Nikon D3300 Review

on Thursday, November 13, 2014
When it hit the market last year, the Nikon D3200 shook things up with the introduction of a 24-megapixel sensor at a previously unheard-of price point. Barely missing out on the title belt for entry-level cameras, the D3200 earned a respect among shooters as a solid camera regardless of its price.

Hoping to build on that success, Nikon released a successor: theD3300 (MSRP $649.95). A lighter chassis, 24.2-megapixel sensor with no AA-filter, and the new Expeed 4 processor make the D3300 a new contender for a new year.
This is very much an entry-level camera, but the numbers out of our labs tell the tale of a solid piece of equipment that holds its own in a sea of high-performance shooters. It doesn't hurt that the D3300 has guide modes to walk you through learning all about how to use your new SLR in addition to all the traditional shooting modes, truly making this a camera for just about anybody.

Design & Handling

You could be forgiven for mistaking the D3300 for the D3200 when you first see it, because it's a virtual clone of the older camera. Same controls, same shape, same aesthetics—if you've ever seen the Nikon D3200, you've seen the D3300. Because the older camera set a high-water mark for the entry level when it was released, that's hardly a criticism. However, there are a few hardware tweaks under the hood that do make a substantial difference.
Even an iterative upgrade is still an upgrade.
First up is the fact that Nikon removed the AA filter on its already-great 24.2-megapixel sensor. Though it may not seem like much, you can expect sharper shots without this filter on the inside. Not only does this make still shots much more crisp, but video is improved as well. To take things a step further, Nikon also gave the D3300 its new EXPEED 4 processor: Capable of handling more data at faster speeds than the older EXPEED 3 processor found in the D3200. Though the change of one number may not seem very exciting, even an iterative upgrade is still an upgrade in the processing department.
Handling the D3300 can be a little tough whether you have oafishly big hands or not. Though the grip is sufficiently deep for most, the compact body leaves little room for your fingers between the grip and the lens. Otherwise, the camera is light, controls are very easy to find, and the new 18-55mm kit lens is a lot easier to control now that it has less lever force on the camera body. The buttons all have a satisfying tactility to them, and your fingers rest naturally right on top of the control dial and shutter release.

Circling back to the kit lens, it's now much lighter than before, as we noted in our first impressions of the D3300. Not only is the lens far more compact than the original version, it also makes the use of a lens lock to prevent accidental extension of the lens. That sounds convenient, but it actually more of an annoyance than anything—the camera won't shoot or play back media until you disengage the lock.
Though the 921k-dot LCD on the back of the D3300 is fixed, taking shots at extreme angles is fairly easy to do one-handed due to the reduced weight. You may bemoan having to disengage the lens lock every time you shoot, but it's a minor inconvenience at worst—you can always grab a different lens! Just keep in mind that Nikon's entry-level SLRs must use Nikon AF-S lenses in order for the autofocus to work. In theory, just about any F-mount lens will be able to function on the D3300, but unless it bears the AF-S designation, you'll be focusing manually. There are plenty of affordable lenses available with the AF-S system like the AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 prime lens, so there's no reason to worry about getting left in the cold.
Shooters used to SLRs of old may not like the one control dial, but it's something you get used to. All it means is that you may want to spend more time in shutter or aperture-priority mode if you don't have time to toggle each setting one at a time. Beyond that, there's nothing you can do to speed up the control scheme.

It can be tempting for newer users to stick to the live view to frame shots, but it's a better idea to learn to use the D3300's optical viewfinder. Moving the mirror aside with the live view toggle adds several seconds to each shot that seem like an eternity if you're trying to capture a single moment in time. In time, not only will your shots take less time, but controlling the camera will rely more on muscle-memory than hunting for the right settings.


Entry-level camera, substantial shooting modes

The term "entry-level" might seem like a pejorative, but there's nothing wrong with appealing to beginners—the quickest way to bring people into the fold is to teach them. To that end, novices will definitely want to check out the Guide mode. Using this setting, the camera will simplify the interface—but show you everything it's doing at the same time. After you've been shown the ropes a bit, you'll be more up-to-speed with the ins and outs of shooting with an SLR. If you supplement your shooting with a class or some reading, it won't be long before you're pushing the potential of the D3300.
If you're already familiar with shooting on an SLR, you'll probably stick to one of the classic shooting modes. However, there are plenty of photo effects and in-camera editing options for you to test out. The photo effects menu has some of the more common filters popularized in recent years like faux tilt-shift, selective color, and easy panoramas.

Beyond a few basic options, the D3300 doesn't clog up the spec sheet with tons of extra features. That's really okay, but if you want quick access to sharing snaps over WiFi or GPS features, you're going to need to look at more serious options like the D5300. Keep in mind, though, that spending more on a camera isn't the only way to get photo effects, and having the ability to swap lenses in a pinch is the single most important feature an entry-level camera can have.


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