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:
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:
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:
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.
Design & Features
The Nikon D3200 is one of the smallest digital SLRs on the market. Despite being made of plastic (err, composite materials), it still feels very solid. About the only construction weak spot is the door over the memory card slot. The grip is just the right size, making the D3200 comfortable in the hand. Controls are well-placed, with just about everything within each reach of your fingers.
The D3200 looks nearly identical to the D3100, with these exceptions:
- Live view switch on back of camera has become a button
- Continuous shooting dial on the top of the D3100 has turned into a button on the back of the D3200
- Movie recording button has been added near the power switch/shutter release button combo
- Speaker has been relocated to the top-left of the D3200
- External microphone input added to group of I/O ports
- New IR receiver on grip and back of camera (for optional remote)
Images courtesy of Nikon USA
As I mentioned earlier, you can pick up the D3200 in your choice of traditional black, or a more attention-getting red.
Now let's see how the D3200 compares to the same group of D-SLRs and ILCs that I had back in the battery life discussion:
Naturally, the mirrorless cameras are going to be a lot smaller than their D-SLR counterparts. If you focus on the cameras with mirrors, you'll see that the D3200 is the second smallest in the group.
Let's tour the D3200 now, using our tabbed interface:
Here's the front of the D3200 without a lens attached. As I mentioned earlier, the D3200 supports all Nikkor F-mount lenses, though only AF-S and AF-I lenses will support autofocus. And let's not forget the 1.5X crop factor, either! To release an attached lens, just press the button located to the right of the mount.
Right at the center of the photo, behind the mirror, is the D3200's new 24 Megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor. At first, I thought this might be the same sensor that's used in the Sony Alpha NEX-7, but that's apparently not the case. The camera keeps dust off of the sensor by using ultrasonic waves.
Directly above the lens mount is the D3200's pop-up flash, which is released manually. This flash has a guide number of 12 meters at ISO 100 -- typical for a D-SLR. If you want more flash power, less redeye, and wireless control, then you'll need to pony up for one of the external flashes that I mentioned back in the accessory discussion.
Also seen here are the AF-assist lamp (just to the right of that red strip) and the receiver for the optional wireless remote (directly below the same strip). Just above the D3200 logo is the camera's monaural microphone.
On the back of the D3200 is its newly upgraded LCD display. While the size remained at 3 inches, the resolution has gone for 230k pixels on the D3100 to 921k pixels here. I can't explain why, but the screen didn't seem nearly as sharp as the resolution would indicate. Outdoor visibility was about average.
Above the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which is slightly smaller than the one on the D3100 (0.78X vs 0.80X). Compared to the other two D-SLRs I've referenced in this review (the Canon T3i and Pentax K-30), the D3200's viewfinder is the smallest (but not by much). The viewfinder displays 95% of the frame, and has relatively small (but visible) illuminated focus points. You can adjust the focus on the viewfinder by using the dial on its upper-right corner.
Now let's talk buttons. Just to the right of the viewfinder is the button for AE/AF lock. To the right of that you won't find a button, but rather the D3200's sole control dial. Under those we find the new Live View and Drive mode buttons, as well as the same delete photo and four-way controller buttons that were found on the D3100. The four-way controller does not have any shortcuts assigned to it, unfortunately.
Over on the left side of the LCD we have buttons for entering playback mode and the menu system, zooming in or out of photos (and viewing help screens), and opening up the shortcut menu. More on some of those after the tour.
Straight above the column of five buttons is a secondary receiver for the remote control.
The first thing to see on the top of the camera is the speaker, which is next to the strap mount on the left side of the photo.
In the middle of the photo is the D3200's hot shoe. It'll work best with modern Nikon Speedlights, which will sync with the camera's metering system, and also allow for use of the flash's AF-assist lamp (among other things). If you get one of the more expensive flashes, it can be used to control other Nikon flashes wirelessly. The one thing you can't do here is high speed x-sync -- you'll need to step up to a more expensive Nikon D-SLR for that. The fastest shutter speed you can use with the camera is 1/200 sec.
To the right of the hot shoe is the mode dial, which I'll cover in detail right after this tour. Above it are buttons for movie recording, toggling what's shown on the LCD, and adjusting the exposure compensation. Above all that is the shutter release button, which has the power switch wrapped around it.
