When the annual Consumer Electronics Show opened on January 6 in Las Vegas, Nikon watchers could be excused if their attention was focused at the top of the DSLR line: Nikon's flagship D4 had just been superseded by the virtually identical-appearing D4s.
Also announced on January 6 was the D3300, Nikon's entry-level model which at first blush appears virtually identical to the D3200. However, just as with the D4/D4s, the D3300 picks up a sensor that may be different from the D3200 (dimensions are slightly different and more significantly there is no anti-aliasing filter in the D3300) along with an EXPEED 4 processor. The new camera also gains an additional ISO step at the high end of the spectrum, a 1080/60p (or 50p) video capability and an additional frame per second on the continuous shooting rate.
Apart from the aforementioned changes, the D3300 comes in almost an ounce lighter than the older camera with slightly different dimensions: 4.9 x 3.9 x 3 inches versus 5 x 3.8 x 3.1 inches for the D3200. Both cameras share APS-C sized sensors at 24.2 megapixels of resolution--the sensor produces a 1.5x crop factor in 35mm equivalents. That resolution allows for some fairly aggressive cropping while still retaining excellent image quality: here's an original shot at 20 x 13.3 inches and 300 dots per inch along with an 18 x 12 inch crop at 240 dots per inch. Both images will make excellent prints that are virtually indistinguishable.
Fully compatible with Nikon AF-S/AF-I lenses and teleconverters, the D3300 accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC memory media in a single card slot. The camera is available in red, black, or gray bodies in kit form, paired with a newly designed and more compact AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II zoom lens. Here's a look at both ends of the focal length of the kit lens.
MSRP is $650 with at least one reputable Internet vendor discounting it all the way down to $647 as this is written. Nikon includes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and charger, A/V cable, rubber eyecup, camera strap, body cap, printed user's manual and View NX2 software with each camera. An optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter can take advantage of Wi-Fi connectivity for instant uploading of images and videos to a smart device for easy sharing through social networks. Users can also remotely control the D3300 using their smart device as a remote "Live View" monitor.
Build And Design
Externally, the D3300 appears a virtual twin to the D3200, with some slight contour changes to the body and a minor relocation of a couple buttons on the rear of the camera. The overall design is what you expect from a modern DSLR, which is to say a rounded rectangular form with a prominent handgrip and protruding pentaprism/built-in flash housing situated atop the body. Body construction is of composite materials with a metal lens mount and Nikon has managed to shave nearly 1 ounce of body weight compared to the D3200, apparently through the inclusion of carbon fiber. The camera is manufactured in Thailand and materials, fit and finish appear commensurate with the price point.
Ergonomics and Controls
The D3300 positions itself toward the smaller end of the DSLR size spectrum and folks with large hands may find it a bit small in use. With my average size hands, the little finger of my right hand has nowhere to go except curl under the camera body when handholding; my right index finger falls naturally onto the shutter button between the first and middle joints, requiring a conscious repositioning to merge the fingertip with the shutter button. There is ample room between the handgrip and lens barrel/base of the camera for handholding with the kit lens; I also shot the camera with Nikon 105 mm macro, 70-200, 50 and 10.5 mm fisheye lenses handheld with no problems. With the kit lens onboard the D3300 is a light and pleasant walking around setup (along with shorter lenses such as the 50 and the 10.5); longer and heavier lenses like the 105 and 70-200 tend to produce a somewhat nose heavy combination owing to the camera body's light weight.
Controls on the D3300 will be easily recognizable to any Nikon user and particularly someone used to the D3200. The upper right of the camera body features the mode dial; movie-record, information, and aperture/exposure compensation buttons along with the combination power on/off and shutter button.
The camera back includes the 3 inch monitor with replay, menu, enlarge, help and information buttons arrayed vertically to its left. To the monitor's right are a live view button, multi selector, release mode and delete buttons, also arrayed vertically. The upper right rear of the body houses the command dial and AE-L/AF-L button; a diopter adjustment control sits adjacent to the viewfinder. Flash deployment and function buttons are located just below the flash housing on the upper left side of the camera body, adjacent the lens mount.
Depending on the shooting mode, the info button on the camera back can provide access to camera settings such as image quality and size, white balance, flash, ISO, focus mode, autofocus area mode, metering mode, flash compensation, and exposure compensation. The full range of options is available in the manual or semiautomatic modes, but limited in fully automatic or scene modes.
Menus and Modes
Menus in the D3300 are simple and short, in keeping with the camera's entry-level DSLR status: a two-page playback menu, two-page shooting menu, four page setup menu, three page retouch menu and three-page recent settings menu. Some menu items may not be available depending on shooting mode.
The retouch menu is fairly expansive and offers a number of tools for image manipulation, such as D-lighting, redeye correction, RAW processing, resizing, quick retouch, distortion control and movie editing. Here's a look at a backlit shot of a meerkat along with the same shot after "quick retouch" applied in camera.
The View NX2 software provided with the camera also contains a browser, movie editor, RAW converter, D-lighting and image adjustments including exposure compensation, white balance, picture control, sharpness, contrast, brightness, highlight protection, shadow protection, color booster, a crop tool, straighten tool, auto redeye, axial color aberration and auto lateral color aberration.
Shooting modes are what you would expect from an entry-level DSLR, combining fully automatic "point and shoot" type options including scenes and a guide mode along with more traditional manual and semiautomatic settings.
The 3-inch monitor is fixed, has a 921,000 dot composition, is adjustable for 11 settings of brightness and offers a 160 degree viewing angle. As is typical with most camera monitors, outdoor use in bright conditions could be difficult for image capture/composition or review. Frame coverage is not specified but appears to be approximately 100%.
The viewfinder offers .85x magnification and 95% frame coverage--the latter figure meaning that there will be some materials/subjects slipping onto the edges of the frame that are not apparent through the viewfinder. There is a diopter adjustment to accommodate varying levels of eyesight and overall the viewfinder was pleasant to use in both bright in dim conditions.
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