The Nikon Coolpix 3100 we're looking at here is a better specified version of the Coolpix 2100. These type of cameras are aimed at a growing market of people new to digital photography who want an easy to use camera which is reasonably priced and capable of high quality image capture. We looked to find out if the Coolpix 3100 can provide these people with what they want.
Nikon Coolpix 3100 Specifications
- 3.2 megapixel CCD
- 3x optical Zoom-Nikkor lens
- 256-segment Matrix Metering
- 14 Scene modes
- 1.5" TFT
- Compatible with CompactFlash I only
- One touch upload of images
- In-camera cropping
- USB interface
- Takes two AA rechargeable batteries
- Weight: 150g
- Dimensions: 87.5x65x38mm
Handling and controls
The Coolpix 3100 is one of the more conservative Nikon cameras, in that there is no swiveling LCD or swiveling body. It is however light, very compact and should fit in most jacket pockets. For what is quite a low priced camera, the build quality is good and you could be forgiven for thinking it costs a hundred pounds or so more than it does.
Although it is a small digital compact the Coolpix 3100 sits quite comfortably in the hand thanks to an ergonomic design. The lens and controls are sensibly positioned and there was none of the 'woops, I've covered the lens with my finger' that can occur on some less well designed cameras.
The user interface is very simple and well laid out. The main modes the camera offers are selectable through the dial on the top of the body whilst the fourteen scene modes are selectable from an in-camera menu.
Whilst many cheaper digital cameras are slow to operate the Coolpix 3100 flies along. The lens is out in under two seconds and in about four seconds you can take a picture. Switching between images you've taken in the playback mode is fast, as are the in-camera menus.
The LCD is small but we'd expect that on a budget-priced compact such as this and it's clear and bright. The viewfinder is basic and doesn't offer any diopter adjustment for spectacle wearers.
An easy way to tell the market a manufacturer is aiming a camera at is the simplicity of the in-camera menus. The Coolpix 3100 offers a very simple menu system with only a few options on each screen and large selectable icons. This prevents those new to photography from being confused and also makes the camera quick and easy to use.
||This main menu lets you choose image size and quality, white balance settings, Exposure compensation, Date imprinting, Continuos modes, BSS (Best Shot selector On/Off), Image sharpening and CompactFlash Card formatting. Each of these options are well described in the manual making it quite an easy camera to learn how to use.
||This lets you change: Welcome screen, Language, Date, LCD brightness, Volume, Auto Off, CF Card format, USB mode, Video Mode, Reset all.
||The scene modes available are: Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night Landscape, Close up, Museum, Fireworks Show, Copy and Back Light.
Considering the low cost of the Coolpix 3100 the image quality it produces is excellent. In low light when the higher ISOs are automatically selected there is little noise and in better light the lowest ISO provides smooth noise-free images. The 3x optical zoom lens is reasonably versatile and helps the camera to produce sharp images and the macro mode is excellent. There is manual control over the image sharpening performed by the camera, but the automatic setting will be reliable enough for most people's needs.
Colour accuracy is good enough to produce pleasing images and Nikon have been good enough to include a custom white-balance mode, something many manufacturers neglect on their cheaper cameras. Unfortunately there is no manual control over the colour settings in-camera, so if you don't like the default colour levels you'll have to resort to manual editing in a program like Photoshop.
The image below is a 1:1 ratio crop of the above image.
In very bright sunlight it was hard to check whether the above image was in focus on the LCD. The fast playback mode helped to verify that the correct focus had been achieved.
The Coolpix 3100 is a very good example of a low-budget digital camera. It is easy to use, well specified, has a good range of features, decent image quality and most importantly for the budget conscious, is competitively priced. So if you're not looking for a great deal of manual control and can live without some of the features pricier cameras offer such as high resolution movie modes, or histogram details, the Coolpix 3100 is a very capable camera.
In summary the main positive points of the Nikon Coolpix 3100 are:
Compact and lightweight design
Fast operation and easy to use
Good image quality
Good range of features for the price
Supplied with rechargeable batteries
Negative points are:
Focussing can be slow in low light
Lack of manual modes may frustrate some
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