Nikon D3200

The D3200 is a very enjoyable camera to use for beginner photographers. If only the LCD screen was more colour accurate and the automatic focusing in video a little less twitchy, we'd have no qualms in recommending it wholeheartedly.


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About The Author

CNET Editor

Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.


Choosing your first SLR can be a daunting experience. Fortunately, the Nikon D3200 is geared towards beginners, with a range of features to enhance your photos, no matter what level of photographic skill you possess.

Design and features

The D3200 borrows most of its design aesthetic from the earlier entry-level Nikon cameras, such as the D3100. It sits comfortably in the hand and doesn't overwhelm, particularly if you are using one of the smaller kit lenses, such as the 18-55mm, or a prime lens, such as the new 40mm model. There's a red colour option, for anyone who wants a bit of spice with their photography.

At the top is a mode dial, which is home to all the main controls. Like all SLRs, you get full program, aperture and shutter priority, as well as manual modes. There's also a variety of scene modes, such as macro, sports, portrait and landscape, denoted on the dial with an appropriate picture. Automatic is painted green and is ideal for beginners, though anyone looking to learn a little more about photography will be interested in the Guide mode.

The mode dial and location of Guide mode on the D3200.
(Credit: Nikon)

This steps the user through some common shooting scenarios and, in Easy Operation, it lets you choose the most appropriate shooting mode, according to the scene. There's also Advanced Operation, which explains how the camera will achieve certain effects. For example, if you want to bring more of the scene into focus, you select this option and the camera tells you that you should increase the depth of field. It lets you do it yourself by suggesting shooting in aperture-priority and selecting a bigger aperture/f-stop, or you can do it from within the same menu and it will visually indicate what aperture you should shoot at.

The Guide Mode main screen.
(Credit: Nikon)

While we're sceptical about a beginner photographer needing as high of a resolution sensor as the 24-megapixel CMOS found on the D3200, the camera does deliver very good image quality. Find out more about how it performs in the image quality section below.

The D3200 uses the same Expeed 3 image processor that's found in the company's highest-end cameras, the D800 and the D4. It's not as fast as those monsters though, as it can only shoot at 4 frames per second in continuous mode. The 3-inch LCD screen boasts a high resolution of 921,000 dots, which makes playback and Live View use much more pleasurable than previous entry-level Nikon cameras.

Unfortunately, the screen doesn't give a true representation of either the final image or the scene in front of you. The colour balance is particularly cool on default settings, which gives a false impression of what the photo actually looks like.

The D3200 does not have a built-in AF motor like its entry-level siblings, meaning that you must use an AF-S lens in order for the camera to autofocus. Most lenses that you'll be looking at, including the kit lenses, will have a built-in motor, so there's no real issue here, unless you want to use older Nikon lenses. There's the same 11-point AF system as found on the D3100, which gives accurate focusing. Nikon says that there is an improved scene-recognition system, which means that things like subject tracking, metering and automatic white balance are all improved from earlier cameras.

While the D3200 is well and truly an entry-level camera, it's missing automatic exposure bracketing, a feature that would be particularly useful for anyone wanting to learn more about how the camera meters. It's also important for anyone wanting to dabble in HDR photography.

With an AF-S lens attached to the camera, the D3200 offers automatic focusing in video. It's a little clunky in its implementation still, as you can hear the lens movement rather loudly through the internal microphone. Even with an external microphone, it's possible to pick up a faint trace of the noise in a quiet environment.

There are plenty of picture effects and built-in features, to adjust the look and feel of images. These filters include options such as fish-eye, monochrome, toy camera, colour outline and colour sketch, which can be applied after taking the photo from the retouch menu.

When the camera is connected to a TV using HDMI, you can flick through photos and videos using the TV remote to control the camera. There's also a mobile adapter (WU-1a), which can use an Android device or iOS (coming soon) as a remote trigger and wireless display and plugs into the mini-USB port. We weren't supplied with one of these to test at the time of writing.

Compared to

Nikon D3200 Canon 1100D Sony Alpha SLT-A37
24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor 12.2-megapixel CMOS sensor 16.1-megapixel Exmor APS CMOS sensor
3-inch, 921,000-dot LCD 2.7-inch, 230,000-dot LCD 2.6-inch, 230,400 LCD
Full HD video (1080p, 25/24fps) HD video (720p, 30/25fps) Full HD video (1080i, 60/30fps)
11-point AF 9-point AF 15-point AF (phase detection)
4fps 3fps 7fps

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • RAW shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • 0.30.50.60.3
    Canon EOS 600D
  • 0.30.40.60.3
    Nikon D3200
  • 0.30.51.70.2
    Canon 1100D
  • 0.30.40.40.1
    Canon EOS 650D
  • 0.80.50.50.2
    Sony Alpha SLT-A37

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in FPS)

  • 5
    Canon EOS 650D
  • 3.9
    Sony Alpha SLT-A37
  • 3.9
    Nikon D3200
  • 3.4
    Canon EOS 600D
  • 3
    Canon 1100D

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The D3200 can take 23 JPEG images, in a continuous burst, and 11 RAW images before it slows to process them. Nikon rates the battery at 540 shots.

