Picture Quality, File Formats, & Size Settings on the Nikon D3400

The Nikon D3400 has a number of options you can choose relating to image quality, image file formats, and size. Here's a rundown of what they mean and which is best for what.

The Nikon D3400 has a number of options you can choose relating to image quality and size. Here’s a rundown of what they mean and which option is best for what use.

These options are all accessible through the camera’s menu system on the back screen.

If you’re after some real-world examples of the picture quality of the Nikon D3400, I’ve posted a large collection of sample images from the D3400 here.

Image Types on the Nikon D3400: RAW & JPG

With the Nikon D3400, you have a choice of two image types: RAW and JPG.

RAW offers the best image quality, but it’s less convenient because the files require post-processing to use them. JPG is far more convenient because of its wide compatibility, but it doesn’t offer the same quality benefits.

Nikon D3400 RAW Images

The RAW file format saves all the information from the camera’s sensor without processing it and applying filters. Think of it as a digital negative.

Nikon cameras use Nikon’s own proprietary RAW image format that has a file extension of .NEF.

The RAW format is best if you want both maximum image quality and maximum flexibility in editing the images. Just like an old film negative, it’s the master, original photo.

The catch is that you really need to process the images before you can do much with them. Just as it doesn’t make much sense to be handing people film negatives and expecting them to do much with them, you wouldn’t, in most instances, share the RAW file. Typically you’d use something like Lightroom or one of the other RAW processing apps to create derivative versions that would be saved as JPGs or TIFFs. If you try to send someone else an NEF file, they might not be able to do much with it, and you can’t share them directly to social media or even most websites.

With the D3400 you don’t have any options with the RAW files–the option is either on or off, and all the RAW files have compression applied. With some other cameras, including higher models in Nikon’s DSLR lineup, you can choose between 14-bit or 12-bit RAW files and compressed and uncompressed images.

RAW + JPG on the Nikon D3400

This setting saves two image files simultaneously every time you take a photo. One is a master RAW file, and the other is a JPG version of the same file. It’s the best of both worlds, but creating two files instead of one takes up more space on your memory card and slows things down a bit.

It can be a handy option to use if you might want to share JPG versions without processing as well as retain the option to come back to them later and edit them.

It’s also a handy option to have in those instances where you want both maximum image quality but also need to preserve a version that can prove that the image is unadulterated and hasn’t been tampered with, such as working with photojournalism wire services, forensic photography, or insurance claims.

JPG Quality Settings on the Nikon D3400

JPG (also often rendered as JPEG) is a de facto standard and can be used pretty much anywhere. They’re easy to email and share on social media. And while their quality potential isn’t as high as RAW images, they can still have excellent image quality, especially at the higher quality settings.

You can choose from three different JPG quality settings: Fine, Normal, and Basic. These don’t refer to the pixel dimensions–they refer to the aggressiveness of the JPG compression. The more aggressive the JPG compression, the smaller the files but the lower the quality.

Because JPG compression is lossy compression, it means that information is discarded as part of the process. The more aggressively the compression is applied, the more information is discarded. While the difference between them might not be immediately visible with first-generation images straight out of the camera, it will become more noticeable if you edit the images in Lightroom or Photoshop and generate second- or third-generation versions. In extreme cases, you can see JPG artifacts and blocks of colors that visibly detract from the image.

The Fine setting, therefore, is best if you’re looking for the highest image quality, and especially if you plan to edit the files. The Medium and Basic settings have slightly lower quality, but they save space on your memory card and can be more convenient for sharing the images directly out of the camera without any post-processing. Situations where that might be important include time lapse photography, where every frame doesn’t need maximum size or quality.

Nikon D3400 Image Sizes for JPGs

In addition to choosing the quality setting, you can also choose from three different JPG size settings. They are:

  • Large: 6000 x 4000 pixels, which comes to 24 megapixels
  • Medium: 4496 x 3000 pixels, which comes to 13.5 megapixels
  • Small: 2992 x 2000 pixels, which comes to 6 megapixels

Here’s a visual version that shows the relative dimensions of each size setting. Click on it to open a full-size version.

The Large setting will give you the maximum flexibility and potentially the highest quality, but the images take up more space on your memory card (and computer) and will take a little longer to save and download. Most users will probably want to use the Large setting to make best use of the camera’s capabilities. It’s better to take a large file and make a smaller copy if you need it than be stuck with a small file with less detail and try to make it larger.

