Nikon D3000 Review
The Nikon D3000 is a new entry-level digital SLR camera designed to make photography simple and accessible. Aimed at the complete beginner, the D3000 is primarily aimed at anyone who wants to take photos without having to worry about what the camera is doing. The intelligent Guide Mode asks you about the image you want to capture and automatically optimizes the settings for the best possible results. When you've gained more experience, you can then use the Guide Mode to find out how to adjust the settings yourself. The Nikon D3000 also features a 10.2 megapixel sensor, EXPEED processing system, 3-inch LCD screen, 3 fps continuous shooting and 11-point autofocus system. The D3000 is available now for £429.99 / €522.00 body-only or £499.99 / €607.00 / $599.95 with the 18-55mm VR kit lens.
Ease of Use
Rather than packing entry-level digital SLRs full of extraneous features that most of their target audience will never use, it seems manufacturers are now majoring on winning over owners of camera phones and compacts and introducing them to the more professional results achievable via DSLRs - with, they state, the minimum of fuss. A case in point is the new beginner targeted D3000 from Nikon, which upgrades the existing D60 model and is little brother to the pricier D5000, which most notably has the added features of video and vari-angle rear screen.
For a body-only suggested UK retail price of £429 (or £499 with 18-55mm VR zoom supplied for our review), for the first time its maker has included what it's calling an Intelligent Guide mode, selectable via the otherwise familiar chunky top plate mode dial. This feature 'talks' - via explanatory text on the rear LCD - nervous novices through which settings need to be selected to achieve various desired results. Within this feature there's a menu choice of either 'easy' or 'advanced' operation - the latter getting more creative with advice on how to blur backgrounds and freeze motion.
The theory is that greenhorns are provided with an on board tutor and that, as they 'play' more with the camera, their knowledge level will rise and hopefully their picture taking improve. It's a neat idea that might just actually work - provided, that is, said novice doesn't just casually stick the D3000 on auto and point and shoot.
Aside from the on-board hand holding that helps set it apart (though Sony's A380 recently attempted something similar), the Nikon D3000's other main features include a 10.2 megapixel DX format CCD sensor, fixed 3-inch, 230k dot resolution back plate monitor, 3D subject tracking and 11 auto focus points spread across the frame - the latter being impressive specification for an entry level DSLR, especially as the D60 made do with a mere three AF points. Also slightly better than average for its class is a maximum continuous sequential shooting speed of three frames per second; thus equipped the D3000 therefore comes across like a snapshot model on steroids.
What this camera misses out on however is Live View plus a top mounted second LCD window to quickly review/alter settings; both to be found on admittedly pricier models higher up the Nikon range. As mentioned at the outset, there's also no HD video nor HDMI connectivity, but as this is the new budget model, such omissions are hardly surprising. That said it seems inevitable these features will trickle down to even entry-level models such as the D3000 before too long - a case in point being that you do get on-board dust reduction in the form of automatic sensor cleaning, activated on powering down the camera as a default.
Held in the palm, the D3000's plastic resin construction body is only fractionally larger than Panasonic's DSLR-styled GH1, which of course also prides itself on being a marvel of miniaturization. With the 18-55mm zoom attached it's still sufficiently lightweight to, if required, fire off a shot single-handed, though gripping it in both hands of course feels more natural and acts an additional (to the VR lens) steadying influence, since like the rest of the range no built-in anti shake features.
One thing to note when you pick the Nikon D3000 up and start using it is that, though the grip is sufficiently sized for the three lower fingers to mould comfortably around it leaving the forefinger hovering over the shutter release button, the eye relief for the optical viewfinder doesn't jut out very far, which means the user's nose is pressed up against the LCD screen when using it. Said viewfinder is however sufficiently large and bright to get a good idea of detail when utilising manual focusing.
