Outer construction of the Canon A3200 is primarily metal, which gives it much more of a premium feel in the hand than you’d have any right to expect from a £110 budget compact. The finish is anodised in the classic Canon way, which although pleasing aesthetically and nice to touch, does make the camera a bit slippier in the hand than if it had some more rubbery additions – don’t forget to attach the wrist strap.
Buttons are nicely laid out on the back of the camera and not too closely cluttered either. Away from the control wheel the four buttons are slightly recessed into the body, which has the effect of making accidental presses less likely, which is quite handy seeing as how your thumb rests over the Playback button when holding the camera in shooting mode. Despite the mode dial being positioned right in the upper right corner we didn't find we accidentally jogged this while shooting thanks to a sturdy, notched rotation action.
In-camera menu navigation is fairly straightforward, primarily because there isn’t a whole lot of menu to get through. Indeed, a large chunk of the in-camera menu system is taken up with the camera’s AF settings. We do like how the A3200 offers a quick sentence on what each function does, and how the current setting will affect images.
For example, when setting the Image Stabilisation to ‘Continuous’ the A3200 helpfully informs you: “Continuously corrects for camera shake”, with similarly succinct explanations for all of the other IS settings too.
Start-up time from being switched off to having the autofocus locked-on and ready to shoot is around two and a half seconds, which is fairly standard for a compact of this kind – indeed we’ve seen slower.
Image processing isn’t particularly fast though, so you can expect the camera to take between three to four seconds between shots when it’s being used in Single-shot drive mode. Flicking over to Continuous drive and the A3200 manages a fraction over a frame a second, which again doesn’t make it particularly fast. There is, however, no upper limit on the number of shots taken this way.
While AF performance is perfectly adequate in good light it does slow quite considerably when light levels are poor, for example at dusk outdoors or in darkened rooms indoors. A small orange AF-Assist light is built into the front of the camera, but it’s only really helpful when your subject is within close range.
That said we do like the AF-Point Zoom feature that automatically zooms in on the central AF point when it’s being used exclusively. If you don’t like it you can opt to switch it off.
As might be expected, movie abilities are somewhat limited with the A3200 able to record at a maximum 1,080 x 720 (720p) at 30fps, with sound recorded in mono. This is backed up by 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 options, with all movies stored as QuickTime .MOV files. Perhaps most limiting is that you can't zoom or autofocus while movies are being recorded - you must set these before pressing the go button. Incidentally, there isn't a dedicated record button, instead you must turn the dial to the right setting and press the normal shutter button. My Colours profiles can be assigned to video making it possible to shoot in black and white for instance, and there’s also the option to apply the Miniaturisation digital filter.
We found that the supplied 740mAh Li-ion battery offered slightly better performance than the 240 shots Canon claims it’s good for. In fact, by the time we’d shot 240 images, played around with the menus for about forty minutes and run a slideshow of captured images to run for approximately half an hour with the screen set to maximum brightness, we still had all but one of our battery bars left.