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Nikon D3100 Preview

by Shun Cheung, August 2010 (updated March 2011)


In the last several years, Nikon has been updating their 10MP, entry-level DSLR on an annual basis. In the past, the D40X, D60, and D3000 all share a version of the 10MP CCD sensor that was also used on the D200 and D80, but there have been some significant improvements such as the AF system. The D3100, the model for 2010, has a new 14MP sensor and can capture video:

  • The new sensor is a 14.2MP COMS with an ISO range from 100 to 3200, with extended Hi 1 (ISO 6400 equivalent) and Hi 2 (ISO 12800 equivalent) settings.
  • AF system remains with the 11-AF-point Multi-CAM 1000 module, same as the D3000, D5000, D80, D90 and D200.
  • Large 3" LCD for menu and image display, similar to the D3000
  • The D3100 is the first entry-level Nikon DSLR with video capture capability. It is also the first Nikon DSLR that can capture full 1080P HD video instead of 720P. Video recording time can be as long as 10 minutes, up from 5 minutes on the previous DSLRs.
    The D3100 has full-time contrast based AF during video capture (and live view mode).
  • Along with video comes with live view for still-image capture. There is a dedicated button to engage live view.
  • Face-Detection technology can lock focus on up to 35 human faces
  • HDMI output for still image and video display on HD television
  • Compatible with SDXC memory cards that have over 32G of storage space. Also compatible with Eye-Fi memory cards for wireless image transfer to computers.
  • Quiet shutter mode
  • Shutter rated for 100K actuations
  • Enhanced Guide Mode with step-by-step instructions to help new photographers use the powerful features
  • The D3100 uses a new EN-EL14 battery, which is not compatible with the previous EN-EL9/EN-EL9a for the D40, D3000, and D5000.

Where to Buy

Photo.net’s partners have the Nikon D3100 available. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.

All in all, while there are only some moderate improvements over the previous D3000 concerning still-image photography, such as an extra 4MP and one more stop of high-ISO capability, the D3100 has a lot of enhanced video features; in some ways it is even better than those on the D3S and D300S. The previous model the D3000 cannot capture video and is now discontinued. With the D3100 replacing the D3000, except for the D3X and D700, all other current Nikon DSLRs can capture video.

The D3100 is priced a little below the Nikon D5000, 18-55 kit, (compare prices) (review) with the same 18-55mm AF-S VR lens. However, at least on paper, the D3100 has considerably stronger features but no swivel LCD screen. Between the two, the new D3100 seems to be the clear choice.

New 55-300mm/f4.5-5.6 AF-S VRII Lens

Nikon is also adding a new DX lens: the 55-300mm/f4.5-5.6 AF-S VRII. It has 17 elements in 11 groups, weights 18.7oz/530g and uses 58mm filters. The price in the US is $399.95. The 55-300 does not have nano coating. This new lens seems to be a cross between the common 55-200mm AF-S VR DX and the 70-300mm AF-S VR FX. Essentially it extends the zoom range of the popular 55-200 by another 100mm on the long end and almost doubles the price.

Where to Buy

Photo.net’s partners have the Nikon 55-300 f/4.5-5.6 AF-S VRII available. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.

Official Nikon Press Release

MELVILLE, N.Y. (AUGUST 19, 2010) — The new Nikon D3100 digital SLR camera speaks to the growing ranks of enthusiastic D-SLR users and aspiring photographers by providing an easy-to-use and affordable entrance to the world of Nikon D-SLR’s. The 14.2-megapixel D3100 has powerful features, such as the enhanced Guide Mode that makes it easy to unleash creative potential and capture memories with still images and full HD video. Like having a personal photo tutor at your fingertips, this unique feature provides a simple graphical interface on the camera’s LCD that guides users by suggesting and/or adjusting camera settings to achieve the desired end result images. The D3100 is also the world’s first D-SLR to introduce full time auto focus (AF) in Live View and D-Movie mode and to effortlessly achieve the critical focus needed when shooting full HD 1080p video.

Packed into the compact and lightweight body of the D3100 camera is a host of advanced Nikon technologies, such as the new EXPEED 2 image processing engine. EXPEED 2 in conjunction with Nikon’s new 14.2 megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor is the driving force behind the enhanced performance and rich image quality. Ready to go wherever life leads, the D3100 features split second shutter response and a blazing fast 11-point AF system to help ensure tack-sharp images. For shooting in challenging lighting conditions, ISO 3200 (expandable to 12,800) enables versatility in environments such as indoors or in the evening hours.

