Nikon D3400

Nikon’s latest entry-level camera is a great choice for anyone looking to move up from a phone or basic compact camera to take photography more seriously. Find out more in our Nikon D3400 review.

30 second Nikon D3400 review…

The D3400 is Nikon’s most recent entry-level DLSR. Like its predecessor it has a 24Mp sensor and the Expeed 4 processing engine, but it comes at a slightly lower price and has the addition of Nikon’s SnapBridge technology for easy image sharing.

While it lacks nice to have features like Wi-Fi connectivity to allow remote control via a phone and a touch-enabled tilting screen, it has Nikon’s excellent Guide Mode that can teach you about photography and using the camera. It’s also very capable, with a pretty snappy autofocus system and well-controlled image noise, so it produces high-quality images even at high sensitivity settings.

If I was going to write a list of interchangeable lens cameras suitable for beginners, it would be first on the list.

Key features

Camera Name Nikon D3400
Camera type DSLR
Date announced 17th August 2016
Price at launch £399.99/ (body only), £469.99/$646.95 with AF-P 18-55mm,
Sensor size APS-C (23.5 x 15.6mm)
Effective pixel count 24.2 million
Processor Expeed 4
Lens/Mount F
Viewfinder Optical with pentamirror 95% coverage
Sensitivity range ISO 100-25,600
Reflex AF system 11-point with 1 cross-type
Live View AF system Contrast detection
Monitor 3-inch TFT LCD with 921,000 dots
Max shooting rate 5fps
Max video resolution Full HD (1920 x 1080)
1920 x 1080, 60p (progressive)/50p/30p/25p/24p,
Storage SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I)
Dimensions 124 x 98 x 75.5mm
Weight 395g body only

The D3400 is Nikon’s most recent entry-level DLSR. Like it’s predecessor it has a 24Mp sensor and the Expeed 4 processing engine, but it comes at a slightly lower price and has the addition of Nikon’s SnapBridge technology for easy image sharing.

While it lacks nice to have features like a touch-enabled tilting screen and Wi-Fi connectivity to allow remote control, it has Nikon’s excellent Guide Mode that can teach you about photography and using the camera. It’s also very capable, with a pretty snappy autofocus system and well-controlled image noise. If I was going to write a list of interchangeable lens cameras suitable for beginners, it would be first on the list.

The Nikon D3400 is the latest in Nikon’s line of entry-level DSLRs and while it may not appear to make a huge upgrade upon the D3300, it has one significant additional feature, Nikon’s SnapBridge system. This allows you to connect the camera wirelessly to a smartphone or tablet by Bluetooth. What’s more, this connection can be maintained using a low energy connection so that images can be transferred from the camera to the phone automatically, even when the camera is turned off.

In other respects the D3400 is very similar to the Nikon D3300, for example, the APS-C format sensor has the same pixel count (24.2 million) and it’s paired with the same Expeed 4 processing engine. Nevertheless, Nikon has decided to include the upper sensitivity setting of ISO 25,600 within the standard range (which starts at ISO 100), it’s an expansion setting on the D3300.

On the back of the camera there’s a fixed 3-inch 9210,000-dot LCD screen, just like on the D3300, and it’s not touch-sensitive.

When images are composed in the viewfinder, autofocusing is taken care of by the 11-point system which has one cross-type point at the centre. That’s two points more than is available with the Canon EOS 1300D.

In live view and video mode there’s a contrast detection autofocus system as there are no phase detection points on on the imaging sensor.

In another triumph over the Canon 1300D, the D3400 has a maximum shooting rate of 5fps, 2fp more than its Canon competitor. I found this rate could be maintained for around 24 raw files or 100 jpegs when a UHS-I compatible card was inserted into the memory card slot.

SEE MORE: Nikon considering full-frame mirrorless camera

Nikon D3400

Nikon D3400 Build and Handling

The D3400 is a small DSLR that’s aimed at novice photographers, so naturally it’s not heavily-laden with buttons and dials. However, there is a mode dial on the top-plate that gives access to the exposure options.

Nikon D3400 mode dial

In addition to a fairly extensive collection of scene modes and a fully automatic mode, the enthusiasts favourite PASM (program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual exposure) modes are all present.

There’s also an Effects option that set’s the camera to shoot only jpegs and apply one of ten user-selectable filter effects including Toy Camera, Super Vivid, Pop and Photo Illustration to name just four.

The impact of these settings can be seen on the screen in live view mode, but the processing demands made by applying the effect can lead to the screen image becoming rather ‘laggy’. If you’re using the viewfinder you won’t be able to preview the effect but the word ‘EFFECT’ is displayed to warn you that a filter is being applied to images.

