Nikon D3100 review

Nikon's 14.2MP D3100 is a great choice for novices and those on a budget

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Nikon d3100 3

Typical of a smallish DSLR, direct-access controls are kept to a space-saving minimum, but the usual suspects for exposure compensation, drive mode, menu, play, delete, and a 4-way thumb pad are all present and correct.

The main mode dial features the ubiquitous full Auto mode, as well as PASM and various scene modes including Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close-up and Night Portrait. You also get a Guide mode, which builds on the innovative system incorporated into the original Nikon D3000.

Nikon d3100 pasm

The Guide interface is split into three main areas of Shoot, View/delete and Set-up. In Shoot, for example, you can opt for Easy or Advanced operation for help with setting up shooting modes for softening backgrounds, freezing the motion of people or vehicles and more besides, and there's also information about timer and shutter settings, each accompanied by on-screen thumbnail photos for illustrating the salient points.

Drive modes include the usual single or continuous (3fps) options, as well as a self-timer delay of two or 10 seconds, switched via the main Setup menu. There's also a neat Quiet drive mode, which cancels the autofocus beep and reduces shutter release noise to a minimum.

What's lacking is direct access to some of the not-so-minor shooting parameters that advanced photographers like to adjust on a regular basis, including ISO, white balance and image quality/size.

As the next best thing, you can assign the Function button, which falls naturally under your left thumb, to any of these parameters via the main menu. Alternatively, you can set the Function button to control Active D-Lighting (see following page) even though you can only set this imaging function to on or off, instead of being able to choose between varying intensities, as featured in some of Nikon's more up-market cameras.

Nikon d3100

That said, if you shoot in RAW, you can freely adjust Active D-Lighting levels between off, low, normal, high and extra-high at the editing stage, if you're willing to fork out a further £130 for Nikon's Capture NX 2 software.

Another popular way of extending the reach of a limited set of control buttons is to make use of the LCD screen, and Canon in particular does a fine job of this with its Quick Control menu, as featured on cameras like the EOS 550D, EOS 60D and EOS 7D.

The D3100's so-called Information Display works in a similar way and, while it's not quite as elegant, it still offers quick access to image quality and size, white balance, ISO, focus mode, AF-area, metering mode, Active D-Lighting, movie frame size, flash mode, flash exposure compensation and regular exposure compensation.

That covers pretty much all the essentials but it's a shame you can't quickly access Picture Control settings without resorting to the main menu system, because these work extremely well, as we'll come to next.

Tech Specs

Product TypeDigital SLR Camera with Lens
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Effective Camera Resolution14.2 Megapixel
HD Movie ModeYes
Memory Card SupportedSecure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card, Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC)
Optical Zoom3.1x
Digital ZoomNo
Brand NameNikon
FeaturesLive View, Aperture Priority, Face Detection, External Flash Shoe, Manual White Balance
Screen Size7.6 cm (3")
Video FormatsQuickTime MOV
Viewfinder TypeSLR
Weight (Approximate)505 g
Image Sensor Size23.10 mm x 15.40 mm
Maximum Image Resolution4608 x 3072
Display Screen TypeLCD
Height96 mm
Width124 mm
Depth74.5 mm
Focal Length18 mm to 55 mm
Image FormatsJPEG, RAW
Focus ModesAuto, Manual
ManufacturerNikon Corporation
Product ModelD3100
Product NameD3100 Digital SLR Camera
Exposure Control
  • Program (P)
  • Shutter-Priority Auto (S)
  • Aperture-Priority Auto (A)
  • Manual (M)
Manufacturer Part NumberVBA280KU02
Manufacturer Website Address
Marketing Information

The stunningly simple-to-use D3100 is every family's answer to beautiful images. Whether the moment calls for a family portrait or a sharp shot of toddlers on the run, Guide Mode shows you how to capture stunning photos in no time at all. D-Movie lets you record full HD movie clips and capture the action in superb quality day or night. Nikon's advanced EXPEED 2 image processing engine maximizes the performance of the 14.2 megapixel CMOS sensor for amazingly clear images with vivid colors. Incredibly lightweight for an SLR, the D3100 makes it easy to capture your family looking wonderful wherever you go.

Package Contents
  • D3100 Digital SLR Camera
  • 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6GII AF-S DX Nikkor Lens
  • Rechargeable Li-ion EN-EL14 Battery
  • Battery Charger MH-24
  • AN-DC1 Neck Strap
  • Hot Shoe Cover BS-1
  • DK-5 Eyepiece Shield
  • BF-1B Body Cap
  • DK-20 Eyecup
  • CD-ROM
Limited Warranty1 Year