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Nikon D3200

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Nikon D3200 Review

by Shawn Barnett , Mike Tomkins, and Zig Weidelich
Review posted

A clear sign of things to come, the low-end Nikon D3200 sports a 24.2-megapixel sensor capable of ISO 12,800 in expanded mode. The Nikon D3200 also includes compatibility with Nikon's new wireless mobile adapter, WU-1a, which allows easy image sharing and even camera remote control via an Android device and a free downloadable app (an iOS app is expected in late Fall 2012).

Other major upgrades include a new 3-inch 921,000-dot LCD monitor, and the ability to capture Full HD video at up to 30 fps, with full-time AF while recording. The Nikon D3200 even includes a microphone input jack for stereo recording, and HDMI output with CEC support.

EXPEED 3 processing allows the Nikon D3200 to record up to four frames per second at the full 24.2-megapixel resolution, and its 11-point autofocus system works hand-in-hand with the Nikon Scene Recognition system to set exposure and focus more accurately.

Walkaround. Though similar in appearance to the D3100, the Nikon D3200's contours and elements are restyled somewhat, but it still looks quite similar, with a very compact, comfortable design.

With the lens, a card, and the battery loaded, the Nikon D3200 weighs 27.3 ounces (1.71 pounds; 773g). The body is well balanced, but with a slight tilt toward the lens.


The grip shoulder slopes a little more steeply, giving the index finger a better angle on the shutter button, and a new infrared remote control port is nestled in the grip. We love that the Nikon D3200 continues providing an AF-assist lamp. Also included is the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens with vibration reduction.

The top deck finds the speaker moved from the back to the top left, and the drive mode switch that used to jut out from the bottom of the Mode dial is moved to a button on the back of the Nikon D3200. A new Movie Record button appears on the top deck as well, moved from its previous location on the back. It takes up the position previously occupied by the Info button, which slides behind the Shutter release.

The buttons on the left of the Nikon D3200's LCD are mostly unchanged, but the zoom in and out buttons have changed places to match the rest of the Nikon line. Upper left of the LCD, Nikon has positioned its rear infrared remote port, which complements the front port, and is compatible with the optional ML-L3 Remote Control. Nikon also changed the Live view lever/button arrangement, switching to a simple Live view button, with the Record button on the top deck. The new Drive mode button is also well-positioned for easy operation, though we do miss the switch that was on the top deck. Compared to past models at Nikon's lowest tier, the Nikon D3200 is a little more complicated, with more buttons and more icons than the original D40 we prized for its simplicity. Still, we think this is a fairly straightforward design for such a capable camera.

Nikon's Guide Mode is also built into the D3200, which endeavors to make accessing an SLRs unique capabilities easier.

Ports. From the top: 3.5mm stereo mic, USB/AV, mini HDMI, accessory port.

Ports. The Nikon D3200 includes a range of connectivity options. The Nikon D3200 has the aforementioned 3.5mm stereo microphone input jack, and Nikon offers an accessory microphone, the ME-1 Stereo Microphone, that attaches to the camera via the hot shoe.

For data transfer to a computer, there's a standard USB 2.0 High Speed port. Videos can be shown on standard or high-definition displays using either the NTSC / PAL switchable composite port, or Type-C Mini HDMI port, respectively. The HDMI port also supports the Consumer Electronics Control (HDMI-CEC) standard, allowing remote control of certain playback functionality through the HDMI cable, from an attached display's remote control unit.

Finally, there's an accessory terminal on the Nikon D3200 that's compatible with the MC-DC2 remote cable release, the GP-1 GPS unit, and the WU-1a wireless mobile adapter, all available as optional extras.

Storage and battery. The Nikon D3200 stores images on an SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card, and is compatible with Eye-Fi cards.  Nikon recommends Class 6 or faster cards for recording Full HD video. Faster UHS-1 compliant cards are also supported.

