Nikon D3200 - Review and user experience - Part 4

To download zip file with these test shots click here or click on the image above

With the somewhat soft results and the perceived wisdom that people who buy cameras such as the D3200, use the kit lens only, I decided to try the 18-55mm lens that came with the camera against three primes.

For this I used a Voigtlander 20mm, Nikon 35mm f/2D and 50mm f/1.8D lenses. All shots were at f/8, ISO 100, tripod mounted and processed identically in ACR Vers. 7.1 in Photoshop CS6.

Was there a difference?

Well yes, but a pretty small one as you will see from the test shots you can download from the links above. Two things occur to me. Firstly the 18-55mm isn't a bad lens anyway. Its cheap because Nikon make and sell a lot of them, it has a plastic mount and a pretty lightweight construction. I've owned a few of these and always found that they give reasonable results. Secondly, its quite difficult to get sensors with strong AA filters to register significant changes between different quality lenses. These strong filters tend to "neuter" anything that is put in front of them.

I've actually spent quite some time trying to get sharp results from the D3200 that match up to my other cameras. For general "snapshot" use or indeed portrait use this isn't particularly a problem, but for the kinds of requirements I have it can be. I can get a decent level of sharpness by cranking up the parameters in ACR but the inevitable consequence is an increase in luminance noise or "graininess". Not good.
This was brought home to me yesterday when knowing I would be in the vicinity of my local Apple store, I uploaded a few files from various cameras to try on one of the latest Retina Display Laptops.
The screens on these things are certainly very good. There is only one model currently but I will definitely be getting one when they bring out a smaller screened version.

The display does wonders for viewing images and one thing it does do is make the differences between various cameras output much more pronounced than on any screen I've used before. The D800E files I took along were simply stunning, the best picture quality I've ever seen on a computer monitor. The m4/3 files I took along also looked pretty good. However unfortunately, the display didn't do the D3200 files any favours at all and they were the softest of the selection I took by a quite noticeable margin.
Now the D3200 ticks a lot of boxes for me and it would fit in quite nicely with what else I'm currently using. When I looked at some samples before buying it they were somewhat soft, but I think I assumed that the results would be similar to my NEX-7, which would work for me. However it seems that Nikon, like Canon, with their basic DSLR models have this "noise paronoia" which means they put pretty strong AA filters on the sensors they use. The D3200 may well not be capable of producing files that I'm happy with. I did want to use it with my 24-85mm zoom, but the results from that have been somewhat disappointing, particularly when used at the maximum apertures when its really pretty soft.
However I'm still seeing what can be done with it. And If I get better results I'll post them.
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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