Nikon D3200 review
Nikon D3200 review - Performance
There AF system doesn't through-up any nasty surprises, having been used in a host of previous Nikon DSLRs. It's a reliable performer, with a central cross-type AF point sensitive to both the vertical and horizontal - the remaining 10 AF points are sensitive to one or other. AF point selection is carried out via the D-pad at the rear of the camera, making it pretty quick and hassle free to select your desired AF point. If you want to let the camera do the hard work, then select the auto-area AF mode, and the D3200 will automatically select the AF point it thinks is most suited to the subject.
If you're planning on shooting moving subjects, then the 3D-tracking has to be one of the best AF tracking systems on a camera of this class, tracking your subject as it move round the frame. While it's not as advanced AF tracking on higher end DSLRs, it's much more reliable than systems found on Compact System Cameras.
When you switch the D3200 over to Live View shooting, the AF method also changes, going from phase-detect to contrast detect - the same kind of AF system as used by Compact System Cameras (CSC). There's the choice of either AF-S (single) or AF-D (full-time servo AF, with autofocus being constantly adjusted if you or your subject is moving), with the option of Face-priority AF, wide-area AF, normal-area AF and subject-tracking AF. Though the AF speed in Live View is pretty fast for a DSLR, it's still not a match for a Compact System Camera in Live View mode, which forgoes the mirror and optical viewfinder that a DSLR benefits from.
The 4fps is relatively quick for a camera of this class, though there are cameras out there for a similar price that will shoot at a faster burst mode if that's your main criteria. The rear screen is nice and crisp, though on occasions, there did seem to be a slight blue cast when reviewing images that wasn't apparent on the images once downloaded from the camera.
With minimal controls dotted round the camera, most of the shooting controls are set via the rear screen interface. Simply hit the ‘I' button on the rear of the camera, and you can alter a host of shooting controls, including quality, white balance, ISO and AF. If you want quick access to a regularly used setting, then the function button can be set-up to control either ISO, white balance, Image quality or Active D-Lighting.
Picking up a DSLR for the first time after a compact camera can be a big step - especially if you're not familiar with a host of photographic terminology. This is where the D3200's Guide Mode comes into play. First seen on the D3000, Guide Mode is now in its third generation and is designed to help you get a variety of shots, from freezing motion to blurring backgrounds. Select Guide Mode on the mode dial and the rear screen provides three choices - Shoot, View/delete and Set up. By selecting Shoot, you have two further choices - Easy or Advanced operation. Easy operation has a range of Scene modes to choose from, while Advanced is less subject-based, offering a host of photographic effects you might want to achieve. When you select one of these, there's shooting advice, before you can make your changes to the exposure. For instance, by selecting Show water flowing, the Guide Mode will instruct you to use a slow shutter speed (and a tripod). As you decrease the shutter speed on the rear screen, a visual example of a waterfall will be used to show the change in the blur as you lengthen the shutter speed.