The Nikon D3200 uses an EN-EL14 lithium-ion battery pack, which is rated for 540 shots on a charge with 50% of shots using the flash (CIPA rating). There's also a channel for an optional dummy battery adapter (Nikon part number EP-5A) to connect to an optional AC adapter (EH-5a).

Pricing. Available from late April 2012 for US$699.95 in black or red, the Nikon D3200 ships with the Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR kit lens.

 

Shooting with the Nikon D3200

by Dan Havlik

Nikon's entry-level digital SLRs, dating back to the D40, have been my go-to cameras when recommending models to those looking to move up from a point-and-shoot to a digital SLR. They're well-designed, easy-to-use DSLRs that offer great image quality and enough features and control to let beginner photographers express their creativity without getting overwhelmed. (There is also plenty of cruise-control functionality to put them on auto and just enjoy the photographic ride.)

The latest camera in the easy-peasy, entry-level DSLR category for Nikon is the D3200. And while it may look similar to its predecessors, its 24.2-megapixel sensor is miles ahead in terms of resolution. (For comparison, the D3100, which was introduced in 2010, was a 14.2-megapixel DSLR.)

From a pure usability standpoint, however, that big bump up in pixels should make no difference to beginning photographers. (Except, perhaps, in forcing them to rethink where they're going to store these extra-large image files!) Like its forbearers, the Nikon D3200 is designed with simplicity and efficiency in mind. It's a camera that just loves to take pictures, with its soft but responsive shutter begging you to go out and shoot. It's been a awhile since I've shot with the D3100 -- and even longer since doodling with the D3000 -- but the Nikon D3200 felt immediately familiar in my hand.

After receiving a test Nikon D3200 camera from the Imaging Resource mothership, I charged up the battery and hit the streets in search of pictures. Here's what I found out about this cute little DSLR designed for beginners.

Small but comfortable. One of my biggest gripes about Nikon's previous entry-level DSLRs was that they felt too small in my hands. And while the dimensions of the Nikon D3200 -- 4.9 x 3.8 x 3.0 inches (125 x 96 x 77mm) -- have barely changed, the camera has been subtly but noticeably redesigned to make it more ergonomic.

While the Nikon D3200 is still a very portable camera, not much bigger than compact system or mirrorless cameras, it's more comfortable to hold than most of those small, interchangeable lens models because of its larger grip. In fact, the Nikon D3200's grip is slightly higher than its predecessor, with its side shoulder sloping -- from the user's perspective -- to the right, rather than forward. This is a slight change, but the new design felt more ergonomic to me, with my index finger in just the right spot to fire the shutter. Cosmetically, the Nikon D3200's grip means the familiar red wedge on the grip has been squeezed slightly so it looks like more of a boomerang. (This is not a criticism, just a small style touch we noticed.)

Ergonomics 101. Lots of control in a comfortable package.

Along with the shutter button on top of the grip, Nikon has added a red movie record button to the left of it. The movie button used to be on the back, and while at first this seems like an intuitive place to relocate it -- touch the button and start shooting a movie, right? -- I quickly remembered that the camera first needs to be in Live View to record a video. To do that, you must press the separate Live View (Lv) button on the back of the D3200. (On the D3100, the movie record button was in the center of a switch on the back of the camera, which triggered the Live View. I prefer that setup, and so might movie-shooting newbies.)

Nikon has also squeezed in the Info button behind the shutter and the Exposure Compensation button, and the D3200's top deck provides room for the generously sized, knurled mode dial. While that dial is large and easy to turn, it should be noted that all the other buttons and controls on the camera are small and somewhat difficult to press if you have large hands and fingers. Thankfully, Nikon has not shrunk the shutter button on this small DSLR.


Pick your depth. The D3200 lets you dig deep or set to auto and cruise on.

