Nikon D3100 DSLR Announcement

Today Nikon announced the new Nikon D3100 DSLR camera – an update to the existing Nikon D3000 that was released a year ago. The D3100 is not just a cosmetic update, it comes with a brand new sensor and advanced video recording capabilities that are not yet present in any of the current Nikon DSLR bodies. Specifically, there is now an option to shoot 1080p video, the absence of which has certainly been a disadvantage when compared to Canon’s line of beginner cameras.

Nikon D3100

NIKON D3X @ 150mm, ISO 100, 10/600, f/20.0

Nikon D3100 Specifications

Here is a short list of important specifications:

  1. Effective angle of view: Approx. 1.5 x lens focal length (Nikon DX format)
  2. Effective pixels: 14.2 million
  3. Image sensor: 23.1 x 15.4 mm CMOS sensor
  4. Total pixels: 14.8 million
  5. Dust-reduction system: Image sensor cleaning, Airflow Control System, Image Dust Off reference data (optional Capture NX 2 software required)
  6. Image size (pixels): 4,608 x 3,072 [L], 3,456 x 2,304 [M], 2,304 x 1,536
  7. File format: NEF (RAW), JPEG: JPEG-Baseline compliant with fine (approx. 1:4), normal (approx. 1:8), or basic (approx. 1:16) compression, NEF (RAW) + JPEG: Single photograph recorded in both NEF (RAW) and JPEG formats
  8. Media: SD (Secure Digital), SDHC and SDXC memory cards
  9. Viewfinder: Eye-level pentamirror single-lens reflex viewfinder
  10. Frame coverage: Approx. 95% horizontal and 95% vertical
  11. Magnification: Approx. 0.8 x (50 mm f/1.4 lens at infinity, -1.0 m-1)
  12. Shutter Speed: 1/4000 to 30 s in steps of 1/3 EV, Bulb
  13. Flash sync speed: X=1/200 s; synchronizes with shutter at 1/200 s or slower
  14. Release mode: single frame, continuous, self timer, quiet shutter release
  15. Frame advance rate: up to 3 fps (manual focus, mode M or S, shutter speed 1/250 s or faster, and other settings at default values)
  16. Exposure modes: Auto modes (auto, auto [flash off]); scene modes (portrait; landscape; child; sports; close up; night portrait); programmed auto with flexible program (P); shutter-priority auto (S); aperture-priority auto (A); manual (M)
  17. Exposure compensation: -5 to +5 EV in increments of 1/3 EV
  18. ISO sensitivity: ISO 100 to 3200 in steps of 1 EV; can also be set to approx. 1 EV above ISO 3200 (ISO 6400 equivalent) or to
    approx. 2 EV above ISO 3200 (ISO 12800 equivalent); auto ISO sensitivity control available
  19. Active D-Lighting: On, Off
  20. Autofocus: Nikon Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection, 11 focus points (including one
    cross-type sensor), and AF-assist illuminator (range approx. 0.5 to 3m/1 ft. 8 in. to 9 ft. 10 in.)
  21. Focus point: Can be selected from 11 focus points
  22. AF-area mode: Single-point AF, dynamic-area AF, auto-area AF, 3D-tracking (11 points)
  23. Movie Frame size (pixels) and frame rate: 1,920 x 1,080 (24p): 24 fps (23.976 fps), 1,280 x 720 (30p): 30 fps (29.97 fps), 1,280 x 720 (25p): 25 fps, 1,280 x 720 (24p): 24 fps (23.976 fps), 640 x 424 (24p): 24 fps (23.976 fps)
  24. Movie maximum recording time: 10 min.
  25. Movie file format: MOV
  26. Video compression: H.264/MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding
  27. Audio recording format: Linear PCM
  28. Audio recording device: Built-in monaural microphone
  29. LCD monitor: 7.5-cm/3-in., approx. 230 k-dot TFT LCD with brightness adjustment

More detailed specifications can be found on the NikonUSA website.

One important feature that is missing from the camera, is integrated GPS without the need to use an external GPS unit. Since it is missing from the new D3100, you can safely assume that this important feature will not make it to other cameras anytime soon.

Is this announcement something to be excited about? Absolutely! Out of all the features on the D3100, the most important ones are:

  1. Higher resolution 14.2 Mp sensor – this means that you can expect all future DSLR cameras from Nikon to have at least 14 Megapixels.
  2. Better high ISO noise – Nikon would not simply increase the number of megapixels if they could not keep the noise levels down to at least what they were before. This means that the noise levels at high ISOs of the D3100 should be very similar or better than noise levels on the Nikon D3000.
  3. Higher ISO levels – I don’t know how good ISO 12,800 looks on the Nikon D3100, since I have not seen any sample images yet, but it is certainly a bold move by Nikon. Again, this also means we will be getting at least the same ISO levels on all future cameras.
  4. New EXPEED2 processor – finally, all new Nikon bodies will have a much faster processor that can handle a lot more load.
  5. 1080p movie mode – the previous EXPEED processor simply could not handle the large bandwidth that 1080p video requires. I was hoping for more fps than 24 on 1080p, but I guess we will see that on higher-end bodies later.

