The D3300 may have been replaced by the D3400 , but that’s no reason to discount this entry-level DSLR. In fact, while the D3400 costs a little bit more (though prices are continuing to fall), the D3300 is the better buy right now.
Despite the growing popularity of mirrorless cameras, the entry-level DSLR market is still incredibly popular for those looking to take the next step in their photography journey.
Nikon’s range of D3xxx models has proved incredibly popular over the years for new users looking to expand their creativity thanks to their blend of easy handling and solid performance, backed-up by an impressive range of lenses and accessories.
- APS-C CMOS sensor, 24.2MP
- 3.0-inch screen, 921,000 dots
- 1080p video capture
The D3300 features a high resolution 24.2MP APS-C sensor – pretty impressive when you consider the enthusiast-focused D7200 shares the same resolution and costs quite a bit more.
Like the rest of the range, the D3300’s sensor does away with the low-pass filter, which should mean even more detail is captured, resulting in even sharper images compared to previous models like the D3200 .
In addition to this, the native sensitivity range runs from ISO100 to 12,800, and there’s an expansion setting that takes it to the equivalent of ISO25,600, providing plenty of flexibility for a range of lighting situations.
Like the Nikon D5300 , the D3300 sports Nikon’s now second-generation processing engine, the EXPEED 4, allowing the D3300 to shoot continuously at a maximum rate of 5fps, while it can sustain this burst rate for up to 100 fine quality JPEGs. More than enough for most people’s needs.
The EXPEED 4 processing engine is also responsible for allowing the D3300 to record Full HD movie footage at framerates up to 50p/60p and with continuous autofocus. Helpfully, there’s a microphone port as well as a built-in stereo mic for better sound recording during movie shooting.
There are a host of Special Effects on tap, allowing you to jazz-up JPEG files and videos with a collection of styles. Nikon has boosted the list of effects to 13 for the D3300, and it now includes Pop, which increases colour saturation, Toy Camera, which creates a retro effect, and Easy Panorama. These effects can be previewed in real time on the LCD screen, so you can see exactly what you’ll get once you trigger the shutter.
The D3300 has a dedicated 420-pixel RGB sensor to gather exposure, white balance and focus information to inform the Automatic Scene Recognition system. Meanwhile, there’s an 11-point AF system that we’ve seen on a host of previous models, which has a central cross-type AF point for extra sensitivity.
It’s a little unremarkable, especially when compared to some mirrorless rivals , but its a tried and test system.
Finally, although the D3300 uses the same battery as the D3200, we are told that the new processing engine allows the camera to be more efficient in its power consumption, and the battery is claimed to last for around 700 shots
Build and handling
- Polycarbonate construction
- Small and lightweight body
The D3300 is the second DSLR from Nikon to use a monocoque construction – this means that the chassis is made from a single piece of material, making it both lighter and stronger compared to the D3200.
Nikon has also reduced slightly the size of the camera when compared to the D3200, but placing the two side by side doesn’t reveal too dramatic a difference. The grip is still deep and comfortable to hold, with the textured surface making it feel particularly secure in the hand.
What does make a significant difference however is the new 18-55mm kit lens, which is now collapsible. While by no means small in comparison to compact system camera lenses, when collapsed the lens is quite a bit shorter than its predecessor, making it easier to fit into a bag when not in use.
When you want to use the camera (with this kit lens attached), you’ll first need to press a button on the lens barrel to expand it back into normal proportions. This does mean that start-up time from packed away is a little slower than other cameras, but you can of course leave it extended if you need a quicker start.
A dial on the back of the camera is used for altering the aperture or shutter speed, depending on the mode you’re shooting in. When in fully manual mode and needing to control both, you’ll need to hold down the exposure compensation button while scrolling the dial to switch between the two parameters.
There isn’t a huge number of buttons on the D3300, which is to be expected of an entry-level camera. On the top plate you’ll find a mode dial for switching between exposure modes, such as fully automatic, aperture priority and the newly incorporated Effects mode. Also on the top plate you’ll find the exposure compensation button (for use in automatic and semi-automatic modes) and an info button, which helpfully turns off the rear display, preventing it from being a distraction while using the viewfinder.
A sort of quick menu is accessed on the D3300 by pressing a button labelled ‘i’ on the back of the camera. After you’ve pressed this, use the directional keys to pick a setting you want to change – such as white balance – and then press OK to bring up the different options available to you. Unfortunately, this menu isn’t customisable, so if there’s something on this menu you rarely use, you’re stuck with it.
There is also a function button near the lens mount. By default holding this down will allow you to quickly change the ISO, but you can change this to control JPEG quality, white balance or Active D-Lighting. ISO seems like a sensible choice since it’s something you’ll probably need to change the most often out of the options available.
