The D3200 is armed with a 24MP sensor, but the megapixel wars are over, so what else is there to recommend Nikon's new camera?
Nikon D3200 – introduction
The megapixel race seems a long time ago now, with camera manufacturers seeming to call an armistice at around 12-16MP. But Nikon obviously missed signing the treaty, arming its entry-level D3200 with a new 24MP sensor.
Nikon D3200 – photography lessons
As on its Nikon D3100 predecessor, the Nikon D3200 has a Guide mode to help you choose the right settings for certain results. Tell it you're taking a portrait, for example, and it sets the aperture wide to blur out backgrounds – a simplistic approach, but it will help you get a feel for what the settings achieve. It could probably do with another layer of depth, giving a little more explanation as to what effect that setting is having and why.
Nikon D3200 – picture quality
And what about that new 24MP APS-C sensor? It's sensational, that's what. The level of detail is incredible and it copes with low light with aplomb. The biggest compliment we can give it is that in many circumstances it's every bit as good as the 36MP full-frame chip in the Nikon D800 (which will be getting the full review treatment itself in the very near future).
Whether anyone other than a studio photographer really needs that many megapixels is debatable, but it does at least open up a lot of cropping possibilities. The autofocus performance is reasonably accurate, although anyone who's test-driven the latest crop of compact system cameras – most notably the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Nikon J1/V1 – will find the D3200 sluggish by comparison.
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Nikon D3200 – controls
Elsewhere, very little has changed from the D3100, although the 3in LCD has been upped to a very sharp 921,000 dots. The grip is still generously sized and all the controls will be familiar to Nikon users.
New users, however, may be baffled by the very important Info (i) button. It's a strange choice of icon for the button that launches the settings menu, where you can change things such as ISO, white balance, etc. We'd have considered calling it 'Settings' or 'Function', or something else that actually describes what it does.
Nikon D3200 – cost of entry
There's also the question of price. It's not eye-watering, but it is more than an SLR beginner might be expected to pay, and arguably the money would be better spend on a Canon EOS 1100D and a couple of extra lenses. You'd have half the megapixels but more versatility.
Nikon D3200 – verdict
The image quality that the Nikon D3200 offers is nothing short of astonishing at this level, but there is a price premium attached. If you're determined to print big (and that's never cheap, either) or want the option of heavy cropping without heavy pixellation, the extra cost may be worth it. Nevertheless this is a solid performer that shouldn't disappoint, and the range of compatible lenses from Nikon and third-party manufacturers is immense.
An entry-level SLR with a truly pro-quality sensor, but the Nikon D3200's price may be too rich for beginners