In which I do battle with the Nikon’s camera software engineers, and they win

Jock Elliott

Mu-43 Veteran
Dec 13, 2015
Troy, NY
Real Name
Jock Elliott
(This was posted on S.C. 3 years ago, but after writing up the strange case of the weird rattling noise, I thought perhaps some of the denizens of M43 might enjoy it.)

To fully grok what comes next, let’s hold a couple of truths to be self-evident: (1) I have a great fondness for doing what is technically termed “stupid things” with my cameras: handheld night shots when it is too dark to see my feet, full digital and optical zoom shots of wildlife, etc. Why? Because sometimes these gambles pay off with a shot that I like, and with digital gear, the dice that I am rolling are pretty small. (2) When it comes to camera equipment, I consider myself to be the king, the boss, the high panjandrum. If I tell the camera do to something, short of an act that would be self-destructive to the equipment, it should do it, no matter how lame the request might be.

So then: I have a Panasonic LX100 on order. It should show up in a month or so, but in the meantime, I am poking around DXOmark and I notice that, extrapolating from the results on the Panasonic GX7, which presumably offers similar performance to the LX100, the Nikon D3300 ought to offer (by dint of a larger sensor), more dynamic range, greater low-light sensitivity, and so on. Further Ken Rockwell, who enjoys a mixed reputation in the photographic community, has pronounced that this is a wonderful little camera that is suitable for just about everything. I figure I owe it to myself to check it out.

So I sally forth to my local big box store (the one with the liberal return policy) and purchase said D3300. I spend a good part of the afternoon doing A-B comparison shots with the D3300 against my G12 and FZ200, and it acquits itself pretty well.

But what I am really interested in is the results the D3300 will deliver when the sun goes down and the stars come out.With buckets of low-light sensitivity, I have high expectations. When the time comes, I go out, point the Nikon at a lone star in the sky framed by the pine trees and attempt to trigger the shutter. The camera won’t do it. I get a message on the rear screen “The subject is too dark.” I try again. (You have to understand, it is really dark. The moon is not up.) I hear a weird clunk. I’m thinking the camera has at last acquiesced and has flipped the mirror up for a long exposure. Nope – it has deployed the flash unit.

I fiddle the menus and set the ISO to 12,000 something. Still no dice. In desperation, I set the ISO to Hi-1. I can hear Scotty in the engine room: “I can give you warp factor 7, but the dilithium crystals won’t hold; she’s gonna blow.”

Meanwhile, I’m talking to the D3300: “Come on, baby, you can do it; you’re the little camera that could.”

The D3300 in the meanwhile, stamps its little foot like a petulant debutante: “No matter what you say, I will never do that for you, and you can’t make me. If you ask again, I will hold my breath til I pass out.”

I try various settings, including night portrait, but it won’t do it.Somewhere along the line, I manage to take a flash picture of the cars in the driveway. Not what I had in mind. I’m sure that somewhere in the bowels of the menu system, there is a way to do a time exposure, but for now, the Nikon camera software engineers have won.

So I grab my FZ200, but it in P mode, and try the same thing. It says: “Yeah, boss, and renders for me a single white dot in a black field. I put it in high sensitivity mode and it delivers a white dot in a sky framed by pine trees, all of which is liberally dotted with horrible noise. I pat the FZ200, say “Good camera,” and slide it back into its pouch.

Cheers, Jock
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