Nikon D3200


    Photo Review 8.8
    User Rating: 0/10 (0 votes cast)

    Thank you for rating!

    You have already rated this item, you can only rate it once!

    Your rating has been changed, thanks for rating!

    Log in or create a user account to rate.

    Nikon D3200

      In summary

      Buy this camera if:
       - You’re looking for a lightweight, high-resolution DSLR with good low light performance.
       - You want fast and accurate autofocusing.
       - You'd like a camera that can record still pictures while capturing video clips.
       - You’d like to be able to fit an external stereo microphone for video recordings.

      Don’t buy this camera if:
       - You make extensive use of bracketing.
       - You can't manage the large image files this camera produces. 

      Full review

      Although Nikon announced its D3200 entry-level DSLR back in April 2012, we didn't receive a review unit until early November, which is a pity as this camera is positioned to attract many buyers, coming as it does in a classy red as well as basic black. Ideal for photographers who want to step up from a digicam to a camera that provides better image quality plus creative features to explore, it will suit family photographers and travellers alike. Globally, it is Nikon's best-selling DSLR and the  low-cost leader in the line.

      The red version of the Nikon D3200 with the 18-55mm kit lens. (Source: Nikon.)

      The D3200 offers the highest resolution yet for an entry-level camera (24.2 megapixels) in a body that is relatively light for a DSLR and also quite compact. It also builds on the successful D3100 with the addition of Full HD video support, the option for Wi-Fi connectivity and a higher-resolution monitor screen.

      Like its predecessor, the D3200 comes with a simplified version of Nikon's Active D-Lighting function (you can only turn it on and off); it doesn't support bracketing and provides no custom functions. There's no built-in focusing motor so only AF-S lenses, which have built-in motors, will autofocus on this camera, along with Sigma HSM and Tamron or Tokina lenses. (Nikon has plenty of AF-S lenses so it's only an issue for buyers who want to use older Nikkor lenses.)

      Build and Ergonomics
       Essentially the design of the camera body hasn't changed since the D3100. Like its predecessor, the D3200 is small and light for a DSLR and has a largely polycarbonate body with a stainless steel F-mount that accepts DX Nikkor lenses. Build quality will meet expectations for Nikon buyers at this level.

      Nikon has brought back the IR remote sensor, which is embedded in the grip on the front panel as it was in the D300. On the rear panel, the live view switch has been separated from the movie button and is now enabled via a Lv button on the rear panel.

       

      Front, back and top views of the Nikon D3200 body in black with no lens fitted. (Source: Nikon.)

      A dedicated movie on-off button is situated on the top panel between the shutter button and the mode dial. New to the rear panel is a second IR receiver, which enables the camera to be operated remotely from the back via an optional remote controller. Another new addition is a 3.5 mm jack for an external microphone, a feature seldom found on entry-level cameras.

      This port also covers the HDMI port and a connector that accepts an optional GPS receiver module or a wired remote controller. The optional WU-1a Wi-Fi adapter connects via the USB/AV port in the side panel. A single, lift-up rubber cover on the left hand side panel protects all these ports and must remain open when any of them is in use.

      The viewfinder is essentially the same as on the D3100; it’s a penta-mirror (rather than a heavier and more robust pentaprism) with 95% field-of-view coverage, 0.8x magnification and an eyepoint of 18mm. Dioptric adjustment of -1.7 to +0.5 dpt is available via a knurled knob on the right hand side.

      The memory card has its own compartment in the right hand side panel, another up-market feature. The battery compartment is located within the grip moulding and accessed via a hinged, hard plastic cover on the base plate. Also on the base plate is a metal-lined tripod socket, which is in line with the lens axis.

      Like the D3100, the D3200's body is relatively compact, which may not suit users with large hands (although those with smaller hands and shorter fingers should find it comfortable to operate). The grip is generous and feels secure and most controls are easy to access.

      The mode dial is divided into two sections, with the P, A, S and M settings 'roped off' separately from the other modes, which are designed primarily for snapshooters. In addition to the 'green' Full Auto setting, there are six Scene pre-sets (portrait, landscape, child, sports, close up and night portrait) plus a flash-off setting for deliberately switching off the flash.

