One of the biggest camera announcements at 2014's Consumer Electronics Show may well have been the little Nikon D3300 and its collapsible 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR II lens. It may not shoot 4K video or offer a curved LCD (those shows are all about the tech trends) but it does represent the next generation of Nikon's very popular entry-level DSLR line, and that in itself is noteworthy.

The D3300 sits at the bottom of Nikon's entry-level series, positioned as the friendliest of beginner-friendly DSLRs, just below the D5300. Don't be fooled by their class bearing though, both cameras use a powerful 24MP APS-C sensor. Opting for the D3300 rather than the D5300 means living with a fixed 3.0-inch LCD, rather than one that's fully articulated, and no built-in Wi-Fi.

Nikon D3300 key features

  • 24.2 MP DX format (APS-C) sensor
  • Expeed 4 processor
  • Fixed 3.0" 921k-dot LCD
  • 1080/60p HD video
  • 5 fps continuous shooting
  • 700 shot battery life

The D3300's Expeed 4 branded processor is responsible for many of its gains over the previous model, the D3200. This model gets an upgrade to 1080/60p video recording, an extra frame per second in burst mode, and a higher ISO range up to 12800 (25600 with expansion).

Specs comparison

The table below illustrates the differences between this model, its predecessor, and the step-up model. It should be noted that the D3300 appears to give better battery performance than the D5300, but actually they use the same EN-EL14a battery. The D5300's lower claimed battery life reflects a calculation for use of the camera's built-in Wi-Fi and GPS. By any measure, the D3300 is well above its peers in terms of battery capacity.

  Nikon D3300 Nikon D3200 Nikon D5300
Sensor 24.2 MP DX format CMOS (23.5 x 15.6 mm) 24.2 MP DX format CMOS (23.2 x 15.4 mm) 24.2 MP DX format CMOS (23.5 x 15.6 mm)
Image processing Expeed 4 Expeed 3 Expeed 4
LCD Fixed 3.0" 921k-dot LCD Fixed 3.0" 921k-dot LCD Vari-angle 3.2" 1037k-dot LCD
AF system 11-point (1 cross-type) 11-point (1 cross-type) 39-point (9 cross-type)
Viewfinder 0.85x (95% coverage) 0.80x (95% coverage) 0.82x (95% coverage)
ISO range 100-12800 (expansion to 25600) 100-6400 (expansion to 12800) 100-12800 (expansion to 25600)
Connectivity With optional WU-1a Mobile Adapter With optional WU-1a Mobile Adapter Built-in
Video capture max. resolution 1080 60p 1080 30p 1080 60p
Continuous shooting 5 fps 4 fps 5 fps
Battery life 700 shots 540 shots 600 shots
Dimensions 124 x 98 x 76 mm (4.88 x 3.86 x 2.99″) 125 x 96 x 77 mm (4.92 x 3.78 x 3.03″) 125 x 98 x 76 mm (4.92 x 3.86 x 2.99″)
Weight 460 g (16.23 oz) 505 g (17.81 oz) 530 g (18.70 oz)

Moving up the chain of Nikon's crop-frame DSLR line AF systems get increasingly sophisticated. The D3300 sits at the very bottom with an 11-point system and a single cross-type sensor at the middle - nothing that would tempt a sports photographer, but perfectly capable for its class. Outside of this, Wi-Fi and a vari-angle screen are the only other clear hardware advantages to the D5300 over the entry-level model.

The comparison paints a picture of a nicely specified entry-level model with excellent battery life, a new processor and a whole lot of resolution. Aside from the lack of Wi-Fi, there's not much to complain about here and we don't feel that there's anything that this camera is seriously lacking feature-wise.

However, the days when an entry-level Nikon only really had to worry about its latest rival from Canon have gone. So, although the D3300's specs are very impressive - especially in terms of battery life - it also has to hold its own against the smaller mirrorless cameras that match it for image quality and offer a more compact-camera-like live view shooting experience.

Though a little long in the tooth, the Panasonic Lumix GF6 offers a tilting touch screen, and the Olympus E-PM2 provides a fixed touch screen (and is a steal price-wise compared to the rest of the class). Elsewhere in the category the Pentax K-500 offers a 100% coverage optical viewfinder and 6 fps burst shooting, while the Fujifilm X-A1 offers twin command dials and built-in Wi-Fi.

Kit options and pricing

The Nikon D3300 is available in black, grey and red variants, kitted in the US and UK with a collapsible 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR II lens with list prices of $649.95 and £599.99, respectively. In the UK there's also a £499.99 body-only option, not offered in the US.

Without the D5300's built-in Wi-Fi, D3300 owners will need to add Nikon's WU-1a mobile adapter for connectivity features. The adapter dangles from the camera's AV port, making it possible to wirelessly transfer images to an Android or iOS device. Read more about it in our review of the Nikon D3200. It's available separately for $59.95/£54.99.

Nikon's DSLRs aren't by any means the cheapest in their respective classes, and that's true of the D3300. It's about $100 US more than a comparable Canon kit, and costs well over twice as much as the (very aggresively priced) Sony a3000. For that premium, you get one of the highest resolution APS-C sensors on the market, a very good 1080/60p video spec, and exceptional battery life among other things. It's slightly pricier, but does the feature set justify the tag? Or would your entry-level dollars be better spent elsewhere?