The Nikon D90 vs D3200 – Which Nikon DSLR is a Better Buy?

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The Nikon D90 and the D3200 are two of the most popular cameras ever offered in Nikon’s “consumer” lineup of  digital cameras.  The D90, which was introduced in 2008, was a new camera at the time, while the D3200, which was introduced in 2012, was a replacement of the D3100.  Both cameras still remain very popular today despite the D90 being replaced by the D7000 series of cameras and the D3200 being replaced by the D3300.  The reason that both cameras remain popular today despite their age is due to the quality of the images captured, as well as the value both cameras represent.

In a rush? Check out my high level “advantages” of both, for a quick decision.

Nikon D90 Advantages Nikon D3200 Advantages
A bit bigger, better for someone with bigger hands More recent, some newer technology
Slightly higher viewfinder coverage (96% vs 95%) Excellent lens kits available for starter packages (see here)
Has an internal autofocus motor Double the megapixels (24.2mp)
Better for experienced photographers About $100-200 less expensive (see here for prices)
More advanced menu functions Better for beginners to intermediates

Nikon D90 | Amazon

The Nikon D90 provides unprecedented compatibility with Nikon's lineup of AF Nikkor lenses and digital-exclusive DX Nikkor lenses.

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03/09/2024 11:07 pm GMT

Keep reading for my full assessment.

Similarities Between the D90 and D3200

Despite the difference in age, the D90 and the D3200 share a number of similarities  including the DX format, sensor cleaners, autofocus points, viewfinder coverage, live view, speed, file format, storage format, shutter speed, built in flash, LCD, preset scene modes and the ability to record video.  The key to the value offered in these cameras is the use of the DX or cropped sensor format using the CMOS sensor.  These sensors are significantly less expensive than the larger and more expensive full-frame sensor.  Although cheaper to manufacture, these sensors are still capable of capturing excellent image quality and are kept free of dust, as a result of the built in sensor cleaner found in both cameras.

In the case of both the D90 and the D3200, each camera has 11 autofocus points evenly distributed in the camera’s viewfinder, which provides 96% coverage in the D90 and 95% coverage in the D3200.  Both cameras also have “live view” capability on the rear 3.0 “ fixed screen LCD display.  Images can be captured at a rate of 4 frames per second on the D90 and 4.5 frames per second on the D3200.   Images in both cameras are captured in either RAW or JPEG format on either a single SD or SDHC card.  In the case of the D3200 a single SDXC card can be used as well.

The D90 and the D3200 share a shutter speed range of 1/4,000 to 30 seconds, resulting in both cameras capable of shooting most sports and action images.  Both cameras also have a built in flash that is capable of providing fill in flash in bright light conditions, as well as dark conditions.  One feature that many beginning photographers will find useful is the various preset scene modes found in each camera, which have pre-programmed settings in the camera to maximize the image quality of the scene selected. The D3200 has eight total, while the D90 has five total. The final similarity of the cameras in their ability to shoot video, although the D3200 is more advanced in video capability.

Differences Between the D3200 vs D90

There are a number of differences in the two cameras, with most being a result of the age difference between the two cameras. These differences include the total number of effective megapixels, ISO range, video format, optional accessories, size and weight.  In the case of the D90, the total number of effective megapixels is 12.3, while the D3200 has 24.2.  At the time the D90 was introduced most cameras had relatively low megapixels, especially when compared to today’s cameras.  Despite the difference in megapixels, both cameras capture very pleasing images in a variety of ISO settings.

In the case of the D90, the normal ISO range is 200 – 6,400, while the D3200 is 100 – 6400.  In the case of the D90, the ISO range can be expanded down to 100, while the D3200 can be expanded up to 12,800.  Despite having high ISO settings, both cameras produce best results in the ISO settings are less than 800, as the noise reducing software with smooth out detail as noise is removed, making images appear soft.

The video format found in both cameras is different as well and is a result of the age of the two cameras.  In the case of the D90, video is shot at 1,280 x 720 at 24 frames per second, while the D3200 shoots at high definition 1,920 x 1,080 up to 30 frames per second.  The format video is recorded in different as well, with the D3200 using .MOV format, while the D90 uses the older .AVI format.

Another difference between the two cameras is the ability of the D3200 to accept various accessories that provide wireless and GPS capability, which were not envisioned at the time the D90 hit the market.  Finally, the D3200 is significantly smaller at 5.0” x 3.8” x 3.1” than the D90, which is 5.2” x 4.1” x 3.0”.  The D90 is also heavier at 22.0 ounces, compared to the 16.0 ounces of the D3200.

Nikon D3200 | Amazon

Don’t let the D3200’s compact size and price fool you—packed inside this easy-to-use HD-SLR is a serious Nikon. power: a 24.2 MP DX-format CMOS sensor that excels in any light, EXPEED 3 image-processing for fast operation and creative in-camera effects, Full HD (1080p) movie recording, in-camera tutorials and much more.

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Major Pros and Cons

The biggest “pro” of the D90 is the way the camera feels when being used.  People with larger hands may feel that the D3200 is just a bit too small for their hands, especially when using the camera for an extended period of time.  The D90 feels great and like an extension of your hand!

The biggest “con” of the D90 is the age of the camera.  While still capable of capturing excellent images, the technology in the camera is 7 years old, which is a long time as far as digital camera technology is concerned.

