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Nikon D3100 - Performance and Results

By Gavin Stoker

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Nikon D3100

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Also at the back of the D3100 we get a lever marked with a 'LV' icon for activating Live View with a convenient thumb flick, which encircles a red record button for video capture. It soon becomes apparent that Live View has to be first activated before pressing the video record button will actually do anything. In this way Nikon's implementation of video capture doesn't feel quite as intuitive as that of Sony's Alpha A33 or A55 models, which have the advantage of featuring a translucent mirror mechanism, or famously mirror-less compact system cameras such as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 or Olympus Pens - a threat to entry level DSLRs in themselves. The result is that they don't need their own mirror to actually (and audibly) flick out of the way first, as on the D3100, so it's a more intuitive case of 'press and go'.

The inevitable impression garnered is that in comparison the Nikon feels slower to get going for video capture, but admittedly, having the option of video at least - and the support of a much broader range of system lenses than everyone but Canon can provide - is still a big plus in the DSLR's favour. There no actually dedicated video mode on the top plate shooting dial, but once the lever is flipped and the record button pressed and D3100 users can be filming whichever stills mode might otherwise have been selected at the time. That much is intuitive.

For shooting stills though the D3100's response times are impressively swift. A flick of the on/off lever ergonomically encircling the shutter release button and users can be up and taking their first photograph as fast as their forefinger can switch places to the adjacent control. In standard drive mode/s the shutter fires with a clunk loud enough to signal to the user a shot has been taken. Shutter lag is nigh imperceptible.

This being a Nikon, there's the option to capture humble JPEG or unprocessed NEF files (the Nikon Raw format). There's also the ability to tweak the look of your shots in camera rather than edit after downloading, via standard issue Picture Control settings, with standard, natural and vivid getting the most use from us over our two week test period. Though we found that the standard setting produced perfectly naturalistic results itself, the vivid option is there to boost reds, blues and greens in particular when the photographer is faced with a rather dreary wintry day - though these colour tones can cause images to stray into almost pop art territory if you're not too careful.

Steve

January 11, 2011, 1:47 am

Informative review, thanks. I have had my eye on this camera for a few months now and I'm pretty certain this is what I'll opt for. For that price, how could I go wrong?

Greg17b

January 11, 2011, 2:48 am

That ISO performance is remarkable at this price point. It looks the same or better than my 5D2. IMO, light and how you handle lack of it is absolutely crucial at this price point. It takes away much of the need for expensive fast glass, and makes the world of difference to someone at entry level.

theDman

January 11, 2011, 4:43 am

I wish this was the original spec for the D3000, as I invested in one, and only for this to come out a year later...grr.





It has all of the features and performance I would like, and as my 1st SLR, the D3000 was good, but this simply is so much better. I want to upgrade, but its very difficult finding this body only for a decent price. The D3000 is almost defunct now, thanks to this :(

Martin Daler

January 11, 2011, 2:07 pm

@ theDman


Can't help with buyer's remorse, but if you are chasing prices you could do worse than look over at www.camerapricebuster.co.uk.


Of course, Nikon might come out with something even better next year...

BOFH UK

January 11, 2011, 3:04 pm

@theDman: personally I'd resist the temptation to upgrade to a camera within the same price bracket so soon after your initial purchase. The body makes such a small difference relatively speaking to what you shoot upgrading just for a couple of extra features isn't going to make a vast difference to your end product. Either put the cash towards going up a level to something like the D90 (or whatever its replacement is) / D7000 or work out what sort of photography you do most and stick the cash on a suitable lens. That said the D3000 did have a fair few problems (which was a shame as they seemed to be unique to that camera, didn't crop up anywhere else in the range) so the upgrade might be a bit more noticeable than normal.

Orinj

January 11, 2011, 3:29 pm

I am contemplating the move to digital SLR having used a variety of compact cameras over the past few years. The price/performance of this camera seems a no brainer, especially as most of my photography is done indoors in low light. I just don't know if I'm ready to take the jump to a bigger camera.

Caleb9ce

January 11, 2011, 11:44 pm

What was the iso setting on the last duck shot? I guessing ISO12600 as the full sized image looks simply atrocious.

en1gma

January 12, 2011, 4:58 am

I bought this camera last November (after, ahem, a Significant Birthday where i got a fair bit of cash instead of presents, as such... so bought something I wouldn't normally let myself stretch to - not to mention without the TR review that I normally look for guidance from ).





It's my first foray into DSLRs, and the picture quality is amazing, eepecially the low light performance WITHOUT the flash. I'm still learning about photography and feel this is a great step up from the 'photography as a commodity' mode/approach that everyone (including myself) has gotten into. The liveview mode is welcome; but could do with more continuous shooting capacity. I actually find it a tad small on the physical handling side (i'm only 5'7" tall without sausage fingers!) but it does feel bulletproof (actually feels heavier and better-built than my old Canon EOS SLR from days gone by). Got a good package deal with a 85-200 zoom, memory card, filters and bag from Jessops (nothing like buying online and collect - with Quidco cashback - to make you feel good as you got a decent deal AND you get to Play With Your New Toy on the same day... :-) not necessarily the best deal, but you get the gist!)





As a first step up from Point&Shoot camera phones/c£200 digitals, I honestly think it's a cracking piece of kit which will fire your creative tendencies. Well, it did mine...

John Shewsbury

January 24, 2011, 7:45 am

Being a fan of Canon, I was considering either the Canon 1000D or Canon 550D but after I knew that this camera can still produce good result at ISO 1600 - that seriously is something impressive and remarkable for an entry level DSLR and that can be an important factor for me to consider this camera as well. In general, this D3100 kick out all the "features" that Canon 1000D can offer (though it's unfair to compare this latest model against the old 1000D)... sigh...

fatmikel

February 18, 2011, 9:27 pm

It compares pretty well against the new 1100D though too, John, especially taking into consideration the price difference.





I've just purchased this camera to replace a Sony a700 (which I found awkward to use, not terribly well built and far too big and heavy for day to day use) and I couldn't be happier. The only gripe I have is the lack of a USB cable in the box. Luckily any old 5 pin will work happily.

D1N0

April 30, 2011, 4:46 am

Bought this DSLR about a month ago with a bag, UV filter, 4Gb SD card and the kit lens for £518 (£478 with the £40 cashback) from Jessops and they threw in a USB webcam this had the missing USB cable even though I have plenty of the same cables.
I bought it to replace a Sony a200K which I found heavy even without a lens attached. The D3100 feels a lot lighter than the Sony a200.
Although the only photos I have taken are of the pets in low light using the guide mode it produced far better results than I expected, I just wish this DSLR had being out when I bought the Sony, I would have bought the D3100 without doubt.

uEDGE Business Cards

October 8, 2013, 12:28 am

This is my first SLR and i am an amateur. It has very good essential features and so easy to operate. You will buy this camera if you do not plan to be a pro in the future.
Best for beginners with decent Megapixels for high-detailed photos and videos.

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