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Nikon D3400 in 2020: The Simplest DSLR for Beginners On a Budget (Review)

Nikon D3400 in 2019 (review). The simplest DSLR camera for beginners on a budget (under $500).

Welcome to my Nikon D3400 review! (My 2020 update.)

You may wonder:

Is it worth buying Nikon D3400 in 2020, especially since the new D3500 model is already on the market?

I mention the Nikon D3500 at the bottom of this review but, in a nutshell, there are no major differences between the two. So, if you find that the older model suits your budget better, feel safe buying it.


D3400 is a great option for beginner photographers who don’t really know what they want and don’t feel comfortable spending too much money on their first gear.

The truth is…

Just because this DSLR is a low-end camera doesn’t at all mean that the image quality is inferior to its professional counterparts.

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

Nikon D3400 w/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR (Black)

What’s important is that it’s super easy to use. 

(Even a child can do it with D3400.)

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


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

What do I mean by that?

Because there is an excellent balance of the ease in mastering the DSLR and the presence of advanced functions, this camera will allow you to learn from scratch and develop your photography skills.

Without a doubt:

Nikon D3400 is one of the best budget starter cameras today.

Nikon D3400 Field Test (Video Review)

Check out this video review before you continue reading the article:

Quick specs:

  • Type: Compact SLR
  • Weight: 445 g
  • Pixels: 24 MP
  • Sensor size: APS-C (23.5 x 15.6 mm)
  • ISO: Auto, 100-25600
  • Articulated LCD: Fixed
  • Touchscreen: None
  • Environmentally sealed: No

💰 Where to buy online? Check price and availability on:

What you might like about it:

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

What you might not like about it:

Nikon D3400 Review 2020: My Opinion

Let’s start with some quick specs:

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

Now, 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

A word on zoom/lenses:

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.

How’s the colour in D3400?

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.

Changing the Settings/Modes

1) For nature & landscape photography

If you shoot nature and landscapes, I’d recommend setting the camera in Picture Control Vi (saturated), which makes the colors very juicy and bright.

2) For portrait photography

For portraits, a lot of photographers prefer muted colors in the NL mode (neutral), as the portrait photos are still processed and toned anyway.

3) Not sure?

If you don’t know which mode to select, just select SD (standard).

Shooting architecture with D3400
18.0mm · ƒ/3.5 · 1/3200s · ISO 100

To keep in mind…

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.

Why do I mention this?

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

A few more things to mention:

  • 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.

(As a newbie though, this might not be a big deal for you.)

What About ISO in Nikon D3400?

Let’s talk ISO:

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, you can put it in the max Auto and forget about it.)

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.

Making the changes:

Personally, I prefer not to worry much and I’d suggest you just shoot in P mode.

The camera itself does everything for you and you’re likely to be satisfied with the image.

If you’re not happy with it, then select one of the P, A, S, M modes and experiment with the settings.


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.

Also, while we’re on the topic…

If you need guidance in the world of photography, I highly recommend you check out the Digital Camera Mastery course by Mark Hemmings (my review).

Nikon D3400: Additional Features to Mention

Nikon D3400 w/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR (Black)

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.

One more thing:

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 DSLR?

Nikon D3400 w/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR (Black)

I’d set it up this way:

  • Image QualityFine
  • 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

My Lens Recommendations


What lens to choose for Nikon D3400?

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

Another great lens option:

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

18-55mm VR lens

This Nikon lens is ideal for shooting in low light conditions or for shooting portraits with a bokeh effect.

A silent ultrasonic motor (USM) provides fast and quiet autofocusing.

Nikon D3400 for 2020 (Review)

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

Arguably, the D3400 camera is a great choice for a beginner photographer, even in 2020.


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

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


  • If you are not a beginner photographer, but you have a budget limit,
  • And/or 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.

A Word on Nikon D3500

You might be aware that in 2018, Nikon released a new camera – D3500.

(It’s called to be the lightest and friendliest Nikon DSLR yet.)

How does it differ from Nikon D3400 though?

If we look at the technical aspects, the new entry-level Nikon product doesn’t show a lot of differences.

Nikon D3500 W/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Black

I mean D3500 offers…

  • 24 MP on DX/APS sensor,
  • Full HD at 60 fps,
  • optical viewfinder,
  • continuous shooting at 5 fps,

… all packaged in a compact body that weighs about 360 g.

I haven’t had the chance to test D3500 yet but from what I hear, there aren’t major differences between the two.

Based on that, it’s safe to assume that you’ll do just fine with D3400.

But the choice, of course, is yours.

==> Check the exact price and reviews of Nikon D3500 on Amazon.

Nikon D3400 in 2020: Your Thoughts?


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 for 2020. 

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


If you have a few more bucks to spend, I definitely recommend you check out my review of Nikon D5300

The purpose of this website is to provide accurate information but ultimately, it’s your decision whether this camera is the right fit for you.

Now, I’d like to hear from YOU:

  • 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).

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