If you are planning to step up from a digital compact camera to a DSLR, then a likely option to consider would be entry-level digicams from the likes of Canon or Nikon. Last year, we reviewed the EOS 1100D, the base model from Canon and it was a decent camera that would be an ideal choice, if Canon were the brand you are opting for. Today, we take a look at the Nikon D3200, which is a rival to the aforementioned model and it is also a follow-up to the highly successful Nikon D3100. Read on to know if you should opt for this year’s entry-level DSLR option from Nikon or just opt for the Canon EOS 1100D, which is over a year old.
A kit includes an 18-55mm lens
Design and Build Quality
Since the Nikon D3200 is a base model, the brand has designed the camera in such a way that it does not intimidate a user. Nikon has kept the design of this DSLR camera simple and because of this, a user who is stepping up from a point and shoot camera will not feel too overwhelmed by the fact that it is a DSLR camera. The model is available in India in two colour options – black and red and the option we received in our labs was the black one. The size of this model is not too large when compared to other DSLR cameras, such as some of the higher end options from Nikon as well as Canon. The hand grip at the front is not chunky, but large enough to fit in the folds of your fingers. The front of the model features an AF assist, a function key, a button for flash and a lens mount that occupies the majority of this area.
At the back of the display, is the 3-inch LCD, which features a 921k dot resolution. This is a major improvement over the 230k dot resolution that was found on the D3100. This would translate into a lot more detail onscreen, while previewing or reviewing images. The buttons for the DSLR are located on either sides of the display and Nikon has done well not to over clutter this area. Apart from the display and the buttons, the rear also features the viewfinder. Nikon has added a rubberized padding here to help in reducing strain that may arise, while peering through it for long periods of time. The top of the camera features a handful of buttons, some of which are a dedicated video recording button and a shutter release button. The other notable features found in this area is a mode dial, which is quite comprehensive as it features different modes that are designed for shooting images in various settings, scenes, etc.
The hand grip makes the D3200 easy to handle
Connectivity options are housed in a bay at the side and they include ports for HDMI, USB, a mic and a GPS unit. Like other DSLR cameras available in the market, this model has a hot swap option for switching SD cards as it is housed in a slot at the side. A slight crippling feature here is that it houses just a single slot for SD cards and not dual, which means one would have to be content with a single slot for switching between cards. Also, the brand does not add a CompactFlash card slot in the DSLR, which keeps this camera on par with some of its competitors, such as the EOS 1100D. The flash for the camera is located at the top and the spring loaded mechanism works well. The flash unit of this camera feels sturdy and just like the rest of the D3200, it features a good build quality. The battery bay is located at the bottom of the camera where the handgrip is located. Though the flap feels well-built, the brand should have made it spring loaded, so the battery does not accidentally pop-out when used a bit roughly.
The D3200 is light enough to be used with a single hand
Rounding up this segment of the review, Nikon has done well in designing a stylish camera and has added a build quality to match.
When it comes to the features of the Nikon D3200, the 24.2MP CMOS sensor can certainly steal the spotlight. The Nikon D3100 features a sensor with an effective resolution of 14.2MP, hence this is a big upgrade, allowing you to shoot at a resolution of 6,016 x 4,000 pixels. The camera uses a DX format APS-C sensor that measures 23.2 x 15.4 mm and features a crop factor of 1.5x. Nikon has also used their new EXPEED 3 image processing engine on this camera as compared to the EXPEED 2 image processor found on the Nikon D3100.
Connectivity options located on the left of the body
Nikon has added a high ISO range on this camera with the maximum sensitivity found here being ISO 6400. Alternatively, you can set the ISO up to 12,800 as well, by using Hi 1 setting on the camera. This can help you capture images well in environments with low light, without the fear of having a vast amount of image grain in the shots captured. Another highlighted feature of this camera is the Guide mode. This feature was first found on the Nikon D3000 and later on the D3100. Nikon has added a dedicated option for Guide mode on the mode dial allowing you to quickly access this option. This feature can be really beneficial for those stepping up to DSLR cameras as it explains how to capture different scenes easily. Besides the text and image representation of the shot you would like to capture, Nikon has also added the option for quickly accessing the desired option from the different settings by merely tapping the OK button.
As mentioned earlier, this feature can be ideal for those who are stepping up from a compact point and shoot camera and the explanations offered are more than feasible to get you started off. However, over time, this option may become redundant as you get better in capturing images using semi manual or full manual shooting modes. But till then, this option can be useful as it covers most of the needed environments and shooting conditions.
Slotted in the entry-level segment of cameras, this model comes equipped with a variety of scene modes that can be easily accessed via the mode dial itself. This becomes convenient for first time DSLR users, allowing them to capture images easily without much difficulty. The camera offers semi-manual and manual shooting modes, such as PASM allowing one to adjust the settings such as aperture priority, shutter priority and any other settings they please, to help them capture the perfect shot.
