Nikon D3300 review: Nice photos, reasonably fast

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THE GOOD

The Nikon D3300‘s photo quality improves on its predecessor, and while it’s not incredibly fast it performs pretty well for its price class.

THE BAD

The feature set remains pretty limited.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Very good photo quality for its class plus decent performance make the Nikon D3300 A solid choice for a first dSLR.

With somewhat better photo quality and slightly better performance, the Nikon D3300 delivers a modest improvement over its predecessor the D3200 — enough to bump up its rating and improve its status relative to some competitors, but no so much that it’s definitively worth the extra money over the D3200 for buyers on tight budgets. The rest of the updates, such as 1080/60p video, a redesigned beginner’s Guide Mode, plus a slightly smaller, lighter body, barely move the needle. It retains the same 11-point autofocus system of its predecessor, and lacks built-in Wi-Fi; you still have to go dongle for that.

Image quality

Photos are the camera’s strongest suit. The D3300 improves on the image quality of the D3200, with most images appearing somewhat sharper as you’d expect from the new 24-megapixel antialiasing-filter-free sensor, and the camera fares pretty compared to competitors. Also, for example, ISO 3200 JPEGs look a lot less noisy than their counterparts from the D3200, but the raw files seem to clean up about the same, pointing mostly to the inevitable improvements in Nikon’s image processing over the past two years. JPEGs look very clean through ISO 400 and display only minimal artifacts through ISO 1600. Depending upon scene content the photos are usable through ISO 6400, but above that the less-bright colors become too desaturated and the tonal ranges compress unattractively.

d300-sic2-770-100(1)
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d3300-sic7-770-200(1)

Colors look quite accurate, and there’s a reasonable amount of recoverable highlight and shadow detail in raw files given the camera’s price class. Its video looks good, even in low light.

Performance

Overall, the D3300 tests faster than the D3200 and many of its competitors, but it still feels pretty slow to shoot with — possibly because of the relatively sluggish new kit lens. It takes half a second to power on, focus, and shoot; that’s not bad. Time to focus and shoot in good light runs about 0.4 second, rising to 0.6 second in dim light. It does perform quite fast when shooting two consecutive photos, 0.2 second regardless whether you’re using raw or JPEG, since it doesn’t attempt to refocus, rising to 0.9 second with flash enabled.

Live View performance remains terrible, taking almost 2 seconds to focus and shoot thanks to slow everything — slow autofocus, slow mirror movement — and two consecutive JPEG shots takes 3.7 seconds.

The camera delivers an excellent 5.1fps burst when equipped with a 95MB/sec SD card (almost 4.4fps for raw) with autofocus and with no significant slowing — it just gets a little more variable — for more than 30 frames. However, the autofocus can’t really keep up with the frame rate so there are a lot of misses.

The annoying small, dim viewfinder hasn’t changed, unsurprising since that’s typical for these entry-level models. I really dislike the tiny focus points which only illuminate (and briefly) when you half-press the shutter. They’re impossible to see in moderate to dim light, so if you shoot on anything other than full auto you first have to press the shutter to find the appropriate focus point (in my case, center) before you can even begin to frame the scene. The LCD hasn’t changed, but it’s a good size, bright and reasonably visible in bright sunlight.

SHOOTING SPEED (IN SECONDS)

Canon EOS Rebel SL1

(1) – 0.6

(2) – 0.2

(3) – 0.3

(4) – 0.8

(5) – 0.3

Nikon D3200

(1) – 0.3

(2) – 0.6

(3) – 0.5

(4) – 0.5

(5) – 0.3

Pentax K-50*

(1) – 1.2

(2) – 0.3

(3) – 0.3

(4) – 1

(5) – 0.4

Sony Alpha A3000

(1) – 1.9

(2) – 0.7

(3) – 0.7

(4) – 0.8

(5) – 0.5

Nikon D3300                                                                                                                                                        

(1) – 0.5

(2) – 0.2

(3) – 0.2

(4) – 0.6

(5) – 0.4

LEGEND:   (1) – Time to first shot/ (2) – Raw shot-to-shot time/ (3) – Typical shot-to-shot time/ (4) – Shutter lag (dim light)/ (5) – Shutter lag (typical)

NOTE : Shorter bars indicate better performance

Design and features

The body looks almost identical to the D3200 (which had barely changed from the D3100 before that) except for a few tweaks. It’s light and a bit plasticky with a deep, comfortable grip. On top of the grip sits the power switch and shutter button, and behind that a trio of buttons: a somewhat hard-to-feel record button, plus exposure compensation and info display. The crowded mode dial serves up the the typical assortment of manual, semi-manual and automatic modes, plus a Guide mode and Effects mode (with the usual suspects).

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Nikon_D3300_35833807__(2_of_14)
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Nikon has redesigned the Guide Mode a bit. Guide offers Easy operation, which, like Auto, provides access to a limited number of options, as well as an Advanced mode, which describes the appropriate settings for the chosen scenario and then allows you to change the settings yourself. For instance, in Easy Operation/Distant Subjects it puts you into the Sports scene mode — the camera tells you what it’s doing, which is really nice — then asks if you want to use the viewfinder, Live View or shoot a movie. From there, it optionally allows you to adjust flash, release (drive) mode, and ISO sensitivity. The options are still not specific to the scenarios, however, which would be useful.

