Nikon D3200 vs D3100 – Differences, Cons and Pros

September 8, 2012

Nikon D3200 and D3100 digital SLR cameras

The Nikon D3200 is probably one of the most anticipated entry-level DSLR camera that was announced on 2012.  Buying your first DSLR can be a tricky one, because the selection is pretty large and you want to buy a camera that fits your needs. Beginners sometimes don’t really understand what they need now, and not what they’ll need in the future. Some people just grab a DSLR with good review’s ratings and start with one lens. Other people might be convinced to invest more and get a mid-range DSLR like the D7000. In this article I want to talk about the D3200 and give you my impressions on it.


Picking an Entry-Level DSLR Camera for the First Time

I remember the first time I bought a DSLR camera a few years back. It was a Canon 400D camera. I remember looking at the camera store window and new that this will be my first DSLR camera. I actually didn’t spend too much time comparing different models and looking at different vendor’s offerings. I’ve heard good things about this camera and that was enough for me.

After some time I’ve made a switch and bought a Nikon DSLR.  After years of trying different equipment, I’ve decided that I really like the image quality of what you get with Nikon cameras and a good quality lens. I’ve bought the 18-55 mm and 70-300mm VR lens that are serving me well until this day.

When you are just starting out and plan to buy your first digital SLR camera, there are a few things that you should do before you buy. Here are some of them:

  1. Decide on a budget ahead of time – It’s very easy to get drifted and purchase a more expensive camera, which won’t always give you a better value. You might also add a camera bag, additional lens and accessories (ie. memory card) to the total cost. So the camera body price is actually just the beginning.
  2. Hold the camera in your hands (ergonomics) – My father bought a Nikon DSLR over a Canon (D70s over 350D) because it just felt better, ergonomic wise. Even if you plan to buy the camera online, go to the store and hold it in your hands. Some people buy a camera based on how it feels when holding it in their hands. I am not saying that this is the most important thing, but it will give you a sense of feeling on how it is to shoot with this camera
  3. Complementary accessories – Depends on what you want to shoot, it’s a good thing to know what other accessories are being offered and are compatible with you camera. For example: external flash, vertical battery grip, lens extenders, etc. Each vendor might offer some optional accessories that aren’t available on other vendors
  4. Make a list of a ‘must have’ features – write down the features that you really want or must need in a your next camera. For example: you might need a fast continuous shooting speed, which can be higher on one camera and lower on the other one. If you plan to shoot videos, you might want to look at entry-level dslrs with articulated display, etc. In some cases, it’s also good to know what the camera can’t do, not jsut what it can. Many manufacturers emphasize the advantages of the camera, leaving aside the cons.
  5. The Lens Selection – A DSLR camera needs a lens. You will be purchasing at least one lens when you buy an entry-level DSLR camera. If you know what type of photos you are going to shoot, you know what lenses you need. If not, many people just start with a less expensive kit lens and decide later. If you do know what lenses you’ll need, make sure that those type of lenses are available from the vendor from which you intend to purchase a camera from.
  6. Check online for camera issues – Some cameras have issues after they launched. It’s rare but it happens from time to time. It happens with the Fujifilm X10 with the white-orb issue, something that was fixed in updated firmware. Sometimes people prefer waiting about a month after the launch just to make sure the camera doesn’t suffer from any issues, after many people already tried it in all possible conditions.
  7. High ISO performance – If you intend to shoot low-light photos, you probably want to make sure that you get a camera with good high-ISO performance with low noise at high ISO sensitivities. Image quality is certainly something that people care about, and it’s something that have to do with the camera’s image sensor, image processing and of course, the lens.


This is of course a partial list, but I think it’s an important one.  Many people will over analyze image quality, compare the camera against all the other competing models.  This over analyzing can give you quite a big headache and in some cases it will make you more confused.  There isn’t ‘The Perfect camera’ for everyone. The ‘Perfect’ camera is the one that suits your needs as a photographer. One that you can enjoy shooting with and a camera that won’t limit your creativity.

I will be talking about the Nikon D3200, but as you soon see (actually read), you might find yourself getting the Nikon D3100 or D5100 instead. I personally think that the D3200 is a great camera for novice photographers, with features that gives this camera a great value for beginners.


Nikon D3200

Nikon D3200 camera

First things first. The Nikon D3200 is a relatively new entry-level camera. IT was announced on April 19, 2012. If you are like me, you want to have a new model in your hands, knowing that you spent your money and getting the latest technology in return.

The Nikon D3200 doesn’t replace the D3100, but comes as a new addition to Nikon’s entry-level camera’s lineup. This camera is for those who don’t mind spending a bit more, but getting more advanced features. I bought the D3100. If I had an option to choose today, I would certainly pay extra and pick up the D3200 instead.

The first question that people want to know is what’s the price difference between the D3100 and D3200 and what are the key feature’s differences between those two cameras? – So here we go..


Nikon D3200 vs D3100

I’ve also included the D5100 in the comparison table. This D3200 vs D3100 vs D5100 specs comparison table will give you a nice overview of the differences between those three cameras.

