The Nikon D3400’s menu is not as detailed as the ones on other Nikon cameras, but it still can be overwhelming to set properly. In this article, I will cover all the most important camera settings on the D3400, including my personal recommendations for every important menu option on the camera. Don’t take any of these suggestions as the only camera settings that will work for the D3400, but instead as simply a good place to start.
Playback Menu Settings
Most of these settings can be left at their default values, and the rest are mainly down to personal preferences. However, a few playback settings are quite important to set properly, so I’ll cover those here:
- Playback display options
- None (image only): Checked
- Highlights: Checked (enables the ability to have overexposed regions of a photo blink black and white)
- RGB histogram: Checked (see our article on histograms)
- Shooting data: Not checked
- Overview: Checked
- Image review: ON (this determines whether or not your photo pops up immediately after you take it)
- Auto image rotation: ON (signals to rotate vertical photos when you’ve opened them on a computer)
- Rotate tall: OFF (otherwise, vertical photos will be too narrow on your camera, and you’ll have to turn your head to review vertical photos when you’re using a tripod)
The playback settings I skipped are one-time things that don’t matter for setting up the Nikon D3400, such as creating a slideshow.
Photo Shooting Menu
Next up is the Photo Shooting Menu, which includes many of the D3400’s most important settings. I’ve made sure to add notes to clarify why I pick some of the more complex settings below:
- Image quality: NEF (RAW) – but see our article on RAW vs JPEG if you aren’t sure, since a number of D3400 users may prefer JPEGs
- Image size: Grayed out when shooting RAW; pick “L” for best quality when shooting JPEG, or “M” or “S” for lower resolution and smaller file sizes.
- ISO sensitivity settings
- ISO sensitivity: 100 (this simply matches whatever ISO you’re using)
- Auto ISO sensitivity control: ON (though you will potentially be turning this off quite frequently, such as tripod-based work where you always want the same ISO; see our article on Auto ISO)
- Maximum sensitivity: 3200
- Minimum shutter speed: Auto (or select a manual shutter speed that will freeze action if you are shooting fast motion)
- White balance: AUTO
- Set Picture Control: SD (Standard), Default values, unless you already know you have a specific reason to change it (doesn’t affect the photo itself if you’re a RAW shooter)
- Color space: Adobe RGB if you shoot RAW, since it doesn’t affect the photo itself and provides a slightly more accurate in-camera histogram. Keep it at sRGB if you ever shoot JPEG.
- Active D-Lighting: OFF, especially important if you shoot RAW, since it affects how your camera meters a scene (see a list of all the settings which affect RAW photos)
- Noise reduction: Off (doesn’t affect RAW photos)
- Vignette control: OFF (doesn’t affect RAW photos)
- Auto distortion control: OFF (doesn’t affect RAW photos)
- Focus mode: Matches your chosen settings from the “i” button. Usually, I do AF-C for photographing action through the viewfinder, and AF-S for photographing stationary subjects in live view.
- AF Area Mode: Also matches your chosen “i” button settings. I prefer Dynamic-area AF most of the time in the viewfinder (3D tracking often fails, and Auto-area AF tells the camera to guess your subject). For live view/movie mode, I prefer Normal-area AF because the autofocus point is the smallest.
- Built-in AF-assist illuminator: Fires a beam of light to help autofocus in especially dark conditions. This one is a personal preference (and it will be grayed-out if you are shooting in live view); I tend to leave it off because it can annoy the subject, but many photographers prefer it kept on.
- Metering: Matches your chosen settings from the “i” button. I prefer matrix metering 99% of the time. (See our article on metering)
- Flash control for built-in flash: TTL
- Movie Settings
- Frame size/frame rate: 1920×1080; 30p (though use 24p if that’s what your output requirements specify, and use 60p if you want slow motion)
- Movie quality: High quality
- Microphone: Auto (this only affects the in-camera microphone)
- Wind noise reduction: ON (also only affects the in-camera microphone)
- Manual movie settings: ON (enables the ability to adjust shutter speed and ISO manually for videos when in manual mode)
Setup Menu (Wrench Icon)
Most of this menu is a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. For example, you probably won’t change your copyright information very often. Still, it is an important menu, so I will cover the important settings below. If I don’t list something, it is because it is irrelevant to setting up your camera, or too personal to make a recommendation (like language and time zone):
- Format memory card: Only click “YES” when you want all the photos on your memory card to be deleted. This is irreversible, but it is important to do when you switch a memory card into the D3400 from another camera, or you’ve finished offloading all your images onto the computer and you want a clear card.
- Date stamp: OFF
- Info display format: I like the look of the second option (black text, white background) for both, but that’s a personal preference.
- Auto info display: OFF (can pop up annoyingly when you half-press the shutter button, and you can turn it on/off anyway by just pressing the “INFO” button)
- Auto off timers: I prefer “Normal” on this, but it’s totally personal preference, and you can customize each option individually
- Self-timer delay: 5s (may change depending upon your needs for the photo
- Number of shots: 1 (also may change)
- Remote on duration: Doesn’t matter unless you are using the ML-L3 remote. If you are, 1 minute is a bit fast – you might prefer 5 minutes instead
- Lock mirror up for cleaning: — (grayed out when you don’t have enough battery life; this is for manual sensor cleaning only)
- Image Dust Off ref photo: May be grayed out; no need to create one here unless you use Capture NX as your photo editing program and have experienced troubles with dust on your camera sensor.
- Copyright information: Put your information in; this can be useful in case a fellow photographer finds your lost D3400, or simply to tag your photos with your name in their metadata.
- Beep: Off (it’s annoying)
- Flicker reduction: AUTO
- Assign Fn button: ISO (gives you a button to change ISO, which is very important for manual photography)
- Assign AE-L/AF-L button: AF-On (this is a highly recommended setting – it decouples autofocus from your shutter button. So, you’ll focus by pressing the AE-L/AF-L button instead, also known as back-button focusing. Once you try it, I doubt you will go back!)
- Shutter-release button AE-L: OFF (locks your exposure when you half-press the shutter button; I rarely need this to occur, personally, but some photographers may prefer it On)
- AF activation: OFF (highly recommended so that you fully switch over to back-button focusing, rather than having both the AE-L/AF-L button and the shutter button trigger autofocus)
- Rangefinder: OFF (this puts a dot in the viewfinder to help you use manual focus, but I personally have never found it helpful; other photographers differ)
- File number sequence: OFF (not a big deal regardless)
- Output resolution: AUTO
- Device control: ON
- Airplane mode: This is only relevant for disabling image transfer connections to a smartphone. If you haven’t set up these connections or are not actively using them, OFF does the same thing as ON
- Connect to a smart device: Only use when you want to access SnapBridge (used for transferring low resolution JPEGs from the D3400 to your phone in the background – see more on Nikon’s page for SnapBridge)
- Bluetooth: OFF
- Slot empty release lock: Release Locked (so that you don’t accidentally take photos without a memory card)
Hopefully, the settings above gave you a good idea of how to use the Nikon D3400 and set everything correctly. Again, the specific recommendations above are simply what work for me, and your own needs may be different – which is why so many settings exist in the first place – but these options should be a good starting point. And note that the settings you most recently adjusted will appear in the “Recent Settings” menu, which is good for adjusting things like Auto ISO settings more quickly than finding them within the larger menu.
I hope these recommendations will help you get the best results out of your Nikon D3400! And if you have any questions about why I suggested some of these particular camera settings instead of others, please feel free to ask in the comments below.