Nikon D3100

The Nikon D3100 is a new DSLR camera targeted at entry-level consumers. It is a replacement for the older D3000 model, and comes with improvements such as a 14.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, Live View, and full HD (1920×1080) video recording ability.

This camera is ideal for new DSLR users. It has many user-friendly features that will delight beginners and casual photographers alike, yet does not compromise in delivering high quality images. Furthermore, it is lightweight and compact, and handles comfortably thanks to its well-designed button layout.

Latest Update: The Nikon D3100 is now on sale at Amazon.com

Nikon D3100 DSLR

Nikon D3100 DSLR

Design

The Nikon D3100’s body is similar in design as its predecessor, the D3000. One noticeable difference is the Live View switch located to the top right of the LCD screen, next to the rubberized thumb grip. The location of this switch makes it possible to enter Live View mode with just a casual flick of the thumb. In the middle of this switch is the “video record” button. With such close proximity to the Live View switch, video recording can be conveniently started as soon as Live View is turned on.

Most of the shooting controls are located within reach of the thumb or right index finger. The exposure compensation button is placed behind the shutter button. On its left sits the “info” button which switches the LCD screen on and off. The AE-L/AF-L button is located near the thumb grip, slightly above the Live View switch. The mode dial gives access to the various exposure modes of the camera. Around the mode dial is a new drive mode switch that offers the single, continuous, self-timer, and quiet mode options. This switch makes such options more accessible. You no longer need to search deep into the menus just to access them.

Taking a look at the front of the camera, you see two small buttons to the right of the lens mount. The top button is the active flash button. It is more than just a simple button to release the built-in flash. It offers options to toggle between flash modes and flash exposure compensation. Below this button is a customizable function button that can be set to one of the following four functions: (Active D-Lighting, image quality/size, ISO, and white balance). Both of these buttons are welcome additions that add to the camera’s user-friendliness, and are hardly seen in current entry-level DSLRs.

The D3100 spots a 3 inch TFT LCD status screen. It is with this screen that most of the shooting parameters are viewed or changed. Users can choose between “Graphic” or “Classic” display themes and are further spoilt for choice with three color schemes. The “Graphic” theme offers an intuitive interface full of graphics that can be easily understood by new users. Illustrations are provided for important camera functions so that novice users may know what is happening while the settings are being changed. “Classic” view caters to the more experience photographer, yet it is not as overwhelming as some screens found in higher-end DSLRs. The menu navigation buttons which are applicable for both these themes are located on the left of the LCD screen.

Features

As an entry-level DSLR, the D3100 looks impressive with its 14.2 megapixel CMOS sensor. It also carries Nikon’s new EXPEED 2 image-processing engine that can be found in higher-end offerings such as the Nikon D7000. These two specifications alone give the D3100 an edge over its competitors.

Keeping with its entry-level characteristics, the D3100 features a “Guide” mode that helps new users apply the correct settings needed to make great shots. This function is not an “auto” mode that takes away control from the user. It actually allows the users to access the scene themselves. They will be guided to choose the proper setting for the particular scene. The Guide mode will also educate users on the functions of each setting. Each setting parameter includes a detailed explanation as well as a sample image that demonstrates its effects. Guide mode has two operation levels; “easy” and “advanced”. “Advanced” mode takes it one step further by allowing the user to control aperture and shutter settings.

The D3100 has an 11-point autofocus system that is capable of 3D AF tracking. Autofocus is also available in Live View. The new AF-F mode enables real-time focusing and brings subjects into focus quickly without having to use the shutter button. Also supported in Live View is face detection and subject tracking AF.

The D3100 supports 1080p full-HD video recording (1920 x 1080 24fps), which is the highest quality offered in any Nikon camera. Video of this quality can be recorded continuously for up to 10 minutes. Although relatively short compared to full-fledged video cameras, 10 minutes is just about the average time one normally would capture video with a hand-held digital camera (or DSLR). Coupled with a good set of lenses, the D3100 transforms into a HD video camera that can match the image quality standards of many camcorders in the market today. The D3100 also supports simple video editing tasks like trimming and extracting still images. There is also a HDMI port for HDTV playback.

Processing RAWs can be done in-camera with the new NEF (RAW) processing feature. The files can be converted to JPEGs and saved with the originals through the camera interface.

Actual user review:
“As an owner of a Nikon D3000, the predecessor to the D3100, I was impressed not only by the features, but also by the price of this new camera.

When the D3000 was new, its MSRP was $599. The replacement model, one year later was $699 only $100 more. What do you get for that extra $100? Check out just some of the features:

1) An improved resolution of 14.2 MP compared with the 10.2 MP of the previous model
2) HD video (1080p), not previously available at this price point
2) EXPEED 2 which is Nikon’s new image processing engine

All of these new features were added while Nikon kept the size and weight comparable to the previous model (the D3100 is 1/2 oz. heavier!). This camera is so loaded I can’t think of any negatives except price – if that is an issue go buy a point-and-shoot model!

