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Nikon D3000 review: Nikon D3000

Nikon D3000

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Lori Grunin
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Lori Grunin

Senior Editor / Reviews

I've been writing about and reviewing consumer technology since before the turn of the century. I'm also a photographer and cat herder, frequently at the same time.

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7 min read

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nikon-d3000-digital-camera-slr-10-2-mpix-3-6-10-optical-zoom-af-s-dx-55-200mm-lens.jpg
7.3

Nikon D3000

The Good

Beginner-friendly Guide mode; nicely laid out interactive control panel; solid photo quality up through ISO 1,600.

The Bad

Extremely basic feature set; annoying multiselector switch.

The Bottom Line

Its feature set is basic even by entry-level standards, but the Nikon D3000 delivers the photo quality and performance you expect when stepping up to a dSLR, with an optional interface that's very beginner friendly.

While many shooters are making the leap from a point-and-shoot to a dSLR, manufacturers are still in the experimental stage when it comes to determining the appropriate design and operational characteristics that define a camera for that audience. Thus far, Nikon seems to have gone the furthest with its attempts; the D3000 targets newbies by implementing an entire show-me-how-it's-done shooting mode without sacrificing the traditional manual controls one expects on a dSLR. For whatever reason, be it an attempt to simplify or straightforward cost cutting, the D3000 also bears the most stripped-down feature set I've seen so far in this class, but at least it doesn't sacrifice performance and photo quality as well.

For the most part, the D3000 looks, feels, and operates like a typical low-end dSLR. It's a little heavier than its classmates, but not significantly so, and feels well made and solid, with a nice grip. A programmable Fn button--you can set it to control the self-timer, release mode, image quality, ISO sensitivity, white balance, or Active D-Lighting menus, as well as to toggle a grid display in the viewfinder--lies under your left thumb, though it's a little hard to differentiate from the flash pop-up/compensation button that sits above it by feel alone. Behind the shutter button circumscribed by the power switch are the exposure compensation and info buttons; the latter toggles the back display.

  Nikon D40 Nikon D60 Nikon D3000 Nikon D5000
Sensor (effective resolution) 6.1-megapixel CCD 10.2-megapixel CCD 10.2-megapixel CCD 12.3-megapixel CMOS
23.7mm x 15.6mm 23.6 mm x 15.8mm 23.6 mm x 15.8mm 23.6mm x 15.8mm
Sensitivity range ISO 200-ISO 1,600 ISO 100-ISO 1,600/3,200 (expanded) ISO 100-ISO 1,600/3,200 (expanded) ISO 100 (expanded)/ 200-ISO 1,600/3,200 (expanded)
Continuous shooting 2.5fps
n/a
3fps
n/a raw/100 JPEG (medium/fine)
3fps
6 raw/100+ JPEG (medium/fine)
4fps
9 raw/100 JPEG (medium/fine)
Viewfinder
magnification/ effective magnification
95% coverage
0.80x/0.53x
95% coverage
0.80x/0.53x
95% coverage
0.80x/0.53x
95% coverage
0.78x/0.52x
Autofocus 3-pt AF
n/a
3-pt AF
n/a
11-pt AF
center cross-type to f5.6
11-pt AF
center cross-type to f5.6
Metering 420 segment RGB 420 segment RGB 420 segment RGB 420 segment RGB
Flash sync 1/500 sec 1/200 sec 1/200 1/200 sec
Live View No No No Yes
Video No No No 720p at 24fps
LCD size 2.5 inches fixed
230,000 dots
2.5 inches fixed
230,000 dots
3 inches fixed
230,000 dots
2.7 inches articulated
230,000 dots
Shutter durability n/a n/a 100,000 cycles 100,000 cycles
Battery life (CIPA rating) 470 shots 500 shots 500 shots 510 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 5.0 x 3.8 x 2.5 5.0 x 4.1 x 3.1
Body operating weight (ounces) 18.5 19.4 18.8 21.6
Mfr. Price $499.95 (with 18-55mm non-VR lens) n/a (discontinued) $599.95 (with 18-55mm VR lens) $729.95 (body only)

As usual, the top mode dial is segregated into the scene, PASM (Program, Aperture- and Shutter-priority, and Manual), and full auto modes. Nikon adds a twist here, a Guide mode that provides various levels of step-by-step help for a limited number of common shooting scenarios. There's Easy operation, which, like Auto, provides access to a limited number of options, as well as an Advanced mode, which describes the appropriate settings for the chosen scenario and then allows you to change the settings yourself. For instance, in Easy Operation/Distant Subjects it puts you into the Sports scene mode--the camera tells you what it's doing, which is really nice--then optionally provides you with the option to adjust flash, release mode, and AF area mode settings. The options are not specific to the scenarios, however, which would be useful. My one extremely minor quibble with this is that the controls don't always function the same in this mode as when shooting normally; so, for example, here you'd adjust shutter speed with the up/down buttons on the multiselector, while you'd normally use the command dial to change the speed. This might confuse some people.

I also like Nikon's implementation of the interactive information display. The adjustment options are arrayed around the edges of the display, which makes the one you're looking for easier to find compared with some of the more cluttered full-screen layouts of competitors. On the other hand, you do have to navigate sequentially through the options, which you don't have to do with control panels that allow you to move up, down, and sideways. My bigger gripe here is with the multiselector, Nikon's four-way switch with OK button in the middle. It doesn't have a lot of travel and feels kind of mushy to operate. You can read the LCD in direct sunlight, however.

