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Nikon D3300 Review

Nikon D3300 Review
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Review / 09/03/2014
Author: Photoleet avatarPhotoleet
recommendations 1, rating 4


 

BODY

 

From designers’ point of view, the body of the Nikon D3300 follows the trend set earlier by this manufacturer, which we are already familiar with. The characteristic contours and arrangement of controls have already become recognizable in this class of Nikon DSLRs, so it is no wonder that the ‘youngest shot’ of the class of ‘input’ models displays the same array. In the last few years, the classic plastic case has given way to a sophisticated monocoque structure, whose base is composed of composite materials, mainly carbon fiber, behind which is a sporadic structure made of a light alloy, mostly of aluminum. The Nikon D3300 also displays such a platform, which is intended for higher quality and smaller weight, and is not intended to spare the material. The composite materials represent everything but an aspect to economize on. Readers with a sharp eye will notice another design exhibition, which we have even got used to in the last couple of years – the well-known red ‘eye-brow’, which is located at the top of the handle, experienced visual design yet again. What kind of story is hiding behind these esthetical actions we do not know yet, but it seems that Nikon has not found the final version of the story yet.

 

 

The robustness of this class of cameras, although pretty decent, is not conceived as something with which a photographer could head for inhospitable parts of the planet. Even though the manufacturer never states it, the composite base definitely brings considerably stronger resistance to potential falls of the camera, and even if no one plans to drop the camera on a hard surface, it is a fact that such things happen, so this change as well is not cosmetic. The average life of a curtain is estimated at about 100,000 actuations, which fits the average values of this class. The Nikon F-mount is physically compatible with most of the lenses that Nikon has produced so far, while complete functionality is reserved for more recent models (AF-S lenses with their own focus motor). A shortened list of supported lenses can be seen on the table below, and for more details we recommend that you consult the original manual, enclosed with the résumé of the review.

 

SENSOR, PROCESSOR, AND A FEW MORE THINGS

 

The Toshiba sensor, which obtruded itself on all the classes of the Nikon APS-C family of cameras, finally squeezed out the Sony APS-C even from the last, lowest class. Although there are no speculations in the public about changes regarding the business relationship between Nikon and Sony, it is evident that Nikon, as a relevant factor on the photographic scene, strives to maintain and even further tighten security, at the same time relaxing to the max any sort of dependence on only one supplier. If the truth be told, this way of the ‘relaxing’ at this moment seems more like completely turning to Toshiba as the main source of sensors, and moreover, the entire thing does function, judging from the models of the higher category, where Sony, after all, has its place in Nikon’s offer.

Let's recall: the sensor in question is a Toshiba CMOS sensor with the 3:2 aspect ratio and dimensions 23.5 x 15.6 mm, whose resolution is precisely 24 MP (6000 x 4000 pixels). The APS-C (Advanced Photo System type-C) format in this case stands for the 1.5x crop factor (DX, in Nikon’s terminology), which has to do with the field of view (the so-called FOV), i.e. the multiplying factor in relation to the full-frame sensor (i.e. 35mm Leica format). By multiplying the focal length indicated on the lens and the 1.5 multiplicator, we get a coverage roughly equivalent to that of a lens on the 35mm sensor. In other words, when the focal length of the kit lens, the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II, is multiplied bythe 1.5 crop factor, we get the situation in which the lens of the Nikon D3300 offers the field of view equivalent to a lens whose focal length is 27-82mm on the full-frame sensor (36 x 24 mm).

Even besides the change of the factory producing the sensor, the most striking difference has to do with the absence of the AA/LP (Anti-Aliasing / Low-Pass) filter, which results in this optical element being completely eliminated from the entire APS-C offer. For those less informed, this filter has got several roles, the most essential one of which is removing jaggedness between sharp transitions on photographs, as well as eliminating the moiré effect, which is a side effect produced during the formation of the bitmap from the Bayer sensor. A drastic increase of the resolution elegantly tackled the problems that we are already familiar with, which paved the way for additional improvement of the quality that the sensor can deliver, at the same time, however, not so much economizing during the phase of production.

 

 

24MP Toshiba CMOS without Anti-Aliasing filter*

 

There is also the integrated 12-bit A/D convertor, intended to remind us that the D3300 is still at the bottom of the market, and at the same to be a guidepost for more demanding buyers to direct them towards more serious (and of course – more expensive) models. Despite that, we can still expect from the Nikon D3300 tremendous efficiency of the key elements on which the formation of photographs depends, and in practice that almost definitely means a wide dynamic range and a deep tonal range.