A programmable Fn button — you can set it to control the image quality, ISO sensitivity, white balance, or Active D-Lighting menus — lies under your left thumb.

The back has the same parade of buttons — review, Menu, zoom in, zoom out and i, which brings up the frequently used settings — down the left side. Nikon redesigned the multi-selector navigation control to allow diagonal movement, which is useful when selecting an AF point, for example.

The SD card slot is in the more accessible grip-side location, as opposed to the battery compartment, and I still like Nikon’s implementation of the interactive display. The adjustment options now appear beneath the settings readout rather than around the edges of the display, which some people might prefer, since you don’t have to navigate sequentially through the options.

In addition to a composite, a HDMI out, and a USB connector, plus the connector for Nikon’s proprietary GPS module, D3200 adds a jack for an external mic.

Canon EOS Rebel T5 Nikon D3200 Nikon D3300 Pentax K-500
Sensor (effective resolution) 18MP CMOS 24.2MP CMOS 24.2MP CMOS 16.3MP CMOS
22 x 14.7mm 23.2 x 15.4mm 23.5 x 15.6mm 23.7 x 15.7mm
OLPF Yes Yes No Yes
Focal- length multiplier 1.6x 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 – ISO 6400 ISO 100 (exp)/
200 – ISO 6400/12800 (exp)
ISO 100 – ISO 12800/25600 (exp) ISO 100 – ISO 51200
Continuous shooting 2fps raw/3fps JPEG
5 raw/unlimited JPEG
4fps
n/a
5fps (tk) 6fps
8 raw/30 JPEG
Viewfinder (mag/
effective mag)
Optical
95% coverage
0.80x/0.50x
Optical
95% coverage
0.80x/0.53x
Optical
95% coverage
0.85x/0.57x
Optical
100% coverage
0.92x /0.61x
Autofocus 9-pt AF
center cross-type
11-pt AF
center cross-type
11-pt AF
center cross-type
11-pt AF
9 cross- type
(SAFOX IXi+)
AF sensitivity 0 to 18 EV -1 to 19 EV -1 to 19 EV -1 to 18 EV
Shutter Speed 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/6,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/180 sec x-sync
Metering 63 zones 420-pixel 3D color matrix metering II 420-pixel 3D color matrix metering II 77 segment
Metering sensitivity 1 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV 0 to 22 EV
Best video H.264 MOV
1080/30p/25p
H.264 MOV
1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/ 50p
H.264 MOV
1080/60p/ 50p/30p/ 25p/24p
(20 min max)
H.264 MOV 1080/30p/
24p/25p; 720/50p/ 60p
Audio Mono Mono; mic input Mono; mic input Mono
Manual aperture and shutter in video No Yes Shutter speed only Yes
IS Optical Optical Optical Sensor shift
LCD size 2.7 inches fixed
230,000 dot
3 inches fixed
921,000 dots
3 inches fixed
921,000 dots
3 inches fixed
921,000 dots
Wireless flash No Yes Yes Yes
Wireless connectivity None Optional
via WU-1a ($59.95)
Optional
via WU-1a ($59.95)
None
Battery life (CIPA rating) 700 shots (viewfinder); 220 shots (LV) 540 shots 700 shots 710 (AA Lithium); 410 (Lithium Ion)
Size
(WHD)
5.9 x 3.9 x 3.1 (inches) 5.0 x 3.8 x 3.1 (inches) 4.9 x 3.9 x 3.3 (inches) 5.1 x 3.8 x 2.8 (inches)
Body operating weight (ounces) 17.5 oz 17.6 oz 16 oz 23.2 oz (est)
Mfr. Price $449.99 (body only) n/a n/a n/a
$549.99 (with 18-55mm lens) $549.95 (with 18-55mm lens) $649.95 (with 18-55mm II lens) $599.95 (with 18-55mm DA lens)
n/a n/a n/a $699.95 (with 18-55mm DA and 50-200 DA lenses)
Release date March 2014 April 2012 February 2014 July 2013

There are a lot of more useful shooting features still missing that other cameras in this price class provide, notably simple exposure and flash exposure bracketing. It still offers a quiet shutter release mode, though calling it “quiet” may be a bit of a stretch; “quieter” might be more accurate.

The introduction of a collapsible kit lens seems unnecessary to me. Unlike mirror-less systems where the bodies are much smaller, the body of the D3300 is still relatively large and the new lens only shaves about a half inch in length and circumference and 2.4 ounces from the weight. It’s certainly not worth the extra $50 if you’re buying it standalone. Since it will coexist in the market with the traditional 18-55mm version, watch out when shopping online and make sure you’re getting the lens you expect. However, I also bet that there will be cheaper versions of the kit available with the old lens.

For a complete accounting of its features and operation, download the D3300’s manual.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a competent but inexpensive general-purpose first dSLR, the D3300 is a fine choice.

(cnet.com)

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