The Nikon D3300 is Nikon’s entry-level APS-C (DX) sized digital SLR. Initially released spring 2014, it remains among their smallest and lightest SLR cameras released to date, and one they aim squarely at beginning photographers. Even more so, those who are looking for an upgrade in image quality over what their smartphones alone can provide. Nikon has implemented several incremental, but necessary, improvements with this model over the predecessor, the D3200. Namely, better low light, video, battery life, and an updated user interface. While it’s an entry-level camera at heart, it delivers pro-level image quality and a respectable feature-set ready to take on Canon’s T6 SLR. Today, we address its strengths, weaknesses, and help answer whether this should be a consideration in your search for your new camera.
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- What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Nikon D3300?
- Image Quality
- Video Quality
- Low Light Performance
- Focusing Performance
- Battery Performance
- Display & Viewfinder
- User Interface
- Physical Layout & Ergonomics
- Niche Features/Extras
- Image Performance
- Video Capabilities
- Autofocus Performance
- Lacking Features
- Is this a good beginner camera?
- Is the Nikon D3300 a good camera for you?
What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Nikon D3300?
It has a 24.2MP CMOS sensor coupled with the EXPEED 4 image processor. This combination surprisingly delivers image quality that far supersedes what most users will expect from an entry-level DSLR. The main reason is that this camera lacks an Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF), the first in an entry-level Nikon SLR. With the removal of the OLPF, the performance provided here is virtually identical to Nikons more advanced D7100 camera. Up until this point, all previous D3000 series included this filter, which softened their images and reduced fine details. However, Its removal now ensures maximum sharpness, albeit at the chance of moiré and artifacts occurring in certain scenes. Although 24MP sensors are common, the SLRs that lack OLPFs are not, giving it a distinct edge over the competition. In all, image quality is excellent, even considering the camera’s age.
The updated processor also allows the camera to shoot a continuous burst rate of 5 fps. This change makes it suitable for fast-paced shooting and steps this camera from the entry-level category into something more comparable to Nikon’s D5000 series. This is a substantial and welcomed improvement over the predecessor.
It features a built-in HDR mode.
It can record 1080p Full HD video up to 60 fps, a first for a Nikon D3000 camera. Like most consumer-level Nikon cameras, however, it bears the 20-minute recording limit when shooting in this higher-quality setting to avoid overheating.
Low Light Performance
The updated processor also increases the camera’s native ISO range by one stop over the predecessor. It now offers a native ISO range from ISO 100 to 12,800, expandable to 25,600. Overall, low light performance is sufficient for most users, though not class-leading by any means. Users can expect usable photos and videos up to ISO 3,200, where only minor post-production noise reduction is required. But, surprisingly, even ISO 25,600 delivers respectable results. Impressive.
Autofocusing performance delivers mixed feelings. On the one hand, it offers 3D-tracking, which is not as strong as current cameras, but still manages to provide excellent subject tracking performance. However, the system is fairly limited compared to today’s competition at this price — more on this in the con’s section.
Battery life is good, though not great. It uses the EN-EL14a battery, which Nikon rates to deliver 700 shots per charge. While improved dramatically over the predecessor, it’s still behind the 900 shot lifespan expected in SLRs.
Display & Viewfinder
It features a 3.0-inch TFT LCD with a resolution of 921K dots, which delivers excellent viewing angles and is quite sharp for this class of camera.
It features a reasonably large optical viewfinder with magnification of 0.85x and 95% coverage of the image area, both matching the standards expected for entry-level DSLRs.
With its large and easily recognizable interface, it’s clear Nikon intended to make this camera optimally suited for beginning photographers. They’ve now provided a graphic interface with a representation of the exposure triangle, a helpful reminder of how these settings work for new shooters. Overall, the interface on this camera is excellent. It’s easy to understand, navigate, and a new user will master it without a steep learning curve.
The camera features a good selection of dedicated scene selection modes, as well as the full range shooting modes expected. However, it also features Nikon’s helpful GUIDE mode, which provides photography lessons while shooting. It explains how to achieve a desired photo with step-by-step directions, and is quite beneficial to new users who prefer a more hands-on approach.
It features a built-in Panorama mode, simplifying the process of creating in-camera panoramas, though slightly limited.
It features the i-button, which pulls up a quick selection menu of options, saving a trip to the main menu in the process.
It features a full suite of in-camera editing, allowing users to edit images with a variety of different effects and filters.
Physical Layout & Ergonomics
It features a polycarbonate plastic build, which makes the camera reasonably durable. The pro to this type of construction is that the camera is incredibly lightweight, only weighing a meager 410g body only. It’s also quite small and compact in dimensions, which makes the camera quite easy to carry around and an excellent traveling companion. However, this construction does mean it lacks the weather sealing of Nikon’s higher-end models as a result. Nevertheless, the camera improves in ergonomics, now proving a slightly deeper grip than the predecessor for a more comfortable and reassuring hold than before.
The design and button layout is quite simplistic and makes for a hassle-free experience for beginning photographers.
It features a rear control dial to adjust Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO when used in conjunction with the function button.
