This is a detailed review of the Nikon D3100 DSLR based on my month-long experience with the camera. I get plenty of comments and emails from our readers asking about the D3100 and whether they should buy it over the older Nikon D3000 and Nikon D5000 cameras, so I decided to post a review of the camera with some sample images and comparisons with other Nikon DSLRs to hopefully make it easier for our readers to make the right choice. Please note that the sample images provided below are “test” shots that have not been heavily modified in post-processing.
1) Nikon D3100 Specifications
- 14.2 Megapixel DX-format CMOS Image Sensor
- Full 1080p HD Cinematic Video with full-time autofocus and sound
- Easy-To-Use with Nikon’s Guide Mode
- Fast 11-point Autofocus System
- 3-in. monitor with One-Touch Live View shooting and movie capture
- Built-in HDMI port
- Control Image and Movie Playback with most HDTV remote controls
- 6 Automatic Exposure Scene Modes – Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close-up or Night Portrait
- Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape Picture Controls
- Built-in pop-up flash
- Includes 3x 18-55mm Zoom-NIKKOR VR Image Stabilization Lens
- Compact and Lightweight Design
- ISO sensitivity 100-3200, expandable to ISO 12800 equivalent
- Scene Auto Selector and Scene Recognition System in Live View
- Features Nikon’s new EXPEED 2 image processing engine
- Active D-Lighting for shadow highlight recovery
- Automatic Image Sensor Cleaning
- In-camera Image Editing
- Compatible with SD, SDHC and SDXC cards
- 95% Viewfinder frame coverage
- 3 frames per second in Continuous Shooting Mode
- AF-S lens required for autofocus (no built-in focus motor)
Detailed technical specifications are available on Nikonusa.com.
2) Camera Construction and Handling
Being an entry-level DSLR, the Nikon D3100 is built to be a compact and an ultra-lightweight camera, with dimensions of 124x97x74mm, making it the smallest DSLR in Nikon’s current line of cameras. If you have ever handled a heavy pro-level DSLR like Nikon D3s, you will quickly realize how tiny this camera is in comparison. With a weight of only 455 grams without the lens, the Nikon D3100 is 30 grams lighter than its predecessor – the Nikon D3000, which also makes it the lightest Nikon DSLR camera. With the exception of the metal lens mount, the Nikon D3100 is mostly plastic.
The camera handles very similarly as its predecessor and the earlier models like Nikon D40 and D60 and the lightweight Nikkor 18-55mm kit lens balances perfectly with it. With the addition of live view and movie recording, the back of the camera went through some changes. There is now a dedicated lever to enter Live View, with a red button to start recording video. The previous Info and “+” button has now been separated into two dedicated buttons on the left side of the camera rear, making a total of 5 buttons instead of 4 (left: Nikon D3000, right: Nikon D3100):
Two other changes worth mentioning, are the new lever on top of the camera that allows to quickly change the camera between Single, Continuous, Timer and Quiet modes and a rubber grip in front of the camera. Previously, changing camera modes required to go through the camera menu and this is a nice addition for a quicker mode selection. The new rubber grip improves camera handling and will not easily slip from fingers. Overall, considering the entry-level nature of the D3100, there is not much to complain about construction and handling-wise. My only wish, is that the AE-L/AF-L button was located closer to the rear dial – I often use this button for focusing and it felt like it was too far away (same problem with the Nikon D7000).
As for weather and dust protection, although the D3100 is a pretty tough camera, there is no sealing of any kind, which is expected for an entry-level DSLR. This means that you should be careful when using it in challenging weather conditions.