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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Nikon Coolpix 3100

Nikon Digital Cameras


Nikon Coolpix 3100 Review

Review Date: Oct 1, 2003

Category: Point-and-Shoot


Image Quality

The Nikon Coolpix 3100 is a digital camera targeted to point-and-shoot photographers and its image quality is comparable to other quality 3 megapixels resolution digital cameras.

For this review, I used the following settings as my preferred settings (in fact, the Coolpix 3100 sets metering mode and ISO automatically):

  • Shooting Mode: Auto
  • Image Quality/Size: 3M* High (Fine/2048x1536 pixels)
  • Exposure Compensation: 0
  • Metering Mode: Multi-Pattern
  • ISO: Auto
  • White Balance: Auto

All the pictures on this and the other pages (including the navigation pictures at the top of each page) have been taken by the Coolpix 3100 for this review. The pictures on this page provide a good sample of what the Coolpix 3100 is capable of and I have provided the 800x600 version. Remember that this version is of slightly lesser quality than the original 2048x1536 version. Please open and download only once to your hard drive -- and save me some precious bandwidth. Thanks!

Clicking on a picture will display the 800x600 image in a separate window. Leave that separate window up for all the other original images will also display in that same separate window.

Montana's: 1/142.5 sec., F5.6 and ISO Auto, with fill-in flash (File size: 959 KB)12:30 p.m. with a blazing sun is usually not the right time for taking pictures, but it's perfect to test out how the Coolpix 3100 handles extreme lighting conditions. Details on the wood grain are nicely captured. Shadow details can be easily coaxed out in Photoshop. It is very bright and I expected the sky to be washed out, but some cloud details have been captured. Focal Length 5.8mm, Programmed Auto, shutter speed 1/142.5 sec., aperture F5.6 and ISO Auto, will fill-in flash. [File size: 959 KB]

Famous Players Movie Theatre: 1/212 sec., F5.6 and ISO Auto (File size: 926 KB)Here is another shot taken at around the same time. The sun is behind me and you can see the bright reflection straight on the "V". Here again, I expected the sky to wash out completely, and am pleasantly surprised that some cloud details are captured. I've never been able to make out the metal figures at the top on the roof but the Coolpix 3100 is able to resolve them even at this distance. Focal length 5.8mm, Programmed Auto, shutter speed 1/212 sec., aperture F5.6, ISO Auto. [File size: 926 KB]

School Bus: 1/121.3 sec., F3.7 and ISO Auto, with Fill-in flash (File size: 926 KB)The Coolpix 3100 is at its best when there is enough bright lighting, in this case at around 5:30 p.m. Colours are well saturated without blown highlights. Details to the nuts and bolts and paint scratches are captured. I wonder why school buses have not changed design since time immemorial (so it seems)? Isn't it time to use a more modern design with large windshield and flat nose for maximum visibility? In my humble opinion, it might prevent a lot of unnecessary accidents. Focal length 10.9mm, Programmed Auto, shutter speed 1/121.3 sec., aperture F3.7, ISO Auto. [File size: 926 KB]

Tools: 1/18.1 sec., F2.8 and ISO Auto (File size: 1.0 MB)I grab some tools from my garage and place them haphazardly on the floor for a quick shot. It's a hand held shot at very slow shutter speed, and there's barely a hint of camera shake. Colours and details are very good. Now, quick, which tool does not belong to the group? Focal length 5.8mm, Programmed Auto, shutter speed 1/18.1 sec., aperture F2.8, ISO Auto. [File size: 1.0 MB]

Old and New: 1/352.1 sec., F5.6 and ISO Auto, with fill-in flash (File size: 971 KB)A new glass tower seems to menacingly sprout out behind an old one made of stone. The multi-pattern metering does a pretty good job here of balancing the bright sky and darker building. I use fill-in flash to ensure the plant foliage does not appear a solid black. Depth of field is small enough to ensure sharpness all around. Focal length 5.8 mm, Programmed Auto, shutter speed 1/352.1 sec, aperture F5.6 and ISO Auto, with fill-in flash. [File size: 971 KB]

