Following its release, Nikon proudly claimed its D3000 to be the best selling digital SLR in Europe. Its successor therefore, the D3100, has the unenviable job of avoiding dropping the ball. No pressure then.
Fortunately for its maker and those looking for an affordable first DSLR, initial impressions are good. The D3100 incorporates a DX format CMOS sensor and is targeted at those trading up from a compact or bridge camera for the first time, as well as families wanting a decent capture device for pics of their tots.
Nikon seems to want to make this one count: up until the higher end D7000 was announced in the latter stages of 2010, the D3100 was its first DSLR to introduce Full HD video capabilities to its range. This is captured at 24 frames per second and in widely accessible MPEG4 format, which here gets its own camcorder-style record button. The D3100 goes up against the EOS 500D/550D from Canon, to name its most direct competitor.
Like rival starter DSLRs from Sony, Nikon has also included an 'Enhanced Guide' on the D3100 as a notable extra option on the chunky shooting mode dial. This includes 13 options that illustrate the type of creative pictures that can be taken with the camera and enables the required options and settings to be selected within the Guide mode. Thus it's commendably a bit more than just a substitute for reading the accompanying literature.
Furthering ease of use, its largish 3in LCD screen is equipped with Live View and can be deployed as an aid to framing and manual focusing, as an alternative to the traditional optical viewfinder ranged above. The D3100 can be bought body only, or equipped with an 18-55mm zoom out of the box for under £100 extra, a jack of all trades option regularly shipped out to beginners but here also having the advantage of offering image stabilisation or 'Vibration Reduction' (VR) as Nikon calls it. This is a bonus because, like Canon, none of Nikon’s DSLRs feature body-integral anti-shake.