One of the biggest camera announcements at 2014’s Consumer Electronics Show may well have been the little Nikon D3300 and its collapsible 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR II lens. It may not shoot 4K video or offer a curved LCD (those shows are all about the tech trends) but it does represent the next generation of Nikon’s very popular entry-level DSLR line, and that in itself is noteworthy.
The D3300 sits at the bottom of Nikon’s entry-level series, positioned as the friendliest of beginner-friendly DSLRs, just below the D5300. Don’t be fooled by their class bearing though, both cameras use a powerful 24MP APS-C sensor. Opting for the D3300 rather than the D5300 means living with a fixed 3.0-inch LCD, rather than one that’s fully articulated, and no built-in Wi-Fi.
Nikon D3300 key features
- 24.2 MP DX format (APS-C) sensor
- Expeed 4 processor
- Fixed 3.0″ 921k-dot LCD
- 1080/60p HD video
- 5 fps continuous shooting
- 700 shot battery life
The D3300’s Expeed 4 branded processor is responsible for many of its gains over the previous model, the D3200. This model gets an upgrade to 1080/60p video recording, an extra frame per second in burst mode, and a higher ISO range up to 12800 (25600 with expansion).
The table below illustrates the differences between this model, its predecessor, and the step-up model. It should be noted that the D3300 appears to give better battery performance than the D5300, but actually they use the same EN-EL14a battery. The D5300’s lower claimed battery life reflects a calculation for use of the camera’s built-in Wi-Fi and GPS. By any measure, the D3300 is well above its peers in terms of battery capacity.
|Nikon D3300||Nikon D3200||Nikon D5300|
|Sensor||24.2 MP DX format CMOS (23.5 x 15.6 mm)||24.2 MP DX format CMOS (23.2 x 15.4 mm)||24.2 MP DX format CMOS (23.5 x 15.6 mm)|
|Image processing||Expeed 4||Expeed 3||Expeed 4|
|LCD||Fixed 3.0″ 921k-dot LCD||Fixed 3.0″ 921k-dot LCD||Vari-angle 3.2″ 1037k-dot LCD|
|AF system||11-point (1 cross-type)||11-point (1 cross-type)||39-point (9 cross-type)|
|Viewfinder||0.85x (95% coverage)||0.80x (95% coverage)||0.82x (95% coverage)|
|ISO range||100-12800 (expansion to 25600)||100-6400 (expansion to 12800)||100-12800 (expansion to 25600)|
|Connectivity||With optional WU-1a Mobile Adapter||With optional WU-1a Mobile Adapter||Built-in|
|Video capture max. resolution||1080 60p||1080 30p||1080 60p|
|Continuous shooting||5 fps||4 fps||5 fps|
|Battery life||700 shots||540 shots||600 shots|
|Dimensions||124 x 98 x 76 mm (4.88 x 3.86 x 2.99″)||125 x 96 x 77 mm (4.92 x 3.78 x 3.03″)||125 x 98 x 76 mm (4.92 x 3.86 x 2.99″)|
|Weight||460 g (16.23 oz)||505 g (17.81 oz)||530 g (18.70 oz)|
Moving up the chain of Nikon’s crop-frame DSLR line AF systems get increasingly sophisticated. The D3300 sits at the very bottom with an 11-point system and a single cross-type sensor at the middle – nothing that would tempt a sports photographer, but perfectly capable for its class. Outside of this, Wi-Fi and a vari-angle screen are the only other clear hardware advantages to the D5300 over the entry-level model.
The comparison paints a picture of a nicely specified entry-level model with excellent battery life, a new processor and a whole lot of resolution. Aside from the lack of Wi-Fi, there’s not much to complain about here and we don’t feel that there’s anything that this camera is seriously lacking feature-wise.
However, the days when an entry-level Nikon only really had to worry about its latest rival from Canon have gone. So, although the D3300’s specs are very impressive – especially in terms of battery life – it also has to hold its own against the smaller mirrorless cameras that match it for image quality and offer a more compact-camera-like live view shooting experience.
Though a little long in the tooth, the Panasonic Lumix GF6 offers a tilting touch screen, and the Olympus E-PM2 provides a fixed touch screen (and is a steal price-wise compared to the rest of the class). Elsewhere in the category the Pentax K-500 offers a 100% coverage optical viewfinder and 6 fps burst shooting, while the Fujifilm X-A1 offers twin command dials and built-in Wi-Fi.
