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.
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:
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:
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 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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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 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
- 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:
- Zoom out / thumbnail view + Help
- Zoom in / change settings (as shown above)
And that's it for the back!
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Using the Nikon D3000
If you flip the power switch and wait for the camera to complete the dust reduction cycle, then you'll wait around two seconds before you can take your first photo. You can, however, interrupt the cleaning cycle by pressing the shutter release, so essentially the camera is ready to go right away.
Autofocus speeds will depend on a number of factors, such as the lens you're using and how much light there is in the room. With the 18 - 55 mm kit lens, the camera typically locked focus in 0.1 - 0.3 seconds at the wide end of the lens, and 0.4 - 0.8 seconds at the telephoto end. In low light situations, the camera fires up its blinding AF-assist lamp, which results in focus times that sometimes approached -- but rarely exceeded -- one full second. The camera locked focus consistently and accurately in those situations.
Shutter lag isn't an issue, and shot-to-shot delays are minimal. This is a digital SLR, after all!
After you take a photo, you can hit the delete button to review and/or delete the shot you just took.
Now, let's take a look at the image size and quality choices on the D3000:
I like it when the list is that short! As you can see, the D3000 can record a RAW (NEF) image, either alone, or with a Large/Basic quality JPEG.
A typical help screen in the menus
The D3000's menu system looks a whole lot like the one on the D5000 and D90, and that's a good thing. It's attractive, easy to navigate, and there are help screens for nearly every option (see above). The menu is divided into five tabs: playback, shooting, setup, retouch, and Recent items. For those of you familiar with the D5000 or D90, you'll notice that I didn't list a "custom" tab, and that's because the D3000 doesn't have any custom functions.
Keeping in mind that not all of these options are available in every shooting mode, here's the full list of menu options:
|Retouch menu (I'll discuss all of these in the playback section)
The last twenty menu options you accessed.
Oh, my -- quite a list of menu options. I'll try to cover as many of the interesting ones as I can.
|Adjusting a Picture Control||This "grid" shows you how the Picture Controls compare|
Let's start with Picture Controls, which have been on Nikon SLRs for a while now. The camera has six preset Controls (standard, neutral, vivid, monochrome, portrait, landscape), and you can customize them to your heart's content. The following properties can be adjusted in a Picture Control:
- Quick adjust - lets you adjust the items below by ±2 step at one time
- Sharpening (Auto, 0 to 9)
- Contrast (Auto, -3 to +3) - not available when Active D-Lighting is on
- Saturation (Auto, -3 to +3)
- Hue (-3 to +3)
- Filter effects (Off, yellow, orange, red, green) - only for monochrome controls
- Toning (Black & white, sepia, cyanotype, red, yellow, green, blue green, blue, purple blue, red purple) - only for monochrome
Fine-tuning white balance
The D3000 has a nice set of white balance controls. First off, you have the usual presets, like incandescent and cloudy. Each of those can be fine-tuned, as you can see in the screenshot above. You can also use a white or gray card as reference with the "preset manual" mode. Two things you cannot do on the D3000 are set the color temperature or bracket for white balance.
Nikon cameras have had D-Lighting for a long time. This feature (in playback mode) allowed you to brighten dark areas of a photo with the push of a button. In 2008, Active D-Lighting arrived, which allows for improved contrast when you actually take a photo, instead of after-the-fact. The options for Active D-Lighting on the D3000 are quite simple: on or off (more expensive Nikon D-SLRs let you control how much ADL is applied).
As you can see, the shadows are noticeably brighter with Active D-Lighting turned on. The highlight detail didn't get any better, though. This shot also illustrates that the 18 - 55 mm kit lens can have pretty strong purple fringing at times. And yes, that is a squirrel hanging upside-down from my squirrel-proof bird feeder!
Buried inside the D3000's release mode option is the camera's burst (continuous shooting) mode. Here's what kind of performance you can expect from the D3000:
The D3000 is pretty average in the continuous shooting department. I should also mention that the camera does not stop shooting when you reach that six shot limit in RAW and RAW+JPEG mode - the burst rate just slows down considerably.
I want to quickly mention the AF area modes on the D3000 (for shooting with the viewfinder). Auto area picks one of the 11 available focus points for you. Single point lets you pick one of them yourself. Dynamic area works in the same way as single point, but it will follow a subject to the surrounding focus points if need be. There's also a 3D subject tracking mode that will follow your subject as they move around the frame.
