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This review is from: Nikon D3200 Digital SLR Camera Body Only - Black (24.2MP) 3 inch LCD (Electronics)This first part is a preliminary review, intended to convey my initial impressions of the camera.
1) BUILD QUALITY AND FUNCTIONALITY
The camera is assembled in Thailand. Its exterior bodywork looks to be made from a form of reinforced polycarbonate resin; the inner chassis is made of steel. The camera doesn't appear to bend or creak - even with a heavy lens attached - and the various switches and buttons all work positively enough. You will need to take a little extra care when operating the pop-up flash, or when opening and closing the covers to the battery compartment and accessory ports (in other words, with all the usual suspects); but in this respect, the D3200 is no better or worse than many of its rivals. Amateurs/enthusiasts need have no worries about the overall build quality, I believe. As for some of the ancillary bits and pieces...read my later update!
2) THE VIEWFINDER
The D3200 is a smaller camera, overall, than you initially expect it to be. Understandably, then, its mirror, its pentamirror (a cheaper and simpler contraption than the normal pentaprism), and its viewfinder eyepiece, are altogether a little bit more compact than might otherwise be desired - covering only 95% of the sensor's imaging area. On the other hand, the viewfinder does benefit from a degree of built-in dioptric correction: a godsend for those of us with less than perfect sight! As a visual aid to composition, the viewfinder image is perfectly acceptable with the F2.8 lens that I use (more later); but I suspect that - on dull days, with a slower lens - the image directed to the eye might well become a little too dark. I have some reservations about the information display, too: the characters are small and seem quite poorly illuminated, becoming increasingly harder to read in bright conditions; and unfortunately, there is no reminder of the manually selected ISO setting.
3) THE LCD MONITOR SCREEN
With its 921K dot display, the D3200's rear screen provides clear and detailed images most of the time - except in spells of the brightest sunshine, as you might expect. It doesn't articulate, which is a disadvantage when it comes to tackling those awkward high and low level shots, or for those wanting to use the D3200 as a video camera; but I suppose adding this feature would only have bumped up the price and stolen sales from the D5200. You need to realise, however, that the screen being used here is of a type that's bonded directly to the camera (as it is with the D600 and D800.) Should you accidentally damage or somehow permanently disable the screen, the only available remedy would be for Nikon to replace the entire camera backplate - and that sounds expensive to me! It would therefore be a sensible precaution to fit a sturdy screen protector at the earliest opportunity!
4) THE ABSENCE OF CERTAIN 'ESSENTIAL' CONTROLS/FUNCTIONS
Well, some things are missing from the camera's general specification, that's true - for example, auto-bracketing. I'm getting on a bit now, and I learned my photography using 35mm film SLRs: I find that I can manage perfectly well without AB (it's easy enough to bracket exposures manually, after all); but I suspect that some will grumble at its absence, and others will consider its omission quite unforgiveable! As a landscape photographer, I find that I really miss having the means of previewing Depth of Field... But remember this: Nikon intends the D3200 to be an entry-level DSLR, pitched to the market at a certain price. Was Nikon wrong to dispense with a few of the 'bells and whistles' in order to deliver a camera, at this price, with the performance promised by that 24MP sensor...?
5) THE SIZE OF THE IMAGE FILES
They will be large. The handbook suggests the following averages:
JPEG (Fine/Large): 11.9MB (up to 509 images on an 8GB SDHC card)
RAW(NEF)*: 20.4MB (up to 259 images on an 8GB SDHC card)
JPEG (Fine/Large) + RAW (NEF)*: 31.9MB (up to 171 combined images on an 8GB SDHC card)
[* Adobe patrons will require at least ACR (RAW) 7.1 to read and process the D3200's NEF files]
Keen photographers are going to need a 16GB or 32GB SDHC card (the camera will also accept SDXC cards up to 64GB); and it will have to be UHS-1, if you intend to shoot RAW at the camera's maximum shooting speed of 4FPS!
One final word on file sizes. If you intend to develop and convert copies of the proprietary RAW (NEF) files into 16-bit TIFF files, then you need to be aware that the resulting files will be very much larger than their originators - in fact, about 140MB EACH!!
6) THE SENSOR AND THE LENS
This is where things start to get a little bit tricky!