Overall, Nikon has truly outdone itself with the D3100. For someone starting out in photography or a camera veteran, I can’t think of a better more versatile choice than this one.” – I.Haas (Indianapolis,USA)

Performance

The Nikon D3100 is a very subtle camera. It does not make it presence or bulkiness felt like its higher-end counterparts. It is lightweight, quiet, and compact, yet is feels complete and fully-functional. At just 1.1lb (505g) it is one of the lightest DSLRs. Handling it is a joy, as it has an ergonomic design with a very well thought-of button layout. Menu diving is kept to a minimum thanks to its external control features. The viewfinder is kept as simple as possible, and a new shutter mechanism promises quiet and energy-efficient shooting. The result is a nifty camera that is easy to use and carry around – quite an achievement for a DSLR.

Photos taken with the D3100 enjoy the quality traditionally associated with Nikon technology. Shots turn out great with accurate color and smooth tones. Normal ISO range is from 100-3200 ISO and can go up to 12800 using Hi-2 mode. Additionally, the Active D-Lighting and Picture Control modes are there to give the photographer all the options needed to capture great shots. Active D-Lighting optimizes exposure while Picture Control gives you the control over the look of the shot before it is even taken.

For those new to photography, the D3100 offers “help screens” which give detailed explanations on most of the camera’s functions. The help screen is accessible by pressing the “?” button at the left of the LCD screen.

Conclusion

The Nikon D3100 is a camera that will delight novice photographers. If you are looking to switch over from point-and-shoot digital cameras to DSLR photography, this is the camera for you. With its simple controls and user-friendly modes, this camera does not intimidate. It does not overwhelm with features or settings, but it takes new users by the hand and gives them what they are capable of handling. Both Guide Mode and the help screens are amazing features that give much needed information and guidance to those who are new to photography.

However, even though the D3100 is targeted at the entry-level market, it does not compromise on functionality and performance. It is still a competent DSLR with enough features to satisfy the budding photographer. Moreover, its features such as 1080p HD video recording and 14.2MP CMOS sensor make it extremely value-for-money at this price range.

Average User Rating:
I love this camera its so easy to use. Nikon has really got it right with this camera. With the 1080 HD video to the 14.2 MP this should be your first pick if you have never bought a DSLR camera before and has specs of a camera that pros use to. What I love about this camera the most is the guide and how it shows you examples of photos to teach you all the settings why buy a DSLR and not get the full use of it? With this DSLR its like you get your own professional photographer that comes with it to help you take the photos. In less then 3 days of shooting you will be very familiar with the camera and it fits in one hand and it is the lightest DSLR selling right now.” – M.Pcola (USA)

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For over five years I have been using a Nikon D50 which I felt was an exceptional digital camera. However, with advancements such as live view, increased mega pixels, 1080 movies,more ISO settings, etc I decided to purchase the Nikon D3100. I normally would not buy a camera without handling it to see if it felt comfortable but decided to take a chance as the D3100 was so new and about the only way I could get one was through Amazon. I was not disappointed. It is lighter but feels as comfortable as the D50 even with other zoom lenses attached. I haven’t taken a ton of pictures or movies yet but I will state so far I am very pleased. Navigation through the various menus is even more convenient than the D50. While I consider myself quite knowledgeable the guides are handy and for someone new to digital photography the D3100 is very user friendly and teaches you the basics. Very innovative! I highly recommend this camera. I do note that battery life is not quite as long as the D50. Movies,quite naturally, use up more battery life. Suggest one gets a spare. Also, Nikon does not supply the USB Cable UC-E4 to connect the camera to a computer or printer nor do they supply the Audio Video cable EG-D2 to connect the camera to a TV. Also make sure you get a class 6 memory card so movies and live view operate efficiently.” – J.Larson (WI,USA)

For people looking for new DSLR camera, stop, this is it. It has none of the D3000 drawbacks: Fast buffer, never overloaded. When intentionally overloaded by myself on continuous shots, it will clear the buffer very fast. Image sensitivity at high ISO is great according to random reviews, but I’m still waiting a prof test. But think about it, on Auto ISO the range goes to 3200 – WOW, and I can’t see any noise. You can shoot everything with it, but you need a flash – SB 400 will do.

Cool stuff: You can take photos from the Live View LCD screen. I shot a few movies and seem great, in focus most of the time. I don’t care much about video, I have a video camera HD.
You can still set AUTO ISO from the menu and set minimum shutter speed. Downside is you cannot override the AUTO ISO in any mode including Manual. You have to change it back to off from menu and than loose time figuring out which is the best ISO/aperture/shutter speed.”
– D.Cristescu (USA)

 

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