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Nikon D3200 review
by Helen K. Garber
I have always said the best camera you can have is the one in your pocket and boy did I have fun with this small, light, 24-mega-pixel camera. Or shall I call it image-capture tool? I don’t think camera is the correct term for these new-fangled 21st century machines.
I am a person of the old school and I have to have control over the machine. In other words, I shoot RAW, don’t give a crap about all the extra doodads in the camera and just see what the sensor can capture and allow me to manipulate in Photoshop.
I downloaded Photoshop 6 as long as I was downloading the new update to read the camera files and it was a nice combination to play with.
I am known for my night photography and wanted to see how the camera would handle low-light situations. Nikon just sent me the 18-55 variable speed lenses it comes with that didn’t open up any more than 3.5. Something I am not used to at all. I have been relying on top-of-the-line, fast, Nikon lenses for more than 25 years and it took me a bit to get used to the less-friendly ability. This is not to say, you can’t go out and buy the latest, best lenses available and use them on this sweet little machine. I just don’t have anything newer than my 20th century lenses and up until now, they were fine for all my applications.
I was disappointed that my own old lenses could only be used in manual, but to tell you the truth, for night photography in the desert, you are set on infinity, anyway, so the manual focus was no problem. I couldn’t use the program mode on the camera, but I don’t anyway and was able to manage pretty well with using the speed setting, my favorite way to shoot. Believe me, though, I would rather have a matching set.
Sometimes I switch to the aperture setting, but basically I am always checking my settings to get the best depth-of-field for landscape applications. And of course, I also keep moving the ISO setting to get speed and the least noise. I am used to my 10-megapixel cameras, so I never went above 800 ISO on the d3200. I would have tried 1000 or 1250, but it doesn’t allow you to. Straight to 1600, which is fine for most applications.
The on-camera flash is a handy tool. It doesn’t balance as well as I would like on its own, but it was easy to trick and to work with later in Photoshop; decent throw and camera-attached, so great for popping some light on a face in a low light situation. I even got to use the moon against the very black sky for light painting during a very long exposure. Something I never tried before, so you can still teach an old dog some new tricks.
I look forward to comparing the Nikon D600 to this baby and see the difference that $1300 makes to the seasoned professional. My great printer and collaborator, Titano Cruz, already has the D800, something all Nikon shooters are jonesing for….and I asked him point blank…do you print from exactly what the camera captures? He said no, as expected….so even another $2300 (for the D800) won’t do the pro job without the eye and training to go with it.
For a $700 investment including the lens, you get a 24-megapixel camera that sees a lot better than I can in the dark and allows me to use the information it captures in a most beautiful way. You can see by the images included in this review that the results were great. Granted, the weather was spectacular on the night I brought the D3200 down to the waterfront. I lucked out by shooting the back of a vicious storm front. I was perfectly dry and warm while the evening commuters were getting pelted with golf ball-sized hail, lightning and torrential rains. I had my Mitch Dobrowner moment without having to leave the neighborhood and enjoyed Kansas skies at Venice Beach…something I have never seen before.
It was great timing and luck for me to have that crazy storm while testing out this camera for Red Dog News. As pro shooters know, however, luck seems to come with the territory of someone who is ready and alert.
The moon shots were taken 6,000 feet up San Jacinto Mountain, in Idyllwild, CA where we drove up specifically to shoot the harvest moon. You can look down to the desert floor and see the lights of Hemet at night and on a clear day you can even see the ocean, 100 miles to the west. I realized after the first night that the killer shot, one that I had never seen, was going to be the moon setting in the West rather than the one we drove up for, to see it rise over the high desert/pine forest community and crest of the mountain. So my husband and our two dogs, (that is Oliver you see unhappily posing on the rock) joined me for a 5am rise and an incredible view.
If you need all the technical details to decide on a camera, there are plenty of detailed reviews out there. I read them and saw what I needed to see. Shoot raw, keep the iso on the relatively low side and enjoy carrying an incredibly light image-capture tool that won’t disappoint you.
Here are the photos… I hope you enjoy them!