Nikon D3000 Review

Nikon D3000 Review

Now Nikon would like to address a completely different clientele and a larger group of buyers with the D3000, which costs around 550 EUR (in a set with the AF-S 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 VR). It is available since August 2009 and offers a very compact housing with the proven 10.2 megapixel resolution CCD image sensor from Sony. It can neither generate a live nor a video image, so these “newfangled” functions are not available in the D3000. Instead, Nikon relies on a new type of guide system that takes the user by the hand like a photo textbook for beginners to optimally adjust the camera to the subject. So you select the subject on the screen and the camera makes recommendations on which exposure program is suitable, how to set it and what effect parameters such as aperture and exposure time have on it.

Brief assessment

Pros

  • Compact dimensions combined with good ergonomics
  • Despite plastic housing, it has a proper workmanship
  • Good image quality
  • Easy operation for beginners due to the guide mode

Cons

  • Relatively slow continuous shooting function
  • No video function
  • No LiveView
  • Missing dimming function and mirror pretrigger

 

The technology on the other hand is solid. A 3″ (7.6 cm) screen with a somewhat meager 230,000 pixel resolution, an 11-point autofocus, an optical viewfinder with 95% field coverage and 0.8x magnification, continuous shooting at 3 fps, and maximum ISO 1,600 sensitivity. Image processing is provided by the expeed image processor and exposure measurement by a 420-pixel RGB sensor. Nikon’s Air-Flow Control System protects against dust by guiding the air currents caused by the oscillating mirror away from the sensor when triggered. However, the camera’s internal focus motor is missing, so that – as with other entry-level cameras from Nikon – you have to rely on lenses with an integrated focus motor.

With the D3000 digital SLR camera, Nikon has its sights set primarily on beginners who neither want to spend a lot of money nor are familiar with photography, but who may want to learn it. The main focus is on the Guide mode, which explains to the user how to adjust the camera to the subject in order to take the desired pictures.

Ergonomics and Workmanship

The design of the Nikon D3000 can be described as very good. It mixes classic with slightly rounded shapes. The camera is very compact and more suitable for small hands, but the handle is easy to “grab”. The nose with the typical red application offers safety so that the camera does not slip through your hand. However, the grained rubber coating of the handle is not grained at all and makes a somewhat too smooth impression, the rest of the cabinet surface is even more grippy. The entire housing is made of plastic, which is, however, manufactured to fit perfectly and also appears quite insensitive thanks to the injection-moulded optics.

On the right side of the housing is the door of the memory card compartment, where an SD or SDHC card can be inserted. On the left, however, there is a rubber flap with only two interfaces: USB mini and video-out in the form of a jack plug. It is praiseworthy that the sockets are standard sockets; this way, one can get replacement cables at a reasonable price. The connection of a power supply unit, on the other hand, is done via a battery dummy, whose cable is led out from the side of the battery compartment. The battery compartment can be opened via the bottom of the camera, whereby it is located far enough away from the metal tripod thread arranged in the optical axis so that one can easily reach the power supply even when using a tripod. This is a Li-Ion battery with 7.2 V and 1,080 mAh, it is sufficient for a good 500 pictures according to CIPA standard measuring procedures – that’s not necessarily a lot for a DSLR, but should be enough for a motive-rich day or – when shooting economically – for a holiday week.

The operating elements are distributed quite clearly. The most striking feature is the large program dial with the usual subject programs, a fully automatic mode, the creative programs P, A, S and M (for partial or full manual exposure control) and the guide mode. This is not a travel guide, but a photo guide, which should encourage the beginner to take the camera settings into his own hands (more about this later). Furthermore, at the upper side, there is the shutter release with the practical ring-shaped on-switch, the exposure correction button and an info button.

On the left side between the flash and lens bayonet is a button to unlock and adjust the flash and the programmable Fn button. Finally, on the back side, there are four buttons at the left side of the screen, underneath which are the menu as well as the playback button, at the right side there is the wastebasket for deleting as well as the 4-way rocker with a central confirmation button. The rear, brilliant screen measures a proud 3″ (7.6 cm) diagonally, but has a resolution of only a meagre 230,000 pixels. It plays a central role in camera operation, but cannot be used for a live viewfinder image. It also serves as an information display, as the D3000 does not have a dedicated display like its bigger sister Nikon D300. The displayed parameters can be conveniently jumped to directly with the cursor to change them without having to go through the menu. It is useful that the display automatically rotates to landscape format.

The menu, on the other hand, is easy to read, but offers many options. On the left side of the screen, a tab indicates which menu you are in – recording, playback, system settings or image editing. In addition, there is a practical “last settings” menu which – as the name suggests – automatically provides the last menu items called up. The individual menus have different numbers of menu items that must be scrolled through vertically.

