Comparing DSLRS: What Nikon DSLR Is Right For You?

Nikon offers several excellent DSLRs...so which one is right for you? Digital Camera HQ compares the Nikon D7100, D5300 and D3300.
By Hillary Grigonis, Last updated on: 12/2/2014

Nikon has a solid reputation for their consumer-level DSLRs, but what is the better option? Should you spend $1,600 on the high-end D7100, or save with the $650 D3300? Comparing DSLRs isn't always easy, especially when it comes to a company that makes pretty solid models every time.

Nikon has three consumer DSLRs that are current models, the D7100, the D5300 and the D3300, and Digital Camera HQ has had a chance to complete a hands-on review of each model. All three contain similar sensors. And all three were given an A- grade or higher, so what's the difference?

 

Comparing DSLRs: Nikon D3300

             
    The Nikon D3300. Click for the full hands-on review and sample images.          

 

The Nikon D3300 is the budget option with the most basic features. It has a similar sensor to the more expensive options, but doesn't quite have all the extra features. The D3300 has fewer autofocus points for getting a pin-sharp focus, and also seems to have a slower processor, with a longer delay when recording large files, like RAW. It also has the lowest LCD screen resolution, though it's still quite easy to read.

 While the D3300 certainly isn't feature-rich, it has a few perks other than the budget price. The D3300 is the lightest Nikon DSLR, weighing 14.5 ounces. It also has a guide mode that can help teach beginners how to use manual modes, which the other two options don't offer.

Best For: Beginners, traveling

 

Comparing DSLRs: Nikon D5300

             
    The Nikon D5300. Click on the image to read the full hands-on review.          

 

The most visible difference on the Nikon D5300 is the tilting LCD screen. While the tilting LCD screen is nice for shooting at awkward angles, it's not a feature most will use very often. The D5300 also has more autofocus points than the D3300, but otherwise is quite comparable considering image quality.

Unlike both the D3300 and D7100, the D5300 has both wi-fi and GPS built-in, while the other models require the purchase of a separate accessory. The extra features mean the D5300 has a slightly shorter battery life over the D3300 and it's also a little bit heavier.

Best For: Intermediate photographers and those who favor the tilting LCD screens and wi-fi

 

DSLR Comparison: Nikon D7100

             
    The Nikon D7100. For the hands-on review and sample images, click on the image.          

 

There's a big jump in both design and image quality when you step up to the D7100. Along with a screen on the back, a screen at the top displays the shooting settings, and doesn't turn off during shooting to preserve the battery life like the back LCD screen does. The D7100 also has dual control wheels, one for shutter speed and one for aperture, while the D3300 and D5300 only have one and a function button is used to switch what the wheel adjusts. The D7100 also has two SD card slots; the second card can be used for overflow or can back up the information from the first card. The dual control wheels make it much easier to switch settings using manual modes, though for some beginners, the extra controls and screens may be a bit confusing.

The D7100 also sees a big jump in performance too. The higher-end consumer DSLR has 51 autofocus points. The maximum shutter speed gets bumped up to 1/8000 and the burst mode is just slightly higher at 6 fps. The battery life is also the highest out of the three, rated at 950 shots. All these features come at a significantly higher cost, however. And of course, extra features mean extra weight, the D7100 is the heaviest of the three at 23.8 ounces.

Best For: Enthusiasts, professionals

 

Nikon DSLR Comparison Chart

 

 

Nikon D3300

 

 

Nikon D5300

 

Nikon D7100

Digital Camera HQ Grade

A-

A-

A

Price (MSRP)

$649.95 (Kit)

$899.95 (Kit)

$1,599.95 (kit)

Type

Consumer DSLR

Consumer DSLR

Consumer DSLR

Image Quality

Sensor

24 Megapixel APS-C CMOS

24.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS

21.1 Megapixel APS-C CMOS

Anti-aliasing filter

No

No

No

Lens

Kit: 18-55 mm f3.5-5.6

Kit: 18-55mm f3.5-5.6

Kit: 18-105mm f3.5-5.6

Image Stabilization

In lens

In lens

In lens

ISO Sensitivity

100-25,600

100-25,600

100-25,600

Noise Reduction

Yes

Yes

Yes

Autofocus points

11

11 or 39 (selectable)

11 or 51 (selectable)

Autofocus type

Phase detection (contrast-detect in live view mode)

Phase detection (contrast-detect in live view mode)

Phase detection (contrast-detect in live view mode)

White balance

Auto, 6 presets, manual

Auto, 6 presets, manual

Auto, 6 presets, manual, and by color temperature

Color adjustment

Yes, 6 presets, custom

Yes, 6 presets, custom

Yes, 6 presets, custom

Video

1080p/60fps, autofocus, 20 min. maximum record time

1080p/60fps, autofocus, 20 min. maximum record time

1080p/60fps, autofocus, 20 min. maximum record time

Performance & Usability

Burst Speed (at full resolution)

5 fps

5 fps (high mode), 1-3 fps (low mode)

6 fps (high mode), 1-6 fps (low mode)

Maximum shutter speed

1/4000*

1/4000*

1/8000*

Manual modes

Yes

Yes

Yes

RAW shooting

Yes, compressed 12-bit NEF

Yes compressed 12 or 14 bit NEF

Yes, compressed 12 or 14 bit NEF

Live view (shooting through LCD screen)

Yes

Yes

Yes

In-camera editing

Yes

Yes

Yes

Wi-Fi

No, Eye-Fi compatible

Yes (built-in)

With separate adapter, Eye-Fi compatible

GPS

Optional accessory

Yes (built-in)

Optional accessory

Design

 

 

 

Viewfinder

Optical, with diopter adjustment

Optical, with diopter adjustment

Optical, 100% coverage, diopter adjustment

Flash

Yes

Yes

Yes

Accessory shoe

Yes

Yes

Yes

LCD screen

3”, 921,000 dots, fixed angle

3.2”, 1,037,000 dots, vari-angle

3.2”, 1,228,800 dots, fixed angle

Waterproof

No

No

No

Control wheels

1

1

2

Additional design notes

Guide mode for beginners

Tilting LCD

Two control wheels for faster adjustments

Memory

SD card, one slot

SD card, 1 slot

SD card, two slots

Battery

Lithium-ion, 700 shots

Lithium-ion, 600 shots

Lithium-ion, 950 shots

Weight

14.5 oz

16.9 oz

23.8 oz

Dimension (WxHxD, inches)

4.9x3.9x3.0

4.92x3.9x3.0

5.3x4.2x3.0


Each of Nikon's consumer DSLRs are solid cameras. Our favorite is the D7100 for the extra physical controls and better performance. Beginners and the budget-minded will likely enjoy the D3300 for the price and simpler controls without sacrificing too many features. And for those who want the latest extra features, the D5300 offers a tilting LCD along with built-in wi-fi and GPS.

 

 

Hillary Grigonis is the Managing Editor at DCHQ. Follow her on Facebook or Google+.

 

 

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