Nikon D3300 Review - The Nikon D3300 is the manufacturer's latest entry-level DSLR, following on from a long line of successful models and trying to set new standards in entry-level DSLR photography
Advancements in digital photography mean that features found on the high-end and professional models of today will – in a matter of a few years – work their way down towards the entry-level models of tomorrow.
Nikon’s entry-level DSLR range has long benefited from this drip-down effect, owing to their substantial stable of enthusiast and high-end models. As a result, over the past few years the D3100 and then the D3200 after it have become some of its most popular DSLRs.
The Nikon D3300 looks set to continue this popularity, owing to its impressive feature-set and competitive price point. The model features the same sensor as its D3200 predecessor – a 24.2MP sensor, as pixel count nearly matching that of the manufacturer’s high-end D3X.
There are a host of improvements to the D3300 in comparison to its predecessor, including the removal of the anti-aliasing filter, and as such Nikon looks to further cement the camera’s position as one of the leading entry-level DSLRs.
We take a closer look at the D3300 to see if it matches the success of its predecessors.
Nikon D3300 Review – Features
Outside of the key imaging elements of the camera’s specification – which we’ll come to later – it’s perhaps worth noting one of the features that the camera is missing.
Unlike most of the cameras in its class, the D3300 is lacking in any kind of built-in Wi-fi capabilities. Instead, if you want to make the D3300 Wi-fi capable you’ll have to purchase the external WU-1a Wi-fi adapter at an extra cost of around £60.
Although this is somewhat surprising, especially as most digital cameras these days arrive Wi-fi ready as standard, you can understand why Nikon has chosen to go down the accessory route. The key concern with the D3300 is to keep cost, and size, to a minimum and in excluding Wi-fi as standard it certainly does so.
In terms of the rest of the camera’s specification, it’s safe to say that the D3300 inherits a lot of its features from the D3200. This is no bad thing, however, as the D3200 was a camera that certainly impressed.
The model sports the same 24.2MP DX-format CMOS sensor, delivering a resolution that exceeds many of its competitors.
As mentioned previously the sensor does sport one key difference from its predecessor, and that’s the omission of an anti-alias filter. This slight modification should see an improvement of sharpness of images captured and as a result mean that the camera can make the most the high-resolution sensor.
The sensor also benefits from the implementation of Nikon’s new EXPEED 4 image processor. This new processor brings with it a host of benefits in terms of performance, and perhaps the most eye-catching of these is an increase in the continuous shooting rate from 4fps to 5fps, a figure that’s class-leading.
The processor also means that the camera’s sensor now has a maximum ISO of 25,600, up from 12,800, another feature which would have been the preserve of previous generations of enthusiast DSLRs.
There aren’t any improvements to the camera’s specification in terms of the rear of the model, with the D3300 maintaining the same 3in, 920k-dot LCD as seen on its predecessor.
The D3300 also features the same metering and AF set-ups, sporting the 420 pixel RGB sensor and 11-point AF system that served the D3200 well.
Nikon D3300 Review – Design
With the Nikon D3300, it could be said that Nikon is looking to create the perfect entry-level DSLR. The price-point is a clear signifier of that intent, while the specification more than meets entry-level requirements.
One feature that debuted on the D3200 and is retained in the D3300 is the model’s graphical rear display. The graphics represent aperture, shutter and ISO sensitivity, giving beginners a visual reference point to the settings they’re changing. The aperture graphic is particularly pleasing, with it getting larger and smaller relative to the size selected.
There’s also a ‘?’ button which can be pressed in conjunction with any of the settings which then activates a more in-depth explanation of the settings being used, serving almost as a built-in instruction manual for those new to DSLR photography.
Another signifier of the camera’s entry-level standing is the amount of buttons and dials located around the D3300’s body, or more accurately the lack thereof. There are very few buttons to offer adjustment of exposure and shooting settings, with an exposure compensation button on the camera’s top plate and a button on the rear to change shooting rate.
There is an ‘Fn’ function button on the front left of the camera that enables quick access to the ISO setting by default, although this can be adjusted should needs be.
To gain access to more of the camera’s functionality there’s an ‘Info’ button on the rear of the camera. Pressing this brings up an on-screen menu offering access to metering modes, AF settings and Raw and JPEG shooting.
To the left of the LCD screen sits a playback button and menu button, and on the whole this combination of buttons will certainly suit the camera’s target market delivering a simple yet complete shooting experience.
