6.16.2012

Nikon D3200. An Amazing Value Proposition.


Let's cut right to the chase, Nikon has done something incredible. They've taken the highest resolution APS-C sensor available today and put it in a small, nicely designed, consumer body and they are offering it, with a lens, the almost negligible  sum of $699.  I own two of the 24 megapixel sensors; they're in my Sony a77 bodies. According to DXO the implementation of this sensor in the D3200 body, without a pellicle mirror in front to suck down some of the light, out performs almost every DSLR camera on the market @ISO 100.  And with more resolution.  

The DXO rating is 81.  At ISO 100 it's better than the Canon 5Dmk3 or the Nikon D700.  And it remains good all the way up to 3200.  So, rather than dropping big bucks on big cameras, you have the option of spending $699 and getting the ultimate APS-C landscape body.  Really.  That's dirt cheap.  That's shake-your-head cheap.  That's almost half of what  you'll pay for an Olympus OMD EM-5 with a 12-50mm lens of the front.  And as good as the OMD is its image quality (according to DXO) lags behind the D3200 at all the lower shutter speeds. If you don't own a camera and a selection of lenses this one is a great way to stick a foot into the market.  

I went to Precision Camera yesterday to pick up some presentation folders for a project that won't die. I kicked the tires on a huge, heavy and expensive Sony a900 and then I asked to play with the D3200.  I used it for half an hour so you'll have to factor that into my assessment.  But I liked the way it handled.  I liked the way it felt in my hands and I liked the sound of the shutter.  I'm considering going back and picking one up if for no other reason than this combination of sensor specs and image performance was unimaginable in even a $20,000 digital camera just ten years ago.

Are there negatives to this camera and lens?  Well, we could start with the kit lens but that would hardly be fair.  Everyone's kit lens sucks a little.  I'm sure this one is no different.  The finder is small compared to the EVF finders in the Sony SLT a77's.  The menus are pure consumer.  There's no autobracketing (small loss for me) and, and, and that's about it.

This camera and its lens (and its sensor) is $100 less than the flawed G1X point and shoot from Canon.  It's barely $100 more than the  Fuji X10.  But slapped down on a tripod, pointed in the right direction and used with the right lens it's pushing what we used to think of as medium format territory @100 ISO.  Add in fast PD focusing, entry into a world of great lenses, a standard hot shoe, 4fps even with the massive files, stunning raw performance and light weight and you have yourself a wonderful studio camera for about the price of a consumer zoom lens.




This is how Nikon is fighting back against the mirrorless cameras and it's pretty compelling.  In the end you'll have to weigh the benefits of brute force good IQ (Nikon) against things like great EVF's and wonderful, in-body image stabilization and possibly better high ISO performance (Olympus EM-5).



http://www.kirktuck.com

37 comments:

Claire said...

Kirk you must be reading my mind an ocean apart, because I was having EXACTLY this thought today. I even was as far as checking the respective sizes of E-M5 vs D3200, and I have to say, the latter offers way more bang for the buck !!
I love my GX-1 and have resisted going to the EM-5 so far (I hate Oly's User Interface, mostly)but PDAF and better DOF control are still better propositions in DSLRS, if you can live with the bulk, which, in the case of the diminutive D3200, isn't really an issue anymore...

kirk tuck said...

I haven't really come to grips with why I am lukewarm about getting an OMD EM-5. I walked into my favorite camera store yesterday and they had one reserved for me. I passed on it. Again. But I haven't been able to get the D3200 out of my head. The value proposition is astounding and the sensor is so crazy good at ISO 100, 200 and 400. I keep thinking about just picking one up and rationalizing it as a bigger point and shoot. It's almost in that price range anyway...

Miguel Teixeira said...

The advantage is that it's a mature product. The body has hardly changed since the D40, with only the sensor having any significant improvements. I bought a D3100 last year just for my old manual F lenses and it works beautifully. From what I've seen the difference in image quality isn't that great (and 14mp is not bad) so it's worth checking out any D3100 on sale, they should be even cheaper.

CWM said...

I could not agree more. I bought one a few weeks ago figuring that I would just sell it if I didn't like it. The files from this camera are truly amazing. I attended an art show last week with just the 35mm f/1.8 ($200 DX lens). Super light and easy to handle ...really excellent ergonomics, for my hands anyway (smaller than some). The dynamic range is truly impressive and the detail is phenomenal. I hate buying "kit lenses" but I have a D-90 (purchased body only) that I can now sell with the lens that came with the D3200.

I have a D3s and a D700. This little consumer camera is perfect for street shooting and the image quality is first rate. After I sell the kit lens, my perceived expense will likely be about $600 and that makes this a steal. Also, the camera feels very "snappy" which was not an attribute I expected. Once you set up the menus the way you want, the camera mostly gets out of your way (my highest praise of most digital SLR's). There is one issue that should be noted ...diffraction is an issue based on the pixel pitch on the sensor here (3.82 vs. 8.4 on a D3s as one example). F/5.6 and larger is my suggestion. You can go to f/8, but no smaller. I understood this going in and it really isn't a problem if you use primes or zooms that aren't too slow. I like shooting at f/4 and 5.6 anyway, so not that much of an issue really. Still, landscapes at f/11 will not be a plus with this body.

BTW: ISO 1600 looked way better than I imagined prior to purchase. At 100-800, files are just great.

John Krumm said...

They are appealing cameras, for sure. For me a 5200 (with flip screen) would have a little more appeal, so I'm waiting to see what that will cost. But also waiting for other cameras to show up. : ) I must say, though, the OMD is quite a bit more advanced than this one, from build quality to feature set, and the lens selection seems to grow every week, where Thom Hogan complains about Nikon not really doing much for the crop sensor side of their lens collection.

Michael Ferron said...

Haven't peeped through the viewfinder on this one but other small Nikon's have rather small finders. Ok for some things but critical close-up focus can be tough. On the plus side I like smaller DSLR's. At this point in time who needs a big pro camera besides the pro sports/action folks? I guess a D3 looks impressive to clients but in the end most of us don't need it. Do though expect to be looked down on when carrying a "beginners" camera. The snooty types do believe big cameras give them status. :0

kirk tuck said...

Critical close-up focus will definitely call for Live View.

Lenard Burgess said...

Have you posted anything about this camera on the (redacted website )yet? I bet the hounds, pitchforks and torches will be pulled out very quickly if you do, similar to the G3 post. Thank you for the preview, looking forward to you purchasing the camera and giving us a full review :)

Wally Brooks said...

For the money compared to 4/3 mirrorless this is really appealing and if you shoot pocket wizards in I-TTL mode (shoot manual for shutter and f stop, 1/125 @ f5.6 to freeze the kids running around, to see what I mean) to stop action it wallops all 4/3 by default due to pocket wizard compatibility. Almost the same weight as a 4/3 and light enough that it can be carried by a strap comfortably.

Michael Ferron said...

Forgot about that. Still slumming with film cameras too often I guess.

kirk tuck said...

No. I have given up posting anything except correct answers to questions on the forums full of crazy IT people. They already have all the answers they need....

Unknown said...

As much as I like the idea of Smaller/Lighter, I still haven't bought a M43 camera. Unlike the NEX, M43 has a great selection of lenses, but so does Nikon F.

The E-M5 with a 75mm f/1.8 looks tempting -- Nikon AF DC-Nikkor 135mm f/2D - 28.7 Oz vs Olympus M. Zuiko ED 75mm f1.8 - 10.76 Oz, but I'm still not convinced. So I'm waiting for Photokina before I make a decision, but I'm leaning toward Nikon D600/D800. Then I'll be able to use one set of lenses for Both my film F100s and DSLRs. Now all my DSLRs, plus one film camera are Canon.

The D3200 can use the upcoming $699.95 28mm f/1.8G (=42mm) for a normal, the 219.95 50mm f/1.8G (=75mm) short portrait and the 499.95 85mm f/1.8G (127.5) for long portraits. Seems like a no-brainer for an APS-C camera. I've always like looking like a blue collar tourist, and a D3200 + 50mm f/1.8D or G fits that look. Maybe I should get one 8-0

c.d.embrey

c.d.embrey

Condor said...

The D3200 with kit lens is already discounted to $550. The kit lens is no joke either. Plastic construction, but excellent optics.

kirk tuck said...

Condor, Where are you seeing that pricing? Just curious...

Carlo Santin said...

At that price the D3200 is almost a no-brainer. I've used a D3100 quite a bit and I was astonished at how good the files were with some good glass in front of it (the 35mm 18. and the Tamron 17-50mm 2.80). With a prime it is a very light and compact set-up. I may just pick up a D3200 body since I'm already invested in the Nikon system, it would be a terrific replacement for my D50. My hands prefer a DSLR form factor and despite all the sexy new cameras on the market, the DSLR is still my camera style of choice.

Craig Yuill said...