And, with the on/off switch surrounding the main shutter release button, with a thumb flick users can be up and shooting from cold in just over a second. The Nikon D3000 is equally swift to find its target courtesy of 3D subject tracking and 11 auto focus points spread across the frame, with whichever is/ are in use indicated when the shutter button is depressed to the half way point. Go on to take the shot and there's no discernable shutter lag - a full resolution JPEG committed to memory in two seconds, a RAW file in three and combination of the two taking just a mere fraction longer. So far so good then.
While front on the Nikon D3000 is visually unthreatening, the on-screen user interface you're presented with is surprisingly busy, and the more you delve into using the D3000 the more you realize it is no purely 'auto everything' camera. Incidentally, turn the camera on its side and said information display will also flip through 90° so it can be seen the 'right' way up. For those who do want to get hands on, an additional degree of creative control is provided by a Picture Control menu to be found within the camera's logically laid out and easily navigated on-screen folders - letting the user select the well saturated colours of 'Vivid' mode for example in preference to the more naturalistic Standard or Neutral - plus monochrome and pre-tweaked settings for portraiture and landscapes.
In-camera retouching is additionally offered as an alternative to editing images once downloaded to your desktop, with a new miniature mode ape-ing the effects of tilt and shift lenses in rendering people when viewed from on-high as like toy figures in a model village. Adjusted images are saved alongside the original file, with the ability to adjust colour in camera and warm up formerly 'cold' images proving particularly effective.
Unprocessed RAW file format shooting is present as an alternative to, or can be captured in tandem with, regular JPEG. However if you choose to shoot both together, only 'basic' quality JPEGs can be captured rather than the maximum 'Fine'. As expected at this level, pictures are committed to SD media card or higher capacity SDHC, and the built-in sensor cleaning prevents any undesirables intruding when swapping lenses and otherwise showing up as dust spots on images.
The competent Nikon D3000 includes the D-lighting feature consistent throughout the Nikon DSLR range, which automatically adjusts to even out tricky exposures - for example bright backgrounds and dark foregrounds that would otherwise result in a silhouette. Otherwise it's very easy to just activate the pop up flash to fill-in any shadow detail, with a hotshoe provided for attaching an optional flashgun.
Taking a tour of the Nikon D3000 in more detail, the front is obviously nominated by the Nikon F lens mount, above which sits the built-in flash. Set into the slope of this are two operational buttons - the first logically for calling up the available flash options on the rear LCD, selected in tandem with a twist of the rear command dial that naturally falls under the thumb. The second button calls up the camera's self-timer.
Beneath this sits a prominent, springy lens release button, and, moving over to the other side of the camera we find a combined AF assist illuminator, self-timer and red eye reduction lamp nestling between the grip and the sloping ridge of the flash. Underneath the familiar red Nikon 'slash' on the grip itself is located an infrared receiver for use with an optional remote.
The top plate of the D3000 is similarly clean and unfussy, dominated by the aforementioned mode wheel, which clicks into place at each setting with just the right about of 'give'. Arranged around this are some 13 settings, comprising the grouped creative quartet of program, shutter priority, aperture priority, plus manual, the Intelligent Guide, and full Auto modes. We also get a dedicated flash off mode, so it won't automatically pop up and fire even if the lighting is poor (the flash can also of course be deactivated by pressing the dedicated flash button and twisting the command dial to the 'off' setting). Finally, six pre-optimised scene modes are thrown into the mix: portrait, landscape, child, sports, close up (macro) and night portrait, so if you want to purely point and shoot you can.
Just forward of the mode dial, sitting behind the shutter release button - itself surrounded by an on/off switch - are a pair of large and identically sized buttons - the left marked 'info', with a single press logically bringing up the information display on the rear LCD that appears anyway upon power up, and the right for adjusting exposure compensation; here a broader than average +/- 5EV. Again, any adjustments are effected with an in tandem turn of the command dial, to be located top right of the camera back.
Incidentally, while the eyelets for attaching the provided camera strap are located on opposite edges of the top plate, rather than on the sides, unlike say on the Olympus E-420, these are never close enough to where you put your fingers to get in the way - even with the strap itself attached. The final thing to note on the camera's top plate is the obviously accessory shoe for optional flash, safely covered when not in use.
