Nikon D3200 Review
On paper the D3200 offers a very similar video mode to its predecessor, the D3100, but there are a couple of interesting improvements which make the D3200 a more serious video capturing device than the D3100 was. The new model offers manual control over both shutter speed and aperture (on the D3100 you could only fix the aperture before recording), and there is a connector for an external microphone which allows you to record stereo sound. The built-in internal microphone captures mono audio only but you can adjust its sensitivity and switch it off completely.
Other than that, the camera's movie specs are in line with its predecessor. There is a choice of three video resolutions - 1920 x 1080 Full HD, 1280 x 720 HD, and 640 x 424 SD - which all use progressive (i.e. non-interlaced) frame recording. Files are encoded in the .MOV Quicktime format using H.264 compression.
Like on the D3100 some basic video editing options are available in-camera via the retouch menu, allowing you to trim clips to selected start/end points, or extract individual frames as still images.
Video quality options
• Frame size/frame rate
|Audio||Monaural sound, Linear PCM, stereo sound with external microphone|
|Format||H.264 / MPEG-4|
|Max file size per clip||4.0 GB|
|Recordable time||20:00 minutes|
Handling in Video mode
Recording a movie on the D3200 works in a very similar way to the D3100. The process is well-integrated into the user interface and you don't need to enter a specific movie mode. You engage live view by pressing the dedicated button on the camera back, then press the red movie button next to the shutter button to start recording. At this point the live view image will crop down to the 16:9 aspect ratio if you're recording HD footage, but sadly there is still no way to preview the 16:9 format for more accurate framing before you press the record button. You can record a still image while shooting a movie simply by pressing the shutter button - however this does also stop movie recording.
Shutter speed, aperture and ISO are usually set automatically, and you can press the AEL button during recording to lock the exposure. In the PAS modes you can apply exposure compensation up to +/-3 EV, either before or during filming.
|The Nikon D3200 offers more control over video settings than previous generation Nikon entry-level DSLRs, including manual control over audio recording levels.|
In A and M modes you can set the aperture manually before shooting but sadly this still works in the same unintuitive way as on the D3100. The camera enters live view at the currently set (or metered) aperture, but then remains there no matter what changes you make, until you either exit live view or take a picture. This means, bizarrely, that movies aren't always recorded at the currently-set aperture.
For example, if in A mode you set the camera to F5.6 and enter live view, then change the aperture to F16 and start recording, your movie will be shot at F5.6. But if you then take a still image and restart movie recording, your new clip will now be shot at F16. This is, obviously, somewhat confusing until you understand what's going on - at which point it's merely inexplicable.
In M mode you can additionally set shutter speed and ISO manually if you have activated this option in the menu - this is a new feature on the D3200. However, the display makes no attempt to reflect the currently-set exposure level at all, and there's no on-screen exposure level meter either - a serious omission in our opinion.
Video image quality
The Nikon D3200 produces video output that is very similar to its predecessor D3100 and indeed other recent Nikon entry-level and mid-range DSLRs. The camera captures good quality movie footage, with smooth motion, no visible artifacts and comparatively low image noise levels when shooting in low light. The sound quality from the built-in microphone is only good enough for casual shooting in quiet surroundings and will easily pick up noise from camera operations such as zooming, autofocus or vibration reduction. That said, you can connect an external stereo microphone and even control the recording level which is the recommended option for more serious videographers.
The D3200's APS-C sensor brings with it all the depth of field pros and cons that come with larger sensors. It allows for much easier isolation of subjects and gives you, in combination with Nikon's range of lenses, better creative flexibility than the smaller sensors of compact cameras. On the other hand this means there is a higher possibility of your subjects moving out of the focal plane while filming.
Like all DSLRs with a CMOS sensor the D3200 can suffer from 'jello' effects when panning or recording subjects that are moving fast across the frame, with vertical lines tilting to diagonals due to the use of a 'rolling' shutter. However, the effect is much less visible on the D3200 than on earlier generation cameras and you have to pan very fast to notice. In normal shooting the ‘jello’ effect is a non-issue on the Nikon.
Like on most DSLRs that offer continuous autofocus during movie recording its use is only recommendable within limits. With moving subjects in the frame the camera will almost inevitably jump in and out of focus, take a couple of seconds or fail to establish focus at all on occasions. The D3200’s mirrorless competitors such as the Sony NEXs or Panasonic G series, with their lenses which are specifically designed for improved movie shooting, do a better job. But in general the best results can be achieved by focusing manually or pre-focusing for a given scene.
Below you'll find some examples of videos taken with the Nikon D3200 for you to view, download and draw your own conclusions.
Sample video 1
This video was shot at 1080p and in good light. The motion is smooth and the vibration reduction system of the 18-55mm kit lens is doing a good job at keeping things steady, even when panning.
|1920 x 1080 24 fps, H.264 .MOV file, 7 sec, 20.6 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
Sample video 2
This is another 1080p video in good light. The built-in microphone is doing a good job a capturing the ambient sounds but for more serious work an external microphone is the better choice.
|1920 x 1080 24 fps, H.264 .MOV file, 13 sec, 37.3 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
Sample video 3This video was captured in a very dark bar. The image gets visibly noisy at high sensitivities but the end result is in line with other cameras in this class. Due to noise reduction the footage also looks a little soft at full size.
|1920 x 1080 24 fps, H.264 .MOV file, 8 sec, 22.0 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
Sample video 4This video was shot at 720p and 60 frames per second which results in very smooth motion (when played on a compatible video player such as VLC).
|1280 x 720 60 fps, H.264 .MOV file, 6 sec, 18.8 MB Click here to download original .MOV file|
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