The Nikon D3100 is a great APS-C sensor entry-level DSLR with vast features and functionality for those who are looking to get into photography. The Nikon D3100 comes with a 14.2 Megapixel CMOS Image Sensor (DX-format) which is capable of taking great images and videos.
Let's start with listing the specifications of the camera and later in the review I will discuss the various features and overall functionality that the camera has to offer in detail.
The D3100 comes with the following specification :
- 14.2 Megapixel CMOS Image Sensor (DX-format)
- 1080p, 24 Frames per Second Video Recording
- A fast 11-point Autofocus System
- Built-in pop-up flash
- Guide Mode for Beginners
- 8 automatic exposure modes: Auto, Auto ( Without Flash), Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close up and Night Portrait
- 4 manual control modes: Manual (M), Aperture Priority (A), Shutter Priority (S) and Programmed Auto (P)
- Built-in GPS Port, HDMI port, AV Out Port and USB Port
- Built-in Retouch Menu, which includes :
- Red-eye Correction
- Filter Effects
- Colour Balance
- Small Picture
- Image Overlay
- RAW Image Processing
- Quick Retouch
- Distortion Control
- Colour Outline
- Perspective Control
- Miniature Effect
- Edit Movie
- Release Mode Selector: Single Frame, Continuous, Self-Timer, Quiet shutter release
- 3 frames per second in Continuous Shooting or Burst Mode
- 2 and 10 second Self Timer
- Diopter Adjustment Control Dial
- The dedicated movie record button
- Compatible with SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards
- ISO range of 100-3200, expandable to ISO 12800
- Automatic Image Sensor Cleaning
- Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape Picture Control modes
- 3-inch LCD Screen
- Easy to Hold body Design
My review for the entry-level Nikon D3100 :
The Nikon D3100 comes equipped an APS-C sensor comes with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G NIKKOR VR Image Stabilization Lens. I have been using this camera for almost 6 years now and to start with, the D3100 is a great camera for entry-level photographers as it is fast, accurate, easy to use, and affordable.
The body itself is mainly plastic, but the camera certainly feels robust as I have used it quite roughly and in harsh conditions. This combined with the rubber coating on the grip, which also appears on the thumb rest in the back of the camera gives confidence to the user while handling the camera
It also handles pretty well and the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR kit lens complements the camera perfectly. With the live view and movie recording button it becomes convenient and faster to switch between modes while shooting, other feature worth mentioning, are the Release-Mode Selector allows to swiftly change the camera between Single, Continuous, Timer and Quiet modes and a rubber grip in front of the camera which provides great support while holding the camera even with one hand.
The D3100 is equipped with the 11 Point AF System performs very well in brightly lit conditions while focusing and tracking a subject but, its autofocus performance might suffer in low-light conditions. However, with assistance from the built-in AF Assist Illuminator, it sometimes manages to focus in low light conditions but again, if possible you should try focusing manually in low light with help from an external light source for better focus and results.
The noise levels are well contained at low ISO but, when using ISO as 800 you might see some noise in the frame and at ISO as 1600 or above the image becomes quite noisy and grainy. You can still take photos at ISO 1600 but only when its really needed and the light is really low but, using ISO as 3200 will spoil the image by making it look grainy or noisy. In the past years, I have used ISO 1600 quite a few times when especially when shooting in dimly light conditions like an auditorium but, I’ve rarely used ISO 3200 as the image is not useful because it becomes too grainy and loses quality. The Active D-Lighting system does its job really well by improving the level of details in highlight and by optimizing high contrast images by restoring the shadows often lost under strong lighting conditions.
The built-in flash works great as to fill flash and can be used in low-lighting conditions, although you have to consider the subject distance which should be ideally under 10 feet, shadows, and size of lens hood while using wide-angle lens problems when using flash. The plus point is that this camera comes with Red-Eye Reduction while using flash.
Though I do not shoot many videos on this camera, the high-definition 1080p at 24 fps video mode on the Nikon D3100 is very good too use while shooting is well light conditions. However, you should shoot videos only on a tripod as this camera lags stabilization. Although, while shooting using a tripod the video quality and the output is pretty decent.
The live View to Video switch is super easy to use, get used to and quite fast, because of the lever on the back of the camera and I certainly prefer it much more than the “Lv” button on other Nikon DSLRs.
A programmable “Fn” button combined with the Command Dial helps you to set control of the ISO sensitivity, Image Quality/Size, White Balance, and Active D-Lighting and the flash pop-up button combined with the Command Dial helps you to set the Flash Compensation.
Though it might be a little hard to differentiate from the flash pop-up/compensation button that sits above the “Fn” button but, with time and practice one gets used to using it and especially in manual mode one can use it very effectively to change the sensitivity of the camera, which is a great feature of the camera as it provides ease of use.