In comparison to its predecessor, the ISO range has been expanded for one stop, so the basic range goes from ISO 100 to ISO 12800, while when expanded by means of software, it can reach the standard value of 25600. The ISO value control is possible in the steps of the entire aperture, and the AutoISO, which is the hallmark of Nikon cameras by the way, is a little ‘unbridled’ as a result of omitting the option for fine tuning of the automatic shutter releasing speed in relation to the currently used focal length. As this is not of key importance on this type of camera, we believe that criticisms (at least with regard to this topic) are not justifiable.

The main processor has been improved into the current version – Expeed 4 – which brings positive expectations with regard to the improved performances, new video possibilities and better total coordination of the subsystems within the camera. How much the performances have been improved is hard to judge without a detailed analysis, so we will leave that part aside for now, but when the video components are taken into account, everything is easy to perceive, at least from the technical point of view – in this aspect, the D3300 brings quite tangible improvements, at the level of what a model of somewhat higher class (the D5300) has provided us with recently. Hence, now the lowest class of Nikon offers slow motion possibilities in the highest resolution (1080p), which should not be disregarded by any means, even if there is a minimum possibility that a novice becomes interested in the video recording.

As in the case with other Nikon DLSRs, the D3300 is equipped with the system of automatic cleaning of dust from the sensor. The technology labeled ‘Integrated Dust Reduction System’ functions in a similar way as solutions of other manufacturers, and it includes a combination of areas with a different charge and low-pass filters, from which dust is removed by means of piezoelectric vibrations. Vibrations take place in four different frequencies, so in this way dust particles of different size are treated. Unless it is set otherwise, cleaning is started whenever a camera is switched on/off, and it can also be activated during the use of the camera, if one wishes. The presence of self-cleaning systems of many years’ standing in more or less all modern DSLRs indicates that this system helps maintain the cleanliness of the sensor (and not only sensor), and it can be combined with the Image Dust-off option of software dust removal, which, with the help of the Nikon Capture NX2 application (bought separately), maps the remaining dust particles and removes them from photos.

 

Proved to be effective – Nikon Integrated Dust Reduction System*

 

The light metering sensor is one of those features that are almost tragically disregarded in this class of Nikon DSLRs. Far from their functionality being low and the quality of the photos being brought into question because of that, but it is definitely high time it retired and gave way to a modern and more reliable subsystem.

This sensor is a 420-pixel RGB TTL sensor, which is we are familiar with from the several generations before this one, but also from higher classes of Nikon. Metering, apart from illumination on the whole frame and certain parts of it, also encompasses tonality, as well as saturation regarding the color channels. There are three metering modes. The most used one, the Matrix, is available in two forms. The primary one, labeled ‘3D Color Matrix Metering II’, performs metering by virtue of all the three color channels, sampling reflected light from the entire frame, after which average is calculated, bearing in mind the tonality, presence of colors, and, in combination with the D and G lenses, the distance on which light is metered as well, which results in a particular part of the frame obtaining ‘the brunt’ when determining the correct exposure. In the case of using electronic lenses outside the D and G class, the Color Matrix Metering II is used (without the prefix 3D and the possibility of determining the distance). The center-weighted metering also meters the entire frame, but lays stress on the central part of the frame (8mm), which is why it is the favorite one when shooting portraits comes into question. The last metering mode is Spot. This mode places emphasis on a very narrow circle of only 3.5mm in diameter (2.5% of the frame area), with the center in a currently selected focus point, which is why it is used in situations where it is necessary to determine a specific exposure length of the focused subject, regardless of the exposure of the rest of the frame. Of course, the light meter is in charge of metering the needed intensities of the flash, when it is used in the i-TTL mode.

 

480-pixel TTL RGB light metering sensor*

 

AUTO-FOCUS

 

The auto-focus system is once again based on the Multi-CAM1000, phase AF sensor with 11 points, the central of which is cross-type.