Since the Nikon D3000 does not have LiveView, the viewfinder is the only way to compose the image. So in that respect the D3000 is very classic. It’s a pity that it’s not too big, but for entry-level cameras it’s quite a common level. The optionally fade-in grid, which is also known from higher-quality Nikon DSLRs, is welcome. The information displayed below the viewfinder is limited to the most basic information: shutter speed, exposure compensation, aperture, remaining memory capacity of the memory card in images. The currently selected recording program is missing as well as the sensitivity selected by the camera in ISO auto.

Equipment

In general, ISO automation is a topic in itself. The operating logic is completely confused. In auto shooting and subject programs, you can choose between a sensitivity setting (ISO 100 – 1600 and HI equivalent to ISO 3,200) and automatic mode. In the programs P, A and S, on the other hand, the sensitivity setting in direct access only offers the manual values – even if the automatic function that can only be activated in the menu is set. The manually selected value then has no effect. In the menu, on the other hand, you can configure the automatic system to a great extent: Both the maximum value and the shutter speed at which the sensitivity is increased can be set. So you have quite good control.

This also applies to the flash settings. The integrated light dispenser has an astonishingly high guide number of around 13.5 (according to our measurement) and jumps up high enough to avoid shadows cast by lenses (without lens shade) and to minimize the occurrence of red eyes. In auto mode, the flash pops up automatically when needed, but can also be activated manually at the touch of a button. Pressing and holding this button, the thumbwheel can be used to select the flash program. With pre-flash to reduce red-eye, a long time sync to capture ambient light or flash on the second shutter curtain for special effects, nothing is missing. Even power levels can be selected manually (1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 and 1/32). If, in addition to pressing the flash button, you also press the exposure-compensation button on the top of the camera with your left index finger, the flash output can be corrected in the range +1 to -3 EV with the thumbwheel. If the internal flash is too weak for you, you can use external system flashes from the extensive Nikon program, but also simple center contact flashes work (with automatic or manual adjustment).

But you are brought back to the bottom of the “beginner stuff” quite quickly. Professional, important classic functions such as mirror lock-up or dimming button are completely missing. This means that the photographer does not get visual information about the depth of field when the aperture is closed, nor can he or she reduce the vibration caused by the mirror impact during long exposures (e.g. from a tripod). It is commendable that at least the self-timer lead time can be selected between 2, 5, 10 and 20 seconds – but the mirror always goes up just before the exposure. Just as well, at best, is the serial image speed. Five consecutive images at 2.9 frames per second do not even attract newcomers behind the stove. If one chooses the RAW-format, it is already finished after four images. The “continuous shooting” can hardly be described as such – with both JPEG and RAW it is only 0.35 fps, or in other words: about one image every three seconds. Even without the continuous shooting function, the camera quickly starts to sweat with many manual releases in short sequences and/or cannot be released when you want.

Nikon has obviously put more effort into the introduction of beginners to photography. There is not only a help function that shows explanations in many places but also an extensive user guidance by means of question-answer games that Nikon has named “guide mode”. This is really a great help for beginners who want to get into creative photography with manual setting of aperture, exposure time and other important parameters without reading a photo book. Even those who like to pick up a book, which is recommendable anyway, receive important information exactly when they cannot look it up or need a reminder. The settings in the depths of the camera menus are also explained in a clear manner. This mode offers even bloody beginners the chance to discover a kind of photography that is a lot of fun, especially since failed attempts at digital recording don’t cost a “lesson” in the form of wasted film and possibly prints.

Many other functions help the photographer to optimally adjust and process images while still in the camera. For example, the orientation sensor ensures that the D3000 stores in the image whether it was shot in portrait or landscape mode and rotates it accordingly during playback. Unfortunately, the playback image is not adapted to the current camera rotation, as Olympus does. The photographer can already optimize the image during the shooting. Various configurable image options ensure that contrast, color, etc. can be customized – including a black-and-white mode. Active D-Lighting, on the other hand, helps to make more details visible in the shadows. However, there is only one automatic setting, the photographer has no influence on the strength.

The image processing possibilities in the camera are so extensive that Nikon has long since given them their own menu. Here you can adjust pictures to your own taste after taking them. The edited images are saved in a new file. For example, retouching red eyes caused by flash photography is possible, but also brightening up the images by means of D-Lighting, whereby three levels including preview are available. The menu contains a total of 13 items, the individual options themselves include many setting options. Image cropping, image reduction, RAW processing, automatic optimization, color adjustment, filter effects etc. – there an image editing program becomes almost superfluous, unless you want more complex editing. The Nikon can even do a picture montage (superimposition of two pictures).

