on 14 December 2010
Having been away from 'proper cameras' for the best part of 10 years I decided to venture into the world of DSLR's. My Dad and Brother had both bought Nikon D40s last year and I was impressed with their results, so I had already decided on a Nikon. I spent a couple of months weighing up whether to buy the D40's replacement, the D3000 or blow my budget and buy the new D3100. In the end, after reading lots of reviews and a slight drop in price I went for the D3100. I made the right choice!!!
The updated guide mode (improved from the D3000) makes taking superb pictures simple, even for a novice such as me. Picture's are superb, warm and clear, and I am thoughly pleased with the results. Live view is a good addition if setting up group shots on a tripod to then be taken on the self timer, but for all other shots I've found the viewfinder to be much better and quicker at focusing.
The bonus for me was also the inclusion of full HD video (which can only be used in Live view mode). I had read reports that the video was a bit shakey or wobbily, and that the video record button was in an awkward place, but I've got to say that I have found video to be fine taking 'normal videos' (I have never felt the need to shake the camera vilently from side to side to make the film shakey whilst filming; as shown on some video reviews I had seen - to prove that video was shakey?). As for the record button being in an awkward place... I've found it to be fine. In fact, no different to most compact camera's (with video) that I've owned.
This camera is everything that I had hoped for, and a little bit more. I probably wont buy another 'proper camera' for quite a few years and so I wanted something that would not only last, but would help me rediscover photography and allow me to grow. If you are a novice and/ or, returning to photography after a considerable time away, then I would highly recommend the Nikon D3100.
I have owned and used a number of Nikon digital SLR's. My first was a D50, then D80, D200 and more recently the D300. All great cameras and the D300 is amazingly good. But like all digital SLR's they are only as good as the sensor (chip) inside. For example, the 1999 D1 is better built than any modern consumer SLR but effectively useless due to the relatively poor pictures it takes.
The big change recently for Nikon was the switch to CMOS sensors from their previous Sony CCD sensors. CMOS is what Canon's have used for the last 10 years and offer a marked improvement in low light photography and power consumption. The D300 can take ISO 6400 pictures that will print out just fine. To put that in perspective that is a photo taken by candle light, hand held at 1/20 second.
Q: So why buy the D3100 then?
A: Because it has the latest sensor inside.
It is 90% of the Nikon D300 for less than half of the cost. It is also about half the size and weight. I am not a professional photographer and being able to carry a camera more often means I take more photos. The D3100 and 35mm DX lens I purchased fit in a large coat pocket. The D300 requires a strong bag and a stronger neck.
The D3100 is fast to use, has great autofocus and metering and takes photos in low light that embarrass the previous generation of Digital SLR's. It can also be used by anyone who can point and shoot. Sure, it cannot use old AF lenses or manual focus lenses but to be honest that is not a great problem. The bundled 18-55mm VR lens is light and sharp and if you spend another £150 and buy Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f1.8G you can take photos by moonlight hand-held.
The movie mode is also a big plus. You need to focus manually when using it but the results are film like rather than camcorder like. That is to say that things that are out of focus are REALLY out of focus. This is nice for videoing people as they are separate from their background. Don't buy this to be a camcorder replacement but if you want to shoot a short film you can do worse than this.
The construction is a bit plasticky and it is a shame that the LCD is not the 920,000 dot one from the D300 but really does it matter? These cameras are by their very nature disposable. In 4 or 5 years time the next generation will be even better but as of 2010 the D3100 has the best sensor at the best price.
[Update - August 2011]
I have been using this camera for nearly a year now. It has been on the beach, at kids parties, thrown in a rucksack and used for hundreds and hundreds of pictures and video. Yes, lots of video. Once you get used to the focus being more manual than on a video camera it is possible to get great results. For example, my son's birthday party indoors in dim light. I videoed the cake being brought out with the candles lit. Because the camera is so good at high ISO levels I got a much better result than my Canon DV camera - and got a still shot at the same time.
on 30 October 2010
After reading many reviews and comparisons with Canon, Sony etc I decided to jump in and buy this camera. First of all to clear the below complaints a lot of the answers can be found if you read the manual! Lets face it this is a DSLR, the full HD video is a nice to have and by no means the main reason why you buy a DSLR. You have to understand the settings which are very straight forward even without reading the manual (if you have prior digital camera experience)
Build: solid and really comfortable to hold, I haven't found any wrongs in the ergonomics of this camera and the buttons are where they are meant to be
Menu/Navigation: navigation flows and options are easy to find and change
This maybe a entry level camera but it certainly packs a punch in terms of functionality and quality photos, my personal advice - don't read to many reviews else you will go round in circles! Read the professional reviews on which camera etc and make your decision. I am 100% content with my choice.
on 9 October 2011
After looking at possibly hundreds of reviews for cameras I settled on this one, despite it being slightly more expensive than other entry models at the time, and I have to say it was the right decision. This is my first DSLR but I am by no means a beginner having used many other cameras and particularly bridge cameras until now.
