Price: £100-£140 body only
With user-friendly menus, the D3100 is an ideal camera for the first-time DSLR buyer
Sensor 14.2-million-pixel, APS-C sized CMOS
Focus points 11
ISO range 100-12,800 (extended)
LCD 3in, 230,000-dot-resolution TFT display
Memory card SD ,SDHC, SDXC
Size 124 x 96 x 74.5 mm
Announced in late 2010, the Nikon D3100 was the successor to the very successful entry-level Nikon D3000 DSLR. One of the big steps forward with the newer camera was the change in sensor. The D3000 features a APS-C-sized, 10.1-million-pixel CCD sensor, while the D3100 bettered it with a 14.2-million-pixel, APS-C-sized CMOS sensor.
Thankfully, other improvements to the camera mean the increased resolution doesn't have an adverse effect on image quality. The Expeed 2 processor does a good job of reducing noise in the JPEG files and overall there is an acceptable level of noise in both raw and JPEG images throughout the native sensitivity range of ISO 100-3200.
When we tested the D3100, we hailed it as the best entry-level camera we had seen to date. The only drawback was that it was quite expensive at the time. However, less than four years later, this fantastic camera can be picked up for little over £100. It is worth taking note, however, that because the D3100 is an entry-level camera, it is built to a price. So it is therefore advisable to avoid buying heavily used models if you can.
Although a little soft, the D3100 produces about the best resolution of the cameras in this round, which is quite impressive for a camera with a 14.2-million-pixel sensor. With a fairly consistent resolution of 24lp/ph, the D3100 resolves a fair amount of detail, though it does pale a little compared to current DSLR resolutions.
The 14.2-million-pixel sensor of the Nikon D3100 is the lowest of the DSLRs in this round up, by more than 0.5EV. At ISO 100 it is 11.57EV, which means that you need to be careful with highlight areas, and there isn't much detail to be recovered from shadow areas. However, the dynamic range does hold its own and at ISO 400 it is still 11.13EV, which is on par with some of the newer cameras on test.
The Nikon D3100 grey card images show that the level of noise is roughly on a par with most of the other cameras on test. There is the merest hint of luminance noise at ISO 400, with luminance noise clearly visible at ISO 1600. At its maximum ISO 3200, there is a hint of magenta and green colour noise.