Nikon D3200 £649.99

12th Feb 2014 | 10:40

Nikon D3200

A great entry-level DSLR with 24.2-million pixels

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Nikon has delivered an excellent camera in the Nikon D3200. Its Guide Mode is especially good and very useful for novice photographers.

Like:

Excellent guide mode; 24MP sensor; Full HD video;

Dislike:

Odd colours on LCD screen;

Introduction

By all accounts, Nikon had a great year in 2011, topping both the DSLR and compact camera charts. The former came via the Nikon D3100, the company's entry-level offering with a 14.2 million pixel sensor, which is a great way in for those looking to get serious about their photography.

The D3200 now sits above the D3100 in the manufacturer's SLR line-up, with the Nikon D3300 just above it.

Nikon D3200 review

Buying Guide
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There's lots of interesting technology crammed into the relatively small body of the Nikon D3200, including things that have trickled down from its more expensive bodies.

These include features such as the Expeed 3 processing engine, which promises to deliver quicker processing, low noise and a range of frame rates for Full HD video recording.

A number of other improvements have been made to the camera, which can be bought with the 18-55mm VR kit lens for around £369 in the UK and $497 in the US. These include slight ergonomic upgrades in the form of newly added buttons and an enhanced rear LCD screen.

Nikon D3200 review

But it is of course that 24.2 million pixel sensor that is likely to be the most headline-grabbing feature, coming just weeks after the unveiling of Nikon's other high resolution camera, the Nikon D800 (with 36 million pixels).

Resolution

Coming from a company that used to profess that 12 million pixels was "enough", it's likely that some will scoff at the hike in pixel count, but Nikon is keen to point out the cropping potential that such a high resolution offers. This means that users who are unlikely to invest in a second, longer focal length range can crop into images post-capture and still retain a large enough pixel count for high quality images.

Nikon D3200 review

Aiming itself so squarely at the entry-level user, improvements made to the Guide Mode are something Nikon is understandably keen to shout about. On the Nikon D3200, new guides including Reds in Sunsets have been added, which - along with the original guides - is designed to help users to achieve the best possible image quality without necessarily having to have a huge amount of photographic knowledge.

Helpfully, the updated guide now has more reference images. These change as the settings are adjusted to show the typical impact.

Nikon D3200 review

Another feature that's likely to appeal to the intended target audience is the option to purchase an additional Wi-Fi adaptor, the WU-1A, which connects the camera to smartphones and tablets for remote shooting and uploading images to social networking sites.

A number of retouch options have been included in the camera, including the capability to straighten and crop images and add digital art filters after the shot has been taken.

Build quality and handling

The Nikon D3200 takes the lead from the Nikon D3100, but has a few improvements to the ergonomics that are very helpful to the everyday shooter.

While there are a limited number of direct control buttons on the Nikon D3200, commonly used functions (such as the sensitivity settings), can be accessed via the "i" quick menu button on the back of the camera.

Although quite a small camera, the deep grip provides a good amount of purchase. The combined weight of the camera and standard 18-55mm kit lens is heavy enough to give the Nikon D3200 the feel of a quality piece of kit.

Nikon D3200 review

The camera feels robust enough to withstand minor knocks and scrapes, although it obviously doesn't have the higher quality of build of its bigger, more expensive brothers in the lineup.

New buttons include a dedicated Live View button, a welcome and sensible addition for novice users who may be used to composing images on an LCD screen if they have come from a compact or compact system camera background.

Nikon D3200 review

Another new addition is a dedicated movie record button, which can be found conveniently located next to the shutter release. Again, this is a sensible idea for the intended audience, who are unlikely to want to spend time fiddling about with dials and menus to reach the movie record mode.

Nikon has improved the screen for the Nikon D3200, bringing it up to 921,000 dots from the D3100's 230k dot offering. The screen is very clear and bright, and has a good angle of view from a variety of different shooting positions while also coping well with a variety of lighting conditions.

Nikon D3200 review

It's a shame that an articulating screen couldn't be included on the Nikon D3200. However, according to Nikon, adding this would come at the cost of making the overall body bigger and more expensive, so it's understandable that the manufacturer has chosen to keep articulating screens for its larger bodied cameras.