Everything else is pretty standard. The camera will retail for $699.95 with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR kit lens and it is already available for pre-order at B&H.

Sample images from the Nikon D3100 are available here, but they are all at ISO 100 and 200…

An update to Nikon D90 is supposed to come out later this year and I’m hoping that it will be a major upgrade with more new exciting features. Higher ISO with low noise levels is what photographers always hope for, so I hope Nikon will deliver!

P.S. The new Nikon D3100 is on its way to me, so I will be writing a detailed review on it very soon! Stay tuned! :)


  1. August 19, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    I’m impressed by the incredible amount of features/quality for the price. Pretty near gives the D5000 a run for it’s money.

    • September 2, 2010 at 12:04 am

      Aaron, I agree, but we need to see high ISO samples first :) If it beats the D5000 at high ISO with this number of megapixels, then the D5000 will certainly not sell well going forward…

      • 1.1.1) Aaron Priest
        September 2, 2010 at 4:49 am

        Yeah, I’ve been wondering with more megapixels if noise would be a little worse than the D5000. It will be interesting to read your review once you’ve had a chance to play with one. Certainly it is well priced for a beginner/consumer if the video and photo quality is impressive.

  2. 2) S
    August 20, 2010 at 1:22 am

    Hi, between D3100 and D5000 which one would you choose?

    • September 2, 2010 at 12:04 am

      Not sure yet – waiting for mine to do some tests :)

  3. 3) sm
    August 21, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    hi Nasim,

    Thanks for the updates..

    I have a D90 and am eagerly waiting for its replacement. I hope the the higher ISO levels get a significant bump. I love the size, weight and the feel of the D90 for what I do. The only thing that bugs me is the quality of the images higher than ISO 800.

    Nasim, can you give your opinion on ISO related issues? I did try a D300 recently and didn’t find any significant improvement in the low light/high ISO performance when compared to the D90. My friend suggests an upgrade to FX format, but I think it might be an overkill. The cameras and lenses are big, heavy and expensive. Maybe a really lighter and reasonably priced D700 replacement might seriously tempt me…



    • 3.1) tom
      August 23, 2010 at 8:25 am

      not suprising as the d90’s sensor is actually better than the d300/d300s. it’s the best dx nikon sensor currently in production, and I doubt the entry level d3100 will surpass it. if you’re having trouble at 800 you’re probably doing something terribly wrong. expose to the right and apply a bit of noise reduction and you should be fine.

      “this means that you can expect all future DSLR cameras from Nikon to have at least 14 Megapixels”
      I don’t see why, lower pixel density means less noise which is why the d3s is only 12mp.

      • September 2, 2010 at 12:14 am

        Tom, it would be very surprising to see D3100 outperform D90…I don’t think it would be possible with 14 megapixels, but we’ll see :)

    • September 2, 2010 at 12:08 am

      SM, the Nikon D90 is a superb camera – certainly on the top of my list. In terms of high ISO performance, the D300s is not going to be better for sure. If you want better ISO performance, you would need to get an FX body like D700. Unfortunately Nikon won’t be releasing an update to D700 this year…

      I would say let’s wait and see how the new D90 looks.

  4. 4) farid
    August 22, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    hello nasim,
    seems that nikon is doing a major upgrade to their dslr’s model… hmmm…. currently my target is to buy the D90, looking at the changes made, maybe i need to consider waiting for the new upgrade version for this model… what’s your comment?

    • 4.1) sm
      August 22, 2010 at 5:17 pm

      I say wait for the d90 replacement. Just don’t buy the d90 now….

    • September 2, 2010 at 12:15 am

      Farid, I agree with SM – wait for a few weeks and see if Nikon introduces the Nikon D90 update.

  5. 5) Matt
    August 25, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    I need help deciding on my first DSLR. I had my mind set on the D5000 but then I heard about the D3100. Which would you recommend for a person buying their first DSLR.

    I can get the D5000 Digital SLR w/ 18-55mm VR Lens for about $700 does this seem like a good deal?

    • September 2, 2010 at 12:15 am

      Matt, don’t know yet – need to see how well D3100 performs against the D5000 sensor.

  6. September 9, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Hi! I’ve enjoyed your comparisons of the D5000 and D3000. I currently have a D50 that I’ve had for about 5+ years. I love it but have been wanting to upgrade to something newer. I’m not a “professional” by any means, just love taking pics especially of my girls playing soccer and whatever looks good. Can’t wait to see your review of the D3100. I’ve been leaning towards the D5000 because I like the features it provides.

    I’m enjoying your site very much.

    • September 17, 2010 at 1:06 am

      Thank you Kirstin! I will let you know what I think of the D3100.

  7. 7) John Marion Alquiza
    October 28, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Looking forward to this (D3100) review! I learn a lot! Thanks!

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