September/October 2010 was a busy one for Nikon as they launched not only a new high performance Coolpix P7000 compact digital but entry-level (D3100) and prosumer (D7000) DSLRs as well.
The D3100 was first to market and becomes the first DX (APS-C) sensor Nikon to go beyond 12.3 megapixels resolution, coming in at 14.2 megapixels. The camera also features 1080 HD video with full time auto focus, EXPEED 2 processing technology, and a native ISO sensitivity range of 100-3200, expandable to 12800.
The D3100 is the replacement for the D3000 (which remains on Nikon USA's website as of this writing) and retains some D3000 features such as the 11-point AF system, 3.0-inch LCD monitor, 3 fps continuous shooting rate and Nikon's Guide Mode to assist newcomers to a DSLR with navigation around the setup, shooting and playback functions.
The D3100 is compact and light, not only for a Nikon but for DSLRs in general. The smallest DSLR I've ever shot prior to the D3100 was the Olympus E-420 at 5 x 3.5 x 3.75 inches. The D3100 tapes out at 4.9 x 3.8 x 2.9 inches, and is offered as a kit with Nikon's VR (stabilized) 18-55mm G series zoom lens.
Our review D3100 kit arrived yesterday, along with a VR 55-300mm zoom Nikon debuted at the same time as the camera. Here's a few shots with the kit lens, and a couple hummingbirds with the 55-300.
The D3100 starts quickly, with shutter lag and focus acquisition times in keeping with the high level of performance expected from even an entry-level DSLR. Both the kit VR 18-55mm and the VR 55-300 focus quickly with the 11 point system, and we got to the beach this morning and mounted my VR II 400mm f/2.8 to the camera with the following results:
Image quality and color fidelity look good so far, and camera build quality seems good and appropriate for the price point. Video quality also looks pretty good, and the full time AF seems to do a decent job of holding focus on moving subjects.
The D3100 may be the low man on the Nikon DSLR totem pole, but it's proving to be a capable entry-level camera so far. There's a lot of shooting yet to go to wring the D3100 out more completely, but first impressions are that this little Nikon DSLR can produce some big-time quality images.