      Like the D3100, the new camera also provides a Guide mode, which enables novice users to adjust camera settings with the aid of an on-screen guide. Nikon has done some tweaking to this guide but essentially it simply replicates the options provided in the Scene pre-sets without providing much in the way of information about function like aperture and shutter speed control.

      The Scene pre-sets have also been tweaked and users can now over-ride some settings (such as AF area selection in Sports mode). In the P, A, S and M modes, adjustments to AF modes, ISO , white balance and metering are best made via the Info buttons and Shooting Information Display.

      Pressing the to Info button ( just behind the shutter release) toggles the Shooting Information Display on and off (the default setting is on). Press the back INFO button calls up an alternative screen with one setting highlighted. You can use the arrow pad to navigate to the function you wish to adjust. Most users will find this strategy quicker than diving into the menu.

      The Fn button just above the lens release button is essentially the same as the D3100's. You can program it to access one of the following functions: QUAL, ISO, WB or Active D-Lighting. Similarly, the  AE-L/AF-L button can be programmed to access both AE and AF lock or either function separately or work as an AE lock/hold function.
       
      Sensor and Image Processing
      The CMOS sensor in the D3200 is  a big step up from its predecessor. Widely regarded as the best sensor Nikon has so far included in a DX camera, it provides an effective resolution of 24.2 megapixels, compared with 14.2 megapixels in the D3100.

      We see a couple of issues with offering such high resolution in an entry-level camera. The first is that few users are likely to take full advantage of the resolution (and fewer still are likely to shoot raw files) and many could be overwhelmed by the amount of image data associated with even the smaller image sizes (see table below). The second is that few lenses can match the high performance of the sensor. (We'll explore the latter issue in the Performance section of this review.)

      Coupled to the sensor is a new EXPEED 3 image-processing engine, which is a refinement of earlier technologies. It provides faster processing to support video capture and includes noise-suppression for both stills and video recordings.

      Like its predecessor, the D3200 supports three sizes for JPEG files, each with three quality levels. NEF.RAW capture is provided at the largest file size (6016 x 4000 pixels) and RAW+JPEG capture enables raw files to be recorded with Large/Fine JPEGs. The table below shows typical file sizes and buffer capacities.

      Image Quality

      Image Size

      Pixels

      File Size

      Max. Burst

      JPEG

      Fine

      Large

      6016 x 4000

      11.9MB

      80 frames

      Medium

      7.4MB

      100 frames

      Small

      3.8MB

      Normal

      Large

      4512 x 3000

      6.2MB

      Medium

      3.7MB

      Small

      1.9MB

      Basic

      Large

      3008 x 2000

      3.0MB

      Medium

      1.9MB

      Small

      1.0MB

      NEF.RAW

      6016 x 4000

      20.4MB

      18 frames

      RAW+JPEG

      6016 x 4000

      31.9MB

      10 frames

      Live View and Video 
      Pressing the Live View button raises the reflex mirror, engaging live viewing and enabling video recording to take place. While the D3100 only supported live view in 30-second bursts, the D3200 appears to have no such restriction.

      Recordings are started and stopped by pressing the movie-record button. A recording indicator and the time available are overlaid on the monitor screen. You record in most shooting modes and set the lens aperture when shooting in A or M mode. Up to 3EV of exposure compensation is available in the P, A and S modes in steps of 1/3EV.

      The AF area mode should be selected from Face-priority, Wide-area, Normal-area or Subject-tracking before recording commences. The contrast-based AF system is slower than the phase-detection system used for shooting stills.

       If you're shooting in the Auto mode. the camera will automatically engage scene selection based on the following pre-sets: Portrait, Landscape, Close-up and Night Portrait. Metering defaults to the matrix pattern, regardless of which pattern is selected. ISO sensitivity and shutter speeds are adjusted automatically unless the camera is in M mode and Manual Movie settings are switched on in the menu.

       Four quality settings are supported for the PAL format used in Australia. Clips are limited to a maximum of 10 minutes and you can record monaural soundtracks or switch sound recording off. The table below shows the options available and maximum file sizes. (Unfortunately, Nikon doesn’t provide memory card recording capacities.)

