Nikon D3000 review
Design & Performance
Nikon D3000 review - Design
Externally, the D3000 bears a striking resemblance to the outgoing D60. Both cameras adhere to the same button and control configuration, though there have been a few minor alterations on the new model to facilitate easier shooting, in addition to a slight cosmetic makeover.
Nikon D3000 review - LCD screen
The most obvious change is the size of the LCD screen, which with an extra 0.5in in size allows for the graphic user information to be larger and clearer, but with the exception of a few new additions in the D3000 what both cameras actually display is essentially the same.
Nikon D3000 test - guide mode
There is, however, a new Guide mode which complements the existing Help facility which has worked its way through many Nikon DSLRs. The role of the new feature is to further simplify the shooting, viewing and setting up process, with three sub-menus titled accordingly.
In the Shoot menu, the options present themselves as either camera settings or scenarios - such as softening backgrounds, no flash, close ups, and (curiously) sleeping faces - which choose an appropriate scene or exposure mode with which to take the image.
The View/delete menu includes options to view single, multiple or a whole slide show's-worth of photos, while the Set up menu comprises 16 key settings such as image size, card formatting and LCD brightness.
I found that the design of the camera posed no particular problems with regards to shooting, with the exception of a single issue when shooting in the portrait orientation. The aperture, shutter speed and so on is changed via the sole command dial on the camera's rear, and, given the camera's relatively small body, whenever I changed exposure values the knuckle of my thumb would dig itself into my forehead - which wasn't particularly comfortable.
Nikon D3000 review - Performance
Nikon D3000 review - in-camera help
With the Guide system at the user's disposal, it's easy for a complete novice to begin taking a variety of images without needing to venture into the main menu at all. As such it helps to fulfil the camera's aim, but I do feel that there is a limit as to how many different ways a beginner needs in-camera assistance.
There are, after all, seven scene modes, auto and program modes, a Help facility to explain anything you come across and the aforementioned Guide mode. If nothing else, this multitude of options could confuse the user as to what settings and modes they should be using to take images. Otherwise, the menu system is easy to navigate, with everything clearly labelled and no ambiguous shortening of feature names, as can often be the case.
Nikon D3000 test - speed
One of the more noticeable aspects of the camera's performance is the impact of Active D-lighting on processing speed.
Using the same memory card in both the D3000 and a D40 which I had to hand, I found little difference in speed when equivalent settings were selected (the D40 had a slight edge which could be attributed to its smaller files). But when Active D-lighting was selected on the D3000, this seemed to add anything between a second or two to the time it took for the file to appear on the LCD, and the access lamp to stop blinking.
With the D40 not having Active D-lighting I wasn't able to compare this between the two, but having to wait around two seconds post-capture is a little tardy even by entry-level standards. This was even more evident when shooting a burst of images, where the camera would hang while the buffer cleared itself.
Nikon D3000 review - focusing
With its Silent Wave Motor, the 18-55mm kit lens focuses silently, though it's clear it's not the fastest in its class. Using the central cross-type point alone performance is generally good, though when the other points are called upon (such as when using the Auto area AF mode) the camera slows right down and hesitates a touch before confirming focus.
The 3D tracking option is a welcome inclusion on the model, and I found it generally worked well to keep track of moving subjects, but overall the system benefits greatly from a faster-focusing lens.
Nikon D3000 test - LCD screen and viewfinder
The camera's LCD screen may feature a standard 230,000-dot resolution, but even in harsh sunlight I found I could review images clearly, despite it being a little reflective. Likewise, the viewfinder is clear and generously-sized to allow accurate framing, and I found the option of a grid overlay particularly useful when shooting anything with linear detail, where a wonky horizon would be more evident.