Nikon D3200 Review

Friday, April 20, 2012

Camera Review
Introduction | Nikon D3200 Preview | Nikon D3200 Sensor performance | Nikon D3200 versus competition | Conclusion
Nikon D3200

24-megapixel CMOS APS-C sensor

Nikon endowed the D3200 with the 24-megapixel CMOS APS-C sensor that had already created a buzz with the Sony NEX-7, SLT-A77, and SLT-A65. Thus Nikon has created an advanced if still entry-level reflex camera that puts a high-definition APS-C sensor into the hands of amateurs for family use (or perhaps into more expert hands on a tight budget).

According to Nikon, the D3200’s 24-Mpix sensor is not exactly the same as found in Sony cameras, but rather one that has been revised according to Nikon’s specifications. We know that Nikon has quite consistently obtained better signal results from Sony sensors than the sensor manufacturer has been able to achieve with its own Sony cameras (see the performance of the Nikon D7000 vs Sony Alpha 580, for example). We do wonder, however, if users will be able to take full advantage of the greater resolution because of the kit lens Nikon has chosen to supply (i.e., the AF-S DX 18-55mm VR). However, judging from the first images that Nikon has produced, the gain in resolution appears to be striking. We are anxious to measure the D3200 against its predecessor, yes, but we’re even more impatient to see how it performs against the famous 16-megapixel sensor of the Nikon D5100.

Finally, with its sound modern design, the D3200’s sensor can be pushed from 200 to 6400 ISO (extendable to 12,800 ISO).

EXPEED 3 upgrade

How can an amateur digital camera digest 24Mpix files? The answer is obvious: by integrating one of the latest generation processors found in professional cameras, the EXPEED 3 — the same processor that reigns supreme in the Nikon D800. The new processor boosts the D3200’s signal processing speed (noise reduction, demosaicing, application renderings, etc.), as well as improves the exposure metering, scene recognition (retaining the small 420-pixel RGB sensor), and the autofocus delay (same 11-collimator module as the D3100). One has every reason to expect a much better performance in real-time autofocus in video mode.

And thanks to its EXPEED 3 processor, despite its 24Mpix sensor, the D3200’s burst shooting speed increases to 4 i/s (vs 3 i/s for its older sibling).

More advanced video mode

The D3200’s video mode has been enhanced by the ability to turn off certain automatic functions: now it can be used in aperture priority mode or in completely manual mode. Even though it’s still not possible to change the aperture on the fly (being a mechanical shutter and all), clearly Nikon took videographers’ needs into account. Similarly, the D3200’s Full HD video rate can stay at 24p as with the D3100, but it also shoots at 25p and 30p. Finally, the D3200 moves into the ranks of the HDSLRs, thanks to the addition of a microphone jack.

Viewfinder and screen

The D3200 retains same small optical viewfinder as the D3100. A bit skimpy, coverage still in need of improvement... but cheap and compact. The D3200 is still an inexpensive camera and the viewfinder makes that abundantly clear. However, Nikon grafted the same 3-inch / 920,000-point touchscreen found on its pro cameras this year onto the D3200, including the resin layer that displaces air and mitigates reflections. The screen is, however, immobile, Nikon having reserved the articulated screen for its D5100 model (for which we can certainly envision a version D5200 with a 24-megapixel sensor — but we digress). The D5100 is certainly going to suffer from the appearance of the D3200 on the market.

V3 Guide: graphics

More versatile than the D3100 with which it will cohabitate, the D3200 can be used in more advanced photographic situations. But its principal vocation will still be as a camera for use by amateurs (shooting family events, recreation, leisure, etc.), and for this specific audience, Nikon has revised its instructional guide and judiciously replaced the textual explanations with narrative images that illustrate the effects that a beginning photographer would want to achieve.

Connectivity and Wi-Fi WU-1a module

The Nikon D3200 comes with a microphone input, a new USB/Audio-video port, an HDMI-CEC connector to enable controlling the camera using one’s TV remote control, and a plug for a Nikon GP-1 GPS module. The most important new feature in terms of connectivity is that the D3200 will be sold with a small Wi-Fi module the size of a sugar cube, the WU-1a. This connects via the USB port and allows the D3200 to connect to a WiFi network or to automatically upload photos to a smartphone (with the resolution set upstream). An Android application will also allow users to remotely control the D3200 with their smartphones — both setting the parameters of their shots and shooting. Compatibility with iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch) should follow.

Price and availability

The Nikon D3200 will start to appear on the market at the end of May or beginning of June, just in time for the peak of summer season shopping. The D3200 will be sold in a kit with an AF-S Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR lens at a price of 699 euros. The extra cost of the D3200 with respect to the D3100 will be around 200 euros. The D3100 will also see its price drop — sold in a kit with the same lens at 499 euros.

The Nikon D5100 goes for 649 euros today, but its price could drop as well.

Main technical features of the Nikon D3200

  • CMOS APS-C sensor (24.2 effective megapixels)
  • 200 to 6400 ISO sensitivity (extendable to 12,800 ISO)
  • 11-point autofocus
  • Color matrix meter II (420-pixel RGB sensor)
  • DIGIC 3 processor
  • 12-bit RAW sampling
  • Shutter speed: 30 to 1/4000s
  • Burst speed: 4 i/s (if shutter speed is > 1/250s)
  • Video mode: 1080/30p, 25p, 24p with manual exposure at full-time AF
  • Audio input (Linear PCM recording)
  • Integrated flash: guide number 12, i-TTL
  • Viewfinder: pentamirror, 95% coverage, 0.8x magnification, 18mm eyepoint
  • 3-inch / 921,000-point antireflective screen