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Review: Nikon D3200

by G Servo on 07/31/2012

This is the Nikon D3200 and initially, I did not like it. The camera, though, turned out to be better than I thought. The update to the D3100, the D3200 is the new entry level Nikon. It is not bad. In terms of practicality, it does everything it needs to at a decent price. Under the hood, an updated sensor makes the camera shine. Despite not warming up to the camera initially, it grew on me. There were enough improvements from its predecessor, but like the Nikon D800, I think its marketed wrong and should have another name.

 Gear Used

 Tech Specs

Tech Specs pulled from the B&H Photo listing.

Imaging
Camera Type Digital SLR with Interchangeable lenses
Lens Mount Nikon F
Camera Format DX / (1.5x Crop Factor)
Resolution Actual Pixels: 24.2 Megapixels
Max Resolution: 24.2 MP: 6016 x 4000
Aspect Ratio 3:2
Sensor Type / Size CMOS, 23.2 x 15.4 mm
File Formats Still Images: JPEG, RAW
Movies: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, MOV
Audio: Linear PCM
Memory Card Type SD
SDHC
SDXC
Focus Control
Focus Type Auto & Manual
Focus Mode Single-servo AF (S), Continuous-servo AF (C), Manual Focus (M) , Focus Lock AF Area Mode
Autofocus Points 11
Viewfinder/Display
Viewfinder Type Pentamirror, LCD Display
Viewfinder Coverage 95%
Viewfinder Magnification Approx. 0.8x
Diopter Adjustment - -1.7 to +0.5 m
Display Screen 3.0″ Rear Screen   LCD (921000)
Screen Coverage 100%
Live View Yes
Exposure Control
ISO Sensitivity 100-6400 (High Sensitivity Mode: 100-12800)
Shutter Type: Electronic
Speed: 1/4000 – 30 sec
Remote Control ML-L3 (Optional)
Metering Method Spot metering, Center-weighted average metering, 3D Color Matrix Metering
Exposure Modes Modes: Aperture Priority, Auto, Manual, Programmed Auto, Shutter Priority
Compensation: -5 EV to +5 EV (in 1/3 EV steps)
White Balance Modes Auto, Cloudy, Daylight, Flash, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Preset Manual, Shade
Flash
Built-in Flash Yes: Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Off, Second-curtain Sync, Slow Sync, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction
Max Sync Speed 1 / 200 sec
Continuous Shooting Up to 4 fps
Dedicated Flash System iTTL
External Flash Connection Hot Shoe
AV Recording
Video Recording Yes, NTSC/PAL
Audio Recording With Video, Stereo, Via Optional External Mic
Performance
In-Camera Image Editing Color Balance, Color Outline, Distortion Control, Edit Movie, Filter Effects, Fisheye, Image Overlay, Miniature Effect, Monochrome, NEF (RAW) Processing, Perspective Control, Quick Retouch, Red-eye Correction, Straighten, Trim
Self Timer 2 sec, 5 sec, 10 sec, 20 sec
Connectivity HDMI C (Mini), USB 2.0
Wi-Fi Capable (With Optional Transmitter) Yes
Power
Battery 1x EN-EL14  Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack, 7.4VDC, 1030mAh
AC Power Adapter EH-5b (Optional)
Operating/Storage Temperature Operating
32 to 104 °F (0 to 40 °C)
Physical
Dimensions (WxHxD) 5.0 x 3.8 x 3.1″ / 12.70 x 9.65 x 7.87 cm
Weight 1.0 lb / 0.45 kg
Kit Lens
Focal Length 18 – 55 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/3.5 – 5.6
Minimum: f/22 – 36
Angle of View 76° – 28°
Minimum Focus Distance 0.92′ (0.28 m)
Magnification 3x
Maximum Reproduction Ratio 1:3.2
Groups/Elements 8/11
Diaphragm Blades 7
Autofocus Yes
Image Stabilization Yes
Filter Thread 52 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 2.87 x 3.13″ (73 x 79.5 mm)
Weight 9.52 oz (0.27 kg)

 

Ergonomics

The grip says look at me and hold me. There is nothing much that has changed from the D3100. It is one of those moments where if it is not broke, do not fix it.

The buttons are nicely placed, easy to figure out and well spaced. I still wish they would put a dial in front to make manual shooting easier. I hate having to press a button to go between shutter speed and aperture

Here though you can see the dial for the different shooting modes. Additionally, the Info button, video record button, exposure compensation button, shutter release/power switch are all here.

.

The back buttons are minimalistic at best and in good spots for an entry-level camera. The back finger grip is very small though.

Here there are full controls that will be more familiar to users of the higher end Nikon cameras. The drive button, directional functionality buttons, live view, and trash buttons are all on the right. If you’re in one of the more automatic traditional modes, you can also utilize the back focus/expose button.

The left of the screen houses the playback button, menu button, zoom in button, zoom out button, and Nikon’s other quick info button.

The microphone is placed away from your hand, so it is not covered by accident.

There is a microphone input as well as the usual connectors on the left of the camera.

The connectors are all well spaced. Basically it is a simple, clean, and functional design.

Ease of Use

The camera was very easy to use. With the D3200 being an entry-level camera, I would expect no less. Primarily most setting could be controlled by hitting the info butting and you really never had to go into the menus. Making changes were easy, if you wanted to leave the auto settings on, the learning curve was not steep at all

The secondary info menu let you change things like image quality, metering, and your auto focus area. It was very easy to use.

