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...
Noise, resolution and sensitivity
Image: There is more noise in shadow ares than I would expect from an image taken at ISO 720
In good light, with images taken between ISO 100 and 400, noise is of no real concern. However, at ISO 400 there are some traces of luminance noise that start to erode a little of the detail in JPEGs. Hints of colour noise also start to become visible in shadow areas at this sensitivity. This is a little lower than you might expect, and I am surprised to see such noise at settings below ISO 800.
By ISO 800, with noise reduction turned off in-camera, there is a faint hint of colour noise even in midtones. Turning noise reduction on helps to reduce it, but also impacts on the image detail. In shadow areas, the familiar magenta and green pixels are readily seen. In good light, noise isn’t too much of an issue even at ISO 800, but the chances are, if you have selected ISO 800, you don’t have good lighting conditions.
By the maximum ISO 12,800, luminance noise fills the frame and almost all the fine detail you would expect to see from a 24.2-million-pixel sensor is lost. The extended ISO 25,600 setting is worse still, with even colour noise difficult to control.
Image: A lot of detail can be captured at low sensitivity settings, but you have to watch for aliasing in very fine mesh textures, such as on this building site
Obviously, the situation is a little better if you are shooting raw files, and the colour noise is relatively straightforward to remove altogether if using the colour noise reduction sliders in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom. However, care must be taken when using the luminance noise reduction, as it does need to be applied at fairly low sensitivities, with care taken not to reduce detail too much.
Regarding detail resolution, the D3300 is very good and the filter-free 24.2-million-pixel sensor is able to resolve an impressive 32 between ISO 100 and 400. Even at ISO 800, around 28 is still reached on the chart when shooting JPEGs; it is only at ISO 6400 that the resolution suddenly drops to around 28. At the highest ISO 24,600 setting, the D3300 is capable of resolving up to 24, which is around what we would expect from a 12-million-pixel camera. While still very impressive, there is obviously a significant amount of chroma and luminance noise.
When editing raw files it is possible to just squeeze a little more sharpness out of the images, but the resolution remains the same as in the JPEGs – the raw files can just be processed to look a little clearer.
These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a resolution chart, captured using the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 lens set to f/5.6 . We show the section of the resolution chart where the camera starts to fail to reproduce the lines separately. The higher the number visible in these images, the better the camera’s detail resolution is at the specified sensitivity setting.