The New Nikon D3400 is a great introduction to the world of DSLR Photography


The new Nikon D3400 DSLR camera is an entry-level camera aimed at photographers who want to move up from compacts or bridge cameras, and succeeds the impressive D3300. The Nikon D3400 keeps the 24.2 megapixel sensor and superb EXPEED 4 processor and now offers NFC connectivity and a very promising new lens. The D3400 Is Nikon’s most accessible and cost conscious entry-level DSLR camera. Not the cheapest in its category, it could be argued that it offers the most technologically advanced camera for the price.

The most obvious improvements are the addition of built-in NFC (Bluetooth) connectivity so that you can load your pictures onto a mobile device, and then onto a social media platform. There are also some new scene modes and effects. However, the cost has been kept right down, to compete with high end compacts and bridge cameras – and it is clear that their target is enthusiasts who want to expand their photographic boundaries and explore digital SLR cameras.

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The Nikon D3400 Key Features

24.2-MP DX-format CMOS DX sensor: The sensor in the Nikon D3400 is derived from the  SonyAPS-C CMOS sensor which appeared first in the D7200 and was acclaimed as top in its category. It provides great quality images. 24MP is still the standard to beat in this range of DSLRs and Nikon will probably hold back the larger sensors for their higher range cameras.

D-Movie: Record finely detailed Full HD video clips you’ll want to share. Take advantage of smooth recording (up to 60p at 1080) and a built-in mono microphone.

EXPEED 4: An upgrade from the D3300, Nikon’s fast and powerful image processing engine provides high-speed operation, remarkably clear images with excellent color reproduction, and enhanced movie recording.

High ISO (100 to 25600): This range will easily give most photographers what they need. The processor and sensor make low light images relatively noise free.

11-point AF system: The 11 focus points give the D3400 a solid AF performance, in a diamond pattern in the centre of the frame. It uses Through The Lens.  (TTL) phase detection,  allowing some tracking focus and multi-focusing.

420-pixel RGB metering sensor: Delivers precise metering for exact exposures optimizing auto exposure, auto-focus, and auto white balance. Available options are Matrix metering, Centre-weighted metering and Spot metering.

5 fps continuous shooting: At the upper end of what is available at this level, this means that the Nikon D3400 can easily capture action and sport.

Effects mode: Create distinctive photos and movies with your Nikon D3400 using a range of special effects, including Selective Color and Miniature. The is a wide variety of options. You can view your chosen effect in real time as you shoot.

D-Movie AF modes: Live view auto-focus works as you shoot movie clips. Keep subjects in sharp focus with full-time servo AF (Autofocus) (AF-F). Relax and let the camera keep track of your subject with subject-tracking AF or face-priority AF.

8 Scene Modes: Capture great shots just by selecting the mode that matches the subject or situation you’re shooting. Scene modes optimizes the settings shutter-speed, ISO (film speed), and aperture, which is ideal if you want to quickly capture perfect shots or are new to D-SLR photography. In addition there are 10 special effects modes – all operated from the Mode Dial.

High-resolution LCD: See every detail of your photos and movies thanks to the high-resolution 7.5 cm (3.0-in.), 921k-dot LCD monitor with wide-viewing angle and high contrast ratio. Compose shots or apply special effects with clarity whether you’re shooting indoors or out.

Watch our Nikon D3400 unboxing video

This Nikon D3400 unboxing video shows you what you get in the box when you buy the Nikon D3400 from a shop or on the internet. The box contains everything you need to start taking pictures straight away apart from a memory card. As well as the Nikon D3400 camera itself, you will get a Nikon strap, the battery and the charger. If you order the kit lens, the new AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR, then that comes in the box too. The Nikon D3400 succeeds the D3300, and the main improvements to the D3400 are extended battery life and Bluetooth connectivity. Using Bluetooth, the D3400 can connect to a smart phone or tablet,  and allows you to transfer images and so put your photographs onto your social media sites.

Download our Nikon D3400 Guide

Nikon d3400 guideThis is a great guide to Nikon’s latest DSLR camera. The Nikon D3400 is produced for enthusiasts who want to move up from compact or bridge photography and take more control of their pictures taking. This Guide will explain exactly what the Nikon D3400 has to offer and also compare it with it’s closest rivals. It is Absolutely Free! Just click HERE and download it straight away.

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The Nikon D3400 build quality

The Nikon D3400 is built with toughened plastic and feels solid and robust in your hand. However it is not weather sealed, which means that you should be careful when using it in very wet or cold weather conditions. The D3400 is one of the smallest DSLR’s you can buy from Nikon and pretty much any company for that matter. Being a very lightweight camera can sometimes mean you’re more inclined to pick it up and take it out with you, rather than being worried that’s it’s going to be too heavy. The lens is the new AF-P which is extremely good. It is very quick autofocus and very quiet – which makes it very good for shooting videos. On the top of the camera right here we’ve got all of the buttons that’ you’d expect to see on a beginner DSLR and also this Mode Dial which allows you to select the mode you want to be in. Of course you’ve got all of the basic beginner modes, like sports and portraits etc, but also aperture, shutter and manual modes for when you want to get a little bit more advanced.

Nikon D3400 LCD screen

The Liveview screen on the back is a 3 inch screen which has 920,000 dots. This gives you a very reliable view of what you will see in the final image or video. Even in bright daylight it was actually pretty easy to see. It is however missing something that I really do like to see and that’s an articulated screen. The screen is ideal if you are moving up from cameras which only shoot through a screen. It is also used for navigating through the menus.

Menus

So let’s quickly talk about the menus on the Nikon D3400. If you’ve ever used a Nikon camera before you’ll feel right at home with the menu system. However, it will be a little tricky for new users. There are only 4 menus and that means that each menu has a lot of options. This can be quite confusing. If you switch the dial on the top to Manual Mode, you’ll get a lot more settings that you can change which can be great. A couple of the interesting modes on the dial are “Guide” and ” Effects”. The former is something we’ve been seeing on Nikon’s entry-level model for quite a few generations now, and is indicative of the kind of user the company is targeting with this camera. It helps beginners get to learn and understand how their camera works, and how they can best use the device to get the type of pictures they’re after. The ultimate aim of the mode is that once you’re familiar with what to do, you’ll be able to achieve those shots unaided. The Effects mode is likely to appeal to the Instagram-type generation who want to apply filters and quirky looks to their shots. In this mode, you can choose between “super vivid” or “toy camera” effects.

The Nikon D3400 & NFC

So one of the good things about the Nikon D3400 is NFC connectivity. NFC ( Near Field Communications) is actually a Bluetooth connection and is pretty quick at sending a resized image from your camera to your mobile device, ready to upload to a social media platform. To me this is the perfect camera to have this feature, because it’s targeting a younger generation of users who love to share their photos on instagram and Facebook. It was pretty easy to setup the NFC, but you have to download some software to do it.

