Nikon D3100 Review

Nikon is mixing up the DSLR entry-level market with the new D3100: Even if the small “version jump” in the name from D3000 to D3100 only suggests marginal changes, it still has some new functions to offer. For example, a CMOS image sensor with a resolution of 14 megapixels with which the D3100 not only receives LiveView, but can also be the first entry-level DSLR to record FullHD films. Nikon has further optimized its guide system to make it easier for beginners to use.

Short evaluation

Pros

  • Extensive equipment
  • Good image quality
  • Guide mode makes it easy for beginners to get started, even if you’re a beginner
  • Extensive image processing and manipulation possibilities directly in the camera

Cons

  • Low resolution of the screen, which unfortunately is not mounted movably
  • Relatively small optical pentas mirror viewfinder
  • For a DSLR rather sluggish autofocus
  • Missing dimming function for depth of field preview

Nikon presented the D3100, a technically enhanced entry-level DSLR. FullHD video recording, guide mode for absolute beginners, 14 megapixel resolution with up to ISO 12,800 should convince the buyers. In a latecomer test, we examined whether the camera really did meet the target group’s requirements and whether the entry-level segment had to make sacrifices in image quality.

The sensor in DX format (APS-C, crop factor 1.5) should be the same as in the Sony NEX-5. Only CMOS technology allows the large sensors to have a LiveView function and to shoot both fluid and high-resolution films. The D3100 achieves 1080p, i.e. FullHD with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels resolution. Photos are even recorded with 14 megapixels, and the new sensor allows a sensitivity range from ISO 100 to 3,200, in the settings Hi1 and Hi2 even ISO 6,400 and 12,800 respectively are reached. The “old” D3000 came regularly only on maximum ISO 1.600 and ISO 3.200 in the setting Hi1. Nikon even tackled a problem of previous DSLRs with LiveView, namely the extremely slow focusing only at the push of a button. The live autofocus should now be faster and even remain permanently active in the AF-F setting and be able to follow subjects.

Nikon D3100 Review

The image processor is an Expeed2 that is even more powerful than its predecessor. For example, Nikon was able to further improve scene recognition and white balance. Using the D3100 as a “classic” DSLR, 11 autofocus sensors and a 420-pixel RGB metering sensor provide precise and fast focus and exposure capture. Nikon has also made improvements in many other areas. The image editing menu now includes more options and settings, even animated slideshows are possible. These can be displayed on a flat-screen TV, for example, using an optional HDMI cable. Even a GPS can now be connected to Nikon’s entry-level DSLR. The interface for the GP-1 was previously reserved for the D5000 and higher quality DSLRs from Nikon.

So that the user does not have to worry about dust on the sensor, the D3100 has double dust protection: The Airflow Control System works preventively to keep the draught in the camera away from the sensor by the impact of the mirror when it is triggered, so that dust cannot get there in the first place. If a particle of dust should ever make it onto the sensor protection filter, it can be shaken off. Of course, manual wet and dry cleaning is still possible. Since especially beginners are afraid of a DSLR with the many adjustment options, Nikon has further refined its guide mode. It introduces the user step by step to the correct settings for the respective motif, so that the hobby photographer is introduced to photography step by step without previous knowledge.

Nikon D3100 Review

Nikon D3100 Review

Ergonomics and workmanship

Although the Nikon D3100 is completely made of plastic, this feels quite solid and isn’t quite as plastic as the entry-level model of its biggest competitor. The finish is flawless, the design of the beginner model comes after its big sisters. The rubber coating of the handle could be a bit more handy. It is shaped for smaller hands, but you don’t feel like holding a toy in your hand that slips away immediately. The tripod thread is made of metal and sits advantageously in the optical axis and is far enough away from the battery compartment so that it remains accessible even when the tripod is used. This is even more true for the memory card compartment on the side, which can be fed with SD, SDHC and SDXC cards. The interface equipment is also luxurious, especially for an entry-level model. Although USB and TV connections are mandatory, they are just as available as an HDMI output. The crowning glory, however, is the GPS connection, which is also hidden under the large rubber flap on the left side of the case. Here Nikon plays the pioneer. A mains adapter connection can also be retrofitted, namely via a battery dummy; a battery portrait format handle, on the other hand, as usual in the entry-level class, is not available.