      Movie resolution

      Frame rate

      Max. bit rate (High/Normal quality

      1920 x 1080

      30p

      24Mbps/12Mbps

      25p

      24p

      1280 x 720

      60p

      50p

      640 x 480

      30p

      5Mbps/3Mbps

      25p

      Each movie file can be up to 4GB in size or 20 minutes long, depending on the speed and capacity of the memory card. The camera includes Flicker reduction to minimise banding and distortion in movies shot under fluorescent, mercury vapour or sodium lights. No wind-reduction filter is available.

      The optional ME-1 stereo microphone can be plugged into the jack in the left side panel. It enables soundtracks to be recorded in stereo (instead of mono via the built-in microphone) and reduces the chances of camera noises being picked up in audio recordings.

      Playback and Software
      Nothing much has changed on either front since the D3100. Nikon’s bundled software has always been on the stingy side and, although the standard ViewNX2 has been updated it remains pretty basic and less powerful than the software provided by other manufacturers with their raw-enabled cameras.

      Performance
       The D3200 was supplied to us with the AF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G and AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G ED VR, both of which are kit lenses. We've already reviewed both of them and found they performed well on cameras with lower-resolution sensors.

      Initially we decided to base our Imatest testing for this review on the 18-55mm kit lens because it is the most likely lens to be purchased with the camera body.  However, when the results of our tests showed it failed to match the theoretical expectations for the D3200's image sensor, we re-ran the tests using the AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR lens, which was supplied with the D600.

      This lens is reviewed separately on both the D3200  and D600 bodies. Interestingly, while it delivered higher resolution than the kit lens, the differences between them weren't great, confirming that the sensor out-performs most of Nikon's DX lenses - including the three we had on hand during the review period.

      The 18-55mm lens was a reasonably good performer, delivering its highest resolution a stop or two down from the maximum aperture, with best performance coming from the 24mm focal length. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.

      Lateral chromatic aberration was negligible, as shown in the graph below, in which the red line marks the boundary between 'negligible' and 'low' CA.. This could be partly due to automatic corrections in the camera but, whatever the reason we found no instances of colored fringing in test shots.

       

      Resolution issues aside, subjective assessments of test shots showed them to be detailed and mostly colour accurate and provided a noticeable improvement on similar shots from the D3100. The dynamic range in shots taken in contrasty conditions with Auto D-Lighting enabled was also superior, although not quite as wide as the D600's (which has larger photosites).

      The default Standard  Picture Control setting delivered elevated saturation, particularly in reds and purples plus some shifts in greens; much the same as you would find from a compact digicam. The Natural setting was closer to 'real life' colour rendition and NEF.RAW files were very colour-accurate.

      Autofocusing was generally fast and accurate, provided subjects were in the centre of the frame. (The kit lens was a little slower to acquire focus than the AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR lens we used for some Imatest tests.)  We noticed a tendency for all lenses we used to hunt with off-centre subjects in low light levels. The longer zoom was more prone to hunting than the short one.

      The review camera showed a slight tendency to over-expose, which was easily corrected  with exposure compensation. This issue is complicated by the tendency of the monitor to brighten up in bright outdoor lighting, which compromises your ability to 'chimp' in order to check whether short are correctly exposed.

      At best, the resolution recorded in our Imatest tests on JPEG files fell a little below expectations for a 24-megapixel camera. With raw files, resolution was only just below expectations and we suspect you could obtain higher resolution with a professional quality lens.

      Resolution was maintained across almost all of the camera's sensitivity range, dipping slightly at ISO 1600 and declining steadily to the Hi 1 position, which is equivalent to ISO 12800. The graph below shows the results of our tests.
       

       
       Long exposures at night showed little noise up to ISO 3200, although noise could be seen at higher ISO settings. With such small photosites (3.8 microns square), it's not surprising the camera's performance doesn't match that of the D600. Luminance noise was evident in shadows at ISO 6400, while the Hi1 setting introduced colour shifts, while also softening details.

      Flash shots were slightly under-exposed at ISO 100 but evenly-exposed thereafter. Surprisingly little noise could be seen in shots taken with the Hi1 setting and normal contrast was maintained.

