The Nikon D3400 is aimed primarily at people who want to learn about photography and are moving up from bridge cameras or compact cameras or coming straight in from having taken up photography with their mobile phones. As a result it is designed to help people to move along from the automatic settings, which will probably be used initially, onto the semi-automatic and manual settings and help them become more creative with their photography. The camera itself is made of toughened plastic. It feels quite robust and sturdy in your hand. It has a very deep grip here which means that you can hold it quite easily with one hand – of course you should not take pictures like that – and in general it feels like you've got a proper camera in your hand.
The important elements in any camera are the file size and the processor. The file size of the NIKON D3400 goes up to 24 megapixels which is a really big size. You are not going to need anything larger than that unless you're going to be shooting billboards. The processor, which is the EXPEED4 is a very competent processor. It gives you very clear, bright images and it's quite quick too. One of the selling points for this camera which you'll see on the side of the box and a lot of advertising it will go up to an ISO of 25,600. That basically means that it will take pictures in the dark. This sounds great but actually I'm not convinced that most photographers, especially at this level, would want to go beyond an ISO of probability 3200. The noise ratio on 3200 is very good and that's no small part down to the processor but really, 25,600? Without you actually want to shoot pictures in the dark I would say that that's a bit of a red herring.
One thing I really do like about this camera is that it will give you five frames per second continuous, which takes you almost into the realm of professional action photography which is a real bonus for a camera at this level. Another thing I really like about this camera is that it's got a very good, high resolution back screen. The back screen is not articulated so it does not move but, suddenheless, it is high resolution and clear which is very useful. If you're used to compact photography then, of course, you will be used to taking pictures through the back screen and you can do so here. You can also shoot video through the back screen and compose your videos, and the reproduction on the back screen is actually very clear and very accurate in terms of what you see. The other reason for using the back screen is to access the menus. Now there are four menus on here and because there are only four, it is quite difficult to find things in them because there is a long list – a long subcategory of elements in each menu. I think I would have preferred Nikon to have had more menus with shorter lists of subcategories within them. But that was an option that Nikon took and it actually means that it's sometimes quite difficult to find what you're looking for. One of the things I really do like about this camera which I think would appeal to people who are moving up from bridge cameras or compact cameras is that it has some very decent effects on it and these can be used either before you take the picture or can be applied after in certain cases, but the effects that you have here are really useful. You can have Night Vision which is a sort of grainy black-and-white shot. You can have Super Vivid which really punches the colors up. You can have Pop which likewise punches the colors up but but tend to work more on pastel colors. You can have Photo Illustration, which give your photos a comic book effect, you can have Toy Camera which gives the effect of the picture having been taken with a cheap plastic lens camera. You can have Miniature Effect which blurs the edges of the image so that the subject in the middle stands out more. this can be very effective when shooting at an angle, as it gives the impression that the subject is very small, like a toy. You can have Selected color which makes the photograph black and white except for the thing that you've chosen to be color, which looks really effective. These effects can really help your picture standout and a great fun to use.
The next thing we should be looking at is the autofocus. The NIKON D3400 has 11 autofocus points in a diamond shape which pretty much go across that the screen as you would look at it either from the back screen or through the viewfinder and I would say they're pretty competent – because of the processor the autofocus is pretty quick and I might just pull away here and talk about the length as well if you buy the kit lens then you get the NIKON AF-P 18 to 55 MM lens. Now AF-P is a new type of lens and the P stands for pulse motor. It is primarily on this camera in order to make it more attractive for use with video and the pulse motor is very quick to autofocus and also very quiet. But the speed of this auto focus on the lens is actually very very good and it would combine very neatly with the 11-point autofocus system. Now why would you want more than eleven point in that diamond shape? Well if you are photography something very quick and very small then the chances are it might possibly fall between the focus points as you're looking at it through the screen in which case the camera will lose track of it and will have to refocus when it moves back into an autofocus point, so obviously the more points you have the more chance the camera has of maintaining it in focus as it crosses the screen. But 11 focus points I think is pretty good for a camera of this category and I do not think you should worry about needing more unless you want to do something very specific possible action photography for things like tennis where the ball is very small moves very quickly.
Talking about the lens brings us neatly to using this camera for video. It is actually a very good video camera it will shoot HD which is 1080 also shoot 720 and it will shoot 1080p at 60P which means that it will shoot at 60 frames per second which is about twice the required speed that you would need to shoot video so in other words it allows you then to shoot that twice the speed so you can slow it down for slow motion action at 1080 which is at the highest real level until we get to 4K, so it's very good in terms of manual and auto exposure . The video it has both and they both respond pretty well the auto exposure works very well and gives you very good clear exposure for video and the manual setting is also very good. The one downside is that this camera like all other cameras in this category does not have an external microphone socket so you can not fit an external microphone to this camera. It does have an internal microphone which is OK but if you're going to try and shoot anything that anything like a professional level in terms of video you will need either to get a different field recorder or even record on your mobile phone. There are apps for those days, or consider getting another camera.
One of the things that people who are moving up from bridge cameras or compact cameras or even mobile phone photography will be keen to know is whether this camera has any Wi-Fi or wireless connectivity. Well it does have NFC connectivity – in other words bluetooth – and that will enable you to transfer pictures of a certain size and resolution to a mobile device like a mobile phone or tablet and then of course you can put that from there onto social media. What it does not have is Wi-Fi and there are cameras out there like the Canon 1300D that do have Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi would enable you to operate the camera remotely and be a bit more flexible in how you transfer your images . But the NIKON D3400 does have NFC or bluetooth and it's actually pretty reasonable to use.
The NIKON D3400 is an excellent camera for entry-level DSLR photographers. It is very well made, very sturdy and the sensor and processor combination are very good. 24 megapixels is a huge size of picture – you're not going to want more than that and it produces very clear and very realistic in terms of its color saturation pictures and very detailed to in terms of autofocus which is the processors responsibility. The Autofocus is very quick and the 11-point diamonds are very useful and very appropriate for this sort of level of camera. 5 frames per second continuous is really very good and will give you an opportunity to shoot action or sports photography with this camera so that's a good thing too. Things that I do not like about it, I think I've mentioned before I think the menus are far too complicated. It is actually quite difficult to find what you're looking for within them because there are too few menus with too many options inside and finally though it has some great effect inside this camera and I really do enjoy using them, but I think it's a shame that it does not have an HDR option because HDR photography is a great way of introducing yourself to the way of being creative with pictures and it's just a shame that that was not an option on this camera.