Nikon D3300 is a Solid DSLR for Beginners, Is it Right for You? [Review]
With a combination of beginner and advanced features, the Nikon D3300 is rated consistently as one of the top 10 best selling DSLR cameras in the world. Its budget price tag, powerful Nikon brand backing, and quality image capabilities make it well worth an in-depth look here at Digital Camera Central.
With an MSRP of $499.95 for the D3300 bundle including body and kit lens, most users will find its variety of in-camera image editing options a bargain for achieving effects reserved for expensive software. But how does its value price tag measure up to its nearest competitors, the Canon EOS Rebel T6? What about the D3200 and D3400? We will answer all of these and more below!
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Table of Contents
- Technical Specifications
- Build Quality
- Image Quality
- In Camera Edits using the D3300’s Retouch Menu
- Scene Modes
- How does the Nikon D3300 bundle compare to the Canon T6?
- How does the D3300 compare to the D3200 or D3400?
- Samples Images
- Final Thoughts
- Sensor: 24.2 MP DX-Format Sensor (sized 23.5 mm x 15.6 mm) with a 1.5x crop factor (more on that below). The D3300 uses a sensor suitable for most types of photography.
- Number of Autofocus Points: 11, which is the same as the D3200 and D3400, and 2 more than the Canon T6.
- Kit Lens: The D3300 bundle comes with the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II lens. This alphabet soup of terminology is not so intimidating. AF-S is referring to the fact that this lens has an AutoFocus motor built into its body. S is the type; a “Silent Wave Motor” (SWM) in this case. “DX” is referring to the sensor the lens is optimized to shoot with, in this case a DX, or “cropped” sensor. More on cropped vs. full-frame later. And “VR II” means this is a post 2012 lens that uses Vibration Reduction Technology. In short, the lens can reduce or eliminate vibrations from the shutter, your hands, and other sources that would cause blur in your resulting image if your shutter speed is not high enough.
- Image Format: JPEG and RAW. These are the two most common image formats in photography. RAW images use as much of the incoming camera image data as possible to create a large (25-35 MB) file. JPEG is what most computer users are familiar with, and is a greatly compressed version of the image (0.1-10 MB, on average). A RAW image is what most photographers will use to preserve as much image data as possible to then edit later using computer software like Photoshop or Lightroom. From there, the software will allow you to export to JPEG cleaner than the in-camera software will do. The advantage of shooting in JPEG is that free or cheaper computer software does not always allow for RAW editing. Also at 24.2 MP resolution, your images are often already sharp and colored nicely. Sometimes you simply want to get those images straight onto the internet without any post-processing.
- ISO Range: 100 to 12,800 (with digital boosting ability to 25,600). ISO is the camera’s sensitivity to light. We use a low ISO like 100 or 200 in very bright light, increasing the ISO as light levels go down. The interplay between ISO, shutter speed, and f/stop are some of the main points to consider in every single image you take. ISO 12,800 is noisy and can be unusable for a great quality image, but for that vacation moment you did not want to miss, it is more than enough. ISO 25,600 allows you to gain something resembling a bigfoot photo in near-darkness, but it won’t be considered usable in the sense of looking sharp and clean.
- Continuous Shooting Rate: Up to 5 fps
- Video Recording: 1080p (60, 50, 30, 25, 24 fps) HD video (formatted in MPEG-4/H.264/MOV). The D3300 also has a microphone jack if you decide to go further into videography!
- Flash: The D3300 does include a built-in flash. The flash can be raised or lowered as required. In addition, the camera has a hot shoe on top capable of supporting an external flash unit.
- Battery Life (CIPA rating): 700 images per charge
- Storage: Accepts SDHC and SDXC memory cards. UHS-I bus.
- Weight: 410 g (0.91 lbs. / 14.5 oz.) body only
- Dimensions: 124 x 98 x 76 mm (4.88 x 3.86 x 2.99 in.)
The Nikon D3300 has a polycarbonate (plastic) body, as expected of a camera at this price level. No aluminum, magnesium-alloy, or weatherizing to be found here. The grip is still solid, and the D3300 is slightly lighter than the D3200 as well. The camera comes with a handy strap. At slightly under a pound, the D3300 is on the lighter side of the DSLR spectrum thanks to its polycarbonate construction.
The D3300 uses a 24.2 megapixel DX-format sensor. As we said above, a DX sensor is a cropped sensor; in this case with a 1.5x crop factor. Crop Factor is a way photographers can compare the view one has using the smaller sensors many DSLR cameras have compared to standard 35mm film (or an FX-format sensor). So using the listed crop factor, when we multiply that by the focal length of the lens, you get the result as if you were using a 35mm view. In this case, 1.5x * 55mm (full extension of our lens) gives us the equivalent of an 82.5mm lens using 35mm film. Got it?
Distilling it further, remember that a cropped (“reduced size”) sensor means the field of view and resulting image are smaller than a full-frame camera taking a picture at the same location. But it’s neither good nor bad, unless you happen to really enjoy landscape or low-light photography. A full-frame sensor is strongly recommended for those, though not mandatory. Full-frame sensors are also useful for cameras with larger megapixel counts, as image quality can suffer from having many more pixels crammed into a smaller sensor.
Many camera makers tend to advertise their higher megapixels as if it’s a universally good quality. And it generally is! However, high megapixels combined with a small sensor can cause interference issues that can actually degrade the quality that would otherwise be obtained from the higher resolution.
A 24.2 MP sensor allows us to create excellent quality (200+ pixels per inch) prints at 16″ x 24″, and good quality all the way up to 40″ x 60″. If your goal is to post to social media and blogs, you could do with less. But 24 MP is a pretty good quality benchmark for someone looking to advance and have larger pictures look good.
