Your Nikon D3100 Guide: Now that it’s out there, what do you need to know about it?

The D3000 is out for quite some time now; the D3100 is the obvious replacement, so why should you buy it? As with every product, before you even consider the thought of buying it, you need to understand what you would require it, how useful that product would actually be to you and so on.

This review will be built in a way that will take you through all the features of this new Nikon product, precisely to help you see what you are buying before you are spending the money. However, if you have the chance to visit a store that has the D3100 on display, I would honestly recommend you to go take it out for a small test drive. In many cases, mere words cannot suffice for the experience provided for a certain gadget.

Nikon D3100

Nikon D3100

Product placement

The D3100 is the low-end DSLR. However, comparisons never actually made a difference, not when it comes to different markets. The fact that the D3100 is in the low-end corner of the DSLR means that it’s affordable, it means that once you’re interested in photography, you need not invest like crazy in a well-built camera that offers you the advantages of DSLR photography.

In other words, you do not need to start from scratch anymore. You’re able to enjoy your journey without having to either spend a couple of months’ worth payment or stick to a compact camera.

This camera is designed for those photographers that are at the beginning of their journey, and want to learn more with the appropriate guide. Photographers that want to learn the meaning of interchangeable lenses and how it is to fully set up your camera for one single photo.

Truth be told, the D3100 offers you the opportunity to set it all on the “Lazy” mode as well (also knows as the Auto mode – you can see the resemblance between names). But that’s not where true fun lies – while it is true that you sometimes need to have it ready to do your work on its own, let’s face it.

Product Overview

It was to be expected that the Nikon D3100 will borrow a great part of its features from his little brother, but that does not mean it’s not special in its own little way. There are a great amount of differences that set the two cameras apart, and these differences are both in terms of image quality but also build and ergonomics – for example, now you have better audio recording due to the placement of audio receptors in the flash area. More buttons that make your life a lot easier, not to mention that you can activate Live View with one simple switch of the button.

Nikon D3100

Nikon D3100

It also feels a lot better – it’s easier to hold it even if it holds the same size as its older brother, the D3000. Notice the small speaker that is right under the OK button? Well that’s new too, and it helps you visualize your videos right after you shoot them without losing any audio content during replay.

Nikon D3100

Nikon D3100

The differences between the two cameras are, as I already mentioned not only about the small things. If we remember well, its older brother has been one of the most popular cameras of its kind, precisely because it was small, powerful and incredibly easy to use – not to mention that the price itself would lure just about anyone in the Nikon world.

The current evolution (or as I like to call it, the climb up the Nikon ladder) has brought customers all the more reasons to start their photography era with a Nikon. In other words, huge sensor for this segment – CMOS sensor, with 14 million MP that can shoot both RAW + JPEG (Fine), great ISO settings (up to 12.800), not to mention the incredible advantages of Live View.

Apart from this, what really sets this camera apart is the Full HD filming option – imagine how many beautiful movies you can obtain of your family and friends without having to carry an entire room of equipment. Now all you need is this camera, a decent SD card to store your data on and you’re ready to go.

But apart from that, what else do you find? The beautiful AF-F function is not implemented even in the lowest product in the series – most photographers that have a general knowledge of this subject will be quite pleased with this.

Also, have you ever found it useful to report GPS data along with your imagery? Well, now you have your chance, given the fact that you can connect a GPS device using the GP-1 connector and acquire data on each and every picture.

Using Your Nikon D3100

If you’re a first time DSLR user, then I guarantee you, you will have tons of fun with this camera, but I would recommend you to go for the Guide Mode first since it will teach you more than you can imagine about photography not to mention that this will be done in an interactive and useful way. In other words, remember those tiny compact cameras that were trying to help you take better pictures using a weird wizard that took about 5 minutes to configure?

Well, simply forget about that – imagine a wizard that will do anything for you in seconds and teach you why it’s doing all those things at the same time. Can you expect anything better than that? For example, it explains you the principles behind the idea of bokeh (or that artistic blurry background we all love in quality portraits or beautiful macro shots), the principles behind the idea of depth of field or in this case how to obtain crisp images without any troubles, the idea behind panning (or how to freeze a moving subject and obtain that motion-blurred background) and all those beautiful and artistic settings most of us learned using the internet or with experience.

A more interesting feature of this camera is the ISO function – at some points you simply become amazed of how much technology advances. Truth be told, back in the old days we couldn’t use photographs that had a high ISO settings, and now with the introduction of cameras like the D3100 or the D7000 it’s so easy to shoot images at ISO800, but all in all, it’s a good idea not to go over ISO 1600 with this camera, at least not if you plan on cropping them and using your photographs for a more artistic reason (such as a expo or something similar).

Higher settings will not damage your pictures irreparably – in other words, if you know your way around noise cleaning applications you should get some decent content out of those as well, especially if you plan on resizing them as well, but remember, from this point forward, I wouldn’t call it usable content anymore (not that the pictures with your friends won’t look good anymore, just that if you want true quality in large numbers of pixels this is not the way to go.

Nikon D3100

Nikon D3100

Lenses? What Lenses?

Regardless of whether you’re a beginner photographer or an amateur you should go for the right equipment for your camera. The most popular kit version of this camera is D3100 + 18-55 VR lens, and this gives you enough space to stretch yourself with both landscape photography but also simple, unsophisticated portraits and so on.

But what do I really recommend for this camera? Well, depending on your aims – I would recommend the new 35mm f1.8 Nikkor lens which is quite cheap and incredibly versatile – the image quality is through the rough based on what you would expect from such a cheap lens, not to mention that you can use it for a variety of purposes – from interior images (such as those shot at weddings, or birthday parties, or typical indoor photos) to beautiful portrait imagery.

Apart from this, you could go for the 55-200mm Nikkor lens that guarantees a cheap zoom lens (or for the more expensive 55-300mm lens) if you are indeed interested in that type of photography.

From this point on, all you need to do is aim, learn and shoot and everything will become clearer and clearer along the way. Good luck!