Nikon D3400 detailed review
Nikon’s latest entry-level DSLR launches have been mostly incremental upgrades. The D3400 in question is essentially the D3300 with a smaller body and Snapbridge, and as such falls in line with most incremental camera upgrades happening today. It’s pretty neat though, packing in a proven 24.2MP APS-C sensor and an older-generation EXPEED 4 image processor with the same metering and autofocus mechanism in a very compact body that will have experienced DSLR users doubling down to check or it really is a DSLR body. Nikon also launched a new line of AF-P lenses that are quieter than the outgoing AF-S models, and the D3400 is paired with the new 18-55mm kit lens for beginners.
With barely any difference to choose from, we take a look at just how well the Nikon D3400 performs, and whether it’s really a must for novice owners of interchangeable-lens cameras (ILCs).
Colour, dynamic range and vibrancy
Having used this sensor in previous Nikon cameras, we didn’t really expect abnormal aberrations, nor did we experience such moments. The D3400 produces very good colors in a wide range of situations, with bright and vibrant bold colors and good dynamic range typical of Nikon’s usual imaging performance.
Colors are sharp and accurate
The colors look bright and punchy and this sensor retains highlights and shadow areas with a deft touch. This helps maintain the color accuracy of diverse areas in brightly lit, diversely arranged compositions. The metering sensor, when shooting in RAW, also pulls out the highlights and shadows really well, and this gives you a pretty deep range of post-processing photos to bring out the right color tones and tones, detailed shadows and smooth highlights.
The Nikon D3400 produces an impressive dynamic range
You can also underexpose frames with significantly different exposure areas when shooting in RAW, and the D3400’s good dynamic range, source fidelity and amply vivid colors combine to restore shadow areas after processing. This allows you to successfully preserve details while keeping the colors intact. Even with different shades of the same color, the Nikon D3400 shoots with a good level of color detail.
Underexpose to save highlights
The colors also maintain good vibrancy for a camera of this price and range, and all this leads to clear photos with bright, accurate colors that look sharp enough. Good dynamic range contributes to color reproduction and detail.
Excellent contrast levels here
White balance and color saturation
Continuing the good work it does with colors, the Nikon D3400 produces good auto-calibrated white balance between scenes. It reads situations well by atmosphere, and doesn’t go out of tune in hot environments like many cheap DSLRs do. You can also opt for manual white balance adjustment with the presets, or your custom color temperature as you wish. All of this works as intended and is true to the environment you’re shooting in.
Neutral Grays, Deep Black, Clean White
When it comes to color saturation, the Nikon D3400 produces slightly richer saturation levels than the competing Canon EOS 1300D. Colors are more vibrant here and that also leads to more saturated colors, especially bold reds. Yellow and blue are more subtly optimized and the camera’s overall performance yields good color saturation points. For RAW photographers looking to tinker with color, setting the image control to flat does the job as intended.
Saturation levels are rich and slightly on the higher side
You also get Nikon’s proven Active D-Lighting mode for illuminating shadows and balancing the color composition of photos, and this also preserves color compositions very well. The Nikon D3400 produces amply deep blacks and bright whites with gray tones that are a bit on the deeper side. However, that does not significantly deter the color performance from being optimal.
Details and sharpness
The Nikon D3400 produces a good level of fine detail in JPEG compression, the file format in which most users of this camera will shoot. Complicated subjects are well composed here, even with noise cancellation in play. Sharpness is somewhat compromised and tight edges look a bit loose. Photos don’t really lose at sharp edges, but are slightly softer than photos taken with the EOS 1300D.
Note the slight softness despite some pretty fine details
The details improve because you are less dependent on noise cancellation without a significant increase in noise, at least in bright scenarios. This is a remarkable upper hand that the Nikon D3400 gets over its rivals. Overall, the Nikon D3400 produces adequate levels of detail in photos shot in macro, falling light, landscape, and other general shooting areas, making this a good first camera for casual photographers.
