Nikon D3300 review: Nice photos, reasonably fast

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The Good The Nikon D3300's photo quality improves on its predecessor, and while it's not incredibly fast it performs pretty well for its price class.

The Bad The feature set remains pretty limited.

The Bottom Line Very good photo quality for its class plus decent performance make the Nikon D3300 A solid choice for a first dSLR.

7.6 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Image quality 8

With somewhat better photo quality and slightly better performance, the Nikon D3300 delivers a modest improvement over its predecessor the D3200 -- enough to bump up its rating and improve its status relative to some competitors, but no so much that it's definitively worth the extra money over the D3200 for buyers on tight budgets. The rest of the updates, such as 1080/60p video, a redesigned beginner's Guide Mode, plus a slightly smaller, lighter body, barely move the needle. It retains the same 11-point autofocus system of its predecessor, and lacks built-in Wi-Fi; you still have to go dongle for that.

Image quality

Photos are the camera's strongest suit. The D3300 improves on the image quality of the D3200, with most images appearing somewhat sharper as you'd expect from the new 24-megapixel antialiasing-filter-free sensor, and the camera fares pretty compared to competitors. Also, for example, ISO 3200 JPEGs look a lot less noisy than their counterparts from the D3200, but the raw files seem to clean up about the same, pointing mostly to the inevitable improvements in Nikon's image processing over the past two years. JPEGs look very clean through ISO 400 and display only minimal artifacts through ISO 1600. Depending upon scene content the photos are usable through ISO 6400, but above that the less-bright colors become too desaturated and the tonal ranges compress unattractively.

Click to download ISO 100
ISO 1600
ISO 6400

Colors look quite accurate, and there's a reasonable amount of recoverable highlight and shadow detail in raw files given the camera's price class. Its video looks good, even in low light.


Overall, the D3300 tests faster than the D3200 and many of its competitors, but it still feels pretty slow to shoot with -- possibly because of the relatively sluggish new kit lens. It takes half a second to power on, focus, and shoot; that's not bad. Time to focus and shoot in good light runs about 0.4 second, rising to 0.6 second in dim light. It does perform quite fast when shooting two consecutive photos, 0.2 second regardless whether you're using raw or JPEG, since it doesn't attempt to refocus, rising to 0.9 second with flash enabled.

Live View performance remains terrible, taking almost 2 seconds to focus and shoot thanks to slow everything -- slow autofocus, slow mirror movement -- and two consecutive JPEG shots takes 3.7 seconds.

The camera delivers an excellent 5.1fps burst when equipped with a 95MB/sec SD card (almost 4.4fps for raw) with autofocus and with no significant slowing -- it just gets a little more variable -- for more than 30 frames. However, the autofocus can't really keep up with the frame rate so there are a lot of misses.

The annoying small, dim viewfinder hasn't changed, unsurprising since that's typical for these entry-level models. I really dislike the tiny focus points which only illuminate (and briefly) when you half-press the shutter. They're impossible to see in moderate to dim light, so if you shoot on anything other than full auto you first have to press the shutter to find the appropriate focus point (in my case, center) before you can even begin to frame the scene. The LCD hasn't changed, but it's a good size, bright and reasonably visible in bright sunlight.


Canon EOS Rebel SL1
Nikon D3200
Pentax K-50*
Sony Alpha A3000
Nikon D3300


Time to first shot
Raw shot-to-shot time
Typical shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim light)
Shutter lag (typical)


Shorter bars indicate better performance

Design and features

The body looks almost identical to the D3200 (which had barely changed from the D3100 before that) except for a few tweaks. It's light and a bit plasticky with a deep, comfortable grip. On top of the grip sits the power switch and shutter button, and behind that a trio of buttons: a somewhat hard-to-feel record button, plus exposure compensation and info display. The crowded mode dial serves up the the typical assortment of manual, semi-manual and automatic modes, plus a Guide mode and Effects mode (with the usual suspects).

One of the benefits of dSLRs in general are the huge grips.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Nikon has redesigned the Guide Mode a bit. Guide offers Easy operation, which, like Auto, provides access to a limited number of options, as well as an Advanced mode, which describes the appropriate settings for the chosen scenario and then allows you to change the settings yourself. For instance, in Easy Operation/Distant Subjects it puts you into the Sports scene mode -- the camera tells you what it's doing, which is really nice -- then asks if you want to use the viewfinder, Live View or shoot a movie. From there, it optionally allows you to adjust flash, release (drive) mode, and ISO sensitivity. The options are still not specific to the scenarios, however, which would be useful.

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