1) Picture Quality
This really is very good, especially with the 'Active D Lighting' which can really brighten and enhance some shots. I have taken many photos with this camera and have not been disappointed by them at all, although I think the kit lens sometimes let's the side down, it has some distortion round the edges. Furthermore I have a friend with a Canon 500D and we both think the Nikon seems to take better photos.
2) Low light
The camera generally performs well in these areas although you will see noise on anything at 800 ISO and above. 800 is generally ok though and at 1600 it is more noticeable, particularly when blown up.
3) Build Quality and handling
Overall the camera seems well built, although some might think it a bit plasticy, but for me it is fine. The camera itself is actually quite small for a DSLR and those with bigger hands may find the grip not as comfortable, but it's not a major issue.
4) Battery life
This is the only thing that seems to let the side down. Quite often I have turned it on to check and it has full power but within 30 mins of use it falls right down. While this is clearly a drawback I would recommend just making sure you always charge the battery before going out, which isn't really much of a hassle
5) HD video
Not really used this feature as its not what I bought the camera for but a brief test did seem to produce good results, however the lens isn't silent so can be heard if you use autofocus.
Overall this really is a very good camera for the money, and I can see that the Guide Mode would be very useful to those who are new to DSLRs. Therefore I recommend it to anyone considering it as it has all things I think an entry level camera should.
I bought the D3100 after seeing how much sharper and more vibrant the pictures are (especially if they are bigger than 6x4) from a DSLR. I had been put off a DSLR in the past by the apparent complexity, and, the feeling that I might miss the "perfect shot" after seeing another novice photographer struggle with one on safari.
This Nikon camera is, in my view, the perfect entry level DSLR which delivers quality pictures and offers scope for creativity as you develop your technique. I take the majority of shots in "Automatic Mode" which delivers good quality pictures in almost any situation. However, the D3100 also has a "Guide Mode" which effectively walks you through set up and shooting which is very helpful in helping you understand the camera and build confidence. Naturally, it has numerous other options such as shutter/apeture priority etc.
The camera feels robust and is comfortable to hold being significantly lighter than my girlfriend's Nikon D90. The controls all seem logically laid out and the camera has both a high quality LCD screen and viewfinder. Video can only be taken using the "Live View" LCD screen but the quality (being full HD) is good plus you can zoom etc. during video recording. Battery life is also good - I am quite trigger happy and find the battery lasts a full day (a spare genuine Nikon battery is around £40 with generic versions around half that). There are also a good range of connectivity options including mini HDMI/USB etc. although, curiously, the camera does not come with a mini USB lead which I think is a useful extra. The supplied Nikon album/photo editing software is of very high quality, although, it does not have the pedigree of Adobe Photoshop Elements.
A few other things I'd mention (which probably betrays my novice photographer status further)-
- Think carefully about whether you buy the camera with the kit lens or body only. I bought the kit and love the standard 18-55mm lens which is fine in most situations. However, I also bought the Nikon 55-300mm zoom lens which is useful for wildlife. With this combination you have to be prepared to carry and change lenses in the field but the zoom is almost as powerful as my previous superzoom camera. The VR (Vibration Reduction)in both lenses is very effective. My father who also bought a D3100 took a different approach - he bought the body only and a 18-270mm third party lens which gives a effective wide angle/zoom performance without the need to change lenses.
- You may be used to a 16:9 picture aspect ratio if you have a compact or superzoom camera and have set it that way for your TV or digital photo frame. Remember, with DSLRs there is no 16:9 (widescreen) picture setting as such. I understand all SLRs display their pictures in a conventional aspect ratio.
- You may want to buy a clear plastic LCD screen protector for the D3100 - I bought the Lexerd one through Amazon which is excellent.
- The D3100 does not (in my understanding), have an IR eye for the Nikon IR remote shutter release but there are other options plus the camera has the usual timer function built in.
- The battery charger is unusual in that it fits directly into the mains socket - there is no lead to the charger. I mention this because you need space either side of the charger, something that might be limited in, say, an extension socket block.
The D3100 has been very well reviewed by the photographic press. In summary, the camera is well built, easy to use, produces quality output, and, has scope for most novice photographers to grow into. I would, on the basis of my experience, highly recommend it.
on 5 March 2013
I decided it was time to upgrade from my ancient D60 to a newer camera. After much research, this one was my choice.
What I wanted?
I am a member of a local camera club. I love taking photos but, lack the time to improve my skills. I needed a camera that would give me the scope to improve my skills. This one goes one better and with it's guide mode, helps me to learn the right choices to make when deciding on manual settings. I wanted a camera with a more extensive range of manual settings than my D60. I wanted a camera that would take great pictures. I wanted a camera that would perform well in all sorts of conditions and at taking different types of photos. I wanted Live View. For occasional use, I wanted the ability to record HD video. I wanted a camera that I could just stick on auto and that would still take great pictures, if I couldn't be bothered or didn't have the time to think about settings.
What I didn't want?
I didn't need a really high resolution as I would rarely want to print larger than A4. I didn't want that latest model - just one that met my requirements. I didn't want a camera that was too large as I only have small hands.and I wanted to be happy carrying it around everywhere with me.
