Nikon D3300: Performance

by Jim Keenan Reads (1,349)
Editor's Rating
8.20

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 8
    • Features
    • 8
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 8
    • Expandability
    • 9
    • Total Score:
    • 8.20
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Shooting Performance

The D3300 starts promptly and capturing an initial shot was simply a matter of flipping on the power switch, acquiring focus and pressing the shutter. Single shots could be taken as quickly as you can re-acquire focus and shoot. There is a continuous high-speed shooting rate of up to 5 frames per second which produced 13 or 14 JPEG fine images before the shooting rate dropped off; RAW files are limited to 6 or 7 images. Write times for the JPEG images took about 10.5 seconds to completely clear the buffer using a 600x SDHC card; the RAW images took about 6 seconds. Write times using a 400x SDHC card were within a half second or so of the faster card for the JPEGs, but took an extra 1.5 seconds for the RAW files. Finally, I shot the camera with a class 10 SDHC (30 MBs) card–the camera managed 12 JPEGs before shooting slowed and the write time was 12 seconds; RAW write time was 9 seconds for 6 images.

The D3300 “easy panorama” option in the “effects” mode is just that – a panorama mode that offers a high probability of success when even handholding in the absence of a tripod.

The Multi CAM 1000 11 point autofocus system in the D3300 made its first appearance in the D200 around September, 2009–but don’t let that date fool you. The D200 was a fairly high performance prosumer camera for its time and the Multi CAM 1000 is still a very capable AF system. The D3300 acquired focus promptly in good conditions and it took fairly dark conditions to get the system to slow up a bit–the camera has a focus assist lamp with a range of about 10 feet. Photographing surfers on short boards is a fairly fast-paced operation, particularly when the subject does cutbacks or other quick maneuvers on a wave. Tracking the rider and board with continuous autofocus is a good test for any system and I mounted the D3300 on my 400/2.8 lens and headed for the beach as we got a couple days of larger surf along with decent weather. Here’s a couple shots pulled out of sequences using the D3300/400 combination–and yes, the guy is wearing a Go Pro camera on a headband.

The camera did quite well on everything I pointed at with the exception of hummingbirds in flight. Hummers are a tough capture even with the 51 point AF systems in my D300S and D3S, and I never managed to get a really sharp shot in flight with the D3300–although the birds seemed unusually skittish during my attempts. Suffice it to say if you’re trying to focus on anything other than a thumb-sized bird darting from here to there, the D3300 is up to the task.

Just as with the D3200, the D3300 has a flash guide number of 39 feet at 100 ISO which translates into a wide-angle flash range of about 11 feet with the kit lens, dropping to 6 or 7 feet at telephoto. The camera could take 4 or 5 consecutive flash pictures about every two seconds as the flash recycled, with recycle times beginning to lengthen after that point. Around 8 or 9 consecutive shots the recycle time increase dramatically–in fact, I would be willing to bet the camera shut down the flash for thermal concerns as the flash was hot to the touch. Nikon has built thermal protection into their Speedlights for some time now to prevent overzealous flash usage from damaging the tube and the D3300 acts similarly. So, memo to wedding photographers: get a Speedlight for your D3300.

The D3300 gets a more powerful EN-EL 14a battery with a 700 shot life compared to 540 for the D3200; D3200 owners will be delighted to know the new battery will fit your camera also. The 700 shot figure is based on a CIPA standard that involves 50% flash usage–with limited flash usage Nikon claims the D3300 can get up to 2000 shots per battery.

Lens Performance
The AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II zoom lens supplied with D3300 kits features a new, more compact design when stowed for traveling, stealing a page from the Nikon 1 10-30 mm zoom lens playbook: the lens barrel must be extended to shooting position by pressing a button and rotating the zoom collar. Here’s a closer look at the button in question.

But if you forget the camera will remind you…

While the new kit lens is a departure from the existing 18-55 VR in design, it retains some good points of the older lens, particularly a minimum focus distance of about 11 inches across the entire focal range. This minimum focus distance is from the subject to the sensor plane in the camera, not from the subject the front of the lens, so the D3300 has a fairly good close up capability without even resorting to a dedicated macro lens. I just happen to have a Nikon VR 105mm macro in my bag so here’s a couple shots of my wife’s turquoise squash blossom necklace – the rounded portion of the necklace is about 2 inches across.

