Nikon D3100 Specs & Features
Nikon was able to design a portable and lightweight DSLR with a large enough grip for us big handed folk. Compared to the Canon T2i (closest competitor), I really prefer the grip and button layout of the D3100. My wife likes the size of both DSLR’s, but prefers the slightly smaller grip of the T2i.
The D3100 is made of plastic materials, with a black textured finish. Overall, the body feels very well made. The rubber grip has a very sticky feel to it, which makes it easy to hold the camera in awkward angles. Buttons and switches have a very tactile feel, which is great for usability.
The 3-inch LCD screen on the D3100 is identical to the one found on the D3000. The screen is built into the body and doesn’t articulate (flip/rotate) like the D5000.
The optical pentamirror viewfinder found in the D3100 is the same one found in the D3000. It offers 95% frame coverage with a magnification of 0.80x. The viewfinder does seem a bit small and dark, especially when comparing it to a pentaprism viewfinder like the one inside the D7000. The pentamirror design is common in entry level DSLR’s. It’s cheaper to produce and results in a viewfinder that’s not nearly as bright as a pentaprism viewfinder.
The D3100 built-in flash is on par with other DSLR’s in its class. It’s best used for fill flash outdoors in bright light, and does a pretty good job throttling down for close-up subjects. The average recycling time runs around 2 to 3 seconds before you can take the next shot.
The D3100 has a 14 megapixel images sensor with a self cleaning feature that vibrates dust off the imaging surface.
The D3100 comes equipped with the EXPEED 2 processor, the same processor found in the more expensive D7000.
The Nikon D3100 has an ISO (digital film speed) range of 100 to 3200, with expansion up to 12800. This ISO range is improved over the D3000, which starts at an ISO of 200 and can be boosted up to 3200.
Shutter Speed Range
The shutter speed range on the D3100 is 30 seconds to 1/4000 of a second. The fastest shutter speed available when using flash is 1/200 of a second. Slower shutter speeds allow you to capture movement and more light, while faster shutter speeds allow you to freeze movement and capture less light.
The Nikon D3100 comes with the same 11 point auto-focus system found in the D3000 and D5000. If we’re comparing apples to oranges, the more advanced (and expensive) D7000 has 39 focus points. The focus points are visible through the viewfinder and you can allow the D3100 to select the points automatically or you can choose points individually.
The D3100 comes equipped with Live View mode, similar to the D5000. Live view allows you to compose a shot using the LCD screen…much like a compact camera. While this may sound like a great feature, it’s best used for still or slow moving subjects. It uses a contrast-detection system which is much slower than the auto-focus system used when looking through the viewfinder.
The D3100 comes equipped with the same TTL exposure metering system as the D3000 and D5000. The D3100 has a tendancy to over expose outdoor shots, especially when the subject has lots of contrast. Your best bet is to apply a negative exposure compensation to protect the bright areas of your images from being washed out. You can read more about exposure compensation on page 81 of the Nikon D3100 manual
The continuous shooting speed has remained very similar to the D3000, clocking in at 3 frames per second. Unfortunately, the D3100 can only record up to 24 images before recycling for another burst of images. If you’re shooting RAW, you’ll be able to capture 9 images in each burst at a rate of 3 frames per second.
The D3100 comes equipped with 7 different preset white balance modes that make it easy to get accurate color in different shooting situations. Whether you’re shooting under tungsten light indoors or under cloudy skies outdoors, the white balance settings make it easy to get accurate color and normal looking skin tones.
The D3100 comes with preset picture controls like Portrait, Landscape, and Monochrome that allow you to customize sharpness, saturation, contrast to your liking.
The D3100 comes with 1080p video recording, however, the aspriring indie filmmakers out there will not like the fact that it doesn’t support a built-in mic. On top of that, the D3100 records mono sound.
If you want to record in full stereo, you’ll need to use an off camera audio recorder and sync it with your video using post-production software. HD videos are saved in .MOV format (using H.264 codec) and have a maximum recording time of 10 minutes per segment.
The Nikon D3100 comes with a host of helpful and creative editing tools. The built-in editing feature allows to manipulate and retouch images to your heart’s desire. Features include d-lighting, red-eye correction, trim, monochrome, straighten, distortion control, fisheye effect, color outline effect, miniature effect and much more.
For the filmmakers out there, you can choose the start and end point for each video segment. If you’re looking to do more with your videos, you’ll have to edit them using post-production software.
Memory Card Compatibility
The D3100 is compatible with SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards. If recording HD video, you’ll need to make sure the memory card has a Class 6 rating or higher. See my full write-up for info on the number of images and video capacity for various memory card sizes..
Nikon has a 360 degree view of the D3100, click here.
Nikon announced the Nikon D3100 on August 19, 2010, with an official release date on September 17, 2010.