Nikon D3100 Review

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Nikon D3100 Image Quality

Even though the D3100 is Nikon’s lowliest digital SLR and has a slightly lower resolution sensor than the D5100 and D7000 (14-megapixels vs.16-megapixels), the image quality is excellent and totally useable up to ISO 1600. I wouldn’t recommend ISO 1600 for landscape photos where details are critical but photos of food, people and kitty cats look just fine. Even ISO 3200 looks pretty good and will be fine for birthday party, restaurant and other typical low light photo situations. The D3100′s high ISO image quality was a surprise to me since it’s “just” an entry-level camera. It’s actually nearly as good as the D7000. My D3100 studio tests look almost the same as the D7000 tests at ISO 1600. It’s only at ISO 3200 that the D7000 really pulls ahead. I would have expected ISO 800 to be about the upper limit for the D3100 but that is not at all the case. Well-done, Nikon!

Nikon D3100 - Fall Aspens

Besides low noise, the Nikon D3100 has great color. When you look at the studio tests take note of how neutral the whites are. I shot the studio tests with the D3100′s tungsten white balance preset and not auto white balance. With other camera makers the tungsten preset usually results in images that have a noticeable cyan or red/yellow cast. But in the D3100 tests the neutral areas appear 100% accurate. The same was true for auto white balance with my outdoor photos. I do feel the camera has a slight tendency to overexpose and the contrast is a little low for my taste. But I’m sort of reaching with those complaints. Every camera has it’s own metering idiosyncrasies and low contrast is nothing a slight levels adjustment won’t fix. Ultimately, my D3100 images look very good. In fact, I believe the image above is one of the best fall foliage photos I’ve ever taken.

Nikon D3100 - Tolerant Jenni Nikon D3100 - Marzocchi Nikon D3100 - A Hint Of Fall
Nikon D3100 - Blackberries Nikon D3100 - Mt. Superior & Fall Aspens Nikon D3100 - Condiments - ISO 1600

Click on thumbnails to view sample photos.

Nikon D3100 Studio Test Images
Nikon D3100 Studio Sample Photos
    ISO 100 Sample >>
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    ISO 400 Sample >>
    ISO 800 Sample >>
    ISO 1600 Sample >>
    ISO 3200 Sample >>
    ISO 6400 Sample >>
    ISO 12,800 Sample >>

    All Digital Camera Sample Photos >>

Next – Nikon D3100 Conclusion >>

Nikon D3100 Review Navigation
Introduction Camera Experience Image Quality Conclusion
Nikon D3100 User Reviews Write A Nikon D3100 Review Buy The Nikon D3X

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About the author: Photo-John

Photo-John, a.k.a. John Shafer, is the managing editor of and has been since the site launched back in 1999. He's an avid outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time as possible on his mountain bike, hiking or skiing in the mountains. He's been taking pictures for ever and ever, and never goes anywhere without a camera.

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