Reviews: DSLR & Mirrorless Camera Reviews

REVIEW / Nikon D3100

964 readers want this So do I!
Add to favorites
Jump to...
Franck Mée Published on October 27, 2010
Translated by Catherine Barraclough


  • Sensor CMOS 14 Mpx, APS-C (x1.5) , 3.8 Mpx/cm
  • Lens NAx 18-55 mm f/3.5 -5.6
  • Stabilisation Depends on lens
  • Viewfinder Reflex
  • Screen 7.6 nm, not TN, 230000 dots, 4:3, Not touch-sensitive
  • Sensitivity (ISO range) 100 - 3200 ISO ext. 63 mm
A year after releasing the D3000, the last SLR to use the ageing 10-Megapixel CCD, Nikon has revamped its entry-level model with the updated D3100. Plus, thanks to its Full HD video mode, the D3100 outdoes the brand's professional models on some key criteria!


Compared with the D3000 and previous models (the Nikon entry-level range had barely changed since the D40), the D3100 is quite different. The marbled plastic has been replaced with rubber on the handle and there's a rubber thumb-rest at the rear too. It still feels a bit light and plastic compared with higher-end models, but the overall quality has improved noticeably.

The real downfall is the screen, which although 3 inches in size only displays 230,000 dots, when most £250 compacts display more. In fact, the camera's direct competitor, the slightly more expensive Pentax K-r, has a screen with VGA resolution. Plus, the Sony NEX-3 compact camera with interchangeable lenses (no viewfinder) has a VGA swivel screen!

It's all the more annoying because the previous model, with its outdated 10-Megapixel CCD, only used the screen to display menus and view back pictures, while the D3100 has a 14-Megapixel CMOS that can shoot in real time (and film in Full HD) using the screen as a viewfinder. The screen is therefore no longer just an accessory.

The controls and general handling are all typical Nikon stuff, with new features including a burst mode/self-timer switch and a new switch for moving to Live View. While some may find they like this switch, others may prefer a regular button, as found on the EOS 7D. The rest should feel very familiar to anyone who's used to using Nikon SLRs.


The camera does a great job in this field. It starts up almost instantly, the autofocus works incredibly well (taking around half a second no matter what the lighting conditions) and the camera saves pictures and turns itself around quickly. With the on-screen viewfinder, focusing is a touch faster than in older models. It's perfectly suitable for day-to-day use too, even if it's still not quite as good as certain compacts with interchangeable lenses.

One thing that could be improved is the burst mode, as some competitors' models are faster than the D3100. That said, 3.2 fps for 11 shots (Raw+Jpeg) is still largely sufficient for most users.

Picture Quality

The 18-55 mm VR lens supplied as standard is already well-known on the market. Although the results aren't entirely consistent across the frame (a touch of sharpness is lost towards the corners at all focal lengths), it still does a perfectly decent job, especially for a kit lens. On the other hand, the 14-Megapixel sensor is definitely all new. Rumour has it that it's the same sensor as used in the Sony NEX range, but as the tech specs are slightly different, it could well be a similar version developed for Nikon.

The sensor is quite simply excellent. From 100 to 1600 ISO you can barely tell the resulting images apart. A slight speckle of noise starts to appear at 3200 ISO in darker areas and the image is slightly less accurate. However, even in Hi-1 mode (equivalent to 6400 ISO) the result is still perfectly suitable for a 8" x 12" print.

Colours are well-reproduced on the whole but beware; Nikon has opted to under-correct Jpeg shots taken in halogen light. That means they have a strong red overtone that some users may like, but which we find too strong.


The D3100 is Nikon's first SLR to film in Full HD. It records 24 full frames per second (no interlacing) and the image is clear and detailed, even if noise does appear in low light. Plus, it's a shame the dynamic range is so limited, as light hues are soon washed out to white.

It's a different story for the sound though. The mono sound recorded isn't amazing quality and the microphone is quite sensitive to breathing noises. The D3100 doesn't have a microphone socket for connecting an external mic, as found in the manufacturer's higher-end models (D7000 upwards).
ISO Auto
This is an annoying feature that Nikon seems set on repeating camera after camera. The strict separation of the ISO Auto mode and the manual selection of an ISO setting is quite strange, and isn't really found on other cameras (in most manufacturers' models, the Auto mode features alongside the other ISO settings so it can be selected without having to go through the internal menus). Plus, the contradictory on-screen messages make handling rather confusing at times.

In the screen-shot above you can see that the camera is set to 100 ISO (in the right-hand column) but another icon shows it's set to ISO Auto mode (top-middle). The value in the right-hand column stays on the ISO setting selected in manual mode and can be changed in the menu (direct-access in expert-level cameras). The value displayed in the right-hand column will change in relation to the value selected but it'll have to actual effect as the camera will stay set to ISO Auto mode (and uses the ISO setting of its choice, irrespective of the value you've just chosen). To choose the ISO setting manually, you have to first of all select the value and then deactivate the ISO Auto function, even if the display shows your newly selected setting.


  • Impeccable image quality up to 1600 ISO and very good up to 3200 ISO
  • 1080p Full HD video
  • Well-made and pleasant to handle
  • General responsiveness


  • Screen displays just 230,000 dots
  • ISO Auto: confusing handling
  • Autofocus only with AF-S lenses
  • Very warm white balance under halogen lighting


The D3100 is a very good entry-level SLR. The low-definition screen costs it a star, but picture quality is excellent and the camera is fast and responsive to use.
4 Nikon D3100 DigitalVersus 2010-10-27 00:00:00
Compare: Nikon D3100 to its competitors
Store Available Price £
Currys 289.00 See offer  
John Lewis 289.00 See offer  
Add to favorites


No users have reviewed this product yet. Post a user review

Similar Reviews

Find competing devices: