Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot
  • 24.2-megapixel DX-format (APS-C) CMOS image sensor with no optical low pass filter (OLPF)
  • EXPEED 4 image processor
  • Full 1080/60p HD Video Recording with Full-time AF (autofocus)
  • 3.0-inch Display
  • 100 - 12800 ISO with Hi 1 ISO available (25600 ISO equivalent)
  • 11-point Autofocus System
  • 5 frames-per-second Continuous Shooting
  • Wi-Fi capable with optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter
  • 13 In-Camera Effects
  • 4 New Effects Modes
    • Photo Illustration
    • Super Vivid
    • Pop
    • Easy Panorama Mode
  • Easy-to-Use Guide Mode
    • Shoot Photos Using Example Images
    • View/Delete
    • Setup
    • Retouch (images in-camera)
  • Compact Body (4.9" x 3.8" x 2.9")
  • Good image quality versus other entry-level DSLRs
  • Performance in low light is good with minimal noise in images
  • 24 megapixels of resolution surpasses most entry-level DSLRs
  • Fast performance in Viewfinder mode versus similarly priced interchangeable lens cameras
  • Nikon included its latest image processor, EXPEED 4
  • Plenty of help options for inexperienced photographers, including useful Guide mode
  • Good option as a first DSLR
  • Many special effect options
  • D3300 works equally well as an automatic camera or with full manual controls, depending on your experience level
  • Camera is a lightweight model and is slightly smaller than its predecessor
  • Offers a good value in entry-level DSLR market
  • Only a basic list of features for a DSLR
  • No touchscreen or articulated LCD
  • No built-in Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Camera's performance slows significantly in Live View mode
  • Would be nice to have more choices of resolutions than three
  • Camera's popup flash doesn't open automatically when its needed; must be opened manually
  • Camera doesn't automatically switch from Live View mode to Viewfinder mode when camera is lifted to your eye
  • Movie's manual controls are limited and aren't easily accessed
  • Experienced photographers will want more advanced control options
  • Battery life could be better
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 0.9 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused (Viewfinder mode) = about 0.1 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused (Live View mode) = about 0.1 seconds
  • Shutter lag with autofocus (Viewfinder mode) = about 0.1 seconds
  • Shutter lag with autofocus (Live View mode) = about 1.2 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/ flash = 0.7 seconds (Viewfinder mode), 4.5 seconds (Live View mode, review off), 8.7 seconds (Live View mode, minimum review on)
  • Shot to shot delay w/o flash = 0.7 seconds (Viewfinder mode), 4.5 seconds (Live View mode, review off), 8.7 seconds (Live View mode, minimum review on)
  • Continuous (Viewfinder mode) = 10 frames in 3.2 seconds at 24M
  • Continuous (Live View mode) = 10 frames in 3.2 seconds at 24M
All tests taken using Program mode, flash off, review off, and all other settings at default unless noted.
Bottom Line
The Nikon D3300 will serve the entry-level DSLR market extremely well, offering a good value to inexperienced photographers looking to take a step forward from point-n-shoot cameras to more advanced models. The D3300 creates high-quality images and performs fast versus others in its class. It's unfortunate this camera's Live View mode performance is so sluggish, and it'd be nice if Nikon had given the D3300 touchscreen LCD capabilities, two areas that would appeal to less experienced photographers. Still the D3300 is a very easy-to-use DSLR camera, and it has enough advanced features to continue to give you good performance as your experience level grows.

Pick This Up If...
You are looking for a good value in an entry-level DSLR camera that has a basic list of useful features paired with above-average performance and image quality levels.

When moving from a point-n-shoot camera to a first DSLR model, some inexperienced photographers may feel like they need to purchase the most advanced camera they can find, just to ensure they're going to be able to use the camera for a long time.

However before spending a few thousand dollars on high-end DSLR gear, inexperienced photographers should consider entry-level DSLRs, such as the latest model from Nikon, the D3300. Although the Nikon D3300 doesn't offer a lot of high-end shooting features or some of the latest design features, it does offer a low starting price for a camera that will serve you well both initially and as your skills improve down the road, helping you to learn about photography along the way.

The Nikon D3300 certainly has some drawbacks -- especially for experienced photographers -- but this camera compares well to other models in the entry-level DSLR price range. And it excels in creating great images, which is the primary reason for a point-n-shoot camera owner to make the move to an interchangeable lens model. The D3300's still image and movie quality is among the best I've seen in an entry-level DSLR from Nikon.

Nikon included a 24.2-megapixel APS-C sized CMOS image sensor (23.5 x 15.6 mm) with the D3300, which helps to explain the great image quality. All photos will be shot at a 4:3 aspect ratio to match the dimensions of the image sensor. Only three resolution settings are available, and the smallest resolution is 6MP. You can however shrink photos to sizes of 2.5MP and smaller for use on the web using the D3300's in-camera editing options. This unfortunately requires an extra step versus just having the ability to shoot at a smaller resolution initially.

Noise is not overly noticeable with the D3300, at least until you move to mid-range ISO settings, such as ISO 800 or 1600. You can use ISOs as high as 25,600 with this camera, although the maximum native ISO is 12,800. Unlike some more advanced DSLRs though, you're limited to one stop ISO changes (such as going from ISO 100 to 200), rather than 1/3 stop ISO changes (such as going from ISO 100 to 125 to 160 to 200). This is an example of how the D3300 has fewer advanced controls versus some of the more powerful DSLR models.