The biggest “pro” of the D3200 is the excellent kit lenses available with the camera.  The 18 -55mm VR f/3.5-5.6 EDII is particularly good, while the 55-200mm VR f/4.5-5.6 ED is a great second lens for those that want a longer lens as well.

The biggest “con” of the D3200 is the size of the camera.  While the camera’s weight is great, those with larger hands may find the camera a bit uncomfortable when shooting for extended periods of time.  The way that a camera feels in the photographer’s hand is as important  as the technical specifications.

Just the Facts, A side-By-Side Comparison

While most serious photographers look at image quality over technical specifications, many feel that the specifications are equally important.  The Nikon D90 and D3200 both have excellent image quality, as well as technical specifications, which are shown in the table below.

Item Nikon D90 Nikon D3200
Year Introduced 2008 2012
Format DX DX
Megapixels 12.3 24.2
Sensor Type CMOS CMOS
Processor EXPEED 1 EXPEED 3
Image Format JPEG or RAW JPEG or RAW
Sensor Size 23.6 mm x 15.8 mm 23.2 mm x 15.4 mm
Sensor Cleaner Yes Yes
Auto-focus Points 11 11
Modes Aperture-Priority Auto (A), Auto, Auto (Flash Off), manual, Programmed Auto With Flexible Program (P), Shutter-Priority Auto (S), Plus 5 Pre-Set Scene Modes Aperture-Priority Auto (A), Auto, Auto (Flash Off), manual, Programmed Auto With Flexible Program (P), Shutter-Priority Auto (S), Plus 8 Pre-Set Scene Modes
Metering 3D Color Matrix Meter 3D Color Matrix Meter
View Finder Coverage 96% 95%
Live View Yes Yes
Frames Per Second 4.5 4
ISO 200 – 6,400 100 – 6,400
Lowest / Highest Expandable ISO Lo-1 ISO 100 Hi-1 ISO 12,800
Shutter Speed Range 1/4,000 – 30 Seconds 1/4,000 – 30 Seconds
Built In Flash Yes Yes
Card Slots 1 1
Card Type SD or SDHC SD, SDHC or SDXC
LCD Size 3.0” 3.0”
LCD Fixed or Swivel Fixed Fixed
Video Yes Yes
Video Format  .AVI .MOV
Video Type 1,280 x 720 at 24 FPS Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 at 30, 25 or 24 FPS.  Various Other HD And VGA Formats As Well
Internal Autofocus Motor Yes No
GPS No Optional Accessory
Wireless No Optional Accessory
WIFI No Optional Accessory
Battery EN-EL3e EN-EL14a
Unique Features Discontinued Available In Red; Preset Scene Settings, Ease of Use
Size Without Lens 5.2” x 4.1” x 3.0” 5.0” x 3.8” x 3.1”
Weight Without Lens 22.0 Ounces 16.0 Ounces
Manufactured In Thailand Thailand
Body Only or with Kit Lens Body Only and Kit With 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR Two Kit Options – One with 18-55mm VR f/3.5-5.6G ED II only.  The second option includes a 55-200mm VR f/4.5 – 5.6G ED
Included Accessories MH-18a Charger, DK-5 Eyepiece Cap, DK-21 Rubber Eyecup, CUC-E4 USB Cable, EG-D2 AV Cable, AN-DC1 Strap, BM-10 LCD Monitor Cover, Body Cap, BS-1 Accessory Shoe Cover, Software CD and Nikon ViewNX Browsing and Editing Software MH-24 Quick Charger, DK-5 Eyepiece Shield, DK-20 Rubber Eyecup, UC-E6 USB Cable, EG-CP14 A/V Cable, AN-DC3 Camera Strap, BF-1B Body Cap, BS-1 Hot-Shoe Cover, Bundled Software: ViewNX 2 CD-Rom
Cost, Body Only Around $550.00** N/A
Cost With Kit Lens Around $849.00 Around $446.95

*Information from  Nikons website, including pricing.

** The D90 has been discontinued, although the camera is still widely available.

Overall Recommendation – An Obvious Winner?

Overall both cameras are excellent cameras, capable of capturing excellent images despite their age.  Although 7 years old, I prefer the D90 to the D3200 because of the way it feels in my hand.  I also prefer the D90’s menu, which is slightly more advanced than the image driven menu in the D3200, which is geared towards entry level and less experienced photographers.  While the D3200 is definitely has more advanced video capabilities, I never shoot video, so that feature is not important to me. If you do, it’s the obvious choice.

Either camera would meet the needs and expectations of most photographers without breaking the bank.  Often older cameras represent the best value and this definitely applies to both the D90 and the D3200!

Nikon D90 | Amazon

The Nikon D90 provides unprecedented compatibility with Nikon's lineup of AF Nikkor lenses and digital-exclusive DX Nikkor lenses.

Buy With Kit Lens Buy Body Only
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/09/2024 11:07 pm GMT

The Camera Guide Team

The Camera Guide Team is a group of writers, shutterbugs, and professional photographers. We know the challenge of looking through different cameras or accessories. We want you to learn everything about cameras. We provide honest reviews, detailed guides, and helpful comparisons. We have everything you need. We are here to help you find the perfect click.

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