The smaller settings do have their uses, though. One example is if you need to share the images right out of the camera and need a manageable filesize for email, etc. Another example is if you’re shooting timelapse and want to be able to fit thousands of images on the memory card.

By combining the image quality setting with the image size setting you can get quite a lot of flexibility.

Filesizes & How Many Nikon D3400 Photos Will Fit on a Memory Card?

Memory cards are a crucial accessory for the Nikon D3400. You won’t get far without one. I’ve put together some recommendations of SD cards for the Nikon D3400 separately.

What I’m focusing on here is how many photos you can fit. Memory cards are available in a variety of sizes, and in deciding what size to get, it’s useful to know how many images you can fit on a card of such and such capacity. So here are some estimates.

You’ll notice that in the filesize column I give ranges. That’s because the images generated on a Nikon D3400 are compressed, and the effectiveness of the image compression varies from photo to photo depending on factors like the colors, tones, and detail of each individual scene. A photo with few colors and tones and little detail can be compressed much more than a photo with many tones and colors and lots of detail. It’s just the way that most image compression algorithms work.

For the columns on the right, which show estimates of the number of images at each setting that will fit on 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB cards, I’ve used the upper end of the range because for something like this it’s better to underestimate than overestimate. So the numbers in this column, in particular, are very much approximations and should be read as rough guides but not absolutes.

QualitySizeFilesize / MB32GB64GB128GB256GB
RAW26-271084216843368672
JPGFINELarge11.5-1521334266853217064
Medium6.5-7.5426685321706434128
Small3.5-4.57111142222844456888
NORMALLarge5.5-7.5426685321706434128
Medium3-4.57111142222844456888
Small1.5-2.512,8002560051200102400
BASICLarge1.5-2.512,8002560051200102400
Medium0.9-1.521,3334266685332170664
Small0.6-1.226,66653332106664213328

Q&A

Can you shoot RAW on the Nikon D3400? Yes. You have a choice of RAW, JPG, or RAW+JPG.

What RAW file format does the Nikon D3400 use? It uses Nikon’s NEF file format (file extension of .nef). It’s widely compatible with RAW processing apps, but it is a proprietary RAW format.

What aspect ratios does the Nikon D3400 shoot at? The Nikon D3400 shoots still images with an aspect ratio of 3:2 and video at 16:9. There’s no option to change the shooting aspect ratio, but you can use the camera’s built-in editing functions to crop the photos afterwards to aspect ratios such as 1:1, 4:3, or 16:9. You can find more information on the Nikon D3400 aspect ratios here.

More Tips & Tricks:

View Comments

  • I took pictures on my camera on the RAW setting but not sure how I access them and get them off the memory card now. PLEASE HELP!!

    • What method do you usually use to get the images from the camera to the memory card. The same method should work equally well for RAW. For example, you can connect the camera directly to a computer, take the memory card out and use a card reader with the computer, or use the mobile app.

      The difference comes with what do with them. With JPG images, you can use the as-is. With RAW files, you'll need to use a software app to convert them first. One of the best-known apps to do that with is Lightroom, but there are also simpler and free versions--I've listed some of them here.

      Another option is to process the files within the camera. Nikon has a guide on how to do that here. You access it through the menu on the back screen, through Retouch Menu > NEF (RAW) Processing. If you only have a fairly small number of images, it works well enough, but it can get tedious if you're working with many images.

  • Good question, and I don't know the answer. My first thought was that you might have the RAW + JPEG option enabled and comparing RAW files with JPGs with the Small setting. But that doesn't explain the 1600x1000 dimensions, since that's smaller than the D3400's Small setting (2992x2000). So I'm not sure how or why the camera could be doing it, which would lead me to suspect something in the editing workflow. What app are you using to edit/view the images, and do you have something set as part of the ingest process to generate smaller versions?

  • Hello. I am trying to understand why some of my photos have a high number of pixels and some low 1600x1000 appx. I am now going to change my settings (since I noticed this) so they are all high. Just wondering why over the past couple years since I got the camera the pixels have changed from photo to photo without me changing the settings.

  • Almost all of the pictures are required to have a time-date stamp on them. I’m using a Nikon Coolpix right now but in the date stamp mode it will only take pictures of about 2 megapixels. This is a factory setting. Does the D3400 or 3500 work in the date stamp mode at a higher megapixel rate?

    • That's not something I've considered before, to be honest, but I just tried it out with both a D3500 and a D3400. I can confirm that the date stamp function does work with the large image size (that's the largest), but only when shooting JPG only. That is, if you have the image quality setting as NEF (RAW) + JPEG, it won't work.

