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Digital Cameras - Nikon Coolpix 3200 Test Images

 

I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for the test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it!

 

Outdoor Portrait:

Good overall color and resolution, but way too much contrast.

The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way, and why I shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the Coolpix 3200 had a hard time with the harsh lighting.

The shot at right was taken with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which leaves the midtones rather dark, but the highlights still over-bright. A setting of +1.0 EV looked better in the midtones, but lost quite a lot more detail in the highlights is a little too bright. In order to get good midtones, I had to sacrifice quite a bit of highlight detail. (You could use the shot taken at +0.7 EV I chose the Auto white balance as the most accurate overall, though the Daylight setting resulted in a similar image. The Manual setting also produced good results, but with a slight warm cast.

Though overly bright in the highlights, Marti's skin tones look pretty good. The blue flowers in the bouquet are almost exactly right, with just hints of purple in their petals. (This is a difficult blue for many digicams to get right, but the Coolpix 3200 does pretty well with it.) The red flowers in the bouquet have a magenta tint, but the strong green foliage and yellow flower look good. Saturation is high. Detail is strong and resolution is high, with good detail and low noise in the shadows.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV, see files CP32OUTAP0.HTM through CP32OUTAP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.




 

Closer Portrait:

Increased resolution and detail, with good color. Once again very high contrast though.

Overall results are similar to the wider shot above, with high contrast but good color. The Coolpix 3200's 3x zoom lens avoids the distortion of Marti's features that a fixed focal length wide angle lens would have produced here. The shot at right was taken at the default exposure setting, which got the overall exposure about right, but at the expense of both highlight and shadow detail. Detail and resolution are even stronger in this close-up shot, with good definition in Marti's hair and face, as well as on the house siding behind her.

To view the entire exposure series from -0.3 to +1.0 EV, see files CP32FACM1.HTM through CP32FACP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Normal Flash
+1.0 EV
Slow-Sync Mode
+0.7 EV

Good results in both normal and Slow-Sync modes.

The Coolpix 3200's built-in flash underexposed this shot badly at the default exposure setting, and was still a little dim with a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment, but a +1.3 EV boost left the image too bright. Overall color is pretty good, though the flash creates a blue cast on the white shirt and also results in slightly pale skin tones on Marti's face. The background incandescent lighting results in slight orange tints in the shadows. I also shot with the camera's Slow-Sync flash mode, which resulted in more even lighting, but more of a yellowish cast from the incandescent lighting in the room. I chose a positive exposure compensation adjustment of +0.7 EV for the Slow Sync example. Highlights are pretty bright with glowing edges, but overall results are still more pleasing here. Color balance is warmer, with a stronger warm cast from the background lighting, but results are still good.

To view the entire exposure series from -0.3 EV to +1.3 EV in the normal flash mode, see files CP32INFM1.HTM through CP32INFP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

To see the same exposure series in the Slow-Sync flash mode see files CP32INFSM1.HTM through CP32INFSP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Auto White Balance
Incandescent White Balance
Manual White Balance

Slight color casts with each white balance setting tested, but good exposure.

This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting. Each of the Coolpix 3200's white balance settings that I shot with produced slight color casts, although I'd hasten to say that that's not necessarily a bad thing - All of these shots are within an acceptable range of white balance, so users could choose what "look" they prefer. The Auto setting had a slight red tint, while the Incandescent setting had a warmer, more yellow cast, and the Manual setting resulted in a rather cool, bluish image. Despite the cool cast, I personally liked the Manual image the best, although I could understand some folks preferring the warmer tones of the Incandescent setting. Skin tones are pale and cool, with a little magenta as well, but the rest of the color in the frame is still pretty good. The blue flowers are dark and purplish, but that isn't a surprise, given the difficult light source. The main shot was taken with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, a bit lower than average for this shot. Image noise is moderate in the shadows and midtones.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.7 EV, see files CP32INMP0.HTM through CP32INMP5.HTM on the thumbnail index page.




 

House Shot:
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

High resolution with good detail, nearly accurate color with the Manual white balance.

