The Nikon D3300 is well over two years old now, but is still going strong. Cameras like this are a fantastic option for those who care a bit more about image quality over having all the latest features. If you’re the kind of person who can live without Wi-Fi and a screen that can be repositioned and don’t really need the most advanced autofocus system, you’ll be spending a bit less here, money you can spend the difference on a lens upgrade and should be able to take some better pictures as a result.
Price, rating and specs based on the 18-55mm VR II kit
The thing is, these entry-level SLRs still have to provide enough features to justify the price and get you’ll need to get along with it successfully, especially with a sensor that delivers the goods too. It’s worth pointing out at this stage that former models haven’t always passed these tests necessarily. The Canon EOS 1200D left us a little bit disappointed two years ago, even despite the somewhat entry-level price, with its surprisingly high noise levels. The D3300 definitely has a golden opportunity here to chalk up a clear victory.
It’s off to a good start here with a nice redesigned kit lens that collapses down to a spectacularly slender 68mm when it’s not in use. It still amounts to 133mm from viewfinder to lens cap when in transit, which is miles better than the EOS 1200D’s 145mm or the Nikon D3200 at 155mm but it’s still hardly a game changer. Altogether, the camera and the kit lens have lost slightly over 100g compared to the D3200, and now weigh a combined 663g. These are welcome changes, but you’ll still need to carry it around in a bag rather than your pocket.
On the other hand, both the D3200 and D3300 are quite tricky to tell apart, both in person and the raw specs. The plastic body is much smoother and shinier here, with a nice choice of black, grey or red colours that will surely tickle some people’s fancy. The tactile navigation pad is a little lower than before, which gives you just a little bit more room for the right thumb to rest itself on the back of the camera. Both the drive mode and delete buttons have shuffled around to make a bit more room, but that’s about all in terms of cosmetic changes. We haven’t really got any complaints in terms of ergonomics, as it fits nice and snug in two hands, while all the buttons are very easy to reach. The viewfinder itself is slightly larger than the Canon EOS 1200D’s, too.
There aren’t a huge number of buttons and dials to be found, though. As was the case with its predecessors, the D3300 keeps any labelled, single-function buttons to a minimum, otherwise relying on the quick-access and main menus for the main bulk of use. There’s a little bit of sense to this, however, especially as less experienced users may be put off by an over-abundance of often ambiguously labelled buttons, and prefer more informative on-screen labels. The thing is, we’re not all that convinced that they will learn a whole lot from a thumbnail showing a night cityscape for ISO 800 and a piano recital for ISO 1600. The lack of these single-function buttons makes it near impossible to adjust various settings while using the viewfinder. Likewise, calibrating the manual white balance and toggling the Auto ISO feature on and off are far too convoluted, with the controls buried well into three layers deep in the camera’s main menu. Something else that was far too annoying is that the self-timer function switches itself off after each shot.
These problems are frustrating as the numerous issues could quite easily be avoided with just a few minor firmware changes, and yet the problems still persist through the generations. In the end, though, the D3300 is a pleasant enough camera to use, especially for those who largely just stick to automatic settings. It’s nice and easy to move the autofocus point via the navigation pad, while the exposure-related settings are very close to hand via the command dial and exposure compensation button. The handy Guide Mode attempts to demystify various photographic techniques via a mixture of scene presets and practical tips, but the two sadly sit awkwardly alongside each other. We recommend starting in Program mode and learning features as you feel the need.
Nikon D3300 Performance and video mode
Cameras’ processors don’t usually get all that much attention, but an upgrade to Nikon’s latest Expeed 4 chip really pays off here and is worth a discussion. Continuous shooting is up from 4fps to 5fps, putting it significantly ahead of the EOS 1200D’s 3fps. While the D3200 slowed to a sluggish 1.6fps after 20 JPEGs, the D3300 continued at 3.3fps. There was considerably less of a toll on overall performance when we enabled the Auto Distortion Control to correct for lens distortion. The overall raw performance showed big gains, too, slowing to a still-usable 1.7fps after an initial burst of six frames at 5fps.
With a significantly faster processor on board, it’s a welcome surprise to find that battery life has increased from 540 to 700 shots. We also found autofocus from the 11-point autofocus sensor and kit lens to be reliably fast, taking around 0.3 seconds from pressing the shutter button to capturing a frame.
The faster processor found inside also means that 1080p videos are captured at frame rates ranging from 24fps all the way up to 60fps. There isn’t a huge benefit to shooting at frame rates faster than 30fps as online hosting services and optical disc formats have only just started to support them. Otherwise, it’s great to be able to slow footage down in editing software for slow-motion effects, which can make for some very interesting videos. There is a downside to this, though, in that the maximum clip length for 50fps and 60fps is only 10 minutes. It’s often best to stick to the 24, 25 and 30fps frame rates in most instances, where clips run for 20 minutes.
Back in 2014, video picture quality was among one of the best we’ve seen and it still holds up well today. Colours exhibited the same flattering tones as in JPEGs. Details were much sharper and noise levels were considerably lower than from the EOS 1200D for instance, and not all that far off the high standards of the Panasonic Lumix G range. Unlike the 1200D, there’s an option for full-time autofocus while recording too. While it’s not exactly the most responsive video autofocus system we’ve seen, and enabling it bombards the audio with whirring noises from the lens motor, it’s still good enough for casual use. A 3.5mm microphone input lets you bypass the internal mono microphone for a more strategically placed stereo mic.