Review: Nikon Coolpix 3200
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: February 17, 2004
February 17, 2004
3200 ($299) is the follow-up to Nikon's popular Coolpix
3100 from last year (see
our review). Like that model, the 3200 is a compact point-and-shoot
with a 3.2 Megapixel CCD and 3X optical zoom. The new model
has a smaller body, AF-assist lamp, VGA movie mode, PictBridge
support, and a unique "blur detection" feature.
a whole lot of other cameras like the 3200 out there -- how well
does it fare? Find out now in our review.
in the Box?
Coolpix 3200 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
3.2 Mpixel Nikon Coolpix 3200 camera
AA alkaline batteries (not rechargeable)
featuring NikonView 6.2 and software manual
page camera manual + foldout Quick Start Guide (both printed)
the Coolpix 2200 and 3200 models, Nikon is starting to follow
some other manufacturers by having built-in memory, rather than
including a memory card. The Coolpix 3200 has 14.5MB of memory
-- which doesn't hold too many photos -- so you'll have to buy
a memory card. Like the Coolpix 3700, the 2200 and 3200 use Secure
Digital (SD) and MultiMedia (MMC) cards. SD cards are larger
and faster than MMC cards, so you'll want to stick with those.
else you'll need to buy are batteries, as the camera includes
two alkaline batteries that will quickly find their way into
the trash (please recycle them if you can!). So pick up a four
pack of NiMH rechargeable batteries (and a charger), 2000 mAh
or greater, and you'll be set. The camera takes two AA batteries,
or one (non-rechargeable) CR-V3 lithium battery. With 2000 mAh
batteries installed, Nikon estimates that you can take around
320 pictures per charge.
CP3200 is one of those cameras with a lens cover built right
into the lens. As you can see, it's a very compact little camera!
are limited on this small camera. All I could find (beside extra
batteries) are an AC adapter ($35) and a soft case.
includes the latest versions of NikonView with the 3200 (version
6.2). You can use the software to organize and to do basic photo
editing (one of the new features in version 6 is redeye reduction).
It's not Photoshop, but it's decent.
screen, NikonView 6 in Mac OS X
screen, NikonView 6 in Windows XP
you can see, you can edit quite a few properties of your images.
The RAW adjustments cannot be used with the 3200, since it has
no RAW mode.
cluttered at times, the manual included with the Coolpix 3200
is pretty good. Do note that the NikonView manual is on CD.
Coolpix 3200 is a compact, plastic camera that can go anywhere.
Although it's plastic, it doesn't feel cheap. It's easy to hold,
with the important controls all within easy reach of your fingers.
dimensions of the camera are 88 x 65 x 38 mm / 3.2 x 3.5 x 1.5
inches (W x H x D, excluding protrusions), and it weighs just
140 g / 4.9 ounces empty. For the sake of comparison, the numbers
for the old Coolpix 3100 are 3.4 x 2.6 x 1.5 inches and 150 g.
begin our tour of this camera now!
Coolpix 3200 has an F2.8-4.9, 3X optical zoom Nikkor lens. This
lens has a focal range of 5.8 - 17.4 mm, which is equivalent
to 38 - 115 mm. (I believe that the CP3200 uses a different lens.)
The 3200's lens is not threaded, so you cannot add a conversion
the lens is the built-in flash. This flash has a working range
of 0.4 - 3.4 m at wide-angle, and 0.4 - 2.0 m at telephoto --
both are improvements over the CP3100. You cannot attach an external
flash to this camera.
below the flash is the AF-assist lamp, which doubles as the self-timer
lamp. Yes, you read that right, an AF-assist lamp on a low-cost
Nikon camera. Yes! The maximum range of the assist lamp is 2
meters. Those of you who are considering the CP2200 should note
that it does not have an AF-assist lamp -- it's just for the
back of the camera has received a facelift since the CP3100,
but it's still just as easy to use the controls.
the LCD has gotten larger on the 3200 (1.6" versus 1.5" on
the 3100), the resolution has gone down (80k pixels versus 110k
on the 3100). Even so, the screen didn't scream "low resolution!" when
I used it. One area in which the LCD shines is refresh rate:
motion is very smooth! The LCD shows 96% of the frame.
above the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which is about average
size for a compact camera. It lacks a diopter correction feature
(as does most of the competition), which you use to focus what
you're looking at. The optical viewfinder shows 82% of the frame.
to the right of the optical viewfinder is the mode dial -- which
was located on the top of the CP3100. The mode dial has the following
mode - choose a situation, camera uses the appropriate settings
assist - this is new to the 3200
- more later
mode - more later
wanted to briefly describe those "assist" modes. The
panorama assist mode is a handy tool for taking a bunch of pictures
that overlap a little bit, which you later "stitch" together
in NikonView. The other assist modes put gridlines on the LCD,
which are there to help you compose. Some of them seem a little
silly to me, like a landscape overlay which assumes that your
mountains will be low and symmetrical. I should add that the
only thing you can change in the scene modes is the image quality
-- things like white balance are locked up.
