Nikon D3300 Exposure
Nikon D3300 Image Quality
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slightly higher than average mean saturation with slightly below average hue accuracy.
|In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links to compare ISOs, and click on them for larger images.|
Saturation. The Nikon D3300 pumps dark blues quite a bit and most other colors by a small amount, but slightly undersaturates bright yellow, light green, and cyans. Mean saturation levels are a little higher than average, but remain fairly stable as ISO climbs except at the highest ISOs where saturation drops a bit. Mean saturation at base ISO is 113.4% or 13.4% oversaturated, a little higher than average, but as mentioned, much of that is because blues are pushed so much. Overall, we found the D3300's default saturation levels pleasing to the eye. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.
Skin tones. The Nikon D3300's Caucasian skin tones looked just about right when using manual white balance in simulated daylight. A very good job here. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.
Hue. The Nikon D3300 did shift cyan toward blue by quite a bit at base ISO, with smaller shifts in reds and orange. (The cyan to blue shift is very common among the digital cameras we test; we think it's a deliberate choice by camera engineers to produce better-looking sky colors.) With an average "delta-C" color error of 6.42 after correction for saturation at base ISO, overall hue accuracy was a little lower than average (lower numbers are better), but still what we'd consider "good," and hue accuracy remained fairly stable across ISOs. Hue is "what color" the
The Nikon D3300 has a total of seven saturation levels available, three above and three below the default saturation, plus an Auto setting. This covers a pretty wide range of saturation levels, about as wide a range as you're likely to find photographically relevant, apart from special effects that are arguably better achieved in software. The fine steps between settings mean it's easy to program the camera to just the level of saturation you prefer. Saturation also doesn't impact contrast, which is very good.
|Saturation Adjustment Examples|
The table above shows results with several saturation settings, see the Thumbnails index page for more (look for the files named D3300OUTBSATx.JPG). Click on any thumbnail above to see the full-sized image.
| See full set of test images
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Good color with the Manual white balance setting, but overly-warm results with Auto and Incandescent. Above average positive exposure compensation required.
|Auto White Balance
|Incandescent White Balance
|Manual White Balance
Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance was very warm and reddish with the Auto white balance setting. (We'd say unacceptably so, though unfortunately this is common.) The Incandescent setting was also too warm, with a strong yellow cast. The Manual setting by far produced the most accurate results, if just a touch cool. The Nikon D3300 required an above average amount of positive exposure compensation here, at +0.7 EV (most cameras required +0.3 EV for this shot). Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.
Good results under harsh lighting, with very good handling of contrast, detail, and color.
|Manual White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
Outdoors, the Nikon D3300 performed well, requiring +1.0 EV exposure compensation for our "Sunlit" Portrait shot to keep the face reasonably bright. (The average for this shot is +0.7 EV, so the D3300 required a bit more than average.) We preferred skintones from the Manual white balance setting as they were a little pinker than Auto, but both were pretty good. Contrast is a little high as you might expect under such harsh lighting, but the camera did a very good job of holding onto detail in the highlights and shadows, however very deep shadows are a touch noisy and posterized. The Nikon D3300 produced vibrant colors and a good exposure without any exposure compensation in our Far-field scene (above right). Very few highlights were blown and shadow detail is quite good, though very deep shadows are polluted with color casts and noise. (We're talking very deep shadows here, so this won't be in issue for vast majority of properly exposed images.) Overall, very good performance for its class here.
Very high resolution, ~2,850 to ~2,950 lines of strong detail from JPEGs, a bit higher from ACR processed RAW files.
|Strong detail to
~2,900 lines horizontal
|Strong detail to
~2,850 lines vertical
|Strong detail to
~2,950 lines horizontal
ACR processed RAW
|Strong detail to
~2,900 lines vertical
ACR processed RAW
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,900 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and to about 2,850 lines in the vertical direction. Some may argue for higher numbers, but aliasing artifacts start to interfere with detail at this resolution. Extinction of the pattern didn't occur until around 3,600 to 3,800 lines. We weren't able to do significantly better with NEF files processed through Adobe Camera Raw, only about 50 more lines in both directions. Color moire is more evident in the ACR converted RAW files, however it's not as high as we'd expect for a camera without an optical low-pass filter. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.