Nikon D3100 Review

 

Unfortunately, the optical pentas mirror viewfinder is typical for beginners: The viewfinder image is quite meager. The LiveView may comfort you a bit, but it doesn’t show all its advantages due to the lack of screen mobility. Nikon offers this only in the D5100. With a diagonal of three inches or 7.5 centimeters, respectively, the monitor is quite large, but with a resolution of 230,000 pixels, the red pencil can be felt again. So the picture looks a bit coarse on closer inspection, but one can arrange oneself with it. More resolution is only available in the higher class. Nikon, on the other hand, didn’t skimp on controls and so the D3100 is easy to adjust. Especially the menu is very extensive and modern, but the many menu items let the user search for something until the desired setting is found. It’s a good thing there’s a favorites menu. Some settings cannot be reached via direct keys, but it is convenient to jump directly to the info display to adjust certain recording parameters. Sometimes, however, the only way to get to the menu is to switch on/off the ISO automatic. The function key, which can be assigned one of four functions, is practical. The flash button not only opens the on-board flash but also allows the necessary function settings to be made.

Nikon D3100 Review

Equipment

When it comes to the range of functions of the cameras, Nikon hardly lets himself be ragged. Nevertheless, there are a few small things on which the Japanese manufacturer has applied the red pencil. Ambitious photographers and all those who are growing up on the D3100 will miss certain functions at some point. This includes, for example, the dimming function for previewing the depth of field in the optical viewfinder, but unfortunately the D3100 does not offer an exposure bracketing function either. But she takes bloody beginners excellently by the hand. The guide mode explains how to best adjust the camera to the subject through small question-and-answer games and useful hints. This way you can learn to understand the photographic parameters step by step without having to carry a manual with you all the time. If you don’t feel like it, you can also use the motif programs or the fully automatic mode.

Photographically experienced users, on the other hand, can fall back on the usual exposure programs, in which the aperture or exposure time or both can be specified. The configurable ISO automatic function is also useful, so that everyone can set the sensitivity up to which the camera can go, so that the photographer does not suffer from noise allergies later when viewing the photos. Nikon has expanded the video function, which now records in FullHD resolution. The 24 frames per second may seem cinematic, but especially with faster pans they lead to jerks. In contrast, Nikon treats the sound, which is so important for videos, as a stepmother with the D3100. A small mono microphone records the ambient noise including the noise of the autofocus, the scraping zoom or the operation of the buttons. A microphone connection is not found. Small video snapshots in respectable photographic quality may be successful, but ambitious amateur filmmakers should choose better equipment.

In image processing, on the other hand, the user can once again draw on the full potential. Nikon offers here very extensive functions in its own menu tab. They almost come close to a small Photoshop including RAW converter, because even the development of a NEF to a JPEG image is not missing. Filter effects, image montages, fast image enhancement, the correction of red eyes, image cropping, changing the resolution, raising the shadows (D-Lighting) – the list is very long.

 

Nikon D3100 Review

Elsewhere, too, the buyer benefits from having resorted to such a comprehensive system. The interchangeable lens bayonet from Nikon offers a wide range of lenses from the inexpensive entry-level model to the high-end fixed focal length. And so those for whom the quality of the simple set lens is no longer sufficient can also opt for better zooms or a fixed focal length. But be careful, because the lens should have its own autofocus motor. Nikon sacrificed the camera’s internal focus motor to the air flow control system, which is designed to keep the air turbulence of the mirror beat away from the sensor so that less dust can accumulate. In addition, the low-pass filter upstream of the sensor can be set into high-frequency oscillations, which shakes off most of the dust. Manual cleaning is also possible if sticky dirt has settled on the sensor.

Nikon D3100 Review

Nikon D3100 Review

 

Picture quality

With the 14.2-megapixel sensor, Nikon has increased the resolution by a whopping 40 percent compared to its predecessor. Whether this has a positive or negative effect on the image quality was examined in the test laboratory.

Nikon D3100 Review

The resolution of the D3100 is not only limited by the tested AF-S 18-55 mm VR lens, but also by the restrained image processing. Thus, the edge drop of the resolution remains moderate, but is still measurable even when dimmed by two steps. On the other hand, only a few artefacts can be seen in the fine image details, and the sharpening is also minimal. This makes the D3100 surprisingly unobtrusive for a beginner camera. The noise is also pleasantly low. You can use the normal range from ISO 100 to 3,200 without regret. Only with the settings Hi1 and Hi2, which correspond to ISO 6,400 and 12,800, the noise increases, but remains moderate. From ISO 1.600, however, it can be observed that the image reproduction becomes noticeably softer, which is due to the additional noise reduction.

The input dynamics remain in the good to very good range from 8.5 to 8.7 f-stops up to ISO 1,600. The eight f-stops of the ISO setting of 3,200 are also still very useful. Only then will there be more significant losses, and you have to reckon with less representable details in lights and shadows. However, the camera shows this good dynamic range by increasing the suppression of shadow noise, so that the depths become beautiful black. So you run the risk of losing details in these areas. It’s interesting that the camera has the shadows quite well under control when it comes to output dynamics. These do not run out too softly and thus a quite high-contrast picture impression remains.