I have no experience with the 18-55mm kit lens, but I have the higher-end 16-85mm kit lens and have been quite impressed with its performance and build quality. I understand that the D3200 kit lens is almost as good optically, albeit with a lesser overall build quality. But I've thought about getting the 18-55mm lens to use as a small, light zoom lens for walking around with. The D3200 is small enough that m43 cameras don't seem quite so compact.

CadenceMichael said...

I have a funny feeling that Kirk will soon be walking around Austin with a D3200 and a 35mm 1.8.

Paul said...

I gave up on pro spec SLRs some time ago, I figured that the entry level DSLRs were streets ahead of what I cut my teeth on when I first took up photography so I might as well use them and enjoy the weight saving and the extra money in my bank account. My EOS550d is virtually a 7d lite and when it is coupled with the Canon EF24mm f2.8 it makes a very compact walk around kit. Add the 50 f1.8 and you have a very versatile lightweight two prime outfit for very little money.

Ron Nabity said...

I have liked this category of cameras for some time and sometimes my peers are surprised that I'll readily admit I use them. I guess this type of camera isn't "pro" enough, whatever that means. I especially like them for event photos, where I'll do about 700 bicep curls with a camera. They also are great for photojournalism shoots as well. About the only type of job I won't use one is for sports - I've been spoiled by fast frame rates.

(Funny, in the film days, we just used anticipation and optimal timing to get great action shots...)

As much as I enjoy the M4/3 line for lightweight fun shoots, I usually feel the tug to also bring along a Rebel body and lens. A little bigger than M4/3 and slightly heavier, but not significantly so. The files just seem a little fuller and sharper to me. I realize the Canon sensors don't score on DXO as well as the D3200 does, but I have never had any issues with IQ from the Canon bodies.

The current models (both Nikon and Canon) also handle video really well.

One thing is for sure, there are plenty of terrific choices!

Wally Brooks said...

I think Condor is referring to a D3100 with 18-55 VR currently $549 on amazon

Frank Grygier said...

I am happy to report that I am content with my kit. I am not swayed. By the way when did you say that Sony FF with EVF was available for pre-order.

kirk tuck said...

I started the local list with Ian at PC yesterday. I told him I wanted the first one... (Sony FF, that is.)

Anders said...

Hi Kirk, just got a D3200 a couple of weeks ago and it is really good for the price.

The 18-55mm is maybe not the best lens around, but it is incredible value for money. Don't think there is any other zoom lens around with built-in vibration reduction and that image quality for such a low price.

The camera is really easy to use with the info menu for often used things like metering, AF area, focus mode etc. The function button can be set to ISO selection (think it is by default). There are dedicated buttons for exposure compensation, live view etc.

Image quality is what I would call stunning with a good lens attached (24-70mm, 70-200mm or the new cheap 85mm f/1.8 etc. and probably also the small 35mm DX f/1.8) also the manual 40mm f/2 VoigtlƤnder gives very good output.

Video is very good if using a VR lens. Very high quality unlike that of the Nikon D90 which I owned some years ago(first DSLR with video i think?). The video mode is really usable on the D3200.

The only thing that would have been nice is a built-in motor for AF on Nikon D-lenses, but then again it would probably be bigger and more expensive, but all in all I think it is amazing value for the money.

PS. agree about the shutter sound - it is very pleasant.

Unknown said...

Kirk and readers ... What are your takes on using the 3200 with manual Nikor AI lenses (from 15mm rectilinear to 105mm f2.5)? Anyone out there have experiences or advice to share?

John F. Opie said...

Just great, Kirk! Here I had my gear all worked out, just picked up an EPL1 for a song - €150! - and was going to wait a while. Then you come and point out what a bargain - a bargain! - this is. I hate you. :-)

Seriously: what got me was pointing out that putting this on a tripod and putting a decent lens on it puts you closer and closer to dMF than ever before. I agree: the price is a killer.

How is battery life? All I want it for is to put on my Gigapan Pro tripod head. Gotta have more than 700 shots, or at least the ability to use an external battery pack. I use my E30 right now for that purpose, as I've got a 2x battery pack that gives me 1500 shots or so...but if I can go from 12MP to 24MP, wow!

Gavin McL said...

