While I have shown what the pixel-level performance of the D3200 is at different ISO speeds, I typically down-sample images when comparing sensor performance between cameras. The only proper way to compare sensors is to down-sample images, because you would never compare prints of different size. If you have two cameras with different resolution, the one that has more pixels would obviously produce larger prints. So to compare, you would want to match the print size, which is the same thing as down-sampling images.
For the below comparisons though, I will only show pixel level performance between the D3200, the D5200 / D7100 and the D600 DSLRs. The reason for this – all of these cameras have 24 MP of resolution, so there is no need to down-sample anything.
Nikon D3200 vs D5200 / D7100 ISO Comparison at low ISOs
The Nikon D5200 and D7100 DSLRs share the same Toshiba 24 MP sensor, which is different from the Nikon sensor used on the D3200. Let’s take a look at how these sensors compare at 100%. At low ISOs between ISO 100 and 400, both Nikon D3200 and Nikon D5200 have about the same noise levels. Details and colors also look very similar (Left: Nikon D3200, Right: Nikon D5200):
However, at ISO 800 we see a slight difference between the two sensors – the Nikon D5200 shows better noise performance in the shadows.
Nikon D3200 vs D5200 / D7100 High ISO Comparison
What about high ISO levels above ISO 800? Let’s take a look:
The difference in high ISO performance is more evident at ISO 1600. While the Nikon D3200 has slightly visible artifacts in the shadows, the D5200 has none. This is more evident at ISO 3200, where the D5200 clearly handles noise better. The Nikon D3200 has some loss of details as well, while the D5200 retains them. At much higher ISOs above 3200, the D5200 looks overall much better.
Nikon D3200 vs D5200 / D7100 Summary
As you can see from the below comparison, while both sensors produce impressive low ISO performance, there is certainly difference in the way that noise is handled at ISOs above 400. You can see that the D5200 renders better shadows starting from ISO 800 and the difference is much more evident past ISO 1600. Still, the D3200 has excellent image quality overall, especially when images are down-sampled to smaller resolution.
Nikon D3200 vs D600 Low ISO Comparison
While DX vs FX is a whole different ballgame for comparing sensor performance, since it is not a true apples-to-apples comparison due to the huge difference in sensor size, I still decided to post the comparison with the D600. As you may already know, the Nikon D600 also has 24 MP of resolution, so it is interesting to see how the two differ at pixel level.
Let’s take a look at how cropped sensor compares to full-frame at pixel level, at low ISO between 100 and 800 (Left: Nikon D3200, Right: Nikon D600):
The difference in how the cropped sensor and full-frame render details and noise is evident even at the base ISO of 100. There is noticeable “punch” of details, colors and smooth rendering of noise on the D600 that you just cannot see on the D3200. The difference is even more evident when ISO is increased to 400 and more so at 800. This is what one should expect to see when comparing APS-C with full-frame…
Nikon D3200 vs D600 High ISO Comparison
Clearly, the full-frame FX sensor from the D600 is capable of producing images of excellent quality at high ISO levels. Just take a look at images at ISO 3200 and 6400 – the D3200 image looks washed and suddenly lacks detail in comparison. Even the boosted ISO 12800 on the D600 looks better than ISO 3200 on the D3200 in my opinion.
Nikon D3200 vs D600 Summary
As I have already stated above, comparing an entry-level APS-C sensor to full-frame is certainly not a fair, apples-to-apples comparison. As expected, there is huge difference in the way images are rendered between sensors of different size. While the number of megapixels is the same, the D600 has much bigger pixels, which drives better overall performance with beautiful colors, higher dynamic range and better details. But keep in mind, the D3200 is priced under $700 with a lens, while the D600 costs $2K for the body alone…
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