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Nikon D3100 Review

December 2010 | By Andy Westlake, Richard Butler
Buy on Amazon.com From $483.99


Review based on a production Nikon D3100, Firmware A 1.00, B 1.00, L 1.002

Nikon has developed a habit of making very attractive entry-level DSLRs, which are rarely the best specified but cleverly designed so that they're easy and enjoyable to shoot with. The D3000 fitted this pattern perfectly, a gentle refresh of the D60 (which was itself a slightly updated D40X), it added ease-of-use features to make it a pleasant little camera to use, despite a specification that was beginning to look rather out-of-step with the rest of the market.

The D3000 sold well, despite its rather aged 10 megapixel sensor and lack of both live view and video. However, there's only so long that clever product design and feature integration can make up for a specification that looks dated. So with this in mind, Nikon has announced the D3100 - probably the biggest refresh of its entry-level offering since it really attacked the low end market with the original D40.

The D3100 is built around a 14.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, bringing not only live view but also Full HD video capture to Nikon's entry-level model for the first time. In fact, this made it the first Nikon DSLR to offer 1920x1080 movie recording. It can only record clips up to about ten minutes long (due to a 4Gb maximum file size limitation shared by all DSLRs), but this still counts as an impressive feature addition at this level.

The body gets a slight refresh from a basic design that essentially dates back four years to the D40, gaining an extra button to the left of the screen, a drive mode switch at the base of the mode dial, a sprung lever to engage live view and a direct record movie button. Revisions have also been made to the feature-teaching, hand-holding 'Guide Mode', and an additional autofocus mode that's designed to allow better focusing in live view and autofocus during video shooting.

All of this adds up to a DSLR that incorporates all of 2010's 'must have' features but looks like the product of evolution, rather than dramatic innovation. And 2010 has been a year during which the rest of the market hasn't devloped along such predictable lines, not least during the expansion of the large sensor, mirrorless interchangable lens camera crowd.

Camera makers always try to stress that mirrorless cameras are creating an entirely new market, rather than competing with entry-level DSLRs, but it's pretty clear that many people planning to upgrade from their point-and-shoot compact will consider both types of camera when making their decision. So, while the D3100 is unequivocally a DSLR (in a time where the line between DSLRs and mirrorless cameras is becoming increasingly hazy), its beginner-friendly guide mode puts it squarely in competition with several of the mirrorless models that are equally eager to welcome point-and-shoot upgraders.

Many of these cameras, such as Sony's NEX-3 and 5, Olympus' E-PL1 and Panasonic's GF2, offer similarly accessible interfaces in a smaller, competitively-priced packages. They also, by eshewing the conventional DSLR design, are able to offer a shooting experience that is much closer to that of a compact camera - which even the best DSLR live view implementation can't easily mimic at the moment.

So, while the D3100 offers an improved feature set when compared to a camera we really liked, it remains to be seen whether these additions will be enough to make it stand out as well as its predecessor did.

Nikon D3100 Key Features

  • 14.2 megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor
  • 3.0" LCD monitor (230,000 dots)
  • Image sensor cleaning (sensor shake)
  • 11 AF points (with 3D tracking)
  • IS0 100-3200 range (12,800 expanded)
  • HD movies (1080p, 720p or WVGA)

Nikon D3100 vs D3000: Key Differences

The D3100 substantially refreshes the D3000, taking a rather outdated-looking specification and turning it into one of the most competitive in its sector.

  • Higher resolution sensor (14.2MP vs. 10MP)
  • Ability to shoot Raw + Fine JPEG
  • Socket for connecting Nikon GP1 GPS unit
  • Optional wired remote via GPS socket
  • No wireless remote option
  • Live view
  • 1080p HD movies
  • HDMI output
  • Wider ISO range
  • Full-time AF mode (AF-F in live view)
  • Revised focus screen (different AF point illumination)

Compared to the Nikon D3000 and D5000: major feature and specification differences

As you can see from the table below the D3100's specification not only exceeds that of its predecessor, but also in some respects that of its more expensive bigger brother.

 

Nikon D3100

Nikon D3000

Nikon D5000
Sensor • 14.2 million effective pixels
• 23.1 x 15.4 mm CMOS (DX format)
• 10.2 million effective pixels
• 23.6 x 15.8 mm CCD (DX format)
• 12.3 million effective pixels
• 23.6 x 15.8 mm CMOS (DX format)
Image sizes • 4608 x 3072 (14.2 MP)
• 3456 x 2304
• 2304 x 1536
• 3872 x 2592 (10.0 MP)
• 2896 x 1944
• 1936 x 1296
• 4288 x 2848 (12 MP)
• 3216 x 2136
• 2144 x 1424
Movie mode Yes
1080p24
720p30/25/24
424p24
No Yes
720p24
Live View Yes No Yes
Sensor cleaning • Image Sensor Cleaning
• Airflow control system
• Image Dust Off reference data (optional Capture NX 2 software required)
• Image Sensor Cleaning
• Airflow control system
• Image Dust Off reference data (optional Capture NX 2 software required)
• Image Sensor Cleaning
• Airflow control system
• Image Dust Off reference data (optional Capture NX 2 software required)
Autofocus • 11 area TTL
• Nikon Multi-CAM1000
• 11 area TTL
• Nikon Multi-CAM1000
• 11 area TTL
• Nikon Multi-CAM1000
In-body focus motor • No • No • No
AF area modes • Single point
• Dynamic area
• Auto area
• 3D Tracking (11-points)
• Single point
• Dynamic area
• Auto area
• 3D Tracking (11-points)
• Single point
• Dynamic area
• Auto area
• 3D Tracking (11-points)
AF drive mode • AF-A
• AF-S
• AF-C
• MF
• AF-F (Live view only)
• AF-A
• AF-S
• AF-C
• MF
• AF-A
• AF-S
• AF-C
• MF
Live view AF modes • Face priority
• Wide area
• Normal area
• Subject tracking
N/A • Face priority
• Wide area
• Normal area
• Subject tracking
Sensitivity • ISO 100 - 3200
• To ISO 12800 with boost
• ISO 100 - 1600
• To ISO 3200 with boost
• ISO 200 - 3200
• ISO 100-6400 with boost
Continuous • 3 fps • 3 fps
• 25 / 7 frames (Fine JPEG / RAW)
• 4 fps
• 63 / 11 frames (Fine JPEG / RAW)
Viewfinder magnification • 0.8x • 0.8x • 0.78x
Viewfinder Frame coverage • Approx. 95% • Approx. 95% • Approx. 95%
LCD monitor • 3.0" TFT LCD
• 230,000 pixel TFT
• 3.0" TFT LCD
• 230,000 pixel TFT
• 2.7" TFT LCD
• 230,000 pixel TFT
• Articulated
Dimensions 124 x 96 x 74.5 mm (4.9 x 3.7 x 3.0 in) 126 x 94 x 64 mm (5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in) 127 x 104 x 80 mm (5.0 x 4.1 x 3.1 in)
Weight • No battery: 455 g (1.0 lb)
• With battery: 505 g (1.1 lb)
• No battery: 484 g (1.1 lb)
• With battery: 534 g (1.2 lb)
• No battery: 560 g (1.2 lb)
• With battery: 611 g (1.3 lb)
Image processing engine • Expeed 2
• 12 bit
• Expeed
• 12 bit
• Expeed
• 12 bit
Active D-lighting On/Off On/Off Auto, Extra high, High, Normal, Low, or Off
Automatic chromatic aberration correction Yes No Yes
In-camera retouching • D-Lighting
• Red-eye reduction
• Trimming
• Monochrome & filter effects
• Color balance
• Small picture
• Image overlay
• NEF (RAW) processing
• Quick retouch
• Straighten
• Distortion control
• Fisheye
• Color outline
• Perspective control
• Miniature effect
• Edit movie
• D-Lighting
• Red-eye reduction
• Trimming
• Monochrome & filter effects
• Color balance
• Small picture
• Image overlay
• NEF (RAW) processing
• Quick retouch
• Color outline
• Miniature effect
• Stop-motion movie
• D-Lighting
• Red-eye reduction
• Trimming
• Monochrome & filter effects
• Color balance
• Small picture
• Image overlay
• NEF (RAW) processing
• Quick retouch
• Straighten
• Distortion control
• Fisheye
• Color outline
• Perspective control
Bracketing No No Yes

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X, Y, and Z and ideally A, B, and C.

