|The Nikon D3300 is the new entry-level model for fans of an SLR. It follows the D3200. The image format is APS-C, and the sensor has no fewer than 24 megapixels. It looks exactly like the sensor of the Nikon D5300. In contrast to the D5300, the Nikon D3300 has no fold-out or swiveling screen, making the D3300 less expensive. A lot of capabilities, outstanding performance at high ISOs… but is the camera really that different from its predecessor?
Nikon D3300 versus Nikon D3200
The similarities with the D3200 are more numerous than the differences. The D3300 has a slightly different body and is a bit smaller and lighter, but you really have to look for the differences. Nikon raised the maximum speed (to 5 images per second), the viewfinder has a bit different enlargement (now 0.82%), and the anti-aliasfilter is left off. We wrote previously that such a filter (also called a low-pass or anti-alias filter) on a camera with so many pixels doesn’t really make sense. Thus, this choice by Nikon didn’t surprise us. Leaving it off, at least in theory, improves the image quality a bit. The other specifications are the same as those of the D3200. For extra features such as built-in WiFi and GPS, you’ll search on the D3300 in vain. For WiFi, there’s a reasonably priced plug-in transmitter sold separately.
Nikon D3300 versus the competition
|It’s tempting to see the entry-level SLR from Canon (the 1200D) as the primary competition of the D3300. It’s a bit simpler than the D3300, but it’s also less expensive, and it has GPS. Cameras like those from Fujifilm (X-M1) or the Sony SLT-A58 that’s no longer outfitted with a mirror, but with an electronic viewfinder also have to be considered. These models deliver quite a bit in terms of viewfinder image, but are lighter and smaller than the real SLRs and have the advantage of continuous focus in LiveView mode. That’s important especially if you’re going to do filming.
|The body is light and small, and it’s easy to hold thanks to a sturdy projection on the right front side. Of course the body is made of high-quality plastic. The small format has a disadvantage: there is little space for buttons. Those are very small and not all that simple to operate. The D3300 has no folding screen.
The battery goes in the underside of the camera; it’s the EN-EL 14a with a large capacity. According to the international standard measuring method, one charge should be good for no less than 700 shots.
Screen and viewfinder
|The LCD screen has 921 K image points and looks great. We nonetheless always prefer an optical viewfinder for practice shots, especially when it’s as good as this one. There is of course LiveView; that can be handy for precise focusing, but (we’ll come back to this later) the auto focus in LiveView is definitely not fast.
Nikon menus are traditionally pretty long and not that clear. The easiest way to change the settings on the D3300 is thus with the i-button. You then enter a simple selection menu, where you can browse through the most important options. This is also possible with the ‘normal’ menu, but it’s a more complicated route. Unfortunately, there are a couple of settings that are only available with the main menu, including auto-ISO and D-light.
|The AF system of the D3300 is, for SLRs of this brand, pretty basic: there are 11 focus points. You can choose a focal point yourself, but in practice you will seldom use this. The focusing is pretty fast and precise, even in low light, but it doesn’t break any records. That doesn’t apply at all in the LiveView mode. It is possible in LV to zoom in on the image and thus to focus precisely, such as we did on the photo shown here. It’s a 25% partial enlargement from a picture with the 18-55 mm kit lens.
Resolution and image quality
|The sensor of the D3300 we know from other Nikon (and Sony) models. That’s why there’s no long story this time about the image quality. For someone who wants to read about all the details, we suggest the test of the D3200, which is outfitted with an identical sensor. We’ll summarize here by saying that the D3300 scored very well in our tests for both resolution and dynamic range.
As we wrote in the introduction, the low-pass filter is omitted from the D3300. The differences in resolution between the D3200 and the D3300 are really minimal, and for the target audience, not really relevant. Only when you make use of a fixed focus quality lens will you perhaps see a difference, but such a lens is likely to be more expensive than the body.
The picture shown here is a detail (5%) from a larger picture. The detail reproduction is outstanding.
|This picture was made with the D3300 fitted with the fixed-focal length Nikkor 35 mm f/1.8 mm lens. The aperture was f/10, the exposure time 1/250 of a second, and the ISO setting, 200. The sky was made darker with software.
|Traditionally, Nikon cameras stand out for their performance with high sensitivity. The D3300 is no exception. The ISO range runs up to 12800 and is expandable to 25600. At the highest settings, there is visible noise, but up to ISO 3200, the image quality is very good. On the night shot below, shot at ISO 6400, 1/25 of a second at f/5.6, there is some color noise visible in the dark areas (see the blue sky). Images acquire a purple tone at high ISOs. We did not correct here for color temperature, and we used the auto setting for it. With a color correction (on the computer or via the retouch menu), a nicer color palette is possible.
Nice Panorama mode
|The D3300 has a panoramic mode with which you can shoot a panorama in one sweeping movement. This works both with the camera in the landscape setting and in the portrait setting. With the portrait setting, you get an picture with a somewhat more “normal” length to width ratio. The maximum arc that we could nicely get into the image was about 120 degrees.
Conclusion Nikon D3300 test
Look in our list of tested cameras for specifications and for a comparison of this performance with that of other cameras.
|The Nikon D3300 is in many respects the ideal entry-level camera for those who want to do serious photography with an SLR. For many starting photographers, the limited number of buttons on the camera may well be a plus point. The image quality is fantastic and gives nothing up to a professional SLR camera. Everything that you need is on it, although built-in WiFi (and to a lesser extent, GPS) are on our wishlist. In combination with the Nikon 18-55 mm VR II lens, you have a really nice set for a reasonable price. Why this Nikon model was put on the market as a replacement for the D3200 is nonetheless not at all clear. The differences are really very small. If you come across a cheaper D3200, that is the biggest competition for the Nikon D3300.