Nikon D3400 BURST MODE & AUTOFOCUS

Burst Mode is how fast the camera can take photos in a row per second. The Nikon D3400 pretty good for this level of camera, offering 5 shots per second. Most of the time when you take a photo you’ll only be taking one shot anyway so it won’t make a big difference, but if you want to take some photos at a sports game or of a bird, could be the best DSLR in this category for you. It is not so long ago that 5FPS would have been in the professional cameras, so the D3400 is definitely a good option if you want to give action photography a try. Autofocus in stills mode is actually surprisingly good, it’s snappy and should be fast enough for most situations.

Video

The Nikon D3400 shoots excellent quality video. It can shoot 1080, which is Full HD and can shoot 60 frames per second at that standard. The advantage of 60FPS over 30FPS (which is common in most other cameras in this category) is that the video appears a lot smoother and also, if you want you can slow it down for a slomo effect. Video is where the kit lens really show how good it is. You can shoot video in the auto setting or have full manual control. We are missing a microphone jack though unfortunately, so if you are in need of some better audio, I might advise looking at the D5000 series.

Overall

Despite the Nikon D3400 being an “entry-level” camera, it can produce some excellent images – especially once you’ve got to grips with how it works.

Colours are vibrant, without going too far into being unrealistic, with a pleasing amount of warmth under a variety of different shooting conditions. Detail is great, too, perhaps in no small part down to the fact that the camera’s sensor doesn’t have an anti-aliasing filter getting in the way of detail resolution.
Automatic white balance copes well under different conditions, although you may find that images are little more warm when you switch to the cloudy setting when skies are overcast. Under artificial lighting, the camera copes well to produce accurate colours, which aren’t too blighted by a yellowish or orange tinge that many cameras are often afflicted by. Under general-purpose metering, images are well exposed. You may find you need to dial in some exposure compensation in high-contrast settings to ensure details aren’t lost in the shadows, but no more so than I’d expect from a camera sensor of this type. Low light, high ISO performance is pleasing. All of the ISOs are usable, even the highest setting of ISO 25600. For best quality, stick to speeds of below ISO 3200. At between ISO 1600-3200 images are great, with very little noise and image smoothing, which is only really apparent if you scrutinise at 100%.

Download our Nikon D3400 Guide

Nikon d3400 guideThis is a great guide to Nikon’s latest DSLR camera. The Nikon D3400 is produced for enthusiasts who want to move up from compact or bridge photography and take more control of their pictures taking. This Guide will explain exactly what the Nikon D3400 has to offer and also compare it with it’s closest rivals. It is Absolutely Free! Just click HERE and download it straight away.

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How to set up your Nikon D3400

1) Charge your battery

It is always better to fully charge your battery before you start to use it for the first time. It will be tempting to put the battery in and take advantage of whatever charge is in it, but in our experience it is better for the long-term performance of the battery if you charge the battery to full and use it down to zero. You can check the battery’s charge level by checking the battery indicator, bottom left of the LCD screen, when you switch on the camera. Also, it is wise to use a Nikon battery as opposed to a generic battery. Sometimes the generic batteries are not recognized by the camera or accessories. At room temperature a full battery recharge will take about two hours. Always switch off the camera before removing the battery.

2) Attach your lens

The lens should be an AF-S or the new AF-P lens for you to get the most out of the camera functionality.

3) Insert the memory card

Suitable memory cards are: SD, SDHC and SDXC cards. Make sure that the card’s write-protect switch is set to enable writing and erasing. The Memory card is inserted in the chamber on the grip-side of the camera. Do not force it.

4) Turn on the camera

Using the on/off switch.

5) Select your language, time zone and date

The first time your Nikon D3400 is switched on, the screen will ask you to set the date (and format), timezone and language. The date and time information will be added to the metadata for each image that you shoot. You change these details by using the crosskeys and pressing set, when completed. If you can be bothered, you can go in and change this information if you move to a different time zone.

6) Format your memory card

Obviously, we recommend that you get the best memory card that you can, particularly if you intend to shoot much video. SDHC cards tend to be faster and more reliable, and professionals tend to use SanDisk cards because of their lifetime warranty. We always recommend that you format your card before you start to use it. Put your card into your Nikon D3400 and select Format Memory Card in the Set Up Menu. The camera will warn you that all data will be lost (and everything, even protected images and movies will be lost if you select this). Select Yes, then press OK. Personally, I would format my card after every full use (i.e. after I have done a shoot and uploaded my images or movies to a hard drive).

7) Adjust the viewfinder to your eyesight

Use the dial which is above right of the viewfinder eyepiece to change the focus of the viewfinder. Remember, this does not affect the focus of the lens or the camera, just you. This is particularly useful if you wear glasses when using a camera. Make sure that the lens cap is off. Direct the camera at something light colored and look through the viewfinder to see the thin black lines that show the camera’s Autofocus area. Check out the data information at the bottom of the screen. Turn the Dioptric adjuster until the lines and the data look sharp. Obviously this can be changed at any time.

8) Set your Auto Off Timer setting

There is nothing more irritating than the camera switching itself off after only a few seconds. Whilst it helps to save battery life, it can interrupt your train of thought and slow you down. You can change the length of time it takes for the camera to turn off. Go to the Set Up Menu and select Auto Off Timers. Choose the Custom option to select what is best for you.

9) Adjust the LCD monitor brightness

Go to the Set Up Menu and choose Monitor Brightness. Then use the crosskeys to adjust the brightness. Press set to complete. The optimum setting for checking exposure on the LCD is 0.

10) Set your ISO

ISO manages the sensitivity of you sensor to the light coming into the camera. The Nikon D3400 will be on AUTO ISO setting to begin with, which is very convenient in most cases. However, you will want to control this at some point, not least because the ISO setting has a direct impact on the quality of your image. It is easy to control the ISO by using i Button. But for the i Button to work, you need to switch the Auto ISO option off. Go to the Shooting Menu and select ISO Sensitivity Settings, then switch Auto ISO Sensitivity OFF.  The ISO will still be automatic in the Basic Modes, but will now be able to control it in the M, A, S and P Modes. As a rule of thumb, ISO 100-400 is suitable for sunny/bright light, ISO 400-1600 for overcast/dusk, ISO 1600-6400 for low light/night-time shots. I would advise not to go beyond ISO 800 under normal circumstances – usually you can change the shutter speed or aperture to keep the ISO down. If in doubt, take the shot and check the exposure on the LCD screen for a rough guide.

11) Set JPEG quality

Using JPEG compression means that you will lose some degree of quality in your image immediately. However In most cases it is not noticeable and the space saving advantage is overwhelming. First go to Shooting Tab 1 and select Image Quality. We recommend that you choose the best quality and Jpeg compression. Go to The Shooting menu and choose Image Quality, then select Jpeg fine. Whilst this JPEG setting takes up the most memory on your card, it keeps as much information as possible and so helps you to produce the best image outcome. If you don’t want to lose any quality, you can save your images as RAW files, or both RAW and JPEG.

12) Learn how to read the information in your playback options.

When you have taken your photos, you can learn an enormous mount about them by using the review options. The basic information will tell you the shutter speed, f-number and exposure rating if it has been adjusted. However, press the crosskeys and you will also be given ISO, file size, metering, shutter and histogram information. The RGB Histogram setting splits the image into its constituent colors, Red, Green and Blue so that you can see the color density. To select what you want to see, go to the Playback Menu and then Playback Display Options. I recommend you choose RGB Histogram, Shooting Data and Overview.

13) Setting white balance

Our eyes are so attuned to our light sources that we rarely notice the differences between them. However your camera is far more objective and you will find that ambient light that you thought was white will have green or orange color casts that effect the quality of your images. The Nikon D3400 has a good auto option. To change white balance, go to the Shooting Menu and choose White Balance. You will then be presented with options, which can be navigated via the crosskeys or the Dial Mode. You can also change the white balance using the i Button.

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The Modes on the Nikon D3400

Auto Mode: This Mode is the basic point-and-shoot mode that will automatically choose the best aperture, ISO and shutter-speed for the job in hand.

Auto Mode No Flash: If the flash is not wanted, turn the dial one more click and the camera will shoot automatically without flash. Shooting without flash can slow down shutter speed and lose detail in dark conditions.

Portrait Mode: This Auto Mode can be used for taking portraits. The camera will prioritize skin tones. It will be shot will a shallow depth of field (wide aperture) to make the in-focus subject stand out more.

Landscape Mode: This Auto Mode slows down the shutter speed to give more depth of field and greater detail in your shots. Landscape mode will turn off the flash and so this mode should ideally be used with a tripod. The camera will try to boost greens and blues in the image and boosts the sharpness during processing. It tries to get down to the lowest ISO to give you maximum detail.

Child Mode: This Auto Mode is great for intimate lively snapshots. Consider it a combination of portrait mode and sports mode. It will try to boost vivid colors.

Sports Mode: This switches the camera to a higher ISO and a fast shutter speed to capture the action. It also switches off the pop up flash.  It will switch the focus mode to dynamic and widen the aperture. Be aware of noise, though, which can slip in to your images when you shoot at high ISO.

Close up Mode: As the name suggests this is ideal for close up photography though a macro lens will give you more scope in this area. Again this should be used with a tripod. The camera will keep the aperture small, but try to maintain a high shutter speed. It will achieve this by using the flash or raising the ISO.

Night Portrait addresses the problem of photographing a subject in relative darkness. The usual result is an overexposed face with the background lost – and so no context. This mode slows the shutter speed to give you more background and less overexposure of the subject in the foreground.

The Effects Modes

Effects Mode: This mode allows you to change the style of the image and can be quite a fun feature. To navigate these Effects, turn the Mode Dial to Effects and then use the command dial to change. The effect the camera is in will always shown in the top left hand corner of the Live-view screen. Effects available are: Night vision; Super Vivid; Pop; photo illustration; Toy Camera; Miniature effect; Selective color; Silhouette; High key, Low key.

Night Vision shoots BW images with high ISO, so it can appear grainy. The Auto-focus does work though you may prefer to use manual as the AF assist illuminator is switched off along with the flash.

Super Vivid really pumps up the saturation and contrast to give you a surreal, bright vibrant picture.

Pop increases the saturation for a bolder image.

Photo illustration makes it look like a drawing by emphasizing the lines and flattening the texture in the colors. Actually this is a really interesting effect, which can be enhanced in liveview before you take the picture. You can effectively shoot your own comic book. If you use this effect in video mode, it will playback as a series of stills.

Toy Camera Effect makes the photograph look like it was taken with a cheap toy camera with a plastic lens. Expect poor quality color reproduction and vignetting.

Miniature Effect When used at some distance from the subject and at an angle, this effect makes the subject seem like a model or toy. It is quite a dramatic effect. It can also be used during Movie Mode where it produces a silent high speed video, compressing the film by about 15 – 1 (fifteen minutes down to one minute).

Selective Color, (or Schindler effect after the girl in the red coat in Schindler’s list) This makes the whole picture monochrome except for your selected colors which then stand out more. The flash is turned off for this, so a tripod is often recommended. This can be enhanced in liveview before the shot is taken.

Silhouette – Shoots so that the foreground is silhouetted against the background. The flash is turned off so a tripod is recommended.

High Key Reduces shadows and emphasizes the light available. A good example would be shooting a blonde model against a white background.

Low Key Is the opposite of High Key, it increases shadow, reduces the light sources with just the extreme highlights. No Flash, so a tripod is recommended.

Download our Nikon D3400 Guide

Nikon d3400 guideThis is a great guide to Nikon’s latest DSLR camera. The Nikon D3400 is produced for enthusiasts who want to move up from compact or bridge photography and take more control of their pictures taking. This Guide will explain exactly what the Nikon D3400 has to offer and also compare it with it’s closest rivals. It is Absolutely Free! Just click HERE and download it straight away.

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The Buttons on The Nikon D3400

On the top of the camera the first thing there to look at is the ON/OFF switch. You can see that that rotates either clockwise or anti-clockwise to switch the camera on and off. Within that switch is the shutter button and the shutter button is what you press to take the picture. The next large thing on the top of the camera is the MODE DIAL. This is really important because it is the thing that you are going to turn to most of all – particularly in the early stages of your photography with this camera but pretty much all the way through. The MODE DIAL will tell the camera what mode you want to use to take the picture, and the mode in this sense means what style of picture or the circumstances in which you are photographing so that the camera itself can change the settings and the parameters to take the picture with the best exposure. Unless you are in M for manual, in all the other modes the camera will decide the best exposure for you and that’s very important to remember. The reason that you change modes is because you may be wanting to take a different type of picture, in which case the parameters ought to change too. So, for example, if you want to take a portrait then the camera will change the settings so that it can best take a portrait type picture if you want to take a sports picture then you change the mode to the running man and the Nikon D3400 will change the settings so that you can take a better sports picture and that’s what these modes do. So to go quickly through them you have M ,A ,S and P which are the manual and semi-automatic modes, and we shall go into all the modes later in a different video.

But this is just to give you a brief idea and outline of how these modes M, A, S, P are the modes in which you as the photographer have the most control and they’re the ones which ultimately you would be hoping, as somebody progressing through DSLR photography, to use more often as you get more experienced. The one you will probably start on is the green AUTO MODE and that will set the parameters of the camera to take the picture that will give you the best exposure, and if required it will set off the flash. Now if you are in a situation where you do not want the flash, then you use the mode beneath that which is AUTO WITHOUT FLASH and that is ideal for places like libraries or museums where they do not want flash photography.

