How to make the Nikon D3200 really perform!

IconoscopeIconoscope Posts: 11Member
edited July 2013 in D3x00
I bought a D3200 a few days ago and was very disappointed in the quality of the images it was producing. The problem seemed to be that the signal to noise ratio in the image sensor was marginal. So I started playing around with the settings and learned a lot! First; the RAW image format is poorer quality than the jpeg 'fine' images, with (unbelievably) compression artifacts at ISO 400! Aren't Raw images supposed to be uncompressed? Not in Nikon's D3200 cameras! So step #1, don't use RAW format at high ISO. Poor SNR...hmmm, probably caused by packing way too many sensor sites on to a comparatively small sensor array chip. The obvious solution; reduce the number of pixels. Yep, cut the image size down to 13.5 megapixels in the camera settings. AMAZING DIFFERENCE!! Images are incredibly crisp! This is what I expected from a 24 megapixel camera! The smaller size image has a four times better SNR! The image quality is so good it can easily be up sampled back to the 24 megapixel size and still have the benefit of the improved SNR and dramatically improved image quality!! :D
«13

Comments

  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    edited July 2013
    Hello and welcome at the NR-forum. Some of your statements sound hard to believe to me. You read the manual, did you? At least the bits about compressed RAW (Uncompressed, losless and compressed are the options). My guess is, you've chosen "compressed" and 12bit. But since you didn't give the information, it's only guessing. Maybe you can verify that?
    Post edited by JJ_SO on
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    Raw images when viewed with zero post processing can sometimes be pretty grim. What program are you using to view the raw image?
  • NSXTypeRNSXTypeR Posts: 2,148Member
    How are you editing the photos and what program are you using? It's hard to believe that jpgs are better than RAW.
    Nikon D7000/ Nikon D40/ Nikon FM2/ 18-135 AF-S/ 35mm 1.8 AF-S/ 105mm Macro AF-S/ 50mm 1.2 AI-S
  • PhotophunPhotophun Posts: 43Member
    I owned a D3200 and loved it but only when I stayed out of the shadows. When I came to low light situations the large grain came out. Stick to 100 - 200 iso and watch your shutter speeds. I ended up buying a d7100 and now understand the difference between a entry level vs semi pro dlsr. The d3200 is a fantastic camera for the price point but you get what you pay for.
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,259Member
    edited July 2013
    Hello and welcome at the NR-forum. Some of your statements sound hard to believe to me. You read the manual, did you? At least the bits about compressed RAW (Uncompressed, losless and compressed are the options). My guess is, you've chosen "compressed" and 12bit. But since you didn't give the information, it's only guessing. Maybe you can verify that?
    Entry level models like the D3200 do not have those options. The D3200 only allows for compressed 12bit NEFs.

    http://imaging.nikon.com/lineup/dslr/d3200/spec.htm
    Post edited by PB_PM on
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    @PB_PM my bad, didn't know that (and was too lazy to download a manual :\"> )
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,259Member
    I didn't download the manual either... So I guess I'm lazy too. :))
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • FlowtographyBerlinFlowtographyBerlin Posts: 477Member
    How are you editing the photos and what program are you using? It's hard to believe that jpgs are better than RAW.
    Just to get this out of the way so we don't have to guess again and again: This perception is not that strange. What he's talking about is not actual bit depth, IQ and all that, but a perceptive issue: the END result JPEG out of the in-camera processing engine vs. the RAW in the way he's looking at it. A readily and well-processed image (which is the target of the in-camera algorithm) of course will look better than a muddy so-so not-really-intentionally processed one that a RAW converter without any adjustments may produce.

    The 'artifacts' are hard to believe to be attributable to the RAW format. I guess it's not real artifacts but more something else. Even at 12 bit and compression, we're not talking JPEG save-for-web Quality Setting 6.

    @Iconoscope: Maybe you wanna post an example. Would be really interesting.
  • KnockKnockKnockKnock Posts: 394Member
    Speed reading this - has anyone pointed out that RAW applies very little noise reduction. JPEG has quite a bit. So of course JPEGs will look less noisy, especially at higher ISOs. Apply any noise reduction to the image and it will likely be better than the JPEG. Either in PhotoShop, LightRoom, or one of the pluggin's like Dfine.