Every major media review or report you care to read will say the same thing: the Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5 - F5.6G VR is a good performer as far as kit zooms go, but it's not good enough to bring the best out of the D3200's sensor. This statement isn't intended to deprecate those who may already own this lens, and nor should it be taken for an arbitrary piece of 'lens snobbery'; it's merely an objective reiteration of the general consensus, nothing more.
If you're only looking to buy a fairly uncomplicated camera, complete with its standard zoom lens, that's able to deliver reasonable JPEG images - and if you never want to take your photography any further than this - then I would suggest that a Canon 1100D or a Nikon D3100 would probably serve you just as well: the capabilities of their sensors are likely to be more on a par with the performance characteristics of these types of general-purpose lenses. Furthermore, I'm not one of those people who subscribes to the idea that you buy a basic kit lens to 'learn the ropes', then grow out of it and move on to something better: if you understand - from the outset - that a particular lens is ultimately not going to deliver the goods, then why buy it in the first place...? Let me put it this way: owning a D3200 is analogous to having a Ford Fiesta with a spectacular V8 engine under its bonnet. Restricting yourself, solely, to the use of that kit zoom lens would be like never getting the blessed thing out of third gear and finding out what it can really do!
As I'm mainly a landscape photographer, the lack of non-fisheye prime (fixed focal length) lenses of less than 20mm meant that I had to consider the alternative of a quality zoom lens (message to Nikon: we DX users are crying out for a decent 18mm F2 or F2.8 wide-angle lens - so how about it?) Having set my budget, I eventually narrowed my choice to the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Lens and the Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 EX DC HSM Optical Stabilised lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras with APS-C Sensors. This Nikkor lens probably has a very slight advantage at the edges and corners of the frame (although the Sigma has better central resolution), and obviously has a longer zoom range; but I just felt that a maximum aperture of F5.6 - at the tele end - was just too restrictive for use in the UK, where bright sunny days can be somewhat few and far between! Also, Nikon had already informed me that - with a 'perfect lens' attached - diffraction could theoretically begin to impair this camera's ability to resolve the finest details in a scene with apertures smaller than F6.3 (because light interference leads to a deterioration in the quality of the image being resolved by the lens, until it becomes inferior to the absolute resolution of the sensor). However...
Even in JPEG shooting mode, the resolution of the D3200's sensor is going to be around 3000 Lines per Picture Height (it's quite a bit higher than this, if you select RAW mode), and in practice there are very few quality DX zoom lenses on the market that can equal these figures - if, indeed, there are any at all! In reality, choosing any kind of a zoom lens for this camera is always going to involve some degree of compromise, and there will need to be other mitigating factors that inform and dictate the decision - such as convenience, versatility, or a relatively fast maximum aperture...
Taking all this into account, I decided to plump for the Sigma lens - and it seems to do a really excellent job. Yes - it's a little bit soft wide open at the 17mm end; but things improve markedly as you stop the lens down just a touch, and having a constant F2.8 maximum aperture throughtout the zoom range is something that certainly proves its worth very quickly! Even better - Sigma lenses come with an extended three year warranty in the UK; Nikon provides two year warranty cover on its DSLR kit lenses, but only one year's cover on Nikkor 'solus' lenses... (Incidentally, I think that the OP/TECH E-Z Grip Hand Strap - Black is a better option than a conventional neck strap for this combination of camera and lens; and the whole ensemble fits very snugly into a Kata Camera Holster for DSLR with 16-35 Lens - Black.
And so, for now:
These, then, are my provisional observations and conclusions. Alas, the dire state of the weather in my part of the world is currently preventing me from really putting the camera through its paces, but early test shots look very promising indeed: there's probably not the ultimate degree of image quality you would expect to get from a Sony Nex 7, which almost certainly uses the same sensor chip (blame the D3200's more aggressive low-pass filter for that!); but the images still appear sharp with masses of detail, and the colours are pleasantly bright and naturalistic. The potential is clearly there, and I look forward to updating my review in due course.
++++ UPDATE 31/10/12 ++++
The story so far...
