Nikon D3300 SLR Review

I was a Nikon shooter back in the days of film, but went with Canon when dSRLs started to get affordable. I’ve been wanting to check out Nikon’s newer bodies, and I found a great deal on a used Nikon D3300 and couldn’t pass it up. It’s a heck of a camera for not much money: a classic example of a good cheap camera.

Nikon D3300 Quick Specs

  • Resolution: 24.2 Megapixels
  • Sensor size: APS-C (23.5 x 15.6mm)
  • Viewfinder: Pentamirror
  • ISO Range: 100 – 12,800 (extended: 25,600)
  • Shutter Speeds: 1/4000 – 30 seconds
  • Size: 4.88 x 3.86 x 2.99″ (124 x 98 x 76mm)
  • Weight: 16.25 oz (460g)

 Camera Overview

The D3300 is on the lowest tier of Nikon’s lineup of dSLRs. It’s entry-level, for sure, but don’t let that fool you. Over the last few years, entry-level cameras have been loaded up with features and specs only dreamed of in recent years past. There are some definitive feature groups that separate the entry level from the mid-tier and pro cameras, but the gap is far smaller than it used to be. The D3300 is no exception to this trend.

The Good Stuff

The D3300 is small, light, and comfortable. It’s probably the lightest-weight dSLR I’ve ever used. And yet, it doesn’t feel cheaply made. Someone with very large hands may find its small size a hindrance, but the average human can likely get along with it.

The camera sports Nikon’s well-tested 24.2MP APS-C sensor, backed up by the Expeed 4 image processor. It also does not have the optical low-pass filter common to many Canon cameras, which can reduce image sharpness (see reference link below to read up on the topic of sensor filters).

The D3300 shoots video at a maximum resolution and framerate of 1080p / 60 fps, allowing for excellent slow-motion output at full high-definition resolution.

95% viewfinder coverage is very good for an entry-level camera. Also, the resolution of the LCD view-screen is a very respectable 921K pixels.

Focusing in “live view” is very fast and mostly accurate. Again, for the price point, it’s a very good performer.

This camera can detect faces and track people moving. The face detection works pretty well for stationary people facing the camera directly. The people tracking works okay.

There are a LOT of menu options in the D3300 interface. Lots of tweaks inside, for sure. And, there are some nice provisions for in-camera editing and filters, if that kind of thing appeals to you.

As a long-time Canon user, I’ll have to say that I like the feel of the D3300 in my hand a bit better than a comparable T5i / T6i. The deeper grip recess is the key difference, and it’s better (to me).

Shortcomings

It’s hard to be nitpicky on such an inexpensive product, but here are a few things to consider on the negative side.

The D3300, unlike so many Nikon bodies in the past, does not have a built-in focus motor. This makes it cheaper and lighter, but also means that many of the older Nikkor AF lenses won’t be able to autofocus on the D3300. The newer “G” series lenses that have their own focus motor onboard will work fine, however. And you can still mount and use the D series AF lenses (as well as a ton of other older Nikkor lenses), but focusing will have to be manual.

Coming from the Canon side of things, I find it annoying that I can’t quickly change the metering mode on the D3300. It’s 3-4 clicks in a menu on the entry-level Nikons, while even the cheapest Canons have a dedicated button for this. I tend to change metering modes often when shooting in mixed lighting conditions, so this is kind of a big deal. Not the end of the world, but definitely annoying.

The audio recording (in video mode) is mono. This may or may not be a big deal, as many who get serious with video use an external mic anyway (or record audio totally separately), and those are generally mono.

If you want to add a vertical grip for the D3300, you will have to have a cable that connects from the grip to one of the ports on the side of the camera. The internal connectors in the battery bay do not include those necessary for the extra shutter button. Having the external cable is just one more thing to keep up with, and it can get snagged on things. On a comparable Canon body, the connections are there, and the vertical grip also has a control wheel and AE-Lock button along with the extra shutter release. 

The screen does not articulate (it’s flat and fixed in the body) and is not a touch-screen. This will be a bigger issue for videographers, but it’s something to consider for all photographer types.

No depth-of-field preview button. Most probably won’t care about this feature, but I use it regularly to test DOF while composing a shot. It’s not necessary at all, but it’s a nice thing to have. The cheapest Canon bodies all have DOF preview buttons.

The Verdict

The Nikon D3300 is a stand-out cheap good camera. It’s easy on the wallet (especially used) and performs at an exceptional level. Image quality is excellent, as is video performance. It’s pretty fast (5 fps), autofocus is respectable in accuracy and speed, and its light weight and small size make it ideal for grab-n-go and travel uses. I got mine used for $270, so if your budget is tight, this camera should be on your list.

Further Reading

What are optical low-pass / anti-aliasing filters?

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