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Nikon D3000 Digital SLR Review

Matt Grayson was privy to the newest entry level DSLR, the Nikon D3000.

|  Nikon D3000 in Digital SLRs
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Review by Matt Grayson
The Nikon D60 is dead. Long live the Nikon D3000. Replacing the 2 year old comes a camera almost identical in every way. Almost.

Nikon D3000: Specification
  • Resolution: 10.2Mp
  • Sensor size: 23.6x15.8mm
  • Sensor type: CCD
  • Image size: 3872x2592
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Focus system: Multi-CAM 1000sensor module with TTL phase detection
  • Focus points: 11 (one cross type)
  • Crop factor: 1.5x
  • Lens mount: Nikon F mount (with AF contacts)
  • File type: NEF (RAW), JPEG
  • Sensitivity: ISO100-1600 (expandable to ISO3200)
  • Storage: SD, SDHC
  • Focus types: Single (AF-S), continuous (AF-C), AF-S/AF-C switch (AF-A), predictive, manual
  • Metering system: TTL exposure using 420px RGB sensor
  • Metering types: Matrix, centre-weighted, spot
  • Exposure compensation: +/- 5EV in 1/3 step increments
  • Shutter speed: 30sec-1/4000sec, bulb
  • Frames per second: 3fps
  • Flash: Built-in (guide no. 19, ISO100), hotshoe
  • Flash metering: i-TTL using 420px RGB sensor
  • Flash sync speed: 1/200sec
  • Integrated cleaning: Sensor cleaning, airflow control, image dust off software (optional)
  • Live view: No
  • Viewfinder: optical eye level pentamiror type
  • Monitor: 3in TFT LCD 230,000dot (76,000px)
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Power: Lithium Ion battery
  • Size: 126x97x64mm
  • Weight: 485g
Nikon D3000: Features
Nikon D3000 command dial
Nikon D3000 side buttons

With the Nikon D60 being discontinued, the popular manufacturer have replaced it with a camera that is essentially the same but as always adds to the pot. Notably different is a Multi-CAM 1000 focus module upgraded from the Multi-CAM 530 on the D60. Helping this along the way is an eleven point AF system instead of three and externally is a 3in LCD. Interestingly, the resolution of the sensor has remained the same raising the question of whether this will reduce quality. It's a pretty important question especially with live-view if there's a possibility it could impair the quality of your images.

Of course a camera at this level is aimed at the entry level market of photographers who may need help with working their way around a new camera and Nikon have introduced a new Guide mode on the command dial which simplifies things even more than a fully auto mode. I know you're thinking it can't be done but Nikon are now the third company to add this kind of feature after the Canon EOS 500D and Sony Alpha A230. On the surface it appears that the Nikon is the most confusing of the lot in the way that you have to go into menus to get to certain features and it assumes you know what a shutter speed is. It's a shame and I think if it weren't for previous releases that look a lot easier to use, everyone would think it was a great way of doing it for their first attempt.

Nikon have followed the same route as Sony and released a bottom end camera without live view. I can't but think that they've missed a trick here. All users that will buy this type of camera will be used to holding it at arms length as they're current compact camera owners so I hope it doesn't deter potential owners.

The large command dial sits prominently on the top right shoulder and selects features for easier shooting such as portrait, landscape, baby and sport modes. But it also still has the PASM options for if you need to expand your creative horizons and take more control over what you photograph. An info button brings up selected information on the screen such as the aperture and shutter speed icons and histogram.

Nikon D3000 DSLR
A simplified rear means there's less to worry about as there's only six buttons that do anything. On the left of the screen are buttons for playback, main menu, zoom out and zoom in during playback, while on the right is a delete button and ok confirmation.

A lot of people also miss the ? Button. Doubling up as the zoom out, it's a key tool if this is your first DSLR because you can press the button at any time and it will give a run down on what the current feature will do. A few other buttons are scattered around the body such as the flash button and self timer on the left of the body.

Possibly the most interesting new feature of the Nikon D3000 is the miniature effect that's been added to the retouch menu. It works by creating a zone of focus similar to what you can get using a tilt shift lens, lensbaby or (sometimes) a narrow aperture. You take the photograph you want to miniaturise, go into playback, press menu, go to the retouch menu and on the second page is the option. Select the image you want to adjust, choose your line of focus and the camera will process the image to show it gently slipping out of focus at either side of point that you choose. The picture you take has to be from a high position, looking down sharply such as from a tall bridge or building.

Nikon D3000: Build and handling
Being an entry level model, the Nikon D3000 isn't going to offer a magnesium alloy body or a kevlar shutter curtain, but that's not to say that it feels flimsy. I don't think Nikon would be Nikon if the camera wasn't solid and balanced in your hands.

Making the transition from the D60 which is reaching the end of its life is the Airflow system along with the usual sensor shaking system. Airflow employs the turbulence that's caused when the mirror is raised. It uses the swirling air to direct dust away from the sensor and into a small whole in the bottom of the mirror chamber. It's a cost effective way of helping keep dirt away therefore keeping the cost of the camera down.

Nikon D3000 DSLR
Nicely balanced colours except the pastels which are paler than normal.
Nikon D3000 DSLR
Nikon D3000: Performance
I like the balance of colours in the colour test chart image because although blue is boosted, it's not too much that it subdues all other colours around it. Warmer colours are also punchy although I think the pastels have suffered slightly as they look on the verge of being washed out. The mono tones are well balanced and although the skin tone is a bit lighter than I'd like, it's not an unpleasant tone.

