Digital imaging and communication boom has boosted the popularity of photography with information readily available in the form of online tutorials.
D-SLR cameras, once considered too expensive and sophisticated, too, became more affordable with the launch of entry-level models. Even these entry-level models are changing now with manufacturers packing advanced features into these. The 24-megapixel Nikon D3200 is an example of this transformation.
Design and Build Quality
The outer body of the D3200 is made of engineering plastic. Nikon has done away with the drive selection lever near the mode dial, and instead incorporated a button for the same on the back panel. The Live View lever has also been replaced with a Live View button. The record button has been shifted to the top panel near the shutter release button. The camera features a fixed LCD screen and a metal tripod mount. The hand grip has a textured rubber lining, which makes it easy to grip the camera.
The 24.2 megapixel Nikon D3200 uses a DX format (23.2 x 15.4 mm) CMOS sensor for imaging. This sensor provides an effective field of view of approximately 1.5 times the 35mm-equivalent focal length. The camera features in-camera image sensor cleaning and Image Dust Off reference data with Capture NX 2 software (you have to buy the software separately). The camera features a Nikon F mount with AF contacts. This mount allows autofocus with AF-S and AF-I lenses only. Metering is supported for G and D-type lenses, but AF is not supported. Older Non-CPU lenses can be used only in Manual mode since these lenses do not have CPU contacts to communicate with the camera. The D3200 uses an eye-level pentamirror viewfinder that provides approximately 95 percent frame coverage in both vertical and horizontal directions. The viewfinder features dioptre adjustment from -1.7 to +0.5/m. The camera has an electronically-controlled vertical travel focal plane shutter providing a shutter speed range of 30 to 1/4000 sec in 1/3-EV steps along with B (Bulb) setting. The flash syncs with the shutter up to 1/200 sec.
The Nikon D3200 uses TTL exposure metering using a 420-pixel RGB sensor. It features the usual three metering modes — Matrix (3D colour matrix metering II with G and D type lenses), Centre-weighted (75 percent weightage alloted to 8-mm circle in centre of the frame), and Spot (metered from a 3.5-mm circle centred on selected focus point). Exposure can be compensated up to +/-5 EV in 1/3-EV increments. ISO sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to 6400 (up to ISO 12800 with boost). The camera uses Nikon Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection. It has 11 focus points including one cross-type sensor. The lens servo options are Autofocus Single (AF-S), Continuous (AF-C), Auto AF-S/AF-C selection (AF-A), and Manual Focus (MF). AF-area modes are Single-point AF, Dynamic-area AF, Auto-Area AF, and 3D tracking (11 points). The 3200 can capture images in NEF (RAW, 12 bit, compressed), JPEG, or NEF +JPEG formats at a maximum size of 6016 x 4000 pixels. Release modes available are Single, Continuous, Self-timer, Delayed remote, quick-response remote, and quiet shutter release. The camera can shoot continuously at a rate of four frames per second if the shutter speed is set to 1/250 sec or higher. The self-timer allows you to set a delay of 2, 5, 10, or 20 sec for 1 to 9 exposures. White Balance modes are Auto, Incandescent, Fluorescent (7 types), Direct Sunlight, Flash, Cloudy, Shade, and Preset Manual (fine-tuning available except in Preset Manual mode). Shooting modes include Auto, Scene, Programmed Auto with Flexible Program (P), Shutter Priority Auto (S), Aperture Priority Auto (A), and Manual (M). Scene modes are Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close-Up, and Night Portrait.
The built-in flash has a Guide Number of approximately 12m, while in Manual mode it is 13m at ISO 200. Flash control is through i-TTL metering and the flash modes are Auto, Auto with Red-eye Reduction, Auto Slow Sync, Auto Slow Sync with Red-eye Reduction, Fill-flash, Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync, Slow Sync with Red-eye Reduction, Rear-curtain with Slow Sync, Rear-curtain Sync, and Off. Flash exposure can be compensate from -3 to +1 EV in 1/3-EV increments. The camera features a standard ISO 518 accessory shoe with sync and data contacts and safety lock. The camera supports Nikon Creative Lighting System with SB-910, SB-900, SB-800, or SB-700 as master flash. The device uses a 3-inch, approximately 921,000-dot TFT LCD with 160 degree viewing angle. In Live View mode, the D3200 offers AF, AF-S, AF-F, and MF modes for focussing and uses contrast detect AF when face-priority AF or subject-tracking AF is selected. Movies are recorded in MOV file format employing H.264/MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding at a maximum quality of 1920 x 1080, 30p/25p/24p.
The Nikon D3200 uses an SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card for storage and is powered by an EN-EL 14 Li-ion battery pack. The camera body weighs approximately 505g with battery and memory card (without body cap).
The Nikon D3200 is comfortable to hold and operate. We received the camera with the AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6GII ED lens, which is not a standard kit lens but the combination balanced very well. The hand grip is deep and lined with textured rubber, which makes for excellent grip. Images on the LCD appear crisp and the buttons and dials are very comfortable to operate.
As mentioned before, we tested the D3200 with an AF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. We are not sure why Nikon provided us with this lens while this does not feature in the kit options. Since the performance of a D-SLR depends, to a large extend, on the lens used, the following observations might differ in the case of the actual kit since this lens, costing Rs. 55,650, is expected to perform much better than the 18-55mm kit lens costing Rs. 7,235.
The 18-200mm lens did not produce any flare or chromatic aberration even at wide-open apertures at the wide-angle end. Autofocus was fast and accurate and metering modes performed as expected. We observed darkening of corners at the wide-angle end, with the lens wide open. It produced prominent barrel distortion up to 24mm (36mm equivalent) and pincushion distortion from approximately 35 to 200mm (approximately 52-300mm equivalent). The D3200 produced colours faithfully under most lighting conditions. But in a few cases, the default settings produced slight colour cast. But the camera has a provision to manually tweak the White Balance to your liking. Hence if you get a colour cast under one source of light, you can easily adjust the setting to permanently eliminate this problem. Native image size was 13.33 x 20.05 inches at 300 ppi. At 25 percent of this native size, the images were free of noise up to ISO 3200. Observed at 50 percent, we did not notice prominent noise till ISO 1600. At 100 percent size, though our keen eyes could observe slight noise at ISO 1600, we would consider the images up to ISO 1600 to be practically free of noise. Please not that these are noise levels as observed on our computer screen and it might differ on print, depending on the size of final image, printer, printing paper and the ink used (Generally, noise levels on print are lesser than that on a computer screen).
Value for Money
The Nikon D3200 body retails at an MRP of Rs.32,250. The camera is also available in two kits — the first, with AF-S 18-55mm VR lens retails at Rs.37,950, while the second, with AF-S 18-105mm VR lens retails at Rs. 48,950. We would consider this good value for money.
But if you are wondering what the reviewed combination would have cost, it would be approximately Rs. 90,000.
+ Impressive resolution
+ Excellent handling
+ Good performance
– Cast under some light sources
Design and Build Quality 17/20
Key Features 17/20
Noise Control 4/6
Value for Money 8/10
Grand Total 82/100
Packing 24 megapixels into an entry-level D-SLR looks like an attempt to start a new trend in the market. We wish Nikon had provided the kit lens with the body. Overall, the camera body performs well and deserves a Best Buy for the lens-independent features.