The D3200 represents the latest generation of Nikon's entry-level DSLR offering. The camera's headline feature is inevitably the new 24MP CMOS sensor which makes it equal to Sony's Alpha SLT-A65, A77 and NEX-7 in offering the highest pixel count we've yet seen at the APS-C sensor size, and in terms of output resolution, second only to the full-frame professional-grade D800 in Nikon's entire range. More significant than the bare fact of the D3200's pixel count though is that it is available in camera with a starting price of $699 (the same launch price as the D3100 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-C G3, for comparison). The D3200 may not exactly be revolutionary, but it doesn't have to be. It just has to be competitive.
Pixel-count aside, the changes from the predecessor D3100 are subtle but, with 1080p30 video, a 920k dot LCD and the option to add an affordable Wi-Fi transmitter, there are clear benefits over the D3100's specification. As usual for Nikons at this level, the D3200 doesn't feature a built-in focus motor, and nor does it offer auto exposure bracketing. It also features a simplified version of the Active D-Lighting function that is now common across Nikon's DSLR range.
Also missing, oddly, are live view in-camera filter effects. Since Olympus introduced its Art Filters to the E-30 back in 2008, processing filters have become increasingly common on most cameras. And, while they're not an essential feature by any means, they're nice to have, especially in a camera at this level. Given that such effects are available in both the higher-level Nikon D5100 and the Coolpix P7100, their absence in the D3200 is unexpected. There is an option to re-process JPEGs, though, and apply several effects including simulated 'miniature' (tilt/shift) and 'selective color'.
Despite these omissions, the D3200 offers a compelling feature set for a camera in this class. We're especially pleased to see that you even have the option to trigger the shutter with an infrared remote - with the inclusion of sensors on the front and rear of the camera.
The inexorable rise of the mirrorless camera has undoubtedly put particular pressure on the entry-level end of the large sensor market. The smaller body sizes of mirrorless cameras, combined with their more compact-camera-like operation has helped win over some people who would otherwise have bought a DSLR, as well as drawing people away from high-end compacts. However, entry-level DSLRs still have a lot to offer - not least 'true' continuous autofocus that no mirrorless camera has come close to matching (aside from Nikon's own 1 V1 and 1 J1, which feature smaller 'CX' sensors).
Although its upgrades aren't necessarily the product of great leaps of ingenuity, the D3200 is a continuation of a carefully evolved - and tailored to suit its market - line of cameras, that has always offered good image quality and performance combined with well thought-out ease-of-use.
Nikon D3200 specification highlights
- 24MP CMOS sensor
- ISO 100-6400 (plus ISO 12,800-equivalent Hi1 setting)
- Expeed 3 processing
- 3.0", 920k dot screen
- Full HD 1080p30 video (with 25p and 24p options)
- Microphone socket
- Twin IR remote receivers
- 4 frame-per-second continuous shooting
- Guide mode
Compared to its peers:
|The D3200 is very similar in size to Canon's Rebel T3/EOS 1100D, with which it nominally competes. The T3, while a very likeable camera, looks very off-the-pace with its 12MP sensor, 720P movies and 230k dot screen.|
Wi-Fi option (WU-1a)
Alongside the D3200, Nikon announced an optional Wi-Fi transmitter for the camera. The WU-1a clips into the USB socket of the D3200 and allows you to broadcast its images to smartphones and tablets running a Nikon app. The unit allows the camera's live view output to be streamed to the smart device and allows images to be shot remotely (at a distance of up to 49ft, but with no control over the camera's settings).
Initially an app will be available for Android phones and tablets, with an iOS version expected in fall/autumn 2012. We're told the app will allow either full-size or VGA-resolution images to be transferred from the camera, but we have yet to see how long it would take to grab a 24MP image. We would also like to see how securely the unit attaches to the camera, given that it sticks out of the side, and looks like it might be a little easy to dislodge. It also requires the port cover that reaches all the way up the camera's flank to be left hanging open all of the time that it's in use.
At the time of writing, we have not had a chance yet to use the WU-1a WiFi-adapter with the D3200. As soon as we can get hold of one we'll test it and update this review.