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Those new to the idea of DSLR photography have two options: Go all out in terms of gear, potentially spending a few thousand dollars, or look for a good model at the low-priced end of the market as a beginner camera. This Nikon D3300 review showcases a model that fits the latter description, though, despite that, it still made it into our best DSLR camera list for 2016. It offers good versatility in the areas that truly matter, especially with low light image quality and a great mix of automatic and manual control features.
If you’re still learning about photography, looking for the best DSLR camera for beginners is a good idea, allowing you to save some money, and the D3300 fits this description well. Nikon gave this model plenty of special effect features that are fun to use and an easy-to-use on-screen guide to help you adjust the settings properly. If you prefer a camera that lets you DIY your own setup, check out our Konstruktor F SLR camera review.
Summary: For an entry-level DSLR camera, the Nikon D3300 has versatile features for photographers of varying skill levels, allowing it to work well as both a simple camera in fully automatic mode and an intermediate DSLR using manual control shooting modes.
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Very versatile entry-level DSLR with a great price point too.
Price: $396.95 from Amazon
Available: April 2014
Model: Nikon D3300
What We Liked
What We Didn’t
The Nikon D3300 has each of the manual control features you’d expect to find in a DSLR camera, including Manual mode, Aperture Priority, or Shutter Priority, all on a mode dial. But for those new to DSLR photography, Nikon did a great job of including automatic, easy-to-use features with this camera too.
One feature aimed at those new to DSLR photography is the Nikon D3300’s Guide mode. The Guide explains the camera’s features on the screen as you activate them, and it even can help you make changes to the D3300’s settings when you want to perform certain tasks. This type of on-screen help mode simply isn’t found on advanced cameras or other DSLR cameras like the Nikon D5200, which makes the D3300 a great camera for inexperienced photographers, either those new to digital photography or those new to DSLR photography.
Related: If you like this camera for new photographers, you will enjoy checking out our Nikon D810 DSLR review.
As with most DSLR cameras, you can shoot in two modes with the D3300 — Live View and viewfinder modes. This Nikon model works fast when you’re in viewfinder mode, providing minimal shutter lag and shot-to-shot delays. But if you switch to Live View mode, where you frame the scene using the LCD screen as you would with one of the best point-and-shoot cameras, the shutter lag can be 1 second or more. Be prepared to be ticked off occasionally over this camera’s sluggishness in Live View mode when you miss a photo because of shutter lag or long shot-to-shot delays.
The D3300 also only offers an 11-point autofocus system, which ranks behind most other DSLR cameras and explains some of this camera’s slow performance in Live View mode.
When considering DSLR cameras, be sure to look at the Nikon D3300 against a Nikon D5300, where you’ll find the D5300 has a higher price point of almost $200. And the Nikon D3300 vs. D5300 comparison also shows that the D5300 has some desirable features, including a tiltable LCD screen and built-in WiFi. One way Nikon keeps the D3300 DSLR at a lower price point is by not offering those features.
Related: Do you want a good-quality DSLR camera at a good price? Take a look at our Nikon D3500 review for more information.
Nikon designed the D3300 DSLR around an APS-C image sensor – EXPEED 4 – with 24.2 megapixels of resolution, which results in very good image quality. The D3300’s image quality surpasses most of the models you’ll find in this price range.
Another feature of this model that leads to great image quality is that Nikon removed the anti-aliasing filter from the image sensor. Although you run the risk of seeing a moire pattern without an anti-aliasing filter, this is a rare problem with modern image sensors. So manufacturers are removing this filter more often to allow for sharper images, and it works well with the D3300.
When comparing the D3300 to a Nikon D5500 review, you’ll see both cameras have almost an identical image sensor, both in terms of physical size and in the number of megapixels of resolution, allowing the image quality of the two cameras to remain somewhat similar. But the D5500’s price point is nearly double that of the D3300, because it contains a host of extra features, such as a touchscreen LCD and a tilting LCD.
Some great lens options for the D3300 Nikon include the Nikon 18-55mm F 3.5-5.6 VR II lens, the Nikon 55-300mm F 4.5-5.6 VR lens, the Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6 VR II lens, and the Altura Photo 8mm F 3.0 lens.
Against comparable cameras, the Nikon D3300 DSLR works very well in low-light photography situations. With an ISO range of ISO 100-12,800, the D3000 performs well in low-light settings. Incorrect pixels (called noise) are minimal in dark scenes, whether you choose to use the D3300’s popup flash unit or to increase the ISO setting close to the camera’s maximum native setting of 12800. (An extended ISO setting of 25600 is available too, but it does provide quite a bit of noise.) You also can add an external flash to the camera’s hot shoe.
With full-time autofocus, the D3300’s movie/video recording capabilities are stronger than other entry-level DSLRs. You’ll have access to full HD recording with the Nikon D3300 at up to 60 frames per second, which is above-average performance against similarly priced models.
Battery life is one area where the D3300 easily wins a Nikon D3300 vs. Canon T5i comparison. Nikon estimates that the D3300 can record up to 700 photos per battery charge, whereas the T5i is rated for up to 440 shots per charge.
Keep in mind that those battery life estimates are primarily for using these DSLR cameras in viewfinder mode and not Live View mode. Testing shows that using Live View mode causes the battery life to be about half for the D3300 of what you’ll receive by using the camera primarily in viewfinder mode.
DSLR cameras can be expensive, especially when you add in the costs of extra gear beyond the camera body, such as lenses and flash units. So if you need a versatile DSLR camera at a low price point, the Nikon D3300 DSLR is a great option. The kit lens is surprisingly good and it provides 24.2 megapixels of resolution and very good image quality, which is great to find in a DSLR camera under $500. When matching this model against its predecessor, the Nikon D3300 vs. D3200 comparison shows the D3300 has longer battery life and better low-light image quality, both of which are desirable features. The D3300 has a good form factor and a slightly lighter camera body than the D3200 too, meaning those who own the older camera may find that an upgrade to the D3300 — which made our best DSLR cameras list — is a smart idea.