Nikon has opted to separate both the battery compartment and SD card slots. While commonly overlooked, it’s quite helpful as it makes replacing the SD card quickly a far smoother experience when the cameras mounted on a tripod. Without this placement, you would first have to dismount the camera from the tripod, remove the plate, then replace the card, which takes significantly longer.
It has a microphone input. You can also adjust the microphone sensitivity as well via the menus. However, you cannot modify the sensitivity while recording.
It has a built-in pop-up flash.
The camera delivers a very weak buffer, which fills after only eight or nine images. So it looks like it’ll be fast, but rather short bursts with this camera.
When shooting in 1080p 60 fps, the camera only supplies a bit rate of 24 MBps. The bit rate may or may not be relevant to you. However, such a low rate means the footage doesn’t lend itself well to post-production adjustments or grading. However, as this is an entry-level camera, it’s entirely forgivable, especially considering this smaller file size reduces file storage demand while editing. It’s more so worthwhile to note that the footage here doesn’t make this the best video camera.
Like many other Nikon cameras, 1080p 30 fps video limits to 20 minutes and 60 fps to 10 minutes per segment.
The camera features Nikon’s Multi-Cam 11-point autofocusing system. Sure, the focusing performance when composing with the optical viewfinder remains both accurate and relatively fast. And, theoretically, it’s still sufficient for most shooting. The reality is that this system is just limited in comparison to today’s cameras. Its main drawback is the clustering of all its points around the center of the frame. This configuration becomes problematic because none of these points cover the outer edges, forcing users to focus and recompose to ensure proper composition. And, unfortunately, this kind of viewfinder technique isn’t well-suited for beginning photographers. The focusing in the viewfinder is good. But, considering the limited points, it’s just blatantly hard for beginners compared to other cameras in today’s marketplace, which offer 3-4 times the number of points.
As with many Nikon entry-level cameras, the focusing performance in Live View and video is virtually unusable. It suffers from several problems. Firstly, the Live View system uses a contrast-detection based system alone, which, while delivers 100% coverage of the frame, hunts a lot when acquiring focus. Secondly, when using continuous autofocus, the motor on these lenses are incredibly loud. Both attached shotgun microphones and the camera’s microphone picks up the jitter from the drive motor as it moves during recording. And when this occurs, it’s both immediately noticeable and very distracting. Overall, if you want pristine video, manually focusing or using AF-S and locking the focus before recording is best.
Unfortunately, the rear LCD doesn’t offer any articulation, nor does it tilt. And it’s also not a touchscreen. Compared to other options at this price, it’s quite limited in functionality.
And since the camera lacks a touchscreen display, changing autofocusing points, as well as navigating the menu now becomes a dance solely with the d-pad alone. And again compared to today’s cameras, this is both slow and quite inconvenient.
The function button falls immediately adjacent to the flash button, which significantly increases the likelihood of accidentally engaging the flash.
It lacks built-in Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth connectivity. If you desire wireless connectivity, you must first purchase Nikon’s WU-1A wireless dongle. But realistically, if connectivity is critical to you, consider buying the Nikon D5300 instead.
Like with most consumer Nikon cameras, you cannot change the Aperture in Live View. Instead, you must first disengage from Live View, ending video recording, make the change, then restart. Incredibly tedious, and this slows down workflow.
It doesn’t support USB charging.
It lacks built-in image stabilization. Instead, use Nikon lenses that have Vibration Reduction (VR) if you desire stabilized footage.
Interestingly, it doesn’t offer 1/3 stop increments and more precise control over ISO. You can only change ISO in full-stop increments, so 100 to 200 and not 100 to 160.
Is this a good beginner camera?
Yes. When most people decide they want a DSLR and are tired of snapping away with their smartphones. They’re usually interested in better image quality and the versatility that comes from an interchangeable lens camera. And both of those are strengths for this camera. The image quality it delivers, matched with its versatile feature set, makes it an excellent choice for beginning photographers, though a bit outdated in some areas.
Nevertheless, Nikon has crammed this camera with a magnificent sensor, that’s stood the test of time. And one that still delivers great photos as well as decent low light performance. It even features several features from their higher-end models, but at a more affordable price-point that makes it the better choice for those with smaller budgets.
Is the Nikon D3300 a good camera for you?
However, for aspiring videographers, while this camera is capable. It’s not particularly exciting. It doesn’t offer a wide selection of video-centric capabilities and may prove to be limiting in several ways. Most notably, the lack of aperture control in Live View and poor video autofocus. And of course, as an entry-level camera, it doesn’t offer any advanced video functions like 120 fps recording and waveforms, for example. However, if you plan on just casually recording video, then the quality here is good for the price. Just bear in mind the autofocusing issues as mentioned in the cons section.
For seasoned photographers, while this camera features several professional-level features, it doesn’t offer enough physical controls for the responsiveness you may desire. Its layout is quite simple and more geared towards beginners, so you may find it frustratingly basic unless that’s not a problem for you.
In all, the Nikon D3300 remains a very compelling little camera. And it surprisingly remains quite useful to the demographic Nikon intended, even after so much time.
The Nikon D3300 may be outdated in several key areas. But, it remains capable even after so much time. Nikon has crammed this camera with a magnificent sensor, that’s stood the test of time. And one that still delivers great photos along with several high-end features.