The entry-level Nikon D3200 has a few tricks up its sleeve that make it super-easy for beginners to use, plus some high-end specs like a mega-high-resolution sensor that you won't find even on some pricier cameras. It fits 24 megapixels into a compact and lightweight body, and reviewers call it a "DSLR with training wheels."
One of the easiest to use. "This is one of the easiest-to-use DSLRs out there," DCResource.com's Jeff Keller says, and other reviewers agree. As with any DSLR, you can simply set the D3200 to Auto and click away while the camera does the rest. But if you want to learn more, the camera's Guide Mode will teach you as you shoot, "like a DSLR with training wheels," says Dan Havlik at Imaging-Resource.com.
The camera's body weighs just 1 pound, so it's "small and light enough to carry around every day," Keller adds. Testers find it comfortable to hold, with buttons and dials located exactly where you'd expect to find them. The 3-inch LCD screen is bright and clear and you can frame your shot in Live View, but experts say autofocus is sluggish this way, so it's better to look through the optical viewfinder.
Snappy speed and pretty photos, but don't expect miracles. In reviews, the Nikon D3200's real attention-grabber is its 24.2-megapixel compact image sensor. This is a significant achievement in a budget DSLR: "For an entry-level camera, this is exciting," says Tim Coleman at Amateur Photographer. This compact-sensor camera captures outstanding detail -- as much as some pro-quality, full-frame-sensor DSLRs -- and still handles dim light up to ISO 3,200 quite well. One drawback to note: The D3200's whopping megapixels mean whopping file sizes on your computer. Its battery is rated for 540 shots on a single charge: "Good enough for a typical day of stills shooting with some video capture and image review in between."
Lightweight but sturdy. "Despite being made of plastic (err, composite materials), it still feels very solid," Keller says of the Nikon D3200 at DCResource.com. "Lightweight does not mean poor quality," agrees Amateur Photographer's Coleman. He points out that the D3200's plastic body and faux-leather hand and thumb grips are identical to the Nikon D5100 (Est. $480 (with kit lens)) , the next model up the Nikon ladder. Ken Rockwell notes that the D3200's lens mount and tripod socket are both metal: "This is perfect," he says. "It's lightweight, and the durable parts are still metal." In fact, "about the only construction weak spot is the door over the memory card slot," Keller reports.
Nikon adds new extras, but still leaves a few out. The Nikon D3200 includes a few impressive features, reviews say, but omits some niceties you'll find on other cameras. There's a jack so you can add your own stereo microphone, which is ideal when shooting movies as the built-in mono mic doesn't impress. There's also manual control over video, so you can adjust things such as aperture and mic level. Optional accessories include a $20 wireless remote and a $60 USB dongle that can beam photos wirelessly to your Android or iOS smartphone or tablet. On the downside, the LCD panel is static and won't flip out or swivel. However, a movable screen lets you see what you're doing with odd-angle shots like when shooting above a crowd.
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1. Amateur Photographer
Tim Coleman thoroughly evaluates the Nikon D3200 both in the lab and in the field. He rates the camera on eight criteria such as features, autofocus, dynamic range and overall, and posts test photos to illustrate his points. He explains how the camera stacks up against the Sony A65, a similarly priced rival with similarly sky-high megapixels, and the older Nikon D3100. The D3200 is the top-rated budget DSLR here.
Review: Nikon D3200 Review, Tim Coleman, June 16, 2012
This extremely detailed review covers every aspect of the Nikon D3200, from ergonomics to video quality. Testers post plenty of photos to show how the camera handles different situations, and share side-by-side lab shots to demonstrate how it compares with rivals from Canon, Samsung, Sony and Pentax, as well as the earlier Nikon D100. The D3200 stands up to the scrutiny and reviewers name it a "Dave's Pick," although it hasn't been added to the site's list of the best cameras.
Review: Nikon D3200 Review, Shawn Barnett, Mike Tomkins, Dan Havlik and Zig Weidelich, Sept. 13, 2012
DPReview.com also publishes an extraordinarily thorough evaluation of the Nikon D3200, with plenty of sample shots and several video clips. Testers come to similar conclusions as Amateur Photographer and Imaging-Resource.com: The D3200's kit lens is a letdown, but otherwise this is a solid entry-level DSLR. The camera is given the site's Gold Award in the 2013 Consumer SLR Camera Roundup.
Review: Nikon D3200 Review, Lars Rehm, July 2012
4. What Digital Camera
This site recommends the Nikon D3200 and the Canon EOS Rebel T3 as the best budget DSLRs. "Easy to use, performs well and delivers great images," concludes Phil Hall after thoroughly critiquing the D3200's features, design, performance and image quality.
Review: Nikon D3200 Review, Phil Hall, May 15, 2012
After testing the Nikon D3200 and Canon EOS Rebel T3i in minute detail, DCResource.com recommends both cameras as the best under-$800 DSLRs. Jeff Keller evaluates the D3200's design, features, performance and image quality, posting both sample photos and videos.
Review: DCRP Nikon D3200 Review, Jeff Keller, Nov. 13, 2012
6. Ken Rockwell
Ken Rockwell's reviews aren't as finely detailed as at other sites, but they're packed with blunt buying advice. He hits the high points of every aspect of the Nikon D3200. Ultimately, he says, it's all the camera most people need.
Review: Recommended Cameras, Ken Rockwell, Not dated
The Nikon D3200 is one of the top-rated DSLRs here, earning 4.4 stars out of 5 from more than 500 owners. The majority says it's intuitive to use and shoots great photos right out of the box, although some users aren't crazy about the kit lens. A few give the camera low scores, including some who say theirs malfunctioned quickly.
Review: Nikon D3200 24.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of February 2014