Nikon D3300 review
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23.5×15.6mm 24.0-megapixel sensor, 3.0x zoom (27-82.5mm equivalent), 663g
The Nikon D3300, having been first announced in January 2014, but it’s still going strong. Nikon is still making it, but has shunted it right to the bottom of its current range, below the more recent D3400, launched at the end of 2016.
There isn’t much difference between the two from a core hardware perspective, despite the gap in age. The key difference is that the more recent camera has wireless and an articulated screen built in and is more expensive price. While the Nikon D3300 can be bought today for a knockdown £319 with the 18-55mm VR II kit lens thrown in, the D3400 costs £90 more at £409 for the equivalent package.
If you care more about image quality than having all the latest features that makes it a fantastic budget choice. You’ll be spending a bit less here, money you can put towards a lens upgrade and you should be able to take some better pictures as a result.
Price, rating and specs based on the 18-55mm VR II kit
The thing is, these entry-level SLRs still have to provide enough features to justify the price and get you’ll need to get along with it successfully, especially with a sensor that delivers the goods too. It’s worth pointing out at this stage that former models haven’t always passed these tests necessarily. The Canon EOS 1200D left us a little bit disappointed three years ago, even despite the somewhat entry-level price, with its surprisingly high noise levels. The D3300 definitely has a golden opportunity here to chalk up a clear victory.
It’s off to a good start here with a nice redesigned kit lens that collapses down to a spectacularly slender 68mm when it’s not in use. It still amounts to 133mm from viewfinder to lens cap when in transit, which is miles better than the EOS 1200D’s 145mm or the Nikon D3200 at 155mm but it’s still hardly a game changer. Altogether, the camera and the kit lens have lost slightly over 100g compared to the D3200, and now weigh a combined 663g. These are welcome changes, but you’ll still need to carry it around in a bag rather than your pocket.
On the other hand, both the D3200 and D3300 are quite tricky to tell apart, both in person and the raw specs. The plastic body is much smoother and shinier here, with a nice choice of black, grey or red colours that will surely tickle some people’s fancy. The tactile navigation pad is a little lower than before, which gives you just a little bit more room for the right thumb to rest itself on the back of the camera. Both the drive mode and delete buttons have shuffled around to make a bit more room, but that’s about all in terms of cosmetic changes. We haven’t really got any complaints in terms of ergonomics, as it fits nice and snug in two hands, while all the buttons are very easy to reach. The viewfinder itself is slightly larger than the Canon EOS 1200D’s, too.
There aren’t a huge number of buttons and dials to be found, though. As was the case with its predecessors, the D3300 keeps any labelled, single-function buttons to a minimum, otherwise relying on the quick-access and main menus for the main bulk of use. There’s a little bit of sense to this, however, especially as less experienced users may be put off by an over-abundance of often ambiguously labelled buttons, and prefer more informative on-screen labels. The thing is, we’re not all that convinced that they will learn a whole lot from a thumbnail showing a night cityscape for ISO 800 and a piano recital for ISO 1600. The lack of these single-function buttons makes it near impossible to adjust various settings while using the viewfinder. Likewise, calibrating the manual white balance and toggling the Auto ISO feature on and off are far too convoluted, with the controls buried well into three layers deep in the camera’s main menu. Something else that was far too annoying is that the self-timer function switches itself off after each shot.
These problems are frustrating as the numerous issues could quite easily be avoided with just a few minor firmware changes, and yet the problems still persist through the generations. In the end, though, the D3300 is a pleasant enough camera to use, especially for those who largely just stick to automatic settings. It’s nice and easy to move the autofocus point via the navigation pad, while the exposure-related settings are very close to hand via the command dial and exposure compensation button. The handy Guide Mode attempts to demystify various photographic techniques via a mixture of scene presets and practical tips, but the two sadly sit awkwardly alongside each other. We recommend starting in Program mode and learning features as you feel the need.
Nikon D3300 Performance and video mode
Cameras’ processors don’t usually get all that much attention, but an upgrade to Nikon’s latest Expeed 4 chip really pays off here and is worth a discussion. Continuous shooting is up from 4fps to 5fps, putting it significantly ahead of the EOS 1200D’s 3fps. While the D3200 slowed to a sluggish 1.6fps after 20 JPEGs, the D3300 continued at 3.3fps. There was considerably less of a toll on overall performance when we enabled the Auto Distortion Control to correct for lens distortion. The overall raw performance showed big gains, too, slowing to a still-usable 1.7fps after an initial burst of six frames at 5fps.
With a significantly faster processor on board, it’s a welcome surprise to find that battery life has increased from 540 to 700 shots. We also found autofocus from the 11-point autofocus sensor and kit lens to be reliably fast, taking around 0.3 seconds from pressing the shutter button to capturing a frame.
The faster processor found inside also means that 1080p videos are captured at frame rates ranging from 24fps all the way up to 60fps. There isn’t a huge benefit to shooting at frame rates faster than 30fps as online hosting services and optical disc formats have only just started to support them. Otherwise, it’s great to be able to slow footage down in editing software for slow-motion effects, which can make for some very interesting videos. There is a downside to this, though, in that the maximum clip length for 50fps and 60fps is only 10 minutes. It’s often best to stick to the 24, 25 and 30fps frame rates in most instances, where clips run for 20 minutes.