Before I talk about the items on the D3200 body, I want to tell you what the two switches on the 18 - 55 mm kit lens are for. The top one switches between auto and manual focus, while the bottom one turns the image stabilization (VR) system on and off.
On the body itself, you've got the flash release / flash exposure compensation button, with the customizable Fn (function) button below it. By default, the Fn button lets you quickly adjust the ISO sensitivity.
At the far right, under a rubber cover, are the D3200's four I/O ports. They include:
- Microphone input
- USB + A/V output
- GPS / Remote shutter release
The only thing to see here is the D3200's memory card slot, which is protected by a plastic door that feels like it could bust off fairly easily.
No big surprises on the bottom of the camera. Here you've got the metal tripod mount -- in-line with the lens, of course -- and the battery compartment. The door that covers the battery compartment is of average quality.
The included EN-EL14 lithium-ion battery can be seen at right.
One of two possible info screens that are shown when using the viewfinder
All of the settings on the right can be adjusted at at the push of a button
Before I delve into camera features, I want to talk about the shooting experience on the D3200. Being a traditional D-SLR, you'll probably take most of your photos using the optical viewfinder. You get the clearest view possible when using the viewfinder, and get to use the camera's 11-point AF system, which is considerably faster than the contrast detection system in live view. The camera displays current shooting information on the LCD display, and you can quickly change settings on this screen by pressing the shortcut menu button (to the left of the LCD).
The "view" in live view
Speaking of live view, that's the other way in which you can compose photos on the D3200. In this mode you'll see the scene you're composing on the LCD in real-time, just like on compact and mirrorless cameras. The main benefits of live view include real-time previews of things like white balance and exposure, easy manual focusing with frame enlargement, face detection, and composition grid lines (sorry histogram lovers, that's not supported). The downside of live view is slow autofocus performance, which makes this feature best suited to non-moving subjects. Low light visibility while using the LCD in live view is decent, but I've seen better.
Now let's dive into the features accessed via the dials and buttons on the D3200, beginning with the mode dial:
A trip through the Guide Mode
The D3200's Guide Mode makes it one of the easiest-to-use cameras in its class. When you first enter the guide, you can choose from Shooting, Playback, and Setup options. Let's pretend that we need help taking good photos of a sports event. I choose "Shoot", then "Easy operation" and finally "Moving subject". From there you can choose if you want to use the viewfinder or the, or if you want to take a movie. If you went through "Advanced operation" you'd find "Freeze motion (people)" which is similar, except now you can choose the shutter speed used. The camera shows example photos on the LCD in the Guide and in some of the menus, which serves as a nice visual aid.
If you want point-and-shoot operation without the guide, there's an auto mode plus six scene modes to choose from. If the camera has something to tell you, a question mark will start blinking on the LCD. Pressing the button with the same character will explain what's going on, like "lighting is poor, flash recommended".
Naturally, the D3200 has manual controls as well. You can adjust the exposure (with bulb mode support), white balance (with fine-tuning), and focus (of course), and the RAW image format is supported. One thing that I really wish the D3200 had is bracketing, but alas it does not.
