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Which Entry-Level DSLR is the best? The Nikon 3300 or the Canon T5i?

The entry-level DSLR market is crowded with numerous manufacturers competing for the same customers, with Nikon and Canon leading the charge to entice new photographers to upgrade from “point and shoot” cameras to more advanced DLSR cameras.  Nikon offers the D3300, while Canon offers the T5i, with both cameras being upgrades to previously offered cameras.  However, the upgrades to both cameras make them superior in performance hand handling to earlier generations of these entry-level cameras, while still being very easy to use.

The Similarities

The Nikon and the Canon share some similarities including cropped sensors, mode and scene settings, ISO capabilities, shutter speed, flash capability, memory card capacity and type and the ability to shoot video.  The Nikon D3300 and the Canon T5i both have a smaller sensor than those found in the more expensive full-framed cameras offered by both manufacturers.  Although these sensors are smaller, they are very capable of producing outstanding results, while keeping the cost of the camera affordable as well.

The cameras have the ability to be fully automatic, where the camera sets the shutter speed and aperture automatically, as well as a variety of other settings, including shutter priority, as well as aperture priority.   Many photographers like the various preset scene modes, which have specific built-in settings, that allow the perfect picture to be captured depending upon the scene selected.  Scene selections include “Landscape” and “Portrait”.  As the skills of the photographer advance, both cameras also have the ability to shoot completely manual, where the photographer sets all of the controls.

Another similarity of the two cameras in ISO range with both cameras having a normal ISO range of 100-12,800.  The ISO can be expanded to 25,600 in extreme circumstances.   However, it is important to keep in mind while the cameras can shoot at high ISO settings, the camera’s software will work to eliminate the “noise” in the image and as a result, often detail will be lost in the image.  Despite the best efforts of the camera, “noise” will not be completely eliminated by cameras in this price range, so shooting at lower ISO settings is recommended.

The Nikon D3300 and the Canon T5i both have a number of other similarities including a shutter speed range of 1/4,000 to 30 seconds, which allow the photographer to capture images of moving subjects easily, as well as stationary nighttime shots using a tripod, where the shutter needs to remain open.  A built-in flash is found on both cameras, which will allow for either fill-in flash in daylight or normal low light flash.   Additional similarities include a single memory card slot that will accept SD, SDHC or SDX memory cards.  Finally, both cameras will shoot high definition video in a number of formats including 1,920 x 1,080 at a variety of frames per second depending upon the format selected.

The Differences

While the Nikon D3300 and the Canon T5i share several similarities, there are a number of significant differences between the two cameras including the total number of megapixels, autofocus points, size, weight, types of screens found in each camera and an availability of certain optional accessories.  The Nikon D3300 has 24.2 megapixels, while the Canon T5i has 18 megapixels.  While the megapixel count is somewhat important, it is not everything.  Even at 18 megapixels, the images that the Canon T5i captures will have excellent resolution.

Another area where the two cameras differ is in the number of autofocus points with the D3300 having 11 points, while the T5i has 9 points.  This difference is not significant as the autofocus points in both cameras are evenly spaced in their viewfinders, which both offer 85% coverage.

The Nikon D300 is smaller and lighter than the T5i with the Nikon measuring 4.9” x 3.9” x 3.0” compared to the Canon’s 5.9” x 3.9” x 3.1”.  The D3300 weighs in at 14.5 ounces without the lens, while the T5i weighs 18.5 ounces without the lens.  While the differences appear to be small, they do impact the way the camera handles and the camera’s balance with lenses attached.

While both the D3300 and the T5i both have 3” rear LCD displays, Nikon has a fixed screen, while Canon offers an articulating screen that articulates in a number of planes allowing the photographer a great deal of flexibility in composing images.  The screen also is a touch screen, which allows the photographer to change a wide variety of camera settings by simply touching the screen in the appropriate spot.  Nikon’s controls and menus are accessed thru traditional dials and buttons on the camera.

The Pros and Cons

Without a doubt, the biggest “pro” of Nikon D3300 is the $499.95 suggested retail price, which includes an 18-55mm kit lens. For the latest prices and discounts. This is an exceptional value for a camera system with such advanced capabilities.  Many photographers will find that the camera will completely meet their needs at a very affordable price!

