Canon 70D vs Nikon D5200 vs Nikon D90 – Comparison

July 10, 2013

Canon 70D, Nikon D90 and D5200 on sky background

In this article I will compare the Canon EOS 70D vs Nikon D5200 and Nikon D90. The first is Canon’s latest mid-range APS-C DSLR camera, the second is a Nikon entry-level APS-C DSLR camera and the last one is the D90 which is a mid-range APS-C DSLR camera. The Canon EOS 70D boasts a wide range of useful features and innovation in the AF system that put this camera in a very attractive position, although it’s more expensive than the other two Nikon camera models.

As of the time of writing, the Nikon D90 sells for approximately $800, D5200 costs around $700 and the 70D costs around $1200. The Nikon D90 has a very attractive price tag, but as you’ll soon see, the 70D comes with quite a few options that you won’t find on either the D90 or the D5200.

Going for the more expensive model isn’t always promise that you get better features, and it really comes to personal preferences and budget. Understanding the differences between the three models is the key for making a smart  a smart buying decision and making sure that your investment is well spent. In this comparison we’ll take a closer look at all of the important features and compare them between all three cameras. You get to know and understand the cons and pros of each camera, so you can be sure that when you do make a choice, you can be certain that you are picking the camera that fits your personal shooting style.

I will start with a short introduction to each camera, and in the next section we’ll talk about the differences between the three models in-depth.

Canon EOS 70D

Canon EOS 70D with 18-135mm lens

Canon EOS 70D with 18-135 mm IS STM lens

Announced on July 2 2013, the 70D is Canon’s latest mid-range APS-C DSLR camera which replaces the 60D. The new model adopts a newly developed 20.2MP Dual-Pixel AF CMOS sensor, and the 70D is the first Canon camera to use this technology. In this sensor, each pixel acts as a phase-difference sensor, offering superior AF performance compare to current on-chip phase-detection technologies, allowing the camera to focus fast and very accurately when shooting in Live View or recording videos. You can the same AF accuracy and convenience as if you were shooting with a camcorder.

The 70D is equipped with DIGIC 5+ image processor that comes with updated algorithms to reduce image noise in high ISO and very fast processing power for fast operation, including a 7 frames per second in continuous shooting mode. At the back of the camera you’ll find a 3-inch fully-articulated 1040K-dots touch panel LCD, with wide viewing angles, anti-smudge and anti-reflection coating.

The 70D is as as good camera for stills and it is for recording videos.  The camera can record Full HD videos at 24p and 30p with stereo sound. The Dual Pixel AF and that gorgeous rear LCD display will just make it more worthwhile and enjoyable recording high-quality movies. The 70D also has a 3.5mm mic jack so you can connect and external stereo mic to improve audio quality too. The combination of a high-sensitive APS-C size sensor and the latest generation DIGIC 5+ image processor will help you record gorgeous videos in non-optimal lighting conditions.

Canon also equipped this camera with a Wi-Fi transmitter, which can be used for transferring images to your home computer (using a wireless router), transfer images to your smartphone and even control your camera using your smartphone with the EOS Remote app installed. You can use the Wi-Fi transmitter also to print photos wirelessly on a Wi-Fi-enables printer. Many people use the Wi-Fi transmitter to download photos to their phone for sharing or backup purposes, using either an installed app on their phone or using Canon Image Gateway to send images to a Web Service and share their photos on social networks. With the 60D, if you wanted to enjoy a W-Fi connectivity, you had to use an Eye-Fi card which is sold separately, so it’s great to have this feature built into the camera itself.

Canon also improved the AF module, now it uses a 19-point AF  module instead of 9-point as on the 60D, including a high-precision f/2.8 dual cross-type AF center point and a wide area array that offer better compositional flexibility when shooting both horizontally or vertically.

Other features include Canon’s latest 63-zone dual-layer metering system, In-camera RAW processing, RAW + JPEG, Multiple exposure (either for High Dynamic Range images or layer composition), Intelligent viewfinder, A+ Scene Intelligent Auto, Auto Lighting Optimizer and can shoot up to ISO 12800 which can be expanded up to ISO 25600. The camera also offers Creative filters which are now available with real-time preview.

