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Performance

Compared to entry-level DSLRs of a few years ago, the D3000 is an extremely fast, responsive camera, although as we would expect, it is not as slick as the D90 and higher level Nikon models. This is most noticeable when shooting in raw mode, where the buffer decreases to around 6/7 frames, and when active D-Lighting is activated in JPEG capture mode. With Active D-Lighting off, images are displayed on the rear LCD within half a second, but when it is switched on, it takes around three seconds for a review image to load, and the buffer decreases to five images in a burst. To be fair, Active D-Lighting is a processing suck in all of Nikon's current DSLRs, but it is clear from the test results on this page that the D3000 struggles more than most with the increased data load.

Timings & File Sizes

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 3872 x 2592 JPEG Fine (approx. 4,400 KB per image).

The media used for these tests was:

  • 4Gb Sandisk Extreme III SDHC card
Action
Details
Time, secs
Power Off to On *1   2.7
Power Off to Shot   <0.1
Power On to Off *2   <0.1

*1

This is the time from turning the switch to the 'On' position to the status display appearing on the LCD monitor (as soon as you would be able to verify camera settings). By default sensor cleaning is activated at start-up. You can turn this feature off which reduces this figure to 0.8 sec.
As you can see from the 'Off to Shot' time this doesn't actually affect how quickly you can begin using the camera which is as good as instant.

*2 This is taken up with 'Sensor cleaning' at power off disabled (default). When sensor cleaning at power off is enabled the power off time is approximately 2.2 seconds.

Continuous Drive mode

To test continuous mode the camera had the following settings: Manual Focus, Manual Exposure (1/500 sec, F5.6), ISO 100. Measurements were taken from audio recordings of the tests. Media used were the same as above.

The tests carried out below measured the following results for JPEG and RAW:

  • Frame rate - Initial frame rate, this was always 3.0 fps (+/- 0.05 fps)
  • Number of frames - Number of frames in a burst
  • Buffer full rate - Frame rate if shutter release held down after burst (buffer full)
  • Write complete - Time after the last shot in an extended sequence before the SD lamp goes out

Burst of JPEG Large/Fine images Active D-Lighting Off

Timing
4 GB Sandisk Extreme III
Frame rate 3.0 fps
Number of frames 100
Write complete ~6 sec

Burst of JPEG Large/Fine images Active D-Lighting On

Timing
4 GB Sandisk Extreme III
Frame rate 3.0 fps
Number of frames 5
Buffer full rate 0.37fps
Write complete ~14 sec

Burst of RAW images

Timing
4 GB Sandisk Extreme III
Frame rate 3.0 fps
Number of frames 6 or 7
Buffer full rate 1.0 fps
Write complete ~8 sec

The D3000 offers no improvement over its predecessor, the D60, in terms of its frame rate and processing speed. This is disappointing although not altogether surprising, and suggests that the two cameras probably share the same processor. It is clear from these figures that Active D-Lighting really stresses the D3000's processing engine, and with ADL turned on, the number of frames in a burst drops from being effectively unlimited to a mere 5 images at 3ps, and one every 2.7 seconds thereafter.

USB transfer speed

To test the D5000's USB speed we copied approximately 500 MB of images (mixed RAW and JPEG) onto a Sandisk Extreme III SDHC card, and plugged the camera directly into a PC using a USB cable. Then we copied these images from the camera, onto the desktop. The D3000's 8.3 MB/sec is better than the D60's 5.5MB/sec but is still half the speed of a USB 2.0 card reader.

Method
Transfer rate
Nikon D3000 USB 2.0 (PTP) 8.3 MB/sec
Sandisk Extreme III SDHC in USB 2.0 reader 17.3 MB/sec

Autofocus speed / accuracy

The D3000 doesn't offer Live View or video, so AF is phase-detection only, and compatibility is limited to lenses with built-in AF motors. The 11-point AF system of the D3000 is the same as that used in the D5000, and (barring some possible minor tweaks) the D90 too. As mentioned in the introduction to this test, the multi-cam 1000 AF module has been around for a while, and was originally developed for the high-end (and now discontinued) Nikon D200. With the bundled 18-55mm lens mounted, AF is responsive, but rather languid, although the same goes for all of Nikon's current lenses that use a micro AF-S motor, including the new 50mm f/1.4 G and the 35mm f/1.8 G. With a large aperture, 'professional' lens like the AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 ED attached, the D3000 achieves focus extremely quickly. In fact, with a lens of this caliber, AF speed using the centre point is not noticeably slower than the high-end D300s.

In the gallery for this test you'll find a small selection of images taken at a live music performance, which is one of the most challenging environments for any camera. As you can see, the D3000 has acquitted itself very well. AF accuracy with the off-center points is lower in poor light compared to the center point, but we would expect that. What we did not expect was how well the D3000 could track musicians across the AF array in low, rapidly changing light in Area AF mode - certainly well enough to get 5 or 6 picture library-quality images from a 10 minute shoot. Crucially, however, this kind of performance is only really possible when using a lens with a ring-type AF-S motor, and those don't come cheap.

Part of the reason why the D3000 is so good at finding its mark is that it features a 3D AF tracking mode, which is provided by a version of Nikon's Scene Recognition System (although you won't find this mentioned anywhere in the handbook). In 3D AF tracking mode, the camera's AF and metering systems are linked together to track subjects across the AF array using color, contrast and subject-to-camera distance. This system is a slimmed down version of the one found in the top-end Nikon D3x and D3s, and uses a dedicated 405 pixel CCD imager to analyze a scene according to its tonal distribution in real time, and detect the movement of elements within it. This also allows the D3000 to detect popular types of scene, such as portraits and landscapes, and bias the metering and white balance accordingly.

Battery life

The D3000 uses the same battery as the D5000, which is a revised version of the battery from the D40 and D60. It is backwards compatible and can be used in the older cameras and with the same charger. In normal use, the D3000's battery is good for around 500 pictures, which is in line with what Nikon quotes, but obviously, turning the screen information display off when it isn't needed will help to extend shooting time.

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