  Pentax K2000 Sony Alpha DSLR-A230 Nikon D3000 Canon EOS Rebel XS
Sensor (effective resolution) 10.2-megapixel CCD 10.2-megapixel CCD 10.2-megapixel CCD 10.1-megapixel CMOS
23.5mm x 15.7mm 23.5mm x 15.7mm 23.6mm x 15.8mm 22.2mm x 14.8mm
Magnification factor 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x 1.6x
Sensitivity range ISO 100-ISO 3,200 ISO 100-ISO 3,200 ISO 100-ISO 1,600/3,200 (expanded) ISO 100-ISO 1,600
Continuous shooting 3.5fps
4 raw/5 JPEG
2.5fps
n/a
3fps
6 raw/100+ JPEG (medium/fine)
3fps
5 raw/unlimited JPEG
Viewfinder
magnification/ effective magnification
96% coverage
0.85x/0.57x
95% coverage
0.83x/0.55x
95% coverage
0.80x/0.53x
95% coverage
0.81x/0.51x
Autofocus 5-pt AF
n/a
9-pt AF
n/a
11-pt AF
center cross-type to f5.6
7-pt AF
n/a
Metering 16 segment 40 segment 420 segment RGB 35 zone
Flash sync 1/180 sec 1/160 sec 1/200 sec 1/200 sec
Live View No No No Yes
Video No No No No
Built-in wireless flash controller Yes Yes No No
LCD size 2.7-inch fixed
230,000 dots
2.7-inch fixed
230,400 dots
3-inch fixed
230,000 dots
2.5-inch fixed
230,000 dots
Battery life (CIPA rating) n/a 510 shots 500 shots 500 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 4.8 x 3.6 x 2.7 5.0 x 3.8 x 2.7 5.0 x 3.8 x 2.5 5.0 x 3.8 x 2.4
Body operating weight (ounces) 20.7 18.3 18.8 17.6
Mfr. Price $449.95 (with 18-55mm lens) $549.99 (with 18-55mm lens) $599.95 (with 18-55mm lens) $599.99 (with 18-55mm lens)
$599.99 (with 18-55mm and 50-200mm lenses) $749.99 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses) $849 (estimated; with 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses) n/a

On one hand, Nikon introduces some in-camera-playtime features. After shooting you can build stop-motion movies from selected images on the SD card or apply a selective blur in Miniature effect (which simulates tilt/shift). And it will allow you to enable or disable uploading if you have an Eye-Fi card. Plus Nikon added a date stamp, but--I beg of you--please don't add a permanent stamp to your photos unless you're in insurance or crime scene investigation. Learn to read EXIF data, people. But there are a lot of more useful shooting features missing that other cameras in this price class provide, including wireless flash control and an HDMI connector. Most egregiously, though, the D3000 lacks simple exposure and flash exposure bracketing.

A middle-of-the-pack performer, with the exception of very fast start-up times, the D3000 doesn't improve much on the D60. It's odd, because there's no increase in resolution and an improved AF system; I guess those extra AF points add precision but also add overhead without a compensating increase in processing power. That said, the D3000 isn't slow, just not as fast as category leaders like the Pentax K2000. It wakes and shoots in a zippy 0.2 second, and under bright conditions focuses and shoots in a solid 0.4 second; that increases to an average 0.8 second in dimmer conditions. It typically takes about 0.6 second for two sequential shots, increasing to 0.9 second when incorporating flash recycle time. It does fare relatively well at burst shooting, where it achieves a 3.0fps rate--adequate for moderately active kids and pets.

As for photo quality, by most metrics the D3000 fares very well for its class. In some ways, that's not hard: get the colors mostly right and do a decent job with noise suppression for midrange ISO sensitivities and you've already got a lot of them beat. Color, exposure, and sharpness (we tested with the 18-55mm VR kit lens) are generally very good and its noise profile looks better than most of its competitors, rendering usable images up to and including ISO 1,600, depending on scene content, of course.

If you're looking for a dSLR that piles on the features for a pittance, the D3000 probably isn't it. But if you want to make the step up from a point-and-shoot, the Nikon D3000 provides the right combination of newbie-friendly operation coupled with the performance and image quality that made you want to upgrade in the first place. But if you can stretch your budget a little, consider bumping up a class to the D5000: it has a more robust feature set, is noticeably faster and delivers better photo quality.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Raw shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim light)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Pentax K2000
0.7 
0.5 
0.5 
0.2 
Sony Alpha DSLR-A330/A230
0.4 
0.7 
0.6 
0.3 
Nikon D60
0.4 
0.5 
0.7 
0.4 
Nikon D3000
0.2 
0.6 
0.8 
0.4 
Canon EOS Rebel XS
0.2 
0.7 
0.8 
0.4 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Nikon D3000
3 
Nikon D60
2.8 
Sony Alpha DSLR-A330/A230
2.4 

nikon-d3000-digital-camera-slr-10-2-mpix-3-6-10-optical-zoom-af-s-dx-55-200mm-lens.jpg
7.3

Nikon D3000

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 6Performance 7Image quality 8