Make no mistake, the Nikon D3000 was a seriously fine entry-level camera, completely justifying the first half of this year’s ranking as Europe’s top-selling DSLR.
But all good things come to an end and, more recently, with a total lack of Live View, video recording facilities, and a relatively low-resolution 10.2MP CCD camera, the D3000 demonstrated its era.
The D3100 is a groundbreaking update, based on a brand-new 14.2MP CMOS sensor that outstrips any of the existing semi-pro and fully professional Nikon cameras, including the D300s, D700, and D3s, in resolution terms.
In the shape of a redesigned EXPEED 2 image sensor, the Nikon D3100 has a smarter brain than its predecessor, which offers improved image efficiency and a wider range of sensitivity. Indeed, while the D3000 offered ISO 100-1600 in its standard set, with two expanded modes boosting the bar to ISO 6400 and 12800 respectively, the Nikon D3100 boosts this to ISO 100-3200.
Check Out: Best Lenses For Nikon D3100
Other new features include Live View, which comes complete with a Scene Auto Selector function that automatically selects the best camera mode for the photographed subject, as well as providing autofocus for normal-area, wide-area, face-priority and continuous subject-tracking. More impressively, in movie capture mode, continuous autofocus is also available, with the D3100 boasting full high-def 1080p at 24fps and 720p at 24,25 or 30fps.
For movie footage, you can also add simple in-camera edits, such as cutting scenes or saving individual frames as still images.
There is a real feast of in-camera retouching features, including after-shot D-Lighting changes for managing dynamic range, red-eye reduction, trimming, straightening, correction of distortion (also possible while filming), perspective modulation, color balance and a range of filter effects, going back to the main job of shooting stills.
The Nikon D3100 also inherits chromatic aberration correction from other recent Nikon cameras at the shooting stage, which is highly efficient at flattering the output of lenses where color fringing, as with the Nikon 18-200mm VR, is always a concern.
Nikon D3100: Build and Quality
At this price, you wouldn’t expect a camera with a plastic shell to feel as strong as Nikon’s semi-pro bodies like the D300s, but it still feels reassuringly durable and robust. When you’re using the camera, there is no sign of any creaking or flexing, and all the keys, switches, and dials sound accurate and tactile. The same refers to the covers and catches that make up the battery bay flaps, the sd card slot, and the exterior panel links.
The memory slot is compatible with SD, SDHC, SDXC, and Eye-Fi cards, and external interfaces include USB 2.0, GPS, HDMI (Type C), and A/V out. As for what is behind the flaps, a new EN-EL14 Li-Ion battery pack has enough power for around 550 shots before recharging.
A PC sync port for shooting studio flash and an audio socket for using an external microphone, which is a big letdown when it comes to high-quality movie filming, are noteworthy exceptions.
On the plus side, for at least 100,000 cycles, the newly developed shutter mechanism should be fine and comes with a novel ‘quiet’ shooting mode, which we will come to later. The Airflow Control System, which teams up with the normal vibrating sensor cleaning feature to guide dust away from the low-pass filter, is another cool novelty.
The D3100 is refreshingly slim and lightweight at 124 x 96 x 75mm and weighs in at just 505g (including battery and memory card). The flip side is that for the big-handed in life, the camera looks a little cramped, but even so, the chunky rubberized handgrip allows for more comfortable handling than for other similarly sized cameras, such as the Canon 550D.
Nikon D3100: Key Features
- 14.2-megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor
- 3.0″ LCD monitor (230,000 dots)
- Image sensor cleaning (sensor shake)
- 11 AF points (with 3D tracking)
- IS0 100-3200 range (12,800 expanded)
- HD movies (1080p, 720p or WVGA)
- Higher resolution sensor (14.2MP vs. 10MP)
- Ability to shoot Raw + Fine JPEG
- Socket for connecting Nikon GP1 GPS unit
- Optional wired remote via GPS socket
- No wireless remote option
- Live view
- 1080p HD movies
- HDMI output
- Wider ISO range
- Full-time AF mode (AF-F in live view)
- Revised focus screen (different AF point illumination)
Nikon D3100: Conclusion
It’s all very well to have a posh list of specs and a barrow-load of features, but that’s key to how they convert into photographic quality. The Nikon D3100 is both highly impressive and absolutely accurate, with fantastic handling for such a small SLR and impeccable image quality in virtually every shot.