Disappointingly, the D3200 doesn't appear to deliver the high standard of out-of-camera JPEG images I would have expected of a 24MP DSLR (not quite as good as the D5200, and certainly not as good as the D7100 - all in all, the likely result of processing constraints installed in the firmware by Nikon.) If you want the very best JPEGs (indeed - if you want the best images, full stop), a combination of shooting RAW (NEF), using a really good lens, and some diligent processing at the PC really is the only way to extract the maximum performance from this camera. That also means getting yourself some efficient photo-editing software (read on), and committing yourself to a fair bit of additional time and effort...
The following comments summarise my own thoughts and experiences of using the D3200 so far:
1) COLO(U)R SPACE (accessed from the Shooting Menu)
This is something reviewers rarely mention, but it fundamentally dictates the way in which the camera receives and records its sensor's chromatic data - and that has clear implications for the tonality of later monochrome conversions, too. The D3200 has two selectable colour mode settings:
i) sRGB: This is the most widely adopted colour mode, ideal for those who predominately use the JPEG format and don't want to indulge in much post-production editing of their pictures. In my opinion, it delivers vivid if sometimes unnatural-looking colours.
ii) ADOBE RGB: This mode enables the camera to respond to an expanded range of colours (the gamut) and is the one to choose if you shoot RAW and intend to re-edit your pictures extensively. This is the mode I use because it produces subtler, more naturalistic colours. However, the images can look a little flat if viewed in a medium that does not support this particular mode...
This is an important point. You must ensure that the colour profiles being run by your computer (monitor display), and by your software (picture editor), are unified and compatible and correctly calibrated - otherwise, you won't be seeing any of your images as they truly are! More information on colour and colour profiles can be found at 'color.org' and 'tftcentral.co.uk'.
2) EXPOSURE METERING AND DYNAMIC RANGE
I'll admit it: I'm quite a lazy photographer, at heart! I prefer to use the camera in Aperture Priority mode (I find it's easier to use the D3200 in either the 'A' or 'S' mode settings, because then I only have to bother with the rear Command Dial for altering the Aperture or Shutter values); and I'm not averse to using the standard Evaluative Metering option, either - letting the camera do the job of working out the right exposure level (which it mostly does very well) whilst I get on with the job of actually composing the photograph. However... In high contrast scenes, you need to be aware that the D3200 seems a little too keen to 'throw in the towel' and will often over-expose the scene - leaving the highlights much too intense and 'washed out'. When you know it's likely to happen, it's easy enough to dial in some negative exposure compensation (minus 0.7 of an EV will usually be sufficient, but sometimes you will need quite a bit more - although this is likely to leave the shadow areas severely 'clipped'); or you can even take a meter reading from a different part of the scene (such as a representitive midtone) and use the AE-L button. I believe that the real culprit is the measley 420-pixel RGB sensor that Nikon has chosen to use here* - presumably, for reasons of cost - although the sensor's limited highlight dynamic range (only 3.5EV) certainly doesn't help! I really think Nikon ought to review its exposure calculating algorithms and see whether it can do anything to improve this counter-intuitive tendency (by means of a timely firmware update, for example), as I feel that this is one aspect of the camera's functionality that a company of Nikon's great experience and reputation should have down to a fine art by now!
*Update 10/04/13: I have just read a review of the new Nikon D7100 in 'Amateur Photographer' - another DX camera which seems to be exhibiting exactly the same propensity to over-expose when using the Evaluative Metering option, requiring minus 0.7 of an EV compensation. As the D7100 uses an entirely different metering module to the D3200, I am now pretty confident that the problem must lie with the exposure algorithms in the firmware. As such, Nikon ought to be able to instigate a fix relatively swiftly. But will it...?
3) WHITE BALANCE
AWB (Auto White Balance) mostly works quite well, but the camera sometimes has trouble finding a reference source from which to calculate an accurate base white level/colour temperature...and the resulting pictures can become marred by an unattractive magenta bias that's a little troublesome to resolve at the editing stage. This problem with the WB is something shared in common with all the latest Nikon DX cameras, and it is most likely to occur when there is a predominance of green shades in the scene you're trying to photograph. The ideal solution is, obviously, to obtain a more accurate White Balance reading when the picture is taken; and with this in mind, I've decided to buy a JJC WB Series White Balance Lens Cap* (available in many different sizes) for use in conjunction with the D3200's Preset Manual (White Balance) function - hoping that it will help in those tricky situations where automation can't be entirely relied upon. I will keep you posted...
