Wednesday, June 6, 2012

DxO Mark Hails The Nikon D3200 (With Caveats)

As with Camera Labs a couple of days ago, DxO Mark has published their analysis of the Nikon D3200, and the results are fantastic. It achieves a total score of 81, putting it second behind the Pentax K5, which was a masterpiece of signal processing.

It's DxO Score is also equal with the new Canon 5D Mark III, but remember, the Mark III's ISO performance is more than double that D3200. It makes up for it in the dynamic range and color depth. That has been the real selling point of these new Sony sensors, the DR and color. They are just mind-blowing, as exemplified in the world-beating Nikon D800.

Something that I didn't specifically notice, but was discussed in the review, reminds me why I'm still angry at Nikon, even though not so much as I am at Canon.
Deprived of bracketing mode as well, the D3200 will be tough to seriously consider for users thinking about HDR photographer or those who are used to taking multiple photos to ensure correct exposure. This limitation, by the way, is strictly a matter of software and a deliberate choice on Nikon’s part in order to create differences between camera lines. The D5100, offered at the same price, is equipped with bracketing function.
For as much as we salute Nikon’s bold strategy of putting the best sensors into cameras designed for the general public, we cannot help but regret the quality of the JPEGs that the D3200 generates, which seems a priori below that of its competitors… due to the limitations Nikon has imposed on its software.

That is arrogance. Pure, unadulterated arrogance. When a company purposely and arbitrarily differentiates products for the sake of squeezing more money from its customers, it is dying. It may take awhile, but we're seeing it in the Sony corpus. No matter how big and proud a company is, it can die. Canon in its current form is doomed, but Nikon should also be worried.

That said, the D3200's performance is excellent. Compared to the Sony NEX-7, the slight ISO advantage that can be seen in some tests is mirrored, with the Nikon scoring 100 more points than the Sony. Color and DR are essentially identical, but that noise performance is somewhat visible. Nikon's pipeline and Sony's sensor should be praised. As DxO says, if you are willing to process RAW files, you will get some amazing, pro-level photos out of this camera.

And that's the rub: if you process RAW. Their JPEGs are not good, meaning that this camera will never be a great choice for your average family customer who just wants to point, press a button, and have the camera magically make photos happen. It's as though this is Nikon's response to the growing popularity of enthusiast cameras in the Micro 4/3 and NEX line, seeing as the overpriced Nikon "1" series sure as hell doesn't compete.

And maybe that's it. This is not meant for the average consumer. This is meant to keep people away from Micro 4/3 and Sony. Those people process RAW. Those people care about sensor performance. Those people may be lured away by one of the smallest mirror-&-prism cameras on the market and be willing to make some concessions in size for a sensor that absolutely outperforms everything in the 4/3 system and has more lenses than the NEX system.

If that's the case... that's remarkably shrewd. This is what I always expected the major companies to do, and they... sort... of... never did. I expected Canon and Nikon to double-down on their entry-level, small, APS-C cameras in response to Micro 4/3 and push the advantages of their sensors. Instead, Canon didn't do shit with their sensors and Nikon produced the laughable "1" series.

If this is intended to do battle with 4/3, they should have released this two years ago.

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