Canon EOS 7D was designed from the ground up toe greatly improve over the 60D, offer unique and useful features for stills photographers and enthusiast Videographers and offer a wide arsenal of tools to help the photographer be more creative with their camera and get better results.

 

Nikon D90

Nikon D90

Nikon D90

The Nikon D90 will always be remembered as one of Nikon’s classics. Announced on August 27 2008, still, this camera offers superb image quality and AF performance even 5 years since it was first launched. This camera is very popular among enthusiast but beginners also buy this camera over entry-level ones due to its excellent performance and features. This might be the perfect camera for many of you. Many people prefer to purchase the D90 instead of let’s say the D7100, and spend more money on a better glass.

D90 uses a 12.3-megapixel DX-format CMOS Sensor and EXPEED image processor. It offers quite a limited ISO range, starting from ISO 200 up to ISO 3200 plus ISO 6400 in boost mode.  The D90 also have limited video capabilities and can shoot 720p24 videos only (no full HD) with monaural sound.  The D90 certainly doesn’t impress as a HDSLR camera, and at that time, Nikon was behind Canon in this field, where Canon’s Rebel cameras had better image quality overall. If you are searching for a DSLR camera with great video capabilities, the D90 might not be the best way to go.

At the back of the camera there is a 3-inch 920K-dots wide-angle viewing fixed LCD display, which is not touch-sensitive. Nikon was well known back then for using high quality displays, and the D90 is just one example of this.

The D90 uses a 11-point AF system reinforced by Nikon’s Scene Recognition System for reliable and fast AF performance.  Live View is available on this camera, but the D90 is not like the 70D, so it relies only on contrast-different AF including Face Priority AF to autofocus when the reflex mirror flips up. So yes, the D90 does offer continuous AF during Live View and Video recording using its AF-F (‘Full Time’) AF mode, but it’s inferior to the latest technologies that we have today, especially when compared to the Canon 70D Dual Pixel AF and Sony’s translucent mirror technology (i.e. Sony  SLT A77).

The D90 adopts Nikon’s 420-pixel RGB 3D Color Matrix Metering II system for its light metering. A reliable light metering sensor, but  much less impressive than the D5200 2016-pixel RGB sensor. The 2016-pixel RGB sensor is the same one used on the Nikon D7000 and offers advanced highlight and color information analysis, resulting in a highly accurate and reliable auto exposure control.

The D90 can shoot at 4.5 fps, has very fast 0.15 ms power-up start up time and 65mm shooting lag. This makes the camera very snappy and responsive for demanding photographers. The D90 is a valuable tool for the passionate photographer searching to upgrade from an entry-level DSLR or from the D70/D70s models. Yet, the D90 now sells for a relatively very low price and that’s what makes it so favorable among enthusiasts and beginners alike.

It’s a two generation older than the current models, yet it still didn’t lose its shine. If you are searching to buy an affordable mid-size DSLR camera or upgrading from an entry-level Nikon DSLR camera, the D90 might be your best bet. If you currently don’t have any Nikon lenses at home, you also need to add the lens costs into account. Some people prefer buying the D90 over the 70D and put those $400 on a better lens, second lens or accessories (e.g. Flash, Bag, Larger memory card, etc.).

Nikon D5200

Nikon D5200

Nikon D5200

Announced on November 6 2012, the Nikon D5200 is an upper entry-level APS-C digital SLR camera.  According to Nikon, the D5200 does not replace the D5100. The same was said on the D3200 that doesn’t replace the D3100. The D5200 is a really impressive camera and the cheapest in our comparison ($100 less than the D90).

The D5200 is aimed for novice photographers who are making their first steps in the world of DSLR photography. Those whom were previously shooting with a point and shoot camera, and searching to upgrade to a DSLR camera to enjoy its great image quality and capabilities and/or expand their creative possibilities and becoming better photographers.

At the heart of the D5200 is a 24.1MP DX-format CMOS sensor, which is quite a big leap from the D5100 (April 5, 2011) 16.2MP APS-C sensor. The D5200 adopts Nikon’s EXPEED 2 image processor and can shoot at wide ISO range starting at base ISO100 up to ISO 6400 natively, expandable up to ISO 25600 with boost.

