DCRP

Nikon D3200 Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: May 30, 2012

Last Updated: November 13, 2012

The D3200 ($699) is the entry-level camera in Nikon's digital SLR line-up. It's designed to be consumer friendly (in terms of both price and features), but Nikon didn't skimp on features here. The D3200 features a whopping 24.2 Megapixel CMOS sensor, 4 frame/sec continuous shooting, 1080p HD video, a good set of manual controls, and optional Wi-Fi support. It's also very easy-to-use, with a Guide Mode that helps beginners take better photos.

The D3200 is the replacement to the D3100. I put together this chart which compares the two models:

Feature D3100 D3200
Sensor 14.2 Megapixel CMOS 24.2 Megapixel CMOS
LCD size/resolution 3.0" / 230k pixel 3.0" / 921k pixel
Viewfinder magnification 0.80X 0.78X
Continuous shooting (full res) 3 frames/sec 4 frames/sec
Movie max resolution 1920 x 1080 (24 fps) 1920 x 1080 (30 fps)
Manual controls for videos No Yes
Dedicated movie rec. button No Yes
Remote controls Wired Wired, wireless
Stereo mic input No Yes
Wi-Fi support No Optional
Battery used EN-EL14
Battery life (CIPA standard) 550 shots 540 shots
Dimensions (W x H x D) 4.9 x 3.8 x 2.9 in. 5.0 x 3.8 x 3.1 in.
Weight 455 g
Available colors Black Black, red

As you can see, the D3200 is better than its predecessor in almost all respects, with the exception of battery life and viewfinder size, both of which have dropped slightly.

Is the Nikon D3200 the entry-level D-SLR to beat? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The D3200 is officially available in one kit, and it includes the standard Nikon F3.5-5.6, 18 - 55 mm VR kit lens ($699). I wouldn't be surprised if warehouse stores like Costco end up carrying two lens kits at some point in the future, as they did for the D3100. Here's what you'll find in the box:

  • The 24.2 effective Megapixel Nikon D3200 camera body
  • F3.5-5.6, 18 - 55 mm AF-S DX Nikkor VR lens
  • EN-EL14 lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Body cap
  • Eyepiece cap
  • Shoulder strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Nikon ViewNX 2
  • 77 page User's Manual (printed) + Reference Manual (on CD-ROM)

The D3200 comes with the same F3.5-5.6, 18-55 VR lens that's been bundled for Nikon cameras for several years. It's a decent kit lens, though a little on the soft side. If you want to use another F-mount lens, there are plenty to choose from, though autofocus is only available on AF-S and AF-I lenses. As with all of Nikon's DX-format cameras, there's also a 1.5X crop factor to keep in mind. Thus, the 18 - 55 mm kit lens has a field-of-view equivalent to 27 - 82.5 mm.

As with all D-SLRs and mirrorless cameras, the D3200 does not come with a memory card. So, unless you've got an SD, SDHC, or SDXC card sitting around, you'll need to pick one up. I'd recommend a 4GB card for most folks, and larger (8/16GB) for movie mavens. A high speed card (Class 6 or higher) is recommended for best performance.

The D3200 uses the same EN-EL14 7.6 Wh lithium-ion battery as the D3100 that came before it. Despite that, the D3200's battery life is a tiny bit below its predecessor. Here's how the the D3200 compares to other interchangeable lens cameras in its price range when it comes to battery life:

Camera Battery life
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon EOS Rebel T3i 440 shots LP-E8
Nikon D3200 540 shots EN-EL14
Olympus E-PL3 * 300 shots BLS-1 / BLS-5
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 * 270 shots DMW-BLD10
Pentax K-30 ** 410 shots D-LI190
Samsung NX20 * 360 shots BP1310
Sony Alpha SLT-A57 * 590 shots NP-FM500H

* Interchangeable lens camera uses live view only
** Also supports AA batteries via optional adapter

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

The first thing to note is just how few "true" digital SLRs are left in the entry-level category! Only three of the seven cameras on my list are D-SLRs, with the rest being mirrorless (or, in the case of the Sony A57, translucent mirror) interchangeable lens cameras. The D3200 posts very good battery life numbers, coming in second place behind the Sony model. Do note that the battery life for D-SLRs is when shooting with the viewfinder, and not live view. If you're using live view, the D3200's numbers will be considerably lower.

