The Nikon D3200 is a subtle, yet important update over its predecessor. Sporting a high-resolution 24.2 MP DX-format CMOS sensor, full HD video recording capability and a lightweight camera body, the D3200 is a very capable DSLR camera for beginner photographers.
I had a chance to use the Nikon D3200 for 2 months – first when it came out and later when then I received the Nikon D5200 for testing. Due to an extremely busy schedule and a huge number of lens and camera tests that I went through in 2012, I did not get a chance to properly review this camera until today.
Targeted at beginners and those upgrading from a point and shoot, the D3200 is an entry-level DSLR with the least number of features (when compared to other Nikon DSLRs), simplified user interface and lightest and most compact camera body. This is a third iteration of the camera, with the D3000 making a debut back in 2009, followed by the D3100 in 2010. The Nikon D3200 was delayed until April of 2012 due to the major earthquake in Japan in March of 2011 and severe floods in Thailand in summer of 2011 (where Nikon had manufacturing facilities).
1) Nikon D3200 vs D3100
I won’t go into the detailed comparison between the Nikon D3200 and its predecessor, because the comparison is already provided in my Nikon D3200 vs D3100 article that I wrote a while ago. In summary, aside from the higher megapixel sensor, faster processor, faster shooting speed of 4 fps and a higher resolution LCD screen, not much has changed on the Nikon D3200.
2) Camera Construction and Handling
Being an entry-level DSLR, the Nikon D3200 is built to be a compact and an ultra-lightweight camera, with dimensions of 125x96x76.5mm (about the same as the D3100 in size), making it the smallest DSLR in Nikon’s current line of cameras. While it is not as compact as some of the mirrorless cameras due to the presence of a mirror and a pentamirror, it is still quite small when compared to high-end cameras like Nikon D800. The newly announced Canon EOS Rebel SL1 took the “world’s smallest DSLR” crown this week though, which measures a little smaller at 117x91x69mm. With a weight of only 455 grams without the lens, the Nikon D3200 weighs the same as its predecessor – the Nikon D3200, which was the lightest Nikon DSLR produced to date. Compare that to the same D800 I referred to earlier, which is twice heavier at 900 grams. Weighing so little means that the camera is mostly made of plastic, with the exception of the metal lens mount.
The camera handles very similarly as its predecessor, with slightly superior ergonomics. The lightweight Nikkor 18-55mm kit lens that ships with D3200 is a great fit for everyday photography and the two balance quite well together. While the front of the camera went through very modest ergonomic changes, the top and back of the camera have been slightly modified, with more buttons for quicker and easier access of camera functions. The lever that used to be embedded to the camera mode dial on the D3100 has been eliminated from the D3200 and the functionality has been transferred to a single button on the back of the camera (Left: Nikon D3200, Right: Nikon D3100):
Personally, I liked the lever on the D3100 and saw nothing wrong with it, but I believe Nikon eliminated it for a reason. If more shooting modes are available in the future, there is no way to add them to a physical lever, while a single button can be programmed via firmware to have additional functionality. Plus, it is one less piece of plastic that can potentially break.
The Info button, which gives quick access on the rear LCD to various camera settings has been moved to the middle, between the exposure compensation button and a new dedicated video recording button.
The rear of the camera also went through minimal changes. The zoom in and out buttons on the left side of the LCD have been swapped, which is good, because it follows the layout of all higher-end Nikon DSLRs. Because the video recording button has been moved to the top, the Live View lever + video record button have been replaced with a single LV button:
Overall, considering the entry-level nature of the D3200, there is not much to complain about construction and handling. My only wish, is that the AE-L/AF-L button was located closer to the rear dial – I often use this button for focusing and it felt like it was too far away (same problem with the Nikon D7000 and the new D7100). I don’t see the point of leaving all that empty space between the button and the rear dial, so I hope Nikon will fix this in the future. The original Nikon D3000, by the way, did not have this inconvenience.
As for weather and dust protection, although the D3200 is a pretty tough camera, there is no sealing of any kind, which is expected for an entry-level DSLR. This means that you should be careful when using it in challenging weather conditions.
3) Nikon D3200 Specifications
- 24.2 Megapixel DX-format CMOS Image Sensor
- Full 1080p HD video with stereo sound
- Easy-To-Use with Nikon’s Guide Mode
- Fast and accurate shooting with 11-point Autofocus System
- 3-in. monitor with One-Touch Live View shooting and movie capture
- Built-in HDMI port
- 6 Automatic Exposure Scene Modes – Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close-up or Night Portrait
- Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape Picture Controls
- Built-in pop-up flash
- Includes 3x 18-55mm Zoom-NIKKOR VR Image Stabilization Lens
- Compact and Lightweight Design
- ISO sensitivity 100-6400, expandable to ISO 12800 equivalent
- Scene Auto Selector and Scene Recognition System in Live View
- Features Nikon’s EXPEED 3 image processing engine
- Active D-Lighting for shadow highlight recovery
- Automatic Image Sensor Cleaning
- In-camera Image Editing
- Compatible with SD, SDHC and SDXC cards
- 95% Viewfinder frame coverage
- 4 frames per second in Continuous Shooting Mode
- AF-S lens required for autofocus (no built-in focus motor)
Detailed technical specifications are available on Nikonusa.com.