Nikon D3400 in 2018: The Simplest DSLR Under $500 for Beginners (Review)

Nikon D3400 in 2018 (review) - The simplest SLR camera for beginners on a budget.

Arguably, Nikon D3400 is one of the best entry-level DSLRs under $500 today.

Why? Because this baby is cheap, easy to use and sure does produce quality images.

Check out our Nikon D3400 review (with video) to make an educated buying decision.

Let me start off by saying that Nikon D3400 is a low-end camera in the modern line of Nikon SLRs.

In my opinion, this is the best option for a beginner photographer who doesn’t really know what he wants and doesn’t want to spend too much money.

The fact that this is a low-end camera doesn’t at all mean that the image quality is inferior to its “professional” brothers.

You won’t experience image quality loss and you can still create photo masterpieces.

What’s important is that it’s super easy to useEven a child can doit with D3400.

To get quality shots, it is enough to find the shutter button on the camera and set the green Auto mode.

Now, this camera can fully work in Auto mode, but at the same time it is ready to grow with you.

Without doubt, there is an excellent balance between ease in mastering the SLR and the presence of advanced functions:

  • this camera will allow you to learn from scratch and develop your photography skills.

Anyway, this post won’t just include a boring set of features that the camera has.

  • You can watch a video review,
  • You’ll learn how to set up your Nikon D3400,
  • A few lens recommendations based on whatever photography genre you’re into,
  • And a few photo samples so you can judge this DSLR for yourself.

Now, let’s have a warm up with a video review.

Nikon D3400 Field Test (Video Review)

If you enjoy watching videos, check out this review before you continue reading the article:

What you might like about this camera:

  • Guide Mode will help the beginners to master all the basic techniques
  • great image quality
  • low level of noise at high ISO
  • very compact and light
  • excellent ergonomics, each button is in its place
  • accurate focusing with the optical viewfinder, and when shooting through the display
  • quality implementation of Live View mode
  • SnapBridge technology allows transferring photos to your smartphone automatically
  • advanced work of Auto ISO

What you might not like about this camera:

Nikon D3400 Review 2018: Our Opinion

Nikon D3400 has a 24-megapixel resolution with the burst rate of 5 frames per second.

This camera comes with a fantastic Nikkor 18-55 VR lens, which fully realizes the potential of the camera. 

This small lens can be used even for macro photography. It’s enough to try, and if you decide that macro is something you like, then you can consider buying a specialized macro lens.

Here is one example:

Macro photography with Nikon D3400 (review and photo samples)
55.0mm · ƒ/5.6 · 10/800s · ISO 100

If you need to zoom in, you don’t need high resolution, but you need a special zoom lens. For example, Nikkor 55-200mm (from inexpensive options).

The kit lens has optical stabilization, but it turns on/off on the camera. There is no longer a switch on the lens itself as it was before.

Traditionally, Nikon SLRs are with excellent color rendering and characteristic warm tones. Each manufacturer has its own peculiarities when it comes to colors and it’s not good or bad, but personally I like the colors of Nikon.

  • Usually, I shoot nature and landscapes in Picture Control Vi (saturated), which makes the colors very juicy and bright.
  • For portraits, I prefer muted colors in the NL mode (neutral), as the portrait photos are still processed and toned anyway.
  • Now, if you do not know which mode to select, just select SD (standard).
Shooting architecture with D3400
18.0mm · ƒ/3.5 · 1/3200s · ISO 100

In Nikon D3400 there is an auto correction of distortion, however, by default this option is turned off for some reason and it should be turned on through the menu.

This is critical for architectural photography because the camera eliminates all kinds of distortions of the lens, making straight lines straight.

In cloudy weather, you will miss the HDR mode. (Unfortunately, it’s not available on D3400.)

Panorama mode is also unavailable. 

You will have to create and edit a panorama manually.

What About ISO in Nikon D3400?

In modern Nikon cameras, high ISO (light sensitivity) is supported and the D3400 is no exception. The maximum declared ISO 25600, but I didn’t shoot at such high values in real life for the entire period of using the camera.

Usually, I shoot in Auto ISO mode, when the camera itself chooses photo sensitivity depending on the lighting.

Basically, I put the maximum value of Auto 25600 and forget about this option.

The highest ISO of the photos made with D3400 I found is ISO 4500. As a rule, when it gets even darker, there’s definitely nothing to shoot there.

Shooting with Nikon D3400 at high ISO
28.0mm · ƒ/4.2 · 1/10s · ISO 1600

Even when shooting any stained-glass windows without a tripod in the dark, the camera understands what you are doing and selects the necessary settings.