to our tour now. To the right of the mode dial is the zoom controller,
which moves the lens smoothly from wide-angle to telephoto in
under two seconds. The are lots of "steps" in between
the wide and tele positions, so being precise is easy.
the right of the LCD you'll find three buttons and the four-way
controller. The three buttons are for entering the menu, entering
playback mode, and deleting photos. In addition to its menu navigation
duties, the four-way controller also does the following:
- Flash setting (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash off,
fill flash, slow sync)
- Macro (on/off)
- Self-timer (on/off)
- Mark image for auto transfer (playback mode)
top of the camera, you'll find the speaker, power and shutter
release buttons, and the microphone. Do note that the microphone
and speaker are not on the CP2200 model.
this side of the camera, you'll find the USB and A/V out ports,
which are kept under a plastic cover. These used to be two separate
ports on the 3100 -- now they've been combined into one.
here you'll find the SD/MMC slot, which is behind a fairly sturdy
last stop on our tour is the bottom of the camera. Down here,
you'll find a plastic tripod mount and the battery compartment.
As you can see, the 3200 uses two AA batteries (or one CR-V3).
The door over the battery compartment seems sturdy enough.
the Nikon Coolpix 3200
takes about three seconds for the CP3200 to extend its lens and "warm
up" before you can start taking pictures.
in record mode
the shutter release halfway and you'll find that the CP3200 locks
focus quickly -- in under a second, even if the AF-assist lamp
has to be used. A couple of times, it took a little longer, but
overall, speeds were good. The AF-assist lamp helped the camera
lock focus in low light situations, and I like how Nikon boosts
the signal on the LCD in low light, so you can see what you're
shooting at. Do note that the image on the LCD becomes grainy,
and that great refresh rate disappears, when the LCD is doing
lag was not a problem at fast shutter speeds, but noticeable
at slower shutter speeds (where you should be using the flash
or a tripod, anyway).
speed is a little weird on this camera (maybe there's not a lot
of buffer memory). You can take two shots quickly, with less
than a 2 second interval between shots, but after that, you have
to wait 5 or 6 seconds for the camera to clear the buffer. Something
else that bothers me is that you can't enter the menu or playback
mode while the camera is finishing up saving the image to memory.
Coolpix 3200 has a unique "blur detection" feature
that tells you when a photo is blurry -- and indoors without
the flash, that's most of the time. When the blur warning comes
on, the camera gives you the option to delete the photo and try
again. You can turn this feature off in the setup menu, if you'd
the blur warning doesn't come on, you have to wait for the image
to be saved to the memory card before you can delete it (by pressing
the delete button, of course).
with its easy-to-use theme, the Coolpix 3200 has just a few image
quality choices, including:
Images on 14.5MB internal memory
Images on 128MB card
Coolpix 3200 does not support TIFF or RAW file formats.
are named DSCN####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering
is maintained even if you replace and/or format memory cards.
Coolpix 3200 has a very simple menu system, just like
on its predecessors. Note that this menu is not accessible in
the scene modes. Here are the options:
mode (see above chart)
balance (Auto, preset, daylight, incandescent, fluorescent,
compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
(Single, continuous, multi-shot 16) - see below
Shot Selector [BSS] (on/off)
options (Standard, vivid, black & white, sepia, cyanotype)
- new feature on the 3200; the last item is an image with a
you can see, the 3200 has a manual white balance feature, which
lets you get perfect white balance in any lighting by using a
white or gray card as your reference. This is the only true manual
control on the camera.
continuous shooting feature will take up to 3 pictures at a rate
of 1.5 frames/sec. Multi-shot 16 takes sixteen shots in a row
(at 1.5 frames/sec) and assembles them all into one 2048 x 1536
exclusive Best Shot Selector (BSS) feature will let you take
up to 10 shots in a row, and then the camera chooses the best
of the bunch -- and that's the one that is saved to the memory
card. This feature is useful in situations where "camera
shake" may be an issue.
is also a setup menu, which is accessed via the mode wheel. The
choices here include:
screen (Disable, Nikon, animation, custom) - the custom mode
lets you pick a photo on the memory card to use
zone - choose a home and travel time zone
settings (Show info, hide info, framing grid, monitor off)
- choose what is shown on the LCD, or turn the whole thing
imprint (Off, date, date & time, date counter) - print
the date/time on your photos; I can't figure out the date counter
sound (1-3, off) - choose a fake shutter sound
(Loud, normal, off)
warning (on/off) - described above
off (30 sec, 1, 5, 30 min)
mode (on/off) - if camera will enter a sleep mode after
a set time
(German, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Swedish,
Japanese, Simplified Chinese, Korean)
(PTP, Mass Storage)
mode (NTSC, PAL)
type (Alkaline, Coolpix [NiMH], CR-V3) - no idea if this actually
version - displays the firmware version of the camera
up there should be self-explanatory.
enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
shooting has always been one of the trademarks of the Coolpix
series, and the 3200 continues that tradition. You can get as
close as 4 cm to your subject. In order to get that close, you'll
need to adjust the zoom to just until the little flower on the
LCD turns green, which is near the wide end of the lens.
