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Nikon D3000 Review

Full length review of Nikon's latest entry-level DSLR by Shun Cheung, July 2009 (updated February 2011)


The D3000 is Nikon’s latest entry-level DSLR following the highly popular D40, D40x, and D60 models. It remains to be very small and light, convenient for casual photographers.

One of the main weaknesses for the D40 and D60 is the Multi-CAM 530 AF module that has only 3 AF points, which do not cover the frame very well. Nikon has solved that problem on the D3000 by applying the higher-end 11-AF-point Multi-CAM 1000 AF module, previously found on the D200, D80, D90, and D5000.

The D3000 uses 10MP CCD sensor that is similar to those on the Nikon D200, (compare prices) (review), Nikon D80, (compare prices) (review), Nikon D60, (compare prices) (review), and Nikon D40x, (compare prices) (review). Its rated ISO range is from 100 to 1600 with a Hi 1 (ISO 3200) option. Typically, one can expect good high ISO results up to one stop below the highest rated ISO (In this case one stop below 1600 is ISO 800), and still acceptable results at the maximum (ISO 1600).

Where to Buy

Photo.net’s partners have the Nikon D3000 available in a few options. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.

Key D3000 Features

  • 10MP CCD sensor, 3872×2592 pixels
  • ISO sensitivity from 100 to 1600 plus Hi 1
  • Multi-CAM 1000 AF module with 11 AF points, center point cross type
  • Large 3-inch LCD
  • Nikon EXPEED image processing
  • Nikon Active D Lighting
  • Auto sensor cleaning
  • 3 frames per second continuous capture
  • 6 scene modes: portrait, landscape, child, sports, close up and night portrait
  • New on-camera Guide Mode for quick learning
  • File formats: RAW, JPEG fine, normal, and basic, RAW + JPEG basic
  • Date/Time imprint on the JPEG images

Construction and Control Layout

A few years ago when I saw the D40 for the first time, I could not believe how small that camera was. The new D3000 is practically exactly the same size. I asked my wife and some of her women friends to hold it with the 18-55mm kit lens, including a friend’s 6-year-old daughter, and they all like it very well. However, the grip on the right side of the camera body still has sufficient thickness so that people with larger hands can feel comfortable holding these small cameras.

Because of the limited space on the camera, there is only one large 3" LCD on the back, one command dial, and a few buttons. There is no top LCD to display the frame count, aperture and shutter speed; instead, they are shown on the back LCD as well as inside the viewfinder. On the top right side of the camera, there is a dial for selecting the A, S, P, and M exposure modes and the scene modes (e.g. portrait, landscape, children, sports, macro and night). The single command dial controls both the aperture and shutter speed. In other words, the most frequently used controls are still directly available on the camera.

A lot of controls that are used less frequently such as memory card formatting, ISO selection and white balance selection are only available as menu options. In a way it is less convenient for the photographer and can slow down the operation, but it seems to be a reasonable compromise for the sake of small size and therefore limlited space on the camera. The D3000 does have one programmable function button. The user has a choice on which frequently used control to assign to that button for faster selection.

The D3000 uses separate zoom in and zoom out buttons to control the current image on display. If you keep on pressing onto the zoom out button, it will show the thumbnails of 4, 9, and 72 images; with another press, the D3000 will display a calendar for the current month and shows the thumbnail images captured in each day. If one keeps a lot of images in the memory cards for a long period, this feature makes it easy to review older images.

New 3" LCD

Naturally, the large 3" LCD dominates the back of the camera, and it is considerably larger than the 2.5" version on the D40 and D60. As a result, there is not much space for everything else. The Multi-Selection pad is now pushed to the far right and is therefore a bit too close to the edge; it is slightly less convenient but not a major problem. The D3000 3" LCD has 230K dots; it displays a nice image but not as sharp as the 920K-dot version on the high-end D3, D700 and D300/D300s bodies.

