Despite the occasional drop in AF speed under low light situations, the D3200's 11-point AF system (with a cross-type sensor for the center AF point) is for the most part snappy and reliable. Comparatively, the Canon EOS 650D has fewer AF points (nine), but makes up for having more cross-type sensors (all AF points are cross-type). Furthermore, the AF (along with others like auto exposure and white balance) is aided by a 420-pixel RGB sensor. In 3D-tracking mode (during viewfinder shooting), the camera focuses on and tracks a subject based on a selected AF point. In AF-A or AF-C mode, keep the shutter release button pressed halfway down and the point changes automatically when the subject moves. It works great, though it has to be said that the effectiveness also largely depends on your lens (we had better results with an F2.8 lens than the kit lens). Even when your subject isn't moving, you can still make use of 3D-tracking. For example, when you recompose a shot, the AF point will move automatically to ensure that your subject remains in sharp focus. Do take note that the D3200 does not have a focus motor, so it can only autofocus with lenses that have the AF motor built-in.
If you are used to shooting using an LCD monitor or if you want to get 100% frame coverage and don't mind the AF slowness, the D3200 offers a Live View mode. Under this mode, contrast (on sensor) AF is used instead of phase detection AF. This allows for compact-camera-type functions such as face detection; one of the four AF-area modes in Live View mode is Face-priority AF. Subject-tracking AF is also available. For focus checking, we like that we can magnify the image about 9.4 times.
The D3200 is aimed at those taking the leap right into DSLR territory, or those upgrading from a digital compact camera. Either way, the D3200 provides an image quality that doesn't disappoint. Of course, we have to mention that the lens used will affect your results, but images are generally good with even the AF-S 18-55mm kit lens. Remember, the D3200 sees color, brightness and depth, and the benefits are clear. For example, we seldom have to deviate from the auto white balance setting. For difficult scenes such as those with high-contrast or strong back lighting, the D3200 is able to still keep good amounts of highlight and shadow details, a testament to the effectiveness of its Active D-Lighting system.
With its 24.2 megapixel sensor, the D3200 should deliver boatloads of details, and it does. Again, the kit lens is the limiting factor here. To take full advantage of the sensor, better glass is clearly needed.
If you’re upgrading from a digital compact, chances are you will be most impressed by a DSLR’s noise control due to its larger sensor. In the case of the D3200, in terms of noise, the images barely showed any difference between ISO 100 and ISO 400. Noise does start to creep in at ISO 800, but remains well-controlled until ISO 3,200, after which noise intrudes into images in a very obvious way. As expected, noise reduction at high ISOs sacrifices details to lessen the dots and speckles. More advanced users can opt to shoot in RAW, and try to retrieve more details during post-processing.
For movies, the D3200 is able to record at full HD 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution, with frame rate options of 30p (NTSC), 25p (PAL), and 24p. To get 60p or 50p, you've to shoot at a slightly lower 1,280 x 720-pixel resolution. Parameters like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO level are set automatically; you can use Manual mode if you want to control them yourself. Thanks to the APS-C sensor, you get better depth of field control. The rolling shutter effect is still present in video shooting, but we think most people won't notice it.
These are sample photographs shot with the Nikon D3200. The photos have not been post-processed and are copyright to SPH Magazines. They are provided for your reference only and we ask that you do not reproduce them elsewhere. Click for the full-resolution images.