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.