on October 16, 2011
I am a photography teacher in NYC and online. (See my Amazon profile for my website.) I teach beginner and intermediate photography students every week. I've also been a professional photographer for the last five years with images published in The New York Times, GQ, New York Magazine, Women's Wear Daily, The New York Observer, The Village Voice and Time Out New York.
(This review is for beginner photographers.)
If you're a beginner, you're most likely asking yourself: Nikon or Canon? Really, I feel confident in saying that you can't go wrong with either. I've used both brand's cameras extensively and find that they both offer amazing image quality with well-built, solid cameras that, if taken care of, will last decades. There are two differences between the cameras, though, that can be taken into consideration.
The user-interface: If cameras were computers, Nikons would be PCs and Canons would be MACs. PCs are built for people not afraid of technology whereas Macs are built for people who want things super-easy. Nikons excel at customization options which means you'll see so many more options with the Advanced features of a Nikon than you will with a Canon. Canons, on the other hand, excel at ease-of-use for beginners. Canons offer less advanced options and can be easier to learn on. This can be frustrating down the line, though, once you've learned a lot about photography. At that point you may want all of the options that Nikon offers and be frustrated with your Canon. If you're someone who really likes to delve deep into your hobbies or if you're intent on becoming a professional photographer, I'd say a Nikon would be your best bet. If you're someone who wants to learn the basics of photography and only imagine yourself being a hobbyist, Canon would be a better option for you.
Where Nikon excels: Flash photography. I often find myself in situations where I'm shooting event photography (weddings, movie premiers, benefits and galas) where I need to use a lot of flash. For this kind of photography, I'll always prefer to be shooting with a Nikon. Nikon's flash metering (how the camera magically decides how much light to fire out of the flash) is much more consistent than Canon's. You can take a Canon and shoot the same scene three times in a row with flash and all three images will be at different brightness levels. You can do the same thing with a Nikon and all three images will be wonderfully the same. If you're somebody who plans on shooting a lot with flash (indoor photography, event photography, etc.) you'll want to consider going with Nikon.
Where Canon excels: Richness of colors. I've been in numerous situations where I've been on the red carpet taking the exact same picture as the photographer next to me. I'll have a Canon and the person next to me will have a Nikon. This has provided quite a few opportunities to compare the images side-by-side. What I've found is that the colors on the Canon's images look richer and make the image pop more. If I'm doing fine art photography (anything I'd like to someday hang in a gallery), I'll always want to be shooting with a Canon for this reason.
If you're set on Nikon, there are three cameras you should be considering and it all comes down to what your budget is:
D7000 $1,400 without lens
D5100 $750 without lens
D3100 $600 only available with lens
(current prices as of 2/19/11)
Here's what you get for spending extra money (each camera compared to the one below it):
D3100 vs. D5100:
The D3100 is an EXCELLENT camera so if you only have $550 to spend total on camera and lens then go out and buy this camera. You won't regret it. If you're considering spending more money, here's what you'll get from the D5100 in comparison:
-Better performance in low light situations.
-A higher resolution screen on the back of the camera so you can see your images more clearly and make out if they actually turned out well.
-An external mic jack. (If you're planning on shooting video with an external mic, you'll want the D5100 over the D3100.)
-A flip out screen (handy if you want to put your camera anywhere but at your eye level and be able to see what your camera is about to capture before you shoot it)
-Faster continuous shooting. If you're often shooting sports or any fast moving subject, continuous shooting allows you to capture multiple images in a single second. The D3100 shoots at three frames per second whereas the D5100 shoots at four frames per second.
-Higher ISO options. The D5100 offers one more stop of ISO than the D3100 does. If you don't know what ISO means (or what a stop is) just know that this allows you to more easily shoot images in low-light situations.
-Longer battery life. The D5100's battery will last 20% longer than the D3100
The two advantages of the D3100 over the D5100 are: less expensive and less weight. Whenever a camera is less expensive, it means you'll have more in your budget for the lens. The D3100 weighs 10% lighter and is 10% smaller than the D5100.
D5100 vs. D7000:
The D5100 is Nikon's latest and greatest and is even newer than the D7000. Phenomenal camera! If you're stuck, though, between the D5100 and the D7000, here's what you'll get by spending more money on the D7000:
-More focus points. When using auto-focus, the D7000 will have an easier time focusing on what you want it to focus on.
-60% longer lasting batteries.