Again the camera will get the best exposure it can with the circumstances that it is given in terms of light etc. Underneath that is PORTRAIT MODE then LANDSCAPE MODE then CHILD MODE then SPORTS MODE then MACRO MODE which is very good for close-up photography which is why it is indicated by a flower, NIGHT TIME PORTRAIT and then we get on to EFFECTS which is a different category altogether – but there is a video on that and they’re well worth looking at. And then we get on to M, A, S and P. We will go into all of these in much more detail later on. So if we go to the other buttons on the top of the camera then the one with the red dot is the VIDEO off and on button and the one across from that with the plus and the minus is the EXPOSURE COMPENSATION BUTTON. The exposure compensation button allows you to change the exposure in any of the modes here, except for the manual mode, and what that means as I have said before because the camera decides the exposure for all of the pictures outside of manual mode the exposure compensation button allows you to tweak it slightly. So if you think it’s a little dark or a little bit too bright then you can use this button to either underexpose or over the overexpose the picture slightly and that gives you a little control over the auto settings and the auto modes so it’s a very useful one to have. And the INFO BUTTON here has two purposes if you’re looking through the viewfinder then on the back screen the various details of what you have got in terms of aperture and shutter speed etc. are on here. They will show here if you press the info button when you are looking through the viewfinder then it will switch that back screen off. Now that can be quite useful because the back screen does drain the battery somewhat, so it is a useful thing to have if you are going to be shooting all day and you do not necessarily need to see what is on the back screen. If you are in Liveview which means that you are looking through the camera and looking through to the subject through the back screen, then the INFO BUTTON gives you a lot more information around that screen telling you the information you need to know, whether you’re shooting either stills or video, and so it is a very useful button for that. What else is on the top well this here is the hotshoe. It is called the hot shoe because it has electrical connectivity going through it. If it did not it would be called the cold shoe. This hot shoe is designed primarily for a flash. It is either a flash gun or an off-camera flash. They are essentially both the same but if you put a flash gun on here of a certain type that shoots TTL (which is Through The Lens – and we have a video on flash) then the flash gun will talk to the camera and that means that it dedicates itself to the camera. So, in other words, the camera will give it information that it automatically picks up anyway to set its own exposure. It will tell it the distance that the subject is away from the camera and it will give it the lighting conditions and as a consequence of that, the flash will set itself to get the best exposure. So it is a very useful thing to have and also with regards to the camera flash here. It is very useful to have an off-camera flash because it gives you that much more power which enables you to shoot things further away or light them better and we’ll go into that in the flash video.

OK, now let us take a look at the back of the Nikon D3400. At the very top is the viewfinder and that is what DSLR photographers traditionally look through when they are trying to compose and take their pictures. At the top corner here is the diopter or the DIOPTRIC ADJUSTER and this is for people who do not have 20/20 vision and who need to adjust the focus of the viewfinder to match their eyesight. Bear in mind that it will not actually change the focusing mechanism of the camera, it is purely just so that when you look through the viewfinder you see things as sharp when the camera sees them as sharp also and to do that you can either just move the dial here, or sometimes you can take off the rubber cover here to give you better access to the diopter so that you can turn it more easily. The way you check this is by looking through the camera when it is on autofocus and focusing on something and then turning the adjuster until it also looks sharp to you. Just to the right of the viewfinder is a very useful button. It is the AE lock or AF lock auto exposure or auto focus locks. Now, by setting this button, which you can do in the menus and we’ll go through that later, you can set it to either lock the Auto Exposure or lock the AUTO FOCUS and that can be quite useful. If you focused on your subject in the middle of the frame and you just want to move the subject left or right – off center – then you can press the auto focus lock and the camera will maintain that same focus and allow you to move the lens slightly left or right to move the subject left or right of the frame without refocusing. Likewise, the AUTO EXPOSURE LOCK means that if you want to set the exposure of the frame and then move the camera so that it’s shooting in what would be a different light and therefore require a different exposure then the camera won’t reset the exposure and you can shoot the original exposure. There are reasons why you might do that for example if you were taking a picture of somebody against a bright sky and you don’t want to use the flash then you could use the exposure lock by exposing the camera for the subject light rather than for the light of the sky and so the exposure of the picture will be set to the subject rather than the sky is that background. So there are reasons why you would want to do that and it is a very useful button to have. If you are in playback menu then by pressing the AE or AF lock button then you protect the picture that you are looking at, or the video that you are looking at which is also useful feature. Next to that is the MAIN DIAL now the main dial is used primarily for navigation. It allows you to move either across when you are choosing different selections of, say, white balance or auto exposures and it also allows you to navigate across other elements of the menu. There are two ways of navigating through the menu. The other is the Multi-Selector which is below that with the OK in the middle and that allows you to go up and down as well. It is actually more useful in most cases for navigation, but the rotate dial is also very useful in certain circumstances. Now the button that’s between the main dial and the multi-selector is the LV button. If I just extend the lens here to allow me to use the camera and press the LV button you will hear the mirror slot up and what that means is that the light coming in through the lens is coming straight through to the back screen. It is not being bounced up to the viewfinder. With this camera you can only use the viewfinder OR the Liveview screen. You can not use them both at the same time. When you are looking through the Liveview screen it is actually very useful for composition and for understanding the sort of picture you are taking and you have to use live view when you are shooting video. So that is what the LV button does – it changes between the viewfinder and the live view screen at the back. If we look at the two buttons beneath the multi-selector which we have discussed then the first one is the DELETE BUTTON which is signified by the waste bin. This operates when you are in playback mode. When you are in playback mode and you see a picture or a video that you no longer want, if you press that delete button it will first ask you if you are sure you want to delete it and then if you press it again it will delete it. I do not recommend deleting anything out of the camera. It is always better to look at things on a computer screen and just check the details of what you’re looking at to make sure that what you have got is either good or bad and then deleting it when it is on the computer. If you delete things from the camera you are in danger of doing one of two things. The first thing is that you might delete a picture which had something on it which you did not see and therefore you have lost something which might have been useful to you, or you might accidentally delete something which you didn’t intend to delete because you’re just pressing that delete button once too often. So I would stay away from that if you possibly can and preferably delete from the computer rather than the camera.

