The Nikon D3400 enters the realm of entry-level Digital SLRs as the successor to the D3300. Coming in with a 24.2 megapixel CMOS sensor along with industry leading battery life, the D3400 was aimed at the beginning photographer looking to ditch their smartphone camera for a consumer-level Digital SLR. Today, we discuss whether or not the D3400, though originally released fall of 2016, still lives up to its original hype.
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What Kind of Camera is the Nikon D3400 Classified as?
The D3400 is classified as a cropped sensor APS-C camera. In Nikon terms, crop sensor cameras are referred to as “DX,” while Full Frame cameras are referred to as “FX.” Even though the D3400 is DX camera, it’s incredibly affordable given a few years have passed now and one to consider if you’re in the market for the specific advantages discussed below. Know, this camera does have drawbacks that will hinder long-term development, depending on your goals.
What are some of the goods, bads, and the uglies of the Nikon D3400?
Interestingly enough, the D3400 actually includes a feature aimed to help educate newcomers unfamiliar with the workings of Digital SLRs. It does this through a specific mode on the selection dial called GUIDE. When GUIDE is selected, the camera will suggest best practices, general settings and even give photo examples to help users get a desired result. This is a feature uncommon within entry-level Digital SLRs, especially given this price range. Definitely a nice plus for those needing additional guidance or instruction on the essential camera settings and their accompanying effects when out shooting in the field.
It has an impressive battery life that offers 1,200 shots per single charge, an increase from the 700 shots found on its predecessor the D3300. On battery alone, this camera outperforms nearly every other camera within its price range.
Has a Burst mode that shoots at an impressive 5 FPS, a similar rate found on the Canon T6i.
It has low powered Bluetooth, enabling the direct transfer of photos from the camera to a paired device, even when powered off.
Has updated lenses (Nikon AF-P lenses) that, during video recording, now have completely silent autofocus and smoother transitions while focusing.
Has competitive ISO performance, with little noise up until ISO 12,600 in both photos and videos.
Solid autofocus performance due to Dual Pixel AF, especially considering the price of the camera. Granted, it only works through Contrast Detection not through Phase Detection so it’s not industry-leading by any means.
Has a Micro USB port for charging, very convenient when it comes to getting a replacement if or when the included cable gets misplaced.
Shoots video at 1080p at 60 Frames Per Second.
The primary LCD doesn’t articulate/swivel nor is it a touchscreen. All adjustments are done through physical buttons only. The LCD also isn’t particularly bright under direct sunlight and is often found to be washed out to the point where viewing images in playback becomes difficult.
It doesn’t have any adjustment dials whatsoever, making all adjustments to Shutter Speed or Aperture changed solely through menu buttons, a huge disappointment.
No microphone jack port, a shame for those looking to connect an external microphone for better audio capture.
It only has 11 autofocus points, fairly low in comparison to competitors, namely the Canon T6i.
Offers only Bluetooth functionality and does not have WIFI capabilities. This becomes an issue because without WIFI the camera has no ability to do Live View shooting, video or remote shooting through the accompanying app whatsoever. Bluetooth alone only has the ability to transfer photos.
The Nikon SnapBridge app transfers files very slowly and the maximum file size is also limited to 2 MBs.
Has no built-in sensor cleaning mechanism to clean the sensor, a common feature found in all entry-level SLRs. Why it was removed? The answer still remains unclear.
Viewfinder quality and overall performance are poor.
It does not have an autofocus motor built into the camera body, this means users must use either AF-S or AF-P lenses when shooting to have autofocusing capabilities. Older generation D lenses will be Manual Focusing only.
There’s no Manual/AF switch on the camera body, this means that when using newer lenses that don’t have a manual/AF switch, switching from manual to autofocus has to be done through the camera’s menu. Overall, this makes changing to manual extremely timely and tedious.
Since the D3400 is a APS-C camera, it too will alter focal length when shot with Full-Frame lenses (Nikon FX Lenses). So know, if you have Full Frame lenses already and are looking to move over to the D3400, your focal lengths will be multiplied by its 1.5X crop factor. For example, take a 50 mm f/1.8 lens, when multiplied by the crop factor, this same 50 mm lens turns into a 75 mm equivalent. However, this could be converted into an advantage if you shoot wildlife or sports since APS-C lenses are cheaper than Full Frame counterparts, and this magnification can be used to get equivalent lenses for less money.
Also since the D3400 is also a cropped sensor camera, it too will fall victim to reduced Depth of Field at wide-open Apertures, a problem faced by all APS-C cameras. Simply said, APS-C cameras will have greater Depth of Field when directly compared to Full-Frame cameras if all variables are equal (lighting, subject matter, distance, lens and camera settings). If shallow Depth of FIeld is important to you, then crop sensor cameras will not be the ideal fit unless you’re willing to slightly compromise. If you want the shallowest Depth of FIeld possible, say you shoot portraits for example, then Full Frame is best. However, If you’re on a budget and can’t afford a Full-Frame at the moment, then the slight compromise on Depth of Field will be sufficient enough for your needs so you can at least get started, then upgrade later.
Is the Nikon D3400 a good starting camera?
For a small fraction of you reading this, yes the D3400 will be sufficient enough for your needs. Specifically, those of you looking for a very basic Digital SLR to just put into a scene selection mode and fire away. However, for the overwhelming majority of you, no it will not be a good starting camera and be sufficient enough for your needs. With the lack of an adjustment switch, Manual/AF selection, limited focusing performance, poor viewfinder, and outdated primary LCD, you will struggle to grow with this camera long term. Initially, it can help you learn the absolute fundamentals. But, the cons described above will definitely hinder your growth as a photographer. And it is because of this, we do not recommend this camera if developing as a photographer is important to you.
Is the Nikon D3400 a good camera for beginners?
As we mentioned previously, it depends on what your goal for getting an entry-level Digital SLR is. If you’re on a really tight budget, not looking or wanting to learn photography more in-depth, then it’s a great camera to pick up. However, if you find yourself having a deeper desire to learn and flourish as a photographer, this camera will hinder your growth initially. If you’re in that position, check out the Canon T6i or Sony a6000, both of these cameras will be sufficient enough for your needs. Overall, we would say that the Nikon D3400 is best suited as a more versatile point and shoot camera. And if you’re not looking for an upgraded point and shoot camera, this camera wouldn’t be the ideal choice for starting out with now in 2019, even with its current pricing.
Note: If you already own the Nikon D3300, we wouldn’t suggest upgrading to the D3400. There’s not much to gain in feature set or photo/video performance.
The Nikon D3400 offers a moderate amount of features and performance, but is best suited to the photographer who is simply looking for a versatile point and shoot to ditch their smartphone camera. It offers little for the beginning photographer who is looking for long-term development and, sadly, it does not meet our best entry-level cameras list for 2019.