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Nikon D3300 review: Solid compact DSLR for beginner and pro alike

Melissa J. Perenson | Oct. 15, 2014
A highly capable starter camera that produces great images and has one of the most friendly and intuitive interfaces we've seen.

That said, the D3300 is a capable camera that neither requires training wheels nor constrains you as you get more familiar with its operation. The eight-way rocker at the back of the camera (with a centered OK button) made quick work of navigating through menu options. At the left of the bright, high-resolution 3-inch LCD sits another five buttons, most of which are self-explanatory. (One, the I button, required some trial and error before I figured out that it moves among options adjustable on the on-screen display.)

The D3300's on-screen display is very visual, with a touch of old-school skeuomorphic graphics for depicting shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. The visuals don't get in the way much, and they provide a clean at-a-glance organization to what could easily become a cluttered-looking display. I liked that visual display, but some of these options--along with more advanced choices--are built into tabbed shooting menu, too.

Capture

The D3300 has 11-point auto-focus, which is decent but at times limited my options when composing shots; if you've ever tried more, this could seem more constraining than you'd expect. Once you enable the option in the camera's menus, changing auto-focus points is simple and fast, thanks to the aforementioned rocker switch.

Entering Live View mode for shooting is simple: Tap a dedicated button, just above the rocker and below the thumb rest. The rocker makes it reasonably fast and easy to adjust focus in Live View, since you can move the focus point on an angle, too. While we had a sense the focus locked in quickly, it was still sluggish enough that you might miss that celebratory reaction shot if you're depending upon split-second focus speed.

The D3300's capture speed is five frames per second--competitive for this class of cameras and faster than the Canon T5. That's enough for many fast-moving environments, such as sporting events.

At ISO 200, the D3300's images looked very good. In P mode, the camera tended to meter in a way that it captured slightly darker exposures than on some of its competitors. Nonetheless, images looked great, with pleasing and accurate colors and sharp detail when viewed at 100 percent. While Nikon is known for capturing images with minimal noise at high ISOs, beware just how far you'll want to push this model. As with other cameras in this class, images looked good up to ISO 800. By ISO 1600 you'd start seeing visible noise, and ISO 3200 and beyond became soft and noisy. Nikon rates its battery for about 600 shots.

Bottom line

The Nikon D3300 is a well-designed camera with a lot of hand-holding features that will appeal to enthusiasts and budding shooters alike.

 

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