In terms of comparisons in size to the D3200, the D3300 isn’t a great deal different. The body is constructed from the same polycarbonate as its predecessor, and in terms of dimensions is just 1mm thinner and 1mm shallower than its predecessor, although it is 2mm taller.
The body itself is some 25g lighter, although on the whole there is very little different between the two.
The standard kit lens is sure to be of interest to those looking to purchase an entry-level DSLR, and therefore it’ll be welcome that Nikon has redesigned this option. The lens now feature design akin to Nikon’s 1 series cameras, with the lens featuring collapsible design and as a result it’s some 30% smaller and 25% lighter than the previous optic.
Although the difference in weight isn’t instantly noticeable the difference in size is, and with the kit lens the D3300 is more akin to a CSC than a DSLR.
Nikon D3300 Review – Performance
Although the LCD screen remains the same as that on the D3200, the screen on that model was a leap up from that on the D3100. The screen itself is impressive, offering a good level of contrast and brightness, delivering a clear image in bright outside conditions with little straining needed to view it.
On the other hand, the viewfinder is an improvement on the D3200. While the 95% coverage of the D3300 is the same as its predecessor, the magnification has been improved and is now 0.85x as opposed to 0.78x on the D3200.
Although this improvement is noticeable in comparison to the camera’s predecessor, the size isn’t anywhere near as close to more high-end DSLRs and the recent raft of impressive electronic viewfinders.
The D3300 makes use of the same Nikon Multi-CAM 1000 11-point AF system as seen previously on the D3200, and the D3100 before that. While 11-point AF coverage is never going to be quite as comprehensive as that found on systems with higher AF point counts, the 11 points themselves are well spread out, extending beyond the you would expect rule of thirds intersections to reside.
The AF system itself performs impressively in bright lighting conditions, although it’s not as fast as some rival models. This level of performance does drop somewhat in poorer lighting conditions, with the AF system hunting a lot more for a point of focus.
On the whole, the AF system delivers as one would expect for a camera in this class, and entry-level users should find this level of performance fairly comprehensive.
As mentioned previously, thanks to enhanced processing power, the Nikon D3300 now delivers a continuous shooting speed of 5fps. On the whole the D3300 meets this shooting speed in use, and although this isn’t an area at which the D3300 will be expected to deliver the fact that it excels close rivals such as the Canon 100D will be a welcome plus.
The D3300 features the same metering system as that found on the previous model, and much like its predecessor this remains a solid facet of the camera’s character. In the standard evaluative metering mode there were very few times at which the measured exposure needed to be corrected.
If exposure compensation is ever needed, it would only ever be to either preserve shadow or highlight detail in particularly tricky scenes.
Nikon D3300 Review – Image Quality
Colour and white balance
Once again, as the camera inherits the same white balance setting as its predecessor it’s safe to assume that it might produce a similar set of results.
On the whole this is the case, with the AWB setting readily relied upon in most shooting settings. It can, on occasion, be seen to neutralise colours a touch too much in serene scenes, and when that happens to be the case it’s an option to select one of the camera’s preset white balance settings such as ‘shade’.
In terms of colours the standard setting delivers a pleasingly natural palette, while if you want a bit more oomph from your images then the ‘vivid’ preset mode does a great job of lifting a scene.
As mentioned previously, the tried and tested metering system delivers even exposures in a range of ISO settings. The sensor also delivers an impressive dynamic range which is more in line with cameras higher up Nikon’s range of DSLRs.
When shooting at the lower ISO settings, it’s possible to bring out shadow detail in post production should the need arise. If you’re happy to shoot Raw files than the dynamic range is expanded even further, allowing for more wriggle-room in post production.
Thanks to the high pixel count and the removal of the low pass filter on the D3300, the model is capable of capturing an impressive level of detail. Between ISO 100 and 400 the model can capture around 34 lines per mm (lpmm) on our test chart.
The level of detail captured continues at a high level through the ISO range, and it’s only up at ISO 6400 when it drops to 28lpmm. Even at the new highest extended ISO setting of 25,600 the D3300 captures an amount of detail in keeping with a lower megapixel count, with a measurement of 24lpmm.
The level of noise throughout the ISO range is well managed, although there is the slight appearance of colour noise in areas of shadow at ISO 400.
Colour noise become more apparent at ISO 800, although switching on the in-camera noise reduction will manage this occurrence somewhat better.
By the time you reach the camera’s highest native ISO setting of ISO 12,800 luminance noise has become a real issue, dispelling any of the fine detail that you may have expected the D3300 to capture.
Raw vs JPEG
As you would expect, the appearance of noise at the higher ISO settings is much easier to manage if you’re shooting Raw files. Although it does appear more intrusive at first, once you get the images in to Raw processing software it’s easily reduced.