Moving to the back plate then, the Nikon D3000's 3-inch LCD dominates proceedings, above which is the previously highlighted upon eyepiece for the optical viewfinder, with dioptric adjustment slider for the myopic nestling unobtrusively into the right hand side. Again, the backplate mirrors the rest of the camera's design ethos in being visually clean and uncluttered - with less controls than might usually be found on some bridge models in fact. What's there is mostly clear, with an auto exposure/auto focus lock button to the left of the command dial we've touched upon previously.
Directly below this, dead right of centre of the LCD, is a four-way multi-selector dial, just smaller than the thumb, for tabbing through menu options and images when in review mode. At its centre is the logically located 'OK' button for effecting any changes that need to be made and below both is a dedicated delete button, denoted with familiar trashcan icon.
So far, so expected, and this continues over at the left hand side of the LCD screen with a run of four vertically arranged buttons that will be immediately familiar to users of Nikon DSLRs. From the top we have a playback button, a menu button beneath this and two further buttons again for zooming into or out from an image, as well as calling up captured shots as a series of thumbnails or requesting capture information be displayed on screen. There's also a question mark icon adjacent to the zoom button, which means that if you press it when not in image review but rather capture mode, the user gets a brief on-screen text explanation of the mode selected itself.
|Memory Card Slot
The zoom out button also doubles as an information /edit button. Press this and you'll get an overview of the settings in use at the time. Let go of it and with the multi-selector dial, settings can be changed without having to delve into the menu/s proper. Neatly, as you tab through the on-screen options in this mode, thumbnail images of the type of picture you might be looking to achieve with said changes pop up in the centre of the screen. Hence, in choosing continuous capture you're logically presented with a picture of a rollercoaster.
While that's it for the cleanly laid out camera back, to the right hand side of the Nikon D3000 we find a slide and flip open spring-loaded door covering an available slot for either SD or higher capacity SDHC card, while over at the other side of the camera, as expected we encounter ports for AV and USB out, covered by a rubber flap.
The base of the Nikon D3000 features a just slightly off-centre screw thread for attaching the unit to a tripod, alongside which, built logically into the base of the camera grip, is the battery compartment, housing the EN-EL9a rechargeable lithium ion cell provided.
Pretty much everything you'd expect to find on an entry level DSLR these days is present and correct on the D3000, with the nice extras of the Intelligent Guide and Picture Control settings, not to mention in-camera editing for those who want it. What I did miss however was the ability to implement Live View via the rear LCD, which on occasion lead less to instances of point and shoot, more point and guess when it proved tricky to bring my eye completely level with the optical viewfinder.
Still, more positively the camera is as well made as you'd expect a product bearing the Nikon logo to be, solidly constructed and with a control layout that ensures everything is readily 'to hand' and responds instantly to user input. So what of the images the Nikon D3000 delivers? Do they transcend the entry-level model's mighty minnow status, or leave it wallowing in the shallows, afraid to play with the other big fish?
All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 10 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4.5Mb.
Though image quality shooting with the bundled 18-55mm VR-equipped kit lens is generally impressive, we noticed some loss of focus towards the edges of the frame when shooting at maximum wide angle, though barrel distortion is kept impressively well in check.
There's no doubt however some form of image stabilization in the absence of anti-shake of the sensor shift variety proves a boon to reduce blur when shooting hand held in low light; and, after all, how many of the D3000's market of beginners are going to bother karting a tripod around with them?
Despite offering 'only' 10 megapixels, in general a good level of detail is captured – shots more notably crisp than from a similarly priced bridge model – and that in fairness will be more than sufficient for the Nikon's target market.
However, as we've found with Nikon DSLRs in the past, on its standard default Picture Control setting the D3000 delivers images, subjectively speaking, that are rather on the cool side. We preferred therefore selecting the Vivid setting, which provides images closer to the more flatteringly well saturated default look of competing Sony or Panasonic models and provides a hitherto missing degree of visual punch. Of course a very similar effect can be achieved by simply applying Auto Levels in Photoshop afterwards.
