Even when comparing the D3200 to other DSLR cameras using an APS-C sensor, the D3200 somehow feels smaller. This is probably good news to those who find DSLR cameras bulky and heavy. The D3200’s body does feel a bit too plastic for us, but we do suppose that contributes to a lower price point, something that will appeal to the price-sensitive consumer or someone upgrading from a digital compact.
We like the deep hand grip present on the D3200. The camera body is not very tall, hence those with bigger hands may find their pinky finger dangling off the edge, but the deep grip contributes to a more secure grip. The quality of rubber on the hand grip and rear thumb rest is good, which makes you feel like you’re holding onto a more expensive camera if you can overlook the plastic construction of the camera body. While the D3200 doesn’t feel as premium as the higher-end models in Nikon’s line-up, it does feel robust and definitely does not feel cheap or inferior to other entry-level models.
In terms of button layout, the D3200 doesn’t differ much from its predecessor, the D3100, except with some changes in certain areas. While the D3100 featured a combined Live View and video record button, the D3200 has a separate Live View button on the rear and the video record button is now found right behind the shutter release button. In our opinion, this makes it more convenient to record videos while shooting, as all you need to do is move your trigger finger from the shutter release button to the video record button.
Most of the buttons that you will use during shooting are conveniently placed on the right, near the shutter release button. Even the power switch circles the shutter release button, so you can effectively power on the camera and shoot with one hand if you are so inclined. The exposure compensation button is also located right behind the shutter release button, so you can toggle it on and adjust the level of compensation by rotating the dial that is located right above the thumb rest. We would say that the button layout for the D3200 does make shooting easy for beginners, which is something not every camera can claim to do.
One of the biggest gripes about mirrorless system cameras is the lack of a viewfinder; even if a model does have one, it is an electronic viewfinder (EVF) as opposed to an optical viewfinder (OVF). The D3200 has an OVF, which means that what you're seeing on it is exactly what the lens sees. And you get no such things as time lag and viewfinder resolution limits. But unlike most EVFs and the OVFs on pro-level DSLRs, the OVF in all beginner DSLRs doesn't show everything of a frame that the final image will include. In the D3200's case, the viewfinder coverage is 95%, meaning that 5% of the actual image will not be shown on the viewfinder when you're looking through it. In normal situations this won’t really make a difference, but there may be instances where something unexpectedly pops up in the corner of your picture and you won't see it until you review your images.
The rear display of the D3200 has been improved from the one found on the D3100 as well. The D3200’s display sports 921,000 dots, versus the D3100’s 230,000 dots. This increase in screen resolution makes for a sharper screen, which is helpful for live view shooting and when reviewing recorded footage/photos during playback. It’s a pity that the D3200’s screen cannot be swiveled, though we’re sure this feature was omitted to keep the D3200’s price down.
Like its predecessor, the D3200 has an interface that is easy to use and will appeal to DSLR beginners. There's no smaller secondary display, so you'd find yourself relying heavily on the 3-inch LCD for changing of settings. In short, pressing the Info button brings up most of the camera’s key settings, and they can be adjusted by using the d-pad.
To help entry users take great photos on the get-go and to help them improve their photography skills, the D3200 also has a Guide mode that provides step-by-step assistance from setup and shooting, to viewing and deleting of the images. Always wanted to take great close-up shots of mouth watering food, or portraits of your loved ones, but are unsure of how? Simply engage ‘Easy operation’ and select the appropriate scenarios. For more creative options, such as softening of the background, freezing of motion, and creating dramatic sunset shots, choose ‘Advanced operation’. Techniques will be explained, examples shown, and recommendations given along the way till you press the shutter release button. It’s like having a personal digital photography tutor who’s always with you.
In addition to Guide mode assistance, the D3200 also comes with Scene modes that cover common shooting scenarios. These modes are easily accessible; just turn to one of the six icons on the mode dial: Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close-up or Night portrait, and let the camera take care of the rest.