-Faster continuous shooting. If you're often shooting sports or any fast moving subject, continuous shooting allows you to capture multiple images in a single second. The D5100 shoots at four frames per second whereas the D7000 shoots at six frames per second.
-Weather sealed. This means you can shoot with the D7000 in the rain.
-Two memory card slots. This is really a cool feature. The D7000 has two memory card slots which means you'll be less likely to find yourself standing in front of a gorgeous scene with no more memory left.
-Faster shutter speed. The fastest shutter speed on the D5100 is 1/4000th of a second; on the D7000: 1/8000th of a second. To be honest, I can't think of any practical reason why this would benefit you unless you're planning on shooting some really bright scenes like directly into the sun.
Advantages of the D5100 over the D7000:
-A flip out screen (handy if you want to put your camera anywhere but at your eye level and be able to see what your camera is about to capture before you shoot it)
-Smaller and lighter: The D5100 is 10% smaller and 30% lighter than the D7000. This is something to consider if you plan on carrying your camera around with you a lot.
-Less expensive so you can spend more on your lens!
If I can clarify any of this, please email me!
-JP Pullos, photography teacher, NYC and online (see my Amazon profile for my website)
on September 23, 2010
For the cost of this camera, I don't think you can get anything better. The low light performance is off the charts. As a wedding photographer I regularly shoot with Nikon's high end professional equipment and I was amazed how close this camera is to a pro camera. Now let me get specific. In order to compare I took a look at 100% files out of each camera I own.
Which camera excels Nikon D3100($Cheap) VS. D300($1600) VS. D700 ($2,700):
* Lens = The D3100 is the only camera that comes with a lens at it's normal price
* ISO Performance = Tie between D3100 and D700! (It could be Nikon's new processing but the JPEG looks fantastic I was shooting D3100 on 6400iso with very little noise at all)
* Low Light Focusing = D700
* Focus Speed = D700
* External Buttons & Controls for Pros = D700
* Menu Navigation = D3100
* Ease of Use = D3100
* Megapixel = D3100 (14.2)
* Sensor size = D700 (Much more important than megapixels but I won't get into this)
* Can use older lenses with functionality = D700 & D300
* Video = D3100 of course! 1080P video looks amazing.
* Frame Rate = D300 at 6 photos a second
* Weight = D3100 (light as a feather)
* Ergonomics = D700 (big enough for all my finger)
The lens is a kit lens, it will work outside but not so great in low light. The Vibration Reduction will help indoors but Vibration Reduction can't stop a child or pet in motion indoors. Consider buying a 35mm 1.8dx AFS for around $200 and you will be super happy with this camera.
I purchased the 3100 specifically to shoot video, so I put on Nikon's brand new 85mm 1.4g Nano lens and shot video with it. The lens costs more than double the camera but I wanted to see how the 1080P video looked. It has the look of a cinematic movie. After the 85mm, I put on Nikon's 50 1.2 manual focus lens and was able to take very cinematic video in manual mode. In order to make it brighter or darker you either need to use a really old lens like the 50mm 1.2 and hit the AE-L (auto exposure lock) and twist the aperture to change exposure. Or you can hit the AE-L button when you get the exposure you like. Its not a perfect system but it works well for me. Inside the menu options you can change the AE-L button to hold the setting until you reset which is helpful.
Jello Cam (What's not so great):
This camera still suffers from the "Jello Cam" look in video if it is not on a tripod and you are shaky. The video can look like jello if moved too quickly. Use a monopod or tripod when shooting to avoid this. I'm not sure if a faster video frame rate 60fps would help - but at 24 and 30 it can suffer badly.
This is an amazing deal! Unless you make most of your income from photography or have a stockpile of old lenses (this camera can only autofocus with AFS lenses) then this camera is the must have camera of the year. If you have good composition skills and an eye for light you can take photos worthy of a magazine with this. Seriously, you won't regret buying this camera. When you do, do yourself a favor and buy an additional Nikon AFS lens that has a maximum aperture of 2.8, 1.8 or 1.4. These lenses will take better portraits and deal better in low light than the kit lens.
on September 23, 2010
Hurray! The long wait is over! Nikon had us wait for such a long time for its newer models (D3100 and D7000) and it was just when we started thinking if Nikon will ever have an answer, anytime soon, to Canon's T2i, 7D and 60D) they released these two wonderful cameras - D3100 and D7000. Let's focus on D3100, shall we?
