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The D3200 captures lovely tones throughout this image of Isabella

 

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Jake’s sand castle gets the hoof – shot with the help of a bit of pop-up flash

Nikon D3200I know the D3200 isn’t a particularly recentย camera – indeed if it was, I wouldn’t have bought it because it would be too expensive. And as a professional photographer, you might ask, why would I buy one at all? Well, there are a few reasons:

Firstly, I’m not the sort of photographer that says one must have top notch kit for all occasions. Even thought theย D3200 is very cheap and has plenty of limitations, it has its niche and I intend to add it to the D4 and D800E as a third and very useful cameraย to the stable. Typically this would be for whenย I don’t need either the speed or the ISO performance of the other two.

Secondly, a lot of people turn up on my workshops with lower end SLRs and bridge cameras and it’s always useful to know my way around these first hand and not just from the manuals I download to my iPhone when teaching.

Thirdly, this is a tiny camera and quite literally fits in my coat pocket. I’m not used to such practicality! The small form factor and lightness make this an ideal camera to have on you at all times, whereas packing the big guns is a hassle.

Fourthly, I bought it to use in camera traps and for adding an additional view where two cameras aren’t enough. This might mean in a multi-trap setup, or as more recently, when I filmed the Elf Run, adding a high up static camera angle.

We had a family day out at Seahouses in Northumberland today, so I thought I’d try the camera out with a 50mm f/1.4 prime lens. I have to say, I’m impressed! The only major thing I seem to need to add in post production is some extra sharpening. The dynamic range appears good and the camera handles pretty well in the hand. It took me a while to get used to the small format and the shared controls – remember, I’m used to dedicated controls on the D4 and D800E – but I got to grips with it pretty quickly. Even when I accidentally underexposed a few shots by three full stops, the noise was acceptable for some purposes at ISO3200. This is really expecting a lot of a camera: 3 stops down at ISO3200. Camera technology has come on in leaps and bounds since the early days of digital and I think it’s a lesson weย pros can learn: just how good some of these so called bottom of the range cameras actually are.

I often like to use flash in portrait photography so that I can lift shadows and shoot against the sun for example. This compensates for the lack of dynamic range on most DSLRs by allowing the camera to expose for the bright parts (e.g. the sky) while the flash lights up the foreground (e.g. a face). The flash was more than powerful enough to cope with this, even at moderate distances, and a little post-processing in Lightroom sorted out a tiny amount of red-eye.

All in all, I’m very impressed with this little camera and it’ll be a very useful addition to the armoury. Here are the rest of the photos from today with comments:

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The exposure and colours have come out nicely in the ISO 3200 shot. See below for the noise content

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This is a 100% crop of the shot above with no noise reduction applied. For such a cheap camera, it behaves extremely well at high ISOs. The grain of the noise is pretty regular and chroma (colour) noise is minimal. It’s easy to remove this amount of noise in post-processing without losing too much detail

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In this example, I accidentally underexposed the shot by 3 stops (oops!). At 100% crop at ISO 3200 the noise is still quite well controlled. I wouldn’t use this shot professionally, but it would be acceptable when zoomed out with noise reduction for many uses

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Strong back-lighting proved no problem

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I had to remove some colour fringing in Lightroom on the high contrast edge between the wall and the sky. There’s still a little bit in evidence, but not terrible. A bit of back-lighting meant I had to add pop-up flash to balance the foreground out

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Again, fringing was a bit of an issue and removing the green colour cast has created a slightly dark edge on the wall. Nice skin detail though

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Flash was necessary to ensure the background remained dark in this dusk shot. If I’d have exposed for Isabella’s face, the Farne Islands would have been too light and lost all the mood

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High contrast black & white conversions work well with the D3200. I’ve used a software ND grad on the sky to balance it with the grasses

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I can’t let a silhouette opportunity pass by!

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A small amount of red-eye (a really tiny amount) had to be removed in Lightroom afterwards when using the pop-up flash. This is not surprising when the flash is so close to the lens, but it takes literally two clicks to get rid of

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Dead crab appreciation society

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Again, flash was necessary to allow the sky to expose correctly. It would be white otherwise. It’s amazing how useful a little pop-up flash can be

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A moderate shutter speed of 1/100 sec allowed some blur of the feet in Emily’s cartwheel. A bit of fill flash lets the sky show its subtlety

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There’s enough dynamic range available with the D3200’s sensor to capture the most important tones in the scene whilst avoiding burning out the white of Jake’s hat