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JPEG Tone Curves / dynamic range

Our Dynamic Range measurement system involves shooting a calibrated Stouffer Step Wedge (13 stops total range) which is backlit using a daylight balanced lamp (98 CRI). A single shot of this produces a gray scale wedge from the camera's clipped white point down to black (example below). Each step of the scale is equivalent to 1/3 EV (a third of a stop), we select one step as 'middle gray' (defined as 50% luminance) and measure outwards to define the dynamic range. Hence there are 'two sides' to our results, the amount of shadow range (below middle gray) and the amount of highlight range (above middle gray).

To most people highlight range is the first thing they think about when talking about dynamic range, that is the amount of highlight detail above middle gray the camera can capture before it clips to white. Shadow range is more complicated; in our test the line on the graph stops as soon as the luminance value drops below our defined 'black point' (about 2% luminance) or the signal-to-noise ratio drops below a predefined value (where shadow detail would be swamped by noise), whichever comes first.

Note: this page features our new interactive dynamic range comparison widget. The wedges below the graph are created by our measurement system from the values read from the step wedge, the red lines indicate approximate shadow and highlight range (the dotted line indicating middle gray).

Cameras Compared

With its Active D-Lighting feature switched off the Nikon D3200 gets just over 3.5EV of dynamic range in the highlights which puts it slightly ahead of its direct competitors in the entry-level segment such as the Canon EOS 600D or Pentax K-r. Switching on Active D-Lighting gives you marginally more highlight range and also lifts the shadow areas, creating an overall more balanced exposure in high-contrast scenes.

This feature is shared by all of Nikon's DSLRs models, but unlike models higher up the product line, the D3200 only has two settings - On or Off. The effect of Active D-Lighting differs depending on the scene, so this test, performed using our 13-stop wedge, isn't necessarily an accurate indication of 'typical' performance. It does clearly show, however, the way in which ADL is designed to work, extending the visible dynamic range by lifting shadow areas and darkening highlights, to get the most detail out of these areas in a single exposure. To get an idea of the function's impact on real-life images check out the Features-page of this review.

Color Modes

Like most recent Nikon DSLRs the D3200 offers six different 'Picture Controls', which are essentially color response presets applied to in-camera JPEGs. While some of these slightly adjust the shadow range of the image they all clip highlights at essentially the same point, approximately 3.5 EV from middle gray. See the Features page of this review for a demonstration of these presets on a real-world image.

The default mode is 'Standard'. The 'Vivid' and 'Landscape' options boost image contrast by slightly reducing dynamic range in the shadow areas of the image and rendering 'deeper' black. 'Portrait' mode, on the other hand, protects shadows by maintaining detail at the darker end of the camera's dynamic range, but still clips highlights at almost the same point as the 'Standard' option.

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Comments

Total comments: 10
reanim888

Great power comes with great responsibility. High quality sensor is a bonus but at this resolution, you need better lenses to make the most of it. Entry level people may not even want to spend that much for any lenses… by the time they are happy with their skill and ready for investment in better lenses… they may also want a better body… so, yes, again for those who can afford it rather than really drawing people in to their DSLR range. For many beginner, I think price is one of the main issues.

1 upvote
ibrahimbeno

thank you for this useful information, i really like the Nikon D3200, it's be the door of much people to photography world and i can said that it's the best for beginners, because it's simple - low price - 24.2 MP ...i creat a post about features of Nikon D3200 and why it's the best for beginners (see my profile)

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 5 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
SUNNY PARAMUNDA

Its horrible to hear some bad news related with d3200 as i purchased it last week.I am a new one in SLR,and have less experience with SLR camera.Today i downloaded the update of firmware and finally decided to give up the attempt after reading the reviews related with the new update.Now i ordered for a 35 mm F1.8 prime lens.Now i think the move was totally foolish one

0 upvotes
dvalente

Sunny,
I am a novice DSLR user as I have only used point and shoot cameras up until last year. Two days ago, I took my camera into Kenmore camera (our local store) as they asked to look this issue. I may have had a setting incorrect after the camera came back from Nikon Service. It appears to be working acceptably now with the 35mm, F1.8 lens. I will see if I can delete my earlier post. Keep in mind, you may need to send your camera to Nikon to get the autofocus adjusted (this is free during the warranty period)to work acceptably with F1.8. The other thing I realized is the focus system can have a hard time determining what to focus on in different lighting and in low contrast conditions (this may have contributed to my problem after the camera returned from service). I am still learning the camera and each new item I get (F1.8 lens in this case) is a new learning curve.

Dean

0 upvotes
ibrahimbeno

Don't be sad, i always suggest Nikon D3200 for beginners, because it's teaches and encourages those who are new to DSLR technology.
i've created a comparison chart at http://nikond3200news.blogspot.com/2014/06/nikon-d3200-is-it-best-dslr-camera-for-beginner.html that compares the D3200 to the D7XXX serie,D5XXX and Canon cameras under 700$. don't make any buying decision till read it.

0 upvotes
dvalente

I've had my D3200 for almost a year. I was happy with it until purchasing a 35mm F1.8 prime lens. I found at F1.8 the actual focus was behind the subject by about 4". I sent the camera back to the factory (warranty service) and had the autofocus adjusted. The focus is only slightly better than before. If you stick with the kit lenses, you won't notice this as you have a larger depth of field. It's possible not all D3200 cameras behave this way; mine does. If I use the prime lens, I start around F4 and don't go lower.

Comment edited 59 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
dvalente

I would like to modify or delete this post but apparently, I can't do that. The post is correct except for after the camera came back from service. By the way, Nikon service did verify my focus issue was valid. The camera focuses properly at F1.8 now. I found the camera can struggle to determine what to focus on depending on lighting and sometimes the subject itself. It's possible this is normal. I am a novice photograhper and am learning my gear and it's limitations.

0 upvotes
gloomvision

i love it. im using the camera for filming.
im gonna let the camera speek for it self.
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/gnkwdy4xhS8?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

0 upvotes
FuduNYC

I have been using this camera for 6 months now. Prior to this I had a D90 and I miss the LCD display and the extra control. It just takes a bit of getting used to.
The 24mp CMOS is very useful for crop-zooming. Got a good price on it in Dubai Duty Free.

0 upvotes
omarasl

thanks a lot for this huge amount of useful information
actually in digital cameras world Nikon is my only choice

2 upvotes
Total comments: 10