Nikon D3200 - Review and user experience - Part 1

24MP for around £500. Is this too good be true? The D3200 is a Nikon "entry-level" camera in 2012 and of course not so long ago it would have been state of the art and cost £1000's. However it is a DSLR, and they are on their way out, aren't they?

Well first lets have a look at the size.

So maybe not so big. 

But then again!

The D3200 is a pretty light, small (ish) DSLR camera. Fitted with its kit zoom (18-55mm) or a small prime, such as the 35mm f/2D pictured above its actually not that much heavier and bigger than m4/3 or NEX. However it is capable of handling all the modern Nikon lenses with built-in AF motors, so as a system camera the choice is yours and you can make it into whatever you want. 

Rumours of the "death" of the DSLR are greatly exaggerated, particularly in the UK in the summer of 2012. I always notice what cameras people are using and Nikon DSLR's are by far the most popular cameras I see in the tourist areas that I visit. Hardly representative, but I still see CSC / Mirrorless / E.V.I.L cameras very rarely. 

Now it doesn't take a crystal ball or any kind of insight to know that the D3200 is going to sell in huge quantities. Nikons at this level always do and the combination of all those pixels and its price point will make this a very popular camera. Whether the majority of users will ever use anything other than the kit lens is a question I can't answer, but I can answer the question as to whether its useful for a photographer such as myself, and the answer to that is a resounding yes. 

I'm constantly amazed at the evolution of digital cameras. The speed at which they improve is becoming difficult to keep up with. Yes I can be critical of what they offer and how they work as a photographic tool, but in comparison with what was available just a few short years ago, the improvement in image quality and functionality and the provision of features that only well-off professional photographers could aspire to in the past, now being available in a "family snapshooter" camera such as this, is extraordinary to behold. And so is the fact that we all now take this for granted. 

The D3200 is a camera that is perfectly capable of shooting front covers for Vogue, advertising campaigns and virtually any other high end commercial photographic project. The fact that virtually anyone can sling one of these over their shoulders and saunter off to shoot sports day, babys first steps or Grandma's birthday party is a fact of modern photographic life and in many ways I'm still struggling to come to terms with it. 

Coming from a film background I appreciate just what modern digital cameras can do. The ease with which these things focus, process and churn out high quality images never fails to astound me. But in this era when we take these technological advances for granted, this wonder sometimes gets ignored. In comparing a camera such as this with its peers and competitors we (I) can sometimes get hyper-critical. The truth is that a camera like the D3200 is an astoundingly good picture taking (creating) machine. Its capable of handling virtually anything that is thrown at it and producing images that can be printed the size of a wall and fulfilling any photographing ambition I might have. At its relatively modest price its a bargain and the only limitations on what can be created from it is down to my ability as a photographer.

It is I think important to make these points. We get endlessly caught up in comparisons and criticism and the "We want the world and we want it now" attitude that we are all probably guilty of. 

So no matter what I may discover on my journey with this camera, the important point to make first of all is that the D3200, as with many modern cameras, will give the majority of photographers virtually everything they need, but in most cases will only be using a fraction of what it can offer. Its a good time to be a photographer currently. How can it fail to be when we can pick one of these up for a relatively modest sum and produce monster sized pictures that we look at on our computers, email to friends and relatives, post on social networking sites and yes, make some money from. To then realise that a camera like the D800 (E) is another significant step on from this is mind-boggling. I sometimes wonder just far this can go. Will point and shoot compacts the size of a USB stick take images that equal the D800E in a few years time? And if so what will we do with them?

So please bear all this in mind when you read the future posts on this camera. Whatever I discover about and write about it, the D3200 is incredible value for money, I takes great pictures, works and handles very well and if you can't produce decent images from something like this maybe you should think about stamp collecting. That the same is true of virtually every camera I've written about in the past year or so is a fact of photographic life and shouldn't be forgotten. I write endlessly about how modern cameras have more similarities than differences and its important to remember that. Whether you choose to use one of these or a m4/3 camera is to a large extent irrelevant. The choice is becoming almost overwhelming, as can be seen from what is currently sitting on my camera shelf!! 

Sometimes its a good idea to take a step back and realise that if we are not satisfied with what we produce as photographers then the camera we use is probably the last place we should look for the solution. Modern digital cameras are incredible and offer us the opportunity to produce our visual take on the world around us. The D3200 is just one of the tools we have at our disposal. It may do some things better, some things worse than other cameras, but ultimately its just one of many that will "do the job" for us and do it well. 

N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) below.
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