The “Guide Mode” is very useful for those really new to photography. It’s also a good way to learn the camera.

The standard menus are basic and do whats needed. I wish Nikon would update their user interface.

The image views have not change much at all. Nikon decided to play off the the, “if its not broke, don’t fix it” mentality.

Autofocus


This was much of the same. It has an 11 point system like the one present in the D3100. It worked well. At night, the autofocus hunted a little no matter which lens I used. Using a lens that had a screw type auto focus or was manual, the focus assist worked well. I had no issues with the autofocus over all. The camera has AF, A (auto), S (single) and C (continuous).The AF-A setting, which is the default of the camera, was fine. I never felt the need to change. The Single point focus and dynamic area was fine, worked, as it should. The Auto area picked subjects nicely. I somehow expected it to be better. With the better sensor, the D3200 could use a better auto focus in my opinion.

Image Quality

The image quality from the Nikon D3200 was fantastic. Image files were nice and big. The images had a lot of detail. The color was nice when the image was properly exposed. The bokeh was smooth. The sensor dealt with depth of field nicely. The 24 megapixel really shines, building it bigger really paid off.

High ISO

ISO-800

I must admit, I was not that impressed here. After shooting with the Pentax K-01, I rather expected the D3200 to perform better, but it did not. It was not bad, though, up to ISO 1600 and 6400 was usable.

ISO-1600

The image is usable and light room could easily clean this up.

ISO-6400

Noisy but not too bad.

ISO-12800

There is a lot of noise here but its still not too bad. The image can be used.

Metering

The D3200 metered light very well. It was spot on most of the time, especially in matrix metering. Center weighted metering worked, as it should. In low light, the camera seemed to work best with matrix metering.

Compared

From the D3200

Compared to the D3100, on the outside, it is mostly the same. The menus are mostly the same. The sensor is want really makes the difference, as well as the improvements in video. Taking this camera, putting it side by side to my D700 all using the 50 1.8g, the images are clear, and not bad.

From D700 in DX mode

It does not always matter about the sensor, it’s like painting, you can have the best canvas is the world, but if your paint and brushes are crap you might not get the best results. Over all the D3200 is very good.

Style

This camera worked well for every style. Shooting macro with the Nikon 40mm yielded nicely details images.

Portraits were effortless and face detection worked very well.

Product images came out nice and any small business owner who had to do their own product photography could use this camera with ease. The resolution on the camera is nice. It brings out decent details.

Food photography worked well because of the camera size. It could easily be put away. The Nikon D3200 did not take up a lot of room.

Landscapes and photo walking were cool because the camera is light, nimble and walking long distances with it was easy.

Continuous Shooting

The camera would ban out the shots as fast as it could. 4 fps is decent and it good for most quick action shots. Getting fireworks or kids for the matter is easy.

Flash

The Nikon D3200 comes with a decent popup flash and a standard ISO hot shoe. Compatible with the Nikon creative lighting system , it is pretty much the same as the D3100. Its basic and I do recommend a Garry Fong puffer with it. If you are a student and want to learn how to use a flash like the SB700 or any of the available flash out there, this camera will not let you down.

Shooting video

There is a simple fact. The video on the Nikon D3200 is simple and clean for consumer use. I would recommend a microphone with it though. I played with a zoom lens and the camera maintains focus.

Issues

The files are nice and big shooting in raw, luckily, it does not matter much though, and most people using the camera will be shooting in JPEG. The D3200 gets warm heavy shooting and video. It does not burn your hands,however  it is noticeable. The manual setting bars, seemed backwards, but that is only and issue because I have used many Nikon DSLRs, to most beginners this will not be an issue.

Who is it for?

Nikon missed the marketing mark with this camera. It, basically, should have been “Meet the D 3200 the new Nikon EM. Ultra easy to use, compact and friendly to small hands.  It transforms the DSLR experience to an easy one while maintaining standard DSLR options.” That is how this camera should have been marketed. I put the D3200 in my brides hand and she thought it was great. This camera is great for beginners actually, while the controls are not that easy at times, using the camera a lot, they will become second nature. Parents, who want the feel of a DSLR and never really plan on taking out of auto, will really find this camera appealing.

Anyone can take good pictures with D3200. It is very easy. The images do get better with experience though. If this camera were in the hand of other Phoblographer staff members like Chris or Sander, the images would probably be 10xs better due to their richer experience in photography. Therefore, if a more seasoned photographer wants an easy small secondary camera, it is a decent choice. Lenses from your other Nikon DSLR, this can work for you.

Nikon 1 or D3200 for Consumer Use?

I would choose the D3200 over the Nikon 1 any day. It is cheaper, not too much bigger. It also has a better sensor. Moreover, it can use a good amount of older Nikon lenses without an adapter. If a person is willing to focus manually, there is a huge amount of used lenses available.

In the end

I did meet this camera with cynicism at first. The Nikon D3200 is an ascetically interesting camera. The camera sensor was a nice improvement. The camera was decent over all. The new Nikon EM I mean D3200 is a great learning tool or an easy camera for parents and families. If I were a student, I would want to buy a D3100 instead, use the balance towards a prime lens like the Nikon 50mm f1.8g or the Nikon 35mm f1.8g.It does take pictures. It is light, nimble, and versatile and does a great job. The Nikon D3200 does transform the DSLR experience to an easy one for most while maintaining standard DSLR options.

 

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