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Christmas Gift Guide

Noise

ISO 100, JPEG

Automatic mode

Sharpness

ISO 400, JPEG

ISO 800, JPEG

ISO 1600, JPEG

ISO 1600, raw vs. JPEG

ISO 3200, JPEG

Video

Shadow detail

Highlight detail

Standard vs. Neutral Picture Control

Color

The D3200 delivers solid quality images and relatively artifact-free noise reduction in its JPEGs up through ISO 400. Where many manufacturers choose to agressively blur rather than have color noise, Nikon favors the opposite approach. As a result you see quite a bit of color noise as low as ISO 800, but it retains more detail than its cohorts through ISO 3200. That said, I probably wouldn't shoot JPEG above ISO 400.
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET
The D3200 produces naturalistic images without oversharpening.

(1/250, f5.6, ISO 100, AWB, pattern metering, 18-55mm lens at 55mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
This is just an example of the reason why you should rarely use multiarea autofocus: it never focuses on what you want, in this case, the center of the flower. Otherwise, the D3200's full auto mode isn't bad.

(1/125, f5.6, ISO 320, AWB, pattern metering, 18-55mm lens at 55mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET


(1/250, f9, ISO 100, AWB, pattern metering, 18-55mm lens at 55mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
For distant detail in an ISO 400 JPEG, this is quite good (usually the building detail is quite mushy).

(1/80, f5, ISO 400, AWB, pattern metering, 18-55mm lens at 18mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
You can see noise artifacts even when scaled down to 50 percent, but it looks good displayed smaller than that. I couldn't get a better version by processing the raw -- just one with less noise, but not as sharp.

(1/80, f5.6, ISO 800, AWB, pattern metering, 18-55mm lens at 46mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
Depending upon the lighting in the scene, you can eke some decent performance out of ISO 1600. In this relatively bright scene you can see some artifacts at 100 percent, but it looks OK scaled down.

(1/100, f4.5, ISO 1600, AWB, pattern metering, 24-70mm lens at 55mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
By ISO 1600 I could start eking out some unambiguously better image equality by processing raw.

(1/50, f5.6, ISO 1600, AWB, pattern metering, 24-70mm lens at 24mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
I wouldn't shoot any higher than ISO 3200 unless you're planning to use the photos at small sizes.

(1/60, f5, ISO 3200, AWB, pattern metering, 24-70mm lens at 52mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
I wasn't terribly impressed with the video quality from the D3200. It's OK for personal vacation-type use, but even in good light it's fairly soft and there are a variety of annoying edge-based artifacts (look at the seat of the chair on the right). In dim light it's quite noisy.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
For its class, the D3200 retains a good amount of recoverable shadow detail.

(1/250, f5.6, ISO 100, AWB, pattern metering, 18-55mm lens at 55mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
The D3200 preserves a lot of highlight detail as well.

(1/100, f4, ISO 200, AWB, pattern metering, 18-55mm lens at 35mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
The Standard Picture control (default) bumps up the saturation a little bit, but not egregiously. It also increases the contrast, though, which results in lost shadow detail in JPEGs.

(1/100, f22, ISO 100, AWB, pattern metering, 18-55mm lens at 52mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
The camera delivers reasonably accurate colors.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
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