And most importantly, I didn't want to spend lots of money - I wanted to choose / buy my own zoom lens and I was working to a budget of less than £500.00 for both. I purchased this camera (body only) and a Tamron zoom lens with macro functionality. My spend came in at around £423.00 for both. Bargain!!!
on 31 March 2012
I have been in photography for many years and worked with a large range of cameras. Usually I use a D300s most of the time, but I bought a D3100 for casual photography and for those times when I didn't really feel like carry something that felt like a brick on a rope.
I love the size and shape of this camera, it reminds me of the old Olympus OM1 series. Not only is it easier to carry but it is much less visually intimidating than the larger models and allows you to be less conspicuous it you are photographing in public places. Its image quality far surpasses what most people will ever need unless you regularly print your work out billboard size. I think if people realised the full potential of this camera Nikon would not sell nearly as many of its more up market models. If it is not producing the results you require then the problem is more likely to be with the user than the camera. Unless you require special features like a high speed motor drive it is hard to see why this camera would not deliver what you need. Its viewfinder is not as big as its more expensive siblings, but unless you are using manual focus lenses I don't see why this should be an issue. If you have a basic grasp of digital cameras then you should find this refreshingly intuitive.
I have have been using it for a week and have not yet felt the need to take the instruction manual out of its wrapper yet. OK, it may not be my first choice for press or studio work, but the fact remains that for most of the people most of the time this is as much, if not more, than you are likely to need. In summary, in my opinion this camera more than makes up for any short comings it may have in performance by its light weight, price, and excellent handling. There is little reason why you cannot produce photographs with it that are as good as any camera could take.
on 5 September 2011
This is a very good camera and is being offered at some impressively low prices. The picture quality is far better than compact cameras, so if you're moving up from a snapshot camera you will be seriously impressed.
However, the newer D3200 has even better picture quality. The D3100's 14 megapixel sensor is good, but the D3200's 24 megapixel sensor is amazing. So check the prices of the two, and if the D3200 is not that much more expensive you should definitely buy the D3200 if you can stretch to it.
on 25 May 2011
Before the D3100 I was a DSLR virgin, and this review is aimed at people who, like me 4 months ago, are sceptical about spending so much on a camera.
First the positives - I have found the D3100 easy to use and yet the photos it produces are far better than those I was able to take with my compact camera (my photos look like they were taken by a professional!). Where it really outperforms my compact is indoors. I have used my D3100 at home, restaurants and in a church without needing to use a flash and the results are amazing. This is particularly important for me, as I take alot of photos of my 8 month old son (I didn't buy the DSLR until he was 3 months old, and I really regret it, as the compact camera photos look rubbish in comparison!). We even took a photo of him sleeping in a dark room and were amazed by the amount of light the camera 'found.'
Now the negatives - It is more expensive than a compact camera. I still think it is worth it, but it is alot of money. It is also not as portable as a compact camera, which means that it is not ideal for parties, skiing, etc. We have kept our compact camera for those sorts of things (although we did take the DSLR up skiing for a 'photo day').
This is my first DSLR and before I bought it I had seen many of my friends buying them and thought, "What a waste of money." Having decided to see what the fuss is all about, I'm so glad I did, and I can't believe I put it off for so long. If you don't own a DSLR and are looking for a simple, good quality, entry level DSLR then I would recommend the D3100 (as a beginner myself). If you aren't sure if it is worth it - it is, it really REALLY is.
on 9 February 2011
When I bought this camera there was a £40 cash back deal, and that tempted me too much, and I had to get it, and so I got it for Christmas :). So that's about a month I've had it now, and I am in love with it. This camera is my pride and joy, and use it whenever I can. This is my first digital SLR and I am glad I chose Nikon, just because.
This has a 14.2MP CMOS sensor in conjunction with Nikon's expeed 2 image processor, which means great low light performance, and also a lot of forgiveness for cropping images and the like. Low light images looks excellent up to ISO 3200 which is impressive for a camera this cheap, and this low down in Nikon's line-up. The grip is nice and round and is grippy as well, fits my hands too, they aren't massive but about average hands.
The sensor and processing engine also allow for full 1080p 24fps video shooting. Videos looks brilliant and in conjunction with a decent lens, they look very professional. Nikon aren't quite as good as Canon in the video shooting, but I much prefer photography rather than videography anyway, and video is just a bonus, not a real deal breaker for me.
The kit lens is good enough and images come out excellent, even low light pictures aren't too bad, but of course everyone buys a DSLR for new lenses! I only have the 35mm F1.8G so far, but its a recommended lens and comes pretty cheap too, for all round use. The more expensive the lens the better quality of the image, although no lenses are bad these days and in conjunction with a great starter camera like the D3100, images always come out looking pretty good.
As this is my first DSLR I don't really have anything to compare it too, except point and shoots. This blows them all away and rightly so. This is an excellent camera and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone I know or don't know for that matter. I have thoroughly enjoyed using this camera over the past month and a bit and its performance is very good. Will be using this for a good amount of time in future, and i highly recommended it to everyone starting out in photography, or just looking for a cheap back up body! Well done Nikon.