(*Update 01/03/13. These White Balance Lens Caps work but have one major flaw: the release buttons are placed at the sides of the cap (to keep the central section clear), and this makes it almost impossible to attach when a lens hood is fitted. To fit the cap, you always have to remove the lens hood first - something that I find awkward and rather annoying! I'm now looking for another solution.)
The D3200 provides the user with a central grid comprising 11 separate focusing points - any one of which can be manually selected as the primary focus targeter.
i) AF (AUTOFOCUS): Focusing Mode can be set to AF-S (single-shot servo), AF-C (continuous servo), or AF-A (automatic servo, where the camera determines whether to engage single or continuous servo modes, according to the subject); AF-Area Modes are Single Point AF, Dynamic Area AF*, 3D Tracking*, and Auto Area AF (* these are only usable with the AF-A and AF-C Focusing Modes.)
I mainly use AF-S with Single Point AF because I'm mostly photographing stationary subjects. With this arrangement, focusing seems to be swift and decisive - but you shouldn't really expect anything less of a modern DSLR. I usually leave the central focusing point selected and set because, when the subject is off-centre, I just find it that much easier (and quicker) to use the focus lock and then recompose the shot. The real test of any AF system, however, is how it manages to keep moving subjects in focus...and it's here, I'm afraid, that the camera doesn't do quite so well. Those 11 reference points are not really sufficient to quickly provide and update the D3200 with the volume of focusing data required by its 'brain' to calculate in which direction a fast-moving subject is heading (or how fast!), and hence - to predict where the lens will need to be focused in real time. The system is certainly up to the task of keeping tight focus on kids playing or running about the garden; but ask it to tackle something more ambitious (motorsports, for example) and you may well find that the camera struggles to keep up. If this type of action photography is your preference, then the Nikon D5200 Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm VR Lens Kit - Black (24.1MP) 3 inch LCD - with its 39 AF target points - might be a more suitable choice; or better still, maybe a Nikon D7100 Digital SLR Camera Body (24.1MP) 3.2 inch LCD - if your pockets are deep enough, that is!
ii) MF (MANUAL FOCUS): I find that I'm switching to manual focus, more and more. Using the D3200 in Electronic Rangefinder Mode, it provides me with an indication of whether the lens is focused nearside or farside of the subject (not always easy to judge, by eye), it shows me in which direction I need to turn the focusing ring, and it all concludes with an audio-visual confirmation of when focus has been achieved. It's brilliantly simple and a complete joy to use!
5) NOISE REDUCTION AND SHARPENING
The D3200 has 24.2 million pixels crammed onto a compact APS-C sensor chip: the surface area of the invidual light-sensitive diodes (pixels) is innevitably small, and their light gathering capacity reduced. It should come as no surprise, then, that noise makes its presence felt even at relatively modest ISO settings!
Learning how to use noise reduction techniques inteligently - and sparingly - really is crucial to preserving the finest image details that manage to survive the D3200's low-pass filter. First of all, you need to understand that NR systems primarily work by introducing targeted blur effects to mask the occurrences of noise - rather than by reducing or extracting them directly from your images: this process predictably leads to some loss of surrounding/background detail in certain key areas - and the more heavy-handed this process is, the more detail you are likely to lose in these parts of your photos. My recommendation, therefore, would be to always set the ISO sensitivity manually (at the lowest levels the shooting conditions demand), and to turn the D3200's automated in-camera noise reduction system OFF (unless, that is, you're consistently using the camera at very high ISO values, in which case it should be more advantageous to leave it on.) At lower ISOs, the camera's native NR has a tendency to mis-identify the very finest image details as 'noise' and will unfortunately 'blur' some of them away. In reality, it can never be completely disengaged - it's always there to some extent, working behind the scenes; but you are likely to achieve somewhat better results if you consider applying noise reduction circumspectly, in post-production, using your own photo-editing software - rather than relying on the competence of the camera's own firmware to manage it for you. The supplied Nikon View NX2 software won't be of any use in this regard because it doesn't allow you to make independent adjustments to the noise content of your images: you will either need to upgrade to Nikon's Capture NX2 (good, but expensive!), or to a more affordable third party editor (I would suggest that Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 (PC/Mac) might be a very good starting point).