|The shooting menu||Help screens are available for each menu option -- very nice|
The rest of the D3200's features can be found in its attractive menu system. It's easy to navigate, and by pressing the help button, you'll get a description of each option. The menus are broken into several tabs, covering playback, shooting, setup, retouching, and recently used settings. Here are the most interesting options from the shooting and setup menus:
- Set Picture Control: choose which set of image parameters are currently being used; see below for more
- Image size/quality: there are three image sizes to choose from (large, medium, small) as well as three quality settings for JPEGs (fine, normal, basic); here you can also turn on RAW or RAW+JPEG mode; a RAW image is roughly 20.4 MB in size, while a Large/Fine JPEG weighs in at 11.9 MB
- White balance: the D3200 offers the usual presets, plus a custom option for using a white or gray card; see below for a bit more
- ISO sensitivity: you've got a range of 100 - 6400 available, with a "high" option if 12800, plus an Auto mode for the point-and-shoot modes
- Auto ISO control: turns on Auto ISO in the P/A/S/M modes; you can choose the maximum sensitivity used, as well as the minimum shutter speed permitted
- Active D-Lighting: supposed to preserve highlight and shadow detail; see below for an example
- Auto distortion control: reduces barrel and pin-cushion distortion automatically; strangely enough this is off by default; see example later in the photo tests
- AF Area mode: when using the viewfinder you can select from Auto-area (11-point), single-point, dynamic-area (you select the point yourself), and 3D tracking; in live view you can choose from Face Priority, wide or normal area (you can select the area on which to focus), and subject tracking; the D3200 supports single and continuous AF, with an "auto" option they switches between the two based on subject movement
- Image display format: choose the style of the info display on the LCD when you're shooting with the viewfinder
- Self-timer: choose the delay and number of shots taken when using the self-timer
- Quiet shutter mode: this is actually accessed with the drive button, but I'm mentioning it here; while the shutter sound isn't really any quieter than normal, this mode doesn't flip the mirror back up until you let go of the shutter release button
- Rangefinder: provides a visual indicator in the optical viewfinder of how far off from correct focus
- Buttons: here you can assign the function of the Fn button (choose from image quality/size, ISO, white balance, and Active D-Lighting), how the AE/AF lock button functions, and whether exposure is locked when the shutter release button is half-pressed
Adjusting a Picture Control preset
Let's go over a few of those. A Picture Control contains various sets of image parameters, such as sharpness, contrast, brightness, saturation, and hue. If you're taking black and white photos, you can also turn on virtual filters and toning effects. There are six preset Controls: standard, neutral, vivid, monochrome, portrait, and landscape, and each of those can be adjusted.
Fine-tuning white balance
The D3200 has the usual selection of white balance presets, plus a custom mode in which you can use a white or gray card for accurate colors in unusual lighting. You can also fine-tune the WB using the controls you see above. Unfortunately there's no way to set the color temperature or bracket for white balance on the D3200 -- you'll have to step up to a more expensive Nikon camera if you want those features.
Active D-Lighting, found on many other Nikon cameras, aims to improve overall image contrast. On many Nikon cameras it's off by default, but the opposite is true on the D3200. There are no levels of ADL to choose from on this camera -- just on or off. Below is example comparing our purple fringing tunnel with and without ADL. I accidentally used the wrong white balance setting here, so excuse the brownish cast.
|Active D-Lighting off
View Full Size Image
|Active D-Lighting on (default)
View Full Size Image
As you can see, Active D-Lighting did a nice job with this scene. The shadows are brighter and there's less highlight clipping in and around the arch on the left. The sky looks a bit "bluer" too. Therefore, I'd leave ADL at its default setting: on.
As for movies, the D3200 can record Full HD videos, now at 30 frames/second, versus 24 fps on the D3100. If you'd prefer to shoot at 24p, that option is still available. Anyhow, you can keep recording until the file size hits 4GB, or the time elapsed reaches 20 minutes. Only mono sound is recorded, so if you want stereo, you'll have to spring for an optional external Mic.
There are two bit rates to choose from at both 1080p and 720p (the latter is recorded at 60 frames/sec): 24 or 12 Mbps. A low resolution 640 x 424 option is also available, recorded at 30 frames/sec, again with your choice of bit rates (5 or 3 Mbps).
The D3200 supports full-time autofocus while recording movies. The focusing definitely isn't seamless, since the C-AF system is on the side. Naturally, you can use the vibration reduction system on your lens, if it has that feature.
Despite being an entry-level D-SLR, the D3200 still allows you to manually adjust the exposure in movie mode. You can adjust the shutter speed and ISO while recording, but the aperture can only be changed before you turn on live view. The microphone levels can be manually adjusted, though the camera lacks a wind filter. While you can take a still photo while taking a movie, recording will stop at that point.
