Which is Better the Nikon 3300 or the Canon SL1?

Nikon and Canon offer a wide range of entry-level DSLR cameras targeting consumers looking to move from the point and shoot digital cameras to traditional DSLR cameras, which offer more capabilities, as well as the ability to use different lenses.  Two of the most popular of these cameras are the Nikon D3300 and the Canon SL1.  While entry-level cameras, both the D3300 and the SL1 are very capable cameras that capture amazing images.  In addition, both cameras are very simple to operate, while still being sophisticated enough to allow the photographer to take more control of the camera as their technical skills develop.

The Similarities

The D3300 and the SL1 are very similar cameras in many ways including the use of a CMOS sensor that is in the cropped sensor format, which Nikon calls DX and Canon calls APS-C.  In both cases, the sensors are smaller and less expensive to manufacture than traditional full-frame sensors fund in more expensive cameras.

Both cameras have the ability to capture still images in both RAW and JPEG formats, while high-definition video, which is shot in various speeds and formats including 1,920 x 1,080, is captured in .MOV format.  Images in both cameras are written to a single SD, SDHC or SDX memory card.

The D3300 and the SL1 have identical ISO range of 100-12,800 and expandable to 25,600.  As the case of most cameras, it is best to shoot at lower ISO settings, as the image quality will be better. At high ISO settings the camera’s noise reduction software often removes detail from images as well, which makes images soft in appearance.

The shutter speeds found in both cameras are identical, with the range being from 1/4,000 to 30 seconds.  In general, both cameras are fast enough to be used in normal sports and action types of photography.  Aiding in this is type of photography is a bright viewfinder that provides 95% coverage, which means that the photographer will see in the viewfinder 95% of the image captured on the sensor.

As with most cameras at this price point, the D3300 and the SL1 featured a number of pre-set scene modes where the camera automatically optimizes the camera’s settings for the selected scene.  In addition, both cameras have the traditional full auto modes, as well as manual, aperture priority, and shutter priority settings.   This is an important feature for a camera to have, as the photographer can have more control over the camera as their skills develop.

Although neither camera has GPS nor built in WIFI, they both do have a built-in flash, which is very capable in low light situations, as well as in situations where the fill in flash is needed.  Both cameras also include basically the same accessories including eyecup, battery, charger, neck strap and instructions.

The Differences

Although similar, the two cameras have a number of differences.  While they both use crop sensors, the crop factor is slightly different on both cameras.  In the case of the D3300 it is 1.5x and in the SL1 it is 1.6x.  The reason for the difference in crop factors is the size of the sensors, with the SL1 being slightly smaller at 22.3mm x 14.9mm compared to the D3300’s 23.5mm x 15.6mm.  Cropped sensors make normal lenses longer than they would be on a full frame camera.  An image captured using a 50mm lens on a D3300 would be the equivalent of the same image captured on full frame camera using a 75mm lens.  In the case of the SLI the image captured using a 50mm lens would be equivalent to the same image captured on a full frame camera using a 80mm lens.  While smaller, the cropped sensors in both cameras are excellent and these types of sensors are also found in much more expensive professional grade cameras.

Another difference between the two cameras is the megapixel count of both cameras, with the D3300 having 24.2 megapixels compared to the 18.0 megapixels found on the SL1.  While the difference appears significant, in reality it is not, as both cameras produce images that are virtually indistinguishable from each other.

In the case of the D3300, the number of autofocus points seen in the viewfinder is 11, while the SL1 only has 9.  In both cases, the autofocus points were well distributed in the viewfinder and were quick and always appear to focus properly.  While other cameras may have more points, the D3300 and the SL1 both have just enough to be useful, without being distracting.

The speed of the cameras of the two cameras, as measured by frames per second is also slightly different with the D3300 being capable of 5 frames per second, while the SL1 shoots at a slightly slower 4 frames per second.  In practice, both cameras are quick enough for most sports and action type of photography.

Other differences include the incorporation of a 3” fixed touch screen on the SL1, which allows the photographer to easily navigate the camera’s menus thru the display by simply touching the appropriate area on the screen.  In the case of the D3300, the camera has a traditional 3” fixed display and menus are navigated using traditional dials and buttons found on the camera body.

Both cameras are small with the SL1 being smaller at 4.6” x 3.57” x 2.74”, while the D3300 is larger at 4.9” x 3.9” x 3.0”.  The SL is also slightly lighter at 13.06 ounces compared to the D3300’s 14.5 ounces.   In both cases, the cameras handled well even when shooting for extended periods of time.

The Pros and Cons

As one would expect, both cameras have a number of “pros’ and “cons” as there is no much thing as a perfect camera.  Photographers will need to weigh the “pros” and the “cons” and make their own determination as to their significance prior to buying one of the cameras.

The Nikon D3300 and Canon SL1 both share a common “pro”, which is the low price for such powerful and capable cameras.  Although he D3300 has a suggested retail price of $649.99 and the SL1 has a suggested retail price of $699.99, both cameras can normally be found on sale around $450, which includes a very capable 18-55 lens!