New Guide Mode

The D3000 has a new feature called the Guide Mode, which is selectable from the top Exposure Mode/Scene Mode dial. The Guide Mode has three sections:

  1. Shoot
  2. View/Delete
  3. Set up

Essentially it is an on-camera guide on how to set up the camera, e.g. ISO, white balance, file format, etc. and how to capture images either with a shallow depth of field or to freeze motion. In other words, it contains a beginner’s guide that shows you to use a large aperture to blur the background, a shutter speed around 1/200 sec to shop people motion and 1/1000 to stop vehicle motion, etc. It is convenient for early beginners, but once you learn how the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings affect the image, you can easily decide on those settings yourself.

Auto Focus

Since the D3000 uses the same Multi-CAM 1000 AF module as the D200, which I have owned since 2007, I am quite familiar with its strengths and weaknesses. On the D3000, it performs in a similar fashion. For outdoor photography under brightly lit conditions, it is very good. The Group Dynamic option is especially convenient for sports photography. However, indoors under dim light, only the center AF point that is of cross type is highly effective. If you use any one of the other 10 line type AF point, you may experience some AF “hunting” under low light.

High-ISO Results

Similar to the Nikon D200, D80, D40x, and D60, the 10MP CCD sensor Nikon uses gives good high ISO results up to about 800. If there is sufficient light, ISO 1600 is still fair, but under very dim light, the resulting image becomes noisy. You lose about 1 stop of high ISO capability compared to the newer 12MP CMOS sensor on the D300/D300s, D90 and D5000.

Date/Time Imprint

The D3000 provides a date/time imprint feature that is popular for consumers, but this option is only available if one captures JPEG only. There is no date imprint in RAW (NEF) images, not even in the JPEG from the RAW + JPEG basic option. The D3000 has an orientation sensor so that the imprint always appears on the lower right corner of the image, regardless of whether the camera is held horizontally or vertically. I even tried to hold the D3000 vertically in two ways, by rotating it 90 degrees clockwise as well as counter-clockwise from the horizontal position, and both vertical images have the date imprint in their respective lower right corner.

However, you can neither control the location of the date imprint in the image nor move it in post-processing. Therefore you need to crop the image later on, you can potentially cut into the middle of the imprint and it will look very strange.

Lenses

With a few exceptions, almost all Nikon F-mount lenses since their introduction in 1959 can be mounted onto the D3000 to capture images, including most pre-AI (Auto Indexing) lenses from before 1977. Recent 2009 statistics show that Nikon has manufactured over 50 million F-mount lenses in the last half century. However, the D3000 can only meter with modern lenses that have a built-in CPU chip to relay aperture opening electronically to the camera body. Essentially all Nikon AF lenses plus a few late manual-focus P lenses have a CPU chip in the lens. Additionally, since the D3000 body has no built-in AF motor, only Nikon AF-S (including the earlier AF-I) and equivalent third-party lenses that have an in-lens AF motor can auto focus with the D3000. Other AF and AF-D lenses that have no motor become manual-focus only on the D3000.

In the US, the D3000 is only available as a kit with the 18-55mm/f3.5-5.6 AF-S VR lens; you cannot purchase the D3000 body only. Optically this lens is good and the vibration reduction (VR) feature is a great help. The maximum aperture f5.6 on the long end is on the slow side so that a flash is pretty much required for any indoor photography. The construction is typical consumer grade with a plastic lens mount. There is no distance scale on the lens, and unlike higher-end AF-S lenses, you cannot manually override the (auto) focus when the lens is set to A (auto focus). You must manually set the lens to M (manual focus) first and the focusing ring on the front end of the lens is quite narrow.

For indoor work, Nikon now has a very affordable 35mm/f1.8 AF-S DX lens that is highly popular among consumer DSLR users. It is a fast lens that is small in size. The mostly plastic construction is adequate and its lens mount is metal. Its AF can be overridden manually without switching to manual focus. The main disadvantage is that it has a moderate amount of color fringing (chromatic aberration).

For telephoto lenses, Nikon has an affordable 55-200mm/f3.5-5.6 AF-S VR which is good optically but also on the slow side with a maximum aperture of f5.6 on the long (200mm) end. This lens also has a very consumer-grade plastic mount.