Movies are recorded using the H.264 codec and are saved in QuickTime format. Here's a sample movie for you, taken at the highest quality setting:
Looks pretty good to me!
|About a third of the Retouch menu||In-camera RAW processing|
The D3200 has one of the nicest playback modes out there, with plenty of "retouching" options. Some of the more useful ones include:
- Calendar view: quickly jump to photos taken on a specific day by pressing the "zoom out" button
- D-Lighting: brighten the dark areas of a photo, with your choice of low, normal, and high settings
- Redeye correction: remove this annoying effect from your flash photos
- Special effects: apply selective color, miniature effect, fisheye, and many more effects to your photos
- Color balance: tweak the color tone of a photo you've taken -- even if it was a JPEG
- NEF (RAW) processing: a feature every high-end camera should have, this lets you adjust the white balance, exposure, Picture Control, noise reduction, among of D-Lighting, and more, to a RAW image
- Quick Retouch: enhance color and contrast at the press of a button
- Straighten: fix those crooked horizons
- Distortion control: fix barrel distortion automatically or manually
- Edit movie: trim unwanted footage from a video clip
By default, the camera doesn't show you much information about your photos. However, a quick press of the info button will give you a lot more, including a two types of histogram.
The D3200 between photos instantly in playback mode. You can use the four-way controller or the control dial to move between them.
Performance & Photo Quality
The D3200's performance really depends on how you're composing your shots. If you're using the optical viewfinder, then it's pretty responsive. If you're using live view, not so much. The table below summarizes the cameras performance in a number of areas:
Sorry if that chart's a bit more confusing than normal. In a nutshell, autofocus speeds are competitive with other D-SLRs when you're shooting with the optical viewfinder. If you're using live view, expect multi-second focus times, with a good possibility that the camera won't lock focus at all in low light. Mirrorless cameras are much faster compared to the D3200 (and most D-SLRs) when it comes to live view focusing performance.
The D3200 is capable of continuous shooting as fast as 4 frames/second -- up from 3 fps on the D3100. Let's see if it hits the advertised numbers in the real world:
Not a bad performance for an entry-level D-SLR, if I do say so myself. Do note that when you hit those limits that the camera doesn't stop shooting -- it just slows down (considerably, in the case of RAW+JPEG). You can shoot bursts with the viewfinder or in live view mode.
Let's move on to our photo tests now. All of these were taken with the 18 - 55 mm kit lens, with the exception of the night shots.
I really had to crank up the exposure compensation to get our macro test scene to look decent. The colors on the subject look pretty good (though the red is a bit too orange), though the background is grayer in it is in reality. The figurine is quite sharp, with plenty of detail captured. I don't see any signs of noise here, nor would I expect to.
The minimum distance to your subject depends on the lens you're using. For the kit lens, that distance is 28 cm. If you think you'll be taking a lot of close-up shots, then you may want to consider one of Nikon's dedicated macro lenses (four of which will support AF on the D3200).
I took the night shots with the Nikon F4.0-5.6, 55 - 300 mm VR lens. The photo is a bit soft, and there's an brown/orange color cast as well, despite using my usual white balance settings. The camera did bring in plenty of light, and highlight clipping isn't too bad. Fairly strong purple fringing can be found toward the right side of the photo. One thing you won't find here is noise, which is a good thing.
Now let's use this same night scene to see how the D3200 performed at higher sensitivities:
ISO 12800 (H1)
The ISO 100 and 200 crops look more-or-less the same. There's a slight increase in noise at ISO 400, but it doesn't really become noticeable until ISO 800. At ISO 1600 it's time to switch to RAW or downsize your prints, as there's quite a bit of noise. The higher sensitivities are too noisy to be usable -- at least in JPEG form.
With that in mind, let's see if we can't make the ISO 1600 and 3200 shots look better by shooting RAW and performing noise reduction using NeatImage. I'm thinking it'll help -- let's find out:
RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw 7.1 RC)
RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
JPEG, straight from the camera
RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw 7.1 RC)
RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
I'd say that's quite an improvement. You get quite a bit of detail back, and there's less highlight clipping, to boot. I could've fixed the color cast while processing the RAW files, but I left that alone here.
We'll do this test again using our studio test shortly.
In a world where most cameras I review have at least some redeye problems, it's nice to see a camera that does not. I wouldn't expect the D3200 to have this issue, as it's flash pops up well away from the lens. If you're not quite as lucky and end up with this annoyance in your photos, you can remove it using the tool in playback mode.
|Auto Distortion Correction off (default)||Auto Distortion Correction on|
There's moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the 18 - 55 mm kit lens. You can see what this does to your photos by looking at the way the building on the right side of this photo appears to curve. Fret not, because the D3200 has lens distortion correction built right in, and you see for yourself using the comparison tool above that it flattens things out nicely. While my first 18 - 55 mm kit lens was quite soft on one side of the frame, the second one was much better, with just mild corner blurring. Vignetting wasn't an issue on the kit lens.
Now it's time to see how the D3200 performed in our studio ISO test. Since these photos are taken under consistent lighting, you can compare the results with those from other cameras I've reviewed over the years. Since the D3200 produces such high resolution images, I'm only able to show you a small portion of the test scene, so be sure to view the full size images, too. And with that, let's go from ISO 100 to 12800:
ISO 12800 (H1)
Everything is very clean through ISO 800, as one would expect from a digital SLR. Noise makes its first real appearance at ISO 1600, but that sensitivity is still usable for all print sizes. Details start getting a little fuzzy at ISO 3200, but small and mid-sized prints are still very possible. ISO 6400 is okay in desperate circumstances, but you'll get better results by shooting RAW. I'd pass on ISO 12800 altogether.
Now let's repeat the RAW vs. JPEG comparison that I did with the night shots, this time with the ISO 6400 and 12800 images:
As you can see, there's a huge improvement at ISO 6400, with that photo becoming usable for much larger prints than before. The ISO 12800 shot is definitely better after some post-processing, but it's still best suited for small prints or downsizing for the web only.
Overall, the Nikon D3200's massive images look very good, though there is room for improvement. The main problems I had were related to exposure. Outdoors, the camera tended to overexpose by 1/3 or 2/3 stop. The opposite was true in our studio, where the D3200 underexposed our test scenes by quite a bit. Normally I'd just bracket all my shots to get around that, but the D3200 lacks that very useful feature. The camera will clip highlights at times and, as you saw earlier, the Active D-Lighting feature will reduce that a bit. In natural light, colors were quite saturated, though most of the photos I took under artificial light had a brownish color cast. Photos seemed to be a bit on the soft side, at least with the kit lens. If you can't shell out the money for a nicer lens, you can try turning up the in-camera sharpening in the Picture Control menu. As my previous tests have hopefully illustrated, the D3200 keeps noise levels low through ISO 800 in low light, and ISO 3200 in good light. If you shoot RAW, you'll be able to get even better results, as the camera's noise reduction is fairly strong. Purple fringing is generally lens-related, and that issue rarely popped up during my time with the camera and its kit lens.
Now I invite you to have a look at our photo gallery. There you'll find sixteen lovely photos which you can use to judge the D3200's image quality with your own eyes.
The Nikon D3200 is an entry-level digital SLR that packs a whopping 24 Megapixel CMOS sensor into its compact body. The camera is made of composite (AKA plastic) materials, but it still feels pretty solid. There's a good-sized grip for your right hand, and the most important controls are within easy reach of your fingers. While the D3200 supports all Nikon F-mount lenses, only AF-S and AF-I lenses will support autofocus (which is the case on all of their lower-end D-SLRs). And, as with all DX-format Nikon SLRs, there's a 1.5X crop factor to keep in mind. On the back of the camera is a 3-inch LCD display with 921k pixels. For some reason, the screen didn't seem nearly as sharp as other LCDs with that resolution. There's also an optical viewfinder (this is a D-SLR, after all), with 95% coverage and a magnification of 0.78X. The D3200 has a built-in flash and supports external flashes via its hot shoe. It also supports an optional GPS receiver, and a low-cost Wi-Fi adapter. This Wi-Fi adapter lets you control the camera from your smartphone (Android only at this point), and use it as a gateway for sending photos to social networking and photo sharing sites.
