The Nikon D3400 is the newest starter model from Nikon. The body and the sensor are practically unchanged relative to its predecessor, the Nikon D3300, which we reviewed previously. You could say that it is a D3300 with one big and a number of small changes. The big advance is that the D3400 has SnapBridge, with which you can automatically transfer files to your smartphone—with much lower power consumption than with WiFi—so that you can then share them from the smartphone on social media. But the sensor can no longer clean itself, and the flash is less powerful. One step forwards and two steps back? Or does the D3400 still really represent progress?
Nikon D3400: A D3300 WITH SnapBridge
The D3400 could also have been called the D3300s. The differences from the predecessor are small. The new body looks the same as the old body, although the weight is 15 gram less. It still has a sensor with 24 megapixels and no anti-alias filter, which delivers the highest possible sharpness. And you can photograph at 5 images per second. The processor is said to have been updated a bit, which results in a better signal-to-noise ratio and one stop higher ISO value, at 25,600. The image quality is improved, but that is hardly noticeable. Not that it is bad, since the image quality of the D3300 is also simply outstanding. The viewfinder still shows 95% of the image and has a magnification of 0.82x. That makes the ultimate viewfinder enlargement of this DX camera 0.54x. The auto focus module is the CAM1000, which made its entrance in the D3000.
The big difference is SnapBridge. With it, you can have the pictures that you shoot with the D3400 transferred automatically to your smartphone with a resolution of 2 megapixels. With the D3300, you can only transfer images with the help of a separate WiFi accessory..
Snapbridge: revolutiON, NOT evolutiON
WiFi drains a battery quickly; SnapBridge does not.
SnapBridge enables the camera to make contact with a smartphone. After you have set it up the first time, your camera recognizes your smartphone, and you no longer need to look at it. The images are—if you choose this option, of course—continuously forwarded while photographing. It works with a low-energy version of Bluetooth (BLE, Bluetooth Low Energy). The bandwidth of SnapBridge is not very big. The D3400 cannot send any RAW files or jpg files in high resolution via SnapBridge, like the Nikon D5600 can with WiFi. SnapBridge does not work with the D3400 when you are only photographing in RAW. For that, the D5600 is an obvious choice.
Pictures that are taken in jpeg are sent with a resolution of 2 megapixels. For sharing on social media, that is more than enough. You connect with SnapBridge from the menu on the camera. Once the camera and the smartphone are connection, the connection is sustained. The D3400 offers two options: send all photos, or only photos selected in advance. If you choose the first option, then the camera continues sending shots until everything has been sent or the space on the smartphone is used up. If you choose the easiest option, transferring everything automatically, then you do need to check to make sure you have sufficient space on your smartphone. Those who take a great many shots in a row cannot count on the last photo immediately appearing on the smartphone: SnapBridge is not super-fast. If you want to be able to have your last photo quickly, then it is probably more advisable to choose option two: select photos and transfer those. If you work that way, a faster WiFi connection would have been even better. One of the big advantages of SnapBridge is that its power consumption is low. An active WiFi connection quickly drains a battery; SnapBridge does not. But take into account that the number of shots that you can make is lower if SnapBridge is on for a long time.
ONE stEp FORWARD, twO stEPS BACK?
Dynamic range, sharpness and signal-to-noise ratio of the 24-megapixel sensor without anti-alias filter are still very good, even though we see no real differences from the Nikon D3300. Even if you make the dark areas of an evening shot significantly lighter, the signal-to-noise ratio remains very good.
This camera is nice and small, and light. Focusing is fast, unless you focus with the help of LiveView. The D3400 shoots video in Full HD at 60 frames per second. The image quality of the video is good, with little moiré or artifacts.
Those who primarily use their cameras for social media will benefit a lot from SnapBridge. At the same time, the new Nikon D3400 also has limitations. The range of the flash has been lowered from 12 to 7 meters. Another important limitation is the removal of the ultrasonic sensor cleaning. The camera no longer cleans itself automatically. The D3400 can only be cleaned by lifting the mirror and manually cleaning the sensor. Both of those changes mean that the camera uses less power. That is handy if you add a function like SnapBridge. But removing the automatic sensor cleaning is still a negative point for a camera intended for users who just want as much ease as possible. Beginners who do not use a wireless connection are better off with the Nikon D3300, which is also still for sale. A third, smaller negative point is the removal of the microphone input. Many beginning users might not care so much about that. It does mean that you have fewer options for growing with this camera. The Nikon D5600, which also has, for example, a fold-out screen, is a more expensive alternative, but it does offer more options for growth.
ConclusiON Nikon D3400 REVIEW
- Small and light
- High image quality
- Good performance in low light
- Attractively priced
- No automatic dust reduction
- Slow AF in LiveView
- Difficult menus and limited control options
- No touchscreen
Whether or not you see the addition of SnapBridge and the removal of the automatic dust filter as progress or not is a personal choice. The Nikon D3300 remains a very good starter camera, but for those who share a lot of pictures via social media, the D3400 is a better choice. The 24-megapixel sensor delivers very good image quality. The high ISO values are also good, and the noise levels are lower than in most competitors. The dynamic range is outstanding, and the jpeg files look very good. With Active D-Lighting, you can make optimal use in the jpegs of the dynamic range. The camera then chooses an exposure that ensures that the highlights are not too washed out and the shadows are rendered well. That creates beautifully exposed shots with good rendering in the light and dark areas.
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The auto focus system works as it should, although the AF points could stand to cover a bit more of the image field. The D3400 works a good deal better when you use the viewfinder instead of the screen. Those who buy a D3400 as a next step after photographing with a smartphone might have to get used to that. Auto focus in LiveView is a good deal slower than if you use the viewfinder. The screen does not tilt or turn and is not a touchscreen, like on the Nikon D5600. We find it difficult to estimate how many consumers think a wireless connection is a deal breaker. If that isn’t that important to you, then take a look at the Nikon D5500/D5600 (more expensive, but more advanced, so that you can grow with them longer) or the D3300 (attractively priced, with a dust filter, but without SnapBridge). Whichever camera you choose, the image quality is always top.