So I finally had a chance to get hold of this D-SLR at Best Buy today. I am not a pro by any means but I have used many different D-SLRs including Canon (40D, T2i, XSi) and Nikon (D90, D5000). When I picked-up the camera for the first time, my initial reaction was, "whoa - this is so small and light weight"! It wasn't that I wasn't aware of the specs - I knew them beforehand but I was still blown away by how small and light it felt when I held it in my hands. Then, I thought, the grip would not be very comfortable but I was wrong as holding and operating the camera is just fine - thanks to Nikon's well-thought-out design and grip. For the size and feel, it's very similar to D3000 but has more goodies from the higher versions. So from an initial wow factor, I quickly moved on to focusing on features and capabilities.
I have just started using this camera so more update will follow but in the meantime my initial assessment of this camera is - I am impressed! It is one heck of a camera which can certainly compete against the best in its class (Canon T1i, T2i, Nikon D5000). Check out detailed reviews at dpreview (.com) and cameralabs (.com) - they should be added soon if not already there.
I love this camera because it:
+ has enough mega pixels for my needs (14.2).
+ captures crystal clear images (thanks to EXPEED2 processor & the CMOS sensor, the sensor is slightly smaller than the one used in D7000).
+ offers 1080p (HD) recording, AF subject tracking is awesome (10 min max is fine with me; it records outstanding videos even in low light and to me that's big).
+ offers ISO from 100-3200 (D90 starts at 200), it can go higher but I really don't think why I would need anything above that.
+ is small & light weight yet has good grip, easy to carry around in hands or neck.
+ supports SDXC cards on top of SD and SDHC - now that's nice.
+ (25-Sep-2010): has buttons that are well organized especially the video recording mode with a lever so you cannot mistakenly activate recording. That video recording lever once unlocked, gets locked in 30 seconds if you do not record and the countdown begins as soon as you unlock the lever. Also you can record video while you're in any dial (imaging) mode (Auto, P, A, S, M, and so on) where as in Canon T2i, etc. you have to move the camera dial to movie mode. So this is a great convenience - you can jump between taking pictures and recording videos with a simple unlocking of the lever. Additionally, you can be in a preferred dial (imaging) mode (Auto, P, A, S, M, and so on) and change the release mode to Single, Continuous, Self-timer or Quiet mode (this is located right underneath the main dial) - another great convenient feature.
+ (04-Oct-2010): In-body photo and movie retouch menu. This is great as we don't need any special software to apply certain touches. I love it.
Could have been even better if:
- it had the bracketing option (not too much to expect at this price point level but oh well I don't use that much but for some people this could be a big plus).
- grid lines were available (I miss them in both in live view and in the view finder).
- Active D Lighting was not limited to just ON or OFF (either you have it or not at all, instead of low, medium, high, etc.). Don't get me wrong the ON just worked fine (better than Canon T2i) but I can't compare with all other modes.
Recommendations (optional accessories):
* In my personal order of importance - your preference may differ. *
1. Nikon UC-E4 USB Cable - not included. (~$6)
2. UV filter - a must for protecting your lens against accidental damage. (~10$)
3. Carrying case is a must to protect your investment. There are many cases to choose from and it's up to you to decide but I suggest getting something like Lowepro SlingShot 102 AW (all weather proof carrying case) so if it rains, you can pull out the weather guard and cover it up. ($90)
4. Additional rechargeable Lithium Ion EN-EL14 battery so you never run out the juice when you're traveling and do not want to miss capturing a moment for good. (~$35)
5. SB-600 Speedlight. Those who have used speed lights would know what difference it can make to an image with adjustments you can make to light for an image. (~$225)
6. 18-55 VR lens has its limitations so if you have extra $$$s, buy body only (if that even is an option) and get yourself a 18-105 VR lens. But at that point, you may want to consider D90 which still is a good camera and offers many more controls. (~$325 to $350)
I give this camera 5 Stars because it takes excellent pictures in almost all conditions (bright or low-light) and that is exactly what I wanted this camera to do for me. Period.
