Although the Nikon D3100 has been supplanted by the newer Nikon D3200 (Est. $530 with kit lens), it remains a well-reviewed camera. Aside from resolution and video features, these two cameras are otherwise virtually identical and image quality is much the same. So if you're on a tight budget, reviews suggest going with the D3100.
Helps beginners get the shot. The Nikon D3100 is Nikon's cheapest DSLR camera and is nearly indistinguishable from the step-up D3200 except for a few features. Testers find both cameras comfortable to grip and lightweight to carry, with easy-to-find buttons and easy-to-navigate menus. The D3100's LCD screen isn't as high-resolution as the D3200's, but reviewers don't complain. Beginners can simply set the D3100 to Auto and let the camera do the work, or you can switch to Guide Mode and learn from the camera as you shoot. In short, it "does a good job of helping novices get the shot, and learn how they did it," Imaging-Resource.com says.
Decently quick, with very good photo quality. The Nikon D3100 performs almost just like the pricier D3200, except for two things. It has fewer megapixels on its compact sensor -- 14.2 versus the D3200's sky-high 24.2 -- and it shoots a slower 3 fps compared to the D3200's 4 fps. But nobody grumbles about the D3100's speed. "We suspect it will keep the vast majority of users perfectly happy," say testers at DPReview.com. The D3100 actually delivers better dim-light crispness and contrast than the D3200 in the same test, and its photos won't gobble so much space on your computer. The D3100's battery is rated for 550 shots on a single charge.
Plastic body feels solid. Body-wise, the Nikon D3100 and D3200 are much the same. They're the same small size and weigh just 1 pound, and are both made largely from plastic, but experts say they still feel solid. "The body is composite and seems well built with materials, fit and finish appropriate for the price point," says Jim Keenan at DigitalCameraReview.com. The rubberized grip and thumb rest "promote a more secure feel," he says. Zoltan Arva-Toth at PhotographyBlog.com calls that rubber coating "surprisingly classy," and says it helps the D3100 exude "a degree of quality you might not expect at this price point."
"Surprisingly well-featured," but it does omit a few. For the Nikon D3100's rock-bottom price, you'll have to forgo some features. There's no external microphone jack for recording movies and the built-in mic isn't great. You won't get manual movie controls like aperture and mic level, and there's no wireless remote although you can add a wired remote. All these things come on the step-up Nikon D3200. Oddly, both Nikons lack standard exposure bracketing, where the camera takes three shots instead of one -- one normal, one at a slightly higher exposure and one slightly lower -- just in case the normal exposure wasn't quite right. Even so, PhotographyBlog.com calls the D3100 "a surprisingly well-featured and complete package for an entry-level digital SLR camera."
With HD video and Live View, the Nikon D3100 wins DPReview.com's Silver Award. Testers say it's "an excellent beginners camera" that newbies can grow with, but so are the new, cheaper, mirrorless cameras on the market.
Review: Nikon D3100 Review, Andy Westlake and Richard Butler, December 2010
For point-and-shooters who want to upgrade to a more serious camera, the Nikon D3100 is a top pick at this reputable website. Experts here also thoroughly evaluate and recommend the newer D3200, but the cheaper D3100 remains on their list of best buys.
Review: Nikon D3100 Review, Mike Tomkins, Shawn Barnett and Zig Weidelich, Dec. 13, 2010
The Nikon D3100 gets a Highly Recommended tag here. The camera delivers outstanding images for its price, with higher resolution and better low-light performance than its predecessor, the D3000. However, Zoltan Arva-Toth says the Live View and movie mode could use improvement. This site now prefers the newer Nikon D3200.
Review: Nikon D3100 Review, Zoltan Arva-Toth, Nov. 29, 2010
With good still-image quality and a decent kit lens for the price, the Nikon D3100 scores 4 stars out of 5 here. Jim Keenan finds some flaws, mostly with video mode.
Review: Nikon D3100 Review, Jim Keenan, Feb. 17, 2011
5. Ken Rockwell
Photographer Ken Rockwell bluntly advises shoppers to get the cheaper Nikon D3100 instead of the new D3200, calling it "the best camera for most things." He adds: "It's the same thing, and sells for less. Resolution means nothing between these two cameras." Links lead to full reviews.
Review: Recommended Cameras, Ken Rockwell, Not dated
The Nikon D3100 earns high ratings from more than 800 owners here. Although criticisms are posted, about 75 percent of users give the camera a perfect 5 stars.
Review: Nikon D3100 14.2MP Digital SLR Camera, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of February 2014