DCRP

Nikon D3000 Review

How Does it Compare?

The Nikon D3000 is an easy-to-use, compact digital SLR that won't break the bank. It offers very good photo quality, impressive point-and-shoot guides and help screens, responsive performance, full manual controls and, of course, the expandability that you come to expect from a D-SLR. There thing that separates the D3000 from more expensive D-SLRs is its lack of live view support. While live view can certainly be handy at times, I don't think that the vast majority of people will miss that feature. Nikon stripped out a few other features from the D3000, such as exposure or white balance bracketing, and they got a little cheap in the bundle department, but overall, the D3000 is a solid choice for those just entering the world of digital SLR photography.

The D3000 is a compact digital SLR, with a sturdy plastic outer shell. While some other compact SLRs have compromised their ergonomics, the D3000 still has a decent-sized grip, so it's easy to hold. While I'm not a fan of the placement of some of the buttons on the camera, they are generally large and well-labeled. Like all its Nikon DX cousins, the D3000 supports all Nikkor F-mount lenses with a 1.5X focal length conversion ratio. And, just like the D40 it replaces and the D5000 that sits above it, the D3000 only supports autofocus with AF-S and AF-I lenses -- everything else you attach will be manual focus only. Speaking of manual focus, if you're using that on the D3000, you can have a "rangefinder" shown in the viewfinder, which lets you know what a photo is properly focused. On the back of the camera is a large 3-inch LCD display, with just average sharpness (230,000 pixels). Since there's no live view here, the LCD is used for menus, displaying and adjusting camera settings, and replaying photos you've taken. You'll do all your shooting through a decent-sized optical viewfinder, which has 95% coverage and a 0.80X magnification. I found it a bit difficult at times to see the line of shooting data inside the viewfinder when taking pictures outdoors.

While the D3000 has a nice set of manual controls, it's really aimed at the beginner. The real highlight here is the Guide Mode, which is an easy-to-use interface that guides users toward the right scene mode -- with a little manual control available if you're interested. There are also helpful "assist images" that illustrate when you'd want to use a certain setting, plus help screens for almost every option on the camera. Manual control enthusiasts will find most of the usual suspects here. You can adjust the shutter speed, aperture, white balance (with fine-tuning) and, of course, focus. The only manual controls that are missing here are any kind of bracketing, and the ability to set white balance by color temperature. While the D3000 supports the RAW image format (and lets you perform basic edits on the camera), the bundled editing software is anemic. In addition, the RAW+JPEG option uses the "Basic" quality setting for the JPEG. Some other bells and whistles that users of all skill levels will appreciate include a playback mode full of "retouching" options. They include redeye removal, D-Lighting (shadow brightening), virtual filters, and more.

The D3000 is a solid performer. While it does run a 2 second dust reduction cycle at startup (and shutdown), you can interrupt it by pressing the shutter release button, which allows you to take a photo almost as soon as you flip the power switch. The camera focused well, with wide-angle focus times of 0.1 - 0.3 seconds, and telephoto times of 0.4 - 0.8 secs. Low light focusing was fairly quick (focus times stayed under a second most of the time) and accurate (courtesy of the blinding AF-assist lamp). As you'd expect, shutter lag wasn't an issue here, and shot-to-shot delays are minimal. The D3000 has a pretty average continuous shooting mode, with the ability to take up to 6 RAW or 100 JPEG photos in a row at around 3 frames/second. One area in which the D3000 did not disappoint was battery life -- it had the best numbers in its class.

Overall, the Nikon D3000's photo quality was very good. Colors were vivid (but not over-the-top), noise levels were low through ISO 800 (in good light), and exposure was generally accurate. Redeye wasn't a problem, either. That said, the D3000 could use some improvement in a few areas. It clipped highlights more than I would've expected from an APS-C digital SLR. The kit lens is a bit soft, and can have strong purple fringing at times. If you put better glass on the camera, you'll likely see quite a bit of improvement in these areas.

The last couple of things I want to mention relate to the D3000's bundle. In what is becoming a disturbing trend, Nikon has joined the "let's put the full manual on CD-ROM" club. They're already printing a 60 page user's manual, so why not print the full thing instead? Nikon doesn't include a video output cable with the D3000, so if you want to hook up to a TV, you'll have to buy one. Finally, the included View NX software isn't great, and it really stinks when it comes to RAW editing.

Despite a few image quality issues. feature omissions, and bundle frustrations, the Nikon D3000 is a very nice entry-level digital SLR. For under $600 you get a compact and capable camera that's remarkably easy to use, and when you're ready for manual controls and nicer lenses, the D3000 will be waiting. The D3000 earns my recommendation, though be sure to use that comparison table at the top of the review to see if it's worth spending a bit more for the D5000's feature set.

  • Very good photo quality; good high ISO performance
  • Compact body (by D-SLR standards)
  • Dust reduction system
  • 3-inch LCD display
  • Full manual controls; RAW image format supported
  • Responsive performance in most situations
  • Handy Guide Mode, plus assist images and help screens make the D3000 incredibly easy to use
  • Redeye not a problem
  • Tons of retouching features in playback mode
  • Best-in-class battery life

What I didn't care for:

  • Clips highlights more than I'd like
  • Kit lens produces slightly soft images, with occasionally strong purple fringing
  • Autofocus only available with certain lenses
  • No bracketing feature
  • No live view support
  • Poor RAW image editing software included; better software will cost you $$
  • Flimsy door over memory card slot
  • No video output cable included; full manual on CD-ROM

Some other D-SLRs in this class worth considering include the Canon EOS Rebel XS, Olympus E-600, Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 (I guess), Pentax K-x, and the Sony Alpha DSLR-A230.

As always, I recommend heading to your local camera or electronics store to try out the D3000 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

Check out our gallery to see how the D3000's photo quality looks!

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If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.