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 file size 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


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.


View Comments

  • Hello,

    I have the D3400 and just recently tried printing photos from it for the first time. I've found that the picture I'm trying to print is blurry and pixelated when printing from both Walmart and Shutterfly. When I look at the image on my camera, phone, and laptop it looks completely fine. I am a bit concerned about this as I have had pictures print with better quality off a smartphone than I've gotten from this DSLR.

    I've done just a bit of research on the importance of dpi, though the reality of what this means for printing is still hazy. For context, the image I'm trying to print is 2304 X 1536 pixels. When looking at the image on my computer, the image DPI is 72 pixels/inch.

    Please help!


    • What size are you trying to print at? An image that's 2304 x 1536 should print sharply at least up to 8x5 inches. But if you're trying to print a poster at 20x30 inches, then yes, it will look pixelated and blurry.

      The pixel dimensions (in this case, 2304 x 1536) are far more important than dpi for this purpose. DPI will be handled automatically by the printer (and the PPI you're seeing on your computer and camera screen doesn't have any bearing on the DPI of the printer). You can safely ignore it from your end--what matters are the dimensions.

      Also, since 2304 x 1536 isn't a size natively produced by the D3400, I assume you've cropped it and done some post-processing. Most likely, it's somewhere in that stage that something is going wrong. One option to eliminate that is to use the original image when you upload and then use the printer software to crop. Shutterfly etc will let you do make simple edits like that as part of the upload and ordering process, and it means you'll be using the highest resolution version of the image.

      • Thank you for the thorough reply. I decided to try printing the original image straight from the memory card today. The quality improved, but not substantially. Again, the image looks great on the screen but when printed it is not nearly as sharp or detailed. The colors on our faces almost bleed together. We are standing a bit away from the camera in the picture. I used a tripod and the self-timer to take the photo. Do you think this would make a difference in print quality? For reference, I only printed a 4X6.

        • Thank for looking at it. Is there something I can do to correct it in the future? Or do you think there's a problem with the camera itself? If you need any additional information to send it, please let me know.

          • The color profile it had wasn't something done in the camera--it must have happened during the editing stage in the image editing software. Color profiles can get very complicated quickly, but the simplest and most reliable option is to set the camera to sRGB (information on how to set that on the D3400 here) and use sRGB in the image editing software (there'll be something somewhere in the settings, or if you're using Lightroom you can specify it as part of the export process).

        • Thank you for being willing to look at it! I’ve uploaded the image (uploaded from my phone, so hopefully that does not compromise quality too much) and the printed version. It is not very sharp or detailed, though all screens I’ve seen it on show otherwise.

          • Thanks, Mary. Got it. It looks like it might be a color profile issue. I'll send back a corrected version directly (offline) that's worth trying to see if that improves it.

        • I'm afraid that without seeing it, it's a bit hard to figure out what might be going wrong. The further you are from the camera--and therefore the more cropping/enlarging you're doing--the less clear the details will be. If it's an image you're willing to share, you can send it to me and I'll be happy to take a look (you can upload it here).

  • I try to change image quality to RAW but my camera gives me the message, "This option is not available at current settings or in the camera's current state"

    I have nikon d3400

    please help!

    • That's usually because it's set to use some of the processed images features. For example, if you have the shooting mode set to Effects, it won't work (fix is to change the shooting mode (top dial) to something like P or A.

  • Hi, I’m trying to put my camera into RAW and when I go into the shooting menu it says “this option is not available at current settings or in the camera’s current state.” How do I achieve the RAW setting?

  • Hi, I have a nikon d3400 and I want my photos large to be able to print blow up photos. I have my settings in large fine jpg files but for some reason my biggest photo size is only 2MB. How did this happen and how can i fix it?

    • How are you accessing the photos to looks at the filesize? As in, are you ingesting them into an image management app first or copying directly from the card? Some image management apps can make changes as part of the ingest process, including resizing.

      • Since i switch to d3400, I have been using snapbridge a lot lately to transfer my photos cause I find it quick but i just realize its not big enough when i was sorting photos for printing. Before I move my card to my laptop and transfer the photos, but I was not particular of the file size when i was starting photography.

  • 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!