Friday, 10 January 2014

Nikon D3300 review: Hands-on at CES 2014

Unlike recent CES shows, CES 2014 iteration has seen a host of new digital cameras debuted. Nikon was one of the leading protagonists, announcing no fewer than six new COOLPIX compacts as well as the development of the Nikon D4S.

The real headline announcement, however, was the launch of the new entry-level DSLR – the Nikon D3300. The latest model replaces the year-old Nikon D3200, and although it does so without either a design or specification overhaul there’s still enough development to pique the interest of potential purchasers.

We managed to get our hands on one of the first samples of the D3300 and take a closer look.

Watch our Nikon D3300 hands-on video:

Although the Nikon D3300 doesn’t feature a particularly extensive list of improvements, there are a few welcome enhancements.

Thanks to the introduction of Nikon’s latest EXPEED 4 image processor, the D3300 features a pair of improvements to its core performance. The model’s ISO range – previously featuring a native high of ISO 6400 expandable to ISO 12,800 – now has a ceiling of ISO 12,800 expandable to ISO 25,600.

Nikon D3300 3
The D3300 also sees a boost in terms of its continuous shooting speed as it’s now capable of shooting at 5fps, up from 4fps on the Nikon D3200. Although this isn’t a huge boost in terms of speed, it makes the D3300 one of the fastest DSLRs in its class.

We quickly noticed the differences between the D3300 and its D3200 predecessor when we held the camera itself in the hand. Thanks to the utilisation of carbon fibre in parts the D3300 is now around 30% smaller and 25% lighter than its predecessor, which itself was hardly bulky.

As a result, the Nikon D3300 feels impressively small and compact in the hand, and is certainly one of the most compact models in its class.

Nikon D3300 4

This compact size is aided by the introduction of a new kit lens. We’ve long wanted Nikon’s standard 18-55mm kit lens to be improved, and on first impressions the new 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II seems to tick the right boxes.

Not only has it been redesigned to be less bulky and lighter, but it also features a re-engineered focus mechanism. The lens inherits a neat trick from the Nikon 1 series lenses as now it requires a button to be depressed to extend the lens from its ‘locked’ 18mm position.

While these improvements are welcome, we’re a bit disappointed at two areas that have been somewhat overlooked.

The first of which is the omission of built-in Wi-Fi connectivity. This is a feature that’s become ‘as-standard’ on almost all new digital cameras, and although you can make the D3300 ‘connected’ through the utilisation of the WU-1a this incurs extra cost and adds extra bulk to the camera.

It’s also disappointing to see the D3300 utilising the same 11-point AF as seen in both the Nikon D3200 and D3100 before it.

Although at this level we wouldn’t expect a DSLR to have a particularly advanced AF set-up, we still feel Nikon could have enhanced that on the D3300 to a certain extent.

Nikon D3300 5

First Impressions

There’s no escaping the fact that the Nikon D3300 isn’t exactly ground breaking.

The improvements to the model’s continuous shooting speed and ISO range, as well as the reduction in size and newly designed kit lens, are all welcome, although you can’t help but feel that it could benefit from even more tweaks.

We’ll be able to get a better idea just how much these improvements affect the camera’s performance when we get our hands on a full review sample, but for the time being it’s fair to say Nikon D3200 owners won’t be clambering to upgrade.

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