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Raw and raw conversion

Supplied software

Like its predecessors the D3200 comes with several pieces of software but the key one is ViewNX 2 - a generally capable raw conversion platform. ViewNX 2 is not as sophisticated as Nikon's Capture NX 2 (available separately), but it offers most of the key functionality that a beginner will require when starting out on the DSLR road, including the ability to crop and straighten images, and change white balance and exposure in NEF files. More advanced tools include D-Lighting and highlight/shadow recovery sliders, plus lateral and axial chromatic aberration correction. Basic video editing functionality is also available. In a nice touch, many of these parameters can be built into presets using the Picture Control Utility, meaning that presets you find yourself regularly applying can be uploaded to the camera. Inexplicably absent, however, are any noise reduction options.

As well as being free, ViewNX 2 has another advantage over Capture NX 2 in that it is a small program that does not require a huge amount of computing power to run. It's far from being as slick as Adobe's Camera Raw plug in for Photoshop, but much more forgiving of older, slower computers than Capture NX 2. As well as raw conversion, ViewNX 2 also allows you to geotag photographs using Google Maps (automatically if you use the optional GP-1 GPS unit), and to rate and label images with stars or colors for ease of organization. You can even modify the names of the color tags so that they show up as 'Work,' 'Holiday,' 'Portraits' or whatever best suits your needs.

Although it doesn't give anything like the flexibility or functionality offered by Nikon's Capture NX 2, the bundled ViewNX 2 software is a huge improvement over the earlier generation Picture Project, and it easy to make basic adjustments to both raw and JPEG files from the D3200. The thumbnail view does exactly what it says on the tin - it arranges all of the images in a particular folder as thumbnails, for easy navigation.
When adjusting raw files, you can either apply an existing Picture Control preset (Standard, Vivid, etc.) or create and modify your own, which can be uploaded onto the camera for JPEG shots. ViewNX 2 allows you to geotag your images by using Google Maps to find and record where you took your photos. If you use Nikon's GP-1 external GPS unit with the D3200, geotagging is automatic.
Creating video projects is a simple matter of opening the new video editor program, and importing clips into a playlist. From here you can add transitions between clips, and audio files.

When you're ready to export your video project you can name it and specify the precise type of output that you want.

 

Raw conversion

As is normal in our reviews we like to compare the supplied raw conversion software, any optional manufacturer raw conversion software and some third party raw converter. For the purpose of this test we've picked Adobe Camera Raw and DxO Optics Pro alongside the Nikon software. Here we compare these three converters to the camera's JPEG engine to see how each of them pulls detail out of the images.

  • JPEG - Large/Fine, Default settings
  • NX2 - Nikon View NX2 2.3.2
  • DxO - DxO Optics Pro 7.5.1
  • ACR - Adobe Camera Raw 7.1

Sharpness and Detail

Like we've seen with many Nikon DSLRs View NX2 at default settings emulates the output of the camera's JPEG engine very closely. Color rendition, tonality sharpness and detail are as good as identical. Adobe Camera Raw's default output is a little less contrasty and saturated. It uses slightly more subtle sharpening with a smaller radius but overall there is no visible gain in detail over the out-of-camera JPEG.

DxO uses significantly more aggressive sharpening. Again the increase in detail is marginal but the image looks visibly 'crisper'. That said, any differences will only be visible at a 100% magnification and are therefore only really relevant if you plan to display your images at very large sizes. In any case processing your raw files gives you the flexibility to customize image parameters for your specific requirements.

View NX2 ->JPEG (Default settings)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop
Adobe ACR 7.1 raw ->JPEG (Default settings)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop
DxO Optics Pro raw ->JPEG (Default settings)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop
JPEG out of camera, High quality setting (all settings default)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop

Resolution

The resolution chart confirms pretty much the observations we've made when looking at the crops above. View NX2 generates output that looks almost identical to the out-of-camera JPEGs but if you look closely you can see that a small amount of additional detail is resolved. Adobe ACR's sharpening squeezes another tiny extra amount of detail out of the files but also shows moiré than the View NX2 output. DxO's sharpening is very heavy handed, resulting in large amounts of color moiré, halos and a generally oversharpened look.

JPEG from camera View NX2 (raw)
Adobe Camera Raw (raw) DxO Optics Pro (raw)

RAW vs JPEG

The Nikon D3200's 24MP sensor captures large amounts of detail but at a pixel-level the camera's output can look a little soft, with a lack of detail in low-contrast areas such as distant foliage. However, you can squeeze some additional detail out of the raw files by applying customized sharpening in raw conversion.

In the sample below we did that in Adobe ACR 7.1 (Amount 54, radius 0.7, detail 42) which results in the appearance of some additional detail in the foliage behind the statue and an overall crisper rendition of the image. The sample below was shot at ISO 100, 1/160th sec, F6.3 at a focal length of 17mm with the 17-55mm kit-lens.

JPEG from camera Adobe Camera Raw - custom sharpening
100% crop 100% crop

Even if pixel-level detail is not your number one priority the ability to modify shooting parameters after an image has been taken, in raw conversion, can be extremely useful. Depending on the light source Auto White Balance systems don't always work 100% reliably and if you don't have the time to take a custom reading you can snap away in Raw mode and take care of the problem in post-processing.

The picture below was taken in extremely low light with a tripod in an underground dungeon. The D3200's white balance was set to 'AWB' and the weak tungsten light has inevitably caused a strong yellow cast. This sort of light is so intensely warm that critical color accuracy is basically impossible but in Adobe ACR we modified the color temperature and tint to create a more pleasant and realistic end result, albeit not what you might call 100% 'correct'. The sample below was shot at ISO 12800, 1/2 sec, F3.5 and a focal length of 18mm.

JPEG from camera
Adobe Camera Raw - custom WB

At default settings the Nikon D3200 has a comparatively steep tone-curve, which, in combination with a tendency to overexpose in bright light, can lead to washed out highlights as seen in the sky in the image below. Images like this one can be significantly improved in raw conversion by playing with digital exposure compensation and highlight and shadow recovery.

In the picture below we applied 1.35EV digital exposure compensation and 100 highlight recovery which resulted in the sky recovering some of its blue color. We then slightly lifted the shadows in the buildings for an overall more balanced and pleasant end result. The sample below was shot using a Sigma 10-20mm super wide-angle lens at ISO 100, 1/250th sec, F8 and a focal length of 10mm.

Out-of-camera JPEG
ACR conversion

However, the sample below illustrates that the process described above only works within certain limits. When taking this shot the camera metered for the rusty surface of the sculpture which resulted in a totally blown-out sky. Pulling the exposure back digitally (-0.4EV) and applying highlight recovery (-100 highlights) ends up with some of blue sky turning grey as one or more color channels have clipped (the same effect can be observed, although to a much lesser degree in the clouds in the sample above).

Out-of-camera JPEG
ACR conversion

Raw files for download

Don't just take our word for it - take a look at the Nikon D3200's raw files for yourself, and run them through your own software and preferred conversion settings. Here, we provide you with a selection of raw files of 'real world' scenes, and if you want to take a closer look at the NikonD3200's studio scene shots, you can download original raw files from our compared to (raw) page.

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Comments

Total comments: 9
ibrahimbeno
By ibrahimbeno (1 month ago)

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
By SUNNY PARAMUNDA (1 month ago)

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
By dvalente (1 month ago)

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
By ibrahimbeno (1 month ago)

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
By dvalente (1 month ago)

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
By dvalente (1 month ago)

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
By gloomvision (2 months ago)

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
By FuduNYC (3 months ago)

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
By omarasl (9 months ago)

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

2 upvotes
Total comments: 9