Back in 2014, video picture quality was among one of the best we’ve seen and it still holds up well today. Colours exhibited the same flattering tones as in JPEGs. Details were much sharper and noise levels were considerably lower than from the EOS 1200D for instance, and not all that far off the high standards of the Panasonic Lumix G range. Unlike the 1200D, there’s an option for full-time autofocus while recording too. While it’s not exactly the most responsive video autofocus system we’ve seen, and enabling it bombards the audio with whirring noises from the lens motor, it’s still good enough for casual use. A 3.5mm microphone input lets you bypass the internal mono microphone for a more strategically placed stereo mic.
23.5×15.6mm 24.0-megapixel sensor, 3.0x zoom (27-82.5mm equivalent), 663g
Nikon D3300 Photo quality
2012’s D3200 was the first Nikon SLR to use a 24-megapixel sensor. Now nearly all of them do, yet while the D3300’s resolution hasn’t changed at all, this sensor definitely marks a significant upgrade. Exactly the same one that’s found in the D5300 and D7100, the noise levels were appreciably lower than from the D3200. The sensor also omits an optical low-pass filter in an effort to boost detail levels, yet I found the difference was extremely subtle. With that in mind, it’s still great to find one of the best sensors available for this type of camera in an entry-level model.
Noise levels in JPEGs at ISO 12800 are significantly lower than from the D3200 or Canon EOS 1200D
This shot at ISO 6400 tells a similar story
Shooting RAW and processing images in Lightroom brings further benefits to noise levels
It’s also worth shooting RAW to make the most of details, although the 24-megapixel JPEGs aren’t exactly lacking in this department
There’s no sign of aliasing artefacts on these diagonal lines, despite the lack of an optical low-pass filter
On the other hand, there’s very little to report regarding the image quality. Nikon SLRs’ ability to capture vivid and flattering colours in JPEGs is already well documented in past reviews, and in-camera removal of lens distortions and chromatic aberrations helps photos look their best straight out of the camera. The kit lens could be a bit better, with soft focus towards the edges of frames and a very slight lack of contrast to fine details across the entirety of the frame, yet it’s still good enough to get first-time SLR owners up and running. If and when they’re ready to upgrade, it’s reassuring that this sensor can make the most of much higher quality glass.
Crisp details and lifelike colours: most of our test shots were hard to fault
Comparing the same shot taken with the kit lens and a 35mm prime reveals how much more the sensor has to give with a good lens in front of it
Nikon D3300 – is it for you?
I think by now that we’ve made it abundantly clear that we prefer this camera over its main rival, the Canon EOS 1200D. Coming in top for photo quality, video quality, performance, viewfinder size and battery life, which makes us willing to overlook – if almost forgiving – the more frustrating aspects of its controls. Notwithstanding, the prices of the two cameras have diverged significantly since launch with the D3300 costing £328 at present and the equivalent Canon costing £287 but beware of the slightly cheaper kit with the non-stabilised lens, which we wouldn’t recommend to point-and-shoot beginners. Despite the clear price difference we still prefer the D3300, but if you are looking to save money then check out the cheaper Nikon D3200 instead, also around £279.
These aren’t the only two contenders, though. The Pentax K-50 punches far above its weight with its enthusiast-level controls and massive viewfinder, and it’s now available for around £400. Then there’s various superb compact system cameras (CSCs) which often use the same-sized sensor as the D3300, with the charge currently being led by the amazing bargain that is the Samsung NX3000, currently available for as little as £200 if you shop around a bit. If you are looking for a ‘proper’ DSLR though, then the D3300 comes close to recieving our recommendation, but it needs a simple firmware update to address its annoying operational habits to tip the balance. Buy Now from Amazon.
|CCD effective megapixels||24.0 megapixels|
|Viewfinder magnification, coverage||0.85x, 95%|
|LCD screen size||3.0in|
|LCD screen resolution||921,000 pixels|
|Zoom 35mm equivalent||27-82.5mm|
|Image stabilisation||optical, in kit lens|
|Maximum image resolution||6,000×4,000|
|File formats||JPEG, RAW; QuickTime (AVC)|
|Battery Life (tested)||700 shots|
|Connectivity||USB, AV, mini HDMI, 3.5in microphone, wired remote|
|Lens mount||Nikon F|
|Focal length multiplier||1.5x|
|Kit lens model name||AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II|
|Warranty||two years RTB|
|Exposure modes||program, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual|
|Shutter speed||30 to 1/4,000 seconds|
|Aperture range||f/3.5-22 (wide), f/5.6-36 (tele)|
|ISO range (at full resolution)||100 to 25600|
|Exposure compensation||+/-5 EV|
|White balance||auto, 12 presets with fine tuning, manual|
|Additional image controls||contrast, saturation, sharpening, brightness, hue, Active D-Lighting, noise reduction, auto distortion control, colour space|
|Closest macro focus||28cm|
|Metering modes||multi, centre-weighted, centre, face detect|
|Flash||auto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, rear curtain, red-eye reduction|
|Drive modes||single, continuous, self-timer|