Nikon D3100 Preview
by Shun Cheung
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.
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 new Nikon D3100 is only available as a kit with the 18-55mm AF-S VR lens; the estimated price for the combo is $699.95. While that is a popular lens for casual photographers, this packaging makes it inconvenient for photographers who already have the 18-55mm lens to upgrade to the D3100. If you do not want the lens, you need to find a dealer who is willing to break up the kit or sell the lens afterwards.
The D3100 is priced a little below the D5000 kit 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.