Flash Photography

The D3000 has a built-in pop-up flash that has limited power, and unlike those on higher-end models such as the D90 and D300/D300s, the D3000’s pop-up flash cannot be the Nikon CLS (Creative Lighting System) master flash to control remote slaves.

For those who use flash frequently, they are better off with an external flash. The D3000 uses Nikon iTTL flashes such as the SB-400 and SB-600. The SB-400 is a small flash that also has limited power and cannot rotate upward for bounce flash in the vertical orientation. The SB-600 is more power and more versatile; it is larger but is still quite reasonable on the D3000’s hot shoe.

There are also the more advanced SB-800 (discontinued) and SB-900 iTTL flashes, but while they are compatible with the D3000, they seem to be way too big for this small camera (especially the SB-900). See our Nikon iTTL Flash Guide for more information on Nikon flashes.

Memory Cards and Batteries

The D3000 uses SD memory cards and is SD-HC compatible. The D3000 is sold with the new EN-EL9s battery, which is interchangeable with the older EN-EL9. The new EN-EL9a is gray in color and is rated at 1080mAh, so it hold slightly more charge than the older EN-EL9: 1000mAh and black in color.

During my testing, I did not use the battery to exhaustion. After some moderate use, including plenty of image review on the LCD, there still seems to be plenty of charge left.

Nikon D3000 vs. D5000

Nikon introduced the D5000 a few months before the D3000. The D5000 represents a new class of DSLR that is still compact but has more features and options similar to the higher-end D90.

The D5000 uses a 12MP CMOS sensor and its ISO range is from 200 to 3200. Cameras with that sensor typically have a one-stop advantage over those that use the 10MP CCD sensor on the D3000. My side-by-side test among the D3000, D5000, and D700 at ISO 1600 verifies that difference. (With its 12MP FX-format sensor, the D700 is another stop better than the D5000, and that is also expected.) Additionally, the D5000 has the following extra features over the D3000:

  • Live View
  • Movie Mode
  • Swivel LCD, at a slightly smaller 2.7"
  • More Custom Settings

In summary, the D5000 provides some more advanced features for more serious photographers. For example, if one prefers to capture RAW and JPEG, on the D5000 the JPEG can be of any one of the three qualities available (fine, normal and basic). The D3000 only offers RAW and JPEG basic. The D5000 has a Custom Setting menu that is similar to those on the D3, D700, D300s and D90, although it does not have nearly as many options. The simpler D3000 does not provide that menu.

One thing to keep in mind is that the movie mode on the D5000 is very basic. It is certainly a nice additional feature to have, but the D5000 is still primarily a still-image camera.

Conclusion

Nikon has been raising the bar on their entry-level DSLRs. While the D3000 is intended to be their most affordable model, it is using a variation of the 10MP sensor and the same AF module on the D200, which was a $1699 prosumer model that was in very high demand merely a few years ago back in 2006. Meanwhile, the D3000 is conveniently small and light so that it is easy to carry around.

The D3000’s small size and affordable price lead to some compromises, mainly the lack of an on-camera AF motor and some dedicated control buttons. Most owners will only use AF-S lenses on the D3000 so that they have both metering and auto focus. Since Nikon now offers quite a few affordable AF-S lenses, this is not a major issue any more.

For consumers who are into family, travel and children sports photography and prefer a simple SLR with more lens selections, this is an excellent camera at a very reasonable price. For the more serious photographers who prefer more controls and user options, the D5000 and especially D90 should be better choices.

In the US, currently the D3000 is only available as a kit with the 18-55mm/f3.5-5.6 AF-S VR lens. You cannot purchase a new D3000 body separately. It can be an issue if you already have that particular lens or other standard wide-to-tele zoom and don’t need another one.