The on-screen information display orientation changes depending on whether you're shooting in portrait or landscape mode. This is a nice touch that makes shooting in portrait mode a much easier proposition. It's also likely to impress those used to using smartphones and the like.

Nikon D3200 review

Of course, being a DSLR, the Nikon D3200 has an optical viewfinder. Although not offering the same 100 per cent field of view as its bigger brothers, it is nonetheless bright, clear and easy to work with.

With 11 autofocus points on offer, you can elect to have the camera choose an AF point for you, or switch to choosing it for yourself. Being a slightly more advanced operation, this option is hidden away in the menu a bit, which is a little frustrating.

Nikon D3200 review

Once selected, however, the autofocus point can be adjusted by using the standard navigation buttons.

Guide mode

The improvements made to the Guide menu make the process of shooting high quality images easier, while also managing to impart some knowledge to the photographer using it.

For example, when using the new Reds in Sunsets mode, the camera guides the user through altering white balance, meaning that eventually the user may come to use the camera independently, without the need for such help.

Nikon D3200 review

Nikon already claims that the Guide feature has been very well received by its users, and we can't see that changing for the new model. It's great that these guides have been written in plain English, as well as referencing the photographic terms for educational purposes.

Performance

First impressions of the Nikon D3200's performance are good, and we think this camera is likely to appeal greatly to novice shooters. And because it has a few features that enthusiasts will also appreciate, they won't need to upgrade too quickly as they gain experience.

Autofocus acquisition in the majority of cases is quick, slightly dropping in low light situations, but the system copes well otherwise. Although the Nikon D3200 doesn't boast the AF speed of some other DSLRs, the average user should have no problems using the camera in everyday shooting scenarios.

Nikon D3200 review

It's worth bearing in mind that autofocus is slower when using Live View, because the speedy phase detection is replaced by a slower contrast detection system. This may frustrate some shooters who are used to the quick speeds of compact cameras.

On the whole, the camera's automatic white balance system seemed to do a good job of measuring the scene, and produces mostly accurate results.

Nikon D3200 review

In some daylight situations the camera produces slightly cooler images than is preferable, but, as usual, you have the opportunity to choose the white balance in-camera if you think that's going to be a problem.

One niggle, however, is the screen output. It seems to favour cooler, greenish tones - giving the impression that an image is a lot cooler than it is in reality.

Nikon D3200 review

On a couple of daylight or shady occasions we altered the white balance to the appropriate setting, and on the LCD screen the result seemed to be roughly accurate. However, upon inspecting the images on a computer, they were overly warm, and even had an orange cast in some cases.

While this wouldn't necessarily be a big issue for a more experienced user, who would probably be shooting in raw format and colour correcting afterwards, for the intended novice user of the Nikon D3200 it is an issue that the rear screen can't be relied upon for an accurate depiction of colour.

Nikon D3200 review

By introducing a greater number of pixels to the sensor, there comes a greater risk of increased image noise. Nikon says that noise levels remain roughly the same as from the 14.3 megapixel Nikon D3100, but in certain rare conditions, the performance is slightly worse.

Thankfully, our labs data showed that the Nikon D3200 performs extremely well when compared with its predecessor.

Nikon D3200 review

When shooting at high sensitivities, such as ISO 1600, noise is generally controlled well. When viewing images at 100 per cent there is sometimes some smoothing where noise control has been implemented in JPEG files.

It's important again to think about the intended audience and the (un)likelihood of very large printing, although of course any cropping would emphasise the noise levels further.

Nikon D3200 review

Viewing images at A4 (US letter) size shows there's plenty of detail, good colour tones and a low level of noise. It's also pleasing to see that good results can also be had with the 18-55mm lens, which is included as standard with the kit package.

Happily, images shot at even higher sensitivity settings, such as ISO 3200 and ISO 6400, also show a good level of noise control. Although, as you might expect, there is some detail drop-off, it's certainly preferable to not being able to get the shot at all.

Nikon D3200 review

When examining high sensitivity (ISO 6400) raw format images with noise reduction switched off, we can see that more detail is captured - but at the expense of introducing more luminance and colour noise.

