nikon D5200 doesn’t have as many external buttons as the Canon T4i, making a few of the menu choices 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 improved the choices 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 slightly better at the top (non-expanded) ISO. Overall, the Nikon offers 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, combined 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.

In short, the Canon Rebel T4i has great AutoFocus, a great articulated touchscreen and is a really superb video camera. The Nikon D5200 has astonishing, fast AutoFocus, a good articulating screen, a great buffer/processor and very useful in-camera guides.

I think if you had no lens loyalty either way, the Canon T4i would be the better camera to buy. The difference in image quality is barely noticeable under normal conditions and the Canon certainly competes with the D5200 on the video front. Whilst both cameras are remarkable in their own ways, the Nikon D5200 is more expensive than the small improvements over the Canon T4i would warrant.

Jeremy Bayston has worked in the photography industry for twenty years. He has a particular interest in digital imagery. Learn more about the new Nikon D5200 on his website www.d5200.org and read the free 25 page guide to the new camera. Discover more about the Canon rebel T4i on his website www.rebel-T4i.com. Both sites offer expert advice and reviews of Nikon and Canon products.

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