- 11-point AF, 1 cross-type AF point
- AF-assist illuminator
- 3D-tracking AF
Autofocusing speeds are pretty high, especially in daylight or well-lit conditions. It’s rare for the kit lens to hunt around to acquire focus, and rarer still for it to present a false confirmation of focus. Speeds do drop a little in lower light conditions, but it’s only when it gets very dark that the lens struggles to focus at all.
It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that focusing speeds drop significantly when using Live View, so it’s only really recommended you use that if you’re shooting something stationery, or you’re shooting from an awkward angle and can’t compose using the viewfinder.
Changing the AF point is very simple. All you’ll need to do is press the directional arrow keys to move around to the point you need. As the central AF point is cross-type, it is more sensitive than the others, so you may find it beneficial to focus and recompose in certain situations, or, if you’re just aiming for speed.
- 5fps burst shooting
- Helpful Guide mode
- 700 shot battery life
The D3300 has a 3.0-inch LCD screen with a 921,000 dot resolution. This is a fixed unit and Nikon is still resisting the urge to join the touchscreen revolution, which is a little disappointing given how many of the camera’s controls are changed via the screen itself.
That brings us to the user interface. The D3300 has a pleasingly modern appearance, with the high resolution giving the display beautifully rounded edges and displaying the interface’s colours well.
When shooting, the camera displays three circles which represent shutter speed, aperture and sensitivity (ISO). These displays change as you alter settings using the scrolling dials, most obvious being the aperture circle which closes and opens to represent the opening and closing of the aperture blades. If you’re new to creative photography, this is a great way to get to grips with the basics.
The viewfinder is optical and offers a 95% field of view. While it is bright and clear, not being 100% does mean that there is a chance of something appearing in the final image that you didn’t notice in composition.
I was very impressed by the D3300’s battery performance. After a day of shooting, checking images and then scrolling through saved images, the battery life indicator hadn’t even dropped a single bar.
In the majority of everyday shooting conditions, the D3300’s general-purpose metering does a good job of producing accurate exposures.
Automatic white balance is similarly impressive, managing to produce accurate colours even while shooting indoors. The only time I had to change from the automatic setting was when shooting a row of red outdoor lights, when the camera got a little confused and produced a slightly colder colour than I would have liked. Otherwise, shooting under normal household artificial lights produces images which are very close to accurate, hardly erring towards warm tones at all, which is excellent to see in an entry-level DSLR.
- ISO100-12,800, expandable to 100-25,600
- No low-pass filter
- Punchy colors
As expected, the D3300 has excellent resolving power, zooming in to images to 100% reveals that very fine details can be seen. Happily, we’ve not come across any examples of moiré patterning when shooting stills, suggesting Nikon’s claim that a high pixel count presents less of a problem for AA filter-less cameras is accurate.
With such a high pixel count (24 million pixels), there comes the increased chance of noise appearing in images. The D3300 handles low light, high sensitivity situations very well. Noise only really starts to become particularly apparent when shooting at ISO 3200 above, and even then it’s acceptable, or certainly preferable to a blurred or missed shot.
Image smoothing is something that can be seen right the way through the sensitivity run, but at the lower end of the spectrum it’s not particularly noticeable, only when examining images very closely at 100% does it become apparent. When printing at normal sizes, such as A4, or sharing online, it doesn’t present a problem.
One of the benefits of having a large pixel count is the ability to crop images and still retain a decent resolution, but this is something to bear in mind if you’ve been shooting at a high sensitivity and want to crop an image. Any image smoothing or noise may become more apparent the more you crop the image.
At normal printing and web sizes, this image, shot at ISO1,600, appears fine, but if you zoom in to 100%, you can see a fair amount of color noise int he sky. The D3300 seems to prioritize keeping detail over noise reduction, so this is to be expected in certain situations.
Tones directly from the camera are natural, which is useful for pleasing portraits.
You can still get pleasing shallow depth of field effects using the kit lens, even though it only stops down to f/3.5.
The 18-55mm lens offers flexible focal length options, making it ideal for shooting a number of different situations. This was shot at the maximum telephoto end of the optic.
Colour reproduction is excellent, even when shooting subjects which may ordinarily confuse other cameras, such as neon lighting.
Despite the arrival of the D3400, you should still be able to get hold of the D3300 – and with a bit of luck, at a discounted price.
So which camera should you buy, the D3300 or D3400? We’ve also reviewed the D3400, but on paper at least, they look very similar.
Let’s take a look at some of the key features of both cameras and see how they compare and whether it’s worth spending a bit more to get Nikon’s latest entry-level camera.