In control. I found the compact Nikon D3200 to be an immensely portable camera that doesn't skimp much on creative control. Manual functionality is there if you want it, though you have to do a bit of digging to change some essentials. While there's no monochrome display on the top deck as with more advanced DSLRs, the Nikon D3200 lets you see and adjust most features via the 3-inch LCD screen on back. New photographers not familiar with Nikon's set-up will likely need to consult the manual to figure out basic adjustments. For instance, while the "info" button on the top deck turns on the information display on the rear LCD screen, to change settings such as ISO, White Balance, focusing, metering and others, you have to press the separate "i" (information edit) button on the lower left rear of the camera.

So while the Nikon D3200 is like a DSLR with training wheels, especially with features like the Guide Mode, if you want to get the most out of this camera it takes a bit of work. Again, that's not a complaint, just an observation. I'm sure there are as many photographers out there who will pick up the D3200, set it to green AUTO mode and be happy with it for all sorts of picture-taking activities, as there are others who will be interested in going for a deeper dive. And that's the beauty of the Nikon D3200: it doesn't talk down to photographers nor over their heads.

Prowling the streets. A quiet shutter helps me to stay incognito.

Speedy performer. One of the things I've appreciated about Nikon's entry-level DSLRs over the years is that they're such fast and quiet performers. While some competing models are as quick (Canon) and as versatile (Pentax) to use, Nikon's D40, D3000, 3100 and now, the D3200, have a whisper quiet shutter that makes photography a speedy and intuitive process.

One area where Nikon's entry-level DSLRs felt only average compared to the competition was the actual autofocus speed. Though, as far as we know, the D3200's 11-point Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus system remains unchanged from the previous model, it felt zippier overall. This could be due, in part, to the new EXPEED 3 image processor, or to an internal algorithm that gives a greater response between camera and lens. Though we're not particularly fond of the kit lens that comes with the Nikon D3200 -- the AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR -- it locked focus more quickly in good light than our past experience with the D3100.

The Nikon D3200 also offers an improved burst mode, with the ability to shoot four frames per second (up from 3 fps on the previous model). This probably won't help you shoot fast action sports unless you've got great timing, but it's more than adequate for most youth sports such as soccer, softball and football.

Landscape mode. The Nikon D3200 is a great vacation and travel companion.

Out and about. During an outdoor shoot on a crisp summer day in New York City just after a rainstorm, the Nikon D3200 was a picture-taking machine, focusing quickly and quietly (after I turned the annoying AF-confirmation beep off) for pictures of flora, fauna and other natural/urban settings. I also used the Nikon D3200 to shoot landscape shots of the Hudson River and George Washington Bridge in the distance -- using the camera's pre-set Landscape mode -- and it fired away without pause. While none of this was particularly challenging photographically, it's similar to the kind of thing a prospective Nikon D3200 buyer might want the camera to capture while traveling on vacation: beautiful shots of scenery, landscapes, landmarks and historical monuments.

In more challenging shooting conditions, such as in low-light or low-contrast shooting situations, the Nikon D3200's autofocus was not as sprightly, taking an extra split second to lock in. This is not unusual for an entry-level camera, but photographers looking for a more versatile DSLR might want to consider moving up a class or two.

Kit lens lacking. Though the Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR kit lens that the D3200 ships with seems to focus quicker than with the D3100, its image quality is still only so-so. While we appreciated the useful Vibration Reduction (VR) optical image stabilization in the lens, which genuinely helps correct camera shake when shooting at slower shutter speeds, the kit lens was not particularly sharp in the corners, especially when shooting at the widest aperture.

We also saw the same incidence of high geometric distortion with the kit lens when shooting at the widest (18mm) focal length. Again, most beginning photographers will likely find the Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR to be an adequate multi-purpose zoom lens for their needs. And it is that. But if you want to get more out of your photography, you might consider pairing the Nikon D3200 with a higher quality piece of glass, such as the new AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G prime lens. That $699 lens is the same price as the entire Nikon D3200 kit, but you'd be taking a major step up in image quality.

Shooting 101. Like having Yoda living in your camera... (well, sort of).