Sharpness & Detail
Sharp images with great detail. Minor edge-enhancement artifacts visible on high-contrast subjects. Moderate noise suppression visible at base ISO.
Sharpness. The Nikon D3300 produces images that are crisp and sharp when coupled with a sharp lens as used in the above left crop. Some minor edge enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the halos around the border and text, but default sharpening looks to be a very good compromise between crispness and sharpening artifacts. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.
Detail. The crop above right shows some mild to moderate noise suppression, as the darker and lower-contrast areas of the model's hair show some smudging where individual strands of hair merge. Still, a very good performance here considering the resolution and target market. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.
Aliasing. You can see hints of aliasing artifacts in a number of our test shots, such as the slight moiré pattern in the red-leaf swatch of our Still Life target, however the D3300 does a pretty good job at suppressing moiré for a camera that doesn't have an optical low-pass filter.
RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, the Nikon D3300 does a great job at capturing lots of fine detail in its JPEGs, but more detail can often be obtained from carefully processing RAW files, while at the same time reducing sharpening artifacts. Let's have a look at base ISO:
In the table above, we compare an in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to the matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 8.7 (right) using default noise reduction with some strong but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (200%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).
As is frequently the case, the demosaicing in Adobe Camera Raw and sharpening in Photoshop deliver finer detail than the camera, with fewer sharpening artifacts. Looking closely at the images, ACR extracts some detail that wasn't present in the camera JPEG, especially in the red-leaf swatch where the conversion was able to resolve some of the fine thread pattern, while the camera's JPEG engine tended to blur it away as if noise. The ACR conversion does however show more noise at default noise reduction settings than the camera at its default settings. All-in-all, though, the D3300 did a very good job at reducing noise while maintaining excellent detail in most areas of our target. Still, for maximum detail (and flexibility), using a good RAW converter does yield slightly better results than in-camera JPEGs, as is usually the case.
ISO & Noise Performance
Very good high ISO performance for a 24-megaxpixel APS-C model.
|Noise Reduction = On (Default)|
|ISO 100||ISO 200||ISO 400|
|ISO 800||ISO 1,600||ISO 3,200|
|ISO 6,400||ISO 12,800||ISO 25,600|
Noise levels are fairly low at ISOs 100 through 400, though some detail is lost to noise reduction even at base ISO. ISO 800 shows a very fine noise "grain" but detail is quite good, and chroma noise well-controlled. At ISO 1,600 noise levels increase with a touch more blurring in the fine details and more visible grain, but detail is still pretty good and chroma noise remains low. This trend continues as ISO rises, with progressively stronger luminance noise that remains fairly fine-grained but blurs out fine detail, along with very low levels of chroma noise. Only at ISO 25,600 does chroma noise become a major issue with obvious purple and yellow blotchiness in darker areas.
Overall, very good noise performance for an APS-C model, especially considering the 24-megapixel resolution. See our Print Quality analysis section below for recommended print sizes at each ISO.
A note about focus for this shot: We shoot this image at f/4, usually using one of three very sharp reference lenses (70mm Sigma f/2.8 macro for most cameras, 60mm f/2.8 Nikkor macro for Nikon bodies without a drive motor, and Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/2.0 for Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds bodies). To insure that the hair detail we use for making critical judgements about camera noise processing and detail rendering is in sharp focus at the relatively wide aperture we're shooting at, the focus target at the center of the scene is on a movable stand. This lets us compensate for front- or back-focus by different camera bodies, even those that lack micro-focus adjustments. This does mean, though, that the focus target itself may appear soft or slightly out of focus for bodies that front- or back-focused with the reference lens. We know this; if you click to view the full-size image for one of these shots and notice that the focus target is fuzzy, you don't need to email and tell us. :-) The focus target position will have been adjusted to insure that the rest of the scene is focused properly.
Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range, and low light tests
Very good detail in both highlights and shadows, with good dynamic range. Good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images in near darkness though autofocus can struggle in low light.
|+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV||+1.0 EV|
The Nikon D3300 handled the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above well. Though contrast is a little high, shadow and highlight detail are both very good. The +1.0 EV exposure did the best job here, producing a fairly bright face without blowing out too many highlights in the white areas. Despite the bright appearance, there are relatively few clipped highlights in the mannequins's shirt and the flowers. Some shadows were pretty dark, but remained fairly detailed if a little noisy. The camera's contrast adjustment also did a good job of decreasing overall contrast without also affecting color saturation. (See below.) Still, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)
We really like it when a camera gives us the ability to adjust contrast and saturation to our liking. It's even better when those adjustments cover a useful range, in steps small enough to allow for precise tweaks. Just as with its saturation adjustment, the Nikon D3300's contrast setting offers seven levels, plus an Auto setting.
|Contrast Adjustment Examples|
The series of shots above shows results with several different contrast adjustment settings, showing the minimum step size around the default, as well as both extremes. While you can see the extremes, it's hard to really evaluate contrast on small thumbnails like these, click on any thumbnail to go to the full-size image.
Nikon's contrast adjustment is that it has very little effect on saturation. Contrast and saturation are actually fairly closely coupled, it's a good trick to be able to vary one with out the other changing as well. As usual, Nikon did a very good job here.
Nikon's Active D-Lighting
The shots above show the results with Active D-Lighting Off and On. (Like other entry-level Nikon models, the D3300 only has these two settings, while Nikon's more advanced models let you choose from a range of strengths of the effect). This is different than the touch-up menu's D-Lighting, as it is performed during image capture instead of after. (It does affect only JPEG images though, Nikon very properly leaves raw file data strictly as it comes from the sensor.) Mouse-over the links to see the difference, and click on the links to load the corresponding full-resolution image.
As you can see from the images and histograms above, enabling Active D-Lighting resulted in a brighter more balanced image with boosted shadows and midtones, however highlights remained roughly the same and intact. The effect of Active D-Lighting will vary quite a bit with the subject and lighting: The camera decides what needs adjusting, and by how much, so the effect can be quite a bit greater or lesser depending on what the camera "sees".
Above is another example of Nikon's Active D-Lighting at work, this time with our Far-field shot in bright daylight. In this case, both highlights and shadows were boosted. Again, mouse-over the links to see the difference, and click on the links to load the full resolution images.
with Face-priority AF
Here, we can see the effect of the Nikon D3300's full Auto mode as well as face detection enabled in Live View mode. As you can see from the shots above, full Auto enabled the flash and selected Portrait Scene mode, producing a well-exposed subject and background. In Live View mode using Aperture-priority, Face-priority AF mode also improved the exposure versus Aperture-priority with the optical viewfinder, selecting a slower shutter speed of 1/40s versus 1/100s to brighten the image (since the other two exposure variables of aperture and ISO were fixed).
Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.
In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) For the technically-minded, you can find a discussion of the reasoning behind this here on the DxOMark website. Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.
Here, we're comparing the Nikon D3300's dynamic range to the Canon T3i (600D) because our reviewer is so fond of that camera and Canon's current entry-level DSLR (Canon T5 or 1200D) is very similar, as well as to the entry-level Sony A3000. As you can see from the above graph (click for a larger image), the D3300's dynamic range is about the same as the Sony A3000 at ISO 100 (12.76 vs 12.82), but 1.3 stops higher than the T3i at its ISO 100 setting (12.76 vs 11.46). The D3300's dynamic range is a little higher than the A3000's at ISO 200 and 400, but roughly the same at higher ISOs. The Canon T3i's remains significantly lower up to ISO 400, after which it catches up and is roughly the same. In summary, good dynamic range performance from the Nikon D3300, though not quite as good as the best APS-C models. (The Nikon D5300 and D7100 for instance manage about a full stop more dynamic range at base ISO.) Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Nikon D3300 for more of their test results and additional comparisons.
