I have been fortunate to be able to purchase the Nikon D3300 DSLR kit from Costco. It contains the camera body, an 18-55MM F/3.5-5.6G VR II and a 55-200MM F/4-5.6G VR II Lens along with a 32GB SD Card, Rugged Nylon Bag, WU-1A Adaptor, and a Nikon School Instructional DVD. Having read extensively about entry level DSLR kits, I was very cautious about spending $600 ( even though it was discounted by $400 ) . The reasons were primarily that I didn’t feel that I was an entry level photographer. I have owned three Minolta SLR, three Nikon SLRs and a host of lenses and have been a photographer since 1965 including formulating my own developers back in the day. Another reason that I was leery was the reputed lackluster performance of the kit lenses in these kits. However, after nearly six months of intense research in DSLR technology, I had reached a stage where I needed to be realistic about what could be purchased with my limited budget.
The D3300 is in my estimation a sleeper value in the marketplace because it contains two critical features common to the more expensive Nikon DSLRs, namely, the 24 mp APS-C sensor with no anti aliasing filter and the EXPEED 4 image processor. In image quality tests, the body is side by side the more expensive siblings and far above the Canon rebel series. Well, that was true at least until the new Canon Rebel T6i and T6s came out. However, those cameras are actually not as good for IQ or low light performance as the D3300 because they contain sensors with the anti aliasing filter.
So, I dove in and bought the kit on sale and three weeks later, I can say that I am completely sold on the camera and the lenses. The images that I have taken with this kit have taken a giant step up in detail and color richness as well as overall IQ. I have been able to take shots of wildlife, mainly waterfowl, resolving detail in feathers and eyes that are stunning. Portraits with the long lens are the best I have ever taken. Chromatic aberration is nearly absent from the images.
Now, there are some delicate areas that do require care to assure a good shot that are not so important with our Canon G15/16 point and shoot cameras. The lenses are not as fast, being two stops slower which limits the range for ISO 100 shots. However, I can bump the ISO up to 400 and the image noise is still modest and easily removed in post processing. Yes, some of the very very fine detail does get lost but considering the other features such as reach and color rendition, the tradeoffs are acceptable. Also, the VR, vibration reduction, does sometimes produce slight double images but that can be overcome by taking continuous shots and allowing the VR processor to catch up to the movements. Also, when the shutter speed is over the reciprocal rule of the 35mm focal length equivalent, VR isn’t needed. Thankfully, the camera does burst shooting at 5 fps for a second or so which is perfect for this.
One major drawback has been in the features of the camera. Mainly, there is no exposure or focus bracketing. However, using the WiFi adapter and an old decommissioned Galaxy Nexus smartphone running qDSLRDashboard, both of these features are available and work spectacularly. Using an OTG cable between the two will work even better as the WiFi adapter and usage does drain the battery in both devices fairly fast. Nikon also has an app that allows for live view and remote taking shots but the app is simplistic and does not allow the features of the other beforementioned one.
On the subject of battery, the battery in the D3300 is amazing. It can take 700 to 2000 shots before needing to recharge. That is a result of being larger capacity than normal as well as the lower power requirements of the Expeed processor.
These kit lenses are said to be moderately sharp to poor but that is the last generation of the kit lenses and the new ones have the locking mechanism for compactness and I suspect when they are tested, the results will be better than the 9 mp sharpness reported for the older gen. I have done front/back focusing testing and found that only the 18 mm setting on full aperture has front focusing by ~1/4″ at a distance of three feet. However, the shorter lens will focus down to 11 inches making it almost a macro lens. My only gripe is that the kit does not include lens hoods which are necessary. My long shot images taken into the sun show considerable loss in contrast but no flare.
The upshot of the review is that this kit is fantastic and once the full features of the camera are properly applied, images it produces are spectacular. With the addition of the smartphone control, HDR and stacking along with remote control this kit is a superb class leading offering.