 

Already proven – Multi-CAM1000 TTL, AF module with 11 points, the central of which is cross-type*

 

The 11 AF points cover the most important part of the frame, and the central one is cross-type. The cross-type AF point marks the AF field that is covered with two diagonal points that form an angle of 90 degrees, thanks to which much greater sensitivity is achieved, and at the same time a greater accuracy of the focus. The arrangement of the points can be seen in the illustration below:

 

Arrangement of the 11 AF points

 

There are three modes of focus and they are standard for Nikon cameras: the AF-S (Single-Servo AF) is the most used mode, by which focusing is conducted in a one-shot manner, with one point or a set of points assigned in advance; the AF-C (Continuous-Servo AF) is a mode by which the focus is permanently corrected in relation to the subject, i.e. in relation to its distance and position in accordance with a selected AF point or a group of points, and as such – it is used to track a moving subject; the AF-A (Auto-Servo AF) represents a hybrid of the previous two modes, and after initial focusing, it switches into a continuous focus mode, in case of the distance change of a selected subject. Except for these modes of auto-focus, one has at its disposal (of course) manual focusing, supported by an integrated rangefinder, whose services provide more precise manual focusing, and it is active at apertures of f/5.6 and higher, of course – at any of the 11 AF points that can be selected.

There are four auto-focus methods that are used in combination with the said AF modes. They have to do with a number and type of the AF points selection. The single-point AF is the most basic, but traditionally the most reliable variant, since the photographer keeps the full control over the moment of focusing and the selected point. It is available in all the focus modes:

 

Single-point AF, focusing with one selected point

 

The second method, the Dynamic-area AF, represents a form of focusing mostly intended for tracking a moving subject, when the brunt is maintained on the previously selected point, and the surrounding points help in recognizing and keeping the focus on the selected subject. In the same way, it can help when focusing is conducted on uniform areas - then the four side points (not marked in the viewfinder) will help in situations in which the central point cannot confirm the focus. In case the previously selected subject gets out of the ‘view’ of the selected AF point, the surrounding points will take over the role and keep the focus on the subject, thus helping the tracking of a more dynamic movement:

 

Dynamic-area AF, the focus area with additional points

 

In systematic terms, the 3D-Tracking is the most complex form of auto-focus, as it includes the maximum ‘concentration’ of the two key systems in the camera – the auto-focus system and the metering system. This is a focus mode by means of which, after initial setting of the subject (i.e. the focus point), the subject is dynamically (in all the three axes) tracked in the frame by automatically changing the active AF point as long as the subject is kept within the marked focus area. Coordination is permanently conducted between the AF sensor and the light metering sensor, which analyzes the tonality, color and illumination of the selected subject, so based on the obtained information, it indicates the position of the subject to the AF system and predicts movement. If the sybject temporarily ‘leaves’ the focus area owing to a slow reaction of the photographer, all that needs to be done is to set the subject once again. As it was expected, the 3D-Tracking is available only in the continuous mode of tracking (the AF-C) and the Auto-Servo mode (AF-A), while tracking is conducted by using all the 11 points:

 

3D-tracking, automatic tracking of the subject in space with a dynamic change of the points



The last mode of focus is in fact the first on the list, if we take into account the fact that all the manufacturers, without exception, set it as the default one – the Auto-area AF is a true example why key decisions about managing the subsystems should not be left for the camera to make as it will select the subject at its discretion, usually the subject that is closest to the frame. It is available in all the modes of focus. The Auto-servo mode firstly sets the focus in relation to the subject selected on its own, and only after a potential distance change it switches to a form of the 3D Tracking, while the tracked subject usually has nothing to do with what the photographer wants.

 

Auto-area AF, an entirely automatic selection using all the AF points

 

A regular item that has to do with the auto-focus on Nikon cameras ia a solid AF-Assist lamp, whose additional lighting improves sharpness in conditions of bad light. Its intensity and performance cannot be compared to the AF-Assist lamp of the flashgun, but it will be enough for the majority of situations that the camera can handle without additional lighting. With regard to its specifications, it is the most effective for the focal length of 18–200mm, with the focus on the central point, and its ‘throw’ ranges from 0.5 to 3 m (for the lowest ‘throw’ it is necessary to take the hood off the lens).  The AF-Assist can be switched off in the settings, and it cannot be used along with the manual or continuous focus.

