Entry-level digital SLRs are not exactly well known for their fast performance, but the D3000 inherits some of the high-speed power of its senior stablemates. In single shot mode it can sustain nearly two shots a second, with autofocus for every shot, while in continuous shooting mode it can manage a fairly respectable three frames a second. Unlike the EOS 1000D is can maintain the same shooting speed in Raw + JPEG mode, although the buffer does fill up after six shots, causing it to slow down a lot.
I’ve already mentioned the autofocus system, which unquestionably one of the best of any current entry-level camera. It is extremely fast and accurate, and works well in low light even when zoomed in. The AF assist lamp has a range of several meters, and the camera will focus reliably even in total darkness. The pop-up flash is also very good, with nice even frame coverage, a useful range of at least five metres and a recharge time of approximately five seconds.
Image quality is, on the whole, excellent. Exposure metering is pretty much flawless and is able to cope with a wide and varied range of exposure conditions. The 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 AF-S VR kit lens is much better than most plastic-mount standard zoom lenses, with excellent edge-to-edge sharpness, good contrast and very little wide-angle distortion. It’s the same kit lens offered with the D60 and D5000.
One problem that has plagued the Sony 10.2MP CCD sensor in every camera in which it has appeared, is image noise at higher ISO settings. The Nikon Expeed processor appears to be able to wring a little extra out of the sensor data though, because the high-ISO image quality is greatly improved over the slightly disappointing D60. Pictures are usable up to 800 ISO, and even the 1600 ISO samples aren’t a complete write-off.
The Nikon D3000 is pretty much the perfect entry-level DSLR. It offers robust build quality, excellent handling, superior performance and good image quality, while leaving out superfluous gimmicks like video and live view. The Guide mode will help newcomers discover the basics of SLR photography, while a good range of manual options, as well as the excellent metering and AF systems, will provide plenty of scope for more experienced users.