The D3200 is definitely slanted toward the beginner end of the D-SLR spectrum. Nowhere is that more obvious than in Guide Mode, where you tell the camera what you want to do (like take action photos), and it'll use the proper settings. More advanced users can adjust things like shutter speed in Guide Mode, if they want. The camera also has help screens for every menu option, which is handy. The D3200 also has a good set of manual controls, allowing you to set the aperture, shutter speed, or both, along with white balance fine-tuning and RAW format support. The most disappointing omission here is bracketing. Photos can be composed using the optical viewfinder or via live view on the LCD display. The live view experience is just okay here -- it works, but autofocus can be very slow, and there's no live histogram available. The D3200's playback mode is fully loaded, with lots of special effects, a redeye removal tool, and in-camera RAW editing. As you'd expect these days, the D3200 can record Full HD videos at 1080/30p, albeit with monaural sound (a external stereo mic is optional). Continuous autofocus is available (but sluggish), and you can adjust the shutter speed, ISO, and mic level, if you'd like.
Camera performance is very good, except when it comes to autofocus in live view. The camera starts up very quickly, taking about just over half a second to get ready for shooting. If you're using the optical viewfinder, then expect very quick focus lock. Live view focusing isn't nearly as fast -- expect to wait anywhere from 1 - 3 seconds for the camera to focus, with lots of struggling in low light. Needless to say, you will want to stick with the optical viewfinder if you're photographing anything that's moving. Shutter lag wasn't an issue, and shot-to-shot delays were brief. The D3200 has a pretty nice burst mode for an entry-level D-SLR, with the ability to take 8 - 30 shots in a row (depending on the quality setting) at over 4 frames/second. Battery life on the D3200 is quite good when using the viewfinder. If you're using live view, expect less stellar numbers.
Image quality was very good, with the D3200 producing relatively noise-free 24 Megapixel photos. That said, I did run into a couple of issues worth mentioning. Probably the most frustrating thing was that the D3200's frequently overexposed by 1/3 to 2/3 stop, with the opposite occurring in the studio. Thankfully the camera keeps highlight clipping under control. Colors were nice and saturated in natural light, though I had some brownish color casts under artificial light. Photos are a bit soft, and that's probably due to noise reduction, light in-camera sharpening, and my use of the kit lens. Those issues are all easy enough to address. The camera keeps noise at bay until ISO 800 in low light, and ISO 3200 in good light. You can squeeze out quite a bit more detail by shooting RAW at the higher ISO sensitivities. Redeye wasn't a problem on the D3200, but if you do run into it, you can remove it in playback mode. Purple fringing levels were low, at least with the two inexpensive lenses I used.
If you're looking for an entry-level digital SLR that's very easy to use, look no further than the Nikon D3200. It takes nice-looking photos (just keep an eye on the exposure), offers a feature set that'll please consumers (and maybe a few enthusiasts), and it's small and light enough to carry around every day. It's not a great choice for the more hardcore user, due to the lack of bracketing and other manual controls, and I wouldn't recommend using live view for anything moving. If you can live with those issues then I think you'll definitely get your money's worth with the D3200.
- Very good photo quality (though see issues below)
- Compact body is well built for this class
- Snappy performance when shooting with the viewfinder
- Standard selection of manual controls, including WB fine-tuning and RAW support
- Guide Mode makes taking complex photos a snap; help screens for menus an added bonus
- Active D-Lighting brightens shadows, reduces highlight clipping
- Redeye not a problem
- Full HD video recording w/continuous AF
- Elaborate playback mode, complete with RAW editing
- Above average battery life
- Stereo mic input + support for GPS and wired/wireless remotes
- Optional (and inexpensive) Wi-Fi adapter lets you beam photos to smartphones and beyond; phone can also be used to take photos remotely, complete with live view
What I didn't care for:
- Tends to overexpose outdoors (and the opposite in our studio)
- Images on the soft side
- Very slow AF when using live view
- Photos taken in artificial light tended to have a brownish color cast
- No bracketing of any kind
- LCD doesn't seem as sharp as specs imply
- Mono sound recording in movie mode (stereo mic is optional)
- Live histogram in live view would've been nice
- Full manual on CD-ROM (though printed basic manual isn't bad)
Other digital SLRs to consider include the Canon EOS Rebel T3i, Pentax K-30, and the Sony Alpha SLT-A57 (which uses an electronic viewfinder but is otherwise like an SLR). Some competitive mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras are the Olympus E-PL3, Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3, and Samsung NX20.
As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera or electronics store to try out the Nikon D3200 and its competitors before you buy!
Want to see how the D3200's photos turned out? Then check out our gallery!