Although by definition the manual focus does not belong to the auto-focus mode, it uses some of its services, and it is assisted by the rangefinder function that can be turned on. This option offers the possibility to achieve a very precise focus on the desired subject, and aside from the regular point in the left corner of the viewfinder, which indicates the confirmed focus, it has at its disposal a special graphic display of the position of the focus in relation to the set goal, which even Nikons of the highest class do not have at its disposal. This option helps largely during manual focusing, and the reason for its presence only in the cameras of the lowest class should be looked for primarily in the fact that the lowest class does not possess a built-in motor/screwdriver, so for the greatest number of older lenses, manual focusing is necessary. How the rangefinder function operates in practice can be seen in the following illustration:

 

Manual focusing assisted by the rangefinder function

 

VIEWFINDER

 

The viewfinder is optical, based on the pentaprism, which is why it is somewhat darker than the ones that characterize more expensive (and bigger) cameras. The coverage is 95% of the frame, and the degree of magnification is 0.85x, according to which this viewfinder is a little better in comparison to the predecessor. The eye-point, i.e. the most distant point from which one can see the entire frame through the viewfinder, is 18mm, which in a number of cases enables the use of the viewfinder without taking off one’s glasses. In addition, by means of a small dial next to the viewfinder, the diopter regulation can be conducted within the range of -1.7 and +0.5m-1.

The focal plane is unchangeable and bears the archaic name Type B BrightView Clear Matte Screen Mark VII, and it is characterized by framed, engraved AF points, which are always visible in the viewfinder and are marked in red after selecting and/or successful focusing. What it looks like in practice can be seen in the illustration below:

 

Nikona D3300 optical viewfinder

 

The volume of information in the viewfinder encompasses virtually everything that you might need, and it is comparable with what can be encountered on bigger and more expensive cameras. From left to right, there are: the focus confirmation indicator, the locked exposure indicator (AE-Lock), the flexible-program indicator (in the Programmed Auto mode), the exposure length, the aperture, the light metering scale with a range of ±2EV and the rangefinder in the manual focus mode, the effects activation indicator, the indicator of flash power compensation, the empty battery signal, the exposure compensation indicator, the AutoISO option indicator (or depending on the current status of the camera, the number of the shots remaining, or the intensity of flash power compensation), the flash readiness indicator, and the warning indicator.

 

CONTROLS AND OTHER DETAILS

 

If we ignore the label on the right side of the body, the Nikon D3300 is very difficult to differentiate from its predecessors. This is understandable due to the fact that all manufacturers stick to their own arrangement of controls, which only sporadically adjusts to new needs. A trained eye can notice something different, sharper lines of the design and the already mentioned restylization of the red ‘eyebrow’, but if we put that aside for a moment, the majority of the other controls have remained intact.

 

 

The front side is typically ‘Nikonian’ – the dominant, central position is occupied by the Nikon F-mount, and to its left is a grip of medium depth. It is coated with soft, textured rubber, which provides a better grip and safer holding in case there is a more massive object on the camera. In its middle is a front IR (infrared) receiver, by means of which the camera receives signal for releasing via a wireless shutter, while in the upper part of the space between the F-mount and the grip there is a fairly large AF-Assist lamp, with which the camera assists focusing when light is poor. The right side contains three buttons. Right next to the mount is a big button by which the lens is detached in order to be removed from the body, while a little higher there are a programmable Fn button and a button for activating the built-in (pop-up) flash. The Fn button can be set to perform one of several different functions, and the default one will remain the only known one for many users, and that is setting ISO values. We have stated it for a number of times, but it would never hurt to criticize, so we will repeat once again that concerning this the lowest class of Nikon beats a number of more expensive cameras, not only within the same brand, but also outside it. Namely, when you hold the camera as it is supposed to be held, the thumb of the left hand will naturally be positioned exactly on this button. Since the ISO control is used quite often, it can be said that Nikon could have copied freely from itself and offer a similar solution to the cameras such as the D4s, D800, D610 and D7100.

A button for the activation of the built-in flash has a dual purpose. After the flash is activated, defining flash power compensation is performed with the same control, so in that way the ergonomics becomes even more efficient; thus, with only a small number of buttons it is possible to achieve a very precise control. Unfortunately, as it will later turn out, Nikon took saw to it that this class remained deprived of some better solutions, but that’s the way it is.

Right below the label, there is a discreet mono microphone, intended for recording sound in the video mode.