When faced with contrast-y scenarios, highlights can burn out, but Nikon's on-board Active D-lighting option does even out exposures providing an overall look closer to that seen by the human eye.
In terms of light sensitivity, although noise begins to intrude into shadow detail from ISO 400 – a tad disappointing – up to and including ISO 800 it's kept sufficiently at bay to avoid overall softening and loss of detail. At ISO 1600 the gritty effect has proportionally increased, but still you could get away with shooting at this setting if pushed. However at ISO 3200-equivalent boosted 'H1' setting, noise has reached arguably ruinous levels, softening detail to an extent that the image is looking painterly rather than photographic.
Overall then, pretty much what's expected of a DSLR of this price and feature set.
There are 6 ISO settings available on the Nikon D3000. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.
ISO 100 (100% Crop)
ISO 200 (100% Crop)
ISO 400 (100% Crop)
ISO 800 (100% Crop)
ISO 1600 (100% Crop)
ISO 3200 (100% Crop)
Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting of Normal. You can change the in-camera sharpening level by altering the Picture Controls if you don't like the default look.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
The Nikon D3000's 18-55mm VR kit lens handled chromatic aberrations quite well during the review, with some purple fringing present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.
Example 1 (100% Crop)
Example 2 (100% Crop)
The Nikon D3000's 18-55mm VR kit lens allows you to focus on a subject that is 28cms away from the camera. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.
The flash settings on the Nikon D3000 are Auto, Auto with red-eye reduction, Fill-flash, Auto slow sync, Auto slow sync with red-eye correction, and Rear curtain with slow sync. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.
Flash Off - Wide Angle (27mm)
Flash On - Wide Angle (27mm)
Flash Off - Telephoto (82mm)
Flash On - Telephoto (82mm)
And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On or the Red-eye-Reduction settings caused any red-eye.
|Flash On (100% Crop)
Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)
The Nikon D3000's maximum shutter speed is 30 seconds and a Bulb mode is available for even longer exposures, which is excellent news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 20 seconds at ISO 400. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.
Night Shot (100% Crop)
This is a selection of sample images from the Nikon D3000 camera, which were all taken using the 10 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.
Sample RAW Images
The Nikon D3000 enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files. We've provided some Nikon RAW (NEF) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative).
1/250s · f/8 · ISO 100
1/250s · f/8 · ISO 100
1/250s · f/8 · ISO 100
1/125s · f/5.6 · ISO 100
Sample Movie & Video
Front of the Camera
Front of the Camera / Pop-up Flash
Rear of the Camera
Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed
Rear of the Camera / Guide Menu
Rear of the Camera / Settings
Top of the Camera
Bottom of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Memory Card Slot
As with the Nikon range topping D3x, with the D3000 at the very opposite end of the scale, its manufacturer is again providing the photographer (fledgling in this case) with their own virtual 'wingman', delivering essential aid whilst leaving them to get on with the business of taking photos.
Shame there's no movie facility (HD or otherwise), HDMI output, tilting LCD or Live View mode, all features becoming increasingly ubiquitous and thus now expected on a new DSLR, particularly as the first two are now featuring on £249-£300 point and shoot compacts – on which the rear screen can be used for shot composition anyway. By including Live View however Nikon might have had a world-beater on its hands, though we can appreciate the need to differentiate further the D3000 from models higher up the range.
If we're being overly critical of what is 'just' a budget or starter model it's probably because, Intelligent Guides and hand holding aside, it literally doesn't feel like one. It's a solid model in every sense of the word that should see the amateur photographer through years of happy service.
