Nikon D3200 Review
The D3200 is Nikon's latest entry-level DSLR camera which brings full 1080p HDTV video recording with autofocus to DSLRs. This is a relatively compact digital SLR camera with a 24 megapixels sensor, a Nikon electronic-only lens mount and most features usually found among such entry-level cameras.
The Nikon D3200 is targeted at people upgrading from a fixed-lens camera that do not want to lose video functionality while obtaining image quality and performance benefits of a basic DSLR. As such, the D3200 is also designed to be an introduction to Nikon DSLRs, with classic Nikon styling, reputable build quality and an interface which would be familiar to most Nikon owners.
This detailed digital camera review takes a close look at the Nikon D3200's features, ergonomics, usability, image quality, performance, photographic controls and all-new video recording features.
Nikon D3200 Key Features
- 24 Megapixels resolution
- ASP-C sensor-size, 1.5X crop-factor
- Automatic and selectable ISO from 100 to 12800.
- 1/4000s to 30s shutter-speeds, plus Bulb mode
- Metering modes: multi-segment, center-weighed and spot
- Standard PASM full manual controls, including Program-Shift
- Fully automatic mode and 7 additional scene modes
- Exposure compensation: ±5 EV in 1/3 EV steps
- Flash compensation: -3..+1 in 1/3 EV steps
- Flash modes: Normal, Redeye, Slow, Slow with redeye and Rear-Curtain sync
- Automatic and preset White-Balance, all fine-tunable along 2 axis in 13 steps
- 7 sub-types of fluorescent white-balanceSodium-Vapor, Warm White, White, Cool White, Day White, Daylight and Mercury Vapor.
- Custom white-balance using immediate capture or reference image
- Single-shot, Continuous & Manual focus
- 11-point auto-focus system
- Unlimited 4 fps continuous drive mode
- 2s, 5s, 10s or 20s self-timers, 1-9 shots
- Front & back IR remote receivers
- 95% coverage viewfinder with 0.8X magnification
- 3” LCD 920K Pixels
- Partial Live-View with Subject Tracking and Face-Detect autofocus
- Image review with magnification and luminance histogram
- Built-in flash and hot-shoe
- 1920x1080 @ 30 FPS 1080p HD video recording
- Contrast detect autofocus available during HD video recording
- Mini-Jack stereo audio input
- Auto-Exposure/Auto-Focus Lock button, selectable AEL & AFL, AEL, AFL, AEL Hold and AF On function
- Customizable sharpness, contrast, brightness, saturation and hue
- Customizable function button
- JPEG and RAW modes
- Rangefinder manual focus assist
- Adaptive D-Lighting for high-contrast situations
- Hardware dust-reduction
- Lithium-ion battery
- SDXC memory support
NOTE The Nikon D3200 is extremely similar in ergonomics and features to the D3100, large portions of this review are taken from the Nikon D3100
Nikon D3100 review. For image quality and performance, go directly to page 3. The differences between these models are highlighted in the text above and below for those who wish to know.
Suitability - What is it good for?
The Nikon D3200 is a simple DSLR, yet it is versatile due to its selection of lenses, wide ISO range and full manual controls. It is suitable for most photographic subjects, although it is not ideal for action photography due to its limited speed continuous-drive. The Nikon D3200 is fully compatible with Nikon lenses with built-in focus-motors and Nikon Speedlights. See Nikon and third-party lenses with built-in super-sonic motors to view compatible models.
This DSLR can record 1080p HD video. It is one among a few which can autofocus while filming. It does so using the same Contrast-Detect AF used in Live-View, just like the D3100 which introduced that feature. It provides standard continuous autofocus as well as single-shot autofocus which can be activated on-demand during video recording. No need to emphasize this much since quality videos should be focused manually.
For specific photographic subjects, lens versatility is quite important. The Nikon lens lineup covers a wide variety of focal-lengths from the ultra-wide to the super telephoto. Most - if not all - 3rd party manufacturers produce lenses for Nikon mounts too. With Nikon, image stabilization is provided by VR (Vibration Reduction) lenses which is not available on all lenses.
Being one of the smallest DSLRs currently available, the D3200 brings more discretion than is afforded by a typical DSLR camera. While this is a feature that professionals can appreciate, the D3200 is not made for changing settings quickly and often. Advanced users should also note the lack of features such as bracketing, depth-of-field preview and critical customization.
Capability - What can it do?
As noted in the introduction, the Nikon D3200 has all basic DSLR capabilities. It also has a built-in dust-reduction mechanism which is now standard. This Nikon DSLR features a lens mount with no mechanical coupling for driving non-CPU auto focus lenses.
This limits the D3200's choice of lenses to recent Nikon and third-party offerings. Lenses using a mechanical coupling still work but only in Manual Focus mode. The D3200 includes a Rangefinder indicator to help focus manually. This mode swaps the exposure indicator in the viewfinder with a focus direction indicator.