Next to the delete button is the SHUTTER CONTROL BUTTON. Now it is not the shutter release button, which is on the top and allows you to take the picture, but the shutter control button gives you the options for when you press that shutter button. So, for example, the first one is single frame which means that you press the shutter button once and you take one picture. The next one is continuous which means that if you press the shutter button then you will take five frames per second probably up to four or five seconds before it has to start to buffer which means of course up to 20 or 25 frames. The one after that is the quiet shutter release. To be honest I do not really notice the difference between the two. Then, after that, you get on to the self timers. The self timer can be very useful because if you want to take a picture of a group and be in that group, then you can set it on to the initial one which is ten seconds and then you can press the shutter button and then run round to the front and be in that picture, which is very useful. The next two are with connection to the remote control the infrared remote control which you can buy as a accessory to this camera and it allows you to set the shutter and to release the shutter by remote control using infrared. It has a two-second delay and it has an instant shutter release. The two-second delay makes sense of course because you do not want to be photographed if you are going to be in the group holding the shutter release infrared light. So it gives you two seconds to put your hand down. The instant one is if you are away from the camera but you have infrared connection to it and it means that you can fire that shutter release straight away. You probably, initially at least, will either only use single mode or single frame or continuous and probably both of those within the context of what you get on the modes here. But it is worth being able to change them very quickly and that is what that button is for. The buttons on the left hand side of the camera are really very useful and quite powerful. The one at the very top is the PLAYBACK BUTTON and that allows you to see the pictures or the videos that you have taken. So by pressing that button and then using the multi-selector to navigate your way through, you can see either the stills or the videos that you have taken and by looking at the magnifying glasses which are just below the MENU BUTTON either the plus or the minus, if you find a still image that you want to examine more closely then you can use the plus to go into that and look at it more closely or to come out of it again you can use the minus magnifying glass. With the minus magnifying glass you can look at multi images on the back as well so if you press that when it is a full frame then you will get four images and then you will get nine and then you will get even more if you press it on more time, and that gives you an idea of how many pictures you have taken and if you wish, I guess the sort of progress that you are making in terms of the images that you are taking if you’re doing a specific shoot, or you are trying to take a picture of something in particular. The one we missed out there is the MENU BUTTON and that really is important because that allows you access to the menus. Now the one criticism that I would aim at Nikon here is that they have not given us enough menus. we have essentially got four. We have got a PLAYBACK MENU, a SHOOTING MENU, a SETUP MENU and a RETOUCH MENU and then the one below that is just a RECENT SETTINGS MENU. So we have essentially four menus with an enormous number of selections in each of them.

That means that it can be quite difficult to find what you are looking for and I would either say this is a criticism I have of this camera. There are other cameras out there which have more menus with fewer subcategories and navigating through them is a lot more simple, but this is what we have got and we shall go through the menus in a different video. If we go down again to the – magnifying glass we also have next to it a question mark and that is also very useful because if we get to a point where we are looking at one of the options in the camera and the question mark pops up at the bottom of the screen, then by pressing this button we get a brief guide as to what it is we have selected. So here, for example, I am in P and I press the question and it says “programmed auto choose for snapshots”. The camera adjusts shutter speed and aperture automatically and it is actually a very good little reminder of what it is that you are looking at and hopefully, of course, it will help you decide your selections. So it is a useful little thing to have if you are unsure and you see the question mark in the screen and you can by pressing that button it just gives you a brief outline of what the choices and the options you have made are. OK so the final button here is the I button and it is very useful because it gives you quick access to the settings that you can change when you want to take a picture. Please remember that if you are in one of the manual modes M, A, S, P, then you have access to and are able to change more things more settings than if you are in an automatic mode, because the automatic mode makes many of those selections for you and you do not have the ability to change them. So if you are in MANUAL MODE and you press the i button regardless of whether you are looking through the viewfinder or Liveview, you will see that you have options on the quality of the image – whether it is fine – and the JPEG – whether it is large or normal – and then you go through other options like white balance, active d-lighting, flash, the ISO setting, the focus mode, the auto focus area mode, metering, the picture control, flash compensation and exposure compensation. These are really useful settings – the most useful settings in fact outside of shutter speed and aperture which you can change in a different way by using the rotating dial. So it is very useful to know that these are here and how to change them and you do that by using the I button and the multi-selector. So you move across when you are using the multi selector you press OK in order to select that choice. And then again by using the multi-selector you can change that setting and then OK again to set it. So now let us take a look around the sides and the bottom. So if I just close that down. On the left hand side you have got two sockets here, one for USB and one for an HDMI lead. The USB allows you to connect your camera to a computer and transfer your pictures across and the HDMI lead socket here allows you to connect your camera to a TV in order for you to see your pictures or your videos on a television. You do not get either of these leads in the box so you would have to buy them, but they are useful ways of connecting to other devices and particularly with the USB lead if you want to transfer your pictures onto a computer without having to take your card out and have a card reader. On the other side you have the card socket and this is where your SD card goes. it is a full size SD and it goes in here. There is a video on setting up your Nikon D3400 so all the information for that is in there. On the bottom is the door forthe battery compartment to allow you to place the battery inside again all of that is covered in the video about setting up your Nikon D3400 so I am not going into that in any great detail. The only other thing on the bottom is the socket which allows you to attach the camera to a tripod. It is a standard fit if you buy a tripod for a DSLR it will fit this camera so there is no need to worry about that. Now let us take a look at the front of the camera. The first thing we see is the infrared receiver and when I mentioned using the infrared shutter button the ML-L3 then that is the receiver for that infrared signal . You do not notice it usually. Obviously you do not use it very often but that is there and that is what it is. The second thing to look at here is the redeye reduction lamp and that is very useful when you have the flash operating because sometimes when you photograph people the light bounces directly out of their eyes and creates a red-eye effect. This light will flash an instant before the flash goes off and will cause the pupils to contract and therefore reduce the possibility of redeye. So that is a very useful thing. It is also the self timer indicator so if you have got the camera set to self timer then this will flash to indicate that it is on properly, and finally it can also operate as the auto focus assist illuminator which means that if the camera is trying to focus on something in very poor light or focus on something that’s got very little contrast then the light will go off to help it focus better. Then, going around to the other side of the camera then the first thing to look at here is the lens release button and obviously you need to press that button in order to release the lens. Above that and above the badge for the D3400 those three little indents there, they are the internal microphone. It operates reasonably well over a short distance, but just remember if you are videoing not to put your fingers over that. Then we get onto to quite interesting buttons they are the FUNCTION BUTTON and the FLASH BUTTON. The function button allows you to select specific functions which you can change by pressing that button so you can change image quality and size, ISO, white balance or active d-lighting. Personally I would change that to ISO and the reason I would do that is because it is very useful when you are shooting video. The button above that is the flash mode button and if you press it then it will pop up the flash and allow you to use the flash even if the setting or the mode you are on doesn’t think you need it and that can be useful when you want to use fill-in flash at a time or a point where the camera does not actually think you require it. But that is not all, because if you’ve popped up the flash then if you press this button again then it will give you options for the flash mode. Now there is a video on flash and flash guns so I am not going to go into much detail here but the flash modes on offer here are fill-in flash, red eye reduction, slow sync with red eye, slow sync rear curtain and slow sync and then back to fill-in flash. That is a really useful way of changing the purpose of the flash very quickly. But again that is not all because if you press the flash button and the exposure button which we have mentioned already then you get to change the flash compensation by using the main dial again at the back. You can increase the flash compensation by one stop or you can reduce it down by three stops and that is very useful if you have taken a picture with the flash and you think it is either a little too bright or a little too dark. So by using those two buttons in combination you can actually change the flash compensation very easily and very quickly.