If desired, the amount of noise reduction can be controlled via Nikon's Capture NX2, or with Adobe Photoshop when the relevant profiles become available for download. You can also elect to shoot with noise reduction switched off in-camera, tailoring noise control in post-production.

Nikon D3200 review

However, this wouldn't be the recommended option for most beginner users, who would, in the majority of cases, be more than happy with the output provided by the in-camera noise reduction tools.

It's also worth pointing out that this can't be controlled via View NX2, the software which comes supplied in the box.

Nikon D3200 review

Matrix metering does a good job in the majority of occasions, struggling a little in high contrast or mixed lighting conditions. The option to change metering modes is, as you might expect, a little hidden away in the menu system.

One of the benefits of having a 24 million pixel sensor is the ability to crop into an image and still retain a high resolution output. This is useful when shooting something further away than the reach of your lens.

Nikon D3200 review

Cropping is available in-camera, and it's relatively easy to apply, negating the need to do much on a computer once the image is downloaded.

We can see the option to straighten horizons being particularly appealing to users. We would have liked to have seen the ability to add ratings from within the camera, making it easier to see which images to ditch and which to keep, but perhaps this is something Nikon could consider for future models.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Nikon D3200, we've shot our resolution chart with a Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM lens mounted.

If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Nikon D3200 is capable of resolving up to around 28 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.

For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

Nikon D3200 review: resolution ISO 100

Nikon D3200 review: resolution ISO 100

ISO 100, score: 28 (click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D3200 review: resolution ISO 200

ISO 200, score: 26 (click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D3200 review: resolution ISO 400

ISO 400, score: 26 (click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D3200 review: resolution ISO 800

ISO 800, score: 24 (click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D3200 review: resolution ISO 1600

ISO 1600, score: 22 (click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D3200 review: resolution ISO 3200

ISO 3200, score: 22 (click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D3200 review: resolution ISO 6400

ISO 6400, score: 18 (click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D3200 review: resolution ISO 12800

ISO 12800, score: 18 (click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw images

Nikon D3200 review: TIFF resolution ISO 100

ISO 100, score: 28 (click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D3200 review: TIFF resolution ISO 200

ISO 200, score: 28 (click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D3200 review: TIFF resolution ISO 400

ISO 400, score: 26 (click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D3200 review: TIFF resolution ISO 800

ISO 800, score: 24 (click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D3200 review: TIFF resolution ISO 1600

ISO 1600, score: 22 (click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D3200 review: TIFF resolution ISO 3200

ISO 3200, score: 22 (click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D3200 review: TIFF resolution ISO 6400

ISO 6400, score: 20 (click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon D3200 review: TIFF resolution ISO 12800

ISO 12800, score: 20 (click here to see the full resolution image)

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

JPEG Signal to Noise ratio

Nikon D3200 review: JPEG signal to noise ratio

JPEG images from the Nikon D3200 show similar signal to noise ratio results to the D3100 up to a sensitivity of ISO 1600, above this value the results show a marked improvement.

Nikon D3200 review

The D3200 has a similar signal to noise ratio (SNR) to the Canon 100D for much of its sensitivity range, this means that images will have a similar level of noise - despite the D3200's higher pixel count.

Raw Signal to Noise ratio

Nikon D3200 review: TIFF signal to noise ratio

TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Nikon 3200 are on a par with those from the Canon EOS 1100D and show improved results across the entire sensitivity range when compared with the Nikon D3100.

Nikon D3200 review

The D3200's raw files (after conversion to TIFF) compare well with those from recent competing cameras, beating the Sony A3000 and Panasonic G6 for much of the sensitivity range and only falling significantly behind the Canon 100D from around ISO 800 and higher.

JPEG Dynamic range

Nikon D3200 review: JPEG dynamic range

This chart indicates that the Nikon D3200's JPEGs have at least a 1EV higher dynamic range than the Nikon D3100 up to a sensitivity of ISO 400, above this value it maintains around 0.5ev better dynamic range.

