The D3400 delivers high picture and video quality at an affordable price.
Performance-wise our Imatest testing show the review camera and supplied kit lens are capable of comfortably meeting expectations for the camera’s 24-megapixel sensor.
JPEGs straight out of the camera showed they are colour-accurate and restrained in saturation. Autofocusing is fast, very accurate and also performs well when recording movie clips.
Low light performance is impressive for an entry-level camera and images shot at the highest sensitivity settings would be usable in many applications.
The D3400 also has Bluetooth-enabled SnapBridge support with the ability to take location data from a connected smart-phone.
Announced on 17 August, the Nikon D3400 replaces the two-year-old D3300 at the bottom of the company’s DSLR line-up. Competitively priced and similar in body design and functionality to its predecessor, the D3400 is the first entry-level DSLR with integrated SnapBridge connectivity, enabled via low energy Bluetooth technology. Aside from that, there’s not much difference between the D3400 and the D3300.
Angled view of the Nikon D3400 with the AF-P 18-55mm kit lens. (Source: Nikon.)
They share the same sensor and EXPEED 4 processor, the same shutter mechanism (which is rated for 100,000 cycles), the same shutter speed range and continuous shooting rates, the same focusing and metering systems and the same pop-up flash. The still and movie resolutions are identical in the two cameras and both offer a 12-bit compressed NEF.RAW option, in addition to three JPEG image sizes, each with three levels of compression.
Announced concurrently with the D3400 were a couple of ‘AF-P’ kit lenses, covering 18-55mm and 70-300mm zoom ranges. Both are offered VR and non-VR versions. Both lenses feature a stepping motor AF drive, which is quieter than the AF-S motors and better for video. Unfortunately, they only work on recent DX bodies.
Although the D3400 is manufactured in black and red, in Australia, only the black version seems to be available. It is being sold as body-only and in single- and twin-lens kits. Buyers of the single-lens kit should check which of the new AF-P DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G lenses is included as some re-sellers offer the VR (stabilised) lens while others the unstabilised model ““ and they may not disclose which on their websites. Twin-lens kits can also vary, with most offering the AF-S DX Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II lens as the second option.
Who’s it for?
The D3400 has the same straightforward control suite as its predecessors and its mostly plastic body is relatively small and light. It’s smaller and lighter than Canon’s latest entry-level model, the EOS 1300D although not as small and light as Canon’s EOS 100D, which is showing its age after three years but remains on the market. Potential purchasers should note that only AF-P and type E and G AF-S lenses will autofocus on this camera (the lack of a body-based screw-drive means you can’t use older AF lenses). The electronic range finder can be switched on to assist with manual focusing. It only works with lenses that have maximum apertures of f/5.6 or faster and isn’t available in the M shooting mode or with Live View.
Nikon describes the addition of SnapBridge as ‘one of the defining characteristics of the Nikon D3400’. SnapBridge was introduced in the D500 and is covered in our review of that camera. Unlike the D500, however, the D3400 can’t be controlled remotely with the SnapBridge application (although its shutter can be remotely triggered with the optional ML-L3 infrared remote).
While it’s not Wi-Fi enabled, the D3400 includes Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) functionality for supporting SnapBridge. Once the Nikon SnapBridge application is installed, it allows the camera to sync all the images recorded with a linked smart device (Android only at this stage) and automatically transfer them to the company’s free Nikon Image Space online image sharing and storage service. Individually selected photos can also be transferred.
Aside from SnapBridge, there have been a few minor improvements to the Guide Mode, which helps novice users to select the best settings for different situations by displaying various settings with sample images that show what works for each scenario. There are also guides for setting up the camera and well as viewing, retouching and deleting photos.
Native ISO sensitivity has been expanded to cover from ISO 100 to ISO 25,600 a full stop more than the D3300, which stopped at ISO 12,800 in normal modes and only provided the higher sensitivity as an ‘expansion’ setting. Battery capacity has risen from 700 in D3300 to 1200 shots per charge, although this is mainly at the expense of flash output. Both cameras use the same EN-EL14a battery pack and, since CIPA ratings are based on the flash firing half the time at full power, the less powerful flash in the D3400 uses less power; hence the increased shooting capacity.
Internally, a significant change has been the removal of the built-in ultrasonic vibration system for cleaning sensor, making the D3400 the only Nikon DSLR without this feature. In its place is Nikon Image Dust Off Reference Photo, which requires users to photograph a featureless white object in order to show the locations of dust spots. This function only works when a type E or type G lens is mounted on the camera and relies on software to remove the blemishes. Mirror lock-up is available for manual sensor cleaning.
