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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 sensor. The D3 has a resolution of 12.1 megapixel, whereas the D3400 provides 24 MP.

Body comparison

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).

Nikon D3 vs Nikon D3400 front
D3 versus D3400 top view
D3 and D3400 rear side
Body view (D3 on the left)

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 comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Nikon D3 (⇒ rgt) 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g 4300 YES 2007 4,999discont. check
Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft) 124 mm 98 mm 76 mm 445 g 1200 no 2016 499 latest check
Canon SL2 (⇒ lft | rgt) 122 mm 93 mm 70 mm 453 g 650 no 2017 549 latest check
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) 156 mm 156.6 mm 80 mm 1155 g 2200 YES 2007 4,499discont. check
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 159 mm 92 mm 1415 g 3780 YES 2016 6,499 latest check
Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 97 mm 70 mm 465 g 970 no 2016 699 latest check
Nikon D5500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 97 mm 70 mm 420 g 820 no 2015 899discont. check
Nikon D3300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 98 mm 76 mm 430 g 700 no 2014 499discont. check
Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1350 g 3020 YES 2014 6,499discont. check
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1340 g 2600 YES 2012 5,999discont. check
Nikon D3200 (⇒ lft | rgt) 125 mm 96 mm 77 mm 505 g 540 no 2012 599discont. check
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 YES 2009 5,199discont. check
Nikon D3X (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1260 g 4400 YES 2008 7,999discont. check
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 YES 2008 2,999discont. check
Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 114 mm 74 mm 925 g 1000 YES 2007 1,799discont. check
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) 157.5 mm 149.5 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 YES 2006 4,699discont. check
Nikon D2X (⇒ lft | rgt) 158 mm 150 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 YES 2004 4,999discont. check

The listed 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

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
Sensor size

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
Sensor resolution

For most 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 Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Nikon D3 (⇒ rgt) Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832 no 23.5 12.2 2290 81
Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.8 13.9 1192 86
Canon SL2 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 23.6 13.4 1041 79
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-H 10.1 3888 2592 no 22.7 11.7 1078 71
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 20.7 5588 3712 4K/30p 25.1 12.3 2343 88
Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.1 14.0 1306 84
Nikon D5500 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.1 14.0 1438 84
Nikon D3300 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.3 12.8 1385 82
Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280 1080/60p 24.4 13.3 3074 89
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280 1080/30p 24.7 13.1 2965 89
Nikon D3200 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.1 6016 4000 1080/30p 24.1 13.2 1131 81
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832 720/24p 23.5 12.0 3253 82
Nikon D3X (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032 no 24.7 13.7 1992 88
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832 no 23.5 12.2 2303 80
Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 no 22.1 12.0 679 67
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 no 22.2 10.9 489 59
Nikon D2X (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 no 22.1 10.9 476 59

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

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 Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Nikon D3 (⇒ rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no
Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft) optical no 3.0 921 fixed no 4000 5.0 7 no
Canon SL2 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 1040 swivel YES 4000 5.0 9.8 no
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 230 fixed no 8000 10.0 no no
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 2359 fixed YES 8000 14.0 no no
Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.2 1037 swivel YES 4000 5.0 12 no
Nikon D5500 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.2 1037 swivel YES 4000 5.0 12 no
Nikon D3300 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 921 fixed no 4000 5.0 12 no
Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no
Nikon D3200 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 921 fixed no 4000 4.0 12 no
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 921 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no
Nikon D3X (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 8.0 12 no
Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Nikon D2X (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 235 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no

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.

Summary

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.

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. You can find the full text of the reviews, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Nikon D3 (⇒ rgt) - HiRec 5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 4,999discont. check
Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft) Rec 76/100 4/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2016 499 latest check
Canon SL2 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 78/100 Silver 4.5/5 - 4.5/5 2017 549 latest check
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - reviewed - 2007 4,499discont. check
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 6,499 latest check
Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 79/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4/5 2016 699 latest check
Nikon D5500 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 79/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 899discont. check
Nikon D3300 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 77/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2014 499discont. check
Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2014 6,499discont. check
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4.5/5 - 4.5/5 2012 5,999discont. check
Nikon D3200 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 73/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2012 599discont. check
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2009 5,199discont. check
Nikon D3X (⇒ lft | rgt) - 86/100 4/5 5/5 5/5 2008 7,999discont. check
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) 89/100 HiRec 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2008 2,999discont. check
Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 90/100 HiRec HiRec 5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 1,799discont. check
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - reviewed - 2006 4,699discont. check
Nikon D2X (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec - reviewed - 2004 4,999discont. check

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 comparisons

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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