Nikon D3200 review

Only the Sony A3000 manages to beat the D3200's impressive dynamic range at the lower sensitivity settings, but the other cameras get closer at the higher values.

Raw dynamic range

Nikon D3200 review: TIFF dynamic range

This chart indicates that the Nikon D3200 TIFF files (After conversion from raw) show a big improvement for dynamic range at all sensitivities over the D3100. At the lower end of the sensitivity range between ISO 100-400 the results show as much as a 2ev difference between the two cameras.

Nikon D3200 review

This graph shows how well Nikon has managed to maintain its reputation for capturing a wide range of tones with its cameras. The D3200 leads the way for most of the sensitivity range.

Sample images

Nikon D3200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The Nikon D3200's 24 million pixel sensor is able to resolve a lot of detail, which enables creative cropping to be made. This image was shot with a Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens.

Nikon D3200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Colours straight from the Nikon D3200 are generally bright and vibrant, although it does have a tendency to underexposure on occasion.

Nikon D3200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Shot with the standard 18-55mm kit lens at f/8, this image shows the amount of detail that is captured by the sensor, and shows a good amount of edge-to-edge sharpness is delivered by the kit's optic.

Nikon D3200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

A good option for portrait photography, the Nikon D3200 has reproduced colours faithfully and coped well with the strong sunlight.

Nikon D3200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Again shot with the standard 18-55mm kit lens, this image shows that blurred backgrounds are possible even with the most basic of lenses.

Nikon D3200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Lots of detail has been captured by the D3200's 24 million pixel sensor. Colours have This image has been captured with a 50mm f/1.8G lens.

Nikon D3200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image.

We had to select the Shade White Balance setting to get the best colour results when shooting in overcast conditions.

Nikon D3200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Shot at ISO 3200, this image shows the capability of the camera to resolve detail even at high sensitivity settings. This image shows a good level of detail, even in the shadow areas.

Nikon D3200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Again, pushing the sensitivity further has revealed an acceptable image, which would be better than not capturing an image at all.

Nikon D3200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Even at the very highest sensitivity setting, Hi2, this image would still be acceptable for use online or printing at very small sizes.

Nikon D3200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Another image which shows how much detail is captured by the sensor. This image was shot with the kit lens, showing the capabilities of the camera straight out of the box.

Nikon D3200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

This is the same image as the one above, but has been converted from the raw file. It was converted to a 16 bit TIFF file, with all noise reduction switched off, and later converted to an 8-bit JPEG file. You can view the high res JPEG file, or download the TIFF (135MB) from the link below.

Download TIFF file

Nikon D3200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image.

This is an image shot with the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens - showing what a relatively low priced upgrade to the standard kit lens can help you achieve, especially if you are fond of shooting portraits.

Sensitivity and noise

Nikon D3200 review

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Nikon D3200

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 100

Nikon D3200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 200

Nikon D3200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 400

Nikon D3200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 800

Nikon D3200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 1600

Nikon D3200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 3200

Nikon D3200 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 6400

Verdict

Nikon has delivered an excellent camera in the Nikon D3200, and it's still a great option for novices wishing to take their photography more seriously. It also offers a more affordable alternative to the recently announced Nikon D3300.

We liked

The 24 million pixel sensor enables some creative image cropping while still keeping image resolution high - a great option for those who don't want to invest in a zoom lens.

We disliked

The LCD screen has an inaccurate colour cast, so it's sometimes difficult to correctly gauge white balance.

Final verdict

A camera with 24 million pixels at the entry level is still pretty extraordinary, and it's pleasing to note that the extra pixels don't come at the cost of a reduction in image quality.

For beginners looking to get a bit more creative with their photography, Nikon's innovative Guide Mode, brought over from the 3100, is a real boon, while of course the Nikon D3200 includes options for those wanting to explore manual and semi-manual exposure modes further down the line.

Those considering buying the D3200 may also like to consider the Nikon D3300, Nikon D5200 and Nikon D5300 higher in the line-up with the latter two offering vari-angle screens and all having 24Mp sensors.

It's a shame that fairly large niggles, such as the quality of the screen, prevents the D3200 from being the perfect beginner camera... but it's almost there.

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