Unlike the D3300, the D3400 has no jack for attaching an external stereo microphone; nor does it have an accessory terminal for remote controllers.
Build and ergonomics
Physically, theD3400 is almost identical to the D3300, the main difference being the new camera is roughly 15 grams lighter. Like other D3*** models, the D3400’s body is mostly plastic, although build quality is quite good for an entry-level camera. External differences between the cameras in this series are minimal.
The control layout hasn’t changed noticeably since the D3300, which we reviewed in October 2014. The grip is virtually identical and the mode dial contains the same settings as previous models. There have been no changes to the viewfinder or LCDD monitor.
Top view of the D3400 with the AF-P 18-55mm kit lens. (Source: Nikon.)
The built-in pop-up flash is the same, low-power unit as in previous cameras. The new model is marginally heavier than its predecessor but only by 13 grams when battery and card are installed, which isn’t enough to signify.
Rear view of the D3400. (Source: Nikon.)
Also unchanged is the monitor size and resolution and the single card slot on the right hand side panel. Interestingly, although interface ports are still located in the left side panel under a rubber hatch, there are now only two ports with USB 2.0 and HDMI connections. The accessory terminal and microphone port have been eliminated.
The battery is the same EN-EL14a unit as in the D3300 but its capacity has been boosted from 820 shots/charge to around 12000 shots/charge. The base plate is unchanged and sports a metal-lined tripod socket, which is in line with the lens axis.
Sensor and Image Processing
The sensor in the D3400 hasn’t changed substantially since the D3200 and the processor is the same EXPEED 4 chip as in the D3300. The new processor has enabled Nikon to marginally increase file sizes, although the buffer capacity has barely changed. The table below shows the approximate sizes and buffer capacities available.
6000 x 4000
4496 x 3000
2992 x 2000
6000 x 4000
6000 x 4000
All NEF.RAW files are 12-bit compressed raw files. The three JPEG compression modes are 1:4 (Large), 1:8 (Medium) and 1:16 (Small).
Video options are the same as in the D3300 and D3200, with the highest resolution and frame rate being Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) with a frame rate of 60 fps for NTSC countries or 50 fps in PAL countries like Australia. Two ‘quality’ settings are available. The maximum size for a movie file is 4GB but recording times can vary as shown in the table below, which covers PAL system options.
Maximum recording time
1920 x 1080; 50p
1920 x 1080; 25p
1920 x 1080; 24p
1280 x 720; 50p
1920 x 1080; 50p
1920 x 1080; 25p
29 minutes 59 seconds
1920 x 1080; 24p
1280 x 720; 50p
As is usual with DSLRs, movies can only be recorded in Live View mode, which is selected by pressing the LV button just above the arrow pad on the rear panel. A dedicated movie button (with a red dot) is used to start and end recordings.
The camera includes flicker reduction and a wind filter. Soundtracks are recorded monaurally and a sensitivity adjustment is provided in the menu for controlling audio levels.
We covered SnapBridge in our review of the Nikon D500 camera, which also included integrated Wi-Fi and NFC. The D3400 only has SnapBridge. Before you can use it, you must install the SnapBridge app on the smart device you want the camera to connect with. It’s available for downloading from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
Once that’s been done, enabling Bluetooth on the smart device sets up the automatic transfer of photos and thumbnail images via a constant connections between the camera and smart device. When you start the camera you’re asked whether you want to use SnapBridge to send photos to the smart device and share them online. You can opt out if you wish but must setup SnapBridge via the camera’s setup menu if you change your mind.
When the camera and smart device are within range, the camera will launch the SnapBridge app on the smart device and ask you to select the name of the camera you want it to pair with. A six-digit authentication code is usually displayed. Once the devices have been paired, you can choose whether to use the location data features either device supports and synchronise the camera clock to the smart device. When synchronisation has been completed, the camera will return to the normal shooting display.
If you select Send to smart device (Auto), JPEG images will be uploaded automatically as they are taken, even if the camera is turned off. The default size is two megapixels and uploading will proceed seamlessly until the battery level is too low to maintain the connection. If you don’t want to upload each shot you take, switch this function off and select pictures via the Send to smart device option in the camera’s playback menu.
We found the system worked as described in the instruction manual, although it wasn’t particularly fast and if you want to upload images to social networks that’s another step in the process, which has to be done with the smart device. GPS data and time settings were transferred seamlessly when selected.
