F. JPG- and RAW files | Nikon D5200 guide

Level:Special knowledge

All D5200 settings related to the creation of JPG and RAW files explained. They control what can happen to the image data on its way from the sensor to a finished JPG and/or RAW file.

Choosing file format

What | RAW and/or JPEG? You have the choice. For JPG files, the D5200 expects additional information about how many megapixels the image file should have and how strong the compression should be.

Where | You have to visit the shooting information or the shooting menu:

Image quality for file format and JPG compression:

  • FINE / NORM / BASIC results in a JPG file only
  • RAW creates an image file in Nikon's RAW format, file name ending with .NEF.
  • RAW+F, RAW+N, RAW+B create a RAW- and a JPG file.

The levels FINE / NORM / BASIC represent different levels of JPG compression, FINE produces the largest, BASIC the smallest file size.

Image size relates to JPG files only, determines their resolution in megapixels:

L for 24 megapixels (6,000×4,000 pixels)
M for approx.13 megapixels (4,496×3,000 pixels)
S for approx. 6 megapixels (2,992×2,000 pixels)

The path to a JPG file: in-camera image processing

Sharpness, contrast, brightness, colour saturation and hue

Nikon summarises these parameters for the development of RAW data into JPG under the title Picture Control. You find them in the shooting information and the shooting menu.

You have three options for adjusting the image processing to your taste:

Select existing Picture Control configuration | See the screenshots of shooting information / menu where to do this. The differences are subtle but visible; most obvious in Vivid and Landscape.

Change existing Picture Control configuration | When selecting one of the configurations, you can press the arrow key to the right and adjust the individual parameters behind it. The configuration then gets an asterisk * attached to its name.

These changes are lost again when you perform a camera reset.

The Monochrome configuration is different, for creating black and white or differently toned monochrome images. It offers filter effects that simulate the use of colour filters in analogue black and white photography, to control contrast of the final image.

Create your own Picture Control configuration | You can create your own configurations using the next menu item Manage picture control. After selecting Save/edit, you can access and change an existing configuration as before, but save it permanently under its own name at the end.

This is the best way to use your own configurations permanently.

Recommendation | Use this menu if you want to permanently apply a specific custom fine-tuning to your JPG images. That is, if you keep noticing that the images have e.g. a bit too little saturation or could do with a little more sharpening.

It is too complicated and impractical to play around in this menu all the time; also it is difficult to judge the effects on the small camera monitor.

White balance

White balance is also placed in the shooting information and the shooting menu, with slightly extended options in the menu.

First the shooting information – there you can select the type of light for the white balance: sun, cloudy sky, shade etc.

A manual white balance on a grey or white reference surface is done as follows:

  • Select PRE as the white balance value and press OK.
  • Press the OK button again until the PRE indicator flashes.
  • Point the D5200 at your reference area for white balance. It should fill the entire frame.
  • Press the shutter release button. The D5200 won't take a picture, just look at the reference area to recognize the colour of incoming light. Possibly you need to point the camera somewhere else to focus before if you can't release the shutter.

The shooting menu White balance goes a little deeper:

  • For each type of light you can fine-tune to blue/orange and also green/magenta.

Pressing the direction button to the right takes you from a menu item to a graphical adjustment aid, which is easy to operate with the direction buttons.

  • For manual white balance, you can take a new reference picture or select one from existing photos.
  • When selecting the Fluorescent lamp light type, Nikon offers seven(!) different lamp types to choose from.

Lighten shadows with Active D-Lighting

Active D-Lighting (ADL) is a brightening of shadows, one of the most common post-processing tasks. Not quite as pronounced, it also helps reduce overexposure by making the D5200 expose a little shorter and brightening the image afterwards. ADL uses the RAW data from the image sensor on its way into a JPG file, giving it an advantage over later editing of the JPG file.

It is switched off in Nikon's default settings.

You can switch it on in the shooting information or the shooting menu with same result.

I like to have ADL set to Automatic and the D5200 decides how much to brighten shadows. I haven't seen any images where ADL has had a negative effect, only improvements. But it's not a magic wand either, it intervenes rather gently, you'll still find shadows in the image processing that will benefit from brightening.

Show date+time in your picture

The custom settings menu d6 Print date can display the date and/or time in the finished JPG image. It is like a stamp of red digits, you can't remove it later.

Noise reduction for long exposures

When you turn this feature on, the D5200 applies additional image processing for noise reduction when shooting with more than 1 s exposure time.

More noise reduction means a smoother, cleaner image, but surface textures and details are washed out.

I always leave it turned off. The noise of the D5200 is already quite low and if necessary it can be done just as well afterwards in image processing − at least in RAW files.

Noise reduction at high ISO sensitivity

Here you can set whether the D5200 applies additional noise reduction at higher ISO sensitivities. I leave the default value NORM.

If you select OFF , the noise reduction is not completely switched off, just weaker and only takes effect from ISO 1600.

Lens distortion correction

Distortion means that a lens produces a slightly curved image of straight lines. How much depends on the lens and, in the case of zoom lenses, also on the focal length.

Auto distortion correction reduces this aberration. It does not work with all lenses; according to Nikon, only those with a G or D in their type designation.

In Nikon's default settings it is switched off.

If exactly straight lines are important to you, this function brings a small, but fine and important improvement. On the other hand, it crops the image slightly at the edges, so take a slightly larger picture.

But I never use the function, in the meantime good image editing programmes like DxO PhotoLab or Adobe Lightroom automatically recognise camera and lens and correct distortion exactly and automatically. The built-in distortion correction of the D5200 is quite good, but not completely accurate.

Colour space

The shooting menu Color space allows you to capture images in AdobeRGB instead of the default sRGB. Change it only if you know what you are doing and are sure to edit and view your images with correct colour profiles.

File names and location

Create or select folders for saving new images | This can be done in the shooting menu Storage folder. To create a new folder on the memory card, however, you can only enter a three-digit number, the other five characters D5200 are fixed.

If a folder icon appears next to a number when you enter it, there is already one with this number.

Reset the four-digit number in the file name | This is controlled in the custom settings menu d4 File number sequence.

  • On: File names contain a consecutive four-digit number. After reaching 9999, the D5200 creates a new folder starting again with 0001.
  • Off: The D5200 will start with 0001 again and again − after transferring all photos, formatting or replacing the memory card and creating a new folder.
    Caution! This results in many photos with the same file name on the computer.
  • Reset: It's a one time reset, the D5200 starts once again with 0001, then it continues as with On.

Recommendation: Change this menu to On.

Saving image orientation

What | With Nikon's default settings, the D5200 stores in every JPG and RAW file whether you have held the camera horizontally or vertically. If you don't want this for whatever reason, you can suppress it.

Display programs can read the information about the image orientation to automatically show photos in portrait or landscape format as taken.

Where | In the system menu Auto image rotation.

Image comment

The D5200 can store a comment in an image's metadata. It is not visible when you view an image, but many programmes can read and display it. You can store your name there, for example, to document a copyright.

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