This article is Copyright 1998 - 2015 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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Comments

Total comments: 10
Spectre13

I bought this camera for my wife when it first hit shelves 5 years ago. We got the package deal that came with two great lenses, plus we bought a third. It's a fantastic DSLR camera with pro features, but simple enough for beginners to use out of the box. The only feature that's missing, and certainly not a deal breaker is the lack of an external microphone input. This is something photographers won't miss at all, yet a feature that filmakers can easily get around with some ingenuity. That leads into my new love of this little gem. As a budding filmaker, I was watching tutorials and reading articles on the subject and found out that most independent filmakers and some pros swear by DSLR cameras for their tool of choice for capture. I remembered my wife's Nikon 3100 and immediately repurposed it for my new endeavor. With a cage, shotgun mic, 7" live feed monitor and matte shade on the way--our Nikon 3100 will get even more use!

0 upvotes
AminDoha

Hi
I'm using Nikkon D3100...can anyone suggest which other lens should fit into it for zoom as well as for wide angle pictures. please tell me the specifications. the current lens 18/55mm...

0 upvotes
Redzone

Hi,
I have just bought the new Tokina 11-20 and it's amazingly sharp !
AF is fast an IQ is awsome.
For Zoom, I wait to buy the Tamron SP 150-600mm. I have currently the Nikkor 55-300. This one is a good one but now I want more.

0 upvotes
Spectre13

More information is needed in order to answer this. There are plenty of fantastic lenses available. It just depends on your needs. What zoom magnification you need, for example.

0 upvotes
ekobkc

salam hangat

saya memiliki camera nikon D3100 dan saya memiliki masalah pada camera saya,permasalahannya adalah ketika saya ingin melakukan pemotretan dengan modul manual atau auto lampu flash tidak menyala dan timbul tulisan (r24) pada Viewfinder Eyepiece namun apabila lampu flash tidak di aktifkan camera dapat melakukan proses pemotretan
terima kasih

0 upvotes
aliceinblack

Hello
i am a novice and use my D3100 in auto mode. do you know if i can set a slower shutter speed for effects and still stay in auto mode? i want to try special effects with motion blur. any help would be appreciated.
thank you
ali black

0 upvotes
Spectre13

Hi Alice,
The short answer is no. One of the things you'll learn as you get acquainted with digital photography is that Auto Mode is a neat feature for quick shots that have predetermined settings calculated and set for you. I'm not sure if you're shooting video or stills, but the same principles apply to both.
Manual settings are where you can get down into the great features of DSLR cameras for what you are looking at doing.
You must learn these features to properly use your camera.
There are many great online resources that will walk you through it.

0 upvotes
sarath cp

nikon d3100 is an intermediate dslr? right? i saw a post about guides for buying a dslr on www.know4u.com
actually they says that there is too much to investigate before buying one... is that true always..? the link is http://know4u.com/dslr%20photography/How%20to%20Choose%20a%20DSLR%20Camera/How%20to%20Choose%20a%20DSLR%20Camera.html

0 upvotes
whodat101

Looking at the comparison, it appears to my novice mind that the d3100 has in most areas slightly better specs than the d5000. Since I am looking at both of these cameras, would appreciate comments. The 3100 is on sale at the local camera shop; the 5000 is available on Craiglist at a considerably lower price, but is of course used.

Also; packed away I have two nikon entry level cameras from the early 1980's with quite a few E series lenses. The E series lens was standard on the two cameras. Will these work on the 3100 and 5000, and if so, are there problems in compatibility such as auto-focus, etc.

0 upvotes
Flight815

D3100 is a great camera. i bought another one recently new from Target..dont need anything newer or more $$$ this thing is just perfect.I think it only auto focuses with Nikon AF-S..you'll have to read up on 3rd party lenses for af.

1 upvote
Total comments: 10