Nikon updates entry dSLRs, lenses

The company adds video capture to its entry-level model.

Nikon USA

Nikon updates its entry-level dSLR with the addition of video capture, new processing algorithms, and the de rigeur bump in resolution. The D3100 adds HD video capture with continuous autofocus. Continuous AF is unusual in dSLRs, but for good reason; the focusing mechanisms in the lenses are generally too noisy and an unwelcome addition to your soundtrack. This remains true for Nikon's solution, and without a mic input, you really have no way around it. Consider it a tradeoff. The camera does have a direct-access button for movie mode rather than shunting it off to the mode dial.

Here are some basic comparisons with Nikon's other current entry-level models (tables updated with more specs):

 Nikon D3000Nikon D3100Nikon D5000
Sensor (effective resolution)10.2-megapixel CCD14.2-megapixel CMOS12.3-megapixel CMOS
23.6 x 15.8.mm23.6 x 15.8mm23.1 x 15.4mm23.6 mm x 15.8mm
Sensitivity rangeISO 100 - ISO 3200ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 3200/12,800 (expanded)ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 1600/3200 (expanded
Continuous shooting3fps
n/a raw/n/a JPEG
3fps
n/a
4 fps
9 raw/100 JPEG (medium/fine)
Viewfinder
magnification/effective magnification
95% coverage
0.80x/0.53x
95% coverage
0.80x/0.53x
95% coverage
0.78x/0.52x
Autofocus11-pt AF
center cross-type
11-pt AF
center cross-type
11-pt AF
center cross-type to f5.6
Shutter speed1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync
Metering420-pixel 3D color matrix420-pixel 3D color matrix420-pixel 3D color matrix
Live ViewYes NoYesYes
VideoNo1080/24p; 720/30p AVCHD MOV720/24p
LCD size3 inches fixed
230,000 dots
3 inches fixed
230,000 dots
2.7 inches articulated
230,000 dots
Wireless flashYesYesNo
Battery life (CIPA rating)500 shotsn/a shots510 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD)5.0 x 3.8 x 2.54.9 x 3.8 x 2.95.0 x 4.1 x 3.1
Body operating weight (ounces)18.817 (est)21.6
Mfr. Pricen/an/a$629.95 (body only)
$549.95 (with 18-55mm lens)$699.95 (with 18-55mm lens)$699.99 (est, with 18-55mm lens)
n/an/an/a
Ship dateJuly 2009September 2010April 2009

Other enhancements over the D3000 include an improved guide mode which provides more interactive help and which leads you through some of the operations. Nikon says the camera also has improved noise reduction and Active D-Lighting algorithms, in-camera raw processing, a 100,000-cycle shutter and support for SDXC, among other things.

Here're some competitors:

 Canon EOS T1i Nikon D3100Pentax K-xSony Alpha DSLR-A550
Sensor (effective resolution)15.1-megapixel CMOS14.2-megapixel CMOS12.4-megapixel CMOS14.2-megapixel Exmor CMOS
22.3 mm x 14.9mm23.6 x 15.8mm23.1 x 15.4mm23.5 mm x 15.6mm23.5 mm x 15.6mm
Color depth14 bitn/a12 bitn/a
Sensitivity rangeISO 100 - ISO 3200/12,800 (expanded)ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 3200/12,800 (expanded)ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 6400/12,800 (expanded)ISO 200 - ISO 12,800
Focal-length multiplier1.6x1.5x1.5x1.5x
Continuous shooting3.4 fps
9 raw/170 JPEG
3 fps
n/a
4.7 fps
5 raw/17 JPEG
5 fps
14 raw/32 JPEG
Viewfinder
magnification/effective magnification
95% coverage
0.87x/0.54x
95% coverage
0.80x/0.53x
96% coverage
0.85x/0.57x
95% coverage
0.80x/0.53x
Autofocus9-pt AF
center cross-type
11-pt AF
center cross-type
11-pt AF
9 cross-type
9-pt AF
center cross-type
Shutter speed1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync1/6000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/180 sec x-sync1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync
Metering35 zone420-pixel 3D color matrix16 segment40 segment
Image StabilizationOpticalOpticalSensor shiftSensor shift
Live ViewYesYesYesYes
Video1080/20p; 720/30p H.264 Quicktime MOV1080/24p; 720/30p AVCHD MOV720/24p Motion JPEG AVNo
LCD size3 inches fixed
920,000 dots
3 inches fixed
230,000
2.7 inches fixed
230,000 dots
3 inches tiltable
921,600 dots
Wireless flashNoNoYesYes
Battery life (CIPA rating)400 shotsn/a shots1,100 shots (lithium batteries)950 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD)5.1 x 3.8 x 2.44.9 x 3.8 x 2.94.8 x 3.6 x 2.75.4 x 4.1 x 3.3
Body operating weight (ounces)18.617 (est)24.024.0
Mfr. Price$649 (body only, est)n/a$599 (body only, est)$749.99 (body only)
$799 (with 18-55mm lens)$699.95 (with 18-55mm lens)$649.95 (with 18-55mm lens)$849.99 (with 18-55mm lens)
Ship dateApril 2009September 2010October 2009November 2009

Nikon also announced four new lenses. The first,the AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR ($399) is a consumer-grade lens that seems destined for life as a dual-lens kit staple. It features automatic tripod detection, to automatically tweak the VR when mounted, can focus as close as 4.6 feet at all focal lengths, and the currently in vogue 9-blade aperture.

The AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR ($1299.95) is a higher end full-frame lens which incorporates VRII, an ultrasonic motor and internal focus.

Another full-frame lens, the AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4 G ED VR ($1049.95), incorporates ED glass and Nikon's Nano Crystal coat for a meat-and-potatoes midrange lens.

Finally, the last lens, the AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G ED ($1699.95), which Nikon says is optimized for edge-to-edge sharpness across both DX and FX sensors, and which incorporates the usual pro glass elements and coatings, sounds like it has the makings of a very nice portrait lens.

The lenses will be available starting in September.

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