Nikon D3300

Its re­tractable lens is its stand­out fea­ture, but Amy Davies finds lots to love in Nikon’s new en­try-level D-SLR

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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.

Top per­former

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.

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