I have used a Nikon D40 and a D5100 with both a 24mm F2.8 pre-AI lens and a 55mm F3,5 pre-AI micro lens. I set the function button to ISO, the camera to manual and use the hyperfocal scale to set the focus at a suitable aperture. You can the then use the shutter speed on the thumb wheel and vary the iso value to get your exposure.
If you want to focus on something specific the rangefinder is pretty useful, this is green light in the corner of the view finder that illuminates when the camera reckons you have thing in focus.
The 24mm lens is the easiest to use in this set up as it has more depth of field and particularly with the D40 which didn't have the greatest autofocus in the world it was sometime easier to use in low light than an AFS lens
The 55mm micro lens is amazing but focusing it in "macro" mode 'aint easy. I would do my best then press the shutter in multi shot mode and rock back slightly and pick the best later.
These two lenses cost me less than $200 in total.
It's a pretty cheap way to try out some different lenses
Gavin

Low Budget Dave said...

In all fairness, though, you can't go wrong with any of the new cameras. I recently spent a day shooting with the OM-D, and got a lot of use out of the touch-focus and the tilting screen.

If you look closely at the pictures, I think the new Nikon and the Sony APSC have a nicer look, but not so much that I am going to go sell my Olympus.

Unknown said...

Thanks Gavin. I intend to use the camera mostly with the very same 24mm and 55mm lenses. Will give it a try. Stephen

CWM said...

I've used a number of the Zeiss lenses (No CPU ...ZF, not ZF.2). They work fine ...just no exposure meter (camera says "no lens attached" ...just an annoyance). You need to use the camera in full manual mode and know the shutter speed you want. The aperture is set using the aperture ring on the lens. The green dot rangefinder works fine to assist with focusing (a menu setting that must be set once ...not default). Actually seemed a bit more accurate than the one in my D-700 (less play). Also, the LCD is good enough to check your exposure (based on my limited experience with it thus far). Worst case, just check exposure with a CPU lens, then change to your manual lens. Kirk would likely be totally at home with this arrangement based on his use of manual settings (per other posts).

BTW: the Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 at 5.6 provided excellent image quality at an effective 35mm equivalent of 37.5mm. Focus via the rangefinder seemed "dead on."

Biro said...

I've been waiting for the price of the Sony A65 body (same sensor as the D3200) to fall, say, another $100. But it just won't budge. I had planned to go for the A65 and maybe two Sony primes. I still prefer the huge OLED EVF of the A65 but this new Nikon is a great deal - for $150 less including lens. I don't know, Kirk, what would you do?

Condor said...

Yes, my bad, that's the D3100 price. Anyway, the Nikon kit lenses are known to be very good.

Condor said...

For example, this Photozone.de review shows line pairs of resolutions for the kit lens. Since this is a 24mp sensor, it would have about 4000x6000 pixels of resolution. That would be about 2000 line pairs in the vertical dimension. The 18-55 kit lens generally shows 2000 or more line pairs of resolution at the center and sides, at all focal lengths, when shooting at f/5.6. More expensive zooms like the 16-85 or 18-200 aren't much better, if at all.

http://www.photozone.de/nikon--nikkor-aps-c-lens-tests/632-nikkor18553556vr?start=1

kirk tuck said...

If you aren't relying on the LCD during each exposure on the gigapan pro you'll be fine with the battery, I would think. If you're into live view it's a whole nuther story.

S said...

One thing i don't like about the Nikon 18-55/VR is that the AF motor is quite slow

Bruce Rubenstein said...

This camera doesn't use a "Made by Sony" sensor. It's made by Nikon: http://nikonrumors.com/2012/06/22/the-sensor-inside-the-d3200-is-made-by-nikon.aspx/ For $15,000 one could buy the Chipwork reports to see what's really going on. It may turn out that a lot of what's under the hood comes from Sony. Ultimately, before buying a new camera, it's more useful to read comments made by a photographer who knows what they're doing and taken pictures with the camera than using a techno-forensic-Ouji Board.

kirk tuck said...

I think it's best just to buy the camera, shoot it and look at the files yourself. So many "experts" out there are reading the spec sheets and extrapolating. I went back and bought the camera...

Bruce Rubenstein said...

Yes, the final arbiter is the photographer, but I find comments from you, Michael Reichmann and David Tayor-Hughes to be useful. Read enough comments, look at enough of their work and use some of the same gear that they have, and you can vet them. Also, useful doesn't mean run out and buy something just because someone I respect really like it. I've been doing my photography, such as it is, for long enough to know what I'm looking for. That's why having used an E-PL2 for a while, I ordered the OM-D the day after it was announced because I thought it would fix some of the shortcomings I found with the Pen. It does, I like it. I'm now sure the D3200 can capture very high quality images. I still have no interest in buying one.