Back to the kit lens, there’s a little bit of softness in the corners and edges at wide-angle, but otherwise the lens is fairly consistent across the frame. At telephoto the corners and edges are a little bit better than at wide-angle, with the rest of the frame staying consistent. There is some barrel distortion at wide-angle and just the faintest hint of pincushion at telephoto; the D3300 has an auto distortion setting that is enabled by default and makes short work of the distortions in the camera. Chromic aberration (purple fringing) was largely absent throughout the lens focal range – the new kit lens is a pretty decent performer as kit lenses go.

Overall construction of the lens is composite materials for both the lens barrel and mount; there are 11 elements in 8 groups. The lens is made in Thailand.

Video Quality
Video quality in the D3300 is quite good, just as it was in the D3200 – and the D3300 adds a more versatile full HD setting with a 60p frame rate in the NTSC format; a 50p frame rate comes onboard for shooting in the PAL format. There is continuous autofocus available in video capture – make sure you have “AF-F” set as your autofocus choice for live view – but in a post-Canon 70D video world anything less than a stellar continuous autofocus performance becomes merely average. The D3300 continuous AF is not bad, but there is a delay in acquiring focus when subject distances change, sometimes accompanied by hunting, a performance not unlike the great majority of video capable DSLRs. The camera is susceptible to recording both autofocus and stabilization noises when using the built in microphone but is equipped with a stereo jack for an external microphone. The built-in microphone may have it sound levels adjusted automatically, manually, or disabled altogether.

With a CMOS sensor the possibility of rolling shutter effect exists with exaggeratedly fast pans, but just as with the D3200 the D3300 minimizes this effect. The camera may shut down due to thermal considerations before either the 4GB maximum file size or maximum recording times are reached.

Image Quality
With a lot of pixels packed onto its APS-C sensor but lacking an anti-aliasing filter in the image capture pipeline, I was curious to see the D3300 end product. I increased sharpening in the camera to a setting of 8 (out of 9) and added an additional notch of contrast. It might slot into the entry level end of the Nikon DSLR lineup, but I was very impressed with the images coming out of this camera, particularly when paired with some pro-quality Nikon glass. Here are two more surf shots with the 400 mm lens – the first is a JPEG fine image and the second a RAW file converted to a JPEG.

Next, a pair from the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park with the 70-200/2.8 VRII; both images are as produced in camera with no additional sharpening applied in post processing.

I’m very seldom completely happy with JPEGs as they come out of the camera, even with additional sharpening and contrast dialed in, but the D3300 gave me a whole bunch of JPEGs that didn’t need any additional working.

As is typical with Nikon, the D3300 offers a palette of picture control shooting options: here are standard, vivid, landscape, portrait, neutral and monochrome versions.

STANDARD                                                                 VIVID

LANDSCAPE                                                          PORTRAIT

NEUTRAL                                                              B&W

Auto white balance was used for the majority of images captured for this review but the squash blossom shots use the incandescent white balance setting when auto seemed to shoot just a bit warm. There are also flash, fluorescent, direct sunlight, cloudy, shade and a preset manual option available.

Matrix metering is the default setting for the D3300 and was used for most images in this review. There are center weighted and spot metering options available. Matrix performed well on average scenes or scenes without a great deal of contrast, but the D3300 could lose some highlights in high contrast situations shooting in the P, A or S modes. You can enable an RGB histogram in the review menu to display with each shot, making fine tuning exposure in the manual mode a fairly simple proposition – M is my setting of choice for the constant high contrast situations presented in surf photography.

The D3300 comes with noise reduction enabled as a default setting and was used for the ISO comparison shots. 100, 200 and 400 are virtually indistinguishable under 100% pixel peeping, and after that there is a gradual but slight increase in graininess as sensitivities advanced through the 800, 1600, 3200 and 6400 levels. Looking at all these sensitivities in anything less than 100% enlargements and they all appear quite clean. The jump from 6400 to 12800 has proportionally largest increase in grain to this point, accompanied by just the faintest beginning of fading colors. 12800 to 25600 shows the greatest deterioration, with increased grain and the beginning of some color blotching – the problems with 25600 are apparent at less than 100% enlargements as well. Overall, the D3300 does quite well up to and including 6400 ISO, even under very close scrutiny.

ISO 100                                                                        ISO 200

ISO 400                                                                        ISO 800

ISO 1600                                                                        ISO 3200

ISO 6400                                                                        ISO 12800

ISO 25600

Additional Sample Images



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