Guide me. I was disappointed with Nikon's original Guide Mode, which debuted on the D3000 back in 2009. I found it confusing, limited and not as helpful as it should have been. On the Nikon D3200, the mode has improved, though we'd be curious to know how many consumers and/or beginning photographers actually take advantage of the feature, which is accessed by switching the Mode dial to GUIDE.

Guide Mode is designed to walk novices through some of the basic steps to taking more creative pictures using the Nikon D3200's non-Auto controls. While most advanced photographers might know how to subtly blur the background of a portrait to bring attention to your subject's face, most beginners are probably only familiar with the canned Portrait mode, which does the work for you -- with varying results -- but doesn't tell you how.


Bold colors. A park after a summer rain was a great place to get the most out of the Nikon D3200's bold image color in Landscape mode.

Guide Mode walks you through the steps by leading you to the Aperture Priority setting in the mode's friendly, blue overlay graphic on the rear LCD. (A quick note about that 3-inch screen: It has substantial resolution -- 921,000-dots -- for reviewing photos, scrolling through menus or taking advantage of features like the Guide Mode. Our only gripe is we wish it had either a side-swiveling or back-folding articulating LCD. For that, as usual, you'll have to go with a step-up model like the D5100.) Guide Mode then shows you how to adjust the f/stop to a lower number to blur the background.

But here's one of my quibbles: while Guide Mode shows an example of a portrait image that blurs or sharpens the background as you adjust the aperture, the sample shot is so small on the screen it's hard to see the change.

There are also two paths to the tutorials: Easy operation or Advanced operation. If a budding photographer turns to Guide Mode for help, wouldn't you assume that all the tips offered would be of the easy variety rather than advanced? I know they're talking about the camera's functionality, not the level of the lesson, but it's a bit confusing.

As mentioned before, the Guide Mode tutorial setup is much better organized than in the first generation of the feature, but we're still wondering how helpful it is to novice photographers. Nonetheless, Nikon deserves kudos for at least attempting to educate consumers about photography with a tutorial built into the camera itself.

High ISO. At the Nikon D3200's maximum Hi-1 ISO setting I got some noise, but it helped me shoot this image of a reflection of fireworks on the 4th of July.

Image quality. Overall I was pleased with the image quality from the Nikon D3200 and pleasantly surprised with how well the camera did while shooting in low light at high ISOs. The ISO range goes up to 12,800, though I'd really only recommend shooting with it at ISO 3,200 or lower unless you don't mind extra noise in your photos. Considering the camera uses a 24.2-megapixel CMOS APS-C-sized sensor, those photosites are just 3.8 microns apiece. That's relatively tiny, but the Nikon D3200 and its EXPEED 3 processor did well in tamping down noise. At ISO 6,400, heavy luminance noise is visible in the shadow areas and at 12,800, the overall image is softened from excessive noise.

But if you keep it at 3,200 or 1,600 for those times you don't want to use a flash in low light, the D3200 does well, and that's saying something for an APS-C sized sensor with this much resolution. In good outdoor light at lower ISOs, my JPEG image files of the neighborhood park after a rainstorm were very clean, crisp, and filled with bright color. To my eye, the photos were high in clarity, but the colors seemed a little bit oversaturated in Landscape mode. That's no surprise, though, as the D3200 user manual states Landscape mode is supposed to produce "vibrant" scenery. The IR test lab, however, found that the Nikon D3200 produced fairly accurate color saturation when using default settings, with yellows, light greens and some cyans slightly undersaturated, and dark greens, blues and reds pushed a moderate amount. (Most experienced photographers prefer a toned-down image.) In its Picture Control feature, the camera defaults to the Standard setting, but you can switch to the more subtle Natural setting for shooting JPEGs if you feel Standard is still too pumped. Other Picture Control options include Vivid, Monochrome and Portrait, and you can also individually adjust saturation, contrast, brightness, sharpening and hue for even more control. If shooting raw unprocessed images with the Nikon D3200 is your thing, then you won't have to worry about tweaking these parameters until post-processing.

