Noise

The D3100 has a very good noise profile; it matches (and perhaps bests) the current leader in the budget dSLR category, the Pentax K-x. It produces exceptionally clean JPEGs up through ISO 800 and very usable ones through ISO 3200. (Adobe Camera Raw doesn't yet support the D3100 and Nikon Capture NX 2 doesn't provide sufficiently granular noise reduction for me to do raw versus JPEG comparisons).
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Photo by: Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET / Caption by:

Noise, ISO 800

Normally, ISO 800 images of cat fur are useless because the fine, dark fur is highly susceptible to color noise. But these are very clean, and I'll probably be able to work with the exposure and sharpness once I have raw software support.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Noise, ISO 1600

You can start to see some color noise in this shot, but it's still quite usable.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Color

The D3100 has excellent color reproduction in its default SD mode.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Distortion, 35mm f1.8 lens

For a relatively inexpensive lens, the 35mm f1.8 fares pretty well overall. There's a little bit of asymmetrical distortion on the right, however.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Sample image, 35mm f1.8 lens

(1/100 sec, f4.0, ISO 100, spot meter, AWB)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Distortion, 18-55mm kit lens

At its widest, 18mm, the 18-55mm lens tends to crush towards the right side of the photo. This was taken with the automatic distortion control off, the default.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Distortion, 55-300mm lens

As you'd expect, there's very little distortion at the wide end of the 55-300mm lens.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Sample image, 55-300mm f4.5-5.6 lens

(1/80 sec, f4.5, ISO 100, spot meter AWB, 78mm)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Sharpness

The D3100 is capable of producing very natural-looking but sharp images--and this was taken using the relatively inexpensive 35mm f1.8 lens. (1/500 sec, f5.6, ISO 100, spot meter, AWB)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Sample image, 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 lens

(1/100 sec, f5.6, ISO 100, spot meter, AWB, SB900 flash, 170mm)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Bokeh, 35mm f1.8 lens

Although it has a 7-bladed aperture, the bokeh on the 35mm lens still strikes me as overly polygonal.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:
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