Canon T5i vs Nikon D5200

This was an expensive post to write.  We purchased the Canon Rebel T5i as well as the Nikon D5200 so that we could use the camera for a few days and really become familiar with what it is like to shoot with it.  Then, we chose which camera we preferred, and destroyed the other one.  Here’s our review…

Jim’s Take: I shoot Nikon as my primary camera, but I also own several Canons as well, and Canon used to be my primary camera.  So, I think I’m pretty unbiased when it comes to the Canon and Nikon debate.

For me, there are two big reasons to choose the Nikon D5200 instead of the T5i.  First of all, the Nikon has 39 focus points compared to only 9 focus points on the Canon.  I have always found the focus to be fast and accurate on Canon cameras, but by not having enough focus points, I often want to focus on a place in the frame where there is no focus point.  So, you have to focus and recompose, which is an acceptable workaround, but can cause problems when using very shallow depth-of-field and it slows me down when shooting.  This is especially true when trying to follow the rule of thirds, because Canon’s focus points aren’t anywhere NEAR the intersection of the third lines.

One annoyance for me with the Canon is that it is using very outdated sensor technology.  Essentially, the T5i uses the same sensor technology as the Canon 7d (released in 2009), the 60d, the T2i, the T3i, and the T4i.  All of those cameras have the same megapixel count, frames per second, and ISO range.

Dustin’s Take: 

First of all, I really like that the D5200 is $100 cheaper than the Canon.  When you’re buying lenses, bags, memory cards, and all of the other new things you need when you buy a camera, it’s nice to have that extra $100.

However, I do like that the T5i has a touch screen.  While I generally prefer to use the hard buttons for changing camera settings, the touch screen will undoubtedly be easier for new photographers to operate until they learn the buttons.  Eventually, most photographers will probably want to switch to the hard buttons because you can’t see the screen very easily when you’re out shooting in the bright sunlight.

But for me, the biggest thing is low light performance.  In my night photo test at ISO 6400 with the T5i and D5200, the Nikon won handily.

t5i_bodyOnly D5200_bodyOnly

Canon T5i

Released: April 2013

Nikon D5200

Released: January 2013


(Click to buy on Amazon)


(Click to buy on Amazon)

17.9 MP

24 MP

Max ISO 12,800

At an ISO of 6,400, this camera performed horibbly and had a lot of noise with little signs of Noise Reduction!

Max ISO 6,400

Performed much better at high ISO in low light. Still has noise, but did a much better job with Noise Reduction.

Focus Motor

Unlike with Nikon, you do not have to worry about getting a lens with or without a focus motor in order for it to work on your Canon camera.

NO Focus Motor

Really, the only lens you want to pay attention to with this is the 50mm f/1.8 lens we all love. The 50mm is a very fast (great for low light and creamy backgrounds) and is quite sharp for only costing $200.  The D5200 does not come with a focus motor built-in, so you will have to buy the version of this lens that has the focus motor. You can buy that lens here.

Almost all modern Nikon lenses other than the original 50mm f/1.8 have focus motors, so it isn’t really much of a concern going forward.

550 Shots

The Canon has a slightly better battery life.

500 Shots

Still a good amount of battery life on the Nikon.

Sensor Cropping

Due to the slightly smaller sensor size in the Canon T5i, your images will be slightly more zoomed in at the same 18mm compared to the Nikon D5200. This is not a big difference, but Sports photographers won’t mind having the smaller sensor size.

Sensor Cropping

The slightly larger sensor size on this camera will give you a wider view on the image than the Canon T5i will. Landscape photographers might be interested in this because you will get just a little bit wider shot when zoomed all the way out.

Image Output

Canon cameras will process the images slightly for you in the camera. Most people tend to like the photos that came out of a Canon. If you are not into editing, or prefer getting a nice image straight out of the camera, you might really appreciate what Canon will do for you.

Image Output

Coming from Canon, it will take some time getting used to how the images look like on a Nikon. They simply are not as processed as much as you would expect to see on a Canon. For those looking for the unedited, unprocessed, looked of an image – then Nikon is probably calling your number.


  1. DG

    Okay, next time you want to get rid of a camera, just send it to me… even with only 9 points of focus it would be an upgrade for me, what a waste.

  2. Eric

    What DG said, pretty much. It would have been an upgrade to me as well. Even if it wouldn’t go to a reader, find SOMEONE who’ll give it good use – a family member, for example. It’s painful to see a perfectly good, brand new (even if it doesn’t match up to the other one) camera get destroyed just.. because.

    (Plus, if you want to feel eco-conscious – consider that this way there’s more trash and you just wasted all the energy that went into making the thing)

  3. Austin

    I thought this was indeed EPIC!!! Who really cares what Jim and Dustin do with THEIR equipment? They bought it, and they have the right to destroy it.

    Think about it like this: If it was Sony gear (I actually shoot Sony) or Pentax gear, or Olympus gear or whatever, hardly anyone would care, and probably say something to the effect of “good riddance”, but because it was Canon, everyone is all hurt.

