Don’t be fooled by the entry-level status of the Nikon D3300. With a 24.2-million-pixel sensor and no anti-aliasing filter, the diminutive DSLR has ideas far above its station. Richard Sibley finds out just how good this £500 DSLR really is. Read the Nikon D3300 review...
Nikon D3300 at a glance:
- 24.2-million-pixel, APS-C-sized CMOS sensor
- ISO 100-12,800 (expandable to ISO 25,600)
- Expeed 4 image-processing engine
- 11-point AF system
- RRP £599.99 with kit lens
One of the biggest camera releases unveiled at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show was the Nikon D3300 – an entry-level DSLR that sits above the D3200 and D3100 in the manufacturer’s line-up.
Although the image sensor remains the same as that found in its predecessors, the D3300 uses Nikon’s latest Expeed 4 image processor, which was first introduced a few months ago inside the D5300. The latest processor allows an improved sensitivity range and faster continuous shooting – an ability that has been achieved with each new release of a Nikon D3000-series camera since the D3100’s launch in August 2010.
Nikon D3300 – Key features
The Nikon D3300 features a 24.2-million-pixel, DX-format CMOS sensor, and while it may not seem any different to the D3200’s sensor on paper, the newer model lacks an optical low-pass filter in an effort to preserve maximum image resolution and sharpness. Without conducting our own resolution tests back in the studio, we’re unable to comment on the output differences between the D3200 and the D3300 at this stage, but we’re expecting to see subtle improvements when images are viewed at close magnification.
This combination of the latest sensor and the improved Expeed 4 processor provides a 1EV wider sensitivity range than was available on the D3200. The older camera has a sensitivity ceiling of ISO 6400 (expandable to ISO 12,800), whereas the D3300 can shoot up to ISO 12,800 with an option to expand it to ISO 25,600 when required.
As for speed, the D3300 continues the trend of each D3000-series model being faster than its predecessor – another benefit of the Expeed 4 image processor. With a continuous shooting rate of 5fps, the D3300 is one of the fastest entry-level DSLRs on the market today, and is 1fps faster than the Canon EOS 100D.
The 11-point autofocus system used in the Nikon D3100 and D3200 has been carried over into the D3300. Having already been used in the previous two generations, I would have expected some sort of incremental improvement to the system’s specification this time around.
Although the D3300 shoots as quickly as the Nikon D5300, the latter still has the advantage when it comes to autofocus, with a more impressive 39-point AF system rather than the fairly basic 11-point AF system of the D3300, which has a single cross-type point in the centre.
The 11-point Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus module features single-point AF, dynamic-area AF, auto-area AF and Nikon’s clever 3D tracking, which can follow a subject from AF point to AF point as it moves across the frame, utilising colour and distance information from the camera’s 420-pixel RGB sensor.
Nikon D3300 – Wi-Fi
Along with the AF system, Wi-Fi is another area that I thought might have been enhanced on the D3300, but the feature remains much the same as that on the D3200. Built-in Wi-Fi is a given on most new camera releases today, yet the D3300 continues to rely on Nikon’s WU-1a adapter for a Wi-Fi connection. This is a little surprising given that Wi-Fi connectivity is built into another recent Nikon camera, the D5300.
With entry-level DSLRs priced at very competitive prices, it is fairly safe to assume that the cost of adding Wi-Fi to the D3300 would have affected the camera’s sale price. Nikon told me that it preferred to keep the cost of the camera down while offering users the option to purchase the WU-1a adapter if they consider wireless image transfer and remote shooting to be important to them. The WU-1a adapter costs an additional £49, although it does stick out from the side of the camera somewhat when in use.
One feature that has received an upgrade is the standard kit zoom lens. The D3300 comes with the new 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II, which is collapsible and therefore much smaller than its previous incarnations.
Image: Wi-Fi is an optional extra via the WU-1a adapter, which slots into the side of the camera
Nikon D3300 – Viewfinder and LCD
There is very little to report on the differences between the D3300’s viewfinder and that of the D3200, as the same technology has been used. The optical viewfinder in the new camera displays 95% coverage and has a 0.85x magnification with dioptre control, should you need to adjust it to suit your eyesight.
The rear screen on the D3300 also remains the same as that on the D3200: a 3in, 921,000-dot type, which was a significant improvement over the D3100’s 230,000-dot display. Our wait for Nikon to fit one of its DSLRs with a touchscreen continues. However, it should be no surprise that fitting one in an entry-level model would significantly increase the camera’s price to the consumer, who may not consider it a necessity.
Image: The camera has a basic selection of buttons and controls, and is unintimidating to use
Nikon D3300 – New kit lens
I have wanted to see a replacement for the original Nikon 18-55mm kit lens for quite some time, and my first impressions of the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II are very good indeed. It’s less bulky, so it won’t take up as much room in your camera bag, and it’s lighter, which contributes to a less heavy body and lens combination.
Having to depress a button to extend the lens to 18mm and again to retract it to its ‘L’ position is much like the operation required with Nikon 1-system lenses. It’s from here that the firm’s engineers took their inspiration to make the kit lens more compact, while still offering the standard focal length of an 18-55mm zoom.
Image: The new 18-15mm kit lens is collapsible, saving space when it is not in use
Nikon D3300 – Build and handling
The Nikon D3300 is in every sense of the word a ‘compact’ DSLR. While it may not be as petite as the Canon EOS 100D, it feels small in the hand compared to an enthusiast DSLR such as the Nikon D7100.
Being small is no bad thing, however, and the camera manages to shed weight thanks the light reinforced plastic used in its construction. Paired with the new 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II kit lens, the D3300 is claimed by Nikon to be 30% smaller and 25% lighter than its predecessor, and this is noticeable when it is picked up and handled.
The sculpted handgrip makes the D3300 a comfortable camera to hold and, even though I only held the camera in the hand for 30mins or so on the stand, I couldn’t find any faults in the way it operated or handled. Considering its size, the button arrangement has been intuitively laid out
for speed and ease of operation.
The interface on the D3300 remains unchanged, although the information menu (accessed by hitting the ‘i’ button) now appears in an attractive light shade of blue. Full HD video at up to 60p with full-time autofocus is supported, and the inclusion of a 3.5mm microphone port means that Nikon users no longer have to pay extra for a D5000-series DSLR to get this feature, which has previously been the case.
Nikon D3300 – Initial thoughts
It’s fair to say that the Nikon D3300 isn’t a groundbreaking release, but rather an update to the company’s entry-level range, which brings with it some of the latest advanced technology, such as the Expeed 4 image-processing engine.
With the D3100 having been such a popular and well-respected DSLR for Nikon over the years, the D3300 has a hard act to follow. However, the faster frame rate, higher-resolution screen and 3.5mm mic port make a good case for the new camera over its ageing predecessor.
It i difficult to tell what advantages the D3300 has over the D3200 in terms of image quality until we compare our image-quality results, but there’s certainly not enough here to worry D3200 users about an upgrade, and if anything it’s likely to lower the price of the excellent D3200 to make it even more affordable.
The Nikon D3300 will cost £599.99 with the new 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II lens, and will be available from early February.