Anyone who dismisses the D3000 as a dumbed-down newbie's camera will quickly be silenced by the quality of the shots.
Even when shooting in compressed JPEG mode, we were impressed by the camera's ability to work out the correct exposure in the dullest conditions, and the Matrix metering system is very smart indeed.
Shoot in RAW (NEF) mode and you get the full benefit of uncompressed shots; the level of clarity and detail that can be retrieved is very impressive for an entry-level camera.
This camera also impressive when it comes to ISO (light sensitivity). We shot right up to ISO 1600 without digital noise becoming a serious problem, and it's very well controlled at more sensible settings like ISO 400.
ISO 400: Up to ISO 400, noise is hardly noticeable at all – great if you want to avoid using the flash for low light shots or get a faster shutter speed.
Nikon and Canon's noise-reduction technology is pretty evenly matched, but we reckon the D3000 currently delivers a better high ISO performance than the Canon EOS 1000D.
ISO 1600: Even at bonkers ISO levels, such as 1600, you can still get passable shots – you have to zoom in a bit to see any noise at all here, which is impressive for a budget SLR
The other advantage of being able to shoot at higher ISOs without fear of noise is that it enables higher shutter speeds - this will be a revelation to people graduating from a noisy, sluggish compact camera.
It's probably just as well that the ISO performance is so impressive, as we found the built-in flash pretty weedy. But of course, this is a Nikon DSLR so you can add a range of flash guns.
Guide mode: Taken with 'Soft background' on Guide mode – blurring the background while keeping the subject sharp couldn't be easier. A great optical performance for the money
Auto White Balance is pretty good for a beginner's SLR though it does tend to produce an orange cast when shooting indoors at night. Again, not a major problem if you shoot in RAW, as White Balance can be tweaked post shoot.
LANDSCAPE: The Matrix metering system delivers consistently well exposed shots and the Active D-Lighting widget helps preserve detail in tricky lighting conditions
This being a Nikon, you can also use Active D-Lighting to improve performance in high contrast situations. We struggled to see a major difference with it on or off, and it's kind of irrelevant if you shoot RAW, but still, it's another handy tool in the beginner's arsenal.
LANDSCAPE: Landscape mode in GUIDE selects a narrower aperture for greater depth of field and nicely saturates the colours in your landscape
Autofocus is available with AF-S lenses but not AF, so make sure you get the right kind as the camera lacks built-in image stabilisation.