Nikon D3300 review: Great entry-level DSLR, but priced on the higher side

Price

37,950

Tech2 Rating

7.5

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By Nimish Sawant /  14 May 2014 , 14:06:56

Nikon announced its latest entry level DSLR – the Nikon D3300 – at CES this year. While there are some changes as compared to the D3200, most of the features are similar. With competitions from all sides such as advanced point and shoots and mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, the entry level DSLR segment is in a not-so-comfortable position. Nikon and Canon have been active in this segment, launching entry-level DSLRs every two years. Let us see if the Nikon D3300 is worth buying.

Build and Design

Nikon D3300 hasn’t departed much from the design philosophy of the D3200. It has the same deep palm grip with rubberised finish. The palm grip is sculpted at the right areas to slip in the fingers around the top. It is neatly complemented by a thumb rest which also has a rubberised finish. The thumb rest tends to protrude out a bit on the right hand corner. The control dial is placed just above the thumb rest and is within easy reach of the thumb. On the left hand side in the front, you have the flash button to activate the flash unit as well as a Fn button which you can program according to your preference.

Nikon D3300 is well build with a hefty palm rest with rubberised finish and the kit lens comes with a retractable body
Nikon D3300 is well build with a hefty palm rest with rubberised finish and the kit lens comes with a retractable body

The top portion of the D3300 comprises the flash unit in the centre along with the accessory port on top of it. The button arrangement on the bulge of the palm grip has remained unchanged from the D3200. The only addition you will notice is on the mode dial which has an extra module called Effects. The mode dial can rotate 360 degrees as there are modes on every stop.

The rear side of the D3300 has a 3-inch 921k-dot LCD screen which is surrounded by buttons
The rear side of the D3300 has a 3-inch 921k-dot LCD screen which is surrounded by buttons

On the rear side you have a 3-inch 921k-dot LCD screen which is a fingerprint and smudge magnet. On the right hand side, you have a four-way directional pad surrounded by a live-view button on top and the drive mode and delete buttons below. On the left hand side, along the height of the screen, you have the five buttons arranged one below the other namely review, menu, zoom in, zoom out and information.

The top portion hasn't changed from the D3200.
The top portion hasn’t changed from the D3200.

The D3300 comes with AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm lens which has a lens lock mechanism. The zoom ring has a button that needs to be pressed to unlock the lens. While this sort of feature makes sense on a mirrorless camera, where you want to keep the size of the body and lens at the minimum, it does not seem to add any incentive on a DSLR. Even with the lens in locked position, you would hardly call the D3300 compact.

The D3300 is well-built and barring the three buttons surrounding the shutter release, the rest have a good amount of feedback.

Features

The Nikon D3300 houses a new 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor which is paired with the faster Expeed 4 image processor. The sensor does not have an optical low pass filter so as to give sharper images. Optical low pass filters (OLPF) generally help in reducing false colours and moire patterns at the cost of image sharpness. Nikon has been incorporating the ‘no OLPF’ policy on its higher end DSLRs such as the D800E and the D7100. The D3300 is the first entry level camera to come with this feature. The other additional thing in the D3300 is the native ISO range going a stop higher to ISO 12800, a 5fps continuous burst mode and a 1080p60 video recording mode. Rest of the specifications are pretty much the same as were seen on the D3200 such as 12 white balance preset modes, fixed 3-inch 921k-dot LCD screen and so on.

The SD card compartment is on the side which makes it convenient to switch cards
The SD card compartment is on the side which makes it convenient to switch cards

There are 11 AF points with (1 cross-type) most of which are located around the centre. The user interface is similar to the one we saw with the D3200, with a graphical interface showing aperture, shutter and ISO on dials followed by other quick settings arranged in a rectangular matrix below. In the live view mode, you need to press the ‘i’ button to bring up the quick settings.

Under the Effects tab you have 13 filters including HDR painting, toy camera, silhouette, easy panorama among others. Apart from this you have dedicated modes for macro, sports photography, night mode, portrait and so on. The Guide mode is for beginners giving tips on shooting, retouching, setting up the camera and so on. It offers rear-curtain flash mode as well.

Performance

Studio ISO performance

Our studio ISO comprises a setup which has a healthy mix of colours, textures, materials, fine text and so on. We affixed the Nikon D3300 on a tripod and kept it in the Aperture priority mode at f/6.3. We proceeded to take images across the ISO range. To ensure minimal camera shake we had a 2-second timer enabled to click the pictures.

Sample image for the studio ISO performance test
Sample image for the studio ISO performance test

Base ISO performance is good and you will not notice any noise at ISO 100. Till ISO 800 there is barely any drop in image quality and the noise is kept off bay. At ISO 1600, noise starts making an appearance, although it is noticeable only when viewed at a 100 per cent. We found text and finer things such as the threads had a bit of noise around the edges. The image is still quite usable at ISO 1600. Even at ISO 3200, you will notice luminance noise, but not so bad that you cannot use the image. From ISO 6400 onwards though things get progressively bad. You get images which are soft and mushy. At best, use such high ISO in extreme conditions. Ideal ISO range for this camera should be under ISO 3200.

