ISO Performance at Low ISOs (ISO 100-800)
Let’s take a look at how the Nikon D3200 performs at low ISOs. Here are some 100% crops at ISO 100, 200, 400 and 800:
The noise levels at base ISO are typically the cleanest, as the above crops indicate. ISO 100 and ISO 200 look pretty much the same to me. ISO 400 picks up a little noise, but it is very gradual and only visible in darker areas of the image. At ISO 800, there is more noise visible across the frame and the image details are preserved very well. Overall, the ISO performance of the Nikon D3200 at ISOs 100-800 yields very pleasant results.
High ISO Performance (ISO 1600-12800)
High ISO performance is a very important measure of DSLR sensor quality. Here is how the Nikon D3200 performs at high ISO levels between ISO 1600 and 6400:
ISO 1600 adds a bit more grain when compared to ISO 800, but there is still plenty of detail to work with. Keep in mind that these are 100% crops. I would not hesitate to use ISO 1600 on the D3200 and would probably use noise reduction software if I needed to get rid of the noise at pixel level. At ISO 3200 we are seeing loss of detail throughout the frame and some artifacts show up in the shadows. The artifacts are much more visible at ISO 6400, which looks too grainy for me and ISO 12600 is even worse, with a clear loss of colors and details across the frame. Judging from the above crops and my field tests, I personally would shoot between ISO 100-1600 and push ISO to 3200 every once in a while when needed. Anything higher than ISO 3200 is beyond my comfort level.
ISO Performance Summary
Overall, the Nikon D3200 seems to yield pretty impressive results at such high resolution. Once again, keep in mind that the above crops are 100%, which means that no down-sampling techniques have been applied – this is what you will see when zooming in to images at 100%.
It is hard to judge the performance of the Nikon D3200 without direct comparisons against other cameras. Although I have not had a chance to perform ISO comparison tests between Nikon D3200 and the older Nikon D3100, I did a comparison against the higher end Nikon D5200 and the full-frame Nikon D600 DSLRs, which you can see in the next pages of this review.
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