 

 

The upper side belongs to the classical ones as well. The central position is occupied by the pentaprism housing, above which is the built-in flash, while a little towards the back, towards the viewfinder, there is an ISO-518 hot shoe. To the right from the pentaprism are located all the controls that exist on the upper side of the camera. The most noticeable is the mode selector with its 14 positions. Except for the classic Full-auto mode, marked with a green symbol, there are two more completely automatic modes. One is Flash-off, which leaves out the flash, regardless of the light, and the other is the so-called Guide mode, which is intended for the first contact with the camera, but also for using the camera for a longer period of time, provided the owner does not express the desire to grapple with the problems of the complete control over the photograph. In addition, there are four well-known creative modes, whose implementation is identical on all cameras: Manual (M), Aperture Priority (A), Shutter Priority (S) and Programmed Auto (P). There are six scene modes located on the selector, which are aimed at laymen: Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close-up and Night Portrait; what is more, the position Effects is also offered, and it groups graphic effects in order for unique photographs to be obtained, which are processed in real time, during the process of photographing. Apart from those artistic stunts because of which cameras more and more resemble cell phones, the Effects position also offers a potentially useful one – Easy Panorama, by means of which one can achieve simple panoramic photographs without the need to know how to use some specialized software. Obviously, the results obtained in that way cannot be compared to what is obtained with serious tools, but for less demanding users, this can be fun, if nothing else.

 

 

Right next to the mode selector is a miniature mono speaker, which emits the sound of the focus confirmation, signals delayed releasing or emits an audio from a video recording. On the top of the grip, there are as many as five controls. The most important of all – a two-level shutter button – is located in the center of the rotary switch by which the camera is turned on/off, which is a solution we are used to with Nikon cameras. Right behind it there are three more controls. Marked with a red dot is a control used to start and stop video recording, which we direct a criticism to because of the inability to be mapped on some other control. It is very probable that some users will never reach for the video mode, and an additional button could be used quite efficiently, if that was possible. The button in the middle is used to switch on/off the main display, i.e. to change the set of displayed parameters in the live view mode, while the last, the rightmost one, is used to set the aperture, i.e. exposure compensation, depending on the currently selected mode.

 

 

The rear side is also very similar to already seen arrangements of controls. The central position is occupied by the main display, and above it is the viewfinder. To the left from the viewfinder is the second of the two IR receiver (once again – well done, Nikon!), while to the right is the AE-L/AF-L control for locking the metered exposure or the flash power, provided that it is active. A little more to the right, in the top right corner, is the control dial, whose function depends on the currently selected mode, and it is mostly used to set the exposure or aperture. In the preview mode, it can be used to navigate among the images, too.

To the left from the display is a string of five controls. From top to bottom, they are as follows: Playback, a control by which the camera is switched to the preview mode; Menu, by which one enters the menu system; Zoom-In, which is used to zoom in what is covered by the camera, both in the LV mode and in the preview mode; Zoom-Out, which performs the function opposite to the previous button, and while navigating through the menu, it is used to activate the interactive system aimed to help users. The last button in the string, marked with the letter i, is used to activate the Information Display, functions of the display and interactive managing of the basic recording parameters. To the right from the display there are several more controls. The most noticeable one is an eight directions switch, by means of which one navigates through the menu system, selects parameters and things like that. In its center is the OK button, whose purpose is self-evident – it is used to confirm the selection. Except for everything that has been listed, these two controls are also used to directly change the active AF points during photographing, which enables more comfortable work, without the need to find new ways to change hectically the AF points, which, for instance, occurs with smaller Canon DSLRs. Above the eight directions multifunctional control, there is only one button – the LV. Its only purpose is to provide switching from the classic to the LV mode, and the other way around. Below it is a control for selecting the release mode, which once more reminds us of Nikon’s habit of not being able to hold still when new solutions come into question. In any case, it is shameful that Nikon still insists on the idea that the release mode does not need permanent setting – no matter how many times you switch it from the single release mode to the mode of delayed release, the camera will manage to memorize the selected setting for only one release. After that, you will have to press this control once again, then to select the desired mode with the cursor buttons, and after releasing, to go through the same procedure yet again. In comparison to many other (non)functionalities on today’s cameras, this one simply cannot be considered a failure, but obviously a planned trick with the aim of boosting the sale of more expensive models. The last control has only one purpose, and that is to delete already taken photographs. We are not entirely happy with this Nikon’s practice which requires pressing this button for only two times in a row so as to confirm the deletion, which in some cases can lead to unwanted deletion.

 

MEMORY

 

The memory card slot is located on the standard position, on the right end of the camera, within the grip. The design is solid, and the lid seems a little firmer than before. It supports all the versions and revisions of the Secure Digital (SD) standard, which, apart from the original one, includes the SDHC and the SDXC, but also the increasingly popular Eye-Fi type of memory card, which provides wireless transfer of images to compatible devices (the Wi-Fi communication standard). Of course, the quickest UHS-I subvariant is supported as well.