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Shooting movies with the Nikon D3400

The good news is that the Nikon D3400 is excellent for shooting video – it produces very clean and very well colored and saturated video of a very good quality and so if you bought this in order to shoot video, well you made a good choice. If you are a photographer already or you are learning photography then you will have pretty much all the required skills to shoot video, but there are a couple of things that you need to give more consideration to or that you have not really thought about as of yet. The first is sound. Sound is really really important when you are shooting video and the reason for that is that your brain is very good at putting together clips of visual imagery and making it into a story. we are visual animals and so consequently the brain is very attuned to that and is very skillful in that.

When it comes to sound, if it is not good sound or consistent sound then it can be extremely distracting and you only have to listen to, say for example, a telephone conversation where the reception is poor or a radio station where you are not picking it up properly to realize how bad sound can be really distracting and actually really detrimental to the experience. So the objective when you are shooting a video with the Nikon D3400 is to produce good visuals but also good and consistent sound so that when people walk away from that video they feel that they have enjoyed the video and that the sound was not distracting and did not take away from the experience and make the whole thing seem rather amateurish. The other thing that is really important when you are shooting videos is to understand that you are liberated by the moving image. What I mean by that is that when you are shooting a still particularly if you are shooting a still that you want to tell a story, then you will try to get certain components of that story into the frame, because those components in that frame and where they are positioned in that frame will help in that storytelling process. When you are shooting video you can have various components of the story, but not necessarily in the frame at the same time, because you can move the camera and the video will move with it from one component to the other and so, in doing so, bring those two components together. But they do not have to be in the frame at the same time. That is a really interesting skill to try to develop and it really brings your videography up to a much higher level, but it is something that for a stills photographer can be quite difficult to understand and quite difficult really to execute very well. Those are the two elements – sound and composition – which you will need to explore further and consider more when you are shooting video than when you are normally shooting stills. So lets now take a look at the camera and see how we can prepare it to shoot videos.

Unlike some other cameras, the Nikon D3400 doesn’t have a specific video mode on the mode dial. What that means is that you can shoot video in pretty much any of these modes. In some cases it does not make a great deal of difference and in others it makes a little difference. I would recommend really that you either leave it on AUTO or on MANUAL because when it comes to video modes you either have an automatic mode, which essentially does everything for you, or you switch it over to manual where you can have much more control. I shall go through the Auto settings initially so that we can have a look at those. So having switched the camera on then I go into menus and if I go into the SHOOTING MENU and at the bottom option there are MOVIE SETTINGS. These are the only settings which are specifically for shooting video and they are all in one place. I have various options – frame size and frame rate, movie quality. the microphone, wind noise reduction and manual movie settings. Lets start from the beginning and have a look at frame size and frame rate. If I click on there there is a long list of different frame rates and frame sizes.

I just want to take a couple of minutes to explain where they come from and how important they actually are. OK so the Nikon D3400 offers 1920 x 1080, which  is Full HD and is probably about the best quality you can shoot on a DSLR at the moment outside of 4k, which not many people are using. Certainly in terms of social media – YouTube or Vimeo or any of those platforms – they are more than happy to take 1920 x 1080 and in fact they are more than happy to take also the one down towards the bottom here which is 1280 x 720. 1280 x 720 is called HD and 1920 x 1080 is called Full HD, so they are the frame sizes. If you like they they reflect the similar parameters to the file size of a still image so 1920 x 1080 is larger than 1280 x 720. Then you get on to the frame rate. Now you have various frame rates here and they are different for different reasons. Let me try to explain. First of all why would you have 60 and 30 frames per second and 50 and 25 frames per second? Well, these refer to television systems and in the United States where is a system called NTSC and NTSC runs at 60 Hertz. In Europe predominantly and also other parts of the world there is a system called PAL and PAL runs at 50 Hertz. If you want to shoot video that you want to put onto television in the United States you need to shoot either 60 or 30. If you want to put your stuff on TV in Europe you need to shoot either 50 or 25 and the reason for that is that if you shoot video which is out of sync then the quality will deteriorate. There are other reasons as well because the Hertz here –  60 in the States and 50 in Europe – refer to the TVs, but they also refer to light – to the electricity supply – and if you shoot video in fluorescent lighting for example which is at 60 Hertz and you are on 50, then because it is out of sync, there will be a flicker in your video and if you shoot somebody in front of a TV under 60 Hertz and you are shooting 50 then you will see a black band going down the back of the television on the screen. That is because they are out of sync. You will see that on the video but you will not see it with your naked eye, because your brain is far too clever to fall for that trick and filters all of that out so that you get a constant image, but when you come to look at the video it will be noticeable. So essentially what I am saying here is if you are in the United States shoot 60 and 30, if you are in Europe shoot 50 and 25. If you are not in either and you are unsure then look on a browser and find out what your TV system is in your country – whether it is NTSC or whether it is PAL and choose accordingly. It does not seem terribly important but it can really ruin your video and you will not know until you get it back home and you put it onto your computer software for editing. So it is important. The next thing you want to think about is whether you want to shoot at 25 or 30 frames per second or whether you want to shoot it 50 or 60 frames per second. Now 25, 30 frames per second is perfectly acceptable – by which I mean you will get good quality video and it will not appear disjointed or jagged because that is the perfect speed at which people enjoy watching videos and movies. If you decide to shoot at 50 or 60 which is twice the rate then you will have the advantage of the video looking a little bit smoother. You can also use it for slow motion and that can be really effective. It is very useful because, of course, having shot it twice the normal frame rate you can reduce the speed of the film by half and it has quite an impressive effect.

So if we now come out of frame size and frame rate, the next one down is MOVIE QUALITY and that option is either HIGH or NORMAL. Obviously, I would recommend that you choose high quality. Why would you shoot normal with a high quality camera like this? And so I would stick that to high quality. The important thing to remember here is that, regardless of whether you shoot 60 or 30 frames per second, you are going to use a large amount of space on your memory cards, so an ordinary memory card when you are shooting video would be minimum size I would say 16 gigabytes and probably you will be looking at 32 gigabytes. When you shoot video, you really should get into the habit of saving your video on to at least one external hard drive and the rule of thumb with video is that if you have not saved it twice, then you have not saved it at all. Believe me, there is nothing more heartbreaking than losing video which you thought you had saved on a hard drive, because so much more effort goes into it than just shooting stills so please save it and save it very carefully and in at least two places if at all possible. Below that is MICROPHONE. As you probably know the Nikon D3400 does not have an external microphone socket. It does have an internal microphone and that is here and in fact it is not too bad. If we go into the microphone settings then we have three choices: the first one is MICROPHONE OFF which I do not recommend even if you do not really intend to run the sound. The reason is that having the microphone on and therefore having sound on your video even when you are editing can be useful because it can help you remember which clip is which. Then the other two settings are AUTO SENSITIVITY and MANUAL SENSITIVITY. There is a video on sound so I am not going to go into this in too much detail. AUTO is pretty good and MANUAL is very useful if you have some control over the sound that you are going to record. What I mean by that is that if you are doing something like this or you are doing a band or you are doing something where you have some understanding of the sort of sound that you are going to be getting, then you can set the sensitivity so that it gets the best sound and the sound that you are looking for. What I mean by that is that if it is on AUTO then the sensitivity levels will be set by the camera and it may not be sensitive to those things that you want it to be sensitive to, or indeed it may be oversensitive.