    @Iconoscope: raw is just the data off the sensors. What differentiates many brand-name cameras is the image processing that goes into the JPEG engine: color interpretation, sharpening, noise reduction, distortion correction, dynamic range manipulation. RAW isn't for everybody. You gain a bit of bit depth but it assumes you can process these things better than Nikon (/Canon/Olympus etc.). If you don't want to do the labor, or don't have a good workflow for processing, then by all means, shoot JPEG and enjoy the simplicity and quality.
    D7100, D60, 35mm f/1.8 DX, 50mm f/1.4, 18-105mm DX, 18-55mm VR II, Sony RX-100 ii
  • KnockKnockKnockKnock Posts: 394Member
    edited July 2013
    oops double post - gotta stay away from the 'back' button
    Post edited by KnockKnock on
    D7100, D60, 35mm f/1.8 DX, 50mm f/1.4, 18-105mm DX, 18-55mm VR II, Sony RX-100 ii
  • DaveyJDaveyJ Posts: 964Member
    I bought a D3200 and three lens. It is one of the lowest level DSLRs I have ever bought pricewise. I bought it for field work and based on what I have seen in terms of quality. Adding this to a fleet of cameras like D7100 makes a lot of sense to me. I do intend to shoot JPEG Fine Large exclusively and also to see just what the video is capable of. As Knock Knock points out RAW isn't for everyone.

    I also feel since I have been recommending the D3200 to new entrants to photography I prefer to speak from experience. I also intend to try some panoramic stitching using the 35mm 1.8 Nikkor lens. I have to do some research to see what stitch programs can make this easy and still retain the quality the camera is capable of. I do know one guy who has taken that camera and lens to some pretty amazing places and used it as a budget panoramic rig. Maybe I miss my Hasselblad XPan camera and Fugi GX 617 camera and all the lens panels.

    What I could tell from having used the D3100 and D3200 quite a bit before buying this one and the 18-55 (kit lens) the 55-300 Nikkor and the 35 prime lens was this combo does seem to have some nice attributes.
    I did wonder if it was setting me quite a ways back in buying the yet to be announced D400 but it should be a nice travel camera and even allow me to send a D90 back to Nikon USA to get it cleaned and a minor repair on the battery door.
  • IconoscopeIconoscope Posts: 11Member
    The D3200 compresses the raw data, no options. This leaves compression artifacts that are square, about 6X6 pixels. They show up dramatically when the raw image is sharpened. Of course there are no in camera processes aside from this compression so the raw image will always look a bit flat compared to the jpeg. But the jpeg 'fine' option actually produces fewer and smaller artifacts than the raw image. Using a smaller image acquisition option, like the 13.5 megapixel option, bins the sensor photosites and thereby improves the SNR. But this effect is most noticeable when shooting in marginal light conditions. Raw is not an option when a smaller file size is selected. All in all, the D3200 is a fine entry level camera, even if it can't properly utilize it's 24.1 megapixels!
  • IconoscopeIconoscope Posts: 11Member
    Thanks to all for your thoughtful comments! I am not precisely a newbie to DSLR cameras, having owned six previously. The very best one was the first one, a Kodak/Nikon DCS460D, which was a 6 megapixel camera with a sensor that was very near full 35mm frame size...and weighed four pounds. Alas, the shutter failed a few years back and the replacement was a Nikon D50, not nearly so good as the antique DCS460d. Owned three generations of the Canon 'X" series (XT, XSI, XTI) then decided to go back with Nikon and 24.1 megapixels looked very promising. I will keep the D3200 and it does produce really decent quality images under ideal conditions. Just not as good as I had hoped for!!
  • AdeAde Posts: 1,071Member
    Can you please post an example of the RAW file showing compression artifacts?

    Sounds like a defect, or something else is going on.

    If you can take a single frame in RAW+JPEG mode, then post both files here, that would be excellent for analysis.
  • IconoscopeIconoscope Posts: 11Member
    I will take a photo using raw+jpeg of a blank screen so that the artifacts are clearly visible. But the nef file is 19.1 megapixels and the jpeg fine is 9 megapixels. Not sure I can save a sharpened nef file but I'll see what happens!!
  • IconoscopeIconoscope Posts: 11Member
    I am unable to duplicate my previously artifact ridden raw images! I can only speculate that the firmware update I applied yesterday improved the raw image compression algorithm, though that was not listed as a benefit to updating the firmware. So the artifacts appear to be history and one must contend only with the inherent noise characteristics of the D3200 sensor. But if the problem shows up again I will most assuredly post an example!! Thanks to everyone for their informative comments!!
  • PapermanPaperman Posts: 469Member
    edited July 2013
    "Using a smaller image acquisition option, like the 13.5 megapixel option, bins the sensor photosites ..."

    Just curious ... Are you talking about downsampling images to 13.5 Mp in postprocess or are you saying the D3200 can shoot at 13.5 Mp by pixel binning ?
    Post edited by Paperman on
  • KnockKnockKnockKnock Posts: 394Member
    edited July 2013
    Interesting! I might also speculate that your first view was an automatically generated JPEG preview (the camera generates these even if you are shooting RAW only - they're very low rez files), and maybe it took your computer/software some time to process the whole 24mpx image? Your description of the artifacts sounds a lot like a JPEG preview.

    I have a D60, 10MP, and run Aperture. When I work with raw files, they all import and I can begin working on images right away, but it might take 2 seconds or so after 'opening' the shot before it gives me the full resolution. Aperture will show me the preview JPEG immediately while I wait, but then the image 'pops' into full detail. If I'm working with 20MP images (RX100) it takes maybe 5 seconds. Anyway, maybe now all of your RAW files processed? Or whatever software you're using is now showing you the actual RAW files instead of the previews?