Image quality

Thanks to the resolution of the sensor, the quality of photos from the D3200 will depend on the lens you pair with the camera. Fortunately, even entry-level and kit lenses are able to resolve an excellent amount of detail. We did most of our testing using the 40mm f/2.8 lens and 55-300mm, which were supplied for review — unfortunately, we didn't get access to a more standard 18-55mm kit model.

The D3200 may have 24-megapixels at its disposal, but it can produce shots with a lot of detail. The 100 per cent crop inset shows how detailed photos can be, although there's a slight amount of softening on its JPEG files.
(Credit: CBSi)

Colour rendition is very good on JPEG images taken on standard colour settings, with good tonality. The camera does tend to slightly blow out certain highlights when shooting in automatic mode, though this can easily be rectified by reviewing the histogram and bringing down the exposure compensation, or shooting in manual mode.

ISO sensitivity on the D3200 is a native range of 100-6400, with a Hi 1 or boost setting of 12,800. Images stay reasonably noise-free, right up until ISO 1600, which is where you'll start to notice a slight increase in colour noise. If you stick down by ISO 100, 200 or 400, you will be rewarded with virtually noise-free images and very little over-processing. ISO 6400 and above becomes messy, as would be expected, but there's a lot of detail that can be rescued when shooting RAW.

If you do like shooting RAW, which is the image straight from the camera sensor, without any extra processing to JPEG, do beware that due to the resolution, files are anywhere from 20-28MB each. You'll get a lot more usable detail when shooting RAW, than the slightly softer JPEG files.

A comparison between the RAW and JPEG files produced by the D3200. The colour rendition is similar, though, as you can see from the 100 per cent crops inset, there's a lot more usable detail on the RAW file. The JPEG file also has some softening applied, as part of the noise reduction and processing of the image.
(Credit: CBSi)

Video quality from the D3200 is very good. The image is crisp, and sound from the internal microphone is decent. The biggest issue, as mentioned before, is the automatic focusing during video recording, which is twitchy and the lens movement very loud. Most photographers who know their way around an SLR won't consider using the AF-F (autofocus in video) at all — you can still shoot with fixed focus from the first frame or manual focus — but beginners will probably want to start out with automatic.

The other issue with the video implementation is the relocation of the video record button. It's been brought into line to match the higher-end SLRs in Nikon's range, so the button is just behind the shutter release. On previous entry-level SLRs, like the D3100, this button was located within a nice, easy-to-use switch at the back of the camera, which activated Live View. The process now is a little more complicated than before.

Image samples

Exposure: 1/60, f/3.2, ISO 400

Exposure: 1/15, f/3.5, ISO 1600

Exposure: 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 400

Exposure: 1/1000, f/8, ISO 400

(Credit: CBSi)

Conclusion

The D3200 is a very enjoyable camera to use for beginner photographers. If only the LCD screen was more colour accurate and the automatic focusing in video a little less twitchy, we'd have no qualms in recommending it wholeheartedly.



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ReeceH posted a comment   

Hi, Just looking into acquiring a camera and I am strung out between the D3200 and D5100. I keep hearing one is better than the other for both cameras and I just want a simple answer.

Is the D5100 better or is the D3200 better because it has more Megapixels.

Thanks for your help :)

 

tkd1619 posted a comment   
Australia

what would you take, given a choice between a D5100 and a D3200?

At the moment I'm leaning towards the D5100, especially with recent price markdowns, but not sure if I'm allowing price to dictate my choice too much.

 

"MARKED AS SPAM BY AKISMET"

RobinT posted a comment   

Hi Lexy,
I am planning to buy a camera. I dont have any experience using DSLR .
Can you please advise if this camera is good for rookie like me. I really dont want to spend too much now. May be later when I am more into it.

http://www.d-d-photographics.com.au/products/Nikon-D3200-Digital-SLR-Camera-with-AF%252dS-DX-NIKKOR-18%252d55mm-1%3A3.5%252d5.6G-VR-Lens.html

I need to get one and will wait for your advise.

 

Lexy Savvides posted a reply   
Australia

Hi Robin,

Yes the D3200 is an ideal beginner's camera, and pretty easy to use while you learn more about photography. The kit configuration you have listed above comes with a single lens that covers approximately the same field of view as a 3x optical zoom lens on a traditional compact camera - enough for most common shooting scenarios and photos.

 

"MARKED AS SPAM BY AKISMET"

RobinT posted a comment   

Hi Lexy,
I am planning to buy a camera. I dont have any experience using DSLR .
Can you please advise if this camera is good for rookie like me. I really dont want to spend too much now. May be later when I am more into it.

http://www.d-d-photographics.com.au/products/Nikon-D3200-Digital-SLR-Camera-with-AF%2dS-DX-NIKKOR-18%2d55mm-1:3.5%2d5.6G-VR-Lens.html

I need to get one and will wait for your advise.