“People are stepping up to digital SLR cameras – consumers are embracing the enhanced performance, amazing image quality and options for lenses and accessories that only a D-SLR can provide,” said Lisa Osorio, general manager of Marketing at Nikon Inc. “The D3100 is a camera that makes it easy to take beautiful pictures and will grow with the user, unlocking their potential and assisting in creating lasting memories or amazing art.”

Get Inspired With The Guide Mode

Whether new to D-SLR photography or exploring new shooting techniques, the D3100 features an enhanced Guide Mode with an easy-to-use interface to help customers build confidence in using their D-SLR through on-demand, step-by-step assistance. A stand out feature in the D3100’s predecessor, the D3000, the Guide Mode is easily accessed through the Mode Dial on the top of the camera. This enhanced help function now features sample assist images that change with camera settings to inspire consumers to achieve a desired look and feel to their images, while guiding through easy to understand photographic techniques. For example, to instill the majestic appearance of moving water, users can select “show water flowing” from the Guide Mode, and simply follow the prompts to create the ideal camera settings to capture an amazing image.

By following the guidance on the bright 3-inch LCD screen, users can achieve professional looking photographs to be proud of. Whether looking to soften backgrounds, freeze a moment in time or convey motion, the Guide Mode assists users in exploring effective picture taking solutions at their own pace to make capturing great pictures even easier and enjoyable.

Full HD Video Made Easy with D-Movie

The Nikon D3100 D-SLR allows users to capture stunning Full HD, 1080p resolution (1920×1080) movies. Users can record cinematic quality 24p video clips, or shoot at 24 or 30 fps at 720p, ideal for sharing online. By incorporating versatile NIKKOR lenses to the equation, users can now create a variety of photography effects to video such as isolating subjects with a shallow depth of field, and recording in low light conditions. NIKKOR lenses also deliver the sharpness needed for HD video, and Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR) II technology helps to eliminate camera shake.

While Nikon pioneered HD video in a D-SLR, Nikon is now introducing another industry first to enrich the user experience: The D3100 is the first D-SLR to implement full time AF for D-Movie video shooting and while in Live View mode. Using contrast based AF, the D3100 automatically focuses on
subjects when Live View is activated to aid shooting when using the LCD. The D3100 camera also uses Face Detection technology to lock focus on up
to 35 human faces, a feat not even accomplished with consumer camcorders. To further simplify movie shooting, Live View is activated at a single
flick of a dedicated switch, and HD video recording is achieved by a simple press of a button.

Sharing and editing video clips is also easier than ever, as the D3100 records movies in the versatile H.264 AVCHD codec (.mov file). While playing movies back in the camera, users are able to edit recorded videos by clipping footage from the beginning or end of a movie. High Definition movies and stills can be shared with family and friends on an HD television via HDMI output, and control slideshows and video using the HDMI Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) interface that is a part of most modern remote controls from HDTV manufacturers. Additionally, the D3100 is compatible with the new SDXC memory card format to store large amounts of photo and video data so users can shoot multiple scenes without interruption.

Renowned Nikon Technology

The D3100 leverages proven Nikon technologies to create the most positive picture taking experience for consumers of any skill level. With its new 14.2-megapixel CMOS image sensor and Nikon’s new EXPEED 2 image processing system, the D3100 delivers exceptional image quality with low noise. The new EXPEED 2 image-processing engine enhances camera performance and helps to ensure brilliant image quality while managing color, contrast, exposure, noise and speed for optimal results. The D3100’s normal ISO range extends from ISO 100 to 3200, allowing users to capture stunning images, even in low light environments. Additionally, the D3100’s ISO range can expand to a Hi-2 setting of ISO 12,800, furthering the opportunities for low-light shots that other cameras miss.

Other exclusive Nikon technologies include the Active D-Lighting system, which automatically rescues dark or backlit images to help create flattering images with even tones. This is especially useful when photographing subjects that are backlit by the sun or lights to provide an even exposure.

