While smartphone cameras have become quite capable at taking amazing photos and recording excellent videos, they still cannot beat even the most modest DSLR camera by a long shot, DSLRs come in a variety of models and can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to as much as several thousands of dollars. Today we will be taking a look at Nikon’s D3400; a humble 24MP entry-level camera that sits slightly above their D3300 model, both of these cameras are considered to be the go-to model for people who are looking for better image quality than what their phones or any other digital camera can provide.
Designed with first-time ILC shooters kept in mind, the D3400 is pretty much a slightly modified version of the D3300, it comes with the same EXPEED 4 image processor and 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor that can be found in its predecessor. This camera is capable of capturing videos in full HD and comes with an 11 point autofocus system that lets one capture a lot of great pictures once they get the hang of it.
Some notable changes in the D3400 include a significantly longer battery life than the D3300, the D3300 has a battery life of 700 shots while the D3400 can manage up to 1200 shots, but the downside is that the D3400 has a weaker built-in flash. It also comes with Bluetooth connectivity, something that was missing in the D3300, and one of the best things about this camera is the fact that it provides one with a plethora of features at a decent price tag of around $600.
Comparing Specs With The Competition
Before starting to compare the D3400 with the handful of cameras that fall in its category, let’s go through some of its most notable features; apart from having the same processor and sensor as the D3300, it is capable of recording 1080p at 60 frames per second, it comes with a 3” fixed 920k-dot LCD screen and has a burst/continuous shooting mode that can capture 5 frames per second, and having a Bluetooth LE makes transferring images a whole lot easier.
The D3400 does not have a lot of competition to put up with other than from Canon’s EOS 750D, and from the D3300 itself, both these cameras offer pretty similar features and have a very slight variation in their pricing. For most people, choosing between these three DSLRs comes down to preference, especially if they are first-time buyers who are not way too serious about photography, the only thing that the D3400 lacks amongst these cameras is a built-in external mic port.
For people who are looking for a good camera and do not necessarily want it to be a DSLR, there exist digital cameras such as the Fujifilm X-A3 or the Sony a5100; cameras that provide a similar level of image capturing capability at more or less the same price.
What To Expect From The D3400’s Build Quality
Being an entry-level camera with a modest price tag, this DSLR’s body is made entirely of composite plastic, but that is not a bad thing, the plastic feels good to touch and adds to the camera’s decent build quality. It also helps keep the camera extremely light, weighing mere 395 grams, one can easily carry out long photoshoots with the D3400 without feeling any fatigue. Its screen, controls and everything else is designed to be as simple to use as possible, which is another reason why the D3400 is an excellent choice for a beginner photographer.
Switching between different modes with its dial is simple and fast, the 3” display of the camera provides you with all the information that you need about your camera’s settings and makes interacting with the device fairly easy, but it does not have the best brightness levels, making it hard to use the camera in well-lit areas.
Auto Focus Performance
The camera’s performance is pretty much the same as the D3300, its 11 point autofocus works relatively fast as long as you do not switch to live view, it is also pretty easy to understand, and you can quickly select between the four different AF modes provided. One major problem with the AF is that, when using the viewfinder, one can have a hard time spotting the AF “dots” that are meant to act as guides for the user.
While its live view has a slightly slower autofocus, it has been worked on, and the new lens-kit that comes with the D3400 provides a much smoother and faster focus than what the D3300 has to offer. Complete focus failures are quite rare, only occurring in extremely tricky conditions, overall, the D3400 provides an acceptable AF, although a bit lacking when one considers that there exist cameras out there that fall in the same level as this camera and provide more enhanced focusing abilities.
Image Capturing Capability
The best way to describe the D3400’s image quality would be; punchy images that manage to please the eyes, the camera shares the same image processor along with Active D-Lighting, a feature that preserves shadows and highlight details, both of which can be easily lost in situations where strong lighting creates a lot of contrast between dark and light areas. This feature makes shooting JPEG files incredibly easy, allowing beginners to get great exposure and balance in an image in almost any kind of situation.