Enough about menus, let's talk photo quality now! I'll put a note under each of the test images letting you know what lens was used. And with that, let's begin!
The D3000 did a nice job with our macro test subject. The subject is a tad bit soft here, though I think that's more of a lens thing, as I took the same shot with the Nikkor F2.8, 60 mm macro lens and the results were quite a bit better. The D3000's custom white balance feature had absolutely no trouble with our studio lights -- something that cannot be said for most cameras I test. The colors are quite saturated -- perhaps a bit too much. I looked far and wide for noise in this photo, but I couldn't find any -- nor would I expect to. I should also mention that I had to crank up the exposure compensation more than normal for this photo, as the camera was underexposing by about 2/3 stop.
The minimum distance to your subject will depend on what lens you're using. For the 18 - 55 mm kit lens, it's 28 cm. If you think you'll be doing a lot of close-up photography, Nikon makes four dedicated macro lenses, though only the 60 and 105 mm lenses will support autofocus on the D3000.
|The night test was reshot on 9/25/09 with a different lens than when the review was originally posted. The discussion below has been updated accordingly.|
The D3000 did pretty well in our night test shot, especially with the second lens that I used. The camera took in plenty of light, as you'd expect, given its full manual exposure controls. The buildings are nice and sharp, from one edge of the frame to the other (unlike the original images I had posted here). There is a bit of a reddish color cast here, though you could get rid of it with some white balance fine-tuning and patience. While there is some purple fringing and highlight clipping here, it's better than the images taken with the 18-200 lens. As for noise: I can't find any!
Let's use that same scene to see how the D3000 performs at higher ISOs in low light:
ISO 3200 (H1)
There's essentially no difference between the ISO 100 and 200 crops. At ISO 400 you start to see a tiny amount of noise, but it won't get in your way. The photo taken at ISO 800 is still very clean, with just a bit of noise reduction artifacting in areas with low contrast detail. ISO 1600 is really the first place you start to see a noticeable drop in photo quality, though I think you still make a midsize or perhaps even a large print at this setting (especially if you shoot RAW). The ISO 3200 shot is pretty noisy, so I'd probably pass on this one in low light.
I'm a fan of showing you the benefits of shooting RAW at high ISOs, so here's what you can get out of the D3000 with a little bit of work:
JPEG, straight out of the camera
RAW -> JPEG conversion (ACR)
RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
JPEG, straight out of the camera
RAW -> JPEG conversion (ACR)
RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
I don't think that there's any doubt that shooting RAW and post-processing is worth your time at higher ISO settings in low light. I don't know if I'd bother doing at ISO 3200, but for 800 and 1600, the benefits are pretty clear (no pun intended).
We'll take a look at the D3000's high ISO performance in normal lighting in a moment.
As you can see, there's no redeye to be found in our flash photo test. The combination of the high pop-up flash with the bright AF-assist lamp (used for shrinking your subject's pupils) should make this annoyance a rarity. If it does occur, you can remove it digitally via a tool in the Retouch menu.
Lens used: Nikon F3.5-5.6, 18 - 55 mm VR
There's moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the 18 - 55 mm kit lens. This will cause things that should be straight (such as buildings) to appear to curve inward. I did not find vignetting (dark corners) or blurry corners to be a problem on this lens.
Lens used: Nikon F3.5-5.6, 18 - 55 mm VR
Now it's time for our normal lighting ISO test, which is taken in our studio (such as it is). Since the lighting is consistent, these photos can be compared to other cameras I've reviewed over the years. While the crops below give you a quick idea as to the amount of noise at each ISO sensitivity, viewing the full size images is always a good idea. And with that, here we go:
ISO 3200 (H1)
Everything is as smooth as butter through ISO 400. You start to see a bit of grain-like noise at ISO 800, but still, not bad. ISO 1600 is still good enough for midsize prints, and I don't see why you couldn't make a 4 x 6 of the ISO 3200 shot, either.
So what happens when you shoot RAW at the two highest ISO sensitivities? Good things, in my opinion:
JPEG, straight out of the camera
RAW -> JPEG conversion (ACR)
RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
JPEG, straight out of the camera
RAW -> JPEG conversion (ACR)
RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
At both ISO 1600 and 3200 you'll see a real benefit by shooting RAW and post-processing. Now, I wouldn't go through the trouble of doing that if I was only printing 4 x 6's, but for larger prints, it's worth the effort.
Overall, the Nikon D3000 produced very good quality photos. While exposure was generally accurate, there were a few occasions where I had to use more exposure compensation than expected. The camera also clips more highlights than I expect to see on a digital SLR (see examples here and here). The D3000 definitely has what I call "consumer-friendly color" -- in other words, high saturation. Thankfully, Nikon didn't go over the top in that area. Image sharpness will vary depending on what lens you're using. The 18 - 55 mm kit lens is a tad bit soft (as is the new 18-200 VR II), but nothing horrible. If you want sharper images straight out of the camera, you can always visit the Picture Controls menu and crank it up a notch (or use another lens). In terms of noise, the D3000 produces very clean images, and you can shoot all the way to ISO 800 with a minimal drop in image quality. Purple fringing is another one of those things that has quite a lot to do with your choice of lens. The kit lens can definitely show quite a bit of it, at times. Two other things I noticed were jaggies and moiré, though that really only caught my attention in this photo.
Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look our photo gallery -- perhaps printing a few of the photos if you can -- and then decide if the D3000's photo quality fulfills your expectations!
The D3000 cannot record movies. If you want that capability, you'll need the -- get ready -- D5000!
The D3000 has one of the more elaborate playback modes that you'll find on a digital SLR. Basic features include slideshows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail view, and zoom & scroll. This last feature lets you enlarge an image by as much as 25 times, and then move around. This comes in handy for checking focus, or looking for closed eyes. You can move from one image to another while maintaining the current zoom setting by using the command dial.
|Calendar view||Mega thumbnail view|
A handy calendar view can be displayed if you keep pressing the zoom out button. Pick a date on the calendar and you can then scroll through the thumbnails of photos taken that day. There's also an option to show something like 72 thumbnails on the screen at once. It's hard to make out what things actually are, though, unless you're hooked up to a TV.
Most of the hardcore playback features can be found in the Retouch menu. The options here include:
- D-Lighting - brightens dark areas of a photo; select from low, normal, or high
- Redeye correction
- Trim (crop) - you can select an aspect ratio of 3:2, 4:3, 5:4, 1:1, or 16:9
- Monochrome - changes a color photo to black and white, sepia, or cyanotype
- Filter effects - use virtual skylight, warm, red/green/blue, cross screen, and soft filters
- Color balance - adjust the color of a photo
- Small picture - downsize an image
- Image overlay - combines two RAW images into one
- NEF (RAW) processing - edit RAW images
- Quick retouch - uses D-Lighting and also boosts contrast and saturation
- Color outline - another digital effect
- Miniature effect
- Stop-motion movie - combine several still photos into a movie
- Before and after
|Brightening up an image with D-Lighting||Adjusting the color balance of a photo|
The D-Lighting option here is the regular one that's been on Nikon cameras for many years. Simply put, it brightens the dark areas of your photos, and you can control how much of it is applied. The color balance option is pretty self-explanatory -- it's handy for removing a color cast in a photo.
RAW processing in playback mode
The D3000 is one of a very small group of cameras that actually lets you edit a RAW image right on the camera. You can change the image size and quality, white balance, exposure compensation, and Picture Control setting. The resulting image is saved as a Large/Fine JPEG.
Creating a miniature photo
One of the new bells and whistles on the D3000 is the miniature effect filter. This feature, sometimes called tilt-shift, makes things look like miniature toys. I'm still learning how to use this feature myself, but you can see how it works above: you select the area of the frame that you want to be sharp. The rest of the image is blurred out, like so:
That's probably not the best example of this feature -- I think Nikon's own sample photo does a better job of showing what the miniature feature is all about.
Comparing before and after D-Lighting was applied
If you want to compare a photo you've retouched with the original, then you can use the before and after feature. You can zoom into each image separately, but not at the same time (with a split-screen view), which can be useful.
The stop-motion movie feature lets you combine up to 100 photos into a slow-playing, silent movie (think The Nightmare Before Christmas). The resulting movie can be 640 x 480, 320 x 240, or 160 x 120, and the frame rate can be 3, 6, 10, or 15 fps.
One feature on the D3000 that I always appreciate is the ability to delete a group of photos, instead of having to do it one at a time. You can also delete photos that were taken on a certain date.
By default, the camera doesn't show you much information about your photos, but if you press up or down on the four-way controller you can get a lot more, as you can see above. Do note that you may need to turn on some of these screens in the playback menu (display mode option).
The D3000 moves from photo to photo in a fraction of a second.
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
As always, I recommend heading to your local camera or electronics store to try out the D3000 and its competitors before you buy!
Check out our gallery to see how the D3000's photo quality looks!