Nikon D3100 or D3200? I'm a total newbie when it comes to photography, but I want to move beyond the point-and-shoots cameras. Which would you recommend for a new beginner? I'm very drawn to the D3100 because of the discount and freebies. But I hesitate because of its age (~2 yrs old).

Which should I go for and why?

Thanks for your advice!
~ Dan
asked by Dan M. on June 2, 2012
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Showing 1-9 of 9 answers
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hi Dan,
good choice! the d3100 is a great camera. i still sometimes grab it over my d7000 depending on what i'm shooting. photography is a daunting thing when you're first starting out. i spent about 2 months on the internet researching the exposure controls before i even had my camera and i still was lost when i first started shooting. two really helpful subjects i recommend google searching and studying are "the exposure triangle" and "photography composition". ok on to your question. first, those lenses have better optics, so they'll give you slightly better image quality. it's not immediately noticable, especially if you're not blowing the images up to 100% magnification on your computer screen, but the images from those lenses will be better. the kit lens is a good lens though, so dont think it's image quality is bad. but the real benefit of those prime lenses i've suggested (35, 50, 85mm) is thier low light ability and depth of field control. when you look at the 35mm lens description you see 1.8. the kit lens is 3.5-5.6. what those numbers represent is the maximum aperture of the lens. the smaller the number, the biggger the iris in the lens can open to, allowing more light in. the 35mm lens can open to f1.8. the kit lens on the other hand is variable, at 18mm it's open to f3.5, but closes down to f5.6 as you zoom to 55mm. so the 35mm lens with it's 1.8 aperture will perform better in low light conditions compared to the kit lens. what that allows is faster shutter speeds and less motion blur in low lighting conditions. or you can lower your iso to reduce image noise. there are many benefits to a large aperture lens. depth of field control is another huge benefit of the large aperture lenses. google image search "bokeh". see how in most of those images the foreground and/or background is very blurry and soft looking, but the subject is in focus? that's a shallow depth of field. bokeh is a subjective term referring to the quality of the blurred portion of the image. so your aperture is one of the main controls over your depth of field, and the larger your aperture, the shallower your depth of field can be. so to really blur out the background in an image, you'll want a large aperture lens, say f1.8, or f1.4. another large factor in depth of field and bokeh is the focal length of the lens. in general, all else equal, a longer focal length (in mm) should produce better bokeh. so the 85mm 1.8g should (and does!) have a shallower depth of field and more appealing bokeh, than the 50mm 1.8g and 35mm 1.8g. the 50mm 1.8g should (and does!) have a shallower depth of field and more appealing bokeh than the 35mm 1.8g. so if you like to do portraits and want to really blur the background to seperate the subject from it, the 85mm 1.8g (or 1.4g) is the lens to get. sorry for being long winded, i have trouble explaining all this. but going back to the 35mm and the kit lens, the kit lens cant really do nice bokeh shots becuase it's not a large aperture lens. it's also going to perform worst in low light situations. one word of warning though, dont get any of those prime lenses i suggested (35/50/85) unless you learn A or M mode, as you'll need to set the aperture youself to control the depth of field and blurring. if you just use auto then you dont know what aperture the camera will pick, and you may not get the results you intended. anyhow i wrote alot, come back with any questions.
Amazon Customer answered on June 7, 2012

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10
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i have a d3100 and i love it. it's more than enough camera for a beginner. it's image quality is very good, and it's easy to handle. the most important aspect of dslr's are the lenses (glass). good glass will have a far bigger impact on your photos than will the camera body, unless you're comparing a pro body to a beginner body. my suggestion, hunt around for a deal on the d3100 and get some good glass like the nikon 35mm 1.8g, 50mm 1.8g, 85mm1.8g, and 70-300mm af-s vr. you dont need all those lenes, but i consider them the best of the bunch when budget constraints are high. i have the 35, 50, and 70-300, and i love them all. the 35 and 50 are very similar so i'd probably suggest the 50 if you only get one. the d3200 has reviewed very well, and appears to be a great starter camera. but the d3100 is very good, and even at 2 years old it's hardly outdated. go with that and good glass and you'll be set. good luck!
Amazon Customer answered on June 6, 2012

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I'd recommend you get the D3100. It is a marvelous DSLR with great image quality and versatility at a bargain price. The D3200 has a better sensor but the kit lens can not take advantage of that sensor. So unless you are prepared to spend a lot of money on glass (way more $ than the cost of the camera), you will not see any image quality improvement with the D3200. You can get the D3100 with the kit lens and the marvelous Nikkor 35 mm f/1.8 prime for the same price as the D3200 with only the kit lens.
Daniel S. Glickman answered on August 9, 2012

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3
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Hi Eric,

Thanks for your reply. I've already went ahead and bought the D3100 (got advice from some other people somewhere else on the internets ;)

I received it yesterday and it does seem to be a very solid camera with lots of features that have me overwhelmed to say the least since I am a beginner in the world of photography.

I do have one question: why is it that everyone recommends those lenses? How vastly different are they from the lens the comes with the camera? For example, what would a 35mm 1.8g do differently or better than the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens?

~ Dan
Dan M. answered on June 6, 2012

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5
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I'm in agreement with you on the lenses making the difference. In terms of image quality it would be near impossible to distinguish images taken with the D3100 and ANY other consumer (APS-C) camera. I have the 35mm 1.8G that captures great images and has a neutral (neither zoom nor wide angle) perspective making it a perfect all around lens. My 50mm 1.8G appears even sharper but the perspective may be a bit tight for some shots. And images from the 70-300VR are far better than the 55-200VR or 55-300VR.
The other lens to consider would be the 18-105VR to replace the 18-55VR because the latter lacks enough zoom to make it practical as a single lens solution when you want to travel light.
T. Irwin answered on June 25, 2012

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Wow, that's a lot of information to digest! I can tell you really enjoy photography though-thanks for the help! I must have read your latest post like five times!

Since I'm still I beginner, I have no idea how to operate the camera in A or M mode so I guess I'll leave the purchase of a prime lens for later on.

~ Dan
Dan M. answered on June 9, 2012

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You can get super deals on the d3100 now because of the age, and they are starting to turn up in the used market. That means they are having/ maintaining a re-sale value.
No one mentions how light weight this camera is for a SLR [no top screen] which makes a huge difference when you have it around your neck all day.
photoguy answered on January 2, 2013

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you're welcome. yeah photography is a big passion of mine. you'll figure out the manual modes in time, dont sweat it. photo classes at a local junior college are a good way to learn it, and inexpensive. just a thought. good luck in your shooting!
Amazon Customer answered on June 12, 2012

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Nikon D5100 16.2MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR Nikkor Zoom Lens is my pick over either d3200 or d3100, more features and the sensor is better. It is priced between the the 3100 and 3200 also. I think the D3200 overall is an improvement over the d3100. D3200 has entry level features like the d3100, but the sensor is has more megapixel so you get more detail, but at the same time might get more noise in darker situation. I heard the d3200 has improve video.
® answered on June 4, 2012
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