Nikon D3200 Review

 
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Nikon D3200 Video Recording

Most DSLRs offer HD video recording these days, and the Nikon D3200 is no exception. The Nikon D3200's video system is surprisingly capable for an entry-level camera; its exposure control and audio recording options in particular going far beyond those of most entry-level cameras. Here's a quick rundown of its video capabilities, along with our usual selection of sample videos at the bottom.

Nikon D3200 Basic Video Specs

  • 1,920 x 1,080 (Full HD / 1080p), 1,280 x 720 (720p), and 640 x 424 recording
  • Choice of two compression levels; High or Normal quality
  • TTL (through the lens) matrix metering using the main image sensor
  • MOV file format, with H.264/MPEG-4 encoding
  • Autofocus can be triggered during movie recording by pressing the shutter button, or continuous AF can be enabled
  • Manual focus also available in movie mode
  • Aperture can be controlled in Aperture-priority or Manual exposure modes, but only before recording begins
  • Shutter speed and ISO can be controlled in Manual exposure mode
  • EV adjustment (exposure compensation) can be selected prior to or during recording
  • Built-in monaural or external stereo microphone, sensitivity adjustable (both unusual in entry-level DSLRs)
  • Still image can be captured while in video recording mode, but doing so stops the recording
  • Flicker-reduction mode for both 60Hz and 50Hz light sources
  • Movies can be "trimmed" in-camera, selecting just the portion you want and saving it as a new file
  • Single frames can be selected from movie files and saved as separate JPEG files
  • No spec for it, but rolling shutter seems better than average (see rolling shutter section at the end of this page for examples)
  • Video duration limited to 20 minutes maximum
  • File size restricted to 4 GB maximum
  • Class 6 or faster cards recommended

Nikon D3200 Video Speeds & Feeds: Image size, frame rate, and file format

The Nikon D3200 offers three different video resolutions, three frame rates, and two quality settings in combinations as shown below:

Nikon D3200 Video Options
MOV files, H.264/MPEG-4 encoding
Resolution
Aspect Ratio
NTSC Mode Frame Rate
Quality

1,920 x 1,080

16:9

30p
(29.97 frames per second, progressive scan)

High/Normal
24/12 Mbps

1,920 x 1,080

16:9

24p
(23.976 frames per second, progressive scan)

1,280 x 720

16:9

60p
(59.94 frames per second, progressive scan)

640 x 424

3:2

30p
(29.97 frames per second, progressive scan)

High/Normal
5/3 Mbps

All of the D3200's video modes are progressive scan, meaning that every video line is scanned, one after the other, for every frame. Compared to interlaced scanning, progressive scan video is much better for viewing videos on a computer screen. (Interlaced works fine for HD TVs, but some computer video players that de-interlace poorly will produce bad tearing of moving objects.)

The 24 frames/second mode is popular with some people, as they feel it gives a more "movie like" look to their videos, because 24fps is the frame rate for cinema. The lower frame rate can look choppy, though, particularly when shooting in bright light with fast shutter speeds.

The 60 frames/second frame rate available in 1,280 x 720 mode is great for capturing smooth-looking action, but won't be as good in low-light situations, because the camera can't use a shutter speed longer than 1/60 second.

Note that the Nikon D3200 records video at 25p and 50p instead of 30p and 60p respectively when PAL video mode is selected.

The Nikon D3200 saves its video files in the MOV format, using MPEG-4 encoding. Pretty much any computer or editing program made within the last 5 years should be able to play its files with little problem, although the full 1,920 x 1,080 resolution files may strain older systems.

Nikon D3200 video quality

The Nikon D3200 produces pretty good-quality video, with good detail, modest motion artifacts, and pleasing color. It's best for shooting in daylight, reasonably well-lit interiors, or shortly after the sun sets. Night scenes under typical city street-lighting are usable, but show quite a bit of image noise. Contrast and color are both to our liking, with its videos having plenty of zip, without appearing too contrasty or with oversaturated color. Videos are very natural-looking, under a variety of lighting conditions.

