DCRP

Nikon D3000 Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: September 19, 2009

Last Updated: December 10, 2010

The D3000 ($599) is Nikon's new entry-level digital SLR. It replaces the venerable D40, and while it doesn't bring live view and movie recording to its price category, the D3000 still offers a nice feature set for the price. Nikon has gone out of their way to make the D3000 easy to use, with scene modes, in-camera photo retouching, and a unique guide mode. It's also one of the smallest digital SLRs on the market, though Nikon didn't compromise ergonomics like some of their competitors.

Here's a comparison of the old D40, the D3000, and the next step up, the D5000.

Feature D40 D3000 D5000
MSRP, body + 18-55 lens $479 $599 $849
Sensor resolution (effective) 6.1 MP 10.2 MP 12.3 MP
AF system 3-point 11-point 11-point
AF with all Nikkor lenses No No No
LCD size / resolution 2.5" / 230,000 pixel 3.0" / 230,000 pixel 2.7" / 230,000 pixel
LCD position Fixed Fixed Flip-down, rotating
Viewfinder mag / coverage 0.80X / 95% 0.80X / 95% 0.78X / 95%
Dust reduction system No Yes, w/airflow control system Yes, w/airflow control system
Live view No No Yes
ISO range (fully expanded) 200 - 3200 100 - 3200 100 - 6400
Continuous shooting rate 2.5 fps 3 fps 4 fps
AE bracketing No No Yes
Interval timer shooting No No Yes
Number of scene modes 7 7 19
Number of retouching options 7 14 16
HD video recording No No Yes
1280 x 720, 24 fps
HDMI output No No Yes
GPS support No No Yes
Remote control support Wireless Wireless Wired/wireless
Shutter durability N/A 100,000 100,000
Battery used EN-EL9 EN-EL9a EN-EL9a
Battery life (CIPA standard) 470 shots 550 shots 510 shots
Dimensions (W x H x D) 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in. 5.0 x 3.8 x 2.6 in. 5.0 x 4.1 x 3.1 in.
Weight (body only) 475 g 485 g 560 g

As you can see, the D3000 is a pretty significant set up from the D40. It doesn't offer the rotating LCD, live view, or movie mode of the D5000, but for folks just starting out, it may be just what the doctor ordered. And the guide menu (which I'll describe later) makes it really easy to change otherwise-confusing settings.

Ready to learn more about the D3000? Keep reading -- our review starts right now!

What's in the Box?

Officially, the D3000 is available in just one kit: with the F3.5-5.6, 18 - 55 mm VR lens. That said, I've seen other bundles out there, such as a dual lens kit (18-55 and 55-200) at my local Costco store. Here's what you'll find in the box for the official D3000 kit:

  • The 10.2 effective Megapixel Nikon D3000 camera body
  • F3.5 - 5.6, 18 - 55 mm AF-S Nikkor VR lens
  • EN-EL9a lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Body cap
  • Eyepiece cap
  • Shoulder strap
  • USB cable
  • CD-ROMs featuring Nikon Software Suite
  • Quick Start leaflet and 61 page user's manual (both printed), plus full manual on CD-ROM

Since the D3000 comes with a lens, you're ready to start taking photos right away (well, assuming that you have a memory card). The F3.5-5.6, 18 - 55 mm VR (vibration reduction, AKA image stabilization) lens is well built by kit lens standards, though I'm not a fan of the manual focus ring. This lens definitely isn't the sharpest you'll find, and there's some purple fringing here and there, but it's still not bad by kit lens standards. If you want to use other lenses, you can choose from almost all Nikon F-mount models, though only AF-S and AF-I lenses will support autofocus. There's a 1.5X focal length conversion ratio for whatever lens you attach to the camera.

Like all D-SLRs, there's no memory card in the D3000's box, so you'll need to pick one up if you don't have one already. The camera supports both SD and SDHC memory cards, and I'd recommend starting out with a 2GB card. It's definitely worth spending a little more for a high speed card when you're using a digital SLR.

The D3000 uses the same EN-EL9a lithium-ion battery as its big brother, the D5000. This battery holds a decent amount of energy: 7.8 Wh to be exact. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life, live view off
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon EOS Rebel XS 500 shots LP-E5
Nikon D3000 550 shots EN-EL9a
Olympus E-600 500 shots BLS-1
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 * 330 shots DMW-BLB13
Pentax K-x N/A 4 x AA
Sony Alpha DSLR-A230 510 shots NP-FH50

* Live view only

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

As you can see, the Nikon D3000 comes in first place in the battery life department, though it remains to be seen how that new Pentax model will do with NiMH rechargeables.