The biggest sacrifices in image quality can be attributed to the 18-55mm VR lens. For example, the barrel distortion at wide-angle of a good 2.5 percent, while at medium and long focal lengths the lens draws geometric structures surprisingly neutrally. The edge darkening shows also in the wide angle with 1,5 f-stops light loss in the corners the highest value, but the course is very even and soft, so it is perceived quite naturally. The smooth gradient remains with the dipping, reaches with 0.7 f-stops even only half the value.

With JPEG compression, the D3100 offers three settings, of which the highest level with the smallest files should be avoided, because this is where compression artifacts hail. The medium compression, on the other hand, can be used when there is a lack of storage space, the highest quality level works visually even lossless. The autofocus of the set lens was somewhat sluggish in the test laboratory. It takes at least 0.7 seconds to focus in the wide-angle range and almost 0.9 seconds to focus in the telephoto range. After all, this value applies regardless of whether the weather is sunny or cloudy. The release delay of 0.11 seconds does not set a record, but is in the usual range of entry-level DSLRs.

Nikon D3100 Review

Bottom line

With the D3100 you undoubtedly have a genuine Nikon in your hand. With the exception of a few limitations, such as the missing dimming function, the missing bracketing function or the small optical viewfinder, you can photograph everything with it that even the “big” Nikons can do. Beginners don’t need to be afraid of the range of settings, as the guide mode guides them in the simplest steps to a technically flawless picture. The extensive image processing options are just as important as the rock-solid image quality. The 14 megapixels are completely sufficient and the image processing is well balanced, especially the photos are as expected low-noise. The biggest cutbacks are not caused by the camera, but by the inexpensive 18-55mm VReto lens. An upgrade with a good fixed focal length (a 50mm is not expensive), or a little more expensive a high-quality zoom, is possible afterwards however problem-free as recommendable.

All kinds of other functions have proven their worth with Nikon and can therefore also be found in the D3100. For example, active D-Lighting, which digitally brightens dark motif areas to make details visible. Numerous image enhancement functions can be set and saved for each shot. Like the D3000, the D3100 also has a 3″ (7.6 cm) screen with a resolution of 230,000 pixels. However, the pivoting capability is reserved for the D5000. The SD card slot also accepts SDHC and SDXC memory cards. The battery has changed compared to the D3100, now the EN-EL14 with 7.4 V and 1,030 mAh is used.

Fact sheet

Fact sheet
Manufacturer Nikon
Model D3100
Price approx. 490 EUR*
Sensor Resolution 14.2 megapixels
Max. Image resolution 4.608 x 3.072
(aspect ratio) (3:2)
Lens Nikon AF-S 18-55 mm 3.5-5.6 VR DX G ED
Filter threads 52 mm
Viewfinder Pentas mirrors
Field of vision 95%
Enlargement 0,8-fold
Diopter compensation -1.7 to +0.5 dpt.
LCD monitor 3″
Disbandment 230.000
rotatable
swivelling
as viewfinder yes
Video output PAL/NTSC
,HDMI
Program automation yes
Aperture priority yes
Aperture priority yes
manual exposure yes
BULB long-term exposure yes
Shooting modes
Portrait yes
Children/Babies yes
Countryside yes
Macro yes
Sports/Action yes
more 2
Exposure metering Multi-field, Centre-weighted Integral, Spot
Lightning bolt yes
Flash connection System flash shoe
Remote release yes
Interval shooting
Storage medium SD/SDHC/SDXC
Video mode yes
Size MOV
Codec H.264 AVC
Resolution (max.) 1.920 x 1.080
at frame rate 24 images/s
Sensitivity
automatic 100-12.800
(upper limit adjustable)
extended
manually ISO 100-12.800
White balance
Automatic yes
Sun yes
Clouds yes
Fluorescent lamp yes
Light bulb yes
Other Shadow, Flash
Manual yes
Autofocus
Number of measuring fields 11
AF auxiliary light whitely
Speed approx. 0.7-0.9 s
Languages Yes
more 19
One-hand operation
(zoom and shutter release)
Weight
(Ready)
520 g (body only
)780 g (with lens**)
Zoom
Zoom adjustment manual on lens
Triggering during
.Save as possible.
yes
Battery life approx. 550 pictures (acc. to CIPA)
– = “not available” or “not available
“* with lens Nikon AF-S 18-55 mm 3.5-5.6 VR DX G ED