Features Compared: D5000, D3000, D60, and D40

Feature D5000 D3000 D60 D40
Sensor (all DX format) 4288×2848, 12MP CMOS 3872×2592, 10MP CCD 3872×2592, 10MP CCD 3008×2000, 6MP CCD
Sensitivity ISO 200-3200 + Hi 1, Lo 1 100-1600 + Hi 1 100-1600 + Hi 1 200-1600 + Hi 1
Auto Sensor Cleaning yes yes no no
Auto Focus Multi-CAM 1000, 11 AF points Multi-CAM 1000, 11 AF points Multi-CAM 530, 3 AF points Multi-CAM 530, 3 AF points
Built-in AF Motor no no no no
Shutter Speeds 30 to 1/4000 second 30 to 1/4000 second 30 to 1/4000 second 30 to 1/4000 second
Flash Sync 1/200 second 1/200 second 1/200 second 1/500 second
Viewfinder 95% 95% 95% 95%
Live View yes no no no
HD Video yes no no no
Frame Rate 4 fps 3 fps 3 fps 2.5 fps
File Format RAW, JPEG fine, normal or basic, RAW + JPEG any size RAW, JPEG fine, normal or basic, RAW + JPEG basic RAW, JPEG fine, normal or basic, RAW + JPEG basic RAW, JPEG fine, normal or basic, RAW + JPEG basic
LCD 2.7" 230K pixels, swivel 3" 230K pixels 2.5" 230K pixels 2.5" 230K pixels
Weight (w/out Battery) 560 g 485 g 475 g 475 g

Where to Buy

Photo.net’s partners have the Nikon D3000 available in a few options. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.

More


Original text ©2009 Shun Cheung.

Article revised February 2011.

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



Eric Arnold , August 03, 2009; 02:58 P.M.

thanks shun

any comment on ISO performance besides a broad generalization? seems like you're saying its about equivalent to the d80/d200 or maybe even a little worse, which would be a reversal of the usual trend with nikon cameras, as later models tend to be better in this area. then again, if the d5000 is one stop better than the d3000, that could be an incentive to get that camera for some users.

Shun Cheung , August 03, 2009; 09:29 P.M.

Please keep in mind that this is merely a "first look" review, as I have only used the D3000 for a couple of days, and I mainly used it with the 18-55mm VR lens also on loan from Nikon. That is not a lens I own myself, although its limitations are very apparent compared to the f2.8 zooms I typically use.

A major issue is that I don't have a RAW converter to open D3000 NEF files yet. Therefore, so far all the tests are based on JPEF files only.

Later on hopefully I'll run a head-to-head comparison against my D200 with the same lenses.

Bruno Vieira , August 06, 2009; 03:04 P.M.

I believe we should point out that only D40 still have the awesome 1/500s flahs sync speed.... and that's a shame!! I would love if the new cameras also had it....

Vladimir Ferdman , August 06, 2009; 07:32 P.M.

Will this camera work well with the older MF lenses? Will it meter, for example with the 50mm/1.8 AI or AIS lens in any of the modes? I think a big drawback to Nikon entry level DSLRs is that while they'll mount and shoot with the legacy glass, they will not meter with it, which makes the whole idea of compatibility of the mount moot. This is where Pentax beats Nikon hands down. Most photogs with arsenal of good legacy glass and who love shooting manual focus are left in the dust. I personally don't care if the auto-focus has 3 spots or 300, but will it meter with an old (and REALLY awesome) MF lens?

Shun Cheung , August 13, 2009; 05:17 P.M.

The 1/500 sec on the D40 is due to its electronic shutter, which is not a good thing to have. That is why Nikon is phasing that out completely. See Joseph Wisniewski's excellent explanation here: http://photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00SuYs

Emil Ems , August 18, 2009; 07:00 P.M.

The D5000 introduced an automatic three-exposure feature, with one stop over, one stop under and one normally exposed. Since the dynamic range of the sensor is limited, this is extremely useful in high contrast situations. Does the D3000 offer the same feature?

Michael Weick , August 21, 2009; 09:18 A.M.