Low Light. The Nikon D3300 performed well on the low-light test, capturing usable images at the lowest light level (1/16 foot-candle) with the lowest sensitivity setting (ISO 100). As you'd expect, noise increases as ISO goes up and light levels go down, but remains well-controlled and fine-grained to ISOs as high as 6,400. We didn't notice any significant issues with hot pixels, banding or heat blooming.
Color balance was good with the Auto white balance setting, just slightly cool, though there's the strong shift towards magenta at lower light levels we often see from Nikons.
The camera's phase-detection autofocus system was only able to focus on our test subject down to just below the 1/4 foot-candle light level unassisted with an f/2.8 lens. That's not as good as most DSLRs and a bit of a disappointment. The Nikon D3300 was however able to autofocus in complete darkness with the AF assist enabled. In Live View mode, the camera's contrast-detect autofocus actually did a bit better as it was able to focus down to just below 1/8 foot-candle which is pretty good and very useful, since AF assist is not supported in Live View mode.
Keep in mind that the longer shutter speeds here demand the use of a tripod to prevent any blurring from camera movement. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)
How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.
NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Digital SLRs like the Nikon D3300 do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects.
Very good 30 x 40 inch prints at ISO 100; a nice 13 x 19 at ISO 1600; a good 5 x 7 at ISO 12,800.
ISO 200 prints are great at 24 x 36 inches, also with fantastic color and detail.
ISO 400 images look very good at 20 x 30 inches with lots of fine detail. ISO 400 images also allow for 30 x 40 inch wall-mounted prints. At 24 x 36 inches, prints look very similar to ISO 200 but with only a minor trace of noise in the shadow areas (but you have look very closely).
ISO 800 prints are good at a very large 16 x 20 inches, and the D3300 does a good job of controlling noise levels for such a large print at this ISO. Like we saw with the D5300, low contrast detail is still very good in our challenging red swatch, something Nikon DSLRs tend to shine at.
ISO 1600 images produce a great 13 x 19 inch print. Even at this ISO, there's still only minor noise visible in the shadows areas with the rest of the print looking crisp and vibrant.
ISO 3200 prints look good up to 11 x 14 inches, and, as expected, show a little more noise in the shadows. Some edge detail is beginning to show a little softness, as well, but overall still impressive print quality at this size.
ISO 6400 images are starting to show slightly bland-looking colors, and noise is becoming more noticeable for an acceptable 8 x 10 inch print.
ISO 12,800 prints look similar to ISO 6400 ones but are just slightly softer and noisier, and 5 x 7 inch prints are the largest we can call acceptable.
ISO 25,600 does not yield a good print and is best avoided except for less critical applications.
The Nikon D3300 is a very impressive performer when it comes to print quality -- super-high resolution prints that stand shoulder-to-shoulder with higher-end, even professional-level cameras. And all this from a base, entry-level camera! The D3300 follows along with the D5300, producing exceptionally large prints for its price range and doing a great job with fine detail and color thanks to its AA-filterless 24-megapixel sensor and adept processing. At ISO 100, prints up to 30 x 40 inches and even larger look excellent. The D3300 does a great job of controlling noise, and when it does appear it tends to look more like film grain than many other cameras' default processing which can often look more like splotches than grain in flatter areas -- a quality we're seeing more and more in Nikon's DSLRs. At ISO 800, prints are still great looking at 16 x 20 inches, and even ISO 6400 images can go as large as an 8 x 10. Excellent job again, Nikon, for a super affordable DSLR that prints this nicely straight out of the camera.
About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"
The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.
See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.
*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Nikon D3300 Photo Gallery .
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Nikon D3300 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!
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