Note: Images below have been resized. To see the full sized images, please click on them. Additionally, visit our Nikon D3300 album on Flickr to see more high resolution images.

ISO 100
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 400
ISO 800
ISO 800
ISO 1600
ISO 1600
ISO 3200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 6400
ISO 12800
ISO 12800
ISO Hi 1
ISO Hi 1

Image quality

Daylight images coming out of the Nikon D3300 are quite pleasant, giving bright colours. The active D-lighting mode helps get more details from shadow and highlight areas, although unlike its elder siblings, the D3300 only has an on and off option for the Active D-lighting. The 24MP resolution allows you to crop parts of your image, without much loss of detail. Images shot after sunset were noisy, and although not as sharp as daylight shots, are quite usable.

 Note: Images below have been resized. To see the full sized images, please click on them. Additionally, visit our Nikon D3300 album on Flickr to see more high resolution images.

ISO 800, f/3.5, 1/2000th sec
ISO 800, f/3.5, 1/2000th sec
ISO 800, f/3.5, 1/1250th sec
ISO 800, f/3.5, 1/1250th sec
ISO 400, f/4, 1/60th sec
ISO 400, f/4, 1/60th sec

Since the D3300 is an entry level camera, you get a lot of filters to play around with such as toy camera, silhouette, HDR painting, miniature effect and so on. We quite liked the implementation of the easy panorama mode, where you just need to pan the camera in the direction its showing on the live view screen and the camera does all the stitching on its own. Although the Nikkor 18-55mm lens is limiting, we were glad to note that there was barely any purple fringing. One of the side-effects of not using an optical low pass filter is the prominence of moire patterns. But with still shooting samples we barely noticed much moire so it is safe to say that as far as still shooting goes, moire is well controlled by the D3300.

ISO 200, f/14, 1/1600th sec. Silhouette mode
ISO 200, f/14, 1/1600th sec. Silhouette mode
ISO 1600, f/4, 1/40th sec
ISO 1600, f/4, 1/40th sec
ISO 1600, f/22, 6 secs
ISO 1600, f/22, 6 secs

Focus

Just like the Canon 1200D, the AF speeds when seen from the optical viewfinder are quick, but switch to live view mode and you will notice a slight drop in AF speeds. We liked the simple method of changing the focus by just clicking on the directional pad and selecting the focus.

ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1250th sec
ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1250th sec
100 pc crop of the above image
100 per cent crop of the above image 
ISO 400, f/4, 1/5th sec
ISO 400, f/4, 1/5th sec

Video

The video output is pretty decent as compared to the Canon 1200D. We shot the scene above with continuous AF activated and you can notice focus hunting when you pan the camera and if there is fast motion within the frame. The built in microphone is quite good and you have the provision to add an external microphone. The AF motor noise is a bit annoying though. Moire is noticeable when shooting fine repeating patterns. For shooting casual family videos, the Nikon D3300’s video mode is quite good.

Verdict and Price in India

Nikon D3300 is an impressive entry level DSLR. The 24MP sensor not only allows you to crop details, but also keep the noise level lower when you crank up the ISO settings. Till ISO 3200, you get a good output, which is great considering this is an entry level DSLR. Handling is great, although we would have liked to see a dedicated ISO button. The presence of Guide mode is also a nice touch especially for beginners.

As far as entry level DSLRs go, the Nikon D3300 has got everything going for it. Except for one thing – the price point. At Rs 37,950 for the body plus 18-55mm kit lens, the Nikon D3300 is priced on the higher side. For just Rs 2,000 more, you can get the Canon 1200D with an EF-S 18-55mm kit lens and an EF-S 55-250mm zoom lens.

Agreed, you get a good image quality, good handling, full HD video recording with the Nikon D3300, but its predecessor – the Nikon D3200 – which is priced around Rs 10,000 less also offers most of these things. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that it competes with the D3300. If the D3300 had other features such as a touchscreen and Wi-Fi connectivity, then maybe the price of Rs 37,950 would be justified. Even the Nikon D5200, which has 39 AF points (against the D3300’s 11 AF points) and a tiltable LCD screen, can be purchased for around Rs 35,000.

For someone making the move from a compact camera to an entry level DSLR, the Nikon D3300’s pricing may just turn out to be the biggest barrier. Although online retailers are selling the D3300 around Rs 32,500, Nikon’s official website states that as the body-only price. The Nikon D3200 at Rs 27,000 makes more sense from a value perspective. If you can get the D3300 for Rs 30,000 or thereabouts, it makes for a good first DSLR.


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