Though slightly cool and blue, the Coolpix 3200's Manual white balance setting produced the best white value on the house trim. The Auto setting resulted in a more reddish tint, and the Daylight setting produced a warmer, more yellow color balance. Resolution is high, and detail is good in the tree limbs above the roof. The front shrubbery and house details are also good and well-defined, though the fine foliage is a hint blurry. Details are reasonably sharp in the center and top of the frame, although there's quite a bit of softness in the lower left corner.



 

Far-Field Test

High resolution with good detail, though contrast is high.

This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this. The Coolpix 3200 performed well, with a lot of visible detail in the tree limbs above the roof, as well as in the shrubbery in front of the house. Leaf patterns are well-defined in both areas, and the brick pattern of the house shows strong detail as well. In-camera sharpening does a good job here, with fairly sharp details throughout the frame. The camera picks up pretty good detail in the bright white paint surrounding the bay window, which is a trouble spot for many digicams. Detail is also moderate in the shadow area above the front door. Overall color looks good, bit I'd judge it to be just a tad oversaturated. (Here are shots with the Auto and Daylight white balance settings.) Exposure is about right, but the camera's high contrast leads to badly blown highlights in the difficult white paint on the bay window. The tables below show a standard resolution and quality series, followed by a color effects series.

Resolution Series:

Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
2,048 x 1,536
CP32FAR2048F
CP32FAR2048N
1,600 x 1,200
CP32FAR1600F
-
1,024 x 768
CP32FAR1024F
-
640 x 480
CP32FAR0640F
-

Color Effects Series:

Color Effects Series
Black and White
Sepia
Cyanotype
Vivid Color



 

Lens Zoom Range

A typical 3x zoom range.

I routinely shoot this series of images to show the field of view for each camera, with the lens at full wide angle, at maximum telephoto (3x, in this case), and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. The Coolpix 3200's lens is equivalent to a 36-108mm zoom on a 35mm camera. That corresponds to a moderate wide angle to a moderate telephoto. Following are the results at each zoom setting.

Wide Angle
3x Telephoto
Digital Telephoto



 

Musicians Poster
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Slight color casts with each white balance setting tested, but good detail and resolution.

This shot is often a tough test for digicams, as the abundance of blue in the composition frequently tricks white balance systems into producing a warm color balance. The Coolpix 3200's white balance system had a little difficulty here, producing slight color casts with each setting I tested. Both the Auto and Daylight settings resulted in warm casts, while the Manual setting produced a cooler color balance. Although it's really too cool-toned, I still preferred the overall color of the Manual setting to the more yellow tints of the other two white balances. The blue robe looks about right, though the deep shadows have faint purplish tints. Resolution is high, with good definition in the embroidery of the blue robe, as well as in the necklaces and instruments.



 

Macro Shot

Standard Macro Shot
Macro with Flash
Excellent macro performance: A very small minimum area with good detail in the dollar bill. Flash is partially blocked by the lens, however.

True to Nikon form, the Coolpix 3200 turned in an exceptional performance in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 1.21 x 0.91 inches (31 x 23 millimeters). Resolution is high, with great definition in the dollar bill. (The coin and brooch are out of the plane of focus, due to the very short shooting distance.) There's quite a bit of softness in the corners on the left side of the frame. (Soft corners are a very typical limitation of macro modes on consumer-level digicams.) The Coolpix 3200's flash is partially blocked by the lens, resulting in a shadow in the lower left corner of the frame. The flash almost throttles down for the macro area, but is just a little bright. Still, a pretty good performance considering the close range. (Plan on external illumination for the very closest macro shots, but at "normal" macro distances of a few inches, the onboard flash should work quite well.)



 

"Davebox" Test Target
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Good exposure and color balance.