Kit options and pricing
The Nikon D3300 is available in black, grey and red variants, kitted in the US and UK with a collapsible 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR II lens with list prices of $649.95 and £599.99, respectively. In the UK there’s also a £499.99 body-only option, not offered in the US.
Without the D5300’s built-in Wi-Fi, D3300 owners will need to add Nikon’s WU-1a mobile adapter for connectivity features. The adapter dangles from the camera’s AV port, making it possible to wirelessly transfer images to an Android or iOS device. Read more about it in our review of the Nikon D3200. It’s available separately for $59.95/£54.99.
Nikon’s DSLRs aren’t by any means the cheapest in their respective classes, and that’s true of the D3300. It’s about $100 US more than a comparable Canon kit, and costs well over twice as much as the (very aggresively priced) Sony a3000. For that premium, you get one of the highest resolution APS-C sensors on the market, a very good 1080/60p video spec, and exceptional battery life among other things. It’s slightly pricier, but does the feature set justify the tag? Or would your entry-level dollars be better spent elsewhere?
Nikon D3300 Specifications
|MSRP||Body w/18-55mm F3.5-5.6G VR II lens ($649.95)|
|Body type||Compact SLR|
|Body material||Carbon fiber, composite|
|Max resolution||6000 x 4000|
|Other resolutions||4512 x 3000, 3008 x 2000|
|Image ratio w:h||3:2|
|Effective pixels||24 megapixels|
|Sensor photo detectors||25 megapixels|
|Sensor size||APS-C (23.5 x 15.6 mm)|
|Color space||sRGB, Adobe RGB|
|Color filter array||Primary color filter|
|ISO||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800, 25600 (with boost)|
|Boosted ISO (maximum)||25600|
|White balance presets||12|
|Custom white balance||Yes|
|JPEG quality levels||Fine, Normal, Basic|
|File format||NEF (RAW, 12-bit)JPEG|
|Optics & Focus|
|Autofocus||Contrast Detect (sensor)Phase DetectMulti-areaSelective single-pointTrackingSingleContinuousFace DetectionLive View|
|Autofocus assist lamp||Yes|
|Number of focus points||11|
|Lens mount||Nikon F|
|Focal length multiplier||1.5×|
|Screen / viewfinder|
|Screen type||TFT LCD (160 degree viewing angle)|
|Viewfinder type||Optical (pentamirror)|
|Viewfinder magnification||0.85× (0.57× 35mm equiv.)|
|Minimum shutter speed||30 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed||1/4000 sec|
|Exposure modes||Programmed auto with flexible program (P)Shutter-priority (S)Aperture priority (A)Manual (M)|
|Scene modes||Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close-up, Night portrait|
|Built-in flash||Yes (Pop-up)|
|Flash range||12.00 m (at ISO 100)|
|External flash||Yes (via hot shoe or wireless)|
|Flash modes||Auto, Auto slow sync, Auto slow sync with red-eye reduction, Auto with red-eye reduction, Fill-flash, Off, Rear-curtain sync, Rear-curtain with slow sync, Red-eye reduction, Red-eye reduction with slow sync, Slow sync|
|Flash X sync speed||1/200 sec|
|Drive modes||Single-frameSelf-timerQuiet shutter-releaseQuick response remoteDelayed remoteContinuous|
|Continuous drive||5.0 fps|
|Self-timer||Yes (2, 5, 10, 20 secs (1-9 exposures))|
|Metering modes||MultiCenter-weightedSpot AF-area|
|Exposure compensation||±5 (at 1/3 EV steps)|
|Resolutions||1920 x 1080 (60, 50, 30, 25, 24 fps), 1280 x 720 (60, 50 fps), 640 x 424 (30, 25 fps)|
|USB||USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)|
|HDMI||Yes (mini HDMI)|
|Wireless notes||WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter|
|Remote control||Yes (Optional)|
|Battery description||EN-EL14a lithium-ion battery and charger|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||700|
|Weight (inc. batteries)||430 g (0.95 lb / 15.17 oz)|
|Dimensions||124 x 98 x 76 mm (4.88 x 3.86 x 2.99″)|
The D3300 is quick to start up and start shooting, provided the kit lens is in its expanded state. The camera overall is very responsive. Button presses activate their corresponding menus quickly, and those settings that can be changed via the rear command wheel can be accessed in a flash. We’ve already lodged our complaints about not being able to use the rear dial to navigate quick menus, but that’s another conversation. At default settings, playback mode uses a slideshow-style transition when scrolling through images that will annoy impatient types (like us). This is easily turned off in the playback menu (playback display options > transition effects ‘off’)
Auto focus is pretty quick in good light with the kit lens, slowing down a bit in darker conditions, but never unreasonably slow for its class. All-out focus failures were rare, though in less-than-ideal light, using the focus points toward the center turned in more consistently sharp photos. Direct access to AF point is a handy feature indeed, so when conditions challenge the D3300’s 11-point auto focus system, it’s easy to take control and in get your subject in focus.
