Its retractable lens is its standout feature, but Amy Davies finds lots to love in Nikon’s new entry-level D-SLR
Proving that good things really do come in small packages, we test Nikon’s new entry-level D-SLR and its collapsible lens
We were big fans of both the D3200 and the D3100, so we had high hopes that the D3300 would continue this impressive beginner line-up. Nikon entry-level cameras offer a lot for the cash, and the D3300 is no different.
At first glance, the D3300 has a lot of similarities to the D3200 (see p93), which Nikon is continuing to make. Most notably, its sensor has the same 24.2 million-pixel count as the D3200, but it lacks the optical low-pass filter and should therefore capture sharper, more detailed images.
Removing the anti-aliasing filter is something we’ve seen only on professional- and enthusiast-level cameras until now. It increases the chance of moiré patterning appearing on some images, usually when you photograph something with repeating or close patterns. It also increases the risk of noise in shots. Enthusiasts and pros won’t have any problems removing this in post-processing, but it’s interesting that Nikon should choose this design for an entry-level model, for customers who are less likely to use image-editing software to perform such a task.
As expected, the D3300 is excellent at resolving detail, performing better than its predecessor in our resolution test. Zooming in to 100% reveals that very fine details can be seen, while our labs charts indicate that the D3300 favours detail reproduction over noise reduction, something which is borne out in real-world shots, but not to the extent that shots become unacceptably noisy. Noise only becomes particularly apparent when shooting at ISO3200 or above, and even then it’s acceptable, or certainly preferable to a blurred or missed shot. We’ve not come across any examples of moiré patterning when shooting stills, either, suggesting Nikon’s claim that the lack of an anti-alising filter presents less of a problem for cameras with a high pixel count is accurate. The D3300, like the D3200, handles low-light, high-sensitivity situations very well.
Image smoothing can be seen all through the sensitivity run, but at the lower end of the spectrum it’s not very noticeable – you only really notice it when examining images very closely at 100%. When printing at normal sizes, such as A4, or sharing online, which are the things most people buying this camera will do, it doesn’t present a problem.
One of the benefits of having a large pixel count is the ability to crop images yet retain a high resolution. This is something to bear in mind if you’ve been shooting at a high sensitivity and want to crop an image – any image smoothing or noise may be more apparent the more you crop.
The fab 4
The D3300 has Nikon’s most recent processing engine, Expeed 4, like
The D3300 is excellent at resolving detail… Noise only becomes particularly apparent when shooting at ISO3200 or above
the D5300 (reviewed on p97) and the D4s (previewed on p84). This allows it to shoot continuously at a maximum rate of 5fps of up to 100 fine-quality JPEGs. In addition, the native sensitivity range runs from ISO100 to 12800 and there’s an expansion setting that takes it to the equivalent of ISO25600.
The Expeed 4 processing engine also enables the D3300 to record Full HD movie footage at frame rates up to 50p/60p and with continuous autofocus. There’s a microphone port as well as a built-in stereo mic for better sound recording.
Like the D3200, the D3300 has a three-inch LCD screen with 921,000 dots. This is a fixed unit, and Nikon is still resisting the urge to join the touchscreen revolution, which is disappointing given how many of the settings are changed via the screen.
Nikon has improved the user interface (and the Guide Mode) to give it more functionality. It has a pleasingly modern appearance. When shooting, the camera displays three circles which represent shutter speed, aperture and sensitivity (ISO). These change as you make settings changes using the scrolling dials, most obvious being the aperture circle, which closes and opens to represent the opening and closing of the aperture blades.
The D3300 has a dedicated 420-pixel RGB sensor to gather exposure, White Balance and focus information to inform the Automatic Scene Recognition system. Meanwhile, there’s an 11-point AF system, which has a central crosstype AF point for extra sensitivity.
In everyday conditions, allpurpose metering does a good job of producing accurate exposures. However, the camera can get confused if you’re shooting something with high contrast, such as a bright sign in an otherwise dark condition. Switching to spot metering or dialling
in some exposure compensation helps to reduce this. If you shoot in RAW, you’ve also got the option to alter the exposure in post-production.
Similarly, automatic White Balance is impressive, producing accurate colours even while shooting indoors. The only time we had to change the automatic setting was when shooting a row of red outdoor lights, when the camera produced a slightly colder colour than we would have liked. Otherwise, shooting under normal household artificial lights produces images which are close to accurate.
Autofocusing speeds are pretty quick, especially in well-lit conditions. It’s rare for the lens to hunt around to acquire focus, and rarer still for it to present a false confirmation of focus. Speeds do drop in lower light, but it’s only when it gets very dark that the lens struggles to focus at all. It’s worth bearing in mind that focusing speeds drop significantly when using Live View, so it’s only recommended you use that if you’re shooting something stationary, or you’re shooting from an awkward angle and can’t use the viewfinder. Changing the AF point is simple. All you’ll need to do is press the directional arrow keys to move around to the point you need.
Finally, although the D3300 uses the same battery as the D3200 the new processing engine allows the camera to be more efficient in its power consumption. After a day of shooting, checking images and then scrolling through saved images, the battery life indicator on the one we tested hadn’t even dropped a single bar. Nikon’s claim of around 700 shots per charge seems about accurate, and makes the D3300 an excellent camera for holidays, family outings and other times where you don’t want to worry about conserving the battery life.