Manufacturers generally update their entry-level cameras with greater frequency with those at the top of the line, since they're keen to capture that lucrative first-time buyer. Although these cameras are far cheaper than the professional ones at the top of the range, by snagging a customer at this stage in the buying cycle you're often guaranteed long-time loyalty in terms of buying accessories such as lenses, and eventually, a more advanced body.
Whenever I'm asked for an entry-level DSLR recommendation, those at the bottom of Nikon's range always spring to mind. The Nikon D3200, which I reviewed back in 2012 was an excellent performer and its easy handling made it the ideal choice for beginners.
The D3300 looks set to be another good choice for beginners. It offers the same 24.2 million-pixel count as the D3200, but omits the optical low-pass filter over the sensor and should therefore capture sharper, more detailed images.
Removing the anti-aliasing filter is something we've seen mainly on professional and enthusiast level cameras until now. Removing it increases the chance of moiré patterning appearing on some images – usually when you photograph something with repeating or close patterns. Enthusiasts and pros don't usually have a problem with removing such patterning in post-processing, but it's interesting that Nikon should choose this design for an entry-level model, or, customers who are less likely to use image-editing software to perform such tasks.
Nikon claims that a high pixel count, such as found on the D3300, almost eliminates the risk of such patterning occurring, so it will be interesting to see if we can find any examples of it in images straight from the camera.
Along with the sensor redesign, Nikon has also improved the user interface as well as the Guide Mode, to give it more functionality and make it a little cleaner in appearance.
Like the Nikon D5300, the D3300 has the manufacturer's latest generation processing engine: EXPEED 4. This allows the new camera to shoot continuously at a maximum rate of 5fps up to 100 fine quality JPEGs.
In addition, the native sensitivity range runs from ISO 100 to 12,800 and there's an expansion setting that takes it to the equivalent of ISO 25,600. Provided that noise is controlled to Nikon's usual standard, this should mean that the D3300 performs better in low light than its predecessor, making it more versatile.
The EXPEED 4 processing engine is also responsible for allowing the D3300 to record Full HD movie footage at framerates up to 50p/60p and with continuous autofocus. Helpfully, there's a microphone port as well as a built-in stereo mic for better sound recording during movie shooting.
Like the D5300, the D3200 has a Special Effects mode that allows a collection of styles to be applied to JPEG images and video. Nikon has boosted the list of effects to 13 and it now includes Pop, which increases colour saturation, Toy Camera, which creates a retro effect, and Easy Panorama. These effects can be previewed in real time on the LCD screen.
The D3300 has a dedicated 420-pixel RGB sensor to gather exposure, white balance and focus information to inform the Automatic Scene Recognition system. Meanwhile, there's an 11-point AF system, which has a central cross-type AF point for extra sensitivity.
Finally, although the D3300 uses the same battery as the D3200, we are told that the new processing engine allows the camera to be more efficient in its power consumption, and the battery is claimed to last for around 700 shots – we'll be keen to put that claim to the test during our review.