Review: Nikon D3200

The D3200 is the latest in a long line of entry-level Nikon DSLR cameras that go back to the D40, and as such, it's benefited from years of ongoing improvement.

NameDigital SLR camera: Nikon D3200
At a glance:Huge megapixel count,Small body for a DSLR ,Fast and responsive ,Great images
Summary:A stunning starter DSLR that’s also got the ability to cater to more advanced shooters.
RRP:$1,299 (single lens)

The D3200 is the latest in a long line of entry-level Nikon DSLR cameras that go back to the D40, and as such, it’s benefited from years of ongoing improvement. The preceding D3100 model was a borderline-great DSLR, and the D3200 is pretty much an upgraded D3100; so it’s starting from a solid base.

This camera is exceptionally easy for even total neophytes to use, thanks to the impeccable ergonomics, clever design touches and the built-in Guide Mode. There are scene modes aplenty but there’s also more than enough functionality to please sophisticated users. As far as DSLRs go, the D3200’s body is tiny and light, yet solidly built where it counts. While that small form factor is nullified to an extent once you add in a lens or two, it’s nice to have the lightest possible set-up around your neck or in your daypack. The 921,000-dot, 3-inch LCD screen is a top-notch unit, but it’s hard to overstate the benefits of its bright and clear optical viewfinder as well.

Image quality and overall performance are remarkable for an entry-level DSLR.

The new sensor boasts a mighty 24-megapixel resolution, which is heaps for the DX format. You can see this in the form of noise and softening at higher ISO levels but noise is absent below ISO 1,600, and as expected with all that resolution, the images are exceptionally sharp and detailed at the lower ISO levels.

The metering system is almost supernaturally adept at judging exposures and white balance, not to mention managing the contribution of the pop-up flash. In use, the D3200 proved to be speedy, starting in a hurry and boasting an autofocus system that’s versatile, accurate and extremely quick. It also offers a four frames per second burst speed, allied to a high-performance image processor and a capacious buffer. This performance is especially impressive considering the large image files being moved around, and the camera’s modest price.

The Live View mode is useful in many applications but the autofocus struggles a bit here and is quite slow. Nikon’s video quality is up there with the best, and the D3200 offers some manual control options and an external microphone connector for those who are serious about video shooting.

In many ways, Nikon’s appetizer DSLR behaves like a more expensive camera. It handles superbly and can capture some truly beautiful images. Technically speaking, it’d be a marginally better camera with an 18MP sensor but for most users, that’s splitting hairs. Actually, for novice photographers, having such a big image area is a blessing because it allows for fairly major cropping to correct mistakes – not that this is the ideal long-term approach to composition.

The competition at this price is intense but the D3200 is a perfect starter camera. Despite its inherent simplicity, it’s got real depth of ability, and equipped with a twin lens kit, it’s hard to imagine a better way to get started on the advanced camera path. The D3200 can easily justify better lenses, so the upgrade plan is clearly laid out.

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Ashley Kramer

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