When it comes to entry level digital SLR cameras the Nikon D3100 wins hands down. It is full of excellent features including a 14.1Mp CMOS sensor supported by the EXPEED 2 image processor, live view modes including normal area wide area, face priority and continuous tracking autofocus and a movie capture mode. The movie capture mode is full HD 1080p at 24 frames per second and 720p with a choice of 24, 25 or 30 frames per second. When it comes to video capture mode one of the disadvantages is that there is no socket for an external microphone, which does limit the use of it somewhat. The Nikon D3100 also has a whole range of post shooting features that allows you to enhance and adjust the images in camera. The tasks available include red eye production, trimming, straightening, colour balance, various filter effects and perspective control.
Despite being a relatively heavy 505g (body only) the Nikon D3100 has very compact dimensions compared to other digital SLR cameras, which should make it cramped and uncomfortable to use. However, this is not the case and the Nikon D3100 is a joy to use and you soon forget that this camera is compact. At 3 inches the rear LCD screen is larger than other entry level digital SLR cameras, which is a bonus. However, the disadvantage is that it is only 230K pixels and whilst this is the same as other entry level digital SLR cameras it is simply not enough for a screen of this size. The Nikon D3100 boasts an 11 point autofocus system, which is great for an entry level digital SLR. In fact, this is a number frequently found on much higher spec digital SLR cameras. Whilst the Nikon D3100 is packed full of features the menu is not as intuitive as the Canon EOS1000D. The direct access buttons are rather limited and you have to delve in to the menu to adjust many of the settings, which is not great when you’re looking through the viewfinder and framing a shot.
The image quality of the Nikon D3100 is absolutely fantastic with bright, vibrant and very accurate colours. The exposure accuracy is very good, although not quite as good as that of the Canon EOS1000D, however the Nikon Active D-lighting works well. The build quality of the Nikon D3100 is great. It is tough, durable and should stand up to the use and abuse a beginner is going to dish out. Out of all the entry level digital SLR cameras the Nikon D3100 has to be built to the highest standards. The Nikon D3100 is supplied with a kit lens that contains VR, which is Nikons image stabilisation feature, which helps to reduce the effects of camera shake. The lens will also automatically correct for chromatic aberration and distortion whilst the image is being taken. All in all it is pretty high spec lens, which is capable of producing some excellent images.
When it comes to entry level digital SLR kits the Nikon D3100 represents the best value for money and the best images. However, before deciding to purchase the Nikon D3100 you need to consider your future requirements. When you decide to upgrade your camera are you going to stick to Nikon? During you ownership of the Nikon D3100 you are likely to buy many accessories which will only work with Nikon cameras, therefore if you are going to stick with Nikon, great. If you are not planning on upgrading and will stick with the Nikon D3100, that’s also great. However, if your next digital SLR is going to be Canon then is it worth buying the best entry level digital SLR and then having to buy all new equipment when you upgrade? In these circumstances you are better off learning the art of digital photography on the inferior Canon (which will still produce very good pictures by the way) and then upgrade to the desired Canon in the future. This is something to be borne in mind and you need to think about the future requirements before you buy the Nikon D3100.