Lens

As a system camera, the D3000 offers a huge selection of connectable lenses with the F bayonet, mechanically unchanged since 1977. Electronically, there are limitations in lens compatibility: the camera has no built-in focus motor, so if the lens does not have one either, manual focusing is required. Here, the buyer should definitely pay attention, as there are also quite new lenses without a built-in focus motor. The space in the camera is required for the air flow system instead of a focus motor. Special “ventilation slots” are designed to ensure that the airflow in the camera caused by the mirror impact is not directed towards the sensor when the shutter is released, so that less dust gets on the sensor. If some does get stuck, the cleaning system that is supposed to shake the dust from the sensor might help. It is also possible to fold up the mirror and open the shutter for manual mechanical sensor cleaning. Somewhat unusual about the Nikon bayonet is that you have to turn the lens clockwise to remove it – i.e. exactly in the “wrong” direction and the other way around, as it is the case with other camera manufacturers.

The set lens AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 G DX VR was available for testing. The DX in the name indicates that the lens is designed for APS-C sensors (as in the D3000). In the diagonal, the sensor is approximately 1,5 times smaller than a classic 35mm film, by the same factor, one has to extend the focal length in order to get the focal lengths that are usual in the 35mm film. Accordingly, the 18-55 mm is roughly equivalent to a 28-85 mm 35 mm lens. From wide angle to light telephoto or portrait focal length, everything is covered. Mechanically, the lens does not make a high-quality impression. The bayonet is made of plastic and the focus ring is extremely narrow. Since it requires only about 1/8 of a turn from the near limit (28 cm from the sensor level) to infinity and also has no distance scale, manual focusing is almost a feat. The front lens that rotates with the lens prevents the sensible use of graduated or polarizing filters. The lens is quite nice to get started with, but you will have more fun with a higher quality lens.

The change from manual to autofocus is made by a switch on the lens. Automatically it focuses thanks to an ultrasonic motor, although slightly squeaking, quite quietly, but with 0.67 to 0.81 s (laboratory measurement) not very fast. This is much faster with better lenses. The greatest trump card of the set lens is certainly the optical image stabilizer. It is switched on and off at the lens and effectively compensates for camera shake. It also ensures a steady viewfinder image, which even benefits the autofocus. This works well even in low light, but if it gets too dark, the camera can switch on a white AF auxiliary light that is built into the camera. It is quite bright and not very discreet, but can be deactivated via menu. In any case, it is positive to note that there is no “thunderstorm of flashes” used as an AF auxiliary light as most competitors do.

Hidden in the menu is the continuous autofocus, which tracks subjects and always keeps the focus point. For this purpose, it is best to choose the automatic focus point selection, as together with the light meter, the camera can see quite well where the main motive is moving to. However, it is also possible to select each of the eleven measuring points manually. If you prefer to focus manually, you can turn the exposure balance in the viewfinder into a “focus balance” – it shows if the focus is according to the metering sensors and in which direction you should turn if it is not.

Image quality

To measure the camera’s performance in terms of photo image quality, we test it in practice and with the test software. In addition to the 18-55mm set lens, the 60mm macro was also measured there. Especially the optically very good macro lenses are a good basis for the performance comparison of different cameras.

The Nikon D3000 uses a fairly old 10.2 megapixel CCD from Sony. But this does not have to be a disadvantage, because the sensor is fully developed and has proven itself. The relatively low resolution for DSLRs in the meantime also ensures that the 18-55mm set lens does not show any major resolution weaknesses. The resolution is good in all three measured focal lengths in the center of the image, both faded in and faded out, the existing edge fall-off is kept within limits and changes only insignificantly due to fading. Fine image details are not processed too aggressively, so that only a few artifacts are visible on fine structures – but this is also due to the low optical modulation. Higher resolution lenses also produce more moirés. The sharpness is almost too low for an entry-level camera, so that edges are reproduced somewhat softly. Thereby, one does not have to fear any double contours or white clipping even in case of high-contrast edges and large poster printouts.

There is also hardly anything to complain about at the edge darkening for a set lens. With an open aperture it is about one f-stop, but the gradient is so soft that the darker corners are hardly noticeable. When dimmed, the edge darkening even falls below 0.5 f-stops. The distortion is less to praise. At wide angle it is visibly barrel-shaped, i.e. architecture and landscape photos are shown with unsightly curved lines towards the edge of the picture. But the strength is definitely on a level with similar lenses. Distortion is measurable at medium and long focal length, but it is hardly noticeable.