In Camera Edits using the D3300’s Retouch Menu
One of the greatest benefits the Nikon D3300 has to offer is the Retouch Menu. Maybe you have yet to purchase or download the best image editing software for your photos. The D3300 has the ability to edit photos taken using these menu options. To access the Retouch Menu, press the Menu button on the left side of the rear display. From there, select the Retouch Menu option with the Multi Selector, and then select the effect you want by clicking to the right with the Multi Selector.
The selections are: D-Lighting, Red-Eye Correction, Trim, Monochrome, Filter Effects, Color Balance, Image Overlay, NEF (RAW) Processing, Resize, Quick Retouch, Straighten, Distortion Control, Fisheye, Color Outline, Color Sketch, Perspective Control, Miniature Effect, Filter Effects, Selective Color, Edit Movie, and Side-by-Side Comparison. Many of these are self explanatory or too selective as to be rarely used, but D (for Dynamic)-Lighting, Trim/Resize, NEF (RAW) Processing, and Color Balance are worth your time.
D-Lighting is set to AUTO by default, but do familiarize yourself with this menu option. The camera will lighten the shadows in an image by up to three steps.
Resize is self-explanatory; Trim is nice as it will not edit your final image, but rather provide a second cropped version of the image you took earlier. NEF (Raw) Processing: Good if you have a RAW image you want to convert to a JPEG inside the camera. Most computer software using RAW costs money and if you were experimenting with RAW but can’t convert, this is a handy feature to have.
And finally, Color Balance allows you to shift the color ranges of the photos you’ve taken. The color shift marker is a multi-hued square beneath the image you can adjust around using the Multi-Selector of the D3300. Shift towards green to enhance green tones, and so on. The histograms on the side show the amount of red, green and blue in your image, and the white histogram displays the overall brightness. Use these to your advantage in case a subject looks too dull or bright in certain hues for your taste.
Scene Modes are very important to any photographer looking to capture a quick image without messing around in Manual Mode. Access to shutter speed, ISO, and f/stop adjustments are reduced or automated entirely in these various modes. When you are uncertain as to which combination of the three will yield the best result and the moment is about to pass, Scene Modes are an excellent option to consider. The Scene Modes the D3300 offers are: Portrait, Night Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Child and Close-Up.
Portrait ensures your subject’s skin is soft and natural looking. The aperture is set to reduce the depth of field (the area that appears in sharp focus) so that the subject remains in tight focus, while the background is blurred. In Child, the clothing and background colors are enhanced without destroying natural skin tones. However, the background remains in focus as well; great for kids on the playground!
Sports Mode uses a higher shutter speed to freeze the action of fast motion. A nice bonus is that Sport Mode also defaults to Continuous Shooting. This allows you to hold down the shutter and take as many as 5 images per second. Landscape uses a lower shutter speed and lets in more light for that panoramic view. Close-Up reduces the depth of field as much as possible for a close-up subject, while blurring the background somewhat. This mode is best used with a tripod, but the Vibration Reduction of the kit lens will help with the impromptu shot in the field.
How does the Nikon D3300 bundle compare to the Canon T6?
The Canon EOS Rebel T6 is usually compared to the D3300, and at first glance, the two have a number of similarities. But how do they really match up?
Advantages of the D3300 over the T6
Better battery life: 700 vs 500 shots per charge
Better flash range: 12 meters vs 9.2 meters at ISO 100
Faster Continuous Shooting: 5 vs 3 images per second
Higher Image Resolution: 24.2 vs 18 megapixels
Higher Native ISO: 12,800 vs 6,400 (but capable of digitally boosting to 12,800)
Increased number of autofocus points: 11 vs 9
Weight: 410 g (0.91 lbs. / 14.5 oz.) vs. 440 g (0.97 lbs. / 15.5 oz)
Larger Sensor: 23.5 x 15.6 mm vs. 22.3 x 14.9 mm (crop factor 1.6). The T6’s sensor is 10% smaller.
Disadvantages of the D3300 over the T6
No Wi-Fi Capability: The Canon T6 can connect to smart devices such as a smartphone to be controlled as a remote shutter, and even upload images straight to your smart device.
That’s really it! Despite occupying a similar price bracket and having similar niches as the beginner’s bargain DSLR, the D3300 blows the T6 out of the water! And to top it off, the D3300 is the older of the two cameras. We think the results are crystal clear.
How does the D3300 compare to the D3200 or D3400?
Each of these cameras are separated by around two years of development by Nikon. The cameras truly are nearly identical in every aspect. The major changes have been to the battery life (increased from 540 to 700 to 1200 with each model) and the weight (decreased with each model). Even the heaviest, the D3200, can’t truly be called a bulky camera. If you pack a spare battery, the battery life contest is a wash.
Notably, the D3200 has a slightly smaller sensor (23.2 x 15.4 mm) and an Expeed 3 processor. That’s is a step below the Expeed 4 used by the Nikon D3300 and Nikon D3400. This sensor is slightly slower, which affects things like Continuous Shooting (the D3200 shoots 4 images per second, compared to 5 for the new models). Truly, it’s up to you as far as spending money on a newer model. Each release is the same camera with minor tweaks to the structure and battery for approximately $50 more per version. We believe the D3300 is the best version as far as value versus improvements go.
The D3300 bundle truly does live up to its branding as the beginner DSLR of choice. With an intuitive menu design, and all of the features one would expect when learning the basics, this is one of the best values you can get! The D3300 does not include Wi-Fi or GPS, which can be obtained for a few hundred dollars more in Nikon’s D5000 series. But those are selectively useful, and are not missed by most photographers. Its cousins, the D3200 and D3400, are comparable and well worth a look. However, the D3300 is arguably the best version of this line of Nikon cameras for the money.
If you want to stop taking sub-par photos, buy this camera now.