Mode on the dial for accessing the Guide feature
The interface of the camera is easy to use and one would not have much difficulty navigating through the different settings. The camera also features a LiveView mode allowing you to preview the content you wish to capture on the screen itself, instead of only using the viewfinder to preview content.
The viewfinder found on this camera is of the pentamirror type and this is believed to be not as great as the pentaprism viewfinders that are found on most of the higher end DSLR cameras available in the market. The viewfinder offers 95 percent coverage and this is not as impressive as you cannot get the whole coverage of the scene, while previewing scenes. However, other entry level DSLR cameras available in the market offer the same coverage and it is only the high-end models that offer 100 percent coverage. So no points can be cut from this camera for offering 95 percent coverage.
Memory card slot found at the side of the Nidon D3200
Another neat feature of the Nikon D3200 is that this camera can record videos in Full HD at 1080p at 30fps. This capability of the camera in terms of video recording is on par with other DSLR cameras available in the market. The camera can capture images in JPEG as well as in NEF, which is Nikon’s format for RAW files. Overall, the Nikon D3200, brings a lot to the table when it comes to features and based on these attributes alone it is an option that is definitely worth considering.
Though the features of the Nikon D3200 look really appealing on paper, it is the performance of this entry-level camera that matters the most. The camera is compact and can easily fit in your hand. The size of the camera is not too imposing and can easily suit either genders. Shooting with one hand is possible as well and the LiveView mode would need to be used to attain this feat. Using a single hand, not only can one capture images, but they can also adjust a few settings at the back.
This camera is a pleasure to use and it can be a great option if one is looking to upgrade from a compact digital camera. The Nikon D3200 does well in capturing outdoor shots with all colours appearing natural. The images appeared the same on the camera’s display as it does on a PC. Paired with a 18-55mm Nikon DX AF-S Nikkor lens, we observed that there was a lot of detail present in the shots and no colour fringing noticed. During indoor shots, we saw that there was hardly any amount of image grain and this shows us that the camera does well in low light environments. The camera does not come with a built-in AF system, hence one will need to pair it with a Nikkor AF-S lens. When paired with this lens, we shot macro photographs and from them we observed that there was a lot of detail present. When it comes to focusing, the D3200, is a speedy camera, however, it is not as fast as some of the compact point and shoots available in the market and this feature may take a bit getting used to for those stepping up to a DSLR.
ISO sensitivity test
ISO Sensitivity Test
The native ISO range of this camera is from ISO 100 to ISO 6400. The camera does well in keeping noise to a minimum till a high ISO of 3200. At ISO 6400, we can see that the image features a fair amount of noise, but it is still usable.
The aperture of the camera was tested at different f-stops, which include F/22, F/13 and F/3.5. With the aperture set at its widest, we observed that there was a significant amount of depth of field. This was not present on shots captured at higher F-stops like F/13 and narrower. This proves that one can capture blurred background images even with a basic lens as the one that was bundled with the camera.
Aperture priority test
The zoom capabilities of this camera depend on the lens that is bundled with it. Since we paired it with the stock 18-55mm Nikkor AF-S lens that comes with vibration reduction features, we were able to get blur free shots with the lens fully extended. This will be great for those making the upgrade as you can shoot easily without the fear of any blur appearing in the images.
The camera can record videos in Full HD 1080p and the video quality is really good. This can be another reason why one could consider this camera. The camera does well in recording videos and there is a lot of detail present. There were no transition issues seen when panning the camera from a dark area to a bright one and this shows that the camera can be used in most lighting environments without the worry of any part of the video being washed out. The flash of the camera is powerful as well and if one needs to add an additional flash, there is a hot shoe found on the D3200 as well, which can be used for this purpose. Nikon has bundled a 1030mAh battery with this camera and the brand has rated it at approximately 540 shots.
There are not too many buttons at the back of the D3200
Verdict and Price in India
The Nikon D3200 DSLR camera is available in India at an MRP of Rs. 37,950 and it comes along with an 18-55mm lens. This model is a perfect solution for those looking to step up from a compact camera as it offers all the features and qualities one would look for when making the transition to a DSLR camera. The Guide mode of this camera is one of the features that we really liked a lot as in addition to providing a mini tutorial on photography, it also allows you to capture shots that you wish to take without having the need to adjust any settings. The D3200 is a great camera when it comes to features, design and even performance. The only real issue we had with it was the pricing. Add about Rs. 1,000 and you can get the Nikon D5100 which is a model ranked higher than the D3200.
The Nikon D3200 is small and compact in size
On the other hand, if Rs. 37,950 is too much for your pocket, then you can opt for the Nikon D3100 or the Canon EOS 1100D which is priced in the market at just below Rs. 30,000. You may not get all the features of the D3200, but it can be an ideal option if you are just starting out in photography. If money is not a concern and you want to make a move up from a compact camera, then the D3200 is definitely a model that should be considered.
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