Nikon D3200

Nikon's replacement for its entry-level dSLR is faster, with a higher resolution sensor.

Though there are a few changes in the placement of the controls, the D3200 has the same fundamental body design as the D3100. Nikon USA

Entry-level releases in dSLRs seem to be slow in coming, but they're not quite dead yet. This month, Nikon will roll out the Nikon D3200, the replacement model for the almost two-year-old Nikon D3100, which, like its predecessor, the D3000, is still alive and well.

While the D3200 has a lot of the same or similar components to the D3100, including the same autofocus system (bolstered by Nikon's newer scene-recognition technology) and viewfinder, it's got a newer, higher resolution sensor coupled with Nikon's updated Expeed 3 imaging engine, a higher-resolution LCD, and 1080/30p video with a supporting microphone jack and HDMI connector. Normally I'm not a big fan of sensors with jacked-up resolutions, but many we've seen in the 18-plus resolution class have actually performed better than the lower-res versions they've replaced. As long as that's true, I'm OK with it. The camera also retains its Guide Mode to walk you through some basic photography techniques.

The WU-1a wireless transmitter plugged into the USB port of a red D3200. Nikon USA

All the camera and camcorder manufacturers are looking for the appropriate architecture for incorporating wireless connectivity into your shooting experience, ranging from completely built-in to completely third-party (such as an Eye-Fi card). Nikon's approach is the new WU-1A, a $59.99 wireless receiver/transmitter dongle that plugs into the camera's USB port and works in conjunction with an app running on your tablet or phone. It can also function as a "dumb" remote for shooting -- just previewing and triggering the shutter, but no access to settings. The adapter and an Android app will be available in late May; iOS won't be available until the Fall.

Is this the optimal configuration? I don't know. I've become a bit disenchanted with the Eye-Fi approach, mostly because my need for a bigger, faster SD outweighs the convenience of the Eye-Fi. This will be an interesting test for 2012.

Here are some of the D3200's competitors:

 Canon EOS Rebel T3iNikon D3100Nikon D3200Nikon D5100Sony Alpha SLT-A57
Sensor (effective resolution)18-megapixel CMOS14.2-megapixel CMOS24.2-megapixel CMOS16.2-megapixel CMOS16.1-megapixel Exmor HD CMOS
22.3 x 14.9mm 23.1 x 15.4mm23.2 x 15.4mm23.6 x 15.6mm23.5mm x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier1.6x1.5x1.5x1.5x1.5x
Sensitivity rangeISO 100 - ISO 6400/12,800 (expanded)ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 3200/ 12,800 (expanded)ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 6400/12,800 (expanded)ISO 100 - ISO 6400/25,600 (expanded)ISO 100 - ISO 16,000
Continuous shooting3.7 fps
6 raw/34 JPEG
n/a raw/n/a JPEG
4 fps
n/a raw/100 JPEG
8 fps (10fps with fixed exposure)
21 raw/25 JPEG
Viewfinder (magnification/ effective magnification)Optical
95% coverage
95% coverage

95% coverage

95% coverage
0.43 inches/1.4 million dots
100% coverage
Autofocus9-pt AF
center cross-type to f2.8
11-pt AF
center cross-type
11-pt AF
center cross-type
11-pt AF
center cross-type to f5.6
15-pt phase-detection AF
3 cross-type
AF sensitivity -0.5 to 18 EV-1 to 19 EV-1 to 19 EV-1 to 19 EV-1 to 18 EV
Shutter Speed1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 x-sync1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/160 x-sync
Metering63-zone iFCL420-pixel 3D color matrix420-pixel 3D color matrix metering II420-pixel 3D color matrix metering II1200 zone
Metering sensitivity-1 to 20 EV0 to 20 EV0 to 20 EV0 to 20 EV-2 to 17 EV
VideoH.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/24p/ 25p/30p; 720/50p/60p1080/24p; 720/30p/ 25p/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/50p H.264 QuickTime MOV1080/30p/ 24p; 720/30p/ 25p/24p H.264 QuickTime MOVAVCHD 1080/60p @ 28, 24Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1440x1080/ 30p @ 12Mbps
AudioMono; mic inputMonoMono; mic inputMono; mic inputStereo; mic input
Manual aperture and shutter in videoYesYesYesYesYes
Maximum best-quality recording time4GB/12 minutes10 minutesn/a20 minutesn/a
(likely 29m59s)
Image stabilizationOpticalOpticalOpticalOpticalSensor shift
LCD size3 inches articulated
1.04 megapixels
3 inches fixed
230,000 dots
3 inches fixed
921,000 dots
3 inches articulated
921,000 dots
3 inches articulated
921,600 dots
Memory slots1 x SDXC1 x SDXC1 x SDXC1 x SDXC1 x SDXC
Wireless flashYesNoYesYesYes
Battery life (CIPA rating)470 shots550 shots540 shots660 shots550 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches)5.1 x 3.8 x 3.04.9 x 3.8 x 2.95.0 x 3.8 x 3.15.0 x 3.8 x 3.15.3 x 3.9 x 3.3
Body operating weight (ounces)2017.717.8 (est)19.618.9 (est)
Mfr. Price$799.99 (body only)n/an/a$799.95 (body only)$699.99 (body only)
$849.99 (with 18-55mm IS II lens)
$649.95 (with 18-55mm VR lens)$699.95 (with 18-55mm VR lens)$899.95 (with 18-55mm VR lens)$799.99 (with 18-55mm lens)
$1,099.99 (with 18-135mm IS lens)n/an/an/an/a
Release dateMarch 2011September 2010April 2012April 2011April 2012

As I haven't yet tested the A57 and an announcement from Canon (for something, anything at the consumer level) is way overdue, I can't even speculate as to how the competition will shape up for the under $800 dSLRs in 2012. But I'm expecting my evaluation unit of the D3200 very soon, and that'll be a start. Stay tuned.

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