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You are hereHome > Best Digital Cameras > Nikon D3000 Review

Nikon Digital Cameras

   

Nikon D3000 Review

Review Date: Aug 24, 2009

Category: Beginner Amateur - Family DSLR

Nikon D3000

Photoxels Editor's Choice 2009 - Family DSLR
Photoxels Editor's Choice 2009 - Family DSLR

HANDLING & FEEL

The Nikon D3000 DSLR is Nikon's new entry-level digital SLR and you can expect Nikon's famed craftsmanship thru and thru. Why mess with a winning design? The D3000 retains the comfortable body of the more expensive D Series digital SLR cameras and handles pretty much the same way. The body is constructed of high grade plastic and has an unmistakable feel of solid quality. It has one of the best handgrip of the entry-level DSLRs, providing a secure and comfortable hold.

In the hand, the Nikon D3000 -- with the AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Lens attached, and white, silver, chrome and gold engravings -- is a beautiful camera to behold and use.

The D3000 accepts all AF Nikkor lenses, but only the AF-S and AF-I series lenses that have a built-in focus motor allow auto focus. The other lenses can be used but with manual focus only. (This is because the lens mount on the D3000 is lacking a mechanical focus drive pin and the D3000 does not have an internal focus drive motor.) If you only intend to use the kit lens or add other AF-S lenses, this does not affect you one bit. If you have existing Nikon lenses and/or do intend to purchase other lenses that are not AF-S and AF-I, then you need to ask yourself if autofocus is a big deal for you. You may also have to use Manual mode. Recommendation is to stick to the newer AF-S lenses.

The lens mount system used in the Nikon D3000 is the standard Nikon "F" mount with a 1.5x field of view (FOV) crop. The 3x zoom 18-55mm kit lens therefore translates to a 27-82.5mm equivalent field of view.

The Nikon D3000 uses the Secure Digital (SD) Card (including the large capacity SDHC cards).

Here are the Nikon D3000's closest competitors and how the entry-level digital SLR cameras measure up against one another, without lens attached and without battery and card:

Camera W
(mm)
H
(mm)
D
(mm)
Weight
(g)
Pentax K200D 133.5 95 74 630
Sony A-230 128 97 67.5 452
Canon XS / 1000D 126.1 97.5 61.9 450
Nikon D3000 126 97 64 485
Nikon D60 126 94 64 475
Olympus E-450 129.5 91 53 380

As you can see, the Nikon D3000 is about the same size and weight as the Canon Digital Rebel XS/1000D but has a slightly deeper and more comfortable grip.

AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Lens

AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Lens

The AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Lens is optically image stabilized. It has dimensions of 73D x 79.5L mm (2.9D x 3.1L in.) and adds in a further 265g (9.3 oz.). Filter/Attachment Size is 52mm. Minimum Focus Distance is 0.28m (11 in.). The big ring is the manual Zoom Ring, and the smaller ring in front of it (almost to the tip of the lens) is the thin manual Focus Ring.

STYLE
- Colors: black body with white and silver letterings, and chrome accents; kit lens has silver and gold letterings and chrome accents
- Looks: professional, a beautiful camera
   
FEEL
- Ergonomic and high quality
- Controls & menu are precise and easy to use
   
DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT
- Light, nice heft
- Dimensions: 126 x 97 x 64mm
- Weight: 485g (body only)
- Takes 1 rechargeable Li-ion battery EN-EL9a 7.2V 1080mAh
   

SPEED OF OPERATION

(using SHQ)

- Startup is approx. 3 sec. with Dust Reduction at startup, quasi instant with Dust Reduction turned OFF
- Shot to shot time as fast as you can press the shutter, but dependent on AF.
-

Continuous Shooting: @ 3fps for 8 frames, then the burst rate progressively slows down to about 1.3fps as the buffer fills up and the camera has to momentarily pause to save images. I took the maximum 100 pictures in about 75 sec.

I used a regular SanDisk 2GB and the camera was set to M mode, 1/250 sec., Manual AF and no NR.

- No practical shutter lag
- Overall, superb performance
   

Included in the box is a rechargeable Li-ion battery (that can take approx. 550 shots in single-frame shooting and approx. 2,000 shots in continuous shooting mode on a fresh charge (CIPA)) and a Battery Charger MH-23 (with power cord) that will recharge a new battery in about 1 hour 40 mins.

Note that there is no Video cable included as standard accessory. If you want to be able to connect your D3000 directly to a TV, be sure to purchase the optional Nikon EG D100 Video cable [QuickPrice Check].

Nikon D3000 Top View Controls
Mouseove image for close-up of controls

The top of the camera has a clean layout. The D3000 has a nice handgrip and your index finger falls naturally on the Shutter-release button. The Power Switch is around the Shutter-release button with 2 settings: OFF and ON. I believe Nikon's Power Switch design around the Shutter Release button is the best and don't know why all camera manufacturers do not standardize on this design; it's quick and easy to turn on and off your camera, and does not require hunting for an oddly placed (and sometimes shaped) Power Switch somewhere on the back of the camera amongst all the other control buttons.

Behind the shutter release button are the Exposure Compensation and Info buttons.

The Mode dial is slightly redesigned with a double row of straight ridges (linear) knurling for easy grip. It allows you to select Auto, Guide, PSAM, Night Portrait, Close up, Sports, Child, Landscape, Portrait, and Auto Flash Off. Since the flash will automatically pop up when needed in fully AUTO mode, the Auto Flash Off mode is a convenient alternative AUTO mode to use for times when you do not want to use flash (e.g. in Museums and other locations where flash photography is prohibited).