Furthermore, these small high megapixel sensors can and do suffer from a surprising lack of contrast - sometimes making the images they produce look 'soft': applying additional sharpening (in post-production) should be considered essential for improving the perceived 'crispness' of the photographs you take with your D3200 - especially if you use something like Adobe's excellent Unsharp Mask, which can address the sharpness in certain defined areas of an image without making the boundaries look too jagged or 'artificial', and without introducing random artefacts.
Of course, you will always achieve the best outcomes by shooting and editing RAW files (provided the lenses you are using have the necessary resolving power); but getting that critical balance between noise reduction and sharpness is what you need to aim for to make this camera really shine! And whichever method or editor you use, remember: only make the adjustments you really need to make - don't be tempted to over-process!
(If you go to 'europe-nikon.com', click the 'Services and Support' tab, then 'Support and Downloads', you will find a very instructive article (no 55047, posted 13/02/13) entitled: 'Considerations when taking photos with high resolution D-SLR cameras.')
6) ACTIVE D-LIGHTING
This is directed to users of any Nikon camera with this facility who may also be using Adobe Lightroom 4. There's not a problem if you're shooting JPEG; but if you're shooting RAW, this facility should ideally be switched OFF. Lightroom 4 cannot read any Active D-Lighting settings held in the image's RAW data file when imported, which can lead to the program miscalculating the exposure settings when it 'builds' its own RAW preview - even though the JPEG preview embedded in the RAW file might look perfectly well exposed, in-camera (credit for this piece of advice must go to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 - The Missing FAQ - Real Answers to Real Questions Asked by Lightroom Users.)
7) THE VIEWFINDER
Very occasionally - for example, when I have the camera pointed at a relatively bright subject of uniform colouration, such as a nice blue sky - I can see a faint pattern of 'rings' through the eyepiece, overlaying part of the image. I'm guessing that this is being caused by the fine Fresnel ridges of the focusing screen suddenly becoming accentuated and noticeable when the light strikes its surface at a particular angle, or possibly it's a genuine interference pattern - something akin to Newton's Rings. It's far more a distraction than a problem; but I've used many different kinds of SLRs over the years, and I can honestly say that I've never encountered this phenomenon before!
8) 'CAMERA SHAKE'
I'm beginning to realise just how susceptible this sensor is to blurring as a result of involuntary camera movement, even at normally quite respectable shutter speeds. I think it would be prudent to heed Nikon's own advice and always activate the lens's image stabilisation system, where this facility is offered (doing so will drain the battery a little more quickly, but that really can't be helped!)
If you're using fixed focal length lenses that don't have VR/IS/OS (and the majority will not have it), then you may well find yourself shooting at higher ISO sensitivities than you would ideally like - to guarantee a higher shutter speed - unless you prefer to resort to a monopod or tripod...
9) THE BATTERY AND BATTERY CHARGER
The D3200 uses a small 7.4V/1030 mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery, which also sees service in some of Nikon's Coolpix cameras. It's questionable whether this battery pack is up to the demands made by a DSLR. The handbook optimistically suggests that a fully charged battery should power its way through about 540 photos in single-shot AF mode. Well... I'm obviously using the brand new battery that came supplied with my D3200, so it's currently operating at peak performance - or should be; but even so, and with the battery charged to overflowing, I'm lucky to reach half that total when shooting RAW (Fine) with my Sigma zoom, notwithstanding infrequent use of the monitor screen and flash. As always, it's the monitor screen that seems to consume the most 'juice': try using it only when you really need to, and with the brightness set to a minimum comfort level. It should also be remembered that bigger, heavier lenses will draw considerably more power to drive their AF motors (and their IS systems, if they have them.
You will definitely need to buy a spare battery at some stage; and on that note, please take heed of the following advice:
i) A genuine Nikon battery: A pukka battery will have a small holographic Nikon logo displayed on the reverse. I would strongly recommend that you source these directly from Nikon or from one of its designated dealers. I know that it will cost you more, but at least you'll be sure of getting the real thing - not a counterfeit. Remember - if an offer seems too good to be true, then it probably is! Nikon appears to be employing some kind of electronic identifier/inhibitor chip these days, which enables its latest cameras to determine whether a genuine battery has been installed (in which case, the camera will operate), or whether the battery is non-genuine (in which case, it most likely will not work at all.) This is good in the sense that the system is protecting your camera (and you) from a potentially hazardous fake battery cell; but it's bad if you were contemplating a cheaper non-Nikon alternative. If you are unlucky enough to buy (and attempt to charge) a counterfeit battery and it malfunctions - damaging the charger - then Nikon would NOT be obliged to honour its committments, under the terms of its warranty, and replace the unit...