The Nikon D3200's power-switch surrounds the shutter-release and works in the most obvious way. The shutter-release on this DSLR is a standard 2-stage release with a distinct halfway point. By default, pressing the shutter-release halfway locks focus but not exposure. There is an option to enable exposure-locking on the half-press.
There is a combined AE-L/AF-L button which can be set to lock both exposure and focus, to lock either focus or exposure, to lock and hold exposure or to activate the auto focus Setting this button to trigger auto focus has the unexpected side-effect of disabling AF activation when pressing the shutter-release halfway. For people who like to be able to lock focus and exposure independently and to lock both without changing settings, you must set the AE-L/AF-L function to AE-L Only and lock exposure first when desired.
Exposure modes on the Nikon D3200 are controlled by a typical mode-dial. The available modes include the four ubiquitous exposure modes: program (P), shutter-priority (S), aperture-priority (A) and full manual (M) mode. In Manual mode, the shutter-speed selection includes a Bulb mode that keeps the shutter open as long as the shutter-release is pressed. The mode-dial also includes 7 scene modes and an Auto mode.
The Auto mode almost completely automatic. Specifically, only 3 flash modes are available and focus modes are limited to AF-A and MF. Auto mode disables ISO settings, white-balance, exposure-compensation, flash-compensation, program-shift, metering options and image parameters. This is more limited than on the D3000.
The Auto-ISO behavior of the D3200 is a little strange, except in Scene-Modes where it behaves as usual. Users normally select between Auto and a set sensitivity. The camera then honors the selected ISO or, in the case of Auto-ISO, selects an appropriate ISO for the subject. With the D3200, normal metering modes require a specific ISO to be chosen. The selected ISO is honored when the Auto ISO option is set to OFF in the Camera Settings menu. Otherwise, the selected ISO becomes the default and the camera is free to choose a different ISO.
The Nikon D3200 has detailed control over white-balance including automatic white-balance, preset white-balanceIncandescent, Fluorescent, Sunlight, Flash, Cloudy and Shade., and custom white-balance. All white-balance options except custom white-balance can be fine-tuned in 13-steps from magenta to green and blue to amber. There is a single custom white-balance register which can be set by taking a picture of a white object or by using an existing picture as reference.
Exposure compensation can be adjusted in 1/3 EV increments using the exposure compensation button combined with the command dial. The range of exposure compensation is -5 to +5. This is more range than most digital cameras. Exposure steps are always fixed at 1/3 EV though. It would be really nice if 1/2 EV steps were allowed too since they produce distinct aperture and shutter-speed choices. However, this is the sort of price to pay which is expected from an entry-level DSLR.
Next to the EC button is the Info button. This one invokes or dismisses the status screen. It also appears when touching certain buttons like EC. This is unfortunate as it adds glare right bellow your eye when composing a photograph. In Live-View mode, the Info button cycles through different display modes. The Status screen itself is well-designed and navigatable. Just press the the lower-left button to activate navigation and use the 4-way controller to operate the screen. The same options are much longer to change through the normal menu. The placement of this button is a prime location, so its too bad it cannot control ISO instead.
Active D-Lighting is Nikon's automatic image contrast correction feature. This feature brightens darker areas to produce a less contrasty image. For high contrast scenes this can produce an image with more detail while adding noise to shadows. Low contrast scenes are generally unaffected by D-Lighting. Medium contrast scenes are a little hit-or-miss with Active D-Lighting because they lose their punch when the contrast is reduced.
This Nikon supports standard drive modesSingle, continuous and self-timer., plus an instant and delayed remote trigger and quiet shutter. Thse modes are set by pressing the Drive mode button and selecting on of the options from the list that appears. In continuous drive mode, the D3200 can shoot an unlimited number of JPEGs at 4 FPS. The self-timer is flexible. It supports a 2, 5, 10 or 20 second delay and can trigger from 1 to 9 shots consecutively. Too bad the thing resets after each use.
The Nikon D3200 supports JPEG and RAW images. JPEG images are available in 3 quality levels. There are also 3 image sizes available. A combined JPEG+RAW mode is also selectable and always produces basic JPEG files. The sensor is protected by a moving plate which serves to shake off dust, slowing its accumulation. While we have not measured its efficiency, these systems are never not 100% effective and they only remove light dust-particles. Any significantly stuck particle requires manual cleaning.
Nikon D3200 Facts
Sensor-Size: 24 x 16mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|24 Megapixels DSLR||ISO 100-12800|
|Nikon F Mount|
|Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|Built-in Dust Reduction||Custom white-balance|
|4 FPS Drive, 100 Images||Spot-Metering|
|1920x1080 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Hot-Shoe|
|3" LCD 920K Pixels||Stereo audio input|
|Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
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