If you forget to take the smart device out on a shoot, the camera will transfer images once it’s close enough. And if there’s insufficient storage space in the smart device, it will keep trying until the battery gets too low. It’s not the ideal solution but, if you monitor camera and smart device, you may be able to make it work for you.
Playback and Software
Playback options are standard Nikon fare and include full-frame and thumbnail (4, 9, or 72 images or calendar) playback with playback zoom, movie playback, photo and/or movie slide shows, histogram display, highlights, auto image rotation, and image comment (up to 36 characters).
The bundled software is View NX-i a basic browser that includes some editing facilities and Capture NX-D for processing NEF.RAW files and saving them in editable formats. Both need to be downloaded from the Nikon Download Centre at http://downloadcenter.nikonimglib.com/.
The Kit Lens
The AF-P DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens supplied with the review camera is a variation on the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VRII lens, which we reviewed with the D3300 camera in October 2014. Like that lens is has a plastic mount and a retracting inner barrel. This lens is reviewed separately.
Subjective assessments of JPEGs straight out of the camera showed they were colour-accurate and restrained in saturation when the default standard Picture Control was used. Imatest showed minor deviations from the ‘ideal’ colour values but they were obviously not enough to impart colour biases or imply a lack of colour fidelity.
Exposure metering was spot-on in most of the situations we tested, although subjects with wide brightness ranges were recorded with different emphasis, depending on where in the frame the light and dark areas occurred and how the camera’s processor interpreted different patterns. To all extents, however, we feel the metering system in the camera can deliver ‘correct’ exposures in more than 95% of the subjects commonly photographed by potential buyers of this camera.
Autofocusing was also fast and very accurate and we were pleasantly surprised that the camera was able to focus on the eye of a seagull which took flight just in front of us. See the Samples below for the picture, which was taken in single-shot AF mode.
The autofocusing system also performed well when recording movie clips. All scenes were sharply recorded and the system was able to select and track the main subject(s) in the scenes we shot, even when they were moving at a fast walking pace.
Our Imatest testing showed the review camera and supplied kit lens were capable of comfortably meeting expectations for the camera’s 24-megapixel sensor, based upon measurements around the centre of the frame. Edge resolution was a little below expectations.
As expected, the measurements from NEF.RAW files converted into 16-bit TIFFs were higher than from 8-bit JPEGs. Edge resolution in converted raw files was only slightly below expectations, whereas there was a two-megapixel gap in the JPEG measurements. Resolution remained relatively high from ISO 100 through to ISO 800, after which there was a slow but steady decline to ISO 12800 followed by a drop to ISO 25600, as shown in the graph of our Imatest results below.
Interestingly, low light performance was impressive for an entry-level camera and images shot at the highest sensitivity settings would be usable in many applications. Noise became noticeable at ISO 6400, with slight softening appearing at ISO 12800. Both had become increasingly obvious by ISO 25600.
Flash exposures largely paralleled the long exposure performance, although noise was less obvious at the highest ISO settings, probably because of shorter exposure times. Interestingly, with the auto flash setting, exposures were remarkably consistent across the camera’s sensitivity range. Exposure consistency was better than we found with the D3300, which has a more powerful flash.
White balance performance was similar to other Nikon cameras we’ve tested. The auto setting delivered neutral colour rendition under both fluorescent and flash lighting but failed to correct the warm cast imparted by incandescent lights. The incandescent pre-set over-corrected, as did most of the various fluorescent presets. The flash pre-set barely changed colour rendition. Manual measurement produced neutral colour rendition with both incandescent and fluorescent lighting.
Thanks to improved autofocusing, video clips recorded with the review camera were better than we obtained with the D3300, although the recorded soundtracks were of similar quality. In bright outdoor lighting, recordings tended to be contrasty, depending upon the tonal balance in the scene. The metering system appears to operate in the same way for both stills and movie recording, a level of consistency that will be appreciated by novice users.
Our timing tests were carried out with a 32GB SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC U1 memory card, which claims a transfer speed of 45 MB/second. When we unlocked the lens before switching the camera on, the review camera took just under a second to power-up ready for the first shot. It took roughly a second to switch from the viewfinder to the live view mode.
We measured an average capture lag of 0.2 seconds when the viewfinder was used. Pre-focusing reduced it to less than 0.1 seconds. In live view mode capture lag averaged 0.45 seconds, reducing to 0.5 seconds with pre-focusing. Shot-to-shot times averaged 0.5 seconds with the viewfinder and 2.3 seconds in live view mode.