Raw files also allow for a wider native dynamic range to be captured, allowing for more detail to be captured in both the camera’s shadow and highlight areas.
Although you might not expect high-end video capabilities for a camera entry-level DSLR class, the D3300 delivers a fairly advanced video performance. The model shoots at 1920 x 1080 Full HD, as well as offering capture of a frame rate up to 60fps.
There’s also an HDMI out port and the option to attach a 3.5mm microphone or a more complete shooting package.
Nikon D3300 Review – Verdict
The entry-level DSLR market has come under pressure in recent times, with CSCs competing in terms of smaller size and their increasingly impressive specification.
However, the Nikon D3300 is a good demonstration of what entry-level DSLRs still can offer. Not only have design improvements meant that the D3300 is now smaller than ever, but the camera also features the optical viewfinder that many feel is a sorely missed feature from CSCs.
The fact that the D3300’s sensor features a resolution of 24MP – and is missing an anti-alias filter – means that the model delivers a level of detail that far exceeds a lot of rival models both in the DSLR class and competing CSCs.
It’s not all good news however, as that high resolution on an APS-C sensor means that noise becomes an issue as lower ISO settings than is desired.
There’s also the fact that the D3300 is lacking in built-in Wi-fi functionality, although this is probably understandable owing to the impressively low price tag.
On the whole, if you’re looking for an entry-level DSLR with a high resolution yet don’t want to break the bank then the D3300 surely has to be worthy of consideration.
Nikon D3300 Review – Sample Image Gallery
These are just a few sample images captured with the Nikon D3300. For a wider range of images, head on over to the Nikon D3300 review sample image gallery.
Amongst the plethora of new cameras to be unveiled at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show is the Nikon D3300 – an entry level DSLR that sits above the Nikon D3200 and D3100 in the manufacturers lineup.
One of the key talking points is the inclusion of Nikon’s latest EXPEED 4 image processor that we first witnessed inside the Nikon D5300 a few months ago. The improvement this brings is an updated ISO range and faster continuous shooting – something that has been the case in each new release of a Nikon D3000 series camera since the launch of the D3100 in August 2010.
WDC Reviews Editor Michael Topham managed to get his hands on one of the first samples of the Nikon D3300, so read on to find out what he makes of this latest entry level DSLR.
The first sighting of a Nikon D3300 was at PepCom – a media event for press prior to the CES show
Two areas that I thought might have seen enhancement on the Nikon D3300 remain much the same as its predecessor. Built-in Wi-fi is a given on most new camera releases today, however the D3300 continues to rely on Nikon’s WU-1a adapter to connect to a Wi-Fi network – a little surprising given that Nikon has recently included Wi-Fi built in on the new Nikon D5300.
One can only presume the price of featuring Wi-fi built in on the D3300 would have had an effect on the cost.
Secondly, the tried and tested 11-point autofocus system has also been carried over to the D3300. Having been used in two generations previously, I expected the Nikon D3300’s autofocus system to be more advanced, but that said the arrival of a new 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II kit lens looks to be an improvement, both in terms of its operation, size and portability.
During a visit to PepCom, Las Vegas (a media event that displays the latest innovations prior to the CES show), I visited Nikon’s stand where one D3300 was on show with the new 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II kit lens.
Getting hands on with the Nikon D3300 at the PepCom event held at The Mirage, CES, Las Vegas
The Nikon D3300 features a 24.2MP DX-format CMOS sensor, and while it may not seem any different to the Nikon D3200’s sensor on paper, it lacks an optical low-pass filter in an effort to preserve maximum image resolution and sharpness.
Without conducting our own resolution tests back in the studio we’re unable to comment on the output differences between the D3200 and the D3300 at this stage, but we’re expecting to see subtle improvements when images are viewed at close magnification.
The D3300 is the third DSLR to be equipped with Nikon’s EXPEED 4 image processor, the others include the Nikon D5300 and the recently announced Nikon D4S. The combination of the sensor and improved processor provides a wider ISO range than the Nikon D3200.
Whereas the D3200 had an ISO ceiling of 6400 (expandable to ISO 12,800), the D3300 can shoot up to ISO 12,800 with an option to expand it further to ISO 25,600 when required.
Nikon claim the D3300 is 30% smaller in size and 25% lighter in weight
As for speed, the D3300 continues the trait in the D3000 series for being faster than its predecessor – another benefit of the new EXPEED 4 image processor. This makes the D3300 one of the fastest continuous shooting entry-level DSLRs on the market today and works out at 1fps faster than the Canon EOS 100D.