I must commend Nikon for not getting into the mega pixel race (read marketing). They instead kept the photographer in mind and focused on delivering greater picture quality. Kudos to Nikon for having that courage.
on November 14, 2010
This Nikon D3100 is a phenomenal deal for non professionals, the rest of us people that want to take family and travel shots. I've owned DSLRs since 2004, starting with a Nikon D70 and then moving to D40, D200 and Canon Digital Rebel XSi 12.2 MP Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens (Black) and Canon EOS 40D 10.1MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only). Those are all excellent cameras, but this Nikon D3100 is better than all of those in one crucial area, the area that matters: it takes excellent pictures without having to fiddle with the settings between shots. Yes, the other cameras are better in other respects: They have more buttons to change settings without delving into menus, they are bigger (is that a plus?), heavier (another plus?), and have better specs (1/500 flash sync speed for D70 and D40), but in the end I would have to fiddle with the settings to get the best results: change the white balance, fiddle with the ISO (my Canons would default to ISO 400 for flash shots, why? Who knows. That meant disabling auto ISO and choosing ISO settings manually), the exposure (+0.7 indoor, 0 outdoor), and so on. D200 was noisy at higher ISO, D70's pictures tended to be cool (i.e. not warm), 40D had cool custom buttons (C1, C2, C3, very cool), but I found its ergonomics worse than XSi or any Nikon; why place the on/off switch at the bottom of the body? Who knows. Fortunately, new Canons have fixed this).
This D3100 also makes the D3000 and D5000 obsolete. The D3000 is slow and noisy at high ISO. The D5000 only shoots 720p (not 1080p), no autofocus in movie mode, less resolution. Old technology.
What sets the D3100 apart from all the other cameras above is this: set the camera in P (program) mode, auto white balance, -0.3 exposure compensation, slow flash sync mode (for people shots), auto distortion correction on (great!), auto chromatic aberrations correction on (great!), and you are set; now you can concentrate on the only aspect of photography that matters: composition, i.e. framing your shot in the best possible way. There must be a photography mantra that says, "thou shalt buy the D3100, and the D3100 will set you free." Now this is if you shot jpeg. If you shoot raw, you can then use a program like DXO, Aperture 3, or Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 to further play with the pictures. My workflow with the XSi was to shoot raw, then use DXO to batch process all the pics according to two settings: people (low contrast, no saturation added) and landscape (contrast, saturation, etc.). DXO would then batch-remove lens distortion, chromatic aberrations, vignetting, apply custom curves, change white balance when necessary, and apply its (almost magical) auto lighting settings to make the shots pop. For now DXO does not have a custom module for the D3100 (still too new of a camera), so I'm shooting jpeg for now. Once DXO adds the module for the D3100, I'll takes shots in both raw and jpeg fine and compare the jpegs straight out of the camera with the raw images processed with DXO. I'm curious to see the comparison.
This is great, not only for you, but also for your non-photographer spouse; my XSi took phenomenal shots, but I had to know how to set it. Can you imagine me going to my non-photographer wife and say, "okay, when you take indoor shots of our kids, set the camera on A mode (Canons expose for ambient light in A mode and adjust flash for fill, that's great), +0.7 exposure compensation, ISO 400 or 800, white balance on cloudy, and shoot." My wife was lost at "okay." Sure the custom modes on the 40D would have helped, but the 40D is old technology; can it take 1080p video? I didn't think so. Plus, what lens are you going to use with the 40D? The 17-55 IS? Great lens, but who wants to spend $1,000 for a non-weather sealed 17-55 dust collector (google Canon 17-55 and dust)? Will 17-55 be enough for your telephoto shots? Your kids' baseball games? Didn't think so. What about the Canon 18-200? Sub-par quality, noisy, overpriced.
Back to the D3100. Auto white balance (the second most important thing after composition) works great, even indoor (no cloudy setting necessary), the only changes are extreme situations (outdoor shade, or indoor fluorescent or tungsten lights at night, but that is true with every camera. Why that is is beyond me; can't they make smarter cameras that account for these situations as well?); movie mode is excellent; yes, the mic is mono, but that's okay for family use (and that's why you buy this camera; if you are pro, you landed on the wrong page); if you really want to push it, you can use this camera for video, your iphone/ipod touch for audio with an app like FourTrack, and then sync video and audio in post with the excellent Singular Software Dual Eyes program. Your choice. Matter is: DSLR video can look awesome if used the right way, but keep in mind its limitations: jerky camera horizontal panning will give you the infamous jello effect (courtesy of the CMOS sensor), so pan slowly. You'll also have to play with autofocus vs manual focus settings sometimes; I've used the camera in autofocus; it has worked great so far.
