Build Quality and Feel
On balance, I was not impressed by the Nikon D3400’s overall feel and build quality. Although this is to be expected to a degree in entry-level DSLRs, especially at such a low price, it was clearer in the D3400 than in other cameras at a similar point on the market.
First, I do not know what Nikon did differently for the rubber grip material on the D3400, but it feels noticeably worse and less grippy than the material on any other Nikon DSLR I have used – or, for that matter, the competing Canon SL2.
This issue is compounded because the grip itself (not the rubber material on top of it) also is not very impressive, with very little room to hold comfortably. I found this particularly surprising compared to the grip on the Nikon D5600 – only a slightly larger camera – which is quite deep and can be held without a problem.
The Nikon D3400 is not weatherproof, either – though, like most cameras, it can handle a small amount of rain or sand without a problem. While testing the D3400, I used it on a windy beach and in a light drizzle, and (as expected) it kept working just fine.
Ease of Use and Handling
Despite my initially negative impression of the D3400 – the grip and build quality just don’t give a great first impression – I started to change my mind after using it more and more. No, the D3400 doesn’t have as many handling options as high-end Nikon cameras, but I found that there were only a couple important functions which required more than a single button press to set.
Namely, adjusting the autofocus modes (between AF-S, AF-C, and AF-A) requires you to press the “i” button, then click left and right to the option you’re seeking. That isn’t ideal. Then again, it is better than the equivalent implementation on Canon’s competing SL2, which requires you to open the camera’s full menu system in order to do the same thing.
The Nikon D3400 only has one button that can be customized to a wide degree, and it is placed in a slightly unexpected (though relatively comfortable) location on the front left of the camera. Personally, I use it to adjust ISO, which otherwise does not have a dedicated button on the D3400.
A number of useful menu options and features are either missing or severely limited on this camera, which is not out of character when you are dealing with something priced at the D3400’s level. Here is a list of the most glaring issues to me:
- One command dial rather than two
- More limited Auto ISO implementation, requiring you to open the menu to turn it on or off, and without Auto minimum shutter speed options
- No “My Menu” at all, only the more limited “recent settings” menu
- Time-consuming method of adjusting autofocus modes, requiring you to press the “i” button and select from there
- No autofocus motor, reducing your selection of autofocus lenses to those with a built-in motor
- No menu banks or custom mode dial to save your settings
- Must enter the “i” menu to change exposure compensation in manual mode
- Lower quality, smaller viewfinder that makes your subject harder to see
- No autofocus fine-tuning in case your lens is consistently back-focused or front-focused
Along with that, a few other omissions on the D3400 may bother photographers who require more specialized features:
- No way to reverse the direction of aperture or exposure compensation dials (personally, I always reverse aperture)
- No “time” exposure mode to take 30+ second exposures without a remote control (unlike the D5600)
- No mirror lockup or exposure delay mode (only the self-timer)
- No 14 bit RAW, only 12 bit compressed
That is a lot of missing features, but, frankly, none of them are deal killers for the typical photographer. Most items on this list are true of a majority of entry-level cameras on the market.
If any of these issues bothers you to the point of buying a different camera, you’d already know. For a majority of people who are considering the D3400 – that is, photographers who simply want a camera that can take high quality photographs and give them more flexibility than a phone or point and shoot – none of these missing features is a critical issue.