Nikon D3200 Optics

Kit Lens Test Results

Fair performance with the 18-55mm VR kit lens.

18mm, f/8 55mm, f/8

The Nikon D3200 comes bundled with the same Nikkor AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR (Vibration Reduction) kit lens the D3100 did. This 3.1x zoom lens has a 35mm equivalent focal length of about 27-83mm because of the D3200's 1.5x "crop factor." Sharpness and contrast are fairly good across much of the frame at full wide-angle and f/8, though images are a touch soft overall. There's minor coma distortion in the leaves at the corners and some flare is noticeable in white areas of the building, though chromatic aberration isn't an issue because it is suppressed by the D3200's image processor (see below). Results at full telephoto are fair at f/8, with good sharpness near the center of the frame. Corners are a little soft and you can see where the D3200's processor has suppressed C.A. in the edges of some leaves, while some flare is still visible. Overall, not a bad performance for an inexpensive kit lens, but you'll likely want to invest in premium glass to get the most out of the D3200's 24-megapixel sensor.

An average-sized macro area with the kit lens, with soft detail overall. Flash throttles down well.

Macro with 18-55mm Kit Lens
55mm, f/8
Macro with Flash
55mm, f/8

The Nikon D3200 captured an average-sized macro area with the standard 18-55mm kit lens, measuring 2.46 x 1.63 inches (62 x 42 millimeters). Detail is good but a touch soft, and there is some minor additional softening in the corners despite being stopped down to f/8. (Most lenses have some softening in the corners at macro distances.) The Nikon D3200's flash throttled down well at minimum distance, resulting in a well exposed image with fairly even coverage, though color balance is somewhat cool.

Geometric Distortion
High barrel distortion at wide-angle with the 18-55mm kit lens, though hardly any distortion at telephoto.

Barrel distortion is 1.2 percent at 18mm
Almost no pincushion distortion at 55mm

The Nikon D3200's 18-55mm kit lens produced about 1.2 percent barrel distortion at wide-angle, which is higher than average and noticeable in its images. At the telephoto end, there is only about two pixels worth of pincushion distortion which is negligible. This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel -- usually at wide-angle) or inward (like a pincushion -- usually at telephoto).

Auto Distortion Control
Low geometric distortion when Auto Distortion Control is enabled.

Barrel distortion at 18mm is 0.2 percent

The Nikon D3200 offers an Auto Distortion Control feature to reduce geometric distortion automatically with most recent Nikkor lenses. As you can see it worked quite well with the 18-55mm lens, reducing barrel distortion at wide-angle significantly, though some of the image was cropped away in the process. (Since distortion at telephoto was so low without correction, we didn't bother testing Distortion Correction at full telephoto.) Since this option is database driven, it's only available for Nikkor D and G-type lenses with certain optics such as Fisheye and Perspective Control lenses excepted. Auto Distortion Control is Off by default.

You can also apply Auto or Manual Distortion Control to JPEGs after the fact, in the Retouch menu. Manual mode works with images from any lens.

Chromatic Aberration and Corner Sharpness
Low C.A. in JPEGs, much higher in uncorrected RAW files at wide-angle. Corners are soft at wide-angle and telephoto with the kit lens.

Maximum Aperture
Wide, f/3.5: Upper right
C.A.: Moderately low
Softness: Soft
Wide, f/3.5: Center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Fairly sharp
Tele, f/5.6: Upper right
C.A.: Low
Softness: Quite soft
Tele, f/5.6: Center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Slightly soft

Chromatic Aberration. Chromatic aberration is moderately low at the full wide-angle setting of the Nikon D3200's 18-55mm VR kit lens, suppressed by the D3200's image processor. (See below for crops from uncorrected raw files.) At telephoto, chromatic aberration is even lower and hardly detectable. (This distortion is visible as a slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

Corner Sharpness. The Nikon D3200's 18-55mm VR kit lens produced soft corners at full wide-angle. All four corners were moderately soft at wide-angle, with some of the softness likely stemming from C.A. suppression. Softness didn't extend very far in the frames, though, and the center was fairly sharp. At full telephoto, all four corners were also soft, with the upper right being the softest, but the lens is softer overall at telephoto than at wide-angle. There's also some vignetting (corner shading) at both ends of the zoom, as indicated by the darker corner crops.

f/8 Aperture
Wide, f/8: Upper right
C.A.: Moderately low
Softness: Minor blurring
Wide, f/8: Center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Fairly sharp
Tele, f/8: Upper right
C.A.: Low
Softness: Soft
Tele, f/8: Center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Slightly soft

Stopped-down to an aperture of f/8, corner performance did improve particularly at wide-angle, but corners were still somewhat soft at telephoto, and the center was slightly soft at telephoto as well. Vignetting was negligible.

Uncorrected Raw
Higher levels of C.A. at wide-angle and telephoto from uncorrected raw files.

In-camera JPEG Uncorrected Raw
Wide: Upper left
C.A.: Low
Wide: Upper left
C.A.: High
Tele: Upper left
C.A.: Low
Tele: Upper left
C.A.: Fairly low

As you can see from the crops above comparing camera JPEGs to uncorrected raw files, levels of chromatic aberration are higher in uncorrected raw files, particularly at wide-angle.


Nikon D3200 Viewfinder


Viewfinder Test Results

About average coverage accuracy from the optical viewfinder. Excellent accuracy from the LCD in Live View mode.

60mm, Optical
60mm, Live View LCD

The Nikon D3200's optical viewfinder showed about 96 percent coverage with our reference Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 macro lens. This is a bit better than average for an entry-level digital SLR and slightly exceeds Nikon's specification of 95% for the D3200, however the viewfinder image is shifted horizontally somewhat and slightly tilted compared to the imaging sensor, which unfortunately is not that uncommon in consumer models. In Live View mode, the Nikon D3200's LCD showed essentially 100% coverage, which is excellent.


The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Nikon D3200 Photo Gallery .

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