    It’s THEIR stuff. And they destroyed it. EPICALLY!!!!

    P.S. I would love to see more of this all the time!

  4. Stephanie

    I didn’t enjoy this video at all. It is SO wasteful what you did to the camera at the end. You could have donated that camera to someone and it could have helped them to improve their photography skills.
    Really wasteful guys.

  5. Jim Harmer

    @Stephanie – This year I have given several thousands of dollars of camera equipment away to photographers for free. I have also given away MANY thousands of dollars of free online photography classes away to people who can’t afford it.

    On top of that, I have donated thousands of hours over the last few years teaching photography–for free–to people.

    You don’t have to like my review, but I don’t appreciate your judgments of me when they are grossly off base. The truth is that I dedicate an extreme amount of my time and money to helping other photographers. Do you?

  6. Jim Harmer

    @Stephanie – Forgive me for being defensive in my last comment. I mean no offence, but I would love to see more photographers encouraging each other and fewer photographers judging each other.

  7. Katie

    That was epic. Best video yet! I’d like to see more like it. Money down the drain or more apt under the tracks? Yeah, but it’s your money to waste.
    Jim, You and Dustin both are far more giving than any other photographers I have met. Which is a breath of fresh air to a rather stagnant pond. It makes me as a photographer want to strive to be better and share what I know with other up and comings. I like the environment you work so hard to create and maintain and highly appreciate it. I can’t say enough good things about both of you and Improve Photography.

  8. Ellis

    While I do think it’s a little bit silly to destroy a new camera – I do think it’s about time someone did that to a lower level Canon just to show how crappy they are. I mean, seriously, the sensor is 4 years old. This T5i costs about the same as a Pentax K-5 does now! A Pentax K-5 is closer to a 5D mk2 than it is to this T5i rubbish.
    And about the Nikon – seriously, no dedicated ISO button? WHAT? It’s not even their ENTRY level camera… I shudder to think what the D3200 misses out on. A shutter button?

  9. David

    The D5200 does not have a dedicated ISO button, but the fn button under the flash button can be set as the ISO button and it comes set up in this configuration out of the box.

  10. mary

    I wasn’t a fan of the destruction but, I think you guys are awesome and I am a much better photographer after your online classes so… It’s your prerogative to do what you want to do with the gear you buy.

  11. Ashlee

    I loved this video! I’ve used a Canon my whole life and have enjoyed it. However, I always have that problem where my pictures look grainy when zoomed in, so the next camera I buy will probably be a Nikon. Thanks for the video, it was great!

  12. JG

    OUCH! I’m looking into getting my first DSLR camera and tight on budget. To see that beautiful Canon body get smashed like that was painful to watch.

    But I have to hand it to you, it was convincing enough for me to set my eyes onto the D5200 and make that my first camera. Thanks for your creative and entertaining review.

  13. Ademeion

    I see that my previous, constructively critical message was removed. I promise to be a good boy from now on: Destroying the camera was a fabulous idea, and like Austin so brightly brings up, the only relevant aspect on the matter is whether Jim had the right to destroy his own camera or not.

  14. Bigs

    Yes it’s a shame to destroy a good camera, for crying out loud, stop the whining! lol

    It’s HIS camera! He can do whatever he wants with it! Even if he donates or not.

    Anyway, thanks Jim and Dustin for everything you do for us! I’m happy the Canon got what it deserved! lol

    Keep it up guys!

  15. Olivyah

    Thank you SO much!! Finally an unbiased, in action, true side by side comparison. I’ve been tearing my hair out trying to choose which one to go with. In your opinion is the D5200 the best to go with (over all cameras) around that price range (for taking photos & videos)? Just a little worried about using it with the 50mm f/1.8 lens. The part about the ‘useable’ iso really helped me out, since over half of my photos will be taken in low lighting (most likely). But the best part – this video led me to you guys. Thanks again, xoxox

  16. Jim Harmer

    @Ademeion – Your previous comment made fun of another commenter, which is a violation of our comment policy. Therefore, it was removed.

    The comment policy is available here:

    Improve Photography is a place for FRIENDLY people to discuss photography techniques–not making fun of others.

  17. Carlos Allen

    Thanks for your blog, it helped me to take a decision. I will stay with NIKON.

    Thanks again.

  18. Marc

    Love this camera.I t took great pictures right out of the box. It is fun to use and very light…….I think I made a great choice for the money!

  19. Bruce

    I love your podcast, site and review, guys. I’ll admit that I did have a bit of an “ouch” moment when the camera died… but that was just because I love cameras and photography so much, as do you and your other readers/listeners/viewers.

    Thanks for this review. While I won’t be buying either of these (I’m saving my pennies for something else), I did appreciate the comments and they will help me when making recommendations to others.

  20. Dale

    Thanks for the objective comparison. I leaned towards the Canon, mainly because I’ve been using them for the last 10 years and it just feels comfortable. I really, really like the touch screen – both for shooting (especially for touch-focus) and for viewing pictures – zooming, swiping, etc…it really adds a lot. The low light isn’t quite as good but it’s the first SLR I’ve had since I had a film SLR 20 years ago and it’s such a huge step up from all other digital cameras, it’s all gravy anyway! Thanks again!

