Last Updated on February 11, 2022 by Devaun Lennox
In today’s post, we will compare two entry-level Nikon digital SLR cameras, the D3400 and brand new model, which sits just above it the D5600. We will cover what the key differences between both cameras and help you figure out which is best suited for your needs. Should you upgrade or is it best to stay with the lower-end model? Let’s find out.
Note: we will refer to the D3400 is the “lower-end” body and the D5600 as the “higher-end” body to differentiate between the camera. While we are calling the cameras low or high-end, this is only a formality. Our naming doesn’t refer to which one is best.
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Size & Dimensions
Physically, both cameras are nearly identical in size and weight. Both cameras measure approximately 120mm x 100mm and weigh roughly 400g. With that, picking up both cameras in hand feels mostly indistinguishable.
Physical Controls & Ergonomics
In terms of physical controls, both cameras are similar, though not identical, and both feature the automatic and manual modes we expect on entry-level SLRs. However, the lower-end body features a unique mode from Nikon called GUIDE mode. When you set the camera to this mode, it simplifies the camera through a separate interface specifically geared to help the beginning photographer.
GUIDE mode offers tips and guides users on how to achieve the desired result with visual examples and detailed instructions on necessary camera settings. Overall, this mode provides significant value and is a must-have for a new photographer.
Displays are an area where each camera is entirely different. The lower-end body features a 3-inch fixed LCD with a resolution of 921K dots. However, the higher-end body features not only a larger 3.2-inch LCD with 1.03 million dots, but it’s also a touchscreen and fully articulates. Touchscreen LCDs have proven themselves to be a significant addition in recent years and a real advantage for users moving from smartphone photography to their first SLR.
Touchscreens make navigating the user interface of these cameras easier, more intuitive, which makes them especially well-suited for beginning photographers or videographers. However, the lack of touchscreen means that users are stuck using the directional pad to navigating on the lower-end body, which does feel archaic in today’s modern world. The addition of a fully articulating screen also is quite a significant advantage as well and one that lends itself as the ideal choice for blogging or self-composed recording.
Not only that, but it also makes shooting in tricky or challenging angles that much easier. A fixed screen doesn’t provide the same level of versatility, and, for most users, the fully articulating screen is sufficient enough to justify getting the upgraded camera.
Both cameras feature optical viewfinders that deliver 95% vertical and horizontal coverage of the imaging area. However, surprisingly, the lower-end body features a slightly larger magnification of 0.85x, which means it provides a subtle but improved viewing experience when composing via the viewfinder.
Both cameras feature 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensors, which means both are more than adequate at resolving fine details while also allowing users ample freedom to crop in post. Not only that, but both cameras are also excellent choices for printing large formats. Since the image sensors are identical, image quality and available dynamic range between both cameras are similar as well.
Both cameras shoot full HD 1080p video at 60 frames per second. As mentioned above, they have the same sensors, so the video quality is identical between both cameras. Both cameras also have the same recording time limits of 20 minutes when shooting 1080p 60p or 29 minutes and 59 seconds at 1080p 30p.
Being the entry-level model, the D3400 doesn’t feature as many autofocusing points as the higher-end body. In this case, it only supplies an 11-point AF system while the higher-end body has 39 points, which is a whopping 3.5x improvement. The result is an all-round autofocusing performance that’s both faster and more consistent than the more primitive system in the lower-end body.
Both cameras use Nikon’s EN-EL14a rechargeable battery. However, since the higher-end body features an improved rear LCD, it’s battery life is slightly reduced. It only delivers a 970 shot battery life, which, while good, is notably worse than the 1,200 shot battery life available from the lower-end model. If you’re someone who enjoys shooting a lot without the burden of additional batteries, the lower-end body is best.
User Interface & Menus
Outside of the GUIDE mode mentioned previously, the menus and interfaces of both cameras are mostly identical.
Both cameras deliver identical continuous burst rate speeds of 5 frames per second. No differences there, either are equally capable of shooting moderate action.
The lower-end body lacks an external microphone input port. Only the higher-end body includes this feature. An external microphone port is an absolute necessity for aspiring videographers as it allows users to connect external microphones for better audio capture. However, do know that you can still use the lower-end body with an external recorder and bypass this particular lacking feature. So, while convenient, this isn’t a dealbreaker by any means.
While both cameras have built-in Bluetooth connectivity, the lower-end body lacks Wi-Fi connectivity. Since the higher-end body features Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth, it supplies an improved wireless connectivity experience with fewer drops in the signal or hiccups when connecting.
If you plan on shooting HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography, you’d be surprised to know that the lower-end body doesn’t feature bracketing. With this feature lacking, for some odd reason, you will have to shoot HDR completely manually.
The lower-end body is also missing a built-in timelapse or interval shooting mode. Only the higher-end body has this feature built-in. If you want to perform this type of shooting functionality, you will have to do so with an external intervalometer.
So which is best?
The D5600 is better, and not because it delivers better images or videos. No, there are no differences there. Instead, it provides more usability and added versatility over the D3400 in its features. The fully articulating touchscreen, microphone input, and enhanced wireless connectivity provide significant value.
Nikon aims these two lineups of SLRs towards very different demographics of users. The 3000 series is geared more towards absolute beginners, utterly foreign to the workings of digital cameras. While, the 5000 series is more geared towards amateurs, enthusiasts or intermediate photographers looking to develop their skillset further.
Nonetheless, for this comparison, the D5600 is the far superior camera and the better choice of the two cameras. Now, it’s important to say this as well. If all you care about is strictly image and video quality or dynamic range, the lower-end body is a better choice. It provides excellent performance and value, which makes a solid starter SLR. But, long term, the D5600 is still the way to go.