Saturated. I like the bright, saturated colors I got from the Nikon D3200's JPEGs, but the camera does have a tendency to slightly overexpose images.

Along with defaulting to a slightly bluish tint with pumped up greens, the Nikon D3200 tended to brighten my shots, particularly when shooting close-up Macros of flowers with the camera's kit lens. At times, some of the detail in my macro flower shots appeared blown out. Part of this was an illusion, however, because the D3200's LCD screen defaults to a rather bright setting to compensate for bright outdoor light. But that's precisely why most DSLRs including the Nikon D3200 can blink the blown out areas of a captured image in Playback mode, or allow you to check its histogram to verify exposure.

LCD. The Nikon D3200's 3-inch screen was a bit deceiving. On the display this image looked overexposed, but on the computer the sunset tones were just right.

When I loaded the images onto my computer, my photos were still brighter than I had hoped, but there was more detail. (This occurred while shooting with and without Active D-Lighting, which is a camera feature designed to adjust apparent dynamic range to preserve detail in highlights and shadows.)

The benefit to having such a high-resolution sensor in this consumer-centric DSLR is that, when you get a good shot with the D3200, you'll find tons of detail in your photos. This is great if you take a wide angle shot with the Nikon D3200 only to realize later that you want to crop in on a specific subject in your image. Images from the Nikon D3200 also have a rich tone that even novice photographers will appreciate right away.

Movies. With its full 1080p HD functionality (at 30p/24p), the Nikon D3200 is great for shooting short movies. The built-in monaural microphone, however, is bare bones, and if you're really serious about shooting video with this camera, we'd suggest you get a stereo microphone and plug it into the D3200's stereo mic jack (it's pretty cool that's included on an entry-level camera, by the way).

Movie settings. No focus mode here.

While the Nikon D3200, like more and more of Nikon's DSLRs, offers full-time autofocusing during movie recording -- a feature that's been touted in the D3200's marketing materials -- good luck trying to find the setting to turn it on. The feature, which allows the camera to automatically continually autofocus while you film a scene (such as when shooting video of a moving subject), is not mentioned at all in the basic paper User's Manual and is only alluded to in the full Reference Manual on the included CD-ROM.

Part of the problem is that the actual term Nikon uses for this feature is Full-time-servo AF, and it's only discussed in the manual's section on Live View, not movie recording. Like most things these days, it seems, I was able to find out how to turn it on by Googling the subject. According to a camera forum I came across, the D3200 needs to be in Live View and then you need to press the "i" (information edit) button on the back of the camera and scroll down to Focus mode on the display. Select "Full-time-servo AF" from the list and the feature will be enabled. It worked, but the sequence is pretty difficult to figure out on your own.

Full HD video. 1920 x 1080 at 30 fps. Click to download 38.2MB MOV file. (Note: Visit the Video page for more details and sample clips.)

Even more frustrating is that the full-time autofocus (aka Full-time-servo AF) feature is still not quite ready for prime time. It's too slow, too loud (the sound of the camera continuously refocusing is picked up on the D3200's internal mic), and drains the battery significantly. All of which is probably why Nikon choose to bury the feature in the camera. But then why advertise it so heavily if you can't deliver?

Still, while it might not be the best video solution at this point, the Nikon D3200 delivers the goods when it comes to stills, and when it comes to SLRs, that's our top priority. A scan of our image quality crops at various ISOs below tells a pretty clear tale.

Nikon D3200 Image Quality

Below are crops comparing the Nikon D3200, Nikon D3100, Canon T3i, Pentax K-01, Samsung NX20, and Sony NEX-7. Though we normally start with ISO 1,600 here, we thought we'd start with the base ISO to show the best each camera can do.

NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction. All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses.