If you are on manual sensitivity with the Nikon D3400 then you can set that setting and you will get the sound that you are looking for. When you are looking at the back of the screen you will see that there is a levels gauge at the bottom going from minus 40 decibels up to zero and two-thirds of the way up there is the number 12 that is minus 12 decibels and that is designed and pointed out there so that you can aim for that, and that should be your peak sound. If it goes significantly higher than that then the sound will clip and sound distorted but because you can set it manually by changing the number in the yellow box by using the cross keys here, then you can move the sensitivity up or down so that the sound Peaks on 12 and then you get optimum sound. So that, I think, is a very useful way of using this microphone. As I say it is not actually that bad though in the sound video that we have done, you will see that there are alternatives to just using the internal microphone. Moving down we get on to the option which is also a microphone option for WIND NOISE REDUCTION. Now what this does is it narrows the band of sound which it records very slightly, very much at the lower end, it is a low pass filter which means that it tends to reduce the noise of wind – all low rumbling sounds. I might switch that on but usually I would not because I would be on manual microphone and I would want to make the choice of what sound I got myself. It can be useful but bear in mind it may not just be the wind that it is reducing in in the audio it might be something that you are actually trying to record and so be careful with that. Then the bottom option is MANUAL MOVIE SETTINGS. As I said right at the beginning you can shoot on auto or on manual settings on this camera. However, if you do not switch manual movie settings on here, then even if you switch around to manual settings, it will still run on auto settings because you have not told the camera that you want it to run on manual settings.

If you have it on an auto setting when the manual settings are on that does not make any difference. It will just run on auto so it is worth just knowing that you need to switch that on in order to use the manual settings. So how do we shoot video with this camera? Well as I said before it will shoot video on pretty much any of the modes on the mode dial but I do recommend at least initially that you stick to AUTO here without flash or MANUAL. If we look at the AUTO first, the reason I choose auto without flash is that obviously the flash will not work with video anyway because it is not constructed like that. You would not want a flash to go off in video. You want constant light so the AUTO WITH FLASH is rather redundant. AUTO WITHOUT FLASH will control the ISO, the aperture and the shutter speed, and it will try to have a reasonable ISO. You do not really want to go above a thousand – sixteen hundred at the most I would say, before you start to lose some of the quality, and you want a reasonable aperture because you would like a reasonable depth of field – though sometimes if you want to shoot film style you want a very shallow depth-of-field. Perhaps this lens would not be the best for that you would want a 1.8 or 1.4 lens, and the other thing that you would be looking at is the shutter speed. Now the shutter speed when you are shooting stills is fairly straightforward to understand. We have just spoken about those three pillars of still photography, but the shutter speed here is  restricted by the frame rate. This is quite important. It goes back to the old days of film. If, for example, you are shooting 24 or 25 frames per second then the given at the time – because of the physical restrictions of shooting – was that your shutter speed should be roughly twice that speed. So in other words if you are shooting 24 or 25 frames per second your shutter speed needs to be at about 1/50th second. That is not cast in stone, but what is noticeable is that it is a very comfortable ratio for the viewer. We have got used to it and so anything out of that sometimes looks a little odd. You can slow it right down, you can speed it right up and technically it does work, but it is not as comfortable as when you are looking at that ratio of two to one. This camera when it is on auto will do its best to try to hit that ratio. This is the point about auto if you shoot on auto you are probably going to get perfectly reasonable video because this camera is very good and it will make sure that it gets the best exposure. Remember, being automatic it decides the exposure. It will get the best exposure within those parameters of ISO, Aperture and shutter speed, but because you have put an extra requirement there in terms of the frame rate you can see quite quickly that you have restricted the flexibility on that shutter speed because the camera will try to hit the two to one ratio. That leaves two other variables – ISO and Aperture. Your ISO should not really go above 1000, 1600 at the most, so that limits that and now it is just your aperture that you can change. That doesn’t give you much flexibility when you are trying to shoot video and it can be quite restrictive. So when you are shooting Auto the chances are you are going to get very good video but you are going to be restricted because the frame rate will impose restrictions on the shutter speed which will then apply pressure to the ISO and aperture and restrict the flexibility you have there. Of course, when you are shooting stills you can chop and change those as much as you like, even within auto if you are on P mode, and that enables you to shoot at a faster shutter speed or at a wider aperture etc. But because of the restriction of frame rate, Auto video is far more restricted than Auto stills – particularly if say you are shooting on P which is why ultimately you will want to have a crack at shooting manual. Of course, when you shoot video with the Nikon D3400 then you are going to shoot it through the back screen because that is the only way you can shoot video with the D3400 and actually it is very useful because it helps enormously when it comes to composition. However there is one thing you need to just remember if you are in Auto. The exposure on the back screen or what you see on the back screen does not really matter too much because, being on auto, that camera is going to try to get the best exposure it possibly can for you when it shoots the video. If you are in manual then you just need to check that you have not changed the brightness of the monitor. There is an option in one of the menus to make it brighter or darker but you need to reset that back to zero so that the exposure you see through the back screen is really to the same exposure that you’re going to get in the video. It is a simple error and it can be a real nightmare if you if you get that wrong so change the monitor brightness back to zero.