Personally I don't care if an electronic shutter is not a "good thing" esp. if Nikon or any other manufacturer will you make believe this to sell more cameras to the uninformed. The D 40 (D50 and D 70) has the 1/500 flash sync. which makes it a more versatile camera than any other camera at the moment during sunny day light. This is better than any D3(X) or whatever.

Neil Dwyer , August 31, 2009; 04:49 P.M.

Thanks for the review. Very helpful, as I'm preparing to buy a Nikon DSLR & haven't selected the model.

Do you know if the d3000 is compatible with a Sigma 28-105, 3.8-5.6 lens? I read that the d40, 50 & 60 won't autofocus with it, but other Nikon DSLRs will.

Used that lens with my N65 and would like to on the DSLR if possible.

Shun Cheung , September 19, 2009; 12:09 P.M.

Among all Nikon digital SLRs introduced to date (September 2009), the D40, D40x, D60, D3000 and D5000 do not have a built-in auto focus motor. Therefore, unless the lens has an AF motor built-in (known as AF-S in Nikon terminology), you will have to focus the lens manually on any one of those cameras.

However, the D50 has a built-in AF motor in the camera body.

James McConnell , September 22, 2009; 02:11 P.M.

Good review for the most part, however: I just purchased the D3000 over the D5000 because, according to the Nikon Site, the D3000 is compatible with the Nikon Creative Lighting System, while the D5000 is not. It seems the main value of the D5000 over D3000 is it's ability to do movies (rather poorly) and, of course, the ever questionable "Live View" feature that is so popular on most pocket cameras. The increase in megapixels doesn't mean that much, as my 6 megapixel D70 far outperformed any 10 to 12 megapixel pocket cameras I've ever seen... Again, Thanks for the review, it helped me decide.

Shun Cheung , December 03, 2009; 09:49 A.M.

Sorry James, all Nikon DSLRs since the 2003 D2H are compatible with the Creative Lighting System (CLS), including the D5000.

Rosco Campbell , January 03, 2010; 09:59 A.M.

So much dribble in these camera reviews....so we need to know the facts on the camera's functions ok fair enough....but why can't you guys put up a load of pictures taken by the camera with a few details on the side so we can se what it can do...not just 2 or 3 but maybe 10-15 of diffrent shooting modes would be so much welcome....Rosco.

Peter Neale , September 12, 2010; 07:28 P.M.

You have stated that the D3000 will mount most pre-AI lenses, yet the manual states that it will not mount any pre-AI lenses.  Can you please clarify.

Shun Cheung , September 12, 2010; 07:57 P.M.

Peter, I suppose that Nikon officially does not want you to mount any pre-AI lenses onto the D3000, while in fact it works fine. Michael Freeman gave an excellent explanation on the Nikon Forum in the following thread: http://photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00U513

Peter Neale , September 12, 2010; 09:45 P.M.

Ah, thanks very much, Shun, for your prompt response.  The thread you have referenced explains it very clearly.  I don't yet have a D3000 (it's in the mail) and the only AF bodies I have which fit that category are the older type (D100, F75) with the switch that pushes sideways, not inwards.

But that raises another question, which might belong in a different thread: if the purpose of that mechanism is to tell the body when the lens is on minimum aperture so that the meter will work with the lens and the aperture can be changed by thumb wheel on the body, why is that post present on lenses built long before AF (Ai/Ai-S) when bodies built in the same era (F3, FM, FE, etc) didn't have that switch?

Shun Cheung , September 12, 2010; 11:05 P.M.

Peter, you need to search about Nikon's "EE Servo Coupling Post" and its functionality during the AI/AI-S era, e.g. this article: http://www.zi.ku.dk/personal/lhhansen/photo/EE.htm

 

Please keep in mind that Nikon is discontinuing the D3000; it is now replaced by the D3100: http://photo.net/equipment/nikon/D3100/preview/

Peter Neale , September 13, 2010; 06:49 A.M.

Thanks again, Shun, for your prompt and informative answer.

 

Yes, I am aware that the D3000 is about to be superseded by the D3100, but this D3000 is coming to me for an unbeatable price - $0.00.


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