The mode dial also gives access to one of the most important features of the D3400, the Guide mode. This is an excellent system that helps novice photographers achieve the effects they want without getting bogged-down in a menu system.

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Nikon D3400 Guide Mode

 As well as helping with setting up the camera and reviewing, retouching and deleting images, the Guide mode offers two wizards under the Shoot option. The first, ‘Easy operation’ offers 10 subject-based shooting options in addition to an Auto setting.

Once you’ve made a selection, you’re then presented with a few simple choices such as whether you want to shoot using the viewfinder or the main screen for composition, or if you want to access other features such as the flash mode, release mode or sensitivity (ISO ) setting.

The second mode, ‘Advanced operation’ presents a similar selection of shooting scenarios but the on-screen mode explains what settings the camera is adjusting to help beginners become familiar with the camera’s controls. The ‘Soften background’ option, for example, explains that choosing a lower f-number will blur the background and allows you to setting the value you want. It’s a very useful tool for beginners.

Nikon D3400 Guide mode

While it’s clearly not as rugged as the Nikon D500, the D3400 feels nicely put together and a textured coating on the grip and thumb-rest make it feel safe in your hand even when relatively large or heavy lenses are in the lens mount.

There’s only one control dial on the D3400 so if you’re shooting in manual mode you need to press the exposure compensation button on the top-plate to adjust aperture. Otherwise it will adjust shutter speed.

Pressing the ‘i’ button on the back of the D3400, near the bottom left corner of the screen, brings up the Information panel. This displays up to 12 features such as file type and image quality that can be adjusted. It’s an easy and quick option for making setting selections and more convenient than opening up the main menu.

The SnapBridge system is easy to set-up following an on-screen wizard. It’s worth noting that as the D3400 doesn’t have Wi-Fi connectivity, it’s not possible to use the app to control the camera remotely.

SEE MORE: Nikon: optical viewfinders keep consumer DSLRs relevant

Ballet photographer Laurent Liotardo on using the Nikon D3400 in low light

Nikon D3400 Performance

The 24Mp sensor inside the D3400 is capable of resolving a high level of detail and noise is controlled well throughout the sensitivity range. Even at the top value, ISO 25,600, the results are very respectable. If you zoom into jpegs to 100% you’ll see some loss of detail and a granular texture, but it’s not bad. Raw files have a bit more bite and bring the ability to reveal a little more detail at the expense of some colour noise, with the latter being within acceptable limits.

The D3400’s autofocus system lacks the sensitivity of the D500’s, but it’s still pretty good. I found I was usually able to get subjects sharp in very low, flat light although it sometimes took a bit of hunting on my part to find an area with contrast.

Nikon’s live view and video mode autofocus system has lagged behind that in Canon DSLRs and compact system cameras from Olympus, Panasonic, Sony and Fuji for a while, but the contrast detection system in the D3400 compares a little better. It’s still not great in low light, but in more average conditions it gets the subject sharp reasonably quickly. That makes it feasible to use it when you’re hand-holding the camera and with subjects that are moving slowly.

Although the camera produces pretty good results when left to determine exposure for itself, I found there were quite a few occasions when images looked better if I reduce the exposure by 1/3EV below what the Matrix metering suggested. As well as protecting the highlights and making the image a little darker, it also boosts colour saturation a little, making for more attractive results straight from the camera.

The D3400 is capable of recording Full HD (1920 x 1080) video and the results are in line with the stills, other words, the quality is high with pleasant colour and good detail levels. If you force it by moving the camera quickly, rolling shutter effect is visible, but it’s not a major issue unless you plan on panning with fast moving subjects on a regular basis.

Once my iPhone was paired with the D3400 via the SnapBridge system images started to transfer automatically, but I found that I occasionally had to turn the automatic transfer setting off and on again to kick-start it.

Nikon D3400 sample images

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Nikon D3400 Verdict

If you’re new to photography or looking to buy a camera for someone who wants to start taking photography more seriously, the Nikon D3400 is a great choice. In the early days the Guide mode helps with setting up the camera and familiarising yourself with the various modes and controls.

It will also help you progress onto taking control over aspects such as shutter speed and aperture, and eventually shooting using the more advanced options outside of the Guide mode.

The camera is also nicely made for the price point while the collapsible kit lens maintains a low profile that useful in transport. In addition, the control arrangement is uncomplicated and easy to get to grips with.

Nikon has launched the D3400 with a lower list price than the D3300 at launch and it’s therefore not really surprising that the company wasn’t willing to add a touch-screen to the mix. If you want that you’ll have to step-up to the D5500.

In summary, the D3400 is a capable little DSLR that produces high quality results in a wide range of situations.

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