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Nikon D5600 vs D7200: Which Should You Buy?

What's the difference? For most photographers, the new Nikon D5600 will be more than sufficient, but certain photographers will need a couple of features that are missing.

The Nikon D5600 is a very minor upgrade over its predecessor (the D5500), but still offers strong competition to the more expensive D7200, providing identical image quality. If you’re having a hard time deciding which one to buy, my general advice is always this: buy the least expensive camera that will meet your needs, and buy the best lenses that you can afford. Below, I’ll cover the differences between these cameras and explain which types of photographers will find the different features useful.

New In the D5600

But first, if you’re deciding between D5600 and slightly older D5500, here’s the difference:

  • the D5600 now supports continuous wireless communication with a smartphone or other mobile device with the use of Nikon’s SnapBridge App and NFC. This facilitates easier direct uploads to the the internet
  • minor improvements have been made to the touch functionality of the swiveling touch-screen
  • the time-lapse functionality has been improved to match the capabilities of Nikon’s higher end DSLRs, in case you don’t use your phone or another device as a time-lapse controller

That’s it! The D5500 and D5600 are virtually identical otherwise, so as the price drops on the D5500, many photographers who don’t care about these minor upgrades will be able to pick it up at a great price. Currently, the D5500 body costs $596 while the newer D5600 body costs $696.95.

The Nikon D5500 and D5600 side by side, front view
The Nikon D5500 and D5600 are almost identical, with only minor internal differences.

Nikon D5600 vs D7200: What’s the Difference?

To begin with, we can take a look at the most significant specs for the D5600 and the D7200.

 Nikon D5600Nikon D7200

Price (body)
$696.95$996.95
Price (with 18-140mm kit lens)$996.95$1,296.95
Body MaterialSereebo, (carbon fiber reenforced plastic) body-chassis Partial Magnesium Alloy Frame, Plastic
Dust/Weather Sealed BodyNoneYes
Sensor Resolution24.2Megapixels
24.2 Megapixels
Anti-Aliasing Filter
(Reduces sharpness, prevents moire)
NONO
ISO Range100-25600100-25600
Total AF Points3951
Cross-Type AF Points915
AF Motor In Body
(For Using Older AF Lenses)
NOYES
AF Light Level Range-1 to +19 EV-3 to +19 EV
Autofocus Fine Tuning
Adjustments
NOYES
Shutter Speed Range1/4000th - 30 sec.
+bulb
1/8000th - 30 sec.
+bulb
Max Frame Rate5 fps6 fps
(7 shots in 1.3x crop mode)
Max RAW Burst
(buffer size)
6 shots, compressed 14-bit18 shots 14-bit
Max JPG Burst
(fine, Large)
100100
Flash Sync Speed1/200th sec.1/250th sec.
Wireless Flash
(Built-in Commander)
NOYES
Auto FP Flash Mode
(High Speed Sync)
NOYES
Media Slots1 SD / SDHC / SDXC2 SD / SDHC / SDXC
LCD Size3.2"
1,036,800 pixels
3.2"
1,228,800 pixels
LCD ArticulatedYESNO
LCD TouchscreenYESNO
Built-in WiFiYESYES
Body Weight420g (no battery)
470 (with battery)
675 (no battery)
Body Size124 x 97 x 70 mm136 x 106.5 x 76 mm
Battery Life820 shots
CIPA Standards
1,110 shots
CIPA Standards
Viewfinder Coverage95% Frame
.82x Magnification
100% Frame
.94x Magnification
Video CodecMPEG-4 / H.264
.mov
MPEG-4 / H.264
.mov
Video Resolutions1920 x 1080 (60p, 60i, 50i, 30, 25, 24 fps)
1280 x 720 (60, 50 fps)
1920 x 1080 (60, 50, 30, 25, 24 fps)
1280 x 720 (60, 50 fps)
640 x 424 (30, 25 fps)
Headphone JackNOYES
Back view of Nikon D5600 and D7200
Back view of the Nikon D5600 and D7200. The D5600 has a swivel-screen, while the D7200 does not.

 

Build Quality

Perhaps the most obvious difference between the D7200 and the D5600 is in their construction. The D5600 body is significantly smaller and lighter, built of carbon-fiber reenforced plastics (Sereebo), while the D7200 is heavier and built for durability, with a metal (magnesium alloy) back and top, and importantly, it is weather sealed. Since the D5600 also uses a smaller battery, the carry-around weight of the D7200 is about 40% more1 than the D5600.

Whether this is an advantage or disadvantage depends on your photographic needs; some photographers (especially those with larger hands) prefer a larger camera with some ‘heft’ to it, while others prefer something more lightweight and easy to carry around, especially travelers and hikers. Needless to say, those who work in harsh conditions will usually prefer the D7200’s weather sealing and heavier-duty construction, as a matter of practicality.

