Nikon D3200 (with 18-55mm VR lens review: Nikon D3200 (with 18-55mm VR lens

A programmable Fn button -- you can set it to control the image quality, ISO sensitivity, white balance, or Active D-Lighting menus -- lies under your left thumb, though it's a little hard to differentiate from the flash pop-up/compensation button that sits above it by feel alone. Behind the shutter button circumscribed by the power switch are the exposure compensation and info buttons; the latter toggles the back display.

Nikon has moved the record button to the left of those buttons to what I think is an awkward location. On the D3100, there's a combination Live View switch/record button that falls under your right thumb that's really nice. Now we're back to the separate Live View button on the back -- which you have to invoke first, before you can record -- and a record button on top that you've got to stretch to reach.

As usual, the top mode dial is segregated into the automatic, semimanual and manual modes . The D3200 keeps the Guide mode that provides various levels of step-by-step help for a limited number of common shooting scenarios. There's Easy operation, which, like Auto, provides access to a limited number of options, as well as an Advanced mode, which describes the appropriate settings for the chosen scenario and then allows you to change the settings yourself. For instance, in Easy Operation/Distant Subjects it puts you into the Sports scene mode -- the camera tells you what it's doing, which is really nice -- then asks if you want to use the viewfinder, Live View or shoot a movie. From there, it optionally allows you to adjust flash, release mode, and ISO sensitivity. The options are not specific to the scenarios, however, which would be useful. My one minor quibble with this is that the controls don't always function the same in this mode as when shooting normally; so, for example, here you'd adjust shutter speed with the up/down buttons on the multiselector, whereas you'd normally use the command dial to change the speed. This might confuse some people.

  Canon EOS Rebel T2i Nikon D3100 Nikon D3200 Nikon D5100 Sony Alpha SLT-A37
Sensor (effective resolution) 18mp CMOS 14.2mp CMOS 24.2mp CMOS 16.2mp CMOS 16.1mp Exmor HD CMOS
22.3 x 14.9mm 23.1 x 15.4mm 23.2 x 15.4mm 23.6 x 15.6mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.6x 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 6400/12800 (expanded) ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 3200/ 12800 (expanded) ISO 100 (expanded)/
200 - ISO 6400/12800 (expanded)
ISO 100 - ISO 6400/25,600 (expanded) ISO 100 - ISO 16000
Continuous shooting 3.7 fps
6 raw/34 JPEG
3fps
n/a raw/n/a JPEG
4fps
n/a
4 fps
n/a raw/100 JPEG
5.5 fps
6 raw/14 JPEG
Viewfinder (magnification/effective magnification) Optical
95% coverage
0.87x/0.54x
Optical
95% coverage
0.80x/0.53x

Optical
95% coverage
0.80x/0.53x

Optical
95% coverage
0.78x/0.52x
Electronic
0.43 inches/1.4 million dots
100% coverage
1.1x/0.73x
Autofocus 9-pt AF
center cross-type
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 n/a -1 to 19 EV -1 to 19 EV -1 to 19 EV -1 to 18 EV
Shutter Speed 1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 x-sync 1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/160 x-sync
Metering 63-zone 420-pixel 3D color matrix 420-pixel 3D color matrix metering II 420-pixel 3D color matrix metering II 1200 zone
Metering sensitivity 1 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV -2 to 17 EV
Video H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/24p/ 25p/30p; 720/50p/60p 1080/24p; 720/30p/ 25p/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/50p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/ 24p; 720/30p/ 25p/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV AVCHD: 1080/60i @ 24Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1440x1080/ 30p @ 12Mbps
Audio Mono; mic input Mono Mono; mic input Mono; mic input Stereo; mic input
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time 4GB/12 minutes 10 minutes n/a 20 minutes n/a
(likely 29m59s)
Image stabilization Optical Optical Optical Optical Sensor shift
LCD size 3 inches fixed
1.04 megapixels
3 inches fixed
230,000 dots
3 inches fixed
921,000 dots
3 inches articulated
921,000 dots
2.6 inches tilting
230,400 dots
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless flash Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 550 shots 550 shots 540 shots 660 shots 450 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 5.1 x 3.8 x 3.0 4.9 x 3.8 x 2.9 5.0 x 3.8 x 3.1 5.0 x 3.8 x 3.1 4.9 x 3.6 x 3.3
Body operating weight (ounces) 18.6 17.7 17.6 19.6 17.8
Mfr. Price $599.99 (est, body only) n/a n/a $799.95 (body only) n/a
$699.99 (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) $599 (with 18-55mm lens)
n/a n/a n/a n/a $799 (with 18-135mm lens)
Release date March 2011 September 2010 April 2012 April 2011 June 2012

Nikon laudably puts the D3200's SD card slot in the more accessible grip-side location, and I still like Nikon's implementation of the interactive display. The adjustment options are arrayed around the edges of the display, which makes the one you're looking for easier to find compared with some of the more cluttered full-screen layouts of competitors. On the other hand, you do have to navigate sequentially through the options, which you don't have to do with control panels that allow you to move up, down, and sideways.

In addition to a composite, a HDMI out, and a USB connector, plus the connector for Nikon's proprietary GPS module, D3200 adds a jack for an external mic, bringing it into parity with its peers. But there are a lot of more useful shooting features still missing that other cameras in this price class provide, notably simple exposure and flash exposure bracketing. (For a full account of the D3200's features and operation, download the PDF manual.)

Conclusion
There's nothing about this camera that screams either "buy me!" or "don't buy me!" It's faster, has a better LCD and better video than the D3100, but the higher-resolution sensor doesn't deliver better photo quality. Its bare-bones feature set can't match that of the cheaper A37, and you can probably find the older but more feature-rich D5100 for less than the cost of the new D3200. Still, I think most entry-level shooters would be perfectly satisfied with the Nikon D3200.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Raw shot-to-shot time  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim light)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Sony Alpha SLT-A37
0.8 
0.5 
0.5 
0.3 
0.2 
Canon EOS Rebel T2i
0.3 
0.6 
0.5 
0.5 
0.3 
Pentax K-x
0.7 
0.6 
0.4 
0.5 
0.3 
Nikon D3200
0.3 
0.6 
0.5 
0.5 
0.3 
Nikon D3100
0.4 
0.9 
0.6 
0.6 
0.4 

Typical continuous-shooting speed
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Pentax K-x
4.3 
Nikon D3200
3.9 

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Digital camera type DSLR
  • Optical Zoom 3 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 24.2 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical
  • Optical Sensor Size 15.4 x 23.2mm
About The Author

Lori Grunin is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering cameras, camcorders, and related accessories. She's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 1988.