An important distinction to make here, however, is that auto focus is good with viewfindershooting. Nikon’s live view auto focus continues to lag well behind the mirrorless competition. It’s usable, if a bit annoying, for static subjects and portraits, but struggles to keep up with moving subjects. Those stepping up from compact cameras looking for a live view experience similar to what they’re familiar with should look seriously at the D3300’s mirrorless rivals.
Continuous Shooting and Buffering
Nikon claims a top burst speed of 5 fps at full resolution for the D3300, an extra frame per second over the preceding model. The good news is that the camera consistently hit this framerate in each compression mode we tested. The bad news is that it only maintains that speed for 5 or 6 frames. There was a not-insignificant delay while images wrote to the card too, in testing. In all modes it took about 10 seconds for a longer burst of images to write to the card, though only a few seconds when shooting only to the point that the buffer fills. You’re not blocked from camera menus or shooting while this is going on though, so there’s no significant ‘lockout’ time after a long string of burst shooting.
Continuous AF is available with viewfinder continuous shooting, but there’s a momentary pause as the camera re-acquires focus on a new subject mid-burst. Continuous shooting is also available in live view – focus is fixed from the first frame, though exposure isn’t. There’s a blackout period of about 4 seconds after a burst in live view mode.
|Raw+ Fine JPEG||Raw||JPEG|
|Burst shooting||5.0 fps (5 frames)||5.0 fps (~6 frames)||5.0 fps (~6 frames)|
The D3300 ships with Nikon’s EN-EL14a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, providing a CIPA-rated life of 700 shots per charge. That’s head and shoulders above the Canon T5’s estimated 440 shots and the Pentax K-50’s 410 shots (and miles ahead of the 300-odd images most of its mirrorless rivals will produce, thanks to their need to use their rear screens). In testing this proved to be a realistic figure, fielding a long day of shooting without a problem and only needing a recharge with moderate use every couple of days. An MH-24 charger is bundled with the camera, charging a depleted camera in under two hours.
Image Quality and Features
The D3300 relies on the 24 megapixel APS-C sensor used by its D7100 and D5300 siblings. Like those cameras it lacks an optical low pass filter, a component of the camera’s sensor that’s designed to slightly blur fine detail in an effort to reduce the risk of moiré. The effect of removing the OLPF, in theory, is to allow the sensor to capture slightly more fine detail.
In reality we found that the difference in sharpness between this sensor with and without an OLPF is very hard to see in the real world, and it depends on using the best lenses at their sweetest apertures. Kit lenses like the 18-140mm F3.5-5.6 VR we used with the D5300 and the D3300’s bundled 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR II are rarely sharp enough to yield any extra sharpness that the removal of the OLPF provides. Since many D3300 users will be perfectly happy to keep shooting with the kit lens, we think there’s no real advantage or consequence of the camera’s sensor design.
JPEG image quality
Did we mention that the D3300 has a 24 megapixel APS-C sensor? It has a 24 megapixel sensor. JPEG image quality from all of those pixels is very good, and lines up with everything we’ve seen from other Nikon bodies with the same sensor. All images below were captured with the 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR II kit lens.
|ISO 100, f/6.3, 1/1000sec||100% crop|
|ISO 450, f/4.0, 1/40sec||100% crop|
|ISO 3200, f/4.0, 1/60sec||100% crop|
|ISO 25600, f/5.0, 1/100sec||100% crop|
Nikon’s JPEG engine tends to take a more aggressive approach to noise reduction and muddles a bit more fine detail in the process than we’d ideally like, something that becomes more obvious around ISO 3200. Keep in mind though that the above are pixel-level details from very large images. Downsizing for printing or viewing at web-friendly-sizes will have a sharpening effect. Toning down the camera’s noise reduction settings will also yield sharper images, and for the very best results the D3300’s Raw files provide lots of latitude for post processing.