Nikon D7200 with grip
Nikon D7200 with optional battery grip

The Sensors : Exactly the Same

Like the previous generation, Nikon’s D5600 and D7200 both have 24-megapixel sensors, and neither one makes use of an anti-aliasing filter. Consequently, if you shoot RAW files, you will not be able to detect any difference in image quality between these two cameras, and since both cameras use the same processor, the JPGs should be equally indistinguishable, though shooting JPG creates many opportunities for differences to creep in.

More AA Filter Info
The success of the D800e may have led directly to Nikon’s decision to produce an APS-C camera without an optical low-pass/anti-aliasing (OLP/AA) filter, but whatever led to the fact, the D7200’s sensor is naked. Before the D800e, all of the major SLRs produced their sensors with an AA filter: essentially an extra layer in front of the sensor that blurs the image slightly, in order to reduce the jagged edges and moire 1 that have traditionally been associated with digital capture. With modern improvements in image processing software, though, Nikon was confident that the moire and jaggies could be avoided without the AA filter, so they opted to remove it2 and allow the cameras to capture finer image detail.

With the success of the D7100, Nikon also decided to remove the AA filter from the D5300 and D5500’s sensors, and now the D7200 and D5600. For all practical purposes, there is no difference between the sensors the D7200 and D5600, so there should be no difference in image quality if you shoot RAW. Though this lack of AA filter does provide the potential to for the camera to produce sharper images, don’t expect too much.

Why does that matter?
Comparisons of images produced by the D800 (AA Filter) and D800e (no AA Filter) have shown that the principle works; there are subtle improvements in fine detail in the D800e’s images. However, we should not expect such significant improvements in the D7200’s images. The receptors on the 24 megapixel sensor of the D7200 are already much, much smaller than those of the D800e. In fact, the D7200 and D5600 fit about 56% more pixels into the same sensor area as the D800e.

Why does that matter? Even with the much larger receptors of the D800, lens resolution has become a serious bottle-neck for image quality. Nikon has already produced a special list of lenses that can allow you make the most out of your D800 sensor. The dramatically higher pixel density of Nikon’s 24-megapixel APS-C sensors (which is even higher than that of the Canon 5DS R’s 50 megapixel sensor) will tax lens resolution even more, meaning that the D7200 and D5600’s images won’t get much sharper unless lenses get sharper first.

Auto Focus Systems

When the Nikon D5500 was announced, its 39-point autofocus system (9 cross-type, adopted from the Nikon D7000) was significantly better than its competitors like the Canon T6i and 70D, which had only 19 auto-focus points (though all 19 were cross type; click here for an explanation of what cross-type points are and why they’re so important). However, while the D5600 was announced with no upgrade in the AF system, Canon has upped their game, with the 80D and now T7i/77D housing AF systems with 45 AF points, all of them cross-type.

The D7200, however, shares the same AF system with the once-flagship Nikon D4 and the D810: 51 AF points, including 15 cross-type… the best system available in a Nikon body.

For all but the most dedicated action photographers, though, the system in the D5600 will be more than sufficient, even if you’re buying a camera primarily for shooting sports. If your paycheck is going to depend on your focusing system, though, the extra several hundred dollars will be well spent on the D7200.

Speed

When it comes to speed, the differences between the D5600 and D7200 are more modest that you might expect. The D7200 does have a top shutter speed that is one full f-stop faster than the D5600’s (ie, 1/8000th vs 1/4000th). When it comes to shooting bursts of photos, though, the D7200 only provides an additional frame per second over the D5600’s 5 fps (unless you’re shooting in 1.3x crop mode, in which case it will give up an additional frame per second, at 7fps).

However the D7200 has a significantly larger buffer, allowing longer continuous bursts of shooting. While the D5600 (and D7100) can only shoot 6 14-bit RAW files in a row before filling the buffer and getting bogged down, the D7200 can shoot 18 RAW images in a row, three times more than the D5600.

Shooting JPG gives you even more freedom to hold down that shutter button. The D7200 can shoot bursts of 100 frames or more (at 6 fps), just like the D5600. The D7100 was only capable of shooting 33 in a row.

The D5600’s Downfall

Flash. With the popularity of off-camera lighting (aka,“Strobist”) techniques over the past several years, flash photography has become increasingly important to amateur and professional photographers, and this is where the D5600 falls short: it lacks high-speed-sync3 (Auto FP Flash, henceforth AFP) and external flash control with the built-in flash. External flash control may not be a big deal; many of us prefer to use radio-units anyway… though the built-in IR system can be very useful with Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS). Hot-shoe mounted flashes with commander-mode capabilities (such as the SB500, SB700, SB5000) can be used on the D5600 and D7200 to control CLS slave flashes.

The Nikon D7200 and D5600 with pop up flashes and hot shoe mounted flashes
The pop-up flash of the D5600 can not be used as a wireless controller for other flash units, but you can use radio triggers or hot-shoe mounted flash units for that purpose.

The lack of AFP, however, is a serious problem. Consider this situation: you’re shooting a portrait outdoors during the day, and you want to use a large aperture to blur the background… perhaps f/2 or f/1.4 . Even at ISO 100, this will push your shutter speed beyond 1/1000ths of a second, much higher than the camera’s 1/200th sec. maximum sync speed. So, if you want to use a flash to soften the shadows or create a catch-light in the eyes of your subject, forget it: the flash will not sync. The same is true if you want to use flash for sports and a high shutter speed, and while you can purchase external command modules or radio transmitters for off-camera-flashes, there’s nothing you can buy to work around the lack of AFP. You’d need to buy the D7200 instead.

In some instances, a neutral density filter can be used to bring the shutter speed down within the range of the D5600’s sync speed. There are several problems with the method, though: the image through your viewfinder can become quite dark, making it hard to frame your shot and making it hard for your camera’s AF system to pull focus, you lose flash power, if you’re shooting with a telephoto lens, shutter speeds at the camera’s sync speed might not be safe for hand-holding, and they’ll always be too slow for sports or fast action (if you’re balancing flash and ambient light).

Nikon SB-910, SB-700, and SB-500
A Nikon Flash Trio

All the Little Things

There are a few other assorted differences that deserve mention here, but they’re mostly the same differences that we saw between the D5000 and D7000. First, the D5600 does not have an autofocus motor built into the camera body, so it will not be compatible with the full range of (old school) Nikon lenses, while the D7200 does posses the motor. And speaking of “focus”, the D7200 is capable of micro focus adjustments to correct for front or back-focus problems on lenses, while the D5600 is not.

The Nikon D5600 with swivel screen extended
The Nikon D5600’s swivel screen can be rotated up, down, and even forward.

As should be obvious from the images above, the D5600 has an articulated LCD screen, which some people find helpful for ground-level shots and video but others find a breakage hazard (or just a bit amateurish), and it’s also a touchscreen.

The D7200 has dual SD card slots. It can be nice to have two slots if you want to record JPGs to one card and RAW to the other, perhaps sending JPGs to an Eye-Fi card, for example. However, if you only need storage space, a single slot is fine. These days, a good, single 128GB SDXC card costs only $50, and I rarely shoot more than 64GB per day, even at all-day events.

Additionally, the D7200 has two User Preset positions on its mode dial (U1 and U2), allowing photographers to store commonly used groups of settings for quick access later. I’ve never found this necessary, but some photographers find them very useful, and they’re not available on the D5600.

Top view of Nikon D7200 and D5600
Overhead view of the Nikon D7200 (left) and D5600 (right). Note that the mode dial of the D7200 has “U1” and “U2” positions for storing two user-preset modes, which are popular with some photographers.

As mentioned above, the D5600 can sustain a full-time connection to your smartphone, if you’re the type of photographer who likes to immediately take a shot and publish it to Instagram or some other social media site.

Finally, if you are interested in video, the D7200 has been given a headphone jack for monitoring audio while you shoot. The jack is absent in the D5600 (and D5500). All of these cameras can shoot video at up to 1080p 60fps.

Which Should You Buy?

The Nikon D5600 and D5500 are great cameras, and I’d recommend them for the vast majority of photographers, with the exception of those who need superior flash capabilities.

To summarize, you should buy the D5500 or D5600 if you:

  • want a great, all-around camera
  • shoot primarily with natural light (or manual flash)
  • need an articulated LCD screen for video or photos
  • really care about the weight of your camera
  • think you’ll really enjoy using a touchscreen
  • want to save money to buy the best lenses possible! At Amazon, the current price for the D5600 body is: $696.95

Buy the D7200 if you:

  • shoot lots of action, especially in long bursts
  • are hard on your equipment and need a more durable body
  • use flash for action or fill, and need high-speed sync
  • use Nikon’s CLS and want to use the built-in command module
  • shoot macro (or other focus critical work) and need to make micro adjustments to your lenses
  • shoot a lot of video and want a simple headphone jack on your camera
  • don’t need to worry about spending a little more. At Amazon, the price for the D7200 body is $1097

For the sake of simplicity I’ve tried to focus on only the differences that, in my experience, will actually be important. There are, of course, numerous differences between the two cameras, though, and some features may be more important to particular photographers. If you think that I’ve left out something important, please feel free to let me know.