Personally, I prefer not to worry much and almost always shoot in P mode.

The camera itself does everything for me and I am usually satisfied with the image.

If I am not happy with it, then I start to select from the P, A, S, M modes and experiment with the settings.

Example: Let’s say you’re trying to shoot a flower (macro) and there’s a pretty strong wind. 

Then you’d likely have to shoot in M mode, and would need shorter shutter speed and a smaller aperture to provide an acceptable depth of field.

Nikon D3400: Additional Features to Mention

1). Nikon D3400 has a built-in flash.

Unfortunately, it has a very long synchronization time of 1/200, so consider purchasing an external flash.

2). A very important feature in this budget Nikon SLR is the Bluetooth interface.

You will especially appreciate it while in travel.

Before, a Wi-Fi interface was used in cameras which would greatly lower the battery life. That’s why you always had to turn it on and off.

And now you can do the same at the same speed, yet you don’t have to worry about your battery. You just turn on Bluetooth and forget about it.

Another thing is that besides photos, time and location are also synchronized. So now there is no need to worry about forgetting to change the time zone in the camera settings.

3). SD format memory cards.

Get a better card with a good recording speed, so that the camera does a good job with serial shooting. (Several thousand frames in JPEG format will fit into your 64GB memory card.)

What’s Missing in Nikon D3400?
(Info for More Experienced Photographers)

You should also keep in mind what you will not find in this SLR.

This is not critical for beginners as you can still create masterpieces without these features, so I will enumerate this for the sophisticated audience:

1). There is no HDR mode and bracketing.

2). The built-in flash doesn’t work in command mode.

3). The Fn button can only be programmed for the following functions:

  • image quality,
  • white balance,
  • ISO,
  • active D-lighting.

4). There is no “screw thread”, that is, the built-in motor for old lenses. 

Here is what this website says about lens mount (screw) threads:

In photography a standardized adaption device for the changing of lenses which works independent from the manufacturer is called screw thread or lens thread. Screw threads are the forerunners of the bayonet connectors…

(A screw thread is fine spiral on the lens that interlocks with a corresponding fine spiral on the camera body to mount the lens. Like a screw and a nut.)

Anyway, what I am trying to say here is that older lenses will work only in the manual autofocus mode.

How to Set Up Nikon D3400 SLR Camera?

I’d set it up this way:

  • Image Quality – Fine
  • Image Size – L
  • ISO:
    • ISO 100
    • Auto control – ON
    • Maximum ISO – ISO 25,600
    • Maximum exposure – Auto
  • White Balance – Auto
  • Picture control mode – Vi. Use NL or SD for portraits to avoid redness on the skin.
  • Active D-Lighting – ON
  • Noise Reduction – OFF
  • Vignette Control – N
  • Auto Distortion control – ON
  • Focus mode – AF-A
  • Autofocus area mode – Auto AF Point Selection
  • Built-in AF Assist illuminator – ON
  • Exposure – Metering
  • Built-in flash control – TTL
  • Optical VR – ON

Our Lens Recommendations:
What Lens to Choose for Nikon D3400?

Earlier I mentioned that D3400 comes with 18-55mm VR lens, which surely realizes the potential of the camera.

You can also consider getting a standard AF-S 50mm with a large aperture of f/1.8G.

This Nikon lens is ideal for shooting in low light conditions or for shooting portraits with a bokeh effectA silent ultrasonic motor (USM) provides fast and quiet autofocusing.

Nikon D3400 in 2018 (Review)

Nature photography with Nikon D3400 (review)
34.0mm · ƒ/29.0 · 1/25s · ISO 100

The D3400 camera is a great budget choice for a beginner photographer, even in 2018.

With this SLR, you can even do commercial shooting because the quality of the picture is not inferior to expensive cameras.

If you are not a beginner photographer, but your budget is very limited, and you are suffering with an old camera (where it’s better avoid ISO above 800), then the Nikon D3400 will be your salvation for a reasonable price.

Are You Considering Nikon D3400 in 2018?
Your Thoughts?

In conclusion, I’d like to address most people’s concern and say that even though Nikon D3400 was released a few years ago, it is still a popular entry-level camera in 2018. 

I mean it’s the best value for the money DSLR today.

Now, if you have a few more bucks to spend, I definitely recommend you check out our review of Nikon D5300

Our job with this website is to provide accurate information but ultimately, it’s your decision whether this camera is the right fit for you.

Now, what are your thoughts on this Nikon D3400 review?

Anything else to add?

Comments and suggestions are welcome in the comments below (click to jump straight to the comment form).

Nikon D3400 in 2018: The Simplest DSLR Under $500 for Beginners (Review)
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