Nikon D3200 versus Nikon D3100 at ISO 100

Nikon D3200 at ISO 100
Nikon D3100 at ISO 100

The step up in resolution is immediately apparent in these crops, moving from 14.2 to 24.2 megapixels, revealed by the larger size of the elements in the Nikon D3200 crops. More detail is revealed in the pink swatch, which shows thread patterns that the D3100 couldn't capture. Noise suppression is at work even in the D3200's ISO 100 images, though, subtly reducing some detail, particularly in the Mosaic image.


Nikon D3200 versus Canon T3i at ISO 100

Nikon D3200 at ISO 100
Canon T3i at ISO 100

Noise suppression and lower-strength sharpening makes the D3200's image look a little softer than the Canon T3i's 18-megapixel image which pops a little more with greater contrast, which is due primarily to a different approach between the companies. Both images show thread patterns in the pink swatch, but Nikon keeps it a little pinker than Canon (the Nikon is more correct).


Nikon D3200 versus Pentax K-01 at ISO 100

Nikon D3200 at ISO 100
Pentax K-01 at ISO 100

The Pentax K-01 takes a very different approach to almost every element in these crops. More noise suppression, more sharpening. For all its pixels, the Nikon D3200's image looks hazy by comparison. The K-01 is way off on the pink swatch's color, and no threads are shown, but the other elements are tuned such that they'll print very well.


Nikon D3200 versus Samsung NX20 at ISO 100

Nikon D3200 at ISO 100
Samsung NX20 at ISO 100

More closely matching the Nikon D3200 in resolution, the Samsung NX20's 20.3-megapixel sensor really looks at this scene differently. It achieves greater sharpness in the mosaic image, though with evidence of noise suppression, but the red swatch is quite blurred when compared to the D3200's rendering. And that pink swatch, while revealing detail, is way off on color; you'd never guess it's supposed to be pink.


Nikon D3200 versus Sony NEX-7 at ISO 100

Nikon D3200 at ISO 100
Sony NEX-7 at ISO 100

Up against the 24-megapixel Sony NEX-7, it's interesting to see what the two companies have done with what could be the same sensor. Sony's rendering of the mosaic label is better overall, but while they also find threads in the pink swatch, it doesn't exactly look pink.



Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent ISO 100 shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1,600, 3,200, and 6,400. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1,600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1,600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

Nikon D3200 versus Nikon D3100 at ISO 1,600

Nikon D3200 at ISO 1,600
Nikon D3100 at ISO 1,600

One of the problems we always warn people about with higher resolution cameras is shown here, where the D3200's 24.2-megapixel sensor shows more noise at ISO 1,600 than its 14.2-megapixel predecessor. The result is lower contrast and less crispness than can be seen in the D3100's image. Interestingly, both cameras produce about the same size print: 20x30 inches, from ISO 100 to 400.


Nikon D3200 versus Canon T3i at ISO 1,600

Nikon D3200 at ISO 1,600
Canon T3i at ISO 1,600

Again, the Nikon D3200 is a little more challenged at ISO 1,600 than the T3i, except when it comes to the red leaf swatch, which looks a little more realistic from the D3200.


Nikon D3200 versus Pentax K01 at ISO 1,600

Nikon D3200 at ISO 1,600
Pentax K-01 at ISO 1,600

As we've grown accustomed to seeing, Nikon still takes a more balanced approach to noise suppression, making an image that looks similar regardless of the element, whereas Pentax does a lovely job with the higher-contrast mosaic label and even the Mas Portel label, but the background behind the bottle and the red leaf swatch look very strange.


Nikon D3200 versus Samsung NX20 at ISO 1,600

Nikon D3200 at ISO 1,600
Samsung NX20 at ISO 1,600

Samsung's approach with the NX20 looks pretty good, leaving behind some chroma noise, but also having less contrast.


Nikon D3200 versus Sony NEX-7 at ISO 1,600

Nikon D3200 at ISO 1,600
Sony NEX-7 at ISO 1,600

Sony continues the aggressive noise suppression and sharpening, but still looks pretty nice by comparison, while the Nikon leaves it soft. A little processing in Photoshop could result in a very similar looking image from the Nikon; it just depends on what you prefer.



Today's ISO 3,200 is yesterday's ISO 1,600 (well, almost), so below are the same crops at ISO 3,200.

Nikon D3200 versus Nikon D3100 at ISO 3,200

Nikon D3200 at ISO 3,200
Nikon D3100 at ISO 3,200

Both cameras again output good 13 x 19-inch prints at this ISO setting, so they're pretty close despite the large difference in resolution. In terms of detail, the D3200 probably captures more, but it's quite a bit softer, making the outcome about the same. Both cameras pump the yellows and reds a bit too dramatically, which shows in the mosaic image, but it's pretty common.


Nikon D3200 versus Canon T3i at ISO 3,200

Nikon D3200 at ISO 3,200
Canon T3i at ISO 3,200

Canon's T3i renders the image a little more confidently, with the noticeable exception of the red leaf swatch, which is a nasty and unnatural looking blur. Nikon's more balanced approach, while still soft, is preferable. Note also, though, Canon's tighter control on reds, particularly in the mosaic image, while Nikon's rendering is fraught with exaggerated orange tones.


Nikon D3200 versus Pentax K-01 at ISO 3,200

Nikon D3200 at ISO 3,200
Pentax K-01 at ISO 3,200

Pentax's noise suppression continues to artificially blur too many elements in this shot, such that I'd suggest turning down noise suppression with the K-01. The Nikon D3200 retains more of the spirit of the original image by comparison.


Nikon D3200 versus Samsung NX20 at ISO 3,200

Nikon D3200 at ISO 3,200
Samsung NX20 at ISO 3,200

Samsung's noise suppression produces a strange almost image-doubled effect, but these two sets of images are very similar in being a little less than we'd like to see. The NX20 leaves behind more chroma noise, while the Nikon handles it better.


Nikon D3200 versus Sony NEX-7 at ISO 3,200

Nikon D3200 at ISO 3,200
Sony NEX-7 at ISO 3,200

Sony renders the mosaic image so differently from the D3200 it's hard to believe it's the same object.



Detail: Nikon D3200 versus Nikon D3100, Canon T3i, Pentax K-01, Samsung NX20, and Sony NEX-7

Nikon
D3200

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Nikon
D3100

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Canon
T3i

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Pentax
K-01

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Samsung
NX20

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Sony
NEX-7

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Detail comparison. High-contrast details are often sharper as ISO rises, so they're worth a look as well. When it comes to fine, high-contrast detail, the Nikon D3200 does very well, even better than the Sony NEX-7 at ISO 6,400. It's a little grainier, but has more detail thanks to the less aggressive noise suppression, and the red text retains its red color, while the NEX-7 turns black. In low-contrast performance, we'd say it's not that much better than the D3100, as its print quality attests, but the advantage to its higher resolution is obvious in high-contrast elements.

 

Nikon D3200 Print Quality

ISO 100 shots look terrific printed as large as 24 x 36 inches, with good detail and color. Wall display prints are possible to 30 x 40 inches.

ISO 200 shots look great at 20 x 30 inches.

ISO 400 images also stand up to printing at 20 x 30 inches.

ISO 800 prints start to show a little more noise in the shadows and a little softer detail at 20 x 30, so while we'd call them usable, we prefer them printed at 16 x 20 inches.

ISO 1,600 prints are pretty good at 13 x 19 inches. A bit of noise is creeping into a few areas, but still good for the ISO.

ISO 3,200 shots are a bit rough printed at 13 x 19, but pass muster at 11 x 14 inches, with just a bit of noise in flatter areas.

ISO 6,400 images are much rougher, looking somewhat usable at 8 x 10 inches, but the noise in the shadows is objectionable, so we prefer the 5 x 7 inch prints.