    There's a lot of chatter (tempted to say 'noise') regarding the higher-ISO noise signature of the latest 24MP sensors. Nikon leans towards appearing like film grain and stereotypically gives more detail. Canon applies more aggressive noise reduction which makes for very clean flat surfaces, but robs fine detail. Check to see if you can bump up the High-ISO noise reduction levels. You might prefer those results in JPEG.

    Then do some research on downsizing. It's really not fair to pixel peep as a judgement of whole image performance. But if you properly downsize an image to your maximum typical viewing size (what's typical these days... a 27" monitor?), you'll find all those extra pixels give you extra sharpness and less noise over an older 8-16MP camera.

    Cheers!
    Post edited by KnockKnock on
    D7100, D60, 35mm f/1.8 DX, 50mm f/1.4, 18-105mm DX, 18-55mm VR II, Sony RX-100 ii
  • IconoscopeIconoscope Posts: 11Member
    When a camera is set to produce a smaller image than the sensor's maximum capability the resulting image has exactly the same field of view as the larger image size. There are only two choices for in camera processing to achieve the identical field: 1. skip pixels, and 2. combine pixels (binning). Nearly all cameras use the latter method. The sampling method is not readily apparent as the D3200's smaller size image is not an exact multiple of the maximum size, being 13.5 megapixels vs. 24.1 megapixels. But the image noise is definitely reduced with the smaller size images, though at the expense of potentially higher resolution.
    Since updating the firmware, the camera has produced better quality raw images with no discernible compression artifacts, but the noise, even at ISO 100 is bothersome in marginal light conditions. Knockknock is correct in that the noise appears as a fine grained random pattern and is not as objectionable as the noise in many other cameras. Further, the whole image when not significantly cropped, appears quite clean. I very much dislike the image noise reduction in my Canon cameras which destroys detail! But aggressive jpeg compression also destroys detail and that is where Nikon really shines! Nikon's jpeg algorithm is superior with even their lower quality compression setting still producing excellent images. The D3200 is definitely a 'keeper'! Thanks to KnockKnock for his lucid reality check!
  • IconoscopeIconoscope Posts: 11Member
    Just about all DSLR cameras can produce RAW images, but the term RAW is something of a misnomer. If the files were truly unprocessed raw data then the file sizes would be enormous considering 12-16 bit luminosity scale for each 'pixel'. But one must also consider the practicality of handling large files! A 24 megapixel camera is actually not 24 megapixels on the sensor, but rather 24 mega photo sites with an RGB (Bayer) mask. The Bayer mask uses 50% green and 25% for red and blue, respectively. The true chroma resolution is a maximum of 6 megapixels overlayed on a 24 megapixel luminosity image. The Raw file size for the D3200 is 19 megabytes. With uncompressed raw data, the file size would be closer to 300 megabytes! Not conducive to rapid shooting! A few of the higher end cameras have selectable raw image quality and some even a lossless tif file option. My ancient Nikon DCS460 used lossless tif file format exclusively, with no jpeg or other option! The images were superb, but the camera weighed four pounds!
  • IconoscopeIconoscope Posts: 11Member
    An aside about sensor color masks: A very few cameras used a CYM (cyan, yellow, magenta) mask and as a result had better low light sensitivity. The CYM mask required only a single filter layer whereas RGB masks used two filter layers. No, I don't know why. But a good example of the CYM mask camera is the old Canon Pro90is which indeed had superior low light performance. Why were the CYM masks abandoned? Beats me!
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,259Member
    edited July 2013
    This is basic knowledge for Bayer filter sensors. Everyone knows that NEF files are still processed in the camera, if they weren't all you'd see is 0's and 1's. ;) Nikon DSLR's, D7000 and higher end still support TIFF (not sure about the bit depth of those TIFFs) output, but the 14bit NEF's contain more data in a more easily edited format.
    Post edited by PB_PM on
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • PapermanPaperman Posts: 469Member
    I was ( still am ) under the impression pixel binning is a rarity in DSLRs. As far as I know, the only way to get smaller Mps in D3200 is by eliminating/skipping pixels.

    Do you have any literature supporting D3200 pixel binning feature ?
  • IconoscopeIconoscope Posts: 11Member
    No literature, just observation of the noise in the files produced. It seems unlikely that a simple software reduction of file size, like a bicubic sampling, would have any significant effect on image noise. But the noise differences in the jpeg images at 24.1 megapixels and 13.5 megapixels is very significant!
  • PapermanPaperman Posts: 469Member
    Sorry Iconoscope but everything I read & know about DSLRs tell me there is no pixel binning. A short search and you will reach the same conclusion. The only time I ever heard about it was either a $40,000 PhaseOne or Leica S2 - I am not even sure they have it.
Sign In or Register to comment.