Although the D3300 shoots as quickly as the Nikon D5300, the latter still has the advantage when it comes to autofocus, with a more impressive 39-point AF system as opposed to the more basic 11-point AF system on the D3300 with a single cross-type point in the centre.
The 11-point Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus module features single-point AF, dynamic-area AF, auto-area AF, and Nikon’s clever 3D tracking, which can track a subject from AF point to AF point as it moves across the frame, utilising colour and distance information from the Nikon D3300’s 420-pixel RGB sensor.
Viewfinder and LCD
There’s very little to report on the differences to the D3300’s viewfinder and screen as it adopts the same technology from the D3200. Like we’ve seen before, the D3300’s optical viewfinder displays 95% coverage and has a 0.85x magnification with dioptre control should you need to adjust it to meet your eyesight.
The rear screen remains the 3in, 921k-dot type as per the D3200, which was a significant improvement over the D3100‘s 230k-dot display. The wait for a Nikon DSLR to be fitted with a touchscreen continues, however it’s no surprise that by fitting one within an entry-level model would significantly increase the price to the consumer who may not feel it’s a necessity.
The D3300 was positioned alongside Nikon’s D5300 and Nikon Df on the stand
The Nikon D3300 is in every sense of the word a ‘compact’ DSLR. Though it may not be as petite as the Canon EOS 100D, it feels small in the hand compared to an enthusiast DSLR such as the Nikon D7100.
Being smaller is no bad thing however and the camera manages to shed weight thanks to carbon fibre being used in its construction process. Paired with the new 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II kit lens, the D3300 is claimed to be 30% smaller and 25% lighter according to Nikon and this is noticeable when it’s picked up and handled.
The sculpted handgrip makes the D3300 a comfortable camera to hold and even though I only held the camera in the hand for 30 minutes or so on the stand, I couldn’t find any faults in the way it operated or handled.
Those coming to the D3300 as an upgrade option from the D3000, D3100 or D3200 will feel right at home in terms of its size and the button arrangement has been intuitively laid out for speed and ease of operation.
The interface on the D3300 remains unchanged, however the information menu (accessed by hitting the ‘i’ button) now appears in an attractive light shade of blue. Full HD video at up to 60p with full time autofocus is supported and the inclusion of a 3.5mm microphone port means that Nikon users no longer have to pay additional expense towards a D5000 series of DSLR to get this feature, which was the case in the past.
The new 18-55mm kit lens features a retractable lens barrel design similar to Nikon’s 1-series lenses
Kit Lens Replacement
I’ve wanted to see a replacement to the original Nikon 18-55mm kit lens for quite some time, and first impressions of the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II are very good indeed. It’s less bulky meaning it won’t take up as much room in your camera bag and it’s lighter which contributes to a less heavy body and lens combination.
Having to depress a button to extend the lens to 18mm and again to retract it to its ‘L’ position is much like the operation Nikon 1 owners have to do with their NIKKOR 1 lenses. It’s from here that Nikon’s engineers took their inspiration to make the kit lens more compact, while still offering the standard focal length of an 18-55mm kit lens.
The D3300 has a popup flash that raises spritely from the top of the body, and along with 13 in-camera effects to choose from there’s a Guide Mode to help beginners to a DSLR understand more about how it’s used and how to take advantage of the advanced functionality.
Although it’s somewhat disappointing that the D3300 doesn’t feature Wi-fi built in, users can purchase the Nikon WU-1a mobile adapter if they consider wireless image transfer and remote shooting to be important to their imaging. The snags here are the additional £49 expense and the way the adapter just out from the side of the body when it’s attached.
It’s fair to say the Nikon D3300 isn’t a groundbreaking release, but an update to the company’s entry-level range, which brings with it some of the latest advanced technology such as the EXPEED 4 image processing engine.
With the D3100 being such a popular and well respected DSLR for Nikon over the years, the D3300 has a hard act to follow, however the faster frame rate, higher resolution screen and 3.5mm mic port make it a good case for itself over the ageing D3100.
It’s difficult to tell what advantages the D3300 has over the D3200 in terms of image quality until we compare our image quality results, but there’s certainly not enough here to worry D3200 users about an upgrade, and if anything it’s likely to lower the price of the excellent Nikon D3200 to make it even more affordable.
Although UK pricing is still to be confirmed, the D3300 is expect to cost $649 in the US, so by our reckoning it’ll cost £549 from retailers with the new 18-55mm lens.