It should also save those upgrading from a point and shoot the need to invest in an evening course to learn the technical side of photography – or at the very least prevent the need to fully digest the supplied manual – something most of us, if we're being honest, never truly bother with anyway. Overall then, the Nikon D3000 is worthy of a coveted Photography Blog "Highly Recommended" award. A few more features next time though Nikon, and you might truly have something to shout about.
|Ratings (out of 5)
|Value for money
Reviews of the Nikon D3000 from around the web.
The Nikon D3000 DSLR is Nikon’s new entry-level digital SLR camera targeted to first-time DSLR users thinking of upgrading from point-and-shoot compact digicams. To this end, it has a Guide Mode to make that transition as painless as possible. It has superb handling and produces excellent images up to ISO 400.
Read the full review »
Nikon’s D40 and D40x were very popular entry-level DSLRs but the replacement model is even more desirable. While it’s also very budget-friendly, the equally small D3000 offers some valuable benefits in spite of the pleasantly low price (about $600 with 18-55mm VR lens.) The primary improvements include a more effective AF system with 11 points plus 3D tracking focus, a larger 3-inch (7.62cm) LCD screen, a faster 3fps continuous framing rate and far more image retouching options in playback mode. The D3000 is also equipped with a new automatic sensor cleaner, employs a more powerful battery and provides even more convenient operation.
Read the full review »
Single-lens reflex digital camera
Nikon F mount (with AF contacts)
Approx. 1.5 x lens focal length (Nikon DX format)
23.6 x 15.8 mm CCD sensor
Image Sensor Cleaning, Airflow Control System, Image Dust Off reference data (optional Capture NX 2 software required)
3,872 x 2,592 [L], 2,896 x 1,944 [M], 1,936 x 1,296 [S]
• NEF (RAW)
• JPEG: JPEG-Baseline compliant with fine (approx. 1:4), normal (approx. 1:8), or basic (approx. 1:16) compression
• NEF (RAW) + JPEG: Single photograph recorded in both NEF (RAW) and JPEG formats
Can be selected from Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, Landscape; selected Picture Control can be modified
SD (Secure Digital) memory cards, SDHC compliant
DCF (Design Rule for Camera File System) 2.0, DPOF (Digital Print Order Format), Exif 2.21 (Exchangeable Image File Format for Digital Still Cameras), PictBridge
Eye-level pentamirror single-lens reflex viewfinder
Approx. 95% horizontal and 95% vertical
Approx. 0.8 x (50 mm f/1.4 lens at infinity, -1.0 m-1)
18 mm (-1.0 m-1)
-1.7 to +0.5 m-1
Type B BriteView Clear Matte Mark V screen with focus frame (framing grid can be displayed)
Quick return type
Instant return, electronically controlled
• AF-S and AF-I NIKKOR: All functions supported
• Type G or D AF NIKKOR without built-in autofocus motor: All functions except autofocus supported. IX NIKKOR lenses not supported.
• Other AF NIKKOR: All functions supported except autofocus and 3D color matrix metering II. Lenses for F3AF not supported.
• Type D PC NIKKOR: All functions supported except some shooting modes.
• AI-P NIKKOR: All functions supported except 3D color matrix metering II.
• Non-CPU: Autofocus not supported. Can be used in exposure mode M, but exposure meter does not function.
Note: Electronic rangefinder can be used if lens has a maximum aperture of f/5.6 or faster.