What lens(es) should you use with the D3100. You should sell the (excellent) 18-55 that ships with the camera. Quality is good, but not enough reach. You can sell it for $140 or so. Take the money and use it toward a more useful lens. What lens? The target market for this camera is moms and dads that want to take shots of their kids; even advanced amateurs like me don't want to travel with a camera bag full of primes and heavy zoom lenses that you have to swap every 10 minutes; this is 2010 (almost 2011), for crying out loud; choose a single zoom and enjoy life and photography; I would use the excellent but underrated Nikon 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR ED Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras, the excellent (but expensive) Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX ED VR Nikkor Wide-Angle Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras, or my choice, the jack-of-all trades, the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR II Nikkor Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon DX-Format Digital SLR Cameras. Yes, yes, if you check sites like Photozone, they will tell you that the optical quality of the 18-200 is not as good (or consistent) as the 18-105 or the 16-85, but it's good enough for moms and dads bitten by the photography bug. A great shot of your kid at 200mm is better than no shot with either of the other two lenses. The optical superiority of the 16-85 disappears at 135mm or 200mm, simply because it can't do it. The 16-85 and the 18-200 are about the same price. The 18-200 will set you free. It won't help you if your kids play baseball at night (too slow), but you'll have to live with it, unless you are willing to drop $2,000 on a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor Zoom Lens For Nikon Digital SLR Cameras. Sure, we'd all like a 16-300 VR VIII lens with a 20-stop VR reduction, constant 1.4 aperture, with optical perfection, weighing only 500 gr. and below $1,000, but alas our engineers are not as good as the random mutation and natural selection that gave us our eyes ;-0
Display mode: detailed photo info > check RGB histogram and data > Done (why? You want to check if you are clipping the red, green, or blue channels)
Transition effects: OFF
Set picture control: portrait (for people shots)
Landscape: for, well, landscape shots: increase sharpness to 4 (D3100 shots are unsharpened by default)
Image quality: raw + jpeg fine (or jpeg fine, if you don't want to mess with raw)
White balance: auto (I played with the settings to A1, A2, A3, but images were to yellowish for my taste, as if my kids had jaundice). Auto works fine
Auto ISO: on
Min shutter speed: 1/30 (1/15 if you have steady hands)
Max ISO: I set 800, you can push to 1600 or even 3200 (your choice)
Standard ISO: 100
Active D-Lighting: on (it works well)
Auto distortion control: on (Great)
Movie settings: 1080 24p. You can also do 720 at 30p for less jerky movements
Info display format: i prefer classic black (your choice)
Auto info display: off
Image comment: your choice. I have my name, copyright (haha), and phone number
Beep: off (please)
AEL-AFL button: I only lock exposure, not focus.
67-to-77 ring adapter (if you have the 18-105 lens)
72-to-77 ring adapter (if you have the 18-200 lens)
77mm haze filter. I use the best, The B+W 77mm UVA (Ultra Violet) Haze MRC Filter #010 one. You don't want to use a cheap fIlter on top of a $350 or $650 lens.
77mm circular polarizer fliter; again I use the best, the B + W 77mm Kaesemann Circular Polarizer Coated Glass Filter. This filter is for your travel shots. It will make blue skies bluer and will remove reflections from that gorgeous Maui ocean. This is an expensive filter at $180 or so; you don't have to get it right away, unless you are going to Maui soon.
Why 77mm filters? Because you don't want to go nuts buying filters of different sizes for your lenses. If buy the 67mm filter for your 18-105 lens and later decide to upgrade your lens to the 72mm 18-200, you are screwed. It's cheaper to buy a $5 lens ring adapter to 77mm and use 77mm filters. It'll keep you sane too.
Remember why you purchase this camera: you want to enjoy photography; enjoy it then.
on October 1, 2010
I recently updated my DSLR collection to the Nikon D3100 from the Nikon D70. There are good reviews out there that you should check out. However, I would like to share some of my first impressions.
-Better image quality and lower noise at high ISO with the D3100
-MUCH MUCH lighter, which will be nice when traveling
-Larger LCD screen
-11 focus points, including 3D focus which tracks the motion of the subject or camera.
-2nd Generation DSLR
-Quiet, quiet, quiet
-No bracketing option. Not a huge deal since I only bracket once a year
-Cannot use my old 50mm 1.8 lens. I knew this before purchasing the camera.
-As of 10/1/2010, Camera RAW for the D3100 is not supported in Photoshop or Lightroom. Need to shoot .jpg + RAW or use Nikon Capture NX2 for RAW files. That should be updated soon, so not a big deal.
-Can hear the lens focusing when recording video.
-No depth of field preview.