ii) A third party alternative battery: I know that so-called 'decoded' batteries are now beginning to appear in the marketplace, and that their low prices can seem very enticing; but I would strongly urge you to contact Nikon before you commit to buying any non-Nikon brands of batteries. Why...? This is what Nikon has told me, specifically:
'Using a battery pack that has not been recommended by Nikon will invalidate your warranty.'
That couldn't be clearer! We all know that the camera manufacturers overcharge for their own batteries, and we may wish it wasn't so; but why, when you have spent hundreds of pounds on your new camera, would you put all that at risk for the sake of saving a few tens of pounds on a battery...?
!! Addendum 13/11/12: Did I say that my battery was operating at peak performance...? Well, I tried recharging it this morning and after 30 minutes the charging status light (on the charger) started flashing rapidly. The handbook warns that this is indicative of a fault. After contacting Nikon, both battery and charger will shortly be on their way to Nikon's service department for inspection, leaving me with an out-of-action camera for up to 4 weeks. To say that I am unimpressed with this apparent failure, after only 2 months of ownership, would be quite an understatement! I will keep you posted...
(Supplementary update 21/11/12: Nikon has replaced the MH-24 charger under warranty, though the actual fault hasn't been specified; the battery itself has got a clean bill of health. I should applaud Nikon for its quick turnaround, but I find it hard to forgive them for supplying such a flimsily-designed type of charger unit in the first place! Be warned: the MH-24 needs to be handled very carefully if you want it to last!)
Once you get to grips with its quirks and limitations, the D3200 can deliver amazingly detailed images that are portrayed in pleasantly controled and well-defined colours...although I would certainly prefer the dynamic range to be wider than it is. I still find it difficult to believe that it's possible to buy such a capable camera for so comparatively little! However, this approbation is not unconditional and must come with the following provisos:
i) In order to do justice to that 24MP sensor, you really do need to have a decent piece of glass mounted in front of it: if you intend to rely exclusively on that standard 18-55mm kit zoom lens, you won't be using this camera at anywhere near its full capabilities. Buying a higher quality zoom lens will certainly help; but you really need to invest in a decent set of prime lenses to have any chance of getting the maximum potential from that sensor. I have just bought a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G Lens, and the difference between it and my zoom lens at 50mm is quite amazing!*
(* Anyone who still doubts that prime lenses perform better than zoom lenses on the latest generation of high resolution DSLRs should visit dpreview.com and follow the link to the articles posted online by DXO - describing the results of their tests using lenses of various different types on a D600 and D800; or you can go direct to dxomark.com)
ii) The very best results will come from processing the images yourself - and that means 'grasping the nettle' and shooting in the RAW (NEF) format. Developing RAW images can seem a daunting prospect, at first; but it really isn't that difficult to master, and you will be delighted with the results if you persevere. Having said this, you are going to need the right kind of picture editing software - something that at least allows you to precisely control how Noise Reduction and Sharpening are applied - and that could necessarily entail an additional purchase.
All in all, you can buy the Nikon D3200 with confidence - safe in the knowledge that it's the best DSLR available at this end of the market!
Tracked by 4 customers
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Showing 1-10 of 19 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 Nov 2012 13:31:54 GMT
John O Devon says:
This was a very comprehensive review which I felt took the reviewer a considerable time to format. From all the excellent information gleaned from this review I feel I should hang on to my Nikon 3100 which in many respects delivers the goods which meets my requirements at present. Thanks for an excellent review
In reply to an earlier post on 14 Nov 2012 16:22:29 GMT
To John O Devon: Thank you for your kind comments - it's always nice to be appreciated.
The D3200 is a good camera (so is the D3100), but you really need to work quite hard to get the best from its 24MP sensor - something which is slightly at odds with the notion of the D3200 being an entry-level DSLR!