 

krzystoff posted a comment   
Australia

I have the D3100, and after a year of use, I have to admit the image quality with the stock lens is truly disappointing -- but then you get what you pay for -- on Amazon's partner sites, the kit lens sells for $50-60 ea. so buy a good lens -- with Nikon or Canon, you are spoilt for choice in lenses, the hard thing is figuring out what kind of lens will suit the type of subjects you want to shoot -- the body is an easy decision. with a good lens, this will take superb pictures, and video too (just switch off the AF).
bear in mind with this format, you won't be able to view the full width of the lens in your images.

a couple of things: video recording on the Nikon Dx100 series (and Canon also) was limited to 10-15mins before shutting off, and the liveview feature is absolutely shite for taking normal action photos, as it slows down the frame rate and focusing chronically. one would hope they have fixed these issues with the Dx200 series, but no mention of it in this article.

 

LaylaJoy posted a comment   
Australia

According to Ted's Camera's the cost of the D3200 is $900 for the body only.

Lexy, Im moving on up into the world of owning my own DSLR (for studio professional use eventually, and personal travel/family shots) as Ive been using the company's D90.
Im confused between this brand new one (obviously you wont be able to judge a whole lot on it as it isnt out yet!), the d7000 (a little pricey though), the d5100 and the Canon 600D.
Any thoughts on which way to go?

 

Will1505 posted a reply   

I spend about 3 hours reading reviews on the weekend regarding the D3200. One of the downsides of the camera is that the 24mp is packed on a pretty small sensor. The result is that the pictures in low light turn out a bit noisy when compared to something like the D5100 or D7000 with the better ISO. However the outside shots are amazing!!!

I have seen the D7000 for $1100 atm at digital world international, or kogan sells them for about $1250. I would say kogan would be selling the D3200 for about $650. They seem to be getting rid of the stock of D3100's they have $409 yummy yummy, D5100 for $150 more. Also make sure to buy the 5 year warranty, $99 for five years. I got a d50 about 5 years ago and it broke twice, once outside of the warranty, not happy.

The review that Lexi did on the D5100 showed that the Canon 600D was slightly better outside but the D5100 was slightly better inside (sharper shots). Might be worth thinking about where your going to use the camera the most and also go have a play with them for a personal preference. I prefer the feel of nikon over canon, have a look at what you like.

 

Lexy Savvides posted a reply   
Australia

Hi Layla,

Will's covered a lot of the points I would make (thanks Will!) and at this stage it's going to be difficult to suggest the D3200 over any other because I haven't had the chance to shoot any test images of my own. The increased resolution may have ramifications on image quality especially if you are shooting at high ISO levels or in low-light. Again, hard to say for sure without testing and comparing to the other models.

Remember that the D5100 and D7000 share the same image sensor, which gives you an indication of the sort of image quality you get even if you don't have the cash to spend on the D7000.

 

George77 posted a comment   
Australia

No Autofocus?

Lexy, Could you please explain how the autofocus system would work. Maybe I misunderstood, I thought your product description said that this camera does not have autofocus....

 

Lexy Savvides posted a reply   
Australia

Hi George,

The D3200 does not have a built-in AF motor. It's been this way for the D3100, D3000 and so on before this camera. A common trait in entry-level SLRs.

However, all modern Nikon lenses (denoted by having AF-S in their title somewhere) come with a built-in autofocus motor. This means that they will autofocus on the D3200 without any problem.

The only issue with not having a built-in AF motor in the D3200 (or other entry-level Nikon cameras) is that if you want to mount an older lens, it will only be manual focus. Most beginner photographers will be using an AF-S lens, such as the kit lens, so there's no problem whatsoever, and you get full autofocus. Hope this explains.

 

George77 posted a reply   
Australia

Lexy,

Thank you for an excellent explanation. Clear as crystal!!!!

Regards,

George

 

RamonA posted a reply   
China

Just get the D7000, it's worth having it...

 

rayjer61 posted a comment   

This may be my first SLR camera, and will be looking for the review to confirm my choice! I have been tossing up between the 550D/600D for the last 6 months, but both sporting the Canon price tags this little Nikon could get me into the world of shooting with a DSLR with less cost.

 

lchao33 posted a comment   
Australia

will the new D 3200 surpass the D5100?

 

Will1505 posted a comment   

Got a rough estimate of price? I'm excited. Extra 10mp, nice little upgrade

 

Lexy Savvides posted a reply   
Australia

Unfortunately no word on price yet, it's going to be closer to the release date. I wouldn't think it would be too far off what the D3100 debuted at!

 

Will1505 posted a reply   

Seems to be a massive upgreade




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User Reviews / Comments  Nikon D3200

  • ReeceH

    ReeceH

    "Hi, Just looking into acquiring a camera and I am strung out between the D3200 and D5100. I keep hearing one is better than the other for both cameras and I just want a simple answer.

    ..."

  • tkd1619

    tkd1619

    "what would you take, given a choice between a D5100 and a D3200?

    At the moment I'm leaning towards the D5100, especially with recent price markdowns, but not sure if I'm allowing price..."

  • RobinT

    RobinT

    "Hi Lexy,
    I am planning to buy a camera. I dont have any experience using DSLR .
    Can you please advise if this camera is good for rookie like me. I really dont want to spend too much no..."

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