-Can't use wireless remote
I'm an amateur photographer and this camera meets my needs. I love the fact that it's small and light, with great quality images. If I were a serious photographer and had more money to spare, I would wait and check out the D7000, which appears to have phenomenal specs. I'm happy with my purchase and I highly recommend this camera.
on September 28, 2010
For people looking for new DSLR camera, stop, this is it. It has none of the D3000 drawbacks: Fast buffer, never overloaded. When intentionally overloaded by myself on continous shots, it will clear the buffer very fast(ADL on if you're wondering). Image sensitivity at high ISO is great acording to random reviwes, but I'm still waiting a prof test. But think about it, on Auto ISO the range goes to 3200 - WOW, and I can't see any noise. You can shoot everything with it, but you need a flash - SB 400 will do.
You can take photos from the liveview LCD screen. I shot a few movies and seem great, in focus most of the time. I don't care much about video, I have a video camera HD.
You can still set AUTO ISO from the menu and set minimum shutter speed. Downside is you cannot override the AUTO ISO in any mode including Manual. You have to change it back to off from menu and than loose time figuring out which is the best ISO/aperture/shutter speed.
For shortcomings, I have to look hard but here they are:(BTW I've been using it daily for 1 week)
1. LCD sceen has a lower resolution and one cannot see if the foto taken is slightly out of focus - bummer, but they have to save some features for the D5100.
2. No bracketing - who brackets anymore? 3 pics of each just to be 100% sure seems a waste of memory card and time (deleting the other2. We are talking about exposure bracketing, not focus bracketing BTW.)
3. ADL only on or off - lol, if you really are worried about small shadows and highlits you can always add more
ADL from the retouch menu in the camera, after you take the photo. Or on photoshop or iPhoto etc. On is plenty for the prosumer ;)
4. Easy to get image out of focus: one can change the focus point from the screen by pressing the arrows from the OK ring. You use the OK ring a lot and if the LCD screen has returned to ready to shoot position and you press the ring one more time(goof) the image now focuses to the right/left/up/down depending on what you pressed. Combined with a low resolution LCD in the hands of a beginer = out of focus images. Just pay attention.
I'm still waiting for standard high ISO tests to confirm my love for this camera. Best camera for travelers, no questions. If you want more get ready to bend your neck hauling close to 2 lbs of gear. Not me. BTW buy the 35mm 1.8 lens for low light/no flash IT BLOWS YOUR MIND.
*Update 1 year later:
I downgraded the rating from 5 to 3 stars. I have beed using my camera for one year now and I wanted to sell it.
1. Unknown to us initially there is an problem with the sensor's software: it overexposes the pictures frecvently on auto ISO, especially in difficult light situations with high contrast. Nikon's response was that it is not an error but rather they changed the algorithm which calculates exposure on purpose. They wanted a good camera for low light. What happens in practice is that on Auto ISO (which most people use) the camera will push the ISO very high even in bright sun (will do 400-1600 ISO !!). Huge issue - burnt highlights - no way to recover it (maybe bracketing is missed after all: Worse off, the problem is the same with the D7100 and to a lesser degree D5100 (acording to reviews). NIKON, NIKON...Why did you change the algorithm????????? Updates to original camera software do not fix the problem - it is not considered a problem by Nikon. My next camera will be a Cannon T2i or whatever will be available from that series. It is more expensive but now it's worth it given this exposure issue. The only solution I found,a compromise, is to limit the range of auto ISO from 100 to say 200 or 400. This pretty much makes high ISOs useless and guess what ISOs your photo's will have? The max ISO you set.
2. The LCD is moderately scratched and blurry from whear which adding to the low resolution - yep, hard to see if picture is in focus. I did not overuse the camera or abuse it. I am an amateur photographer and I wear it on my side (over shouder) or across - so there is allways rubbing with the clothes. And I'm not using the standard Nikon strap (which is too short for comfort and slides off your shouder) rather the smaller UP strap (which is great).
I didn't want to write the upadate initailly but I felt it is my responsability not to mislead but inform everyone about what I know (which is not much). Take care.
on February 23, 2011
The Nikon D3100 is an excellent entry-level DSLR. Could you pay more to get a "better" camera with "more features"? Absolutely. But why? Would you use those features? I looked long and hard at several in my research before buying - the models I considered were the Canon T2i, Canon 60D, the Nikon D90, and of course, the Nikon D3100. In the end, I decided the extra features on those other cameras were features that I likely wouldn't use. I'm interested mainly in taking lots of pictures while traveling -- pictures of clouds, landscapes, maybe some street photography. I wanted a smaller, lighter DSLR with good battery life and great image quality. The D3100 delivers on all accounts.