With the exception of the Pentax model, all of the cameras on the above list use proprietary li-ion batteries. These batteries tend to be pricey (a spare EN-EL9a will set you back at least $45), and you can't use off-the-shelf batteries in an emergency, as you could with a camera that uses AAs.

When it's time to charge the battery, just pop it into the included charger. It takes the charger roughly 100 minutes to fully charge the EN-EL9a battery. This isn't one of those charges that plugs directly into the wall -- you must use a power cord.

As is usually the case with D-SLRs, Nikon offers several optional extras for the D3000. I've compiled the most interesting ones into this table:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Lenses Varies Varies The D3000 supports nearly all Nikon F-mount lenses, though autofocus is only available on AF-S and AF-I models
External flash

SB-400
SB-600
SB-900

From $105
From $219
From $450
Get more flash power and less of a chance of redeye with these Speedlights. The SB-900 can be used to control wireless flashes.
Wireless Speedlight Commander SU-800 From $257 While not a flash itself, this can be used to control other flashes wirelessly
Wireless remote control ML-L3 From $15 Another way to take photos without touching the camera
Right-angle viewfinder DR-6 From $200 Lets you look through the viewfinder from above
AC adapter EH-5a
EP-5
From $73
From $44
Power your camera without draining the battery; you need BOTH of these parts!
Video cable EG-D100 From $10 Believe it or not, Nikon doesn't include one with the camera
Soft case CF-DC1 From $35 Holds the camera with a lens attached
* Prices were accurate at time of publication

Everything up there is pretty self-explanatory. I do have to give the thumbs down to Nikon for not including the $10 video output cable with the D3000, though.


Nikon Transfer

Nikon includes a pair of software programs along with the D3000. The first is Nikon Transfer, which you'll use to transfer photos from the camera to your Mac or PC. You select which photos are to be transferred, where they're going, and you're done. Photos can also be uploaded to Nikon's myPicturetown service using this program.


Nikon ViewNX

Once that's done, you'll find yourself in Nikon ViewNX, which you can use for organizing and sharing photos. Here you can the usual thumbnail view, and you can assign photos to various categories, or give them "star" ratings. ViewNX lets you see the focus point used on a photo, listen to voice memos, and convert RAW images to JPEGs. JPEG editing tools tools include adjustments for exposure, sharpness, contrast, D-Lighting, and a few other things.

The RAW editing options in ViewNX are poor. You can adjust the exposure compensation and white balance, or select a Picture Control (more on those later), and that's it. Do note that you'll want to go to the "View" menu and select "Image Viewer" in order to actually see your changes on something other than the thumbnail.

Nikon's solution for RAW editing is known as Capture NX2 (priced from $129). This software lets you edit many common RAW properties, and it's unique "U Point" controls take a different approach toward image retouching than what you might be used to. You can select a spot in the image that you want to retouch, select the radius of the area that will be affected, and then adjust things like brightness, contrast, and saturation for that area. You can do the same for things like D-Lighting, noise reduction, and unsharp mask. You can learn more about this software at Nikon's website.

If you own Adobe Photoshop CS4, you can also use its Camera Raw plug-in to edit the D3000's RAW images.

So what is RAW, anyway? The RAW image format (Nikon calls it NEF) stores unprocessed data from the camera's sensor. Thanks to this, you can adjust all kinds of image properties without degrading the quality of the image. So, if you botched the white balance, you can change it in your RAW editor, with no ill effects. It's almost like getting a second chance to take a photo. Since the bundled software hardly lets you do anything, you'll want to pick up a better RAW editor to really take advantage of the format.

The downsides of the RAW format are that 1) the file sizes are significantly larger than JPEGs, 2) camera performance is slower, and 3) you must post-process each image on your computer in order to convert it to a standard image format. Okay, that last one isn't entirely true -- the D3000 does let you perform basic RAW edits on the camera itself.

I should point out that the D3000 cannot be controlled from your Mac or PC, unlike Nikon's more expensive models.

I've been noticing a disturbing trend when it comes to camera manuals these days: more and more companies aren't printing the full manuals for their products anymore. Nikon gives you a good "User's Guide" to start with, but for full details, you'll have to load up the complete manual on an included CD-ROM. The quality of the manuals is quite good by D-SLR standards -- it's the whole having to load it up on your computer part that I don't care for. Documentation for the included software is installed onto your Mac or PC.

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