The biggest “pro” of the Nikon D3300 is the technology in the camera is proven, with the D3300 being an incremental upgrade to the D3200 and earlier cameras in the D3000 line.  In the case of the SL1, it is a pretty radical departure from the rest of the “rebel” line of Canon cameras.

The biggest “Con” of the D3300 is the very simplistic menu system, which is almost too simple and actually includes pictures.  While the camera is definitely intended for entry-level photographers, most people in today’s world are capable of understanding technology, especially in a world where electronic devices are everywhere.

The biggest “pro” of the Canon SL1 is the camera’s lightweight and compact size, which makes the camera fun to shoot with, especially when shooting with the included 18-55mm kit lens.  However, the camera does not handle as well with larger and heavier lenses, as the balance is off.

The biggest “con” of the SL1 is the touch screen display, which is driving up the cost of the camera.  Although I generally like touch screen displays, I also found it a bit awkward and slow to use on the SL1 due to the camera’s small size.

Just the Facts, A side-By-Side Comparison

While most serious photographers look at image quality over technical specifications, many feel that the specifications are equally important.  The Nikon D3300 and the Canon SL1 both have excellent image quality, as well as technical specifications, which are shown in the table below.

Item Nikon D3300 Canon SL1
Year Introduced 2014 2013
Format DX APS-C
Crop Factor 1.5X 1.6X
Megapixels 24.2 18.0
Sensor Type CMOS CMOS
Processor EXPEED 4 Digic 5
Image Format RAW and JPEG RAW and JPEG
Sensor Size 23.5mm x 15.6mm 22.3mm x 14.9mm
Sensor Cleaner Yes Yes
Processor EXPEED 4 DIGIC 5
Auto-focus Points 11 9
Modes Aperture Priority (A), Auto, Auto (Flash Off), Manual, Programmed Auto With Flexible Program (P), Scene Modes, Shutter-Priority (S) Aperture Priority (AE), Program (AE), Manual, Creative Auto, Shutter Priority (AE), Scene Intelligent Auto
Scene Modes Yes Yes
Metering Matrix 3D TLL 63 Zone, Including Evaluative, Partial, Spot and Center-Weighted
View Finder Coverage 95% 95%
Live View Yes Yes
Frames Per Second 5 4
ISO 100-12,800 100-12,800
Highest Expandable ISO 25,600 25,600
Shutter Speed Range 1/4000 to 30 Seconds 1/4,000 to 30 Seconds
Built-In Flash Yes Yes
Card Slots 1 1
Card Type SD, SDHC, SDX SD, SDHC, SDX
LCD Size 3.0” 3.0”
LCD Fixed or Swivel Fixed Fixed
Video Full HD Full HD
Video Format .MOV .MOV
Video Type 1920 x 1080 at 60/50/30/25/24 FPS.  Other Video Types Are Available As Well HD 1920 x 1080 / 1280 x 720 / 640 x 480 At 24-60 FPS Depending Upon Video Type Selected
Internal Autofocus Motor No No
GPS Optional Accessory No
Wireless No No
WIFI Optional Accessory No
Battery EN-EL14a LP-E12
Unique Features Black, Red or Grey Body Touch Screen, Canon Claims The Camera Is The Smallest and Lightest SLR On the Market
Size Without Lens 4.9” x 3.9” x 3.0” 4.6” x 3.57” x 2.74”
Weight Without Lens 14.5 Ounces 13.06 Ounces

 

Manufactured In Thailand Japan
Body Only or with Kit Lens Kit, 18-55 VRII Lens Kit, EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens
Included Accessories EN-EL14a Battery, NH-24 Battery Charger, UC-E17 USB Cable, EG-CP14 Audio/Video Cable, DK-25 Rubber Eyecup, AN-DC3 Camera Strap, BF-1B Body Cap, NikonView NX2 CD ROM Battery Pack LP-E12, Wide Neck Strap EW-300D, Eyecup Ef, USB Interface Cable IFC-130U, EOS Digital Solution Disk and Software Instruction Manual
Cost, Body Only NOT Available NOT Available
Cost With Kit Lens (Lens Varies) $649.95 (For the latest discounts and prices.) $699.99 (For the latest discounts and prices.)

*Information from Nikon USA and Canon USA websites, including pricing.

My Overall Recommendation

I really like both cameras and found that they both handle well in the field and are capable of capturing excellent images that in my opinion appear to be identical.  However, at the end of the day, I preferred the Canon SL1 to the Nikon D3300 because of the small size and lightweight of the SL1.  While the D3300 is also small, the SL1 takes it to the next level regarding size and weight!

I am very active in the outdoors and always like to carry a camera with me all of the time when hiking or backpacking.  While today’s compact and mirror-less cameras are very good, it is really hard for them to compete against a DSLR in image quality, especially at this price point.  The SL1 takes up little room, as I wrap it up in a tee shirt and drop it in my pack.  After walking all day, you appreciate the lightweight as well, as it weighs next to nothing, while still delivering full DSLR performance!\

The Camera Guide Team
 

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