Now lets take a look and see what we do when we look through the back screen and we are in Auto. When we come through to the back screen in Auto we are in fact just in the Live View screen, we are not in video mode as such, and so the information on the back screen if there is any is not necessarily going to be telling you anything to do with video in particular. If I come through now it just shows the screen as it is with the Shutter Speed the Aperture and the ISO at the bottom. So if I press the info button at the top then it gives me a grid which actually is very useful for making sure that your video and your stills are level and then if I press it again it gives me more information going across the top. But this is really for stills so I need to press it one more time and now it gives me information about video. You will see that it Grey’s out the top and the bottom of the screen because you are shooting probably sixteen by nine and so that gives you an indication of what the shape of the video is going to look like. It also gives you other bits of information. It gives you the frame rate and the quality, it gives you the focus, the auto focus setting, the picture control and the white balance and also, at the bottom left here, if you have the microphone switched on, it gives you an indication of the levels for the microphone. That does not necessarily mean that you can change any of this, it is just giving you that as information. In order to change what you can then you press the i button at the bottom left at the back of the camera. So it allows me to change picture quality and frame rate, the microphone settings, whether I have wind noise reduction on or off, my microphone and the auto focus mode. That is all. There are no other options I can change here so those are the restricted options I have when I am shooting video on AUTO. So lets move itaround to MANUAL now and see what I can change when I am in the manual mode. I go back into the Live view here and I just make sure that I go round so that I am on the video settings here. Now, again it does not give me any more details here it just tells me the basics. Again it has the microphone in the bottom left hand corner, but if I press the i button then it gives me a lot more that I can choose from. It gives me again the movie frame and quality, but it allows me to change the white balance. It also gives me microphone, it allows me to change the ISO, it allows me to change the picture control, the wind noise reduction again, but they also allow me to change the auto focus area mode as well as the focus mode, so there are more things here that I can change when I am in manual mode. But lets have a look now and see how I can change the three more import elements which are our shutter speed, aperture and ISO which is why I am in manual mode. Now there are two elements here that I can change actually when I am shooting video. The one I can not do – the one on this set beforehand – is the Aperture and I need to come out of Live view here and go back into normal manual mode, basically, in order to change the aperture. So if I come out of Liveview now and press the AUTO EXPOSURE button at the top and then use the main dial I can change the aperture to make it go up or down. In this instance I am down to f/4 and I can see here that I have got the ISO and the shutter speed at normal settings because essentially I mean stills setting. Here when I go into Liveview at the back then the aperture is set as we have just done it but I have the options now when I am either here before I shoot the video or during the video to change the shutter speed and the ISO. The way I change the ISO is by using this function button. Now if you looked at the setup menu video you will know that there is an option there called buttons and I can set this function button to ISO and I did that at the time because I think I said at the time that it helped video. This is why – because now I can just set the function button and on the back screen the ISO option goes yellow which shows it is live and then I can use the main dial to change the ISO and you can see when I do that because the exposure comes straight through to the back screen. I can see how that affects the exposure of my video.

As I say, I can actually do this while I am shooting the video but I do not want to particularly all the time anyway, but it does give me the option to do that but it also shows me through the backscreen how changing the ISO will change the exposure of my video and that is by pressing the function button which is dedicated to ISO and turning the main dial. If I just turn the main dial ordinarily without pressing any of the buttons then that changes the shutter speed. Again this can be done while I am shooting the video but it also again shows me through the back screen how the exposure will change when I change the shutter speed. The ideal ratio is two to one but it does not have to be and I think you can be reasonably flexible if you are on 25 frames per second then you could easily go up to 1/100 – 1/150th perhaps without the video looking too disconcerting. There is an element of flexibility there and this allows you that flexibility. So when you are in MANUAL you can change the aperture only before you start shooting, but then you can change the ISO and the shutter speed either when you are in video mode or when you are actually shooting the video. I think that if you bought the Nikon D3400 with a view to shooting video then you made a pretty good buy because this is a pretty good video DSLR.

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White balance with your Nikon D3400

White balance on the Nikon D3400 is one of my favorite settings and there are two reasons for that: one is that it helps you set the camera so that you get naturally exposed pictures which is really good, you can use that same process to be really creative with your picture taking. So first of all I am just going to discuss what white balance is and what the camera is trying to do and then I will go through the preset white balances – the options that the camera gives you that you can set, should you wish – and then I will have a look at setting your own white balance and how creative that can be and how it can help you to manage your environment.

So first of all white balance what is it all about? Well, when you walk into a room, or even outside, the quality of the light and the tone of the light will change. It changes depending on whether you are in natural light or whether you are in artificial light and if you are in artificial light, what sort of artificial light you are in. Now your eye and your brain filter all of that out, so usually you do not really even recognize it, but the camera will because the camera is quite objective whereas your eyes and your brain are quite subjective. So what you do not want to do is go and take pictures in a light which has a color cast, not realize that and then when you get back, you discover that your pictures either have quite a yellow or orange tinge, or have quite a blue tinge and the white balance and setting the white balance allows you to set the camera so that, effectively, it sees what you want to see and it sets white. Now the important thing to remember about white is it is not a single color, it is a combination of all colors and so once you set white with the camera the camera is able to set all the other colors accordingly.

You need to know how to change the white balance when you go into the camera. There are two ways of looking at your white balance in the Nikon D3400 and the most obvious one is when you are looking at the back of the camera as you press the i button and white balance is third along the top line and that gives you the option to select the white balance that you want. However it does not let you change the white balance within those settings. If you want to do that you need to go into the MENU OPTION and if you do that you go into SHOOTIUNG MENU then you go down to white balance and you will see that you have all the options that you would see when you look in the i button, but should you press your multi-selector right one it will give you the option of either deciding to have a different option within that main sub-option, so for fluorescence for example you have seven further options in fluorescent which are all slightly different. Or if you do not have different options then you have an option which allows you to change that option within the camera. Now you can do that on the Nikon D3400 by using the multi-selector and you can make it according to how you want: either more green or more magenta or blue or more red. Personally I think this probably takes it a little too far unless you are going for a very specific look, but the general way of changing, which is to go back and just look at the general options in white balance when you are in the shooting menu, should be sufficient for you to decide how to do it. But if you want to go in and change cloudy for example and make it a little more red or a little more blue then you can do so but you can not make those changes to that option from the i button.
So lets have a look at what the options are when we come out of menu and we will have a look through them with the i button. The first one is AUTO. Now what this does is it tries to select the most obvious white balance itself. It has quite a good auto detection for white balance and in most cases you will be fine on AUTO with the Nikon D3400. It is fairly broad brush but it is pretty good for most circumstances. The next one is INCANDESCENT or tungsten. As I mentioned, that has quite a yellow tone to it because it is more like candle light or home and residential lighting which tends to be tungsten lighting and so it will try to take some of that warmth out – some of that orange and yellow and add some of the blue to make whatever is white in that picture more white and less yellow. The next one beyond that is FLORESCENT. That is a little bluer and it is the sort of lighting that you get in offices – the sort of strip lighting that goes across the top – which gives a very blue tone to things. And as a consequence of that the camera will try to add a little yellow to the picture. Then we get on to DIRECT SUNLIGHT. Now direct sunlight is actually a lot bluer than you might imagine and so it does try to add a little more yellow to that just to give it a more natural look. The one after that is FLASH. When you fire the flash, whether it is the built-in flash or an external flash, that is a very cold white shade. So as a consequence of that it does try to add some more yellow to give a more natural tone to the color, and especially, obviously for skin tones which is quite important. Then the next two which are CLOUDY and SHADE move further up Kelvin scale from and obviously then the environment becomes more and more blue as you move up there and so it will be trying harder and harder to add a little yellow and a little orange just to warm that picture up and make it look less cold. Obviously if you are shooting in shade or in cloud then as I said before there is a natural inclination for you for it to look slightly blue, slightly cold, so you want a little orange to warm that picture up.

Check out our superb Nikon D3400 guide here