Saturday, February 23, 2013

Nikon D3200 - Review

One of the most exciting emails to drop into my inbox recently was an invitation to use the new
Nikon D3200 camera and share this experience with my readers.

I have never written a blog post about how I use my camera to take photographs of food and I’d like to give you a glimpse of what I do. I’m not a techno wiz at all so this is a straightforward review of the camera and how it is helping me to take better pictures for the blog.
Using my Camera in the Kitchen
Before reviewing the camera I will paint a picture of how I normally take photographs for the blog. The majority of my photographs are taken in the kitchen and this is during cooking and serving food. I have to work with limited daylight, unfortunately my work surface is situated away from the window, to compensate for this I use a couple of lamps, I also use a tripod approximately 40% of the time particularly when lighting conditions are poor. Experimenting with backgrounds to complement the food can be anything from wallpaper to various materials. If the weather is good I take some photographs outside on the patio table to take advantage of natural light.

I only use the supplied zoom macro lens, this is quick to frame the subject and is able to get in very close. When framing the subject I try to vary both the layout of the food, the distance from the food and use various angles of shot, I always have a stool handy to stand on to help achieve this, again speed is of the essence when serving up food.

Introducing the Guide Mode
The on-screen Guide Mode Option is a very good introduction to using the camera and its many features. Easy or Advanced Operation present many options, for example how much of the picture is in focus or whether moving subjects are frozen, whether to use live view or the view finder and so on. For food photography there is a setting 'bright subjects' when in advanced operation.

The Guide Mode is not just for shooting pictures, it is also there for viewing, deleting and setting up the camera. Handy if I am in forgetful mode, without the instruction book.

Using Auto Mode
This setting is for point and shoot photography, most of the settings are made by the camera according to the picture taking conditions. There is also an easy 'flash off' setting by rotating the mode dial one click anti-clockwise, very handy for point and shoot Auto Mode.

View Finder
A number of focus points can be seen through the view finder, when the shutter release is pressed half way down, one or more of these points turn red and shows which part of the image will be in focus. I found these a little confusing at first but when in Aperture Priority mode you can select which part of the image will be focused on. These focus points are easily adjusted with the four way button situated on the back of the camera. The points can also be seen on the monitor screen when I use the camera on a tripod.

Using Aperture Priority
I prefer to use 'Aperture Priority' for my food photography, this allows me to use selected focus points, as mentioned earlier, to give selective sharpness. The manual setting of the aperture together with the use of the extended ISO range allows for blur effects or sharpness as required, on the monitor screen there is a reminder icon showing the aperture size. I often use the built in flash to minimise foreground shadows.

Image Quality
The camera has various settings for picture quality and image size, I use normal on image quality and large JPEG on image size. When readers to my blog view my photographs it is possible to click onto the photographs for a better view by using these settings without seeing excessive pixelation.

From Camera to Blog
I use an Eye-Fi card, which is directly supported by the Nikon D3200, this facilitates easy picture transfer from the camera to the computer without using connecting wires. This is an amazing convenience feature.
Using the Remote Function
Cooking is messy, and whilst I am cooking and taking photographs, typically without any assistance, I have been trying to make more use of my tripod. The Nikon D3200 has sensors on both the back and front of the camera. The remote function is built into the camera and the actual remote is an optional extra. Using a remote helps keep the camera clean and eliminates any possibility of introducing the camera to shake.

Recording Short Movies
The camera has easy access to record and play back short videos, to start recording enter 'Live Mode' and simply press the 'Movie Record Button' shoot the video - to end the recording simply press the same button again. To play back the movie on the camera monitor all you have to do is press the playback button and then the OK button.

There are various options for movie quality in the 'Movie Settings' including HD. The maximum length of a movie is 20 minutes, given sufficient memory.

To view the movie, this can be via television, computer or the camera monitor. From the movie still pictures can be recorded as JPEG.

I hope to make good use of this facility and post some short videos on the blog.

The Verdict
The camera is capable of taking excellent photographs under various conditions in a user friendly way, it is easy to get a sturdy grip and it is a very transportable camera without unnecessary weight.

The Camera - What's in the Box?
Nikon D3200 camera body.
Nikkor 18-55mm f3.5-5.6G lens with VR(vibration resistance).
Lens cap, camera body and back of lens protective caps.
Battery and charger.
Shoulder strap.
USB cable.
Audio/video cable.
User’s Manual in print form.
Reference Manual on CD-ROM.

You will need:
A suitable memory card.
Ideally a protective case.

Thank you to Nikon for sending me the D3200 to review.

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