It was an overcast but warm day when I tested the Nikon D3000 for its landscape capabilities. It's given a really good result with lovely colours and bags of detail in the low key areas. The grass also has a good level of detail and the colour is realistic.

The more I see this camera in action, the more impressed I get with it. I love the amount of detail given in the portrait shot along with the colour of the skin tone and the metering. It's a little warm which I've put down to processing in portrait mode but could be a flaw in white balance. The background has a mild hint of magenta to confirm the latter theory but it's not unpleasant.
Nikon D3000 DSLR
Nikon D3000 DSLR portrait with flash

Adding flash is quite mild, which I like anyway, and adds a hint of extra light to the darker side of the face, rids the image of the cast seen in the previous shot and puts some attractive catchlights into the eyes.

Using the miniature effect can be tricky if you don't have access to high areas such as tops of buildings or high bridges. Remember to take care leaning over tall parts as a photograph isn't more important than your life.

I managed to get some shots off a bridge which you can see me taking and processing on the video review of the Nikon D3000 on, channel 2.

It works really well and the only grumble I have, which is not to do with the miniature effect but the camera in general, is that it takes ages to process the image after it's taken the photograph.

Nikon D3000 DSLR pre-miniature effect
The original image above has been converted to miniature in camera on the Nikon D3000.
Nikon D3000 DSLR miniature effect
Nikon D3000 DSLR flower
It's a great effect but does have some errors in the shot. Look at the image close up and brake lights of the cars going up the hill, they're badly saturated to distortion and the windows of the buidings in the top left corner of the shot have what looks like chromatic aberration.

For the photograph of the flower, I like the blurred out background  that macro mode has managed, but the depth of field is a little too harsh and some of the flower petals have slipped out of focus too.

I also like the colours that the camera has recorded as well as the level of detail. This wasn't the easiest of shots to get because the petals were constantly shifting thanks to the wind and the 50mm f/1.4 G ED lens I was using isn't AF compliant with the Nikon D3000.

Nikon D3000: Noise test
I've always liked the low ISO noise results from Nikon cameras and the D3000 doesn't fail to provide. Images at the two lowest settings are smooth and well detailed. A shift in quality doesn't really start to happen until ISO400 and even then I'm being picky because it's only a fraction that can be seen at full magnification.

It's not until ISO1600 that quality starts to degrade with some loss in detail of the petals  and mild colour invasion on the grey card but I'm surprised at the drop in quality of the ISO3200 equivalent. But then it does show that the software created settings have more of a margin of error because I don't think this would be half as bad if it was a true ISO3200 image.
Nikon D3000 DSLR ISO100 test
The ISO100 test.
Nikon D3000 DSLR ISO200 test
The ISO200 test.
Nikon D3000 DSLR ISO400 test
The ISO400 test.
Nikon D3000 DSLR ISO800 test
The ISO800 test.
Nikon D3000 DSLR ISO1600 test
The ISO1600 test.
Nikon D3000 DSLR ISO3200 test
The ISO3200 test.

DxOMark provides objective, independent, RAW-based image quality performance data for lenses and digital cameras to help you select the best equipment to meet your photographic needs.

Visit the DxOMark website for tests performed on the Nikon D3000.

Nikon D3000: Verdict
I think for the first time user wanting to get into DSLR photography, this is a lovely camera to start with. It's easy to use, has a good build quality and has some cool features such as the guide mode and miniature effect.

I'm disappointed to see the lack of live view and video mode simply because these are features that the intended market are used to having on their cameras. Still, Nikon have shown some spirit as this will force newcomers into using a DSLR as it was originally intended.

Take a look at the video review on before you make your mind up, but this is squaring up to be a nice little camera.

Nikon D3000: Plus points
Small and light
Guide mode for additional help
Simplified exterior
Better focus system
Miniature effect

Nikon D3000: Minus points
Not much of an upgrade
Easy guide is more complicated than other DSLRs





The Nikon D3000 is listed at £364.99 body only or £414.99 with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens at Warehouse Express here:

Nikon D3000 & 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6

See our press release in the news section:

Nikon D3000 press release

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Photographs taken using the Nikon D3000

Slave trader.Boats and bits (2)DragonflyDomestic gardens and the pots...Tribute to BernardPlanet StaithesPostcards from RomePostcards from Goa (India)Hopper shadows...Broadway DeliColours of India...ZEN...Room 101Relics from Goa...Postcards from India ...

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David0944 15 4 United Kingdom
24 Aug 2009 3:50PM
I was interested to read your review of the D3000. I am about to take my first step into DSLR and had planned to buy the D60 - however, ti was suggested that I wait for the D3000 and so I have pre-ordered one.

I ordered mine at Jessops and for 499 I get the camera, an Extreme III 4gb Sd card and a Lowepro bag.

timbo 20 596 United Kingdom
29 Sep 2009 9:30PM
I bought this camera for my wife who is moving up from a compact.
She prefers not to have live view as looking through the viewfinder gives a feeling of being more in control.
The images from the camera are excellent and we would recommend the D3000 to anyone taking their first steps into slr photography.
26 Jan 2011 7:47PM
I just bought my D3000 on Friday 1/21/2011, my first DSLR and I love, love, love it.....

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