      The auto white balance setting failed to remove the warm cast of incandescent lighting and left a residual slight greenish hue in shots taken under fluorescent lighting with our standard tests. However, for everyday shooting in mixed lighting, the camera produced usable images under most conditions and plenty of in-camera adjustments are provided for correcting colour casts.

      Video quality was similar to other 1080p-capable, APS-C sensor DSLRs we have reviewed. In bright conditions, clips were well-exposed and moving subjects were recorded smoothly. We found few instances of the 'rolling shutter' effect that can occur with fast pans or subjects moving quickly across the frame.

      Autofocusing was slower in movie mode but exposure readjustment while zooming was pretty smooth and more likely to be accurate. Wind noise was common in clips recorded out-of-doors because there's no in-built filter to suppress it.

      We carried out our timing tests with a 32GB SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC U1 memory card. The review camera powered up in approximately half a second but shut down almost immediately.

      Shot-to-shot times in single-shot mode averaged 0.5 seconds without flash and 4.6 seconds with. We measured an average capture lag of 0.3 seconds, which was eliminated by pre-focusing. Each Large/Fine JPEG file took 0.8 seconds to process, while a NEF.RAW file took 1.3 seconds and  a RAW+JPEG pair took 1.9 seconds.

      In the high-speed continuous shooting mode, the camera recorded 10 Large/Fine JPEGs in 2.7 seconds, which is close to specifications. It took 2.9 seconds to process this burst. For NEF.RAW files, capture rates were marginally faster with 10 frames recorded in 2.6 seconds. It took 5.1 seconds to process this burst. Changing to RAW+JPEG the camera recorded 8 frame pairs in 2.1 seconds before pausing briefly. It took 13 seconds to process this burst.

      Buy this camera if:
       - You’re looking for a lightweight, high-resolution DSLR with good low light performance.
       - You want fast and accurate autofocusing.
       - You'd like a camera that can record still pictures while capturing video clips.
       - You’d like to be able to fit an external stereo microphone for video recordings.

      Don’t buy this camera if:
       - You make extensive use of bracketing.
       - You can't manage the large image files this camera produces. 

      SPECS

       Image sensor: 23.2 x 15.4 mm CMOS sensor with 24.7 million photosites (24.2 megapixels effective)
       Image processor: EXPEED 3
       A/D processing: 12-bit
       Lens mount: Nikon F mount (with AF contacts)
       Focal length crop factor: 1.5x
       Image formats: Stills – JPEG (Exif 2.3), NEF.RAW, RAW+JPEG; Movies – MOV (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC with Linear PCM audio)
       Image Sizes: Stills – 6012 x 4000, 4512 x 3000, 3008 x 2000; Movies: 1920 x 1080 at 30p, 25p, 24p; 1280 x 720 at 60p, 50p; 640 x 480 at 30p, 25p
       Image Stabilisation: Lens-based
       Dust removal: Vibration-based image sensor cleaning, Image Dust Off reference data (optional Capture NX 2 software required)
       Shutter speed range: 1/4000 to 30 seconds in steps of 1/3 EV plus Bulb and Time (requires optional ML-L3 remote control); flash synch at 1/200 second
       Exposure Compensation: +/-5EV in  increments of 1/3 EV
       Exposure bracketing: Not supported
       Self-timer: 2, 5, 10 and 20 second delays; 1 - 9 exposures
       Focus system: Nikon Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection, 11 focus points (including one cross-type sensor), and AF-assist illuminator (range approx. 0.5 - 3 m)
       Focus modes: Autofocus (AF): Single-servo AF (AF-S); continuous-servo AF (AF-C); auto AF-S/AF-C selection (AF-A); predictive focus tracking activated automatically according to subject status; Manual focus (MF): Electronic rangefinder can be used
       Exposure metering: TTL exposure metering using 420-pixel RGB sensor with Matrix, 3D colour matrix metering II (type G and D lenses); colour matrix metering II (other CPU lenses), Centre-weighted average and Spot (about 2.5% of frame) modes
       Shooting modes: Auto modes (auto; auto (flash off)); scene modes (portrait; landscape; child; sports; close up; night portrait); programmed auto with flexible program (P); shutter-priority auto (S); aperture-priority auto (A); manual (M)
       Picture Style/Control settings: Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, Landscape
       Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
       Custom functions: None
       ISO range: Auto, ISO 100 to 6400 in steps of 1 EV; expandable to ISO 12800 (equivalent)
       White balance: Auto, incandescent, fluorescent (7 types), direct sunlight, flash, cloudy, shade, preset manual, all except preset manual with fine-tuning
       Flash: Built-in TTL flash; GN 12 flash (m/ISO 100); Auto, auto with red-eye reduction, auto slow sync, auto slow sync with red-eye reduction, fill-flash, red-eye reduction, slow sync, slow sync with red-eye reduction, rear-curtain with slow sync, rear-curtain sync and off  modes
       Flash exposure adjustment: -3 to +1 EV in increments of 1/3 EV
       Sequence shooting: Up to 4 fps (manual focus, mode M or S, shutter speed 1/250 s or faster, and other settings at default values)
       Storage Media: Single slot for SD and UHS-I compliant SDHC and SDXC memory cards
       Viewfinder:  Eye-level pentamirror with approx. 95% FOV coverage, 18mm eyepoint, Approx. 0.8 x magnification; -1.7 to  +0.5 dioptre adjustment
       LCD monitor: 3-inch TFT LCD with  approx. 921,000 dots; 160° viewing angle, approx. 100% frame coverage and brightness adjustment
       Live View AF modes: Face-priority AF, wide-area AF, normal-area AF, subject-tracking AF
      Data LCD: No
      Playback functions: Full-frame and thumbnail (4, 9, or 72 images or calendar) playback with playback zoom, movie playback, photo and/or movie slide shows, histogram display, highlights, auto image rotation, and image comment (up to 36 characters)
      Interface terminals: USO 2.0, HDMI (Type C Mini), Video: PAL/NTSC; 3.5mm diameter stereo mini-pin jack; Remote cord: MC-DC2 (available separately) GPS unit: GP-1 (available separately)
      Power supply: EN-EL14  rechargeable lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 540 shots/charge 
      Dimensions (wxhxd): Approx. 125 x 96 x 76.5 mm
      Weight: Approx. 455 grams (camera body only)