With flash exposures, shot-to-shot times averaged 1.1 seconds. Combining flash with Live View resulted in shot-to-shot times of 4.5 seconds on average. The average processing time for Large/ Fine JPEGs was 0.2 seconds, which extended to 2.2 seconds for each NEF.RAW file and 2.7 seconds for each RAW+JPEG pair.
With the fastest continuous shooting mode, the review camera could record a burst of 22 Large/ Fine JPEGs in 4.1 seconds before pausing, which is slightly faster than specifications. It took 18.9 seconds to process this burst. Switching to raw file capture, the camera was able to record 10 frames in 1.8 seconds before pausing. It took 11.2 seconds to process this burst.
Only six RAW+JPEG pairs could be recorded before the buffer memory filled after one second. Processing this burst took approximately seven seconds.
Despite being a fairly unexciting camera, the D3400 deserves our Editor’s Choice commendation because it delivers high picture and video quality at an affordable price. It’s up to individual buyers whether they are prepared to accept the loss of bracketing, depth of field preview, dust-removal, a mirror-up setting and Wi-Fi plus a less powerful flash in order to get SnapBridge and a higher battery capacity.
While you’re pondering whether to spend your hard-earned on this camera, give some thought to a couple of alternatives. If you don’t need Bluetooth or don’t want to send your images to your phone, the D3300 may be a better choice as it has a more powerful flash and gives you an external mic-in socket and sensor cleaning for less money. You should obtain the same battery life in actual shooting with the older camera as long as you restrict your use of flash.
The more up-market D5500 kit (which includes the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II) can be had for between AU$100 and $150 more if you shop around. It has built-in dust control, an interval timer, exposure and white balance bracketing, a more capable AF system with 39 selectable points, and a vari-angle 3.2-inch touch screen monitor with 1,037,000 dots. It also boasts a 2016-pixel RGB metering system with a range of 30 metres and a much more powerful built-in flash.
It’s not worth shopping off-shore for these cameras since local prices are very competitive. Shopping locally gives you the advantage of Australian consumer protection laws and you can handle the camera in your favourite store and discuss its merits with well-informed and helpful staff.
Image sensor: 23.5 x 15.6 mm sensor with 24.72 million photosites (24.2 megapixels effective); no low-pass filter
Image processor: EXPEED 4
A/D processing: 12-bit
Lens mount: Nikon F
Focal length crop factor: 1.5x
Image formats: Stills: JPEG (DCF 2.0, Exif 2.3, MPF Baseline compliant), compressed 12-bit NEF.RAW, RAW+JPEG; Movies: MOV (H.264 with LPCM audio); built-in monaural microphone/speaker
Image Sizes: Stills ““ 6000 x 4000, 4496 x 3000, 2992 x 2000; Movies: [Full HD] 1920 x 1080 at 60/50p, 30p, 25p, 24p; [HD] 1280 x 720 at 60/50p
Image Stabilisation: Lens based
Dust removal: Image Dust Off reference data (optional Capture NX-D software required)
Shutter speed range: 30 to 1/4000 second plus Bulb and Time; flash sync at 1/200 second
Exposure Compensation: +/-5 EV in 1/3EV steps (+/-EV for movies)
Exposure bracketing: Not supported
Self-timer: 2, 5, 10, 20 seconds delay; 1 to 9 exposures
Focus system: Multi-CAM 1000 module with TTL phase detection, 11 AF points, central point cross-type; AF assist light available; autofocus is available with AF-P and type E and G AF-S lenses
Focus modes: Auto AF-S/AF-C selection (AF-A), Continuous-servo (AF-C), Face-Priority AF available in Live View only and D-Movie only, Full-time Servo (AF-A) available in Live View only and D-Movie only, Manual (M) with electronic rangefinder, Normal area available in Live View and D-Movie only, Predictive focus tracking activated automatically according to subject status, Single-servo AF (AF-S), Wide area available in Live View and D-Movie only
Exposure metering: 420-pixel RGB sensor3D Colour Matrix Metering II, Colour Matrix Metering II, Centre-weighted, Spot (3.5mm/2.5%)
Shooting modes: Auto, P, A, S, M, Scene presets (Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close up, Night portrait)
Picture Control modes: Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, Landscape, Flat; selected Picture Control can be modified
Special Effect modes: Night Vision, Super Vivid, Pop, Photo Illustration, Toy Camera, Miniature, Selective Colour, Silhouette, High Key, Low Key
Image processing modes: Picture Control (Flat option and Clarity parameter added; finer adjustment in increments of 0.25, Brightness adjustment range +/- 1.5), Active D-Lighting
Colour space options: sRGB and Adobe RGB
ISO range: Auto, ISO 100-ISO 25600 in 1EV steps
White balance: Auto, Incandescent, Fluorescent (7 types), Direct Sunlight, Flash, Cloudy, Shade, all with fine tuning; Preset Manual
Flash: Built-in I-TTL pop-up flash, GN 7 (m, ISO 100), 18mm lens coverage
Flash modes: Auto, auto, auto slow sync, fill-flash, slow sync, rear-curtain with slow sync, rear-curtain sync, off; red-eye reduction is available; Advanced Wireless Lighting supported with SB-910, SB-900, SB-800 as master
Flash exposure adjustment: -3 to +1 EV in 1/3EV steps
Sequence shooting: Max. 5 shots/sec.