 

SD memory slots compartment

 

The requirements regarding the video capacity of the card are similar to the ones on the previous model since the sensor resolution is identical. Therefore, on a card with a capacity of 8 GB, there can be stored around 400 RAW, 790 JPEG or 270 RAW + JPEG images on average, of the maximum quality and highest resolution (RAW + JPEG Large/Fine). As always, an average storage can vary depending on the conditions, but the content of images, too.

The video segment is much more demanding, so a little less than an hour of material in the Full HD (1080p) resolution at 30 fps can be stored on a card of the same capacity, i.e. almost twice as less if video recording takes place at the maximum 60 fps. As in the case of photographs, in the video mode the requirements also depend on the content and conditions in which the recording takes place. Poorer light requires greater sensitivity of the sensor, which affects the appearance of noise, and as we already know – noise badly affects the efficiency of the recording compression. When the speed requirements are taken into consideration, both the photographic and video modes officially require cards of at least the class 6, although we would rather stick to the class 10 for video recording, as surprises can cost dearly if the card cannot follow the dynamics of the recording at some critical point.

 

BATTERY

 

Just as with the most expensive D5300, the battery on the D3300 is improved in comparison to the previous model. It is vertically compatible with the previous one and it obtained the suffix ‘a’, so the full name is EN-EL14a. The change did not only take place regarding the nomenclature, despite the fact that the same charger is used. Now the battery operates at a slightly lower nominal charge, which totals 7.2V, and that is accompanied with a greater capacity of 1230 mAh, which directly means greater battery autonomy. According to the CIPA (Camera & Imaging Products Association) standards, the Nikon D3300 can provide 700 images without recharging, which makes this class even more economical.

 

MH-24 charger with the improved EN-EL14a Li-Ion battery

 

As with all other DSLRs, the rules of economy by means of which one can achieve better results of the battery duration apply to the D3300 as well, so if you economize on the use of the built-in flash and the main display, you can pull off as many as 900 images! The video recording (as in the case of the memory card) is a lot more demanding, so because of the forced use of the display, as well as the sensor, the battery can run out completely after about one hour of continuous video recording.

 

CONNECTORS

 

On the left end of the camera, below two rubber lids, the connectors are located. There are four of them and they are positioned vertically. Below the upper lid, there is a combined connector for additions and the remote control, as well as a stereo microphone input, intended for audio recording in the video mode. It supports all types of passive microphones.

The lower rubber lid hides two more connectors. The first is a combined USB/AV-Out connector, by means of which the camera can be connected to a computer in order for images to be transferred or with the aim of remote shooting via a specialized application, while via the AV-Out cable the ‘live view’ can be transferred to an external video device or images can be reviewed directly from the camera. The mini-HDMI is in fact a digital version of the audio/video output, and aside from the ordinary preview of taken images on a big external display, it can be also used for the ‘live view’ (hereafter, the LV). If the big external display is an HDMI-CEC compatible TV, via the remote control it is possible to perform basic control during the preview.

 

Connectors, from top to bottom: stereo microphone input, combined USB-A/V output, accessory/remote connector i mini-HDMI

 

DISPLAY

 

In addition to erasing the greatest differences between the models D3300 and D5300 regarding the sensor, some items had to remain exclusive to the more expensive model. This refers to the display, which still features the 4:3 aspect ratio on the D3300. It is a display with the resolution of 921,000 dots, which is the same as the one that characterized the D3200. In spite of that, qualitatively speaking, the display is not completely the same as the angle of view has been improved, and it is now rated to be 170°, and what is more, it works much better when the light is stronger. A long time ago, the fidelity of what is presented on the display was brought to such a level that it can be trusted. Perhaps still not down to the tiniest detail, but quite enough that it is possible to evaluate what the color is like, as well as whether the focus is on the right spot.

 

 

The absence of the status display on the cameras of this class resulted in the main display becoming a quite satisfactory substitute. Since the resolution is much higher and the available space much larger, and at the same time its position on the body much more favorable (particularly when the camera is positioned at the eye level), the main display performs the function of the status one exceptionally well, yet with certain flaws that have to do with evidently poorer visibility in situations of too strong light, as well as significantly lower autonomy of the camera, because of the consumption that is generated by the permanent use of the main display.

