I mentioned that I'm considering purchasing a Nikon D3300 DSLR. Someone suggested to me that it might be worth the extra money to get the Nikon D610 DSLR instead. So lets take a quick look at these two cameras.
They both have a 24 megapixel sensor and neither has an anti-aliasing filter, so they have the exact same resolution. Resolution is resolution, and neither camera has an advantage. But the D610 has a larger sensor than the D3300, which means it has larger photosites to collect the light data.
What does this mean for image quality? Well, a trip over to DxOMark reveals that the D610 has an advantage in every category that they test. Color depth is similar, and the D610 is only slightly better (you'd be hard pressed to notice the difference). Looking at dynamic range, the D610 has a stop-and-a-half advantage, which is somewhat significant. Finally, the D610 has a huge advantage with regards to high-ISO, achieving a score double that of the D3300.
In a blind test, in day-to-day normal shooting, you'd have a hard time figuring out which photographs came from which camera. It is in more difficult conditions that the D610 stands above the D3300. In harsh light, that extra dynamic range could be noteworthy. In low light situations, even though both cameras have the same ISO settings, the D610 produces significantly better looking photographs at ISO 1600 and above.
The D3300 is Nikon's entry-level DSLR, while the D610 is more towards the top of the list aimed at professionals. The D3300 isn't exactly no-frills, but compared to the D610 it is. Those frills don't equate to image quality, but they do add to the user experience. I personally find that I can live without the frills, perhaps from all the years that I used fully-manual film SLRs and rangefinders.
The biggest difference for me is the cost. The D610 has an MSRP of $2,000 for the body, but can be found for as little as $1,400 if you shop around. The D3300 has an MSRP of $600 for the body, and can be found for as little as $450 if you shop around. Is the D610 worth that extra cost? For me, I'm not sure that it is.