So what do the cameras in the next price-tier have that the D3100 doesn't? A lot of stuff that most people looking in this price range won't be concerned with. Here's a list of the "missing" things and/or "problems" with the D3100 as I found while researching my purchase:
1) Most online reviews and forums mention a problem with AutoISO and the built-in flash. When using the built-in flash in full auto, AutoISO jumps straight to the maximum ISO value, which I believe is defaulted to ISO-3200. Nikon says this is intended to get a better exposed background, fine with me. Personally, I think that ISO-3200 images out of this camera are very useable unless you're pixel peeping. If you just want to blow up an indoor portrait to an 8x10 (or even larger, I don't know!), you won't have a problem. Don't worry about it!
2) You can frequently hear the lens auto-focusing in your videos. Ok, you got me. If you're in a silent environment, yes, you will hear the autofocus motor, but if you're recording kids laughing and having a good time at the local indoor waterpark or at a parade or something, it's not loud enough where it would be a bother. If it is an annoyance, you can still shoot video with manual focus.
3) No external mic input. The D3100 is sufficient for getting a clip when you want it, you're not going to have movie quality sound. Who carries an external mic with them on vacation? If you're buying a DSLR specifically for video capabilities, you probably should be considering a dedicated camcorder anyway. For my purposes, there's nothing wrong with mono sound.
4) Lack of bracketing -- too much to explain in a review. Google it and see if you would ever use it. I can see why it would be useful, but I doubt it'd be useful for on-the-go photography.
5) Manual settings buried in menus instead of having dedicated buttons -- Most people at the entry-level probably aren't shooting full manual. The D3100 features several "scene" modes that you can use, otherwise there's always aperture or shutter priority, or even full auto. Depending on which priority you're in, the scroll wheel on the back will adjust the aperture or shutter speed. If you shoot full manual all the time, you may want dedicated buttons, meaning you should look elsewhere. If you're not in full manual, I can't see this being a problem.
6) Lack of built-in flash commander mode -- you can't trigger an off camera flash using your built-in flash. Some DSLR's have built-in flashes with this capability, the D3100 does not. For travel photography, this isn't an issue. For most at-home photography, this isn't an issue. It could be for macro photography depending how close to your subject you are, or if you have a full studio with multiple flashes setup in your basement. If you decide at a later point you want this capability, some external flashes such as the Nikon SB-700 can function as a commander. Otherwise, you can use whatever external flash you wish in conjunction with the SC-28 or SC-29 cord inthe D3100's hotshoe.
7) Perhaps the biggest potential problem with the D3100 is the lack of a built in focusing motor. This means the D3100 will not autofocus with plain AF lenses (manual still works though). Any lenses with the AF-S designation will auto-focus just fine. This can be costly though - on some of the higher-end lenses, the difference can be $600 or more between the AF and AF-S version of the same lens. Again, this comes down to "what will you use it for?" For this, I go back here: If this is a problem, you shouldn't be looking at an entry level DSLR anyway.
Nikon ships the D3100 with the 18-55mm AF-S VR lens, offers a very affordable 55-200mm AF-S VR telephoto, and my personal favorite, the 35mm f/1.8 AF-S lens. The 55-200 can be had for under $100 if you catch a sale or rebate, and the 35mm can be had for under $200. These three lenses will cover most of the needs for entry-level photographers, and all three of them auto-focus on the D3100. By the time we as amateur photographers outgrow this setup, we will know specifically what focal lengths we primarily use in order to make a more educated purchase for the expensive lenses later on. And I'm convinced, when that time comes, you'll have your eye on the latest and greatest prosumer DSLR to go with your fancy new lens anyway.
Until then, enjoy the D3100 for what it is. A great, inexpensive, entry-level DSLR, which, in my opinion, produces excellent images when in the hands of a photographer ready to learn!
on December 11, 2010
This is my first time buying a Digital SLR. I have mainly used point and shoot cameras in the past and have always had fun taking pictures. I wanted to start digital photography as a hobby so I decided to buy a nicer camera. After reading many reviews and comparisons I decided on this camera as it is the update to the Nikon D3000 that a friend of mine has. They love their camera so I figured this was a good choice. Unfortunately I have not learned enough to take many pictures off of Auto mode, so it acts like a point and shoot. Compared to my Kodak point and shoot the pictures are great. I love this camera as it does a good job of taking pictures and is not very heavy. It looks like it should be, but does not feel like it is. It appears to be a very sturdy camera.
