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Nikon D3 versus Nikon D3400

The Nikon D3 and the Nikon D3400 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2007 and August 2016. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a full frame (D3) and an APS-C (D3400) sensor. The D3 has a resolution of 12.1 megapixel, whereas the D3400 provides 24 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Nikon D3 vs Nikon D3400

The physical size and weight of the Nikon D3 and the Nikon D3400 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the D3 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Nikon D3 vs Nikon D3400
Compare D3 versus D3400 top
Compare D3 and D3400 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D3400 is considerably smaller (52 percent) than the Nikon D3. Moreover, the D3400 is substantially lighter (66 percent) than the D3. It is worth mentioning in this context that the D3 is splash and dust resistant, while the D3400 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor (as in the D3) will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, while more compact options are available for the smaller-sensor camera (D3400). You can find a comprehensive overview of suitable optics in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the D3 gets 4300 shots out of its EN-EL4a battery, while the D3400 can take 1200 images on a single charge of its EN-EL14a power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Nikon D3» 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 45.9 oz 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999- i Nikon D3
Nikon D3400« 4.9 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 15.7 oz 1200 n Aug 2016 499 i i Nikon D3400
Canon SL2« » 4.8 in 3.7 in 2.8 in 16.0 oz 650 n Jun 2017 549 i i Canon SL2
Canon 1D Mark III« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 40.7 oz 2200 Y Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
Nikon D5« » 6.3 in 6.3 in 3.6 in 49.9 oz 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D5600« » 4.9 in 3.8 in 2.8 in 16.4 oz 970 n Nov 2016 699 i i Nikon D5600
Nikon D5500« » 4.9 in 3.8 in 2.8 in 14.8 oz 820 n Jan 2015 899- i Nikon D5500
Nikon D3300« » 4.9 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 15.2 oz 700 n Jan 2014 499- i Nikon D3300
Nikon D4S« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.6 oz 3020 Y Feb 2014 6,499- i Nikon D4S
Nikon D4« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.3 oz 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
Nikon D3200« » 4.9 in 3.8 in 3.0 in 17.8 oz 540 n Apr 2012 599- i Nikon D3200
Nikon D3S« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 43.7 oz 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Nikon D3X« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 44.4 oz 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999- i Nikon D3X
Nikon D700« » 5.8 in 4.8 in 3.0 in 37.9 oz 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700
Nikon D300« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 2.9 in 32.6 oz 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799- i Nikon D300
Nikon D2Xs« » 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699- i Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D2X« » 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Sep 2004 4,999- i Nikon D2X

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D3400 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 90 percent) than the D3, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Nikon D3 vs Nikon D3400

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D3 features a full frame sensor and the Nikon D3400 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D3400 is 57 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Nikon D3 and Nikon D3400 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the D3400 offers a higher resolution of 24 megapixel, compared with 12.1 MP of the D3. This megapixel advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 3.91μm versus 8.43μm for the D3). However, it should be noted that the D3400 is much more recent (by 8 years and 11 months) than the D3, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the D3400 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

D3 versus D3400 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the D3400 has a markedly higher DXO score than the D3 (overall score 5 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 1.3 bits higher color depth, 1.7 EV in additional dynamic range, 0.9 stops of reduced low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Nikon D3» Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2229081Nikon D3
Nikon D3400« APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.813.9119286Nikon D3400
Canon SL2« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.613.4104179Canon SL2
Canon 1D Mark III« » APS-H 10.1 3888 2592-22.711.7107871Canon 1D Mark III
Nikon D5« » Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388Nikon D5
Nikon D5600« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.114.0130684Nikon D5600
Nikon D5500« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.114.0143884Nikon D5500
Nikon D3300« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.312.8138582Nikon D3300
Nikon D4S« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/60p24.413.3307489Nikon D4S
Nikon D4« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589Nikon D4
Nikon D3200« » APS-C 24.1 6016 40001080/30p24.113.2113181Nikon D3200
Nikon D3S« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382Nikon D3S
Nikon D3X« » Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032-24.713.7199288Nikon D3X
Nikon D700« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2230380Nikon D700
Nikon D300« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.112.067967Nikon D300
Nikon D2Xs« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.210.948959Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D2X« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.110.947659Nikon D2X

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The D3400 indeed provides for movie recording, while the D3 does not. The highest resolution format that the D3400 can use is 1080/60p.

 

Feature comparison: Nikon D3 vs Nikon D3400

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D3 and the D3400 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D3, the Nikon D3400, and comparable cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Nikon D3»optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D3
Nikon D3400«optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D3400
Canon SL2« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Canon SL2
Canon 1D Mark III« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 10.0 n n Canon 1D Mark III
Nikon D5« »optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 8000 14.0 n n Nikon D5
Nikon D5600« »optical n 3.2 1037 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D5600
Nikon D5500« »optical n 3.2 1037 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D5500
Nikon D3300« »optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D3300
Nikon D4S« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D4S
Nikon D4« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D4
Nikon D3200« »optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 4.0 Y n Nikon D3200
Nikon D3S« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D3S
Nikon D3X« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Nikon D3X
Nikon D700« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n Nikon D700
Nikon D300« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n Nikon D300
Nikon D2Xs« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D2X« »optical Y 2.5 235 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Nikon D2X

The D3400 is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the D3 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the D3 was succeeded by the Nikon D4.

Review summary: Nikon D3 vs Nikon D3400

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D3 or the Nikon D3400 – has the upper hand? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Arguments in favor of the Nikon D3:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.9 stops ISO advantage).
  • Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (4300 versus 1200) on a single battery charge.
  • Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2007).


Reasons to prefer the Nikon D3400:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 12.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 41%.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (5 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.3 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.7 EV of extra DR).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p video.
  • More compact: Is smaller (124x98mm vs 160x157mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 855g or 66 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (90 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 8 years and 11 months of technical progress since the D3 launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D3400 emerges as the winner of the match-up (11 : 8 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

D3 08:11 D3400

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the D3 and the D3400 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is why expert reviews are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Nikon D3»-HiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999- i Nikon D3
Nikon D3400«Rec76/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Aug 2016 499 i i Nikon D3400
Canon SL2« »HiRec78/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2017 549 i i Canon SL2
Canon 1D Mark III« »---rev- Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
Nikon D5« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D5600« »-79/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Nov 2016 699 i i Nikon D5600
Nikon D5500« »Rec79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Jan 2015 899- i Nikon D5500
Nikon D3300« »Rec77/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jan 2014 499- i Nikon D3300
Nikon D4S« »--4.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2014 6,499- i Nikon D4S
Nikon D4« »--4.5/5-4.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
Nikon D3200« »HiRec73/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Apr 2012 599- i Nikon D3200
Nikon D3S« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Nikon D3X« »-86/1004/55/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999- i Nikon D3X
Nikon D700« »89/100HiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700
Nikon D300« »HiRecHiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799- i Nikon D300
Nikon D2Xs« »---rev- Jun 2006 4,699- i Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D2X« »-HiRec-rev- Sep 2004 4,999- i Nikon D2X

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please send me an email, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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