Electronically-controlled vertical-travel focal-plane shutter
1/4000 to 30 s in steps of 1/3 EV, Bulb, Time (requires optional Wireless Remote Control ML-L3)
X=1/200 s; synchronizes with shutter at 1/200 s or slower
Single-frame, continuous, self-timer, quick-response remote, delayed remote
Up to 3 fps (manual focus, mode M or S, shutter speed 1/250 s or faster, and other settings at default values)
Can be selected from 2, 5, 10, and 20 s duration
TTL exposure metering using 420-pixel RGB sensor
• Matrix: 3D color matrix metering II (type G and D lenses); color matrix metering II (other CPU lenses)
• Center-weighted: Weight of 75% given to 8-mm circle in center of frame
• Spot: Meters 3.5-mm circle (about 2.5% of frame) centered on selected focus point
• Matrix or center-weighted metering: 0 to 20 EV
• Spot metering: 2 to 20 EV
Auto modes (auto, auto [flash off ]), Scene Modes (Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close up, Night portrait), programmed auto with flexible program (P), shutter-priority auto (S), aperture-priority auto (A) manual (M)
-5 to +5 EV in increments of 1/3 EV
Luminosity locked at detected value with AE-L/AF-L button
ISO 100 to 1600 in steps of 1 EV. Can also be set to approx. 1 EV above ISO 1600 (ISO 3200 equivalent), auto ISO sensitivity control available
Can be selected from On or Off
Nikon Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection, 11 focus points (including one cross-type sensor), and AF-assist illuminator (range approx. 0.5 to 3m / 1 ft. 8 in. to 9 ft. 10 in.)
-1 to +19 EV (ISO 100, 20oC/68oF)
• Autofocus (AF): Single-servo AF (AF-S); continuous-servo AF (AF-C); auto AF-S/AF-C selection (AF-A); predictive focus tracking activated automatically according to subject status
• Manual focus (MF): Electronic rangefinder can be used
Can be selected from 11 focus points
Single-point AF, dynamic-area AF, auto-area AF, 3D-tracking (11 points) AF
Focus can be locked by pressing shutter-release button halfway (Single-servo AF) or by pressing AE-L/AF-L button
Approx. 12/39, 13/43 with manual flash (m/ft, ISO 100, 20oC/68oF)
-1 to +19 EV (ISO 100, 20oC/68oF)
• TTL: i-TTL balanced fill-flash and standard i-TTL flash for digital SLR using 420-pixel RGB sensor are available with built-in flash and SB-900, SB-800, SB-600, or SB-400 (i-TTL balanced fill-flash is available when matrix or center-weighted metering is selected)
• Auto aperture: Available with SB-900, SB-800 and CPU lens
• Non-TTL auto: Supported flash units include SB-900, SB-800, SB-80DX, SB-28DX, SB-28, SB-27, and SB-22S
• Range-priority manual: Available with SB-900 and SB-800
Auto, auto with red-eye reduction, fill-flash, auto slow sync, auto slow sync with red-eye correction, and rear curtain with slow sync
-3 to +1 EV in increments of 1/3 EV
Lights when built-in flash or optional flash unit such as SB-900, SB-800, SB-600, SB-400, SB-80DX, SB-28DX, or SB-50DX is fully charged; blinks for 3 s after flash is fired at full output
ISO 518 hot-shoe with sync and data contacts and safety lock
Advanced Wireless Lighting supported with SB-900, SB-800, or SU-800 as commander; Flash Color Information Communication supported with built-in flash and all CLS-compatible flash units
Sync Terminal Adapter AS-15 (optional)
Auto, incandescent, fluorescent (7 types), direct sunlight, flash, cloudy, shade, preset manual, all except preset manual with fine turning.
3-in., approx. 230 k-dot TFT LCD with brightness adjustment
Full-frame and thumbnail (4, 9, or 72 images or calendar) playback with playback zoom, playback of stop-motion movies created with D3000, slide show, histogram display, highlights, auto image rotation, and image comment (up to 36 characters)
Can be selected from NTSC and PAL
Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish
One Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL9a
AC Adapter EH-5a; requires Power Connector EP-5 (optional)
1/4 in. (ISO 1222)
Approx. 126 x 97 x 64 mm (5.0 x 3.8 x 2.5 in.)
Approx. 485 g (1 lb. 1.1 oz.) without battery, memory card, or body cap
0 to 40oC (32 to 104oF)
Less than 85% (no condensation)
Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL9a , Quick Charger MH-23,, Eyepiece Cap DK-5, Rubber Eyecap DK-20, USB Cable UC-E4, Video Cable EG-D100, Camera Strap AN-DC3, Accessory Shoe Cover BS-1, Body Cap BF-1A, Software Suite CD-ROM