The display encompasses the Information Display (as Nikon calls it) and it is offered in two variants – classical and graphic – with three color themes for each of them. The organization of the basic parameters slightly differs, but their number is practically equal:

 

Display of the basic parameters on the Information Display, in day and night conditions

 

The displayed information covers the current mode of work, the basic parameters such as the aperture, exposure, ISO values and light metering scale with a range of ±2EV. In addition to them, the Information Display in the basic form offers the following: the indicators of the Active D-Lighting function, the indicator of the active color style, the release mode, the beeper indicator, the battery indicator, the graphic display of the selected AF point, the indicator of the Auto-ISO option, the number of images remaining that can be stored on the memory card with the currently selected quality, the indicator of the flash power compensation, i.e. of the manual work with it, the indicators of the GPS and the Eye-Fi connection, the current auto-focus mode. The entire lower part of the screen contains options that are directly accessed by pressing the Information Edit control marked with the letter i, so in that way they can be interactively controlled, with no need to move through the menu system. The controls offered are the following: the video recording quality, the white balance (WB), the ISO sensitivity, the focus mode, the metering mode, the flash mode and its compensation, the exposure compensation.

 

LIVE VIEW

 

With the video recording growing more popular, the interest for the live view mode (hereafter, LV) has grown as well. Today, the LV represents a quite regular function on modern DSLRs, although it never gained that level of popularity as is the case with compact cameras or (in the last few years) on the so-called mirrorless (MILC) cameras. If we leave aside the fact that the conception of the DSLR as such includes the optical viewfinder, it is clear that that is one of the reasons. The other one is much more significant, and it has to do with the dimensions and shape that DSLRs usually have. Namely, owing to an appreciably large difference in weight, DSLRs are almost impossible to use in the same manner as compact cameras, which includes positioning the camera at the eye level, with one’s arms extended, with arbitrary focus, due to insufficient stability, a lack of faster auto-focus on most DSLRs and accompanying lenses. Finally, the work in the LV as such is much slower, releasing is carried out with certain delay, so that should also be taken into account. Nonetheless, the usability of this function on DSLRs is not brought into question, and it is vital to stress that the way of work is completely different. On this account, the LV on DSLRs is used mainly when the camera is positioned on a tripod, and recently during video recording, where it becomes a crucial link between the user and what the camera ‘sees’.

The specificity of the LV mode is the auto-focus of the ‘contrast’ type (Contrast Detection Auto-Focus; hereafter CDAF). It is a type of focus where the phase AF sensor is not used for sharpening, but focus is determined by measuring contrast between the adjacent areas in the frame that are colored differently, by ‘moving’ the focus area to and fro until the sharpest transitions are obtained in the selected area. This is where the name ‘contrast focus’ comes from. This type of focusing, in addition to some obvious advantages, such as high precision, is characterized by some flaws, the most critical of which are weaker performances in situations with poor light, but also reduced speed, which is why it is not appropriate to be used with dynamic scenes. The CDAF has always been a wrong choice while tracking subjects. Nikon’s multiple attempts to solve this problem at last with the help of the Full-time Servo AF (AF-F) mode of focus did not prove much successful, so in order for the focus to be reliable, one still needs to rely on manual sharpening. Or simply go with static scenes.

In addition to the previously mentioned continuous mode, the LV mode is equipped with the AF-S (Single-Servo AF) mode of focus, and both of them can be used in four methods: the Normal-area AF is a classic CDAF method, whose focus area is very narrow, and it can be moved along the frame by using the joystick-button (‘teeter-totter’); the Wide-area AF is similar to the previous one regarding the way in which it operates, yet its focus area is much wider, thus it is suitable for frames that do not abound in subjects at a short distance; the Face-priority AF, just as the method of focusing on compact cameras bearing the same name, concentrates on giving priority to faces in the frame, based on the form and color; the last method is the Subject-tracking AF, which is the LV version of the quasi-continuous focus, and it functions in such a way that the subject that has been ‘captured’ is continuously followed along the frame, in the same way as the 3D-tracking focus of the phase system, except for the fact that sharpening is carried out only when the release has been pressed.