What’s more, Nikon’s Scene Recognition system draws upon the 420-pixel RGB color 3D Matrix Meter for outstanding exposures under a variety of lighting conditions by integrating a database of tens of thousands of sample images. The result is a camera intelligent enough to recognize when photographing a specific scene such as a portrait or landscape and automatically choose the proper camera settings.

To make taking great pictures even easier, the D3100 elevates Nikon COOLPIX technology and incorporates an Auto Scene Selector feature in Live View. This innovative function automatically selects the best scene mode to match shooting conditions. When engaged, the camera will automatically recognize when shooting a lush landscape or fast action sports and adjust the camera settings to create an astounding image. Six preset scene modes
can also be accessed with the Mode Dial on top of the camera to overcome many common shooting challenges.

Compact Design. Huge Performance.

With comfortable yet intelligent ergonomics, the D3100 packs powerful technology that’s easy to use into a compact form factor. The advanced 11-point autofocus system of the D3100 makes it easy to find and focus on a subject through an enhanced viewfinder design with new “hollow” focus points to give a clear view of the subject.

In the playing field or the backyard, the benefits of Nikon’s advanced 3D Subject Tracking become clear, as the camera continuously focuses on fast moving subjects throughout the frame, resulting in crisp, clear action shots. Additionally, the D3100 offers split-second shutter response, eliminating the frustration of shutter lag – the annoying delay that ruins so many pictures. With the ability to capture images at up to three frames-per-second, users never miss a moment.

Also added to the D3100 is a Quiet Shutter Release mode, which substantially reduces the sound of the mirror while shooting. Quickly accessed by selecting “Q” on the release mode dial, this feature is ideal for the photographer who wishes to remain unobtrusive, for example during quiet ceremonies or photographing a sleeping baby.

Nikon also empowers users to prepare their photos for sharing quickly and easily using Nikon’s extensive in-camera Retouch Menu, which easily applies a variety of fun and dramatic effects to images without a computer. Fun and easy-to-use adjustments include a miniature effect to photos, image overlay, color outline and softening filters for flattering portraits and realistic skin tones.

The D3100 also incorporates Nikon’s Integrated Dust Reduction System, which offers a comprehensive solution that combats the accumulation of image-degrading dust from the camera’s image sensor. The shutter is tested to 100,000 cycles for maximum durability, ensuring years of captured memories.

Gateway to Legendary NIKKOR Optics and Accessories

Nikon has also introduced the ideal companion to the D3100, the brand new AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm VR lens, gives users super-telephoto zoom capability for an affordable price. This is a perfect complimentary lens when combined with the AF-S
18-55mm VR kit lens, and is great for capturing images of sports and wildlife around town or on vacation. Photographers can also appreciate the D3100’s system expandability, as it is compatible with more than 40 legendary NIKKOR AF-S interchangeable lenses. While the D3100 offers a versatile
built-in flash, the camera also operates with Nikon’s Creative Lighting System and is capable of Advanced Wireless Lighting when using the SB-900
Speedlight or the SU-800 Wireless Commander. The D3100 D-SLR’s design also supports Eye-Fi memory card functionality, enabling the convenient wireless transfer of images from the camera to a computer, when using Eye-Fi memory cards. Also included is a new version of Nikon’s powerful image editing application, View NX2. The latest edition of this software allows users to organize and edit both photos and video files easily.

Where to Buy

Photo.net’s partners have the Nikon D3100 and 55-300 lens available. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.


Text and photos © 2013 Shun Cheung.

Article revised March 2011.

Readers' Comments


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Tomek Gooseberry , September 01, 2010; 11:02 P.M.

dpreview...

ARTURO ALMANZA , September 17, 2010; 01:15 A.M.

Why this people of Nikon change the swivel LCD? now Canon Change and put the swivel LCD in the 60d (uf a little bit late)

 
I dont´t understand this error on design,,,,, perhaps they never need too shoot in the road with a hot concret or desire to shoot low or high.... they never hear the story of  Greg Toland who broke the floor an obtain a low shoot of Citizen Kane....
Ilogical design

Bill Force , September 30, 2010; 04:18 P.M.

I believe that after a market survey by Nikon that it was more desireable to the buying public that they provide and excellent 3" fixed screen rather than an articulated screen that no one wants or uses but only adds to the overall manufacturing cost.  They build for the masses and build what sells best.


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