If you're contemplating a future camera upgrade, my recommendation would be that you take a good hard look at the D5200 when it appears. If I'm being honest, the D5200 is - in all likelihood - the camera I would have chosen, in preference to the D3200, had I known it was in the pipeline: I think it has the potential to be a very significant addition to the consumer DSLR market.
In reply to an earlier post on 14 Nov 2012 22:24:00 GMT
Last edited by the author on 15 Nov 2012 13:50:41 GMT
Mr. D. Jenner says:
With regard to your statement: "The D3200 doesn't appear to deliver the high standard of out-of-camera images you might expect of an entry-level DSLR - not straightforwardly, anyway - and certainly not in JPEG mode." I must beg to differ. The one I purchassed most certainly did and trounced my Canon 550D (a camera which produces superb images packed with detail even in jpeg-mode).
I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I think What Digital? showed similar findings in July-August this year, when they compared it to the D3100. The extra level of detail present, at high magnification, was substantial, giving a massive advantage to those wanting to crop images.
Also, very intersted by your comment: "Should come as no surprise, then, that noise makes its presence felt even at relatively modest ISO settings - although, strangely, it tends to be chromatic noise ...." Mine showed no noise up to ISO400 and at ISO800, it resembled a very fine-grained film. Over chroma noise, there wasn't any, with the kit-lens supplied. The camera's processor appears to do a remarkably good job.
I'm beginning to wonder whether there's a serious problem with Q.C. I was obviously very luck (i.e. got a good one) maybe others have been less fortunate
In reply to an earlier post on 15 Nov 2012 16:36:53 GMT
Last edited by the author on 19 Nov 2012 15:58:05 GMT
To D Jenner: Thank you for your comments.
When we write these reviews, we can only hope to relate our own experiences to others in a factual and honest manner - and that is what I've attempted to do here.
I can't vouch for the performance of the Canon 550D because I've never owned or used that camera, so I can only accept your verdict on the comparison. All I will say is this: the D3200 uses a 24MP sensor, which is quite a significant increase over the 18MP sensor used in the Canon 550D - and it represents an even bigger increase over the pixel density of a D3100's sensor; so wouldn't you logically expect the images rendered by the D3200 to be superior, from the point of view of recorded detail...?
The point I was trying to make (perhaps unsuccessfully) was that you would normally expect the JPEG output from an entry-level DSLR to be about as good as you can expect to get from that class of camera, as they are primarily aimed at users who are more than content to let the camera's 'brain' take care of all the processing; but my own experience (gained from using the D3200 over the past couple of months) has shown me how much the images can be improved by developing them from the RAW sensor data - especially in the areas of noise reduction and sharpening, where quite a significant degree of fine image details can be 'recovered' or at least liberated...provided you are using a lens with the required resolving power. You need to bear in mind that JPEG rendering differs from one make of camera to another and is merely a reflection of what the team of technicians who compile these processing algorithms decide your photographs should look like under various shooting conditions: it's not gospel, and it all comes down to the subjective question of personal preference. If you're happy with the results you're getting, that's fine by me. I would just mention, though, that the JPEG format is a far from ideal long-term storage option for your photos because it uses Lossy compression to reduce the size of the image files: the more you open and close the files, the more likely you are to notice degradation and 'artefacts' (this is not a problem with TIFF, PSD, RAW, or DNG files.)
You say that you haven't noticed the presence of noise at relatively modest ISOs but that it is present at ISO 800. Well, I'm afraid I would still consider ISO800 to be 'relatively modest' by modern DSLR standards - and I'm guessing that this is despite the camera's own NR system being fully operational! I have to say that I have found chroma noise to be more conspicuous than you seem to have observed, and my own findings appear to accord with the reviewers at 'dpreview.com' when they conducted there own review of the D3200. I would make this one observation, however: it's not so much the way in which the camera confronts the problem of noise 'head on', but rather - how it balances its efforts to control signal noise against the need to preserve the finest image details reaching the sensor...and this is where I find that a little bit of DIY can really pay dividends.
(Incidentally, you might want to examine the comparative image quality of the D3200 and the Sony Nex 7 - from the point of view of ultimate image resolution, anyway - because both cameras almost certainly use the same Sony sensor: conveniently, the Nex 7 has also been reviewed by 'dpreview.com'.)
Ultimately, a camera is a piece of instrumentality - a means to an end. If you're content with things as they are, then please continue with your current working practices.
