Nikon D3400 DSLR Camera Review
The Good
  • Great beginner camera
  • Extremely light in the hand
  • 1080p video recording @ 60fps
The Bad
  • ISO setting is hard to get to quickly
  • Slow autofocus at times
4.0Overall Score

Nikon for a long while now has held the fort against multiple competitors, fighting for the budget DSLR top spot. No one has ever really come close to taking their title away from them. For me, having hands-on experience with Nikon’s budget line-up in the past – and been impressed – I’m quite sure before getting into this review that the Nikon D3400 will be a strong contender for this year’s championship battle.

Now as this is just one model number apart from its 3300 predecessor, there hasn’t been a large amount of improvements or changes on the Nikon D3400. So if you’re looking for a performance boost from last year’s model, I’d hold off until the time is right to jump up to one of their higher tiered cameras such as their 5300. Saying that, the specification that has been improved are all welcome.

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Inside the camera you will find one of Nikon’s EXPEED 4 image processors sporting a 24.2 megapixel sensor. Combine this with their newly improved ISO range from 100-25,600 you’ve got yourself a pretty good entry-level snapper that takes advantage of everything manual photography can. Aperture and shutter speeds are fully customisable for those lovely shallow depth of field shots right up to full glorious landscapes.

You have the ability to shoot at 5fps, which is slow admittedly and won’t do you too much justice during the likes of sports photoshoots, but this camera wasn’t really built for that kind of slug. The Nikon 3400 has really been designed for beginner photographers to learn their way around the camera in terms of what can be set manually. There is even a Guide mode which helps you to select the correct options for a particular shot, and even a ‘?’ button to press when looking through the various menus to learn the different functions.

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What impressed me when taking this out on shoots was how light it was. The specs say that Nikon has successfully reduced the weight between this and the D3300 by 15 grams, and it was definitely noticed. It felt light to shoot, and I had a lot of control over how still I could hold the camera for lower-light photography. There is also a rubber hand grip that’s been implemented since last year’s model to give you a tighter hold around the body.

But how does it really perform? Well, coming from shooting a full-frame Sony A7, surprisingly well. The image quality that comes out of the Nikon I found was absolutely superb. The included 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens was solid, and again, extremely light on the D3400 body. Any lens heavier than this would definitely give you an odd imbalance and would require a lot of concentration to keep the nose of the lens level.

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At its widest and most open aperture setting, smaller details captured in photos was surprisingly sharp towards the centre, but unfortunately a little soft towards the edges. Underexposed photographs, depending on the ISO level could easily be recovered during editing and colour reproduction was vivid. Auto mode surprised me somewhat as the Nion D3400 performed well. To get the most out of your photos though you must really use the manual settings. But those on a learning curve, the Auto mode captured some pretty detailed shots.

The 11-point autofocus worked well, although the middle three focus points seem to be able to track objects a lot better than the external points. This wasn’t really an issue during day-time shooting, but as soon as you’re in low-level lighting, autofocusing proved to be a challenge. There is a manual focus ring at the end of the lens to compensate for this.

Looking through the viewfinder and you will find that it actually portrays the scene in front of you quite well. With displays for aperture, shutter speed, ISO and even the exposure compensation, it made adjusting these on the fly so much easier. The screen on the back tends to be for live previews of the photos you’ve taken, but if you’re more of a rear screen shooter, then colour reproduction here wasn’t bad at all.

Video performance is pretty incredible on such an entry-level camera being able to shoot at a full 1080p resolution at 60fps. The only downfall I can really say about filming video is that the autofocus was a tad slow. It seemed to take a while before it fully focused on your subject, especially if panned towards it. However, it was relatively smooth which made for some pretty lovely home movies.

Nikon’s 2016 entry-level camera surprised us in all the best ways. It was light compared to other Nikon cameras and competitors such as the Canon 1300D. You’d also be able to take some wonderful shots thanks to its nifty image sensor and megapixel count. All-in-all, if you’re someone who’s looking to embark on their first ever photography adventure and learn how to shoot like the pros, look no further than the Nikon D3400 to do it with.

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Stef Murphy

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