      RRP: A$829, US$696.95 with 18-55mm kit lens (as reviewed)
       Distributor: Nikon Australia; 1300 366 499; www.nikon.com.au 

      TESTS

       JPEG images

       
      Raw images converted with  Adobe Camera Raw 6.3.

       

       

       

      SAMPLES

       
       

      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.

      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.

      30-second exposure at ISO 100; 22mm focal length, f/4..

      15-second exposure at ISO 1600; 22mm focal length, f/5.6.
       
       

      2-second exposure at ISO 6400; 22mm focal length, f/5.6.
       
       

      1-second exposure at Hi1 (ISO 12800); 22mm focal length, f/5.6.
       
       

      Flash at ISO 100; 1/60 second at f/5.6; 55mm focal length.
       
       

      Flash at ISO 1600; 1/60 second at f/5.6; 55mm focal length.
       
       

      Flash at ISO 6400; 1/60 second at f/8; 55mm focal length.
       
       

      Flash at Hi1 (ISO 25600); 1/60 second at f/10; 55mm focal length.
       
       

      18mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/11.
       
       

      55mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/11.
       
       

      55mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/640 second at f/8.
       
       

      35mm focal length, ISO 180, 1/125 second at f/5.6.
       
       

      55mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/1250 second at f/5.6.
       
       

      35mm focal length, ISO 1600, 1/10 second at f/5.
       
       

      45mm focal length, ISO 640, 1/80 second at f/5.6.
       
       The following images were shot with the AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G ED VR lens.
       
       

      68mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/250 second at f/11.
       
       

      98mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/1500 second at f/7.1.
       
       

      300mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/1000 second at f/11.
       
       

      Strong backlighting with Auto D-Lighting;
       
       
       

      Still frame from Full HD video clip.
       
       

      Still frame from HD video clip.
       
       

      Still frame from VGA video clip.

      Rating

      RRP: A$829, US$696.95 with 18-55mm kit lens (as reviewed)

      • Build: 8.5
      • Ease of use: 9.0
      • Autofocusing: 8.8
      • Still image quality JPEG: 8.5
      • Still image quality RAW: 8.8
      • Video quality: 8.5

      BUY

        No