Textile Quilt: 1/20 sec., F2.8 and ISO Auto (File size: 967 KB)This tapestry is painted on a garage door at the Textile Museum of Canada and is coated with dust. I hand hold the shot. Even though the Coolpix 3100 is small and light, its handgrip makes all the difference in the world in allowing a hand held shot at slow shutter speed without camera shake. The colors are washed out and I decide to post-process it to show what difference a little processing can do to a "soft" picture. I adjust level and apply USM in Photoshop Elements for the two smaller versions; the original is unretouched. Focal length 5.8 mm, Programmed Auto, shutter speed 1/20 sec, aperture F2.8 and ISO Auto. [File size: 967 KB]

Chinese Medecine: 1/98.2 sec., F2.8 and ISO Auto, with fill-in flash (File size: 1.0 MB)Chinese medicinal roots and dates are popular and are prescribed for a host of ailments. So, whenever I pass by a stall or goes into one of the specialized store, I make sure I take in a deeeep breath. I always feel much better after that. ;o) Focal length 5.8 mm, Programmed Auto, shutter speed 1/98.2 sec, aperture F2.8 and ISO Auto, with fill-in flash. [File size: 1.0 MB]

Red Rocket: 1/649.3 sec., F4.0 and ISO Auto (File size: 952 KB)"Red Rocket" street cars ferry thousands of passengers to and from work. Spadina Avenue is probably the most confusing street downtown, with various reserved lanes, passengers getting off streetcars literally in the middle of the street, and cars jockeying for precious parking space. Focal length 12.3 mm, Programmed Auto, shutter speed 1/649.3 sec, aperture F4 and ISO Auto. [File size: 952 KB]

Street Vendor: 1/335.5 sec., F2.8 and ISO Auto, with fill-in flash (File size: 1.1 MB)Colourful fruits and vegetables are displayed on a makeshift table in this China Town street market. I bump into someone stationary on the pavement, and looking up, I see he has his arms outstretched above his head snapping the same picture (?) with a Nikon Coolpix with a twist body (could not tell if it was a 995 or 4500). This is a quick snap because the surging crowd just carries you on. Focal length 5.8 mm, Programmed Auto, shutter speed 1/335.5 sec, aperture F2.8 and ISO Auto, with fill-in flash. [File size: 1.1 MB]

Pub: 1/30 sec., F4.4 and ISO Auto (File size: 917 KB)This is a challenging shot because of the bright noonday sun, the lighted spot lamps on the sign and the dark interior of the pub. The menu sign on the left is washed out by the bright sunlight and is a bit difficult to read: Steak and Kidney Special; the spot lights are strong enough to register on "film"; and patrons in the dark interior are barely visible, though the lone figure at the window gets enough light for a proper exposure. The pole and wire cutting vertically through the picture will need to be cloned out for a cleaner look. Focal length 14.5 mm, Programmed Auto, shutter speed 1/30 sec, aperture F4.4 and ISO Auto. [File size: 917 KB]

And to finish off, here is our panorama shot of a Catholic School in Mississauga, just across my favourite lunch spot. It is sunny and cloudy at the same time (sun behind me). Since the Coolpix 3100 does not allow me to fix shutter speed and aperture, I just take 5 portrait snapshots, handheld. I have to say that Panorama Maker 3.0 from ArcSoft is the best panorama software I have used so far (that is included with a digital camera). It combines three of the shots seamlessly and only has difficulty with the leaves of the tree in the foreground because try as you may, the different perspectives of image four and five mean that they just won't match. Fortunately, Panorama Maker 3.0 has a Fine Tune function where you specify three matching spots on each of the two images you are trying to match. It then superimposes image #5 on top on image #4 at your matching points and voila! Focal length 16.7mm, shutter speeds ranging from 1/360.4 to 1/170 sec., aperture F4.8 and ISO Auto.

Catholic School: 5 portrait shots taken at various shutter speeds and apertures; Combined in Panorama Maker (File size: 1.1 MB)

Need a place to upload your photos? Free photo sharing and photo hosting web site at cassepoze.

A Personal Word

The Nikon Coolpix 3100 has a number of good points that a point-and-shoot photographer will like: it is very light yet the handgrip means I can easily take one handed shot without camera shake; it is easy to use on Programmed Auto mode giving quality 3MP pictures; it's macro capability beats that on much more expensive digital cameras; and Nikon also includes free of charge some of the best digital imaging software you can buy: NikonView, Adobe Photoshop Elements, ArcSoft Panorama Maker.

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