The D3400’s image capturing is perfect for beginners since it manages to produce pretty great quality without the user having to do too much, the camera also captures great raw images, which makes it an excellent choice for people who plan on further editing their pictures after capturing them.
Bluetooth And SnapBridge
Perhaps one of the most welcome changes made to the D3400 is the addition of Bluetooth LE, making it possible to connect the camera with Nikon’s SnapBridge app and make image transfer and browsing a whole lot easier. The SnapBridge app lets you browse through all the pictures that are on your camera’s memory, it also allows one to either have photos transferred to their phone as they are taken (remote photography) or opt to download selected pictures onto their phone.
The app is simple to use and causes a lot less trouble than having to manually transfer images from your camera’s SD card to your computer. However, it does run into a few hiccups every now and then. There are times when the app tends to cause trouble while transferring and the pairing process can be a bit tedious, but other than this, the addition of Bluetooth and SnapBridge compatibility is definitely something to be happy about.
There have been significant improvements in the D3400’s video recording, mostly due to the improvements made in the camera’s lens-kit that result in more responsive autofocus, the D3300’s recording would often have trouble with focusing on objects, leading to blurry and ruined footage. While this problem is a lot rarer in the D3400, the camera still tends to randomly focus on something in the distance and ruin your shot, making it a risky choice for recording something important. Other than the trouble caused by the DSLR’s AF, it records high definition at a smooth and crisp 60 frames per second, capturing color and contrasts nicely and providing satisfactory audio recording.
Since the new lens kit has a better motor installed in it, its zooming in and zooming out have become much less jittery and produce lesser noise, further adding to the smoothness of the camera’s recording and also reducing background noise that can be quite noticeable in the D3300.
When compared with contenders such as the EOS 750D, the D3400 seems to come out on top in a number of ways. Its image processor and 24mp sensor enable the camera to capture well-saturated colors in JPEG files. The D3400 lags a bit when it comes to image sharpening, but not in a bad way since the E0S 750D tends to not be able to render fine details with accuracy, the D3400 also performs better at reducing noise at higher ISOs. Some people hold the opinion that the D3400’s better color capture and more accurate rendering of finer details makes it better suited for nature photography, but this is not necessarily true. However, the D3400 is definitely more promising on paper than Canon’s EOS 750D.
The D3400 also does a decent job at producing raw images with low noise and aliasing that is not noticeable unless a picture with excessively fine details is captured. The D3400 is more than capable of rendering images that provide great color, fine detail, and relatively low noise, allowing it to perform better by a margin when compared to its competition.
Overall, the D3400 is a pretty decent camera when one considers what it has to offer at its price level, the camera manages to capture great quality JPEG and raw images, has a decent sensor and image processor that not only provides excellent rendering capability but also makes capturing well-balanced images easy for beginners and amateurs. One can say that the D3400 is one of the best choices out there for a well-priced, beginner DSLR, but that does not mean that it is the only one you should go for; the D3400 is far from perfect and packs a number of flaws. Even though Nikon has made a number of improvements to the camera’s autofocus, it still leaves a lot to be desired when compared to the competition.
The biggest disappointment that the D3400 comes with is the fact that even though it is supposed to be a new and improved version of the D3300, there is not a lot that Nikon did to change the camera. They did add a new lens-kit, introduced Bluetooth LE and made a few other minor tweaks, but other than that it is pretty much a modified version of the same camera, this could be a negative factor for people who were thinking of upgrading to the D3400 from a similar kind of DSLR, but for people who were planning on going for the D3300, this could prove to be an attractive option.
To sum it all up, the D3400 is, when compared to other entry-level cameras, a great device that leaves a bit to be desired, its image capturing is bound to be more than satisfactory for people who have been relying on their smartphone cameras. While its video recording is not entirely dependable, it does manage to get the job done by capturing fluid footage at 1080p.
The camera’s build quality and design meet expectations, and its lightweight body makes it a joy to use, and its SnapBridge compatibility acts as icing on top of a great value cake, making file transfer management a lot simpler. The bottom line is that if you want to capture decent photos and do not really plan to grow as a photographer, then the Nikon D3400 is a pretty good choice.