  • I have a Nikon d3400 but i can not open de nef files to edit them in Raw Photoshop. I updated my computer to El Capitan (i can not upgrade to Sierra) also I use photoshop CC 2017 and Camera Raw 10.2 . Also i downloaded Adobe DNG Converter because i have a PC windows 10 but the images are imposible to open. Please can you help me about what to do???

  • Hello,
    I have a D3400 Nikon with 18-55mm lens. I am a newbie to this dslr camera stuff, However I needed a camera that could take pic's of my acrylic canvass art work so it can be printed on fabrics and other things. My question is what settings would be the best for me to use? I have played around with it and taken hundreds of pics and yet some, not all of my art work is still not unsuitable to be printed on fabric, mainly because the place I'm getting the printing done says my dpi is too low, yet it is at 300-400 dpi (adjusted in photo Shop) The pic is at the max 4000-6000 in size and I take them in raw, but do have to turn into jpeg (using photo shop) for the printing app to recognize the file first. But the end result is a blurry result as if the pic is too small, (could it be shrinking when formatting to jpeg?) but I have to make it fit with in a specific fabric pattern or a square. I have read your entire page here with the comments and have learn quite a bit already about the camera and the RAW/Jpeg settings that I will try. What would be best setting on the wheel? Portrait? Auto? Landscape? Thanks for any tips you can recommend!

  • I have a D3400 and am just starting to learn my camera. I noticed when zoomed out and taking a picture the camera will return to zoomed in settings for my next frame. My old Canon would stay zoomed out for multiple shots. I also noticed in my play back view and also in my computer down loads none of the pictures are zoomed in. It feels like I have something turned off.

    • It shouldn't be changing the optical zoom automatically between shots. I suspect you're using the magnify controls on the back screen, which applies only to the view through the screen. Zooming is handled on the lens itself, not the camera body. Might that be causing the issue you're seeing?

  • I have Nikon D3400. The images are saved in fashion of DSCxxxx. I want it to change to DSC followed by date-timestamp so as to avoid overwriting while saving images in my local disc or while using snap bridge. How can this be done please.?

    • It can't, unfortunately. At least, not in the camera. The only control you have in the camera is changing the three letter prefix from DSC to something else of your choosing. You can't change the standard sequence.

      Some of the better photo management apps have built-in file renaming as part of their import/ingest tools, so you can make it an automatic part of the process as you download from the memory card to your hard drive. They can usually use quite powerful tokens so that you can add timestamps or EXIF information from the file and put it all together in whatever combination you like. Lightroom and PhotoMechanic are two that come to mind--and the ones I use for it--but some of the simpler apps don't have this. I haven't checked lately, but I don't think apps like Photos (Mac) or Google Photos can do this. There used to be a handy little app called ImageIngester that I used to recommend, but I see that the developer has now retired and it doesn't appear to be available anymore. And obviously, there's an enormous range of tools that you can use to rename after the files are on your hard drive, some of which you can automate (eg. Hazel) and some of which can add timestamps as well as EXIF information, etc.

      Most of the modern operating systems also have a built-in safety mechanism that will, by default, add a suffix to incoming duplicate filenames unless you specify that they be overwritten.

      None of this helps when using SnapBridge--I don't use that enough to know how that behaves with filenames.

  • Hello
    What setting do I put my camera in to get the best pictures to enlarge? I am going to take senior pics of my daughter and I want to be able to blow them up to like a 8x10 but not sure what I should set camera too

    • For the highest quality JPGs, set the Image Size to Large and the quality to Fine. That will give the highest quality images that can be used directly right out of the camera, whether you're sending them to someone else or taking them to a print lab.

      Technically, the RAW/NEF option can give you better quality, but to get that better quality you will have to be processing the RAW files in an image editing app first, so it's less convenient. If you want to cover all your bases you can set the image type to RAW + JPEG Fine, which will save two copies of each photo.

  • Hi David,
    I've been asked to take images with my D3400 at a 300dpi, can you explain how I do this please?

    • That's not something you set on the camera. Your best bet is to set the camera to shoot at the maximum image size. So choose JPEG Fine, NEF (RAW), or NEF (RAW) + JPEG Fine (which saves both formats simultaneously). Those will create images of the maximum size and quality that the camera can shoot. You can then deliver those original files or, if you prefer, process them yourself. If you process them yourself, you'll have the option in the software to choose a resolution, in which case you can set it to 300ppi.

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