Nikon suggests certain memory cards that they certified to use with this camera. Most of these for an 8GB card are $50 or more. I purchased two Transcend 8GB Class 10 SDHC Card (TS8GSDHC10) from Amazon and so far these have been amazing. I have the camera saving in both RAW and JPEG until I can get familiar enough to switch completely to RAW. Saving in this format is 20MB a picture and this card has no trouble keeping up.
As a first time Digital SLR buyer and user I love this camera and would highly recommend it to others. We took about 300 pictures at a Thanksgiving get together and a few other people tried the camera out and were impressed as well.
I am not a professional so please don't take my opinion as someone acting as an authority on this subject, but as a first time user I am happy and hope my review will help any other first time digital camera fans out there. Thanks.
on November 22, 2010
Part of my job, at a newspaper, is to rely on heavy cameras we have at our disposal, but when it comes to my personal stuff, I prefer to go very light. That's why for the last years I just kept ultracompact digicams with me that worked (and still work) fine fine. Recently I got some money from a gift, and decided to buy the new Nikon D3100 for taking better portraits of people in my life... to take quality pictures of what I'm used to do with my small digicams, in situations when I can comfortably carry the DSLR without worrying about the bulk. Basically, I bought this camera to use it exclusively with one or 2 prime lens I'll be buying in the near future.
After more than 1,000 shots with this camera in the last 2 weeks, I'm very glad with the purchase. This lightweight and fast device is a joy to use! Very lightweight, and great looking design.This Nikon feels great in my hands, the build quality seems sturdy and looks kind of pro even for it's smallness compared to bigger DSLRs. I love how I can set the func button to control ISO or other stuff like White Balance.
The lens included with the camera is very very sharp, so far I cannot complain. I'm amazed at the clean images I get with ISO 3200 indoors!! Wow, that's something that we couldn't say a few years ago with these cameras. I've already had pictures published in the newspaper set at those high Isos, and no problem... They look great!!
I also love the option of setting Picture Controls and Auto ISO. I usually set my camera to Portrait or Standard plus a little bit (1) of saturation.
I have already taken lots of photographs indoors without flash, portraits outside, candids indoors and outdoors, and even handed the camera to my brother (who knows nothing about operating DSLRs) for shooting parts of a concert and he got some beautiful pictures!! And that's one of my favorite things abut the camera: I can give it to other people to take pictures as a point and shoot, and they enjoy using it and taking nice photos without worrying about setting stuff.
I really don't care about video capabilities, nor liveview. I rarely use them but when I have done it, I've liked what I've seen. My only complaint is the battery, as I think it drains quickly compared with other cameras in the similar category I've seen.
So, for recording my life (and my family - friends - myself) in those moments I don't mind carrying something bigger than my ultracompact, the Nikon D3100 is perfect. I wouldn't bother to carry something bigger or heavier. This is the perfect balance.
My next buy will be the Nikkor 35mm 1.8 lens, and the small sb400 flash, that I will use all the time instead of the kit lens. I have nothing against the kit lens, but I love primes and the idea of getting the best quality possible for the least money. Then, in a few months, I may get a prime telephoto for complimenting the 35mm in the candid stuff. And that's all I think I will ever need for the rest of my life in personal photography.
I'm very very happy with my purchase, thanks Nikon!
on October 18, 2010
I bought the D3100 about a month ago after my D70 died. I write for magazines and have to include both product and outdoors photos with my articles.
Plus: The D3100 is easier to use on a tripod than the D70 because all the info is displayed on the rear LCD, not on the top of the camera where I can't see it when the tripod is set high. The light weight and small size are major plus factors for the way I work. Controls are very easy to use and quit intuitive. The NEF and fine JPG combo is nice. I suppose the live view is a plus for some people. Photo quality, when the settings are correct, was excellent. Much nicer than my D70 when using the same lens.
Minus: No remote, no grid lines, no bracketing, no Speedlight remote command mode for my 800 flash. Auto focus did not work with my 6 year-old 70~300 non-VR lens (but it works fine with my first generation 18~200 VR).
BIG minus: Nikon has a firmware problem. If I am in Program mode and if the ISO Auto to "On", in dim light conditions it uses high ISO whether or not the flash is used. The auto ISO setting does not recognize the flash. Ken Rockwell pointed this out. You have to manually set the ISO when you use flash. If you use the built-in flash for fill-flash, this ISO thing will be a real issue, just as it is when the flash is your mains source of light.
I don't care about the video capabilities, but the auto focus certainly does mess up the video's audio.
In all, I think it's a good camera with that one serious ISO/flash flaw.