Unlike more expensive Nikon D-SLRs, the D3200 does not support a battery grip.

When it's charging time, just pop the EN-EL14 into the included charger. This charger, which plugs right into the wall, takes just 90 minutes to "fill up" the battery.

As with all D-SLRs, the sky's the limit when it comes it comes to accessories on the D3200. Here are some of the most important ones:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
External flash

SB-400
SB-700
SB-910

From $120
From $327
From $547
Get more flash power and less of a chance of redeye with these Speedlights. The SB-700 and SB-910 can be used to control wireless flashes, and they also tilt and rotate.
Wireless mobile adapter WU-1a From $60 Lets you transmit photos to smartphones running Nikon Wireless Mobile Adapter Utility (currently available only for Android devices). See below for more.
Wired remote control MC-DC2 From $30 A shutter release button on a 3.3 foot long cord. Handy for long exposures.
Wireless remote ML-L3 From $15 Another way to remotely release the shutter.
Stereo microphone ME-1 From $129 Record high quality stereo sound when recording movies.
GPS unit GP-1 $195 Add location data to your photos, automatically.
AC adapter EH-5b
EP-5A

$79
From $33

Power your camera without draining the battery. You need BOTH of these expensive parts!
Semi-soft case CF-DC2 $36 Holds the D3200 with a lens attached.
* Prices were accurate at time of publication

There are other accessories available, including viewfinder accessories and even more external flashes.


The red D3200 with optional Wi-Fi adapter installed

I want to tell you a bit more about the D3200's optional wireless adapter. This device is smaller than your thumb and plugs into the camera's USB port. The wireless transmitter isn't designed for sending photos to your PC (at least not yet) -- rather, it's made to work with smartphones. There's only an Android app available at the moment, with an iOS version coming this Fall.

Main menu of the Android app You can use your smartphone to take photos remotely, with live view support

The Android app can be used to download photos from the camera, and then send them on to further destinations using your phone's built-in sharing functions. It can also be used to take pictures, with the phone serving as a remote shutter release. You can even have the live view displayed on your smartphone, if you'd like. I didn't actually get to try it, since the wireless adapter isn't shipping yet, but it seems simple enough.

Bundled software includes Nikon Transfer, VIewNX 2, and Short Movie Creator (all three are for both Mac and Windows). Nikon Transfer does just as it sounds -- it moves your photos and movies from the camera to your PC. ViewNX 2 is a pretty standard image organizer, with a good set of editing tools for both JPEG and RAW images. You can adjust things like sharpness/contrast/brightness/and color, brighten shadows, straighten a crooked photo, remove redeye, or reduce chromatic aberrations. If it's a RAW file you're working with, you can also adjust the exposure and white balance. Unfortunately, RAW editing is very slow, even on the fancy Mac Pro that I have in my office.

While the RAW images produced by the D3200 are not officially supported by Adobe yet, I found that I was able to open them up using the Camera Raw 7.1 RC plug-in.

The ViewNX software can also be used to edit videos produced by the D3200. Also included is something called Short Movie Creator, and I think Nikon can explain what it does better than me, so here goes. "Short Movie Creator analyzes the registered source files and automatically edits the movie based on the settings that you apply." I didn't get around to trying it.

The D3200's documentation is split into two parts. In the box you'll find a 77 page printed manual that should get you up and running. If you want more detail, you'll have to load up the full Reference Manual, which is on an included CD-ROM. The Reference Manual is quite detailed, though just okay in terms of user-friendliness. Instructions for using the included software is installed onto your Mac or PC.

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