Nikon D3000 Performance, Timings and Image Quality

September 18, 2009 by Adam Crawford Reads (73,553)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 7
    • Features
    • 7
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 9
    • Performance
    • 7
    • Total Score:
    • 7.50
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

The Nikon D3000 sits just below the D5000, which was released early this year. The D3000 was recently announced alongside the D300s, the replacement model for the older D300. While the D60 and D40 are still both in production, the D3000 is a more advanced model that includes an 11-point autofocus system in the body of the camera (D40 and D60 use AF-S lenses to achieve autofocus solely), giving you more for your money in an entry-level model.

Shooting Performance
There are currently five DX-format Nikon DSLRs on the market today, with the D3000 in the lower echelon. The D3000, an entry-level model, shares many characteristics as the higher-end D90, and still achieves amazing image quality at the various ISO settings. The Nikon EXPEED Image Processor has been one the most exceptional accompaniments of image sensor and processor in recent years, giving the photographer absolute durability and control in low-light conditions. The rich tones and different picture modes give off some of the best hues and image captures I’ve seen in this level of camera, making it one of the strongest performers available at the $600 level.

The D3000 shows off its price point in our timings tests. I think it’s absolutely essential to report that the time between the shutter press and being able to view your images on screen is very sluggish, sometimes even seeming to take more than four seconds for image review. This can be crippling for continuous shooting, which takes much longer than 5 seconds to review images you’ve shot in succession, making the D3000’s image memory buffer quite slow.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)

Camera Time (seconds)
Olympus E-620 0.02
Nikon D3000 0.03
Pentax K2000 0.04
Canon EOS Rebel T1i 0.04

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Canon EOS Rebel T1i 0.19
Pentax K2000 0.32
Olympus E-620 0.32
Nikon D3000 0.60

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames Framerate*
Olympus E-620 6 4.1 fps
Canon EOS Rebel T1i 170 3.8 fps
Nikon D3000 5 3.5 fps
Pentax K2000 5 3.4 fps

* Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera’s fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). “Frames” notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

The D3000 came in mostly at the bottom of the pack in regards to shutter lag and AF acquisition. Studying the performance with the lab results show the shutter lag to be right smack dab in the middle at 0.03 seconds, which in all actuality is only the minutest of difference between all the studied camera timings. While the in the field, the shutter lag was not an issue, and the D3000 didn’t seem to suffer except continuous shooting and waiting for the image buffer to clear.

In terms of auto focus acquisition, it took just over half a second (0.60 seconds) before it was able to achieve focus. We exceeded Nikon’s claim of 3 fps continuous shooting in our own lab test, clocking five full-resolution JPEGS at 3.5 fps with VR switched off.

Flash performance was good. Some of the test images that I captured showed a nice prevention of shadow casts when a subject was up against the wall. It also offered a nice amount of different options like Slow Sync for a subtle fill, and overall it is a nice feature to have built into a DSLR.

Nikon D3000
Basic Flash

Nikon D3000
Slow Sync

All in all, you get what you pay for in performance. The D3000 isn’t exactly slow, but if you want a faster camera, you could certainly pay more for one.

Lens Mount/Kit Lens
Image stabilization is only gained through Nikon Vibration Reduction (VR) lenses, which happens to come with the 18-55mm kit lens that the D3000 is sold with. The VR lens is supposed to help you gain a few stops of light. I used the lens to check how it worked in low light, and it did indeed give me a faster shutter speed when turned on, gaining a few stops of light like it was supposed to.

Image Quality
Image quality from the Nikon D3000 is great, and maybe one of the best image producers straight out of the camera that I’ve tested this year. From Active D-Lighting to the different picture modes, the D3000 makes an excellent image and gives you the control to make it how you want it, or for that matter, how you see it. The Active D-Lighting has become a great feature in Nikon cameras, and as you can see from the results, shadow areas and midtones are reproduced much better with it than without it.

Nikon D3000
D-Lighting Off

Nikon D3000
D-Lighting On

As far as chromatic aberrations, purple fringing and other degradations, I wasn’t able to find much wrong with the processed images once I got them on my computer. Quality-wise, these 10 megapixel images are top notch.

The default setting on the D3000 is called Standard, and is a faithful image reproduction. Looking at the rest of the settings compared to Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape, the image retains sharpness in all of these choices. There is very little difference between Standard and Neutral picture modes, however, but Vivid obviously adds a bit of saturation and more vibrant hues when used.

Nikon D3000

Nikon D3000

Nikon D3000

The D3000 provides complete control over exposure in metering and EV stops. There are three light metering modes – matrix metering, center-weighted and spot metering. Matrix metering worked well to find light values in the entire frame. My sample shot reflects the overall darkness of the indoor lighting conditions, and was very accurate. Center-Weighted reflected a nice frame, and gave the middle subject a nice exposure so that the camera gave it a bit more light. The Spot metering setting gave a huge precedence to center frame, slightly overexposing for the lighting conditions, but still producing a balanced exposure at the area of incidence in the center.

Nikon D3000
Matrix Metering

Nikon D3000
Center-Weighted Metering

Nikon D3000
Spot Metering

Auto white balance was hardly ever fooled shooting in the field, even in low light. Some of my darkest exposures used AWB, and came out just how I was seeing the image from my own eyes. In the lab test, shooting with a 3200K incandescent lamp shot okay, predictably giving a warm cast to the image.

Nikon D3000
Auto White Balance, 3200k incandescent light

Light sensitivity with the D3000 is exceptional, as with most Nikon DSLRs. From 100-800 you get quite a usable image, with just a slight grain noise at 1600. While shooting out in the field I was able to use ISO 100 with full manual settings at sunset and get an image with the smallest amount of noise, which was impressive. In quite a few sailboat shots I gained great detail and very little degradation. Light sensitivity is on par with the D90 and D300 cameras.

Nikon D3000
ISO 100
Nikon D3000
ISO 100, 100% crop
Nikon D3000
ISO 200
Nikon D3000
ISO 200, 100% crop
Nikon D3000
ISO 400
Nikon D3000
ISO 400, 100% crop
Nikon D3000
ISO 800
Nikon D3000
ISO 800, 100% crop
Nikon D3000
ISO 1600
Nikon D3000
ISO 1600, 100% crop

Additional Sample Images

Nikon D3000 Nikon D3000
Nikon D3000 Nikon D3000
Nikon D3000 Nikon D3000



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