Just a few short years ago, I was rocking my Nikon D50 alongside my more expensive bodies for both personal and professional work, and no one was the wiser. That camera was small, light, and did all the basics reasonably well, without too much fiddling. Unfortunately, Nikon neutered that line in many ways when it introduced the D40/D60 cameras (predecessors of the modern day D3xxx/D5xxx cams); most important though, they took away the top LCD, they introduced compression to RAW output, and removed the motor needed for AF-D lenses.
Still, this line is most photographers’ introduction to the Nikon brand, and for the most part, these cameras are great bodies to get to know photography on. Which explains why I recommended the D3200 to my wife as her first DSLR. If you are on the lookout for a starter cam, no doubt, the D3200 is a great buy and a very capable guide.
In 2014, Nikon introduced the D3300, which effectively replaced the D3200 in Nikon’s lineup (the D3400 is likely to debut in 2016). However, the D3200 is still available new for around $200 less than the D3300. Either camera can be had with at least one lens for around $500. That said, in this day and age with another successor so close to release, I’d recommend going with either the D3200 or waiting for the D3400, and skipping the D3300 until prices come down.
Key Specifications of the D3200:
-Sensor: 24mp, APS-C, CMOS
-Anti-Aliasing Filter: Yes
-Frames per second: 4
-File Types: JPEG or compressed RAW
-Auto Focus: Multi-Cam 1000 (similar to Nikon D200‘s), 11 phase detect, 1 cross type AF points.
-Maximum ISO: 100-6400
-Maximum Shutter: 30-1/4000 second, with BULB
-Battery: 540 shots per charge
-CPU: Expeed 3
The Nikon D3300 beats the D3200 in having a faster processor (Expeed 4 vs 3), longer battery life (700 shots vs 540), no anti-aliasing/optical low pass filter (for better sharpness vs reduced moire), better frames per second (5 vs 4), and expand ISO (to 12,800 vs 6,400). Whether or not those differences are worth $200 to you in an entry level camera is yours to decide, but I’d point out that $200 is also the difference between the D3xxx cams and the D5xxx ones, which do offer some very useful improvements (including a tilt-screen).
All in all, I would say that the Nikon D3200 is a very good camera with a very competitive output. It is even small and light enough to take on some of the mirrorless cameras, where its DSLR attributes might represent a leap in performance. Unfortunately, Nikon has not really taken advantage of this, and apart from the collapsing 18-55mm kit lens, they’ve designed very few, compact lenses specifically for the smaller crop sensor. That said, the excellent Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G DX, would be another lens to consider if you are buying this cam for portability alone.
My wife’s needs aside, I would definitely pick one of these up if Nikon would just get rid of the RAW compression (why is that even a thing?). Still, I recommend this camera as a value-based introduction to the Nikon line.
Images taken with the D3200: