The D3300 is a pick-up-and-go DSLR, ready for shooting right out of the box with the kit lens. Its default control configuration assigns the Fn button as a direct access to ISO. Combined with the rear command dial, direct AF point selection via directional buttons and direct exposure compensation button, the D3300 feels as if it has access to the right basic controls in the right places from the very beginning.
Shooting in mostly in aperture priority mode on a couple of outings, I rarely needed to visit the camera's menus to get the shot I wanted. An exception to this is Auto ISO - it can only be activated and de-activated from the shooting menu. In theory auto-only shooters won't need to worry about this since it's always engaged in Auto mode, though there's a problem to watch out for here. Full Auto mode expects the user to be shooting with flash and adjusts its program line accordingly - whether flash is turned on or off. Take a look at the operation section of this review for more on that.
This entry-level kit is also expectedly lightweight and compact, a feature I also appreciated on those day excursions when shooting is a priority, but not necessarily the first reason for the trip. The camera and its collapsed collapsible lens fit neatly into a small compartment of my messenger bag, keeping the whole thing light enough to carry comfortably for a long time. The grip and thumb rest keep the camera feeling steady in my hand, both while shooting as I carry the camera in my right hand.
|Processed from Raw. A lightweight, carry-everywhere camera means you can capitalize on those moments when you're not specifically 'out shooting' and spot something interesting.|
As camera reviewers, we are spoiled by access. Many of the cameras I've used in the past few months have offered built-in Wi-Fi. Each time I switch from a camera with Wi-Fi to one that doesn't have it, i.e. the D3300, I notice its absence. There are inevitably moments while out shooting I think 'That's a nice shot, I'd like to share it,' and then realize that I will have to wait until I'm back home to do that. It's unfair to fault the D3300 with not offering something that most of its peers don't have either, and it's likely that many potential users won't consider this a vital feature (unless they've used it), but it's one thing that I miss more and more every time I go without it.
|Processed from Raw. Without built-in Wi-Fi, I was not able to share this scenery instantly with my friends and instead I had to marvel at its existence without the benefit of any Instagram 'likes'. What a world.|
Anyway, let's not dwell on the negative. The D3300 is an entry-level camera that provides an appropriate level of direct access to controls, a perfectly fine, collapsible kit zoom lens and 24 megapixels of resolution. That's a whole lot of pixels to play with. They come in handy when you want to crop for a slightly different composition, as I did with the image above. And though battery life isn't a terribly exciting feature, the D3300 has plenty of it - and that's a very good thing. It's just one more way that the D3300 feels reliable.
For the most part, shooting with the D3300 is a simple and straightforward experience. Everything I need is here, though not necessarily everything I want. There are rarely times when the camera feels like it's getting in my way, but neither is it particularly engaging. Things like a level gauge would make the experience feel a little more pleasant. The ability to use the command dial to scroll through the quick menu would make changing settings a little bit quicker. But especially for a camera at this level, the lack of these features doesn't sting quite as much as it did with the pricier, upper-entry-level D5300.
However, being aimed at those moving up from point-and-shoot cameras, the D3300 might let down an entry-level user in a few notable ways. The camera's slow live view may be a source of disappointment to users moving up from compacts. The camera's behavior in full Auto is another potential problem. On one occasion I set out with the camera at sunset and kept it in full Auto mode. Turning off the flash I snapped away without paying much attention to exposure parameters, discovering later a number of my telephoto images were blurry because the camera had chosen shutter speeds and ISO as if I'd been shooting with the flash turned on.