The DSLR Photographer DSLR Reviews – Guides – Tips

Nikon D3100 Review

nikon-d3100-reviewThe D3100 is one of the best beginner models out there! If you ask me, it’s actually the best for the money, even years later with all these new cameras on the market.

Cheapest Prices

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Best Nikon D3100 Combination For Beginners:

Sensor and Image Quality



Maximum Resolution: 4,608 x 3,072

The 14 megapixel Nikon D3100 (4 more megapixels than its predecessor) is able to deliver excellent images with rich colors and superb noise performance for the price. Unlike the D3000, this camera just keeps on getting better as you read what all it has in store. No longer do new comers to DSLR photography have to worry about megapixels and quality, everything Canon/Nikon/Sony releases today will blow you away.

Inside of D3100’s body we find a DX sensor with a crop factor of 1.5x. If you’ve never heard of this term don’t worry, I have an article on the crop factor and its effect on photography. To put it in just a few words, any lens you use with a crop camera will suddenly get you 1.5x closer to your subject than a full frame sensor would. It might sound scary, but it’s been a standard ever since the early days of DSLR cameras.

ISO Sensitivity

ISO: 100 – 3,200 (H1: 6,400 | H2: 12,800)

Unlike its older brother, the D3100 is absolutely flawless when it comes to low light performance. Okay there are a couple issues of course, but for a camera that costs less than $500 the amount of noise it shows is outstanding. Up to ISO 3,200 all of the images are perfectly usable for printing and larger displays. At 6,400 there is a noticeable decrease in contrast and colors but it’s still nothing to be worried about.

ISO 12,800 is not recommend (no surprise), but will still be alright for sharing the images online. I recommend you to always mess with the shutter speed, aperture and other settings before selecting high ISO values.

Body & Design


Body & Buttons

The D3100 looks like your everyday beginner DSLR. It’s small and light, but that’s exactly what most people are searching for. While the buttons are pretty much self-explanatory  let’s go through what you can see on the image above. Up on the left we have the Playback button which will let you browse through all of your photos/videos.

Right below it is the Menu for controlling all of your settings, then there are the Zoom in/Zoom out buttons and the last one is used for displaying information. The AE-L button on the right will lock your exposure for as long as you are holding it and the trash icon will obviously delete any photograph you select. See that red button? That’s what you press when you want to record videos or switch to Live View, while the dials below it are used to navigate around the camera.

The top of the D3100 contains all of the basics for a DSLR; the shutter button, on/off switch and the mode dial. All in all it’s a very simple camera to understand, especially if you are willing to read the manual.

LCD Screen & Viewfinder

LCD Size: 3.0″ – 230,000 dots

Nothing special here, the 3.0″ LCD screen is fixed and if you want it to move around you’re going to have to look at models such as the D5100, D5200 and so on. It’s just a pretty cool gimmick if you ask me. Other than that, the 230k resolution might put it slightly below the competition but what matters is that previewing pictures and recording videos, the screen looks razor sharp!

Viewfinder Coverage: 95%

Typical for entry level DSLR cameras, while looking through the viewfinder you see 95% of what you are eventually going to get on your image.

Weight & Memory

Weight (Body Only): 455g / 16.0 oz

Most of you will probably carry the camera around everywhere, and the last thing you want is to make photography feel like a burden. In the DSLR world, 455g is almost as light as air, even with the kit lens on! The D3100 is oriented more towards those with smaller hands, but it’s no trouble operating it if you’re bigger than the average.

Memory: SDHC Card Slot

Nothing beats SDHC cards right now, they are cheap, small and secure! You can literally get 8GB for less than $10 and start taking pictures immediately! Check out my SDHC Buying Guide.

Nikon D3100 is aimed at beginners who want a camera that’s easy to use, but will still give great results. Don’t worry about the times when you get more experienced in photography, it will still be there for you. The more you’ll shoot, the more you’ll see that the final outcome depends on your skills, and not only on your equipment.



Speed & Focusing

Auto Focus Points: 11

If there’s one thing I really like about Nikon and their entry level models, it’s their approach to auto focusing. For years Canon has been kind of “stuck” and it seems like it won’t change for a while.

Nikon’s 11 AF system will lock on your target with ease when shooting in relatively bright conditions (out on a sunny day it won’t be a problem at all), but with cheaper lenses it’s not going to be as fast when it gets a little bit darker. You can use always choose a specific point of the 11 available, or focus manually in case your camera fails.

The D3100 does not come with an AF motor built-in (same goes for all other cheaper Nikon models), so in case you plan on using some super old Nikon lenses, let’s just say your only option is to use the manual focus. AF-S and AF-I lenses will work perfectly though, and there are over 60 available from Nikon alone (then there’s Sigma, Tamron, Tokina and so on).

Burst Mode: 3 frames per second

Video Recording & Other Features

Say what? Video, on a DSLR? If you are new to these cameras then it doesn’t sound special to you, but for those who have been in the DSLR game before 2008, this is like breath taking. It was actually Nikon who first introduced the video capability, and the D3100 continues the tradition nicely.

  • Full HD (1920 x 1080) – 24fps
  • HD (1280 x 720) – 24/25/30fps
  • SD (640 x 424) – 24fps

I’m not the biggest fan of auto focusing in videos, and I think most people would agree with me. Not only does it hunt and lack the speed necessary to be usable, the sound of auto focusing can actually be heard on the clip itself! Do it manually and you’ll be fine.

Other Features


Sensor Cleaning

The D3100 comes with automatic sensor cleaning, making sure that any unwanted dust goes away.

Nothing else to talk about here, everything else written above already puts the D3100 way above any competitor!

Despite the fact that you have to pay so little, the D3100 feels and performs like a winner. Whether you are on a low budget and want to start photography professionally, or you’re just looking for a backup body, this little fella can do it all! As usually I recommend you to buy from Amazon, their prices are unmatchable and their support is top notch!

Where To Buy The Nikon D3100

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Recommended Gear With Nikon D3100: