DCRP

Nikon D3000 Review

Look and Feel

The D3000 is a compact digital SLR made of plastic on the outside, and some combination of plastic and metal on the inside. Despite its plastic exterior, the D3000 doesn't feel cheap, save for the flimsy plastic cover over the memory card slot. Unlike a certain compact D-SLR from a manufacturer whose name starts with a "C", Nikon didn't compromise on ergonomics on the D3000. It has a decent-sized grip for your right hand, and controls are large and (usually) well placed. The only improvements I would make are putting the self-timer button somewhere other than on the side of the camera, and adding some more functions to the four-way controller.

Anyhow, now let's take a look at how the D3000 (body only, of course) compares to other D-SLRs in its class in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon EOS Rebel XS 5.0 x 3.8 x 2.4 in. 45.6 cu in. 450 g
Nikon D3000 5.0 x 3.8 x 2.5 in. 47.5 cu in. 485 g
Olympus E-600 5.1 x 3.7 x 2.4 in. 45.3 cu in. 475 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 * 4.9 x 3.3 x 1.8 in. 29.1 cu in. 385 g
Pentax K-x 4.8 x 3.6 x 2.7 in. 46.7 cu in. 516 g
Sony Alpha DSLR-A230 5.0 x 3.8 x 2.7 in. 51.3 cu in. 452 g
* Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens camera

I know that it's not really fair to include the mirror-less Panasonic G1 in there, but I'm doing it anyway. If you ignore that camera, you'll find that the D3000 is one of the larger cameras in this group, though not by much. None of these cameras (with perhaps the exception of the DMC-G1) will fit into your pocket, though they do travel well via the shoulder strap or in a camera bag.

Now it's time to tour the D3000, beginning (as always) with the front view!

Front of the Nikon D3000

Right at the center of the photo is the D3000's Nikkor F-mount. This supports all Nikkor lenses, with a 1.5X focal length conversion ratio. Thus, a 50 mm lens has a 75 mm field-of-view. Since there's no lens drive motor in D3000 body, autofocus is only supported on AF-S and AF-I lenses (which have built-in AF motors). Any other lens will be manual focus only. To release an attached lens, simply press that black button located to the right of the mount.

Behind the mirror is a 10.2 Megapixel CCD sensor, which may be the same one that was used on the D60. Since dust can be a problem on digital SLRs, Nikon has taken a multi-pronged approach to avoiding it. When you turn on the camera, ultrasonic waves are passed through the low-pass filter, which shakes dust away. In addition, there's a "airflow control system" that uses the "breeze" created by the mirror-flipping action to send dust into a special chamber away from the sensor.

Directly above the Nikon logo is the D3000's pop-up flash, which is released electronically. The flash has a guide number of 12 meters at ISO 100, which is what you'll find on most D-SLRs in this class. Should you want more flash power, you can attach an external flash to the hot shoe you'll see in a moment. While the D3000 cannot control wireless flashes by itself (like the D90), you can do so by using the SB-800 or SB-900 flashes, or the SU-800 wireless speedlight commander.

On the left side of the photo we find the camera's dedicated AF-assist lamp (also used for redeye reduction and counting down the self-timer) and remote control receiver. The AF-assist lamp is used by the camera as a focusing aid in low light situations.

Back of the Nikon D3000

The main thing to see on the back of the D3000 is its 3-inch LCD display. This screen has 230,000 pixels and average sharpness (one starts to get spoiled by all the 920k pixel screens on D-SLRs these days). Unlike many of its peers, the D3000 does not support live view, so this screen is used for menus, displaying shooting info, and replaying photos only. If you want live view on a Nikon SLR, you'll have to set up to the D5000.

Graphic info screen Classic info screen

One of the things that the LCD can do is show shooting information, and let you quickly change commonly-used settings. When using the "graphic" screen, the camera represents the aperture and shutter speed with an image that's not unlike the DCRP logo. The other "classic" view is similar to what you'll find on the LCD info display of higher end SLRs. I should add that sometimes that question mark icon at the lower-left of the screen will be blinking. If you press the help (zoom out) button, the camera will tell you what's up (such as: subject dark, use flash).


Adjusting settings

Adjusting the settings simply requires a press of the "zoom in" button to the left of the LCD. From there, you use the four-way controller to select the option you want. Nikon has handy "assist images" that visually describe when you'd want to use each of the options (see above right).

  • Image quality
  • Image size
  • White balance
  • ISO sensitivity
  • Release mode
  • Focus mode
  • AF area mode
  • Metering
  • Active D-Lighting
  • Flash exposure compensation (-3EV to +1EV)
  • Exposure compensation (-5EV to +5EV)
  • Flash setting (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, slow sync w/redeye reduction, slow sync, rear curtain slow sync

I'll have more info on those settings later in the review.

Since there's no live view on the D3000, you'll be using its optical viewfinder to compose all your shots. With a magnification of 0.8X, the D3000's viewfinder is a bit larger than the one on the D5000. Both viewfinders have the same 95% coverage. You can adjust the focus of the viewfinder by using the diopter correction slider on its right side.

Under the field-of-view is a line of green-colored data showing things such as exposure, shutter speed, aperture, shots remaining, focus lock, and more. I found it hard to see this information when shooting outdoors. Something else that can be displayed is a unique digital rangefinder, which is for manual focusing. If the arrows in the viewfinder point to the left, then the focus point is in front of your subject. If the arrows point to the right, the focus point is behind it. When you hit the sweet spot, the rangefinder will be centered.

To the right of the viewfinder is the AE/AF Lock button, which you can also use to "protect' photos in playback mode. Next to that is the D3000's sole command dial, which you'll use for adjusting the shutter speed and aperture (though you'll have to hold down the exposure compensation button for the latter).

Moving downward, we find the camera's four-way controller. This is used for menu navigation, reviewing photos, and manually selecting a focus point. Underneath that you'll find the button for deleting a photo.

Moving now to the left side of the LCD, we have these four buttons:

  • Playback
  • Menu
  • Zoom out / thumbnail view + Help
  • Zoom in / change settings (as shown above)

And that's it for the back!

Top of the Nikon D3000

The first thing to see on the top of the D3000 is its hot shoe. For best results, you'll want to use one of the Nikon Speedlights I mentioned earlier in the review, as they'll sync with the camera's metering system. If you're using the SB-800, SB-900, or SU-800 (which isn't actually a flash), you can control sets of wireless Speedlights. Not using a Nikon flash? Then you will probably have to set the exposure manually. The camera can sync at shutter speeds as fast as 1/200 sec with an external flash. The D3000 does not support Auto FP high speed flash sync -- you'll need the D5000 or above for that.

The next item of note is the camera's mode dial, which is packed full of options. They include:

Option Function
Auto mode Point-and-shoot, with some menu options locked up.
Guide mode The camera assists you with common shooting and setup options; see below for more.
Program mode Still automatic, but with access to all menu options. The Flexible Program feature lets you scroll through several shutter speed / aperture combinations by using the command dial.
Shutter priority mode You choose the shutter speed, and the camera picks the aperture. Shutter speed range is 30 - 1/4000 sec.
Aperture priority mode You choose the aperture, and camera picks the shutter speed. Range depends on lens used. For the kit lens, it's F3.5 - F36.
Full manual (M) mode Choose both the shutter speed and aperture yourself (same ranges as above). A bulb mode is also available for super-long exposures: the shutter will remain open for as long as the shutter release is pressed, up to 30 minutes.

Night portrait

These are all scene modes
Close-up
Sports
Child
Landscape
Portrait
Flash off Turns the flash off entirely

Much to my surprise, the D3000 doesn't have as many scene modes as the more advanced D5000. It does have the most commonly used scenes, though (how many people really use food mode?).


Using the Guide Mode

One of the most interesting features on the D3000 is its Guide Mode. Nikon breaks the Guide Mode down into three sections: Shoot, View/delete, and setup. Before I list the various things that you can adjust using this feature, here's a little demo.

From the main menu, I selected "shoot", easy operation, and then scrolled down to "moving subjects". At that point, the camera has automatically selected the sports scene mode, but I can keep going if I want, selecting more options. Those options are for the release (drive) and AF area modes (other selections can let you adjust the flash mode, picture control, and exposure/flash compensation). You don't need to mess with those to get great sports photos, but sometimes it may be worth venturing into the additional options menu is worth it (like to turn on continuous shooting).

Now, here's the full "tree" of options available in guide mode:

Shoot

  • Easy operation
    • Auto
    • No flash
    • Distant subjects
    • Close-ups
    • Sleeping faces
    • Moving subjects
    • Landscapes
    • Portraits
    • Night portrait
  • Advanced operation
    • Soften backgrounds - lets you adjust the aperture
    • Freeze motion (people) - these next two let you select the shutter speed
    • Freeze motion (vehicles)
  • Timers and remote control
    • Single frame
    • Continuous
    • 10 sec self-timer
    • 2 sec delayed remote
    • Quick-response remote

View/Delete

  • View single photos
  • View multiple photos
  • Choose a date
  • View a slide show
  • Delete photos

Setup

  • Image quality
  • Image size
  • Active D-Lighting
  • Playback folder
  • Print set (DPOF)
  • Format memory card
  • LCD brightness
  • Info background color
  • Auto info display
  • Video mode
  • Time zone/date
  • Language
  • Auto off timers
  • Beep
  • Date imprint
  • No memory card?
  • Eye-Fi upload

So that's the guide mode for you. If you want manual controls, the D3000 has plenty of those, too. You've got manual control over shutter speed, aperture, focus (of course), and white balance. The only thing you won't find on this camera is a bracketing feature -- there's another reason why you may want the D5000 instead.

To the upper-right of the mode dial are the info and exposure compensation buttons. The former toggles what's being shown on the LCD, while the latter does just what it sounds like, with a range of -5EV to +5EV.

Above that is the shutter release button, which has the power switch wrapped around it.

Side of the Nikon D3000

Before I tell you what can be found on this side of the D3000, I want to mention those two switches on the 18 - 55 mm kit lens. The top one switches between auto and manual focus, while the button one turns Vibration Reduction (image stabilization) on and off.

Over on the camera body we find a button for popping up the flash and adjusting the flash exposure compensation, and another for turning on the self-timer. This second button is customizable, and I'll tell you what else it can control when I get into the menus in a little bit.

Under that rubber cover you'll find the USB and video output ports. No HDMI on this model -- for that you'll need to step up to the -- you guessed it -- D5000.

The kit lens is at its wide-angle end here.

Side of the Nikon D3000

On the other side of the D3000 you'll find its SD/SDHC memory card slot. The door covering the memory card slot is quite flimsy, so be careful.

The kit lens is at full telephoto in this picture.

Bottom of the Nikon D3000

Our tour ends with a look at the bottom of the D3000. Here you can see the metal tripod mount (inline with the lens, of course) and the battery compartment. The plastic door that covers the battery compartment is of average quality.

The included EN-EL9a battery can be see at right.

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