  21. sogoode

    So. doesn’t having 39 focus points make the camera slower to focus ? I saw other reviews that say the T5 focuses faster, smoother and more quiet with the STM lens when shooting videos. The D5200 hesitates a bit.

    1. Jim Harmer

      @Sogoode – No, more autofocus points don’t make the camera slower to focus. Remember that only ONE of the autofocus points will ultimately do the focusing.

  22. Susan

    Hello! Want to ask if the low light shots you showed in the video were shot with the kit lenses from these cameras? and if so, would that be the 18-55mm versions?

  23. Susan Meyer

    Sorry if I’m double posting, but apparently my comment/question did not post. I wanted to know if you used the 18-55mm kit lenses on both cameras when shooting the low light high ISO demo photo you featured. Thanks!

  24. Susan Watson Bahen

    Don’t know if this had been mentioned in the comment, but although the D5200 doesn’t have a dedicated ISO button, you don’t have to go into the menu to change your ISO settings. You can assign the function (FN) button to change ISO. Just hold it and use the command dial to change ISO on-the-fly!

  25. Khairul A Zainal

    ON the review, nice one guys. Really helped me understand more on the pros and cons of both camera though I’m still undecided on which ones I’m gonna get as my first DSLR.

  26. joanne

    Literally, After Months Of Debating Between The Canon T5i And Nikon D5200 I EndeD Up Buying Th Nikon Since Costco Had AGreat Bundle DeaL. ItS My FirsT SLR Camera An I Love It! I Just TooK xmas PiCtures Of My Kids For Our Xmas Cards And I Gotta Tell Ya Nikon Did Not Dissapoint!. The QualitY And Detail Of ThePictures Are Amazing.

  27. Jamie

    While the Nikon does not have a dedicated ISO button it can be quickly changed by pressing the Fn button near the lens and rotating the dial. It is extremely fast.

  28. L Schmied

    Thank you, gentlemen for your review.
    I bought a Nikon D5200 from Costco today for 999.00 (300.00 off) came with standard 18-55 and 55-300 Nikon lense. opened the box, and it even had a 16GB card with it, and wifi adapter. Think its a sweet deal…Cant wait to open it up and start shooting pics. I was a previous Canon owner, but the Canon EOS Digital Rebel died completely. I think it was trying to tell me something!
    Anyway, just wanted to thank you for the thorough review.

  29. Tim

    Disappointed to see the Nikon for nearly the same price with similar lens had wifi, GPS and 1080P video, Too late to change now.
    This camera should have been cheaper given the Nikon features/pricing.

  30. Drew

    Thanks for the review. I just totally waffled between these two cameras. I currently have an old Rebel XT, so I though for sure that I would just upgrade to a new Cannon. So I researched the t5i and decided that that would be the one. I also really wanted to add the 50mm 1.8 and thought that the 18-135 STM would be an excellent all-purp lens. I do currently have the 50mm Macro 2.5, which has been pretty nice. So when I really started reading about the d5200, I really started to believe it was a better camera – so I ordered the body only, from AoM (Abe’s of Maine) as well as the 18-105 and the 50mm 1.8g. But, then I had remorse and thought I’d really miss Canon, so I cancelled the order and ordered a t5i with a 13-135 STM and the 50mm 1.8 over at Fumfie which they also threw in a whole accessory package (which I didn’t really need), an extra battery and 2-day shipping. Weeelllllll, at the last moment, I changed that order back to the Nikon group because I really do think the Nikon takes the best pictures, which is really what it’s all about. So I may be a total dork for the indecisiveness, but I think I’m going to be pretty happy making the upgrade to Nikon. Total price was $1008.00 on 05/19/14 if that helps anyone. That included the d5200 body, 18-105mm, 50mm 1.8g, 5hr battery, 2-day shipping.

  31. Jason

    One thing you guys didnt touch on is the Live View quality, especially when it comes to magnified manual focus. On the D5200, its literally HORRIBLE quality, pixelated and basically useless. If Live View is important, Canon has a far better live view system than Nikon cameras, and always have.

  32. Stephanie

    Image Output: Is there a setting on the Nikon where you can process the image more like the Canon? Thanks!

  33. mark

    i must have missed that nikon bundle deal. how much was it at costco. they have the t5i for 899.00 with the 250mm lens bundle. was the nikon5200 sold with the 300mm?

  34. Russ P

    How do you feel the 10x18mm Canon Wide Angle vs Canon 10x22mm will work for residential real estate pictures? I’m looking at Canon T5i and watched your video Canon T5i vs Nikon D5200. I am considering the T5i for many reasons and one in particular is the cost for Nikon 10x24mm wide angle is a bite.

    Thank you

  35. Serena

    Hi Russ

    You could consider the Sigma 8-16 lens; its ~$150 cheaper than the Nikon 10-24.

    Given the overall features between Nikon 5200 & Canon T5i, I would recommend the Nikon.



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