Nikon D3400 Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing Nikon D3400 image quality to its predecessor, the D3300, as well as against several competing entry-level interchangeable lens models at similar price points: the Canon T6, Panasonic G7, Pentax K-S2 and Sony A6000. While we wouldn't call the Sony A6000 "entry-level," at the time of writing, it was available for about the same price as the Nikon D3400, so we decided to include it in this comparison.

NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved: click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Nikon D3400, Nikon D3300, Canon T6, Panasonic G7, Pentax K-S2 and Sony A6000 -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Nikon D3400 to any camera we've ever tested!

Nikon D3400 vs Nikon D3300 at Base ISO

Nikon D3400 at ISO 100
Nikon D3300 at ISO 100
Above we compare the Nikon D3400 to its very popular predecessor, the D3300. As you can see, since the D3300's release in early 2014 Nikon has revised its default JPEG processing a bit to produce slightly punchier images by increasing contrast and sharpening. Colors are also more pleasing from the newer camera. The older D3300 does a bit better in our tricky red-leaf swatch, though, likely because default noise reduction has also been tweaked.

Nikon D3400 vs Canon T6 at Base ISO

Nikon D3400 at ISO 100
Canon T6 at ISO 100
Here at base ISO, the Nikon D3400's 6-megapixel resolution advantage is apparent compared to the 18-megapixel Canon T6, with the Nikon being able to resolve noticeably more fine detail than the Canon. The Nikon also forgoes an optical low-pass filter which produces sharper images from its sensor (though with the risk more aliasing artifacts), despite both cameras applying generous amounts of sharpening. Colors are also a bit warmer and more vibrant from the Nikon, though the Canon's color is generally more accurate.

Nikon D3400 vs Panasonic G7 at Base ISO

Nikon D3400 at ISO 100
Panasonic G7 at ISO 200
Here we compare the 24-megapixel APS-C Nikon D3400 to the 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds Panasonic G7. The Nikon produces a noticeably crisper, more detailed and vibrant image than the Panasonic. Default sharpening is less aggressive from the G7 producing smaller, less noticeable sharpening halos than the D3400, but the G7 does have an optical low-pass filter which softens the image slightly to help avoid aliasing artifacts. Colors are more pleasing from the Nikon as well, however the G7 actually has more accurate color overall, except for a slight yellow to green shift.

Nikon D3400 vs Pentax K-S2 at Base ISO

Nikon D3400 at ISO 100
Pentax K-S2 at ISO 100
Above we compare the D3400 to the 20-megapixel APS-C Pentax K-S2, which also doesn't have an optical low-pass filter (but has a trick on-demand AA filter simulator which has been turned off here for maximum sharpness). The 24-megapixel D3400 does capture a bit more detail in most areas, but resolving power is pretty similar between the two. And the K-S2 actually does much better in our red-leaf swatch, reproducing some of the fine thread pattern which the Nikon treats as noise and blurs away. Colors are arguably more pleasing from the Nikon especially in the pink fabric which is rendered too magenta by the K-S2, despite producing a lower mean saturation than the Pentax.

Nikon D3400 vs Sony A6000 at Base ISO

Nikon D3400 at ISO 100
Sony A6000 at ISO 100
Unsurprisingly, the 24-megapixel APS-C Sony A6000 captures similar detail and its sharpening algorithm is more advanced than the Nikon's, producing almost no sharpening halos. The Nikon image is however slightly crisper with higher contrast. The Nikon's mean saturation is also a bit higher but it's the Sony that produces more accurate color overall here.

Nikon D3400 vs Nikon D3300 at ISO 1600

Nikon D3400 at ISO 1600
Nikon D3300 at ISO 1600
Above at ISO 1600, it's easy to see that the D3400's default noise reduction is more aggressive than its predecessor's, producing lower noise levels that are especially noticeable in flatter areas, but as a consequence fine detail in our troublesome red-leaf swatch suffers. The D3400 continues to produce a punchier image with higher contrast and more pleasing color.

Nikon D3400 vs Canon T6 at ISO 1600

Nikon D3400 at ISO 1600
Canon T6 at ISO 1600
The Nikon D3400 produces a crisper, more vibrant image with lower noise levels and better detail than the Canon T6 here at ISO 1600. Both struggle to render fine, low-contrast detail in our tricky red-leaf swatch, but the Nikon manages to do a bit better there as well.

Nikon D3400 vs Panasonic G7 at ISO 1600

Nikon D3400 at ISO 1600
Panasonic G7 at ISO 1600
The Panasonic G7's noise reduction does a pretty good job here at ISO 1600, actually leaving behind less noise than the D3400, though some unwanted NR artifacts can be seen. Detail, contrast, color and sharpness are however better from the Nikon, making it the winner in this comparison.

Nikon D3400 vs Pentax K-S2 at ISO 1600

Nikon D3400 at ISO 1600
Pentax K-S2 at ISO 1600
Despite the slightly lower resolution, the Pentax K-S2 actually does better with fine detail in the mosaic crop. Noise levels are similar if not a bit lower from the Pentax (thanks to its larger pixels), however it blurs almost all detail away in our challenging red-leaf swatch, while color and contrast are still more pleasing from the Nikon.

Nikon D3400 vs Sony A6000 at ISO 1600

Nikon D3400 at ISO 1600
Sony A6000 at ISO 1600
The Sony A6000's noise reduction algorithm leaves behind less noise than the Nikon, but it has a more processed look to it, while the Nikon's noise appears more natural and film-like. Fine detail is perhaps better defined from the Sony, but it's also more distorted by noise reduction.

