Nikon’s new entry-level D3300 camera takes a lousy selfie, doesn’t fit in your back pocket on the dance floor and can’t reserve a table for two at Chez Josephine.
This $650 DSLR, obviously, is neither cellphone nor point-and-shoot but a digital version of the single-lens-reflex camera long used by professionals and serious amateur shooters. Although they’re distinctly bigger and heavier than a point-and-shoot, DSLRs have several advantages:
The shooter sees, through the lens, exactly what will appear in a photograph. A DSLR sees the reflection, as in “reflex,” through a mirror and prism. A point-and-shoot, which uses a viewfinder through the camera’s body, can only approximate the actual image.
It takes a better picture. Stop counting megapixels: It’s not the number of megapixels, but their size. A better indicator of picture quality is the size of a camera’s sensor, where the lens projects the image. A point-and-shoot’s sensor area is maybe a quarter the size of a pro-style DSLR’s sensor, which explains the greater clarity of DSLR photos.
This camera, 24.2 for megapixel counters, also uses Nikon’s newer Expeed 4 image processor.
The D3300 comes with an AF-S DX Nikkor retractable-barrel 18-55 mm zoom lens.
Aside from their higher price and bigger size – this weighs about 1.5 pounds with the lens – DSLRs are more complicated to operate. As a former Nikon SLR (analog) owner from the pre-iPhone days, I had some experience with similar cameras. But I had become so detached from f-stops and variable shutter speeds by a decade of mindless point-and-shoot and instant-iPhone gratification that I welcomed the Nikon’s “mode” dial for basic settings such as auto, disabling the flash and taking portraits or close-ups. A function button, near the lens mount, changes ISO and other settings.
Beginners have much to learn. Transferring highlights of the 120-page user’s manual to the on-board menu, though, makes the D3300 feel like a training-wheels camera.
Some concerns: The 3-inch screen, unlike more expensive models, doesn’t move. The tiny viewfinder, for anyone used to oversize screens on a point-and-shoot, will challenge newbies initially. The D3300 also lacks built-in Wi-Fi to send photos instantly to a phone, friend or computer – the Wi-Fi adapter is an awkward add-on.
This amateur stuck in auto mode is still not sure why a camera with high-resolution video would have a monophonic microphone. And I often struggled to see in dimmer light the too-small focus points that appear through the viewfinder when half-pressing the shutter. Because it took about two seconds to focus and shoot, then almost twice that for back-to-back shots, I sometimes missed the optimal photo too.
Yet the D3300 can produce high-resolution pictures (and video) like the pros, as I found out when I packed it for a recent 16,000-plus-mile round trip to China. Nothing announces “tourist” like lugging a camera that’s 3.9 inches tall, 4.9 inches wide and 3 inches deep through Tiananmen Square.
I liked the high ISO range (12,800), its five-frames-per-second burst mode and seemingly endless battery life – it powered close to 700 high-resolution images and some video over eight days without a recharge.
For an assessment of the manual capabilities, I dished it off to a colleague, a professional photographer who also teaches a multimedia course at a local college. He was put off by the camera’s lighter weight (next to a pro-style camera) and the effort required to override auto modes.
After considering the camera for his multimedia class this fall, he’s now favoring a Canon EOS-M mirrorless camera.
But for the first-time DSLR user, the D3300 combines the ease of point-and-shoot and enough technical sophistication to challenge any amateur.
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email email@example.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less