Buffer capacity: Max. 100 Large/Fine JPEGs or 16 RAW files
Storage Media: single slot for SD, SDHC, SDXC cards (UHS-I compatible)
Viewfinder: Pentamirror with approx. 95% frame coverage, 0.85x magnification, 18 mm eyepoint, dioptre adjustment -1.7 to +0.5 dpt, fixed Type B BriteView Clear Matte Mark VII screen
LCD monitor: 3-inch TFT with 921,000 dots, 170 degree viewing angle
Playback functions: Auto Image Rotation, Full-Frame and Thumbnail (4, 9, or 72 images or calendar), Highlights, Histogram Display, Image Comment, Location Display, Movie Playback, Photo Information, Picture Rating, Playback Face Zoom, Playback with Zoom, Playback Zoom Cropping, Slideshow; In-camera editing: Colour Outline, Colour Sketch, D-Lighting, Distortion Control, Filter Effects, Fisheye, Image Overlay, Miniature Effect, Monochrome, NEF (RAW) Processing, Painting, Perspective Control, Photo Illustration, Quick Retouch, Red-Eye Correction, Resize, Selective Colour, Straighten, Trim
Interface terminals: USB 2.0, Type C HDMI connector, Built-in Bluetooth (SnapBridge support)
Wi-Fi function: Eye-Fi compatible
Power supply: EN-EL14a Rechargeable Li-ion Battery Pack; CIPA rated for approx. 1200 shots/charge
Dimensions (wxhxd): Approx. 124 x 98 x 75.5 mm
Weight: 395 grams (body only); approx. 445 grams with battery and card
Distributor: Nikon Australia, 1300 366 499; www.nikon.com.au
Based on JPEG files.
Based on NEF.RAW files converted with Capture NX-D.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
Auto white balance with flash illumination.
30-second exposure at f/3.9, 24mm focal length, ISO 100.
10-second exposure at f/3.9, 24mm focal length, ISO 800.
6-second exposure at f/3.9, 24mm focal length, ISO 3200.
5-second exposure at f/11, 24mm focal length, ISO 6400.
2-second exposure at f/10, 24mm focal length, ISO 12800.
2-second exposure at f/14, 24mm focal length, ISO 25600.
Flash exposure at ISO 100;55mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
Flash exposure at ISO 800; 55mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
Flash exposure at ISO 3200; 55mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/7.1.
Flash exposure at ISO 6400; 55mm focal length, 1/80 second at f/8.
Flash exposure at ISO 12800; 55mm focal length, 1/125 second at f/10.
Flash exposure at ISO 25600; 55mm focal length, 1/160 second at f/11.
55mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/10.
18mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/5.6.
18mm focal length; 1/200 second at f/5, ISO 180. Auto shooting mode with flash fill.
55mm focal length; 1/640 second at f/5.6, ISO 100.
18mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/9. P shooting mode with auto ISO.
28mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/9. P shooting mode with auto ISO.
Fast AF in Auto shooting mode; 55mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/250 second at f/9.
55mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/10.
55mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/11.
55mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/250 second at f/8.
34mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/7.1.
Still frame from Full HD 1080 movie clip recorded at 50p.
Still frame from Full HD 1080 movie clip recorded at 30p.
Still frame from Full HD 1080 movie clip recorded at 25p.
Still frame from Full HD 1080 movie clip recorded at 24p
Still frame from HD 720 movie clip recorded at 50p.
Additional image samples can be found with our review of the AF-P DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens.
RRP: n/a; Average selling price: AU$700; US$650 (with 18-55mm AF-P kit lens)
- Build: 8.5
- Ease of use: 9.0
- Autofocusing: 9.2
- Still image quality JPEG: 8.9
- Still image quality RAW: 9.1
- Video quality: 8.5