Additionally Nikon removed the anti-aliasing filter from the image sensor with the D3300, a step that rarely has occurred with entry-level DSLRs. By removing this filter the D3300 can create sharper images versus cameras that contain the filter. However the filter does limit the problems of moiré patterning in photographs that have a repeating pattern, so Nikon D3300 photographers will have to either create scenes that don't include repeating patterns or will have to remove the moiré pattern in post-processing when it occasionally occurs.

Nikon included a popup flash unit with the D3300, and it provides good results in low light photography. The camera is able to perform almost as fast when using the popup flash as when shooting without it, which is an unusual ability versus most cameras at this price point. The popup flash doesn't open automatically whenever the camera senses it is needed, but you will see an error message on the screen indicating that the flash is required because of a lack of light in the scene. You also can attach an external flash unit to the camera's hot shoe for even better performance.

When shooting in Viewfinder mode, this camera has pretty fast performance levels, especially compared to other entry-level DSLRs. You can shoot your first photo in less than 1 second after pressing the power button for example. Nikon included the EXPEED 4 image processor with the D3300, which is the same processor found with the more advanced D5300.

However when you're shooting in Live View mode, you will find the D3300's performance slows considerably. Shot to shot delays and shutter lag are much slower in Live View mode. The D3300's continuous shot mode works at the same speed in both Live View and Viewfinder mode.

The Nikon D3300 does not automatically switch from Live View mode to Viewfinder mode whenever you lift the camera to your eye, which is a disappointment.

Similar to its strong still image quality, the quality of the D3300's movies is also very good. All movies must be shot in Live View mode. You will have a limited number of manual controls for shooting movies, which can be a little frustrating.

When shooting still images though, this camera's collection of automatic and manual control features is impressive. You can shoot in modes that will be more familiar to point-n-shoot photographers, such as scene modes and fully Automatic mode. However, Nikon also included almost every type of advanced shooting mode you could want, including Program Auto and full Manual. Less experienced photographers will appreciate this type of design, as they initially can use the D3300 in fully Automatic mode and create very good photos. Then as they learn more about photography and as their skills improve, they can make use of the modes with more manual control.

Another great feature for novices included with the Nikon D3300 is the Guide mode, which is available by twisting the mode dial. Through this mode those new to DSLR photography can work through the Guide screens, which contain detailed explanations of the various settings and options, to find the exact settings and features they want to use.

The Guide mode is better than a simple Help mode because it not only explains the camera's features, but it also allows you to make changes to the camera's settings from the same screens where you're also learning more about the settings. I also felt like the Guide mode screens were more smartly organized than the camera's on-screen menus, which may make it easier to use the Guide mode to change certain settings versus using the traditional menus.

The only drawback to the Guide mode is the fact that Nikon didn't pair it with a touchscreen LCD. With the easy-to-understand design of the Guide mode's interface, it would've been great to have the option of using it with a touchscreen. The LCD isn't articulated either, and the D3300 doesn't have built-in Wi-Fi or GPS capabilities. Considering the low MSRP of the D3300 ($649.95 with an 18-55mm zoom kit lens), it probably shouldn't be a significant surprise that this camera doesn't have a lot of the latest add-on features though.

Even though the D3300's LCD is not a touchscreen model, it is a high quality screen, offering 921,000 pixels in a screen that measures 3.0 inches diagonally. If you use the screen quite a bit in Live View mode, you can expect to have inadequate battery life with the D3300. Nikon designed the D3300's battery a bit smaller than what you'd find with some other DSLR cameras, which helps to keep this model's overall weight down. Nikon estimates that this camera can record 700 photos on a single battery charge, but my tests showed that number is too high. You could approach 700 shots per charge if you only use Viewfinder mode and turn off the LCD most of the time, but this is not a realistic shooting situation for most people.

Nikon did include a separate battery charger and a USB cable with the D3300, which are handy components to have available.

Bottom Line - The Nikon D3300 is a pretty impressive entry-level DSLR camera, providing those new to this type of advanced photography a great mix of easy-to-use automatic features and manual control features. This camera is a nice model for less experienced photographers, because you can pick it up and begin using it successfully immediately. It also can help you learn more about photography, and it has enough advanced features to allow you to put your steadily improving skills to work well into the future. The D3300's Guide mode is one of the better features I've seen on a DSLR camera for helping beginners figure out how to use this type of advanced camera. The D3300 compares very favorably to other entry-level DSLR models, producing above average image quality, while also performing fast in Viewfinder mode. If you're someone who needs the latest features in your camera though, you're going to be a bit disappointed with the D3300. Nikon chose to keep this camera's design extremely basic, as there's no built-in Wi-Fi, no built-in GPS, no touchscreen, and no articulated LCD. The lack of those features does keep the starting price of the D3300 low. Battery life could be better and more experienced photographers will bemoan the D3300's lack of anything beyond a basic set of advanced shooting controls, but the Nikon D3300 is a really nice option for those who want to migrate from a point-n-shoot camera to DSLR photography while receiving a good value on their new hardware.

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