The noise shows a fairly smooth increase from ISO 100 to 3,200. The higher the sensitivity, the more noise reduction hits the fine details without completely suppressing the noise. Up to ISO 400, the camera can be used well, but at ISO 800 at the latest, the brightness noise becomes increasingly noticeable, which becomes aggressive from ISO 1,600 on. At ISO 3.200, there is also spotty color noise, which fortunately is not visible at all other sensitivities. The noise is most pronounced in the darker parts of the image, while lighter tones such as the sky and skin, like the deepest shadows, are spared.

As the noise increases, the input dynamics decrease. Only at ISO 100 does it reach a respectable value with 8.8 f-stops, but at ISO 400 it already goes down to 8 f-stops and then drops further to 6.3 f-stops at ISO 3.200. High-contrast scenes are therefore best shot at ISO 100, ISO 200 is still OK, at ISO 400 the lights are more likely to fade out and shadows hardly show any detail. In contrast, the tonal value reproduction is astonishingly linear, with only highlights and shadows reproduced somewhat softer. So up to ISO 400, the D3000 can be said to reproduce a very natural image without major image distortion or other limitations.

Of the three compression levels offered in JPEG, the highest should be avoided at all costs, as it simply compresses the images to a broken state and litters them with block artifacts. The lowest and middle levels, on the other hand, can be used without hesitation. As usual, the light metering works reliably, which is also generally true for the white balance. Some may find the slight orange-red color cast by incandescent light and candlelight natural, but those who do not share this opinion can resort to a preset or manual adjustment.

Conclusion

The concept of the Nikon D3000 is especially appealing to the beginner who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money. The Guide mode takes him by the hand and explains how creative photography works in the first place – a built-in photo textbook, so to speak. Comprehensive image processing options are also integrated. The equipment regarding the photographic options, however, leaves a lot to be desired. You have to do without basic functions such as mirror lock-up and dimming button as well as LiveView and a fast working speed. The flash settings, however, are very comprehensive. However, autofocus and continuous shooting speed can be considered outdated. The good image quality is comforting, but it can be increased with a better lens.

Profile

Profile
Manufacturer Nikon
Model D3000
Price approx. EUR 450** at market launch
Sensor Resolution 10.2 megapixels
Max. Image resolution 3.872 x 2.592
(aspect ratio) (3:2)
Lens Nikon AF-S 18-55 mm 3.5-5.6 VR DX G ED
Filter thread 52 mm
Viewfinder Pentas Mirror
Field of view 95%
Enlargement 0,8-fold
Dioptre compensation -1.7 to +0.5 dpt.
LCD monitor 3″
Resolution 230.000
rotatable
swiveling
as viewfinder
Video output PAL/NTSC
as viewfinder
Automatic programming yes
Automatic aperture control yes
Automatic timer yes
manual exposure yes
BULB long time exposure yes
Scene modes
Portrait yes
Children/baby yes
Landscape yes
Macro yes
Sports/action yes
further 2
Exposure metering Multi-field, centre-weighted Integral, Spot
Flash yes
Guide number 13.5 (measurement)
Flash connection System hot shoe
Remote release Infrared
Interval recording
Storage medium SD/SDHC
Video mode
Format
Codec
Resolution (max.)
Frame rate (max.)
Sensitivity
automatically ISO 100-1.600
(adjustable)
manually ISO 100-3,200
White balance
Automatic yes
Sun yes
Clouds yes
Fluorescent lamp yes
Incandescent lamp yes
Miscellaneous Shadow, Flash, WB Fine Correction
Manually yes
Autofocus
Number of measurement fields 11
AF auxiliary light glaring white
Speed < 0,6-0,8 s
Languages English
Additional languages 16 other languages
Switch-on time approx. 2.4 s (with sensor cleaning)
One-hand operation
(zoom and shutter release)
Weight
(Ready for operation)
536 g (body only
)800 g (with lens**)
Continuous shooting function*
Number of serial images 5 (JPEG
)4 (RAW)
Frequency
(frames/s
)
2.9 (JPEG
)2.9 (RAW)
Continuous run
(images/s)
0.35 (JPEG
)0.35 (RAW)
with flash
Zoom
Zoom adjustment at the lens
Zoom levels infinitely variable
Time WW to Tele
Memory speeds*
JPEG 2.8 s (3.9 MByte)
RAW 3.2 s (8.8 MByte)
Trip during
.Saving possible.
yes
Battery life approx. 500 pictures (according to CIPA)
– = “not applicable
“* with SanDisk 8 GBytes Extreme III 30 MS/s-Edition SDHC memory card**
with Nikon AF-S 18-55 mm lens 3.5-5.6 VR DX G ED

