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Nikon D3300 Guide
AF Settings

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Nikon D3300

Nikon D3300 and included 18-55mm VR II. enlarge.


May 2014      Nikon D3300 Review    Nikon Reviews   Nikon Lens Reviews

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Nikon D3300 Users Guide App

NEW: Ken Rockwell's Nikon D3300 Users Guide app.


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This is how you set the autofocus (AF) system of the Nikon D3300. See my Guide to Nikon AF Settings for other cameras.

Many of these settings are locked-out when the D3300 is in the green AUTO mode, set on the big top dial. I shoot in the P mode, which allows all these settings. For this page, use the P, S, A or M modes and you'll have access to all these settings. If you're trying to do something below and it won't work, it's probably because you have the top dial set to AUTO.

The D3300 only autofocuses with the latest AF-S (and older professional AF-I) lenses. Most traditional (screw-type) AF lenses from 1986 through today will not autofocus on the D3300. If your lens says "AF-S," you're fine; most lenses sold today for the D3300 are AF-S.

Most non-Nikon lenses from Tamron, Tokina, Quantaray, Sigma and anyone other than Nikon may not autofocus at all on the D3300. Good luck; I rarely suggest these. If money is tight, I buy used Nikon lenses via eBay.

Autofocus systems are fast, but not instantaneous. You have to hold the shutter down halfway so the AF system can focus and lock, and then the camera will fire instantaneously when you press the shutter the rest of the way. See Preventing Shutter Delay for more.

The great news is that the D3300 is set-up right out of the box to work great under almost every situation. Unlike earlier cameras, this tutorial is going to be easy.


Free Live Help (USA only)

Want free live phone support?

In the USA, call (800) NIKON-UX.


My Favorite Settings         top

Here's how I set my D3300 for various conditions. I'll explain how to set these in the next section.



The D3300 is set perfectly by default.

I leave the D3300's autofocus settings as it came from the factory for most of my shooting.

I'll go to one of these other settings only if the default settings of AF-A and Auto Area (explained below) aren't working for me.


Still Subjects         top

For still subjects, I leave it as above, or might set it to AF-S and Single Point (explained below) if the default isn't selecting the correct things all by itself.


Moving Subjects         top

For sports and moving subjects, AF-A and Auto Area as set by default usually work, but if I'm going to be shooting sports all day, I'll set it to AF-C and 3D-tracking (explained below). This lets the D3300 track action as it moves around the frame and towards and away from the camera!

Select an appropriate AF area with the D3300's Multi Controller to select your subject, then as you keep the shutter button pressed halfway and keep shooting, the D3300 will keep that subject in focus as it moves all around the frame!


Handing Your D3300 to a Non-Photographer         top

Ryan and Daddy

Ryan and Daddy, photo by mom. enlarge.

The D3300 makes great photos, even when used as a point-and-shoot. (OK, the shot above was shot by my wife on my D40, but you get the point. The D3300 is even better.)

When I hand my D3300 to a non-photographer, I leave the D3300 at its defaults of AF-A and Auto Area. This lets the D3300 figure out where to focus, and it works great.

You can set AUTO on the top dial and it will choose this AF mode, as well as reset a lot of other things back to default.


Focus Mode Switch         top

The D3300 has no Focus Mode Switch of its own. This is one of many ways the D3300 saves money so it can do pretty much the same thing for $650 as a $6,500 Nikon D4s does.

AF-S and AF-I lenses have their own AF Mode Switches.

On the lens, M is manual focus, like the 1950s. Turn the focus ring on the lens and look for the focus confirmation dot in the finder.

"A," "AF," "A/M" or "M/A" is autofocus, which is how I use the D3300, and what I'll describe below.

If your lens has a switch, leave it in AF or M/A.

Older AF and AF-D lenses have no AF Mode switch, but that's OK, because they can't autofocus with the D3300 anyway; they are always in Manual focus mode!


Focus Mode        top

This is where you select Auto or Manual focus.

You set the Focus Mode by pressing the < i > button to display the INFO screen.

Once the INFO screen is displayed, press the Multi Selector and highlight the first option along the bottom of the INFO screen.

When the AF selection is highlighted, press OK to adjust it.

Your choices are:



I use AF-A, the D3300's default.

AF-A means "Auto Focus — Automatic" mode selection.

AF-A magically selects between the AF-S and AF-C modes explained below. This clever AF-A mode looks at the subject: if it's holding still, the D3300 locks the focus in AF-S mode, and if the subject is moving, the D3300 tracks it as it moves nearer and farther in AF-C mode.



AF-S is "AF-Single."

The D3300 focuses once, and then locks AF for you to recompose and shoot.

AF-A is smart enough to set this automatically for you if the subject is still.



AF-C is "AF-Continuous."

The D3300 keeps focusing as the subject moves. Use this for sports and vehicles in motion, like cars, birds and aircraft.

AF-A is smart enough to set this automatically for you if the subject is moving.



M is Manual focus.

Set this on your lens if you can, not here in this menu, since if you select it on your INFO screen, you're now stuck in manual focus regardless of how you set your lens. If you're like me, you'll forget you set this, think your lens or camera is broken and send it in for repair!

Turn the focus ring on your lens until the picture is sharp, or look for the electronic "Focus OK" dot on the lower left of the viewfinder.

Set MENU > SETUP (wrench icon) > Rangefinder > ON and an additional bar graph will help you focus manually.


AF Area Modes      top

These modes select how the D3300 uses its 11 AF sensors as marked in the finder.

Left at its default setting, the D3300 chooses and uses whichever it needs, automatically.

If you want to pick them manually, press the < i > button and use the Multi Selector to highlight the second option along the bottom of the INFO screen.

When the AF-Area Mode selection is highlighted, press OK to adjust it.

Your choices are:


[xxx] Auto Area (default)

Auto Area lets the D3300 guess which AF area to use.

In Auto Area, the D3300 almost always gives a great, in-focus shot.

I use this setting almost all of the time.

I only use the settings below if Auto Area isn't guessing my subject properly, for instance, if it's focusing on a closer distraction instead.


[ o ] Single Point

The Single Point mode is most helpful for still subjects.

In Single point, the D3300 uses only the AF area you select.

I use this (or 3D tracking below) if the Auto Area mode isn't picking the correct sensor for me.

In the Single Point mode, you can select which AF area is used with the Multi Selector.

Press the rear multi-selector in any direction to choose any sensor. The sensor lights only for a moment to let you know you've selected it.

To re-select the center sensor, press the middle OK button.


[ - | - ]

This is an older tracking mode left over from earlier cameras; the 3D mode below is even better.

These let you select which sensor to use to start, and then the D3300 is allowed to use any of the sensors around the one you selected as it sees fit.

In these settings, the D3300 first uses whichever area you select with the rear multi-selector, and will use the other areas automatically if the subject moves away for a moment.

You won't see which area is selected in the finder, but you can see it on playback if you use the right software.


[3D] 3D-tracking

3D-tracking is marvelous. It lets the D3300 track things as they move around the frame, and shows you which sensor is selected as it tracks your subject.

The rear multi-selector is also used to select the first AF area from which the D3300 tracks.

With 3D tracking, you may prefer always to focus with the middle sensor, and then move the camera to recompose. The selected AF sensors move around by magic, saving you the trouble of selecting them!

This really works. I use the 3D mode for sports, running animals and birds in flight if Auto Select isn't working for me.


Thanks for reading!

See also my Nikon D3300 User's Guide:



Autofocus System









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