Body & Design
Only fractionally taller than the D60 that it replaces, the D3000 fits firmly into the mold cast by Nikon's first 'true' beginners' DSLR, the D40. As such, its interface is relatively uncluttered compared to Nikon's higher level offerings, and lacks the top plate mounted status LCD screen and secondary rear control dial of more expensive models like the D90 and D300s. In use, most of the D3000's features are accessed via the 3in LCD screen on the rear of the camera.
Side by side
In terms of its size and overall design, the D3000 is a close cousin of the D5000, which is only slightly larger as a result of its fold-out LCD screen. Ergonomically, the D5000 is the more 'traditional' camera, and offers more direct-access control points. The D3000, like the D60, has a more screen-driven GUI. Canon's EOS 1000D features a significantly more button-driven interface, which may appeal more to traditionalists.
In your hand
The D3000 is one of the smallest DSLRs currently on the market, but fortunately its diminutive proportions belie a high standard of construction. Unlike some low-end cameras, there is no creak in any of the body seams of the D3000, and with the bundled 18-55mm optic mounted, the whole package feels solid and well-balanced. Naturally though, there is no getting around the fact that the D3000 is an entry-level DSLR, and the lightweight, all-plastic body shell doesn't have the same heft as the D90 or D300s.
The LCD screen of the D3000 is slightly larger than that of the D5000, at 3in as opposed to 2.7in. Its resolution is the same though, at 230,000 dots - the more expensive 920,000 dot screens still being reserved for models higher up Nikon's product line. As well as image review, it is via this screen that the majority of the D3000's functionality is accessed, either from the camera's menu screens, or the revamped graphic user interface. No live view or video mode means that it is not possible to compose images using the D3000's screen, although myriad retouch options do allow for considerable control of image making post-capture.
Despite its relatively low resolution, the D3000's LCD screen is bright and clear, and the difference between 230,000 pixels and 920,000 is less pronounced in normal use than might be expected. The difference only really becomes noticeable when zooming in to check critical focus, which is much easier with Nikon's higher resolution screens. Apart from this, the D3000's screen is given a relatively easy ride by the omission of live view mode. An 'Auto dim' function, which is turned on by default, turns down the intensity of the back light in poorly lit environments.