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Noise

Noise, ISO 800

Noise, ISO 1600

Color

Distortion, 35mm f1.8 lens

Sample image, 35mm f1.8 lens

Distortion, 18-55mm kit lens

Distortion, 55-300mm lens

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

Sharpness

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

Bokeh, 35mm f1.8 lens

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).
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET
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.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
You can start to see some color noise in this shot, but it's still quite usable.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
The D3100 has excellent color reproduction in its default SD mode.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
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.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
(1/100 sec, f4.0, ISO 100, spot meter, AWB)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
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.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
As you'd expect, there's very little distortion at the wide end of the 55-300mm lens.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
(1/80 sec, f4.5, ISO 100, spot meter AWB, 78mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
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)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
(1/100 sec, f5.6, ISO 100, spot meter, AWB, SB900 flash, 170mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
Although it has a 7-bladed aperture, the bokeh on the 35mm lens still strikes me as overly polygonal.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
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