The Mode Dial equipped with Guide Mode, Auto, Auto ( Without Flash), Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close up and Night Portrait, Manual (M), Aperture Priority (A), Shutter Priority (S) and Programmed Auto (P) lets the user easily navigate between various modes offered by the camera. Also, a thing worth noticing is that Nikon labels its manual modes like P, S, A, and M which lets anybody being a beginner or a professional understand the functions easily as compared to Canon’s M, Av, Tv, and P labeling.
The 14.2 Megapixel CMOS Image Sensor does it great job in terms of image quality. Nikon has successfully kept high ISO noise amounts low while keeping image quality standards high in their latest DSLRs with more megapixels. However, if you crop the image it might get lower in quality and well-focused images might look blurred, this also happens while zooming in from the camera’s screen itself as well, though, you can fix it by using sharpening tools in post-processing.
I use the kit 18-55mm lens and the 70-300 4-5.6G Lens (Manual Lens). The standard lens works just fine with the camera and focuses quickly on the subject in the frame but, sometimes it doesn't focus on anything and makes the whole frame blurred which is sometimes a problem which can be tackled by shifting the lens to Manual mode and then putting it back in Auto.
The 70-300 4-5.6G Lens is a great lens to use but, at the beginning of use it might be a little tough for some people to get perfect focus on the object, and after being familiar with the lens its a great tool for various types of photography. One drawback of the 70-300 4-5.6G lens which I personally felt is that at 300mm it is a little difficult to get the perfect focus at times but to tackle that Nikon offers a Focus Indicator (green dot) in the viewfinder which lights up the subject is in perfect focus and provides great assistance while focusing manually.
The things I liked about the camera :
- Easy to handle, lightweight and compact
- Easy to use
- Good and Comfortable grip on the body
- Dedicated Live View and Movie record button
- Good and rugged build quality
- Fast Auto Focus
- Programmable “Fn” button for quick access
- In-Camera editing
- Good battery life
- Guide Mode
- Records decent quality videos
- Robust design
The things I did not like :
- Lacks in-body stabilization
- LCD resolution is low
- Fixed screen
- Autofocus sound is recorded in a video
- Low burst rate
- ISO range
- Does not focus sometimes
As you have read the entire camera review, you would surely agree that the Nikon D3100 offering high image quality defies its entry-level tag. As compared to the previous version the D3000, Nikon has managed to substantially increase the pixel’s count from 10.2 Megapixels to 14.2 Megapixels and improve native ISO sensitivity settings from 100-1600 to 100-3200 and extended ISO settings from 100-3200 to 100-12800, though, in my opinion, the image quality could have been enhanced considering the levels of noise at ISO above 1600.
The camera is beginner friendly as it has a “Guide” mode which helps to take simple shots and well as some complex shots like freezing motion, softening backgrounds, show water flowing, and many more.
In terms of handling, there are some noticeable enhancements, most important being the inclusion of a release mode selector, a live view switch, a programmable “Fn” button, and a separate movie record button. All of these have given the D3100 exceptional functionality and handling enhancements.
The D3100 has many plus points as listed above, but I still think that Nikon could have given a higher resolution LCD screen as the current one is of 320x240 pixels, which could have helped in previewing images especially in outdoors and in conditions with bright light and a tilting screen would be preferred as I often struggle for taking shots in which the viewfinder can’t be accessed or in which I have to hold the camera away from my body. Also, one of the major drawbacks of D3100 is its burst rate, being 3 Frames per Second it sometimes becomes a task to capture subjects in motion or subjects moving around really fast.
I first got this camera as a gift in 2014 as a gift from my uncle who is also an avid photographer and has been doing photography for more than 40 years. Since then and to this date I have been using my Nikon D3100 and after 6 years of hands-on experience with the Nikon D3100 and almost 42,000 shutter counts, I can surely say that Nikon has made great efforts in designing and providing functionality to the D3100.
From the beginning itself, this camera has never failed to impress me in various aspects, and even while using it roughly and in harsh conditions, it has never disappointed me thanks to its good quality plastic body and a rugged build quality which can sustain almost anything. Even after so many years the D3100 still feels new by performing the same as it did in the beginning and does not feel old to use, hold, or in terms of the user interface. Being capable of shooting events, wildlife, nature, sports, landscapes, portraits, and various other categories.
Therefore, Nikon D3100 is surely an ideal camera and one of the top considerations for beginner photographers who want to start photography or learn photography professionally in future as it camera is user friendly, easy to operate, provides good quality vibrant images with a vast amount of features and good battery life.