Also a good refinement here
Image noise and ISO performance
Yet another area where the Nikon D3400 excels is the image noise level. The camera takes excellent pictures with minimal noise in brightly lit scenes, and even in low-light conditions it does well to maintain minimal noise rendering. In RAW files, the Nikon D3400 produces less noise than many competitors and there’s not much trace of aliasing unless you’re shooting complex objects or very similar hues.
Fairly decent sound performance
This essentially gives you some of the cleanest JPEG translations we’ve ever seen in this segment of DSLRs, with the Nikon D3400 producing low-noise files that are uniform across all scenes. In terms of ISO performance, the Nikon D3400 starts producing significantly high levels of noise from ISO 1600, although this doesn’t really affect the good colors at ISO 3200. This gives you more room to shoot at night or in dark areas. , something that budget DSLRs often struggle to do. The Nikon D3400 is definitely superior to competitors in terms of details and colors, and the ISO performance is generally quite good.
Low ISO performance is great too
While the autofocus mechanism here is very easy to use and operate in most situations, the 11-point phase-detection autofocus is rather dated. It is reasonably fast, but feels slow in live view. It also struggles to capture fast-moving objects, and it takes a while to master shooting with the D3400 for quick responses.
Autofocus is difficult for soft but fast movements
Overall, the Nikon D3400 has decent autofocus performance on par with most other cameras in this segment. It’s just not something out of the ordinary, getting the job done with a few occasional hitches. The new AF-P lens is a quiet shooter and you can often miss complicated focus adjustments, giving you an adjustment curve for the autofocus mechanism.
Low noise shots, even in low light
Some of the fun preset modes you can play with
Build quality and ergonomics
The Nikon D3400 retains a largely similar build, which also happens to be the smallest of its competitors. This has mixed effects – you’d appreciate this if you’re a new user and not used to bulky bodies. But if you’ve used a DSLR before, you might find it a little too small.
Nikon, however, focuses on the former group of users with the D3400. Somehow the camera lacks an external microphone port, ultrasonic sensor cleaning, and the range of the built-in flash is limited to 7m at ISO 100. Each of these are downgrades of the D3300, including the microphone port, sensor cleaning and flash range of 12. m at ISO 100.
Despite such dimensions, the camera offers sufficient hand grip and also great ergonomics. The layout of the buttons is known and the fixed viewfinder with 921,000 pixels is not touch-sensitive. This is a major deterrent to the Canon EOS 1300D’s 1.04m-dot hinged touchscreen LCD, meaning that shooting with the Nikon D3400 in difficult situations and angles would be cumbersome. The lack of a touchscreen also means there’s no continuous touch-to-focus, and all these factors add up when you consider that this camera will mainly be bought by beginners and amateurs.
Aside from that, everything about this camera, including the user interface, controls, and switches, remains the same. The body still won’t weatherproof, meaning you’ll need an upgrade once you get used to shooting DSLRs.
Connectivity, ports and battery life
However, one thing Nikon has included in the D3400 is SnapBridge. This Bluetooth pairing with phones allows you to quickly transfer 2MB of compressed JPEGs for instant social media sharing, or you can choose to transfer full size photos, which takes quite a while for the average 8 file. MB. Other ports on the camera include a SATA connector for the USB cable (for much faster transfers) and a mini HDMI.
Battery life has also improved significantly with the Nikon D3400, and we were able to shoot a full cycle of just over 1,000 photos and 85 minutes of Full HD 60fps video. This is quite impressive and with a little more careful use you can take more than 1,400 photos in total. Idle discharge is minimal and takes up to an hour and 15 minutes to fully charge the battery itself.
The Nikon D3400 is currently the best budget DSLR on the market, but not without its flaws. It delivers class-leading image performance and now begs for an upgrade to the autofocus mechanism. The very light housing and easy handling aid in use, but the external microphone port, ultrasonic sensor cleaning, touchscreen and a second control button are missed. It adds Bluetooth and improves battery life, both of which are important for anyone wanting to learn photography.
However, the limitations of its small body and lack of weather-sealing mean you’ll need to upgrade the body after about three years as you get more serious about photography. That aside, and coupled with the new ultra-smooth AF-P lenses, the Nikon D3400 is the camera to buy.