A major advantage in shooting Raw is the ability to recover tone and detail from parts of an image that the camera’s JPEG engine hasn’t revealed. The example below shows how far you can take the D3300’s 12-bit Raw files in Adobe Camera Raw. The left image was converted in ACR 8.3 at default exposure settings, and the example on the right reflects increases in exposure and shadows. No noise reduction was applied in ACR to either image.
|ACR defaults with NR turned off||ACR defaults with +0.30 exposure and +100 shadows|
|100% crop||100% crop|
We’ve taken the example above further than is sensible, for illustrative purposes. Consistent with Nikon’s other 24 megapixel DSLRs, at base ISO the D3300 provides a wealth of information for processing later in Raw. There’s a fair amount of noise in the shadow regions of the image on the right, but the level of detail recovered is impressive.
Raw files for download
- ISO 100 real-world shot (19.4 MB)
- ISO 400 real-world shot (20.4 MB)
- ISO 12800 real-world shot (24.7 MB)
- ISO 25600 real-world shot (28.2 MB)
The D3300’s built-in flash unit is rated to 12 meters at ISO 100. This camera is two steps below the DSLRs in Nikon’s lineup which allow wireless triggering of off-camera flash with the built-in unit. It’s not a feature that many D3300 owners would be disappointed to find missing, since it requires the purchase of additional, external flashguns.
|With a little soft window light to the subject’s left, the D3300 gives a nice even exposure with the built-in flash on auto. Red-eye correction and slow sync options are also available for the on-board flash.|
As an entry-level model, the D3300 offers a number of features designed to help users get the effects they want right in the camera without having to take images into post-processing software. Nikon hasn’t introduced anything groundbreaking in this generation, but we’ve taken a look at a couple of features that D3300 may find appealing.
Under the umbrella of ‘Effects’ on the mode dial is an ‘Easy Panorama’ mode. Selecting it will initiate a prompt to switch to Live View. From there, users can select from a ‘Normal’ (4800 x 1080) or ‘Wide’ panorama (9600 x 1080), set focus mode and JPEG compression (no Raw file is saved). Exposure compensation is also available. The ‘Normal’ panorama captured close to 180 degrees of a view, while ‘Wide’ approaches a full 360 degrees.
Pressing the shutter button once starts the panorama. From there the user can pan up, down, left or right, as prompted by arrows on screen. Once you’ve started panning, a progress bar appears at the top of the image. Focus and exposure are locked from the start of the panorama. The D3300 user manual suggests about 15 seconds for a ‘Normal’ panorama and 30 seconds for ‘Wide.’ Once the camera has successfully recorded the image, it presents the option to ‘replay’ it and pan across the final photo.
|A truck moving through the bottom center of the frame is the only noticeable error in this otherwise very good panorama.|
|Less successful results were had when attempting a panorama at sunset over the Puget Sound.|
Real-world results varied. In the even lighting of a sunny day and photographing the city skyline, the camera performed beautifully. Stitching errors were rare and when they were present, quite subtle and only visible at 100%. Photographing a sunset over the Puget Sound, the camera started out strong but struggled with the middle bit of sky, distant land and water. The user manual warns that such subjects ‘that are a solid color or contain simple repeating patterns’ like sea or sky can cause the panorama to fail. This is disappointing, especially since the skyline results were so good.
The D3300 provides options for in-camera image editing, to both Raw and JPEG images. All of the options are available in the Retouch menu. Some are more art-filter-like in nature, and other options are more utilitarian. When applying Retouch options to images recorded in NEF+JPEG mode, the Raw file will be used. In all cases, the original file is preserved and a copy with the desired changes is saved to the SD card.
|D-LightingRed-eye correctionTrimMonochromeFilter effectsColor balanceImage overlayNEF (Raw) processingResizeQuick retouchStraighten||Distortion controlFisheyeColor outlinePhoto illustrationColor sketchPerspective controlMiniature effectSelective colorEdit movieSide-by-side comparison|
D-Lighting is available in the Retouch menu and it comes in three strengths – low, medium and high. It’s designed to brighten a backlit subject while maintaining a nice tone curve for the brighter background. This is distinct from Active D-Lighting (discussed in more detail on the next page), which analyzes the scene before you shoot and can apply an exposure correction as well as tonal adjustments to achieve a more significant effect. In the example below you can see that the camera’s Active D-Lighting setting didn’t take the exposure as far as even a Low application of Retouch D-Lighting.
|Active D-Lighting Off||Active D-Lighting On|
|Retouch D-Lighting Low||Retouch D-Lighting Mid||Retouch D-Lighting High|
Applying D-Lighting in Retouch at the middle and highest settings does reveal more noise in shadow areas, but none of the settings take the image too far into grainy territory. Results may vary for JPEG-only shooting, as the in-camera Retouch used information from Raw files for the sample above.Tags: review, nikon