Short evaluation

Pros

  • Extensive equipment
  • Good image quality
  • Guide mode makes it easy for beginners to get started, even if you’re a beginner
  • Extensive image processing and manipulation possibilities directly in the camera

Cons

  • Low resolution of the screen, which unfortunately is not mounted movably
  • Relatively small optical pentas mirror viewfinder
  • For a DSLR rather sluggish autofocus
  • Missing dimming function for depth of field preview

Nikon D3100 Review

Manufacturer Nikon
Model AF-S 18-55 mm 3.5-5.6 VR DX G ED
Price (UVP) 229,00 EUR
Bayonet Nikon F
Focal length range 18-55 mm
Luminous intensity (largest aperture) F3.5 to F5.6
Lens system 11 lenses in 8 group incl.
ED lens(
s)
KB full format k. A.
Number of orifice plates 7
Closest focusing distance 280 mm
Image stabilizer available yes
Autofocus available yes
Filter threads 52 mm
Dimensions (diameter x length) 73 x 79 mm
Lens weight 265 g

 

Nikon D3100 Datasheet

Electronics

Sensor CMOS sensor APS-C 23.6 x 15.8 mm (crop factor 1.5
)14.8 megapixels (physical) and 14.0 megapixels (effective)
Pixel pitch 5.2 µm
Photo resolution
4.592 x 3.056 Pixel (3:2)
Picture formats JPG, RAW
Colour depth 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.21), DCF standard
Video resolution
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 50 p
Video format
MOV (Codec n.a.)
n.a. (Codec n.a.)
Audio format (video) WAV

Lens

Lens mount
Nikon F

Focusing

Autofocus mode Phase comparison autofocus with 11 sensors
Autofocus Functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, AF Assist Light
Focus control Live view

Viewfinder and Monitor

Reflex viewfinder Reflex viewfinder (95 % image coverage), 18 mm interpupillary distance, diopter 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 Program automatic, Aperture automatic, Time automatic, Manual
Exposure compensation -5.0 to +5.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Sensitivity to light ISO 100 to ISO 3.200 (automatic
)ISO 100 to ISO 12.800 (manual)
Remote access Remote tripping
Shooting 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 more motif programs
Picture effects Blue tint, skylight, warm tone
White balance Auto, White balance bracketing, Fine tuning, Manual
Continuous shooting 3.0 frames/s at highest resolution
Self-timer Self-timer at intervals of 2 s, special features: or 10 s (optional)
Shooting functions Live histogram

Flashgun

Flash built-in flash (hinged
)flash shoe: Nikon, standard center contact
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 Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Nikon EN-EL14 (lithium ions (Li-Ion), 7.4 V, 1,030 mAh)
Playback Functions Red eye retouching, image index, shrinking
Voice memo Voice memo (WAV format)
Picture parameters Contrast, Saturation, Noise Reduction
Special functions Live view
Ports Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 2.0 High Speed
AV connectors AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D)
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod socket 1/4″
Features and Miscellaneous AF measuring range: LW -1 to LW 19AF Metering MemoryExposure Metering MemoryPlayback

ZoomHighlighting Auto
Image OrientationReal Time Noise ReductionSharpeningImaging ContrastImaging BrightnessColor SaturationColor Balance Simultaneous

recording of JPEG and RAW/NEF image files is possibleColor Space Adjustment
(sRGB-Ia, AdobeRGB-IIa, sRGB-IIIa)
D-Lighting technology for intra-camera compensation between bright and dark image areasImage parameter presetsGuide function

explains optimal shooting settingsAutomatic
sensor cleaningAirflow control system
to prevent dust accumulation on the SensorExpeed2 image processor

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 124 x 95 x 74 mm
Weight 510 g (ready for operation)

Other

included accessories Nikon AN-DC3 Storage AccessoriesNikon
BF-1B (Case Cover)
Nikon BS-1 (Hot Shoe Cover)
Nikon Capture NX SoftwareNikon
DK-20 (Eyecup)
Nikon DK-5 (Eyepiece Cover)
Nikon EG-CP16 Audio-/ Video cableNikon
EG-CP16 (old) USB cableNikon
EN-EL14 Special batteryNikon
MH-24 Charger for special batteriesNikon
UC-E17 USB cableCasing cover
BF-1A viewfinder shell
DK-5Camera software
Nikon Picture Project
optional accessory Nikon CF-DC2 BagNikon
EG-CP14 Audio / Video CableNikon
EH-5a Power SupplyNikon
EN-EL14 Special BatteryNikon
MC-DC2 Remote Cable Release Removable Memory CardUSB CableUC-E6SB-900/800/600/400
System Flash UnitsNikon System Accessories
(Flash Units, Lenses, etc.)

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