[table "22" not found /]


Nikon D3200 vs D3100 (rear)

Nikon D3200 vs D3100 (rear)

Differences summary:

  1. D3200 features a new generation EXPEED 3 image processor
  2. D3200 features higher native high ISO of 6400 vs 3200 of the D3100
  3. D3200 has a higher resolution 920K-dots LCD vs the low-res 230K-dots of the D3100
  4. D3200 can shoot 1fps faster in burst mode than the D3100 (4 vs 3 fps)
  5. D3200 can shoot in both 30  and 24p in Full HD, D3100 only 24p. 30p is available but on HD 720p only
  6. D3200 has a 3.5mm mic jack so you can connect an external mic and record high quality stereo sound with your videos, the D3100 doesn’t have that feature
  7. D3200 has a much higher resolution sensor (24.2MP vs 14.2MP)
  8. D3200 has improved help menus to better help beginners understand all the functions of the camera
  9. D3200 has the movie recording button near the shutter release button, on the D3100 the D-Movie button is on the back near you thumb
  10. D3200 the mic is positioned at the top instead of the back of the camera


This is an important list, because some of you might find out either that they don’t mind not having those features and go with the D3100. Others might be convinced to get the D3200 because the want or must have at least one of the features above.

As for the time writing this article, the Nikon D3200 + 18-55mm VR Kit lens costs $699.00 on Amazon, D3100 costs $496.96. That’s a $200 difference between the two, quite a stiff price difference for people on a tight budget.

So those extra key features (as well as some others minor differences) should worth the $200 if you intend to take advantage of them – at least some of them.


Image Quality (D3100 vs D3200 vs D5100)

Let’s admit it, we want to spend our money on a camera that has proven to provide high image quality, or I might say, higher than the other cameras that we are comparing the D3200 to. If you already decide to buy a Nikon DSLR, you will be comparing the D3200 vs D3100, D5100 or even versus the D7000. If you are still not confident getting a Nikon, you might be checking the image quality of the D3200 versus Canon 650D (T4i) / 600D (T3i).

I assume that you are here because you already decide on a Nikon camera. I will keep a Canon vs Nikon comparison to other articles. The Nikon D3200 provides excellent image quality, with lots of details. However, after viewing some sample images on dpreview of both the D5100, D3200 and D3100 – I can say that in terms of high ISO performance / noise levels, the D3100 and the D5100 have lower amount of noise. The difference is not huge, but visible. That’s probably due to the pixel density. All cameras have APS-C sensor, however the D3200 has much more pixels than the D3100 and D5100. However, considering this resolution advantage, this is a very nice achievement from Nikon.

Some people are very concerned about noise. Some just can’t stand seeing noise speckles at ISO 400, even a little bit.  Also know that a large amount of noise can be removed using Noise Removal software. I think Nikon made a good balance between resolution and noise and the camera performs very well in this regard.

All of those three Nikon entry-level cameras perform great. I wouldn’t be so picky about the difference in noise levels, because it’s really not that huge.


Who is the Nikon D3200 For?

I personally think that the Nikon D3200 is for both novice/beginner photographers and enthusiast alike. I categorize myself as an enthusiast photographer. I find the D3200 a great camera that boasts a great arsenal of features that some you find useful now, others you will find useful later on in your journey as a photographer.

This is also a great camera for any adult family member who wants to capture great memories with high image quality, whether stills or videos.  Just snap the 18-55mm VR lens and you get a great camera that can capture gorgeous beautiful and colorful photos, all with lots of details.

People who intend to work with stock photography / studio photography, those will find this camera an excellent choice due to its high resolution. Give this camera a good light source, and it will perform like magic. The high resolution sensor will give you plenty of details and plenty of cropping freedom that you need.

It’s a great camera for those who love to edit photos in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. The extra resolution that you get with this camera will make you enjoy editing high resolution images on your favorite photo editing software.

Videographers will appriciate the ability to attach an external microphone to the camera, getting much better audio quality.

The Nikon D3200 is a camera that tops the D3100 in many ways. However, it’s better and worth paying more if you know that you are going to take advantage of those features. Some of you might not now that when you just starting out. For some of you (and those who have the budget) it might be better to get the D3200 instead. Who knows, maybe a month from now you’ll find out that you really need the 3.5mm mic jack.

You can view a visual size comparison of the D3200 vs D3100 on camera size website here.


There you go, You’ve given some important things that you should know about when purchasing your first digital SLR. You know what are the key differences between the D3100, D3200.

For in-depth comparison of the three cameras altogether, visit Nikon D3200 vs D3200 vs D5100 comparison article. A more in-depth discussion on the LCD, sensor size, AF, metering and other features, visit this Nikon entry-level DSLR comparison.

Thanks for reading and please post your comments and questions below.

Buy the Nikon D3200 + 18-55 mm lens (Black) on B&H Photo here

Buy the Nikon D3100 + 18-55mm lens (Black) on B&H Photo here

Buy the Nikon D3200 + 18-55mm lens (Red) on B&H Photo here


Amazon Ads