ISO 12,800 images are certainly usable at 5 x 7, but look closer to a clean photograph at 4 x 6 inches.

Overall, the Nikon D3200 doesn't disappoint in the print size category. It's nice to be able to achieve great 24 x 36 inch prints at base ISO, and to still be able to make a nice 4 x 6 at ISO 12,800.

 

In the Box

The Nikon D3200 ships with the following items in the box:

 

Recommended Accessories



 

Nikon D3200 Conclusion

Pros: Cons:
  • Compact, comfortable and highly portable body
  • Good ergonomics, with even more well-positioned external controls than the D3100
  • Slightly larger, more comfortable handgrip with better shutter position for easy access with forefinger
  • Quick and quiet shutter mechanism begs to be pressed
  • Gorgeous detail from high-resolution 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor
  • EXPEED 3 image processor keeps camera humming along
  • Produces good images even in low light at high ISOs
  • Improved autofocus speed with kit lens
  • Faster four frames-per-second burst speed
  • Very good dynamic range
  • In-camera chromatic aberration and distortion correction
  • Bright 3-inch, 921,000-dot LCD screen
  • Full 1080p HD video shooting at 30p and 24p with continuous AF (though there are problems finding the settings for continuous AF)
  • Stereo mic jack
  • Compatible with Nikon's new wireless mobile adapter, WU-1a, which allows easy image sharing and camera remote control via an Android phone with free downloadable app (iOS app expected in late Fall 2012)
  • Compatible with wired and wireless remotes
  • Some users with larger hands (or those used to bigger DSLRs) may find camera and controls too small
  • Mediocre results with kit lens; soft corners and noticeable geometric distortion
  • Movie record and Live View buttons are now split up, with one on top and the other on the rear. (I prefer old set-up with dedicated Live View switch and Movie Record button nested together.)
  • In-camera tutorials in Guide Mode are somewhat helpful but feature can be confusing to use
  • Excessive image noise at ISO 6,400 and above
  • Warm Auto and Incandescent white balance indoors
  • No bracketing
  • Monaural built-in microphone
  • Narrow flash coverage

 

We've been fans of most Nikon entry-level digital SLRs since the D40 debuted back in 2006. As the latest addition to this popular line, the Nikon D3200 increases the resolution significantly with a 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor.

Do consumers and novice photographers really need that much resolution? Probably not, but it's there if they want it, allowing extreme crops without losing much detail. And while we had feared that increasing the D3200's resolution by 10 megapixels would also increase noise at high ISOs, we found that didn't dramatically affect print sizes. Sure, when you crank this compact but comfortable camera's ISO to 12,800 (or even 6,400), you're going to see some significant luminance noise. But if you keep it at 3,200 and below and just shoot in typical mixed lighting conditions, as most D3200 buyers will likely do, the Nikon D3200 performs well, producing attractive, vibrant images. You can even make decent 4 x 6-inch prints from ISO 12,800 images.

Our main gripe is the performance of the Nikkor 18-55mm VR kit lens: it was only average at best, producing soft images and distortion at default settings. We'd recommend using a faster, sharper lens to take advantage of the D3200's 24.2-megapixel sensor. Higher resolution simply puts greater demands on the optics, and the additional cost is worth it.

Some users with bigger hands -- or those used to shooting with larger DSLRs -- might find the Nikon D3200 too small. However, we didn't mind the small size as much as in past models because the camera has some noticeable ergonomic changes, including a more comfortable handgrip and a better-positioned shutter button. The petite size of the Nikon D3200 also makes it an ideal travel shooter for both still images and HD video (the latter provided you focus manually or between takes).

Meanwhile, the camera's fast overall speed makes it a pleasure to use and a great performer for street photography or youth sports. In short, we love this little camera and think it's another excellent addition to Nikon's already highly regarded entry-level DSLR line. The Nikon D3200 is an easy Dave's Pick!