Another “pro” of the D3300 is the excellent quality of the images that the camera produces.  The D3300 has a very capable 24.2 megapixel sensor, while the flagship camera in Nikon’s lineup, the professional D4S, only has a 16.2 megapixel sensor.  At the end of the day, image quality is what it is all about

The biggest con of the Nikon D3300 is not a result of the camera, but more in the way that Nikon markets most of their DSPR lineup, with newer cameras, such as the D3300 being offered and competing against earlier versions of the same camera, as well as camera’s in the 5000 series of cameras that Nikon offers.  In many ways the “upgraded capabilities” of the newer camera are slight with little price difference between the cameras.  In Nikon’s current “consumer grade” lineup there are three cameras including the D3200, the D3300 and the D5200, which is the next level of camera, all within $50.00 of each other. This tends to confuse the customer.

Another con of the D3300 is the small size of the camera, which some photographers may not like if they have large hands.  The weight could be problematic as well, especially when a larger lens is placed on the camera, which will affect the camera’s balance.  While it may not seem important, it does factor into the overall shooting experience.

The biggest “pro” to the Canon T5i is the 3” swiveling touch screen display.  I tend to like cameras to be functional without lots of distracting features that both distract from the photography experience and tend to break.  That being said, I really liked the touch screen display once I was able to use it in the field.  The main reason that I liked it was that I was able to configure the camera quickly, which meant I was ready to shoot quicker.  The articulating screen appears to be solid as well.

Another “pro” to the T5i was the slightly bigger size and additional weight of the camera.  It felt good to hold and use, without my hand cramping, even when holding it and shooting for extended periods of time.

As with the D3300, the biggest “con” of the T5i is the number of competing cameras that Canon offers in their Rebel lineup, which is Canon’s brand name for their entry-level DSLR lineup.  There are four models below the T5i including the T3, T5, T3i, and SL-1.  There are also two cameras above the T5i, including T6i and T6s.  Canon does do a better job in separating the cameras by price point with there being a $50.00 to $300.00 price point between cameras.  As with Nikon, too many models causes confusion to the customer, especially those moving up from a point and shoot camera.

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 T5i both have excellent image quality, as well as technical specifications, which are shown in the table below.

Item Nikon D3300 Canon T5i
Year Introduced 2014 2013
Format DX APS-C
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
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, Shutter Priority AE, Manual Exposure, Program AE, Scene Modes
Metering Matrix 3D 63 Zone Dual – Layer Metering
View Finder Coverage 95% 95%
Live View Yes Yes
Frames Per Second 5 5
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 Swivel / Articulating
Video Full HD Full HD
Video Type 1920 x 1080 at 60/50/30/25/24 FPS 1920 x 1080 at 30/25/24 FPS
Internal Autofocus Motor No No
GPS Optional Accessory No
Wireless No No
WIFI Optional Accessory No
Battery EN-EL14a LP-E8
Unique Features Black, Red or Grey Body Direct Printing, Touch Screen
Size Without Lens 4.9” x 3.9” x 3.0” 5.2” x 3.9” x 3.1”
Weight Without Lens 14.5 Ounces 18.5 Ounces

 

Manufactured In Thailand Japan
Body Only or with Kit Lens Sold as Kit Only Sold as Kit Only
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 Ef Eyecup, LP-E8 Battery Pack, LC-E8E battery Charger, EW-100DB IV Wide Neck Strap, IFC-130U USB Interface Cable, EOS Digital Solution Disk & Software Instruction Manual CD, Camera Instruction Manual
Cost, Body Only NOT Available NOT Available
Cost With Kit Lens (Lens Varies) Starting at $499.95 with 18-55 VR II Lens Starting at $799.99 With 18-55mm IS STM Lens

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

My Overall Recommendation

The Nikon 3300 and the Canon T5i both offer excellent features and produce exceptional results, however, I prefer the Canon T5i due to the ergonomics and the touch screen. The way a camera feels and handles is in many ways as important as the camera’s technical capabilities.  While the two camera’s specifications and technical capabilities are very similar, the Canon T5i is slightly larger and heavier and just feels better in my hands, especially when handling it for several hours at a time.  The Nikon D3300, while a very good camera, just did not feel that great to handle, as it was just a bit too small for my hands.

More significantly, I really liked the touchscreen on the Canon T5i despite having some initial reservations about the usefulness, functionality, and durability of the touch screen display.  In use, the display was quick, intuitive and very functional, as I could quickly and easily navigate thru the camera’s menus and settings.  While the Nikon D3300 is significantly less expensive than the Canon T5i, I would gladly pay the additional $300 for the touch screen and a camera that feels good in my hands!

The Camera Guide Team
 

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