Posted on 20 Nov 2012 17:26:30 GMT
Shaun Hall says:
In reply to an earlier post on 21 Nov 2012 14:16:54 GMT
Last edited by the author on 22 Nov 2012 12:25:54 GMT
To Shaun Hall.
Thank you for your input.
Well, thoroughness bears no compromise. But do you really mean that my review's unhelpful because it's too extensive...?
In reply to an earlier post on 21 Nov 2012 20:56:56 GMT
Last edited by the author on 21 Nov 2012 22:20:40 GMT
Mr. D. Jenner says:
Take your point, but has my question been answered or circumvented?
In my opinion, a comment such as: "The D3200 doesn't appear to deliver the high standard of out-of-camera images you might expect of an entry-level DSLR - not straightforwardly, anyway - and certainly not in JPEG mode." sends out a very powerful message to the average reader : that the camera gives inferior quality Jpegs compared to other DSLRs. He's argued that's not what he meant, but we can only judge his article (good as it is) by what he's said.
In reply to an earlier post on 22 Nov 2012 12:38:29 GMT
Last edited by the author on 23 Nov 2012 14:29:08 GMT
To D Jenner.
Thank you again for your interest, but I thought my earlier reply was very clear.
The D3200 can ultimately deliver photographs of a very high standard (that's why I rated it as a 4 star camera, the same as yourself), but it requires the user to put in a degree of effort to get the very best from it - and mostly in post-production, where significant improvements can be made if you're working from the RAW files - but also, noticeable improvements if you're addressing the JPEG files rendered by the camera: that's why I said that the D3200 wouldn't give of its best 'straightforwardly'.
I repeat that I can't comment on how the D3200 performs against the likes of the Canon 550D because I've never owned or used that particular camera: in any case, that wasn't my argument. If you say that the D3200 produces better JPEGs, then I accept your judgement. However, that by no means negates the possibility that you can obtain significantly better results from the D3200 by doing the processing work - in part, or whole - for yourself!
In the section of my review that you repeatedly refer to, I was expressing an opinion based upon a comparison of how the D3200 performed when left to do the processing work by itself and how the results improved when I took charge of some (or all) of the processing work myself. Additionally, I made the allusion that - up until now - it had been the accepted wisdom that entry-level DSLRs would deliver consistent results of a certain standard, with there being little to be gained (if anything) from the user ever taking full control of the processing. This is definitely not true in the case of the D3200, which in this sense is something of a mould-breaker - in the main, because of the potential of that 24MP sensor. I will say again that you need a good quality lens to do that sensor justice; but the combination will provide quite considerable scope for improving the results - even of the out-of-camera JPEGs.
Now - do you think we can finally put this issue to bed...?
In reply to an earlier post on 12 Dec 2012 21:29:44 GMT
Mr. A. J. Rose says:
Peter, great review from someone who obviously knows what they are talking about. I recently bought this camera and i love it, and reading your review has really helped me understand the camera more and has actually helped me take some better photographs ( being an DIGI Slr novice), i notice that you say that the camera would benefit from a better lens than the kit lens and just wondered if you could recommend me a lens that would give good results. I would like something with a bit more zoom if possible, and also the Auto Focus function, i have got up to about £300 to spend!!!!
In reply to an earlier post on 14 Dec 2012 15:18:59 GMT
Last edited by the author on 14 Dec 2012 15:59:23 GMT
To A J Rose: Thank you for your comments. I know my review is long (which some find off-putting), but I have tried to make it as helpful and informative as I can.
As to your question... I have been really impressed with the Sigma zoom lens that I bought, so I will recommend another of their lenses to you. Why not take a look at the Sigma 18-125mm f3.8-5.6 DC OS HSM for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras with APS-C Sensors. I haven't used this lens myself; but it seems to have garnered some good reviews, it is well within your budget, and - in the UK - you have the benefit of a standard 3 year warranty!
However, buying a zoom lens is not the only option. Had you thought of starting to build a proper system around the D3200 by buying a couple of prime (fixed focal length) lenses, instead...? For example - you could buy the Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f1.8G Lens and the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G Lens, for a combined price of about £285. Each of these lenses has a much larger maximum aperture than a comparable zoom lens and is likely to produce sharper images, too.
Anyway - good luck, and please let me know how you get on!