Preview of the Nikon D3100: Step into Full HD

Nikon is stepping into Full HD

Nikon has announced their latest foray into the video-capable DSLR with the new D3100 which adds a 9th camera to their DSLR line up. It is supposed to be available in mid September!

This entry level model is the first Nikon to have full high definition (1920 x 1080 pixels) recording capabilities and likely heralds the coming of full HD to their high end line as well. One great feature on the D3100 is the auto focus during video recording!

Like it’s predecessor, the D3000 the D3100 is an entry level camera but has some great capabilities that can get even an pro interested in this camera as a backup. Here’s a rundown of Nikon’s latest:

Basics:

  • 14.2 megapixel DX format CMOS sensor for great prints even beyond 20″x30″
  • 3-inch monitor screen
  • Full HD (1920 x 1080) video recording
  • Up to 3 frames per second bursts
  • 11 point auto focus
  • ISO sensitivity from 100 – 3200 expands up to ISO 12800 equivalent
  • Auto Sensor Cleaner
  • Lots of user friendly features included like: Guide Mode, Scene Auto Selector, Image processing, In-camera editing, pop-up flash, etc.

There are lots of great previews out there reviewing the D3100, so I’m going to cover the features that attract me to this camera and a few that make me wish for more.

Features:

Full HD Video

Video Recording Pixel Size and Frame rates for Nikon D310

This makes me really want this camera. Having ability to shoot Full HD on a Nikon DSLR gives photographers a new tool for those family events, sports play, or that spot news event that you have to get now!  The 10 minute maximum is a little disappointing, but reasonable. I also am very pleased with the H.264 recording in the .mov file that allows for editing in camera or in your video editing tools (Haven’t had a chance to test Final Cut or iMovie yet.) An built-in mic provides easy recording but for improved sound an additional mic may be needed.

Easy Starter

I often have friends and family who ask me about cameras and what I recommend. I think I’ve found it! For new comers to DSLRs this is a great way to get in to the game. The easy to select modes, and guide mode provide a smooth experience for getting started.

Wish list:

Lens compatibility

Sadly Nikon did not embrace their back compatibility very well for this camera. Oh, you can mount your Nikon lenses, but if it’s not the AF-S or AF-I model lenses then you loose capabilities starting with Auto Focus. To me, that’s a big deal.

Control placement

All the manual controls that a camera control freak could want are in there, they’re just not as easy to access as the placement on Nikon’s older brother, the D90 and on up the product line. In fact, the index dial is completely gone requiring button pressing and other steps to change settings. This is a disappointment but probably not a deal breaker for most basic to early amateur users.

Sync terminal

It’s not a pro line camera so I’m probably pushing it here, but having a flash sync terminal would be a plus in my mind.

Price

I’d have to say that I’m surprised a little at the initial price on this one. When compared with Canon’s EOS Rebel T1i with it’s larger 15.1 megapixels and similar Full HD capabilities, and even better lens compatibility on the amazing Canon line of lenses, the D3100 looses some of it’s glimmer. Current price for the Canon EOS Rebel T1i? Only $678 at Amazon.

Conclusion:

Basically, I think the D3100 would be a great camera for a starter, as a tag along or backup for an advanced amateur. However, there are some downfalls that make me want to wait for Nikon’s next level to see if they embrace the pro photographers out there with some of the highlights of Full HD that they included in this beauty. I’m a Nikon fan myself, but with the lens restrictions, comparing Canon’s T1i and the D3100 leaves Nikon struggling to keep up.

(Editor’s note: Nikon was struggling, until now…check out the new D7000 that just redeemed Nikon and put them at the front of the pack with pro lens capabilities and all the adjustments right where they should be!)

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