The D5200 inherits some of the features from the D7000, including the D7000 advanced 39-point autofocus system and the 2016-pixel RGB 3D Matrix light metering system (same as on the D600). You also have the option to change from 39 AF points to only 11 AF points to move between the points more quickly Those by themselves  are amazing features to have in an entry-level camera, but the D7000 is a much more robust camera (e.g. 100% coverage viewfinder, AF compatibility with all autofocus lenses, weather-sealed body, AF fine tune, Top LCD, Dual SD card slot, Manual video mode, etc.). For an in-depth comparison, I recommend reading my Nikon D5200 vs D7000 review to fully understand the fundamental differences between those two cameras.

The D5200 uses a lower quality pentamirror eye-level viewfinder, rather than a pentaprism (Pentaprism = single piece of glass |  pentamirror = mirrors). Pentaprism result in a brighter projected image but are bulky, heavy and cost more to produce. People prefer using the larger and brighter pentaprism when adjusting focus manually, but the viewing experience itself is better, and for many people the viewfinder quality plays an important role in their buying decision.

Pentaprism vs pentamirror illustration

Pentaprism vs pentamirror

The D5200 also has very decent video recording capabilities. You can record Full HD videos at 60i (interlaces frames, not progressive), 30p or 24p with stereo sound. You also have the option to attach an external stereo microphone using the 3.5mm mic connector (microphone sensitivity can be adjusted).

At the back you’ll find a 3-inch 920K-dots 170-degrees view viewing angle Vari-angle LCD display, which is very useful for composing your shots when the camera is positioned above your head or below the waistline for both stills and videos.  The D5200 does offer Live View mode and decent continuous AF during videos. However, I personally find the AF performance in Live View and in video recording quite lacking, but still much better than the sluggish performance of the Nikon D5100, and the video quality is really impressive. I personally shot videos in manual focus rather than the Full-time Servo (AF-A) in Live View, allowing me finer control over the focus transitions, rather then relying on slower and not accurate continuous AF performance of the camera.

Nikon D5200 like all Nikon’s entry-level SLR cameras, lacks an autofocus motor in the body, which limits the photographer’s lens selection. It’s not an issue if you intend to purchase a relatively new lens, but keep in mind that some older lenses might not autofocus on the D5200. For example, the Nikkor 50mm F1.8 D doesn’t autofocus on the D5200, but the 1.8 G does. Just something to keep in mind and making sure that you know the limitations if you already have older Nikkor lenses or intend to purchase those in the camera store or online.

The Nikon D5200 is a really an impressive camera for beginners, but can satisfy the enthusiast photographer as well. It’s slightly smaller than the D90 and approx. 150g lighter. It costs $100 less than the D90, and this can be significant if you are on a tight budget.  The D5200 offers enhanced performance and handling over its predecessor, and still is a well-worthy alternative to both the D90 and 70D as stills and HD-SLR camera. The D5200 is also compatible with the optional WU-1a wireless adapter.

Canon 70D vs Nikon D5200 vs Nikon D90

Now that you’ve gotten a general overview of the camera’s features, it’s time to compare the three cameras. In this section you’ll get a clear overview over the differences between the D90, 70D and D5200. This is the best place to settle your mind over the features that you do want in your next camera and those that you don’t need. You might realize that the D5200 has some features that the D90 doesn’t have and are deal breakers or might find out that the 70D really worth paying $400 over the D5200.

Use the next 70D vs D5200 vs D90 specs comparison table to crosscheck the differences between the cameras and your specific needs and features priority. First make sure that a specific camera has all the features that you must have, and then drill down and compare the other features that you would like to have on your next camera.  OK, without further ado, let’s begin!

Canon 70D, Nikon D5200 and D90 size comparison

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The above comparison table draws a very clear picture, showing us the important differences between the three cameras.

Canon EOS 70D Advantages (compared to the other cameras)

  • Durable body
  • Weather resistant (dust / humidity)
  • Dual Pixel AF CMOS
  • ISO 12800
  • Touch screen with highest resolution in the group
  • Optical Pentaprism OVF (D5200 pentamirror) and highest coverage in the group
  • Highest maximum shutter speed
  • Built-in flash commander (D5200 lacks this feature)
  • Highest Flash X Sync speed
  • Fastest burst speed and largest buffer
  • Full HD video recording with stereo sound (not available on the D90)
  • Only one with built-in Wi-Fi transmitter
  • Most powerful battery life
  • Most sensitive center AF Point and highest AF working range
  • Lens micro adjustment
  • Silent drive mode (not available on the D90)
  • In-camera HDR (not available on the D90)
  • Top LCD (not available on the D5200)
  • 3.5mm mic input (lacks on the D90)
  • All lenses have AF
    (D5200 doesn’t employ a built-in AF motor, and some older lenses can’t autofocus without it)

 

Nikon D90 Advantages  (compared to the other cameras)

  • Largest sensor photodiode size / pixel pitch
  • Durable body construction (D5200 is made entirely from polycarbonate)
  • Largest viewfinder in the group
  • Pentaprism viewfinder (D5200 is pentamirror)
  • Strongest built-in flash
  • Can command external flashes (not available on the D5200)
  • Excellent battery life (but less than the 70D)
  • Top LCD (D5200 doesn’t have this feature)

 

Nikon D5200 Advantages (compared to the other cameras)

  • Most affordable
  • Highest sensor resolution (24.1MP)
  • Latest generation image processor (the D90 employs and older processor)
  • Latest generation light metering sensor (the D90 uses an older light metering module)
  • Fully articulated display (D90 has fixed one)
  • The only one to offer 60i video recording frame rate
  • Full HD video recording with stereo sound (D90 can only shoot HD video w/ monaural sound)
  • 3.5mm mic input (lacks on the D90)
  • Compatible with WU-1b wireless mobile adapter plus Eye-Fi (D90 only supports Eye-Fi)
  • The highest number of AF points, uses same AF module as the D7000 (Multi-CAM 4800DX, more advanced than the D90 Multi-CAM 1000 AF)
  • Silent Drive (not available on the D90)
  • In-camera HDR (not available on the D90)
  • Smallest in the group
  • Lightest in the group

 

Conclusion

No doubt that the Canon EOS 70D offers a wide range of attractive features lacking on the other cameras. The Canon EOS 70D is the most impressive H-DSLR camera among the three as well. The D90 is an aging camera and the specs tells the same story. It costs $100 more than the D5200, but you need to ask yourself whether or not the Top LCD, durable body, largest viewfinder and built-in flash commander worth that $100. For some people this will certainly justify paying the extra $100 and get the D90 over the D5200, others will find the D5200 more attractive and offer a much better value than the D90 is right now.

Another question that you need to ask yourself is whether or not it’s worth paying a few hundred dollars more and buy the 70D. No doubt that the 70D a much better camera out of the three, boasting a very impressive spec sheet and useful features.  Whether or not this all worth $300-$400? — Well, you should answer that question. If you want my opinion, the 70D is well worth it, especially for video shooting.  On the other hand, for stills shooting, the D90 might be all that you even need, and you get a great camera in return for your investment. You can spend the rest to but a better lens. The lens is not less important than the body, and that’s something that should always be on your mind before you make your final decision.

I recommend going over the comparison table above, writing down the features that you know you’ll take advantage of and those that are not that important. See which camera fits best for your budget and which one has the features that you really need and take advantage off.  If you are on a tight budget and also considering getting a second high-quality prime lens, you should probably get the D5200 for its low price and couple it with a great high-quality Nikkor lens.

If you are just starting out and this is your first DSLR camera and you decide to buy the 70D, I highly recommend getting it with the 18-135mm EF-S IS STM Kit lens. This lens is a gem, super fast and super sharp, I was very impressed with it and this is one of those lenses that you’d shoot most of the time. It offers a much more useful range than the 18-55mm, but you need to add $200 more than the 18-55mm Kit offering.

If you have any question or comments, please share those in the comment’s section below. Thanks for reading.

 



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