We were big fans of both the D3200 and the D3100, so we had pretty high hopes that the D3300 would continue this impressive line-up. Nikon entry-level cameras offer a lot for the cash, and the D3300 is no different in that respect.
The big difference between this camera and its predecessor is the removal of the anti-aliasing filter, which has been done to improve detail resolution. As expected, the D3300 has excellent resolving power, zooming in to images to 100% reveals that very fine details can be seen. Happily, we've not come across any examples of moiré patterning when shooting stills, suggesting Nikon's claim that a high pixel count presents less of a problem for AA filter-less cameras is accurate.
Our labs data indicates that the camera performs better than its predecessors in our resolution test – you can see a full set of charts on the next page.
With such a high pixel count (24 million pixels), there comes the increased chance of noise appearing in images. The D3300, like the D3200, handles low light, high sensitivity situations very well. Noise only really starts to become particularly apparent when shooting at ISO 3200 above, and even then it's acceptable, or certainly preferable to a blurred or missed shot.
Examining images at 100% reveals that detail is kept well, while our lab charts indicate that the D3300 favours detail reproduction over noise reduction, something which is borne out in real world shots, but not to the extent that shots become unacceptably noisy. Again you can read in-depth analysis from our labs testing on the next pages.
Image smoothing is something that can be seen right the way through the sensitivity run, but at the lower end of the spectrum it's not particularly noticeable, only when examining images very closely at 100% does it become apparent. When printing at normal sizes, such as A4, or sharing online, it doesn't present a problem.
One of the benefits of having a large pixel count is the ability to crop images and still retain a decent resolution, but this is something to bear in mind if you've been shooting at a high sensitivity and want to crop an image. Any image smoothing or noise may become more apparent the more you crop the image.
In the majority of everyday shooting conditions, the D3300's general-purpose metering does a good job of producing accurate exposures. I did find, however, that the camera can get confused if you're shooting something with very high contrast – for instance a bright sign in otherwise dark conditions. It's not particularly surprising, and switching to spot metering or dialling in some exposure compensation helps to reduce this. If you shoot in raw, you've also got the option to alter the exposure in post-production, with raw format files containing plenty of detail for you to work with.
Automatic white balance is similarly impressive, managing to produce accurate colours even while shooting indoors. The only time I had to change from the automatic setting was when shooting a row of red outdoor lights, when the camera got a little confused and produced a slightly colder colour than I would have liked. Otherwise, shooting under normal household artificial lights produces images which are very close to accurate, hardly erring towards warm tones at all, which is excellent to see in a beginner camera.
Autofocusing speeds are pretty high, especially in daylight or well-lit conditions. It's rare for the kit lens to hunt around to acquire focus, and rarer still for it to present a false confirmation of focus. Speeds do drop a little in lower light conditions, but it's only when it gets very dark that the lens struggles to focus at all. It's worth bearing in mind, though, that focusing speeds drop significantly when using Live View, so it's only really recommended you use that if you're shooting something stationery, or you're shooting from an awkward angle and can't compose using the viewfinder.
The new kit lens is a decent performer to get you started with. Its focal length range is good for a variety of general situations, while it is capable of producing sharp images.
By shooting at a mid-range aperture of around f/8 we can assess the sharpness of the lens across the frame, and in this respect, the lens puts in a good performance. A good suggestion for a next lens would be a 50mm f/1.8, which would be handy in lower light conditions, and for shooting portraits.
I was very impressed by the D3300's battery performance. After a day of shooting, checking images and then scrolling through saved images, the battery life indicator hadn't even dropped a single bar. Nikon's claim of around 700 shots per charge seems about accurate and makes it an excellent camera for holidays, family outings and other times where you don't want to worry about conserving the battery life.