standard test shot looks great, with an image that's sharp and
smooth at the same time. Colors are accurate, and noise levels
are low. The 3200's support for a custom white balance setting
certainly helps, as I use 3200K studio lights.
can fill the frame with a subject as small as 29 x 23 mm.
night shot was just okay. The main issue is that it didn't take
in enough light -- and without manual shutter speed controls,
there isn't much you can do about it. Using one of the night
scene modes is the best way to do long exposures like this. The
image is on the noisy side, as well. I didn't see any purple
distortion test shows moderate barrel distortion at wide-angle,
and no vignetting (dark corners).
redeye test illustrates two of the photo quality issues on the
CP3200. Both are pretty obvious. Issue #1 is the redeye, which
is pretty nasty (though your results may vary). You'll want to
add more light, take the picture again, or use software to clean
other issue is noise -- the auto ISO "feature" on the
CP3200 boosts the ISO from 50 to 200 whenever it wants. That
means noisy pictures when the lighting isn't great (read: indoors). This
photo perfectly illustrates what I'm talking about. Hopefully
by the time the Coolpix 3300 comes out, there will be a way to
lock the ISO at a set value.
outdoor shooting, photo quality is quite good -- though slightly
noisy. Images are usually sharp, well-exposed, and colorful.
Purple fringing was not a major problem. Please have a look at
the photo gallery and see if the
quality meets your expectations!
Coolpix 3200 has a pretty nice movie mode. You can record VGA
quality video (640 x 480) at 15 frames/second, with sound, until
the memory card is full. For the built-in memory, that's only
26 seconds, but if you get a larger card, you can have longer
movies. If 640 x 480 is overkill, you can also choose from 320
x 240 or 160 x 120 resolutions, as well.
cannot use the zoom lens during filming. Something to watch out
for is the autofocus mode that's used in movie mode. Unless you
like a clicking background noise in your movies, you'll want
to set it to S-AF (single AF) instead of C-AF (continuous AF).
are saved in QuickTime format.
a mediocre sample movie for you:
to play movie (6.6MB, 640 x 480, QuickTime format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
Coolpix 3200 has an easy-to-use, yet complete playback mode.
The standard playback functions include slide shows, DPOF print
marking, thumbnail mode, image protection, and zoom & scroll.
zoom and scroll feature (my term) lets you zoom into your image
as much as 10 times, and then scroll around in the enlarged photo.
This feature is very well implemented on the 3200.
small pic option lets you downsize your image to 640 x 480, 320
x 240, or 160 x 120. The original image is saved.
Coolpix lets you mark photos that you want to be automatically
transferred when you connect the camera to your PC. Another nice
feature that's all too uncommon these days is the ability to
delete a group of photos, rather than just one at a time or all
copy feature lets you move photos between internal memory and
a memory card, and vice versa.
3200 unfortunately doesn't give you any useful information about
your photos. Even beginners would appreciate seeing some basic
camera moves through images very quickly in playback mode. A
lower resolution image is shown instantly, with the high resolution
version appearing less than a second later.
Does it Compare?
Nikon Coolpix 3200 is a decent point-and-shoot camera, but I
found it lacking in two important areas. The first is noise,
especially indoors where the lighting isn't great. This is due
to the auto ISO system that most Nikon point-and-shoots have.
The redeye test and this
picture are great examples of the noise problem. For shots
taken outdoors or in good lighting, the noise levels are acceptable.
The other issue I had, which affects those who want to take action
photos, is the shot-to-shot speed. You can quickly fire off two
shots, but then you need to wait several seconds for the buffer
memory to be cleared. A related issue is that you can't do anything
while the camera is finishing savings an image to the memory
CP3200 does just about everything else well. It's nice and compact,
and easy to use, too. It has an AF-assist lamp, giving the camera
good low light focusing ability (the AF system is good in general).
The VGA movie mode is nice, though the 15 fps frame rate makes
for choppy video. Like most Nikon cameras, the 3200 has an impressive
in all, the CP3200 is a good camera for outdoor photos, but if
you do a lot of indoor shooting, you'll probably want to find
a camera with an ISO setting that you can lock.
good photo quality -- in good light
good LCD display
- Interesting "blur
I didn't care for:
images in low light
shot-to-shot performance (after two shots are taken); camera
is locked up while camera finishes writing to memory card
from white balance, no manual controls
exposure information in playback mode
memory card or rechargeable batteries included
other compact 3 Megapixel cameras worth looking at include the
Canon PowerShot PowerShot A75 and SD110, Casio
Exilim EX-Z3, Fuji
FinePix A330, Kyocera Finecam L3v and SL300R,
Minolta DiMAGE Xt and Xg,
Olympus D-580Z and Stylus
Lumix DMC-LC50, Pentax
Optio 30, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P72 and DSC-P8.
you want to save some money, check out the similiar Coolpix
2200 model. Do note that you'll lose a Megapixel of resoultion,
the AF-assist lamp, and sound in movies.
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try
out the Coolpix 3200 and it's competitors before you buy!
out the sample photos in our photo
a second opinion?
out another review of the Coolpix 3200 over at Steve's
Feedback & Discussion
you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking
for a personal recommendation.
discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.