The Guide mode is new and is a nod to beginner users, displaying help for basic and advanced camera functions on screen. Depending on your answers, it will even set the right shooting mode for you and allow you to further refine your choices.

Note that the strap eyelets are inset (recessed into the camera body) and so are not in the way when you're holding the camera. It's small touches like this that contribute to making the D3000 one of the most comfortable camera to hold and operate.

Nikon D3000 Back View

Nikon has successfully designed the back of the Nikon D3000 so that it does not look cramped or overwhelming for the first-time DSLR user. The controls are nicely sized and positioned and there's still lots of space for your thumb to rest comfortably without inadvertently hitting any button. I like the fact that the LCD is positioned right underneath the viewfinder (and not to the left or right) and the nice soft but precise touch of the control buttons ("press" vs. "clicking" on hard plastic buttons).

The Nikon D3000 has a large 3.0-in. high resolution LCD monitor with wide-angle viewing and the 230K dots are put to the best use with beautifully legible text and graphics. There is no live view and this LCD is strictly used for Playback. It also functions as a Control Panel (Shooting info display).

The Nikon D3000 lacks Live View and Movie mode. For these, you'll need to move up to the Nikon D5000 which has an articulated LCD, Live View and Movie mode for about US $250 more.

On the left side of the LCD screen, there are 4 buttons: Playback, Menu, Thumbnail/Playback Zoom out/Help, Playback Zoom in/Info display/Quick Settings/Reset. Tip: the last button [i] is a convenient shortcut to directly access the shooting settings displayed on the Info display without going into the Menu.

The Playback Zoom in and Zoom out are very convenient to check focus. Just press and hold the relevant button and the image zooms in or out really fast.

There is also a bright and large viewfinder with approx. 95% coverage. The exposure settings are displayed on a black strip at the bottom of the viewfinder and are also displayed on the large LCD screen.

Gone is the Eye Sensor under the viewfinder that turns the LCD display off when you bring the camera to your eye. We are sad to see this feature gone and it was a small but very convenient feature that added to the overall enjoyment of using a DSLR.

Falling under your thumb is the Command dial. You use the Command dial to quickly set your exposure values:

  • In Manual mode, it allows you to select a shutter speed; press the +/- exposure compensation button and rotate the Command dial to select an aperture.
  • In Shutter-Priority mode, use the Command dial to change shutter speed.
  • In Aperture-priority mode, use the Command dial to change aperture.
  • In Programmed Auto [P] mode, rotating the Command dial switches you into Flexible Program [P*] mode (i.e. Program Shift) and allows you to select different combinations of shutter speed and aperture while keeping the same exposure.

There are 3 AF Area Modes to choose from:

  • Single point (camera focuses at selected focus point);
  • Dynamic area (user manually selects focus point, but camera will follow subject);
  • Auto-area (camera selects focus point; and,
  • 3D-tracking (camera tracks subject using 11 AF points)

In Dynamic area and Single point modes, you can use the Multi selector to specify one of 11 focus points you want the camera to lock focus on (convenient when your subject is not centered in the frame). The focus brackets are black lines which blink red when you half-press the Shutter-release button.

To the left of the Command dial is the AE-L/AF-L button that allows you to lock exposure and/or focus. The Multi selector is used to navigate the Menu, in Playback, and to select a focus area. Press the Delete button twice to delete image displayed (best single image delete implementation I've used). However, to delete all images, you'll need to access the Playback Menu. The SD Card compartment door can be seen at the right.

Nikon D3000 Side Left Controls

The Fn button is the customizable Function button, by default set to the Self-timer. The Self-timer can be set in Custom Settings to be 2s, 5s, 10s or 20s. While the number of choices is great, only the one you select will be available when you press the Fn/Self-timer button. I would have preferred that each press of the Fn/Self-timer button would simply cycle thru each available Self-timer choice.

The Fn button can also be customized [Setup Menu - Buttons - Fn button] to Release mode (Continuous), Image quality/size, ISO, WB, Active D-Lighting, or Set Framing Grid.

Above the Fn button is the Flash mode button: press it to raise the flash. Keep it pressed and rotate the Command Dial to select a flash mode: Auto, Auto+red-eye reduction, Auto slow sync+red-eye reduction, Auto slow sync, Rear-curtain sync.

Below the Fn button is the Lens release button. Depress it and twist the lens clockwise to remove it.

On the kit lens, there are two switches: the A-M mode switch allows you to switch back and forth between autofocus and manual focus modes; the VR switch allows you to turn optical image stabilization (Nikon calls it Vibration Reduction) On and Off. Note that the lens ships with VR set to Off. This is because it needs to be set to Off when you're attaching or removing the lens. There is no indication in the viewfinder or LCD whether VR is turned On or Off. Would be nice if there was.

Underneath the camera, as expected, the metal tripod mount is located in line with the center of the lens. The battery compartment is in the handgrip and you should be able to change the battery with the camera mounted on a tripod. The battery compartment door has a small spring-mounted catch that locks the battery in securely. When the door pops open, the battery slides out slightly but does not fall out; you need to give it a slight tug to pull the battery out completely.

As you would expect, there are tons of customizable settings to choose from. They will be more or less familiar to Nikon users, but can at first seem too many and too complicated for the point-and-shoot target audience. Reading the excellent Reference Manual (on CD) carefully should clarify most of the available choices.

Overall, the programmer/designer did an excellent job on the menu design.

The Nikon D3000 is one of the most comfortable DSLR camera ever, especially because of its large handgrip, light weight and compact size. Controls placement and a user friendly implementation of its features make it point-and-shoot easy to use.

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