Please Comment!

If you have additional questions or comments, please let me know, below. I’ll do what I can to answer questions and clear up any confusion.

  1. Actually 38.6%
  2. To be more precise, the Nikon D800e does have an AA filter, but it also has an AA-canceling filter, so it does not have one in practical terms. The D810 does not have an AA filter at all, nor do the D5500/D5600 and D7200.
  3. For a quick explanation of what high-speed-sync is, watch our video here.
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9 Comments

  • First of all let me say thank you Matthew for all the time and help you so generously publish on your website. I’m UK based so it is interesting to see so much of your recent work in Europe.
    This comparison caught my attention because I have been pondering this problem myself. However one feature you don’t mention that interests me is the difference with viewfinders in these cameras. As I understand it the D5600 has a pentamirror and the D7200 has a pentaprism.
    Bit of background. I’m ancient enough to have grown up for most of photo hobby time with Canon film cameras, including an A1 and ending up with a T90. A couple of years ago having retired I wanted to renew my interest in photography and started to compare digital cameras. My choice ending up between the Panasonic FZ-1000 and either a Canon or Nikon DSLR. I borrowed a Nikon D3200 which I quite liked but in the end the thought of lugging a bag of lenses around and the good reviews of the FZ-1000 I bought that camera. However what I found is that having been so used to using the viewfinder I rarely use the LCD screen and I just can’t get on with electronic viewfinder. So I am considering again going over to a DSLR for the ‘proper’ viewfinder.
    One other point about the D7200 that concerns me is that as the back LCD screen is exposed all the time is subject to getting damaged in normal use?
    I did wonder if the D7300 might arrive soon with the articulated LCD?
    Really appreciate your thoughts.

    • Hi Patrick,

      Ha! I loved my Canon A1; it was my first SLR, given to me by my dad when he got a Nikon 8008s when I was a teenager. I eventually skipped over the T90 (and other T-series cameras) and got my first EOS cameras instead.

      Of course you’re right; the D5600 uses a pentamirror, which will by slightly less bright than the D7200’s pentaprism, though I find that if you use large aperture lenses, the difference is negligible. More important to me is the difference in degree of magnification, and to a lesser extent, frame coverage. As is common with APS-C cameras, the level of magnification for both cameras is less than 100%, but the image produced in the D5600 is about 10% smaller than that in the D7200. If you’re used to a full-frame SLR and pentaprism, or if you have poor eyesight, you might notice the difference in the D5600’s viewfinder… I certainly do. But it’s quite usable, and people who are just getting used to a DSLR will not notice a problem. You might consider visiting a camera shop and looking though the viewfinder of a D5x00 series camera and see how you like it, if you haven’t already.

      As for the rear LCD, I wouldn’t worry about it. The glass used on modern LCD covers is very hard and is virtually scratch proof. If you’re concerned, you can buy a screen protector for $10 or so. If you’re more concerned about breakage (I’ve only ever broken one, and I’m very hard on my cameras) keep in mind that replacement is easy and cheap… if you do it yourself, it will generally cost less then $5.

      The D7000 was announced in 2010, the D7100 in 2013, and the D7200 in 2015, so it’s likely that the D7300 will be coming within the next year. It’s certainly possible that the D7300 will get an articulated screen, though it’s likely to be similar to the one found on the D500 (which can’t be flipped over for protection). But I don’t have any inside knowledge, there. I’ve only heard the rumors that it will have a lower resolution sensor like the D500 (20 megapixel) and will shoot 4K video.

      – Matthew

    • Yes :-) If you can still find one at a decent price (sometimes camera prices are weird), the D5300 is a great option. It has built-in GPS, which the D5500, D5600, and D7200 do not. The image quality is great. This article is an updated, reworked version of a previous one comparing the D5500/D5300 and D7200, so you might want to check out some of the details, there, but the differences are minimal… the D5300 has no touch screen, and is a little heavier.

  • Your comparison is way better than those others that look like a robot did it on auto pilot. Thanks for the extra effort. Also quite a sane, balanced perspective (you are wasted on the internet).

    Perhaps worth mentioning that the D5600 does support CLS and external flash control including groups, but needs an SB-500 or bigger on its hotshoe to do so. People interested in this usually have quite a few flash units to hand, so it is not a big difference IMHO.

  • I made the decision based on the weight and size, and then the 5600 is a clear winner. The only thing I missed so far are used defined presets. The most annoying feature of the D5600 was that the settings for the timer are lost after each shot. But for my travel photography those are minor points.

    • Hi Rene,
      I’m glad to hear that the D5600 is getting the job done for you. And thanks for the reminder about the User Presets; I’ve just added a note about them in the post body… it’s something that is very important to some people.
      – Matthew

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