Compression artifacts are very well controlled in the Nikon D3200's video, even when the camera is panning or the subject is moving rapidly: While you lose detail from the inter-frame compression, the resulting video is still very smooth-looking, with no blocky artifacts. At 1,920 x 1,080, we saw no evidence of moiré or other resolution-related artifacts in the video, but there were some very minor ones at 1,280 x 720: If you look closely at the grass fronds in the background of the daytime dog/Frisbee videos above, you'll see very slight jaggies in some of them,and the texture of the asphalt produces just a little shimmering. We don't see these as being significant defects. In our nighttime clips, image noise is quite visible as a flickering "snow" in darker portions of the image. Noise is pretty minor in brighter parts of the picture. We think most users will find the Nikon D3200's low light video capability quite suitable for taking indoor shots at night in reasonably well-lit environments, but noise levels at night under typical city street-lighting are probably higher than most people would accept.

Nikon D3200 video focusing

  • By default, the D3200 doesn't AF during recording, but you can always trigger an AF cycle by half-pressing the shutter button
  • Single-shot or full-time servo AF (AF-F) for continuous AF during recording
  • Focus motor noise with kit lens is very audible in sound track, so probably best not to select continuous AF when using it. Other Nikon lenses with silent focus motors would likely be better.
  • AF area mode options:
    • Face-priority AF
    • Wide-area AF
    • Normal-area AF
    • Subject-tracking AF (Half-press shutter button to AF before recording, then hit OK button with subject centered in little green square. Square will follow subject around the frame, maintaining focus on it.)
  • Manual focus is also available during movie recording

Nikon D3200 video exposure control

  • Defaults to fully automatic exposure, but exposure compensation adjustment is available
  • Auto-ISO limit in still capture mode doesn't appear to affect video recording
  • Aperture can be set in Aperture-priority or Manual exposure mode
    • Aperture setting is very confusing: You have to exit live view mode entirely to set video recording aperture, even though the rear LCD display shows the aperture changing. (The displayed aperture applies only to still captures from Live View mode.)
  • Manual exposure can be enabled via Movie Settings menu (very unusual for an entry-level SLR)
    • In manual mode, shutter speed and ISO can be set in addition to aperture
    • You can change shutter speed either before or during recording, but changing it during will produce very loud clicks in the audio track, as you rotate the control dial
    • Available shutter speeds range from 1/4,000s down to 1/60s for 60p, and down to 1/30s for 30p and 24p
    • Sensitivity can be set from ISO 200 to 12,800, however ISO can only be changed before recording starts
  • Full range of Picture Control settings apply to movie recording. (Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, and Landscape, and adjustments for contrast, brightness, saturation, and hue for each of the main settings.)
  • AE (auto-exposure) lock is supported in video mode
  • Matrix metering is always used for video recording, regardless of metering mode selected

Nikon D3200 audio recording

  • Way more audio-recording capability than is common for entry-level SLRs
  • Internal monaural microphone
  • Defaults to automatic level control
  • Manual level control available via Movie Settings menu, with 20 levels available
  • VU (audio level) meter display also available via Movie Settings
  • External stereo mic input - use external mics for better sound quality, and to eliminate camera and lens noise (very rare feature in entry-level SLRs)
  • Audio can be turned off entirely


Here are some examples of video shot with the Nikon D3200:

Nikon D3200: Video Samples
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 24 frames per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
MOV, Progressive, 60 frames per second
Download Original
640 x 424
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 24 frames per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
MOV, Progressive, 60 frames per second
Download Original

Nikon D3200 video rolling shutter artifacts ("Jello effect")

Pretty much every DSLR on the market distorts moving objects, or the entire scene, if the camera is being panned. The technical term for this is "rolling shutter artifacts," but many users simply call it the "Jello effect," because the image can jiggle and sway like Jello as the camera is moved. This occurs because the image is captured and read out line by line, so the bottom of an object may no longer be underneath the top of it by the time the camera gets around to capturing that part of the frame.

Rolling shutter artifacts can be very annoying if they're severe, but as noted, all digital SLRs show them to one extent or another. In the case of the D3200, they're clearly present, but nowhere near as bad as we've seen with some cameras. If you just pan slowly while filming, you're not likely to notice them much at all.

Nikon D3200: Rolling Shutter Artifacts
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 24 frames per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
MOV, Progressive, 60 frames per second
Download Original
640 x 424
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original

 

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