Manual sharpening brings by far the most accurate control of spreading depth sharpness, and it is available only in a few steps:

 

Magnification in the LV mode

 

Zooming in is carried out via labeled buttons, and the magnification reaches almost 1:1, which offers a completely new dimension to working with a tripod. Particularly when, for instance, macro photography is taken into account. At the same time, in this way it is possible to make up for the absence of the AF motor on older lenses, which will result in having at one’s disposal a much wider range of optics that can be used. The LV mode is supplied with most of the necessary information and parameters that have to do with taking photographs and recording videos, so that working with it would be more intuitive:

 

Display of the parameters in the LV mode

 

Moreover, there is a framing grid, which assists during the frame composing or the alignment in accordance with the desired geometric references:

 

Framing grid and the display of the Virtual Horizon in the LV mode

 

The list of criticisms did not change at all yet AGAIN! The fluidity of the display is satisfactory, until you force the magnification. Although the magnified display is pretty clear and sharp, owing to some unexplained reason, as if Nikon was not able to make the magnified display smoother, so with its 10-15 fps the display will resemble more some slide projection than the ‘live’ view. Even though this type of functioning repeats from one model to another, we were never completely sure what was going on in fact – was it a technical limitation or a deliberate ‘mutilation’ of the camera? Anyway, there are some more inexplicable items. One of them is almost traditional – the exposure simulation, i.e. a demonstration of the current parameters in real time, still functions in such a way that it makes the LV mode only slightly different from the optical viewfinder, so the display has to do very little with the final image. Besides, a change of parameters is not possible, although the display suggests otherwise, and in order to activate them, it will be necessary to abandon the LV mode and switch it on once again.

 

VIDEO

 

We must admit that we did not expect the Nikon D3300 to take over the video segment completely from the D5300. However, that was exactly what happened! Let's remind – the Nikon D5300 was the first to bring some changes into Nikon’s family of DSLRs that not only made it the best Nikon camera in that field, but it also outran rival cameras in some segments.

The new Expeed processor brings stronger performances, and thus a better video potential. In this way, the Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels) of the 16:9 aspect ratio is now available at the frame rates of 24/25/30/50 and 60 fps, and it is progressive. The lower HD resolution (1280 x 720) is available only at 50/60 fps, whereas the lowest one, VGA (640 x 424), can be recorded at 25/30 fps. Each of these resolutions can be recorded in two levels of quality: high and normal.

The video encoding is conducted in the MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) format and is placed into the MOV container, while the video recording is limited to 20 minutes per recording, independently of the selected resolution and frame rate. The audio recording is conducted at 16 bits, 24 KHz, in the Linear PCM format. The audio can be turned off or assigned to the built-in mono microphone, whose input signal (sensitivity) is continuously calibrated and adjusted to the conditions of the recording. As with all other DSLRs, the microphone is located inside the housing of the camera, inside and around which a whole range of mechanical processes takes place, so this can result in an audio recording with a lot of unwanted ‘parasitic’ sounds. Luckily, the 3.5mm connector for the external stereo microphone is still present, so for some more serious intentions, it will be possible to find a way around all problems with the audio component.

 

 

FLASH

 

The flash did not change fundamentally in comparison to the one implemented into the D3200. The guide number of the built-in flash is 12 at ISO 100, and it can be used in the completely automatic i-TTL or manual mode. The i-TTL, which is a Nikon’s famous algorithm for calculating the needed flash power, relies on the systematic 420-pixel light-metering sensor and it has always been a very reliable partner when it comes to working with the automatic flash. In the i-TTL mode, the allowed compensation is -3 - +1 stops in 1/3EV-stop increments, while the synchronization is provided up to the speed of 1/200s. The manual mode enables complete hand control of the power in the range of 1/1 to 1/32, while the guide number this time was kept at 12, which (we assume) was done with the aim of preventing the built-in flash from overheating. The built-in flash can operate at the first or the second curtain (in order to gain more light), and it also demonstrates the ability to reduce the red-eye effect.

The i-TTL support for flashguns is enabled for all compatible and i-TTL models, and Nikon’s models belonging to this group are all that are popular at the moment: the SB-400, the SB-600, the SB-700, the SB-800, the SB-900 and the SB-910. Apart from this mode, flashguns can be controlled in the manual mode - Auto-aperture (AA), Non-TTL Auto and Distance Priority. The Auto-aperture mode is limited only to some Nikon flashes (e.g. the SB-800 and the SB-900), and it enables the flash to set independently the needed flash power, at the same time interchanging information about the aperture with the camera. The Non-TTL Auto mode supports even some much older flashes, and it has to do with the way the flash functions, which is set by the flash itself by measuring the reflection from the desired subject, independently of the settings on the camera. And the Distance Priority mode can be used only with the SB-800 and the SB-900 models, and the flash power is set manually, by giving priority to the distance of the subject in relation to the set aperture.