Brief assessment

Pros

  • Compact dimensions combined with good ergonomics
  • Despite plastic housing, it has a proper workmanship
  • Good image quality
  • Easy operation for beginners due to the Guide Mode

Cons

  • Relatively slow continuous shooting function
  • No video function
  • No LiveView
  • Missing dimming function and mirror pretrigger

Nikon D3000 data sheet

Electronics

Sensor CCD sensor APS-C 23.6 x 15.8 mm (crop factor 1.5
)10.8 megapixels (physical) and 10.2 megapixels (effective)
Pixelpitch 6,0 µm
Photo resolution
3.872 x 2.592 pixels (3:2)
2.896 x 1.944 pixels (3:2)
1.936 x 1.296 pixels (3:2)
Image formats JPG, RAW
Color depth 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.21), DCF standard

Lens

Lens mount
Nikon F

Focus

Autofocus mode Phase comparison autofocus with 11 sensors
Autofocus functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, AF Assist Light

Viewfinder and monitor

SLR viewfinder Reflex viewfinder (mirror viewfinder) (95 % image coverage), 18 mm eye relief, dioptre compensation (-1.7 to +0.5 dpt), replaceable focusing screens
Monitor 3.0″ TFT LCD monitor with 230,000 pixels

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 420 fields, spot measurement (measurement over 3 % of the image field)
Exposure times 1/4,000 to 30 s (Automatic
) Bulb function
Exposure control Programmed automatic, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual
Exposure bracketing function Exposure bracketing function with a maximum of 3 shots, step size from 1/3 to 1/2 EV
Exposure Compensation -5.0 to +5.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Photosensitivity ISO 100 to ISO 1,600 (automatic
)ISO 100 to ISO 3,200 (manual)
Remote access Remote triggering
Scene modes Flowers, twilight, various motif programs, candlelight, children, landscape, night landscape, night portrait, close-up, party, portrait, sunset, food, sports/action, beach/snow, animals, fully automatic, 1 additional scene mode program
Picture effects Blue tint, skylight, warm tint
White balance Auto, White balance bracket, Fine tuning, Manual
Continuous shooting 3.0 frames/s at highest resolution
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 or 20 s interval, special features: (manually adjustable)
Recording functions Live histogram

Flashgun

Flash built-in flash (flip up
)Flash shoe: Nikon, standard center contact
Flash code Guide number 12 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto, fill-flash, flash on, flash off, slow sync, flash on second shutter curtain, red-eye reduction

Equipment

Image stabilizer no optical image stabilizer
Memory
SD
Power supply unit Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Nikon EN-EL9a (Lithium ion (Li-Ion), 7.4 V, 1,100 mAh)
Playback functions Red eye retouching, image index, reduction
Image parameters Contrast, color saturation, noise reduction
Connections Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 2.0 High Speed
AV Connections AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D)
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod thread 1/4″
Special features and miscellaneous AF range: LW -1 to LW 19AF metering memoryExposure metering memoryPlayback zoomHighlighted

highlightsAuto
image orientationReal-time noise reductionFAT

16/32 supportSharp drawingImage contrastImage brightnessColor saturationColor balance Simultaneous

recording of JPEG and RAW/NEF image files is possibleColor space setting
(sRGB-Ia, AdobeRGB-IIa, sRGB-IIIa)
D-Lighting technology for in-camera compensation between bright and dark areas of the imagePicture parameter presetsGuide function

explains the optimal shooting settings

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 126 x 97 x 64 mm
Weight 550 g (ready for operation)

Miscellaneous

standard accessory Nikon BS-1 (hot shoe cover
)Nikon Capture NX SoftwareNikon
DK-5 (eyepiece cover)
Nikon EG-D100 Video headNikon
EN-EL9a Special battery packNikon
MH-23 Charger for special batteriesNikon
UC-E4 USB cableShoulder strap
AN-DC2Camera software
Nikon Picture Project
additional accessories Nikon EN-EL9a Special BatteryNikon
EP-5 Power SupplyNikon
ML-L3 IR (Infrared Remote Control)
Nikon ML-L4 (Infrared Remote Control)

 

Previous articleOlympus E-PL1 Review
Next articleFujifilm X Pro1 Review
Peter Dench
I am Peter Dench. Digital Photographer, born in London 1972, currently living in Deerfield, near Chicago. I have numerous photography expositions and also working in model photography. In this website, PhotoPoint, I usually review cameras provided by local dealers in Illinois and by the manufacturers. Sometimes I, Peter Dench, review lenses too, but only when I have a suitable camera for them. Please let me know in the comments if I can improve any of these articles.