Nikon D3200 Review

Friday April 20 2012

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

An entry-level DSLR, the Nikon D3200 is an atypical camera. While based on the D3100, it integrates a sensor that is notable for its 24-megapixel resolution — the APS-C sensor with the best resolution on the market. It also comes with some of the same features found in Sony’s expert lines, for example, the SLT-A77 translucent mirror camera and the NEX-7 compact hybrid. Compact and light-weight, the Nikon D3200 is built for family and travel photography. It can film in full HD video, a mode that comes with "Full-Time" autofocus as well as the possibility to manually manage exposure. Its APS-C sensor makes it ideal for use with Nikon DX lenses, while still compatible with FX full-frame lenses (with a crop coefficient of 1.5x), but challenging because of its high resolution sensor.

Specifics

  • 24 Mpix APS-C sensor (with the best resolution on the market — maximum resolution: 6080 x 4012)
  • ISO range: 100–12800
  • FPS: 4
  • Full HD video
  • Price: 699 USD

The principal strengths of the Nikon D3200

The Nikon D3200’s great strength lies in its Sony CMOS sensor, starting with a record dynamic range that surpassed 13EV at 100 ISO, making the D3200 of great interest for landscape photography.

But the Nikon is also characterized by a high color depth of 24.1 bits, the best score of all the APS-C reflex cameras. It even does better than many full-frame cameras and is beaten only by medium-format cameras and the Nikon D4 and D3x

As an APS-C, the Nikon D3200 offers very good image quality, despite its entry-level position. Through its design intended for amateurs, it retains a very small footprint (in part due to the removal of a second LCD display on top of the camera), and weighs in at only 550 grams (including battery and memory card). The instruction manual is enhanced with a more graphic presentation so as help photographers learn to use it on the fly. Moreover, the D3200 is a camera that can accompany a beginning photographer a long ways along the photo learning curve.

The Nikon D3200 combines all these qualities while addressing the general public at a very competitive price of $699.

The measurements: the second-best APS-C SLR

With a DxOMark Score of 81, the Nikon D3200 arrives in 9th place overall among all cameras tested on DxOMark — in other words, equal to the Canon EOS 5D Mark III! The D3200 lands in second place among APS-C reflex cameras, just one point behind the Pentax K-5 with its 16 Mpix Sony sensor brilliantly exploited by Pentax engineers.

The Nikon D3200 achieves a Low-Light ISO score of 1131 ISO, making it the 4th-best APS-C after the Nikon D5100 and D700 and the Pentax K-5 (all three endowed with a 16Mpix Sony sensor). We feared that the D3200 might have been penalized by its marked increase in resolution, but this was not the case. On the contrary, the D3200 shows significant low-light improvement over the D3100 (with its 14 Mpix CMOS sensor), which had achieved a DxOMark low-light score of 919 ISO.

The D3200’s limitations: viewfinder, ergonomics, and lack of bracketing

If there is one area that clearly marks the D3200 as an "amateur" device, it’s the camera’s ergonomics, particularly its optical viewfinder. This last, carried over from the D3100, covers only 95% of the image that the camera captures. For straight-line framing, one is advised to use LiveView to avoid having to crop photos later on. This said, the D3200 provides a simple and fun Retouch Menu that allows users to deal with this issue directly on the camera itself. As for the display, its chroma is approximate at best.

The Nikon D3200’s ergonomics makes controlling the shooting parameters noticeably more awkward compared to the fluidity that one experiences in PSAM modes with an expert-level SLR such as the Nikon D7000. Deprived of bracketing mode as well, the D3200 will be tough to seriously consider for users thinking about HDR photographer or those who are used to taking multiple photos to ensure correct exposure. This limitation, by the way, is strictly a matter of software and a deliberate choice on Nikon’s part in order to create differences between camera lines. The D5100, offered at the same price, is equipped with bracketing function.