Nikon D3400 vs Nikon D3300 at ISO 3200

Nikon D3400 at ISO 3200
Nikon D3300 at ISO 3200
As we saw at ISO 1600, the Nikon D3400 produces lower noise levels than the D3300 at ISO 3200 while doing a better job at holding on to high-contrast detail, but subtle low-contrast detail suffers in our tricky red-leaf swatch.

Nikon D3400 vs Canon T6 at ISO 3200

Nikon D3400 at ISO 3200
Canon T6 at ISO 3200
The Nikon D3400 easily out-performs the Canon T6 here at ISO 3200, with a crisper image, more detail and lower noise. Colors are also more vibrant and pleasing from the Nikon, if not quite as accurate.

Nikon D3400 vs Panasonic G7 at ISO 3200

Nikon D3400 at ISO 3200
Panasonic G7 at ISO 3200
Here too against the Panasonic G7, the Nikon D3400 produces a sharper, more detailed image with better color and contrast at ISO 3200. Noise levels are however lower from the Panasonic, but its more aggressive noise reduction generates more unwanted artifacts than the Nikon.

Nikon D3400 vs Pentax K-S2 at ISO 3200

Nikon D3400 at ISO 3200
Pentax K-S2 at ISO 3200
Here at ISO 3200, the Nikon D3400 produces a somewhat crisper image with better contrast, though sharpening halos are more evident. The K-S2's luma noise is higher leading to a grainier image, but its chroma noise is lower which unfortunately blurs away pretty much all detail in our red-leaf swatch. The Nikon continues to produce more pleasing color.

Nikon D3400 vs Sony A6000 at ISO 3200

Nikon D3400 at ISO 3200
Sony A6000 at ISO 3200
The Sony A6000 produces a cleaner image here at ISO 3200, however its noise reduction algorithm smears fine detail more than the D3400, and generates more unwanted artifacts that look unnatural in flatter areas. While contrast is better in the red-leaf swatch, details are quite distorted. Overall, we'd give the Nikon the edge here.

Nikon D3400 vs. Nikon D3300, Canon T6, Panasonic G7, Pentax K-S2, Sony A6000

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. This is always an interesting table, and often yields somewhat different results than we see in the prior tables, as high-contrast detail is often rendered differently than other areas of our Still Life target. Here we can see all three 24-megapixel APS-C cameras do better than the rest, with the Sony A6000 leading the pack in terms of contrast, however the D3400 is a very close second while actually producing finer detail with fewer false colors than the Sony. The D3300 isn't quite as good at higher ISOs, but it's pretty close, although overall contrast is a bit lower. The Pentax K-S2 does quite well at base ISO, but it degrades more as ISO climbs, and struggles the most with false colors at ISO 6400. The Canon T6 does fairly well at base ISO, but it degrades the most as ISO climbs, coming in last at ISO 3200 and 6400. The Panasonic G7 starts out with the lowest contrast at base ISO, but detail is actually quite good and it doesn't degrade much as ISO climbs.


Nikon D3400 Print Quality Analysis

An excellent 30 x 40 inch print at base ISO; a nice 13 x 19 inch print at ISO 1600, and a good 5 x 7 at ISO 12,800.

ISO 100 delivers excellent 30 x 40 inch prints and higher -- as large you need until you run out of resolution. Colors are vibrant, fine detail is sharp and crisp, and the image has a nice three-dimensional pop to it.

ISO 200 images are terrific at 24 x 36 inches, with very nice detail and wonderful color reproduction. The 30 x 40 inch prints here are certainly more than adequate for wall-display purposes as well.

ISO 400 prints also pass our good grade at 24 x 36 inches with nice detail and very little in the way of noise present. For your most critical applications, a reduction to 20 x 30 inches will further tighten up the fine detail and provide more crisp overall imagery.

ISO 800 produces 20 x 30 inch prints that almost pass our good grade, and are certainly fine for less critical applications. The 16 x 20 inch prints here tighten up nicely with good colors throughout, sharp detail and not much in the way of noise, other than a minor amount present in flatter areas of our target. There is a typical mild softening in the red channel and some detail lost in our tricky red-leaf swatch, but otherwise a nice overall print for this ISO.

ISO 1600 images really shine at 13 x 19 inches, with nice colors and good overall detail. A lot of subtle detail is now lost in our red-leaf fabric swatch, though, but this is common for most APS-C cameras by this ISO and higher. Noise is well-controlled here, with only a minor grain-effect in a few flatter areas, but overall a very nice print.

ISO 3200 yields a solid 11 x 14 inch print. There is a trace of noise apparent in the flatter areas of our Still Life target, but it's mild enough to allow this otherwise quality print to warrant our good seal. Colors are also still quite vibrant for this sensitivity.

ISO 6400 tends to be the turning point for quality across most APS-C cameras, but the D3400 produces one of the nicer 8 x 10's at this ISO that we've yet seen in this class and price range. If you like to print 8 x 10's but still need the higher shutter speeds in low light that ISO 6400 can provide, you're in solid hands with this camera.

ISO 12,800 delivers a nice 5 x 7 for such a lofty ISO and price range. Full color reproduction is present, good fine detail, and not much noise to speak of at this print size.

ISO 25,600 delivers a very nice 4 x 6 for this ISO! Colors are just a bit subdued compared to lower ISOs, but still a nice print.

The Nikon D3400 certainly delivers in the print quality department, and when you consider its sub-$500 street price, it jockeys to be the best all-around print camera as ISO rises for that price point. Starting with a large 30 x 40 inch print at base ISO, providing a solid 13 x 19 at ISO 1600, and still delivering a usable print all the way up to ISO 25,600, we'd say this is a very worthy camera for image quality at this price. Topping the already good D3300 for print sizes at a few ISOs, the D3400 furthers what we loved about its predecessor. Indeed, you are in good hands for printing with the Nikon D3400.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

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.)


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