I chose the Coolpix 3200's Auto white balance setting for this shot, though it's just a hint reddish. The Manual setting produced pretty good results, though slightly cool. The Daylight setting resulted in a warmer, more yellow image. Exposure is pretty good, and the Coolpix 3200 distinguishes the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target well. (Although, as has been the case on several cameras recently, I boosted the exposure here by +0.3 EV, as I felt the default exposure left the image a little dark. The result looks a little over-bright, but subtle highlight detail is nonetheless preserved.) Colors are bright and vibrant in the large color blocks, though the large, red block has more of a pinkish tint. (The large red and blue primary color blocks also slightly oversaturated.) Detail is good in the shadow area of the charcoal briquettes, with moderately low noise. Overall, a good performance.

Color Effects Series:

Color Effects Series
Black and White
Sepia
Cyanotype
Normal Color



 

Low-Light Tests

Slightly limited low-light capabilities, but more than capable of handling typical city street lighting at night.

The Coolpix 3200 has somewhat limited low-light shooting capabilities, despite its Dusk and Night scene modes. The camera produced clear, bright, usable images down to the one foot-candle (11 lux) light level, although the shot at 1/2 foot-candle is still usable, if not quite as bright. Given that typical city street lighting at night produces about one foot-candle of illumination, the Coolpix 3200 should do fine in most outdoor night shots with artificial lighting. Color was pretty good in the brighter shots, but took on a warm, reddish cast in the dimmer exposures. Noise is moderately high, but not too distracting. The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

(Note: If you'd like to use a light meter to check light levels for subjects you might be interested in shooting, a light level of one foot-candle corresponds to a normal exposure of two seconds at f/2.8 and ISO 100.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
Normal
Mode
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
Night
Mode
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
Dusk
Mode
ISO
200
Click to see CP32LL03.JPG
1/1 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP32LL04.JPG
1.24 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP32LL05.JPG
1.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP32LL06.JPG
1.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP32LL07NORM.JPG
1.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP32LL07NITE.JPG
1.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP32LL07DUSK.JPG
1.5 sec
f2.8



 

Flash Range Test

Good flash range, but the camera "cheats" quite a bit with an ISO boost to get there.

In my testing, the Coolpix 3200's flash illuminated the test target all the way out to 14 feet, without any significant decrease in intensity. BUT, like many compact digicams, it "cheats" to get there, boosting its ISO from a default of less than 100 to 200 as the shooting distance increases. The result is quite a lot of image noise at anything beyond 8-9 feet. (And even at 8 feet, there's more noise than I'd expect.) Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.

8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft
Click to see CP32FL08.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.9
ISO 86
Click to see CP32FL09.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.9
ISO 101
Click to see CP32FL10.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.9
ISO 135
Click to see CP32FL11.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.9
ISO 157
Click to see CP32FL12.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.9
ISO 182
Click to see CP32FL13.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.9
ISO 200
Click to see CP32FL14.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.9
ISO 200



 

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test

High resolution, 1,000 lines of "strong detail." Higher than average barrel distortion, but low pincushion.

The Coolpix 3200 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 600 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,000 lines. (Some might argue for 1,050 lines, but I'm a bit more conservative in how I judge the results with this target.) "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,250-1,300 lines.

Optical distortion on the Coolpix 3200 is a little higher than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 1.0 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I found only 0.05 percent pincushion distortion there (about one pixel). There's a fair bit of softening in the corners of the image, but chromatic aberration is low, with only weak color showing around the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

Resolution Series, Wide Angle
Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
2,048 x 1,536
CP32RESW2048F
CP32RESW2048N
1,600 x 1,200
CP32RESW1600F
-
1,024 x 768
CP32RESW1024F
-
640 x 480
CP32RESW0640F
-

 

Resolution Test, Telephoto
2,048 x 1,536
(Fine, Tele)
CP32REST



 

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity

A tight optical viewfinder, but very good accuracy with the LCD monitor.

The Coolpix 3200's optical viewfinder is a little tight, showing only 84 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 83 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor fared much better, showing about 99 percent at wide angle. However, at telephoto, the framing was actually just slightly loose, as the measurement lines wound up outside the final frame. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accurate as possible, the Coolpix 3200's LCD monitor has a little room for improvement, (but not much, it's really pretty good). Flash distribution is fairly even at wide angle, with just a little falloff at the corners and edges of the frame. At telephoto, flash distribution is much more even.

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