D3100 is a huge disappointment

Discussion in 'Other Systems' started by Promit, Apr 17, 2012.

  1. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Real Name:
    Promit Roy
    Okay, I've never ever owned a DSLR camera. The Nikons have been on blowout lately, so I figured what the hell -- I'll grab one. SLRs are supposed to be the end-all of stills photography after all, right? Now I realize that the D3100 is a bargain basement entry level model, but I really thought it'd be more fun to use.

    First the good: AF-C/tracking is boss. The GH2 can only dream of keeping up. Fingers crossed for Nikon 1 style AF becoming the standard soon. And, uh...sensor is fine? By the DXO numbers, it's not a huge step from the GH2 but it is better.

    The bad: Everything else.
    * The viewfinder. Holy tiny window, this thing is awkward. My glasses -- and my nose -- get in the way. Unpleasant compared to GH2 or SLT.
    * AF-S on this body with the kit zoom is like using the Panasonic 20. Not awful, but distinctly lazy. IIRC, the Rebels are better, but not :43: level?
    * Auto ISO takes way too much effort to toggle.
    * Kit lens is kinda shoddy. I didn't expect miracles, but both current Panny and Oly 14-42 lenses are nicer.
    * Changing settings is not as smooth as Q-menu or SCP. The trick is with mirrorless, setting changes are integrated into shooting. On a DSLR, they are a distraction from it.
    * Camera is blowing highlights on non-challenging exposures. This might be JPEG processing, as I haven't tried RAW yet. Most of the pictures look like the default contrast level is two ticks too high. This isn't adjustable with Active D. Lighting on, which I thought is supposed to *prevent* this problem.

    Honestly this caught me a little off guard. I'm not sure if I've just picked the wrong camera, but I'd much rather have my GH2 or even my PM1 than this creature. Can someone please explain what I'm missing here?
    • Like Like x 1
  2. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin .

    Oct 9, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    The funny thing about comparing the AF-S speeds of DSLRs and Micro 4/3 is that to get the fastest focusing on a DSLR you need to upgrade from the kit lens to a proper SWM or USM lens, whereas the fastest focusing Micro 4/3 lenses ARE the kit zooms.

    Going back to using a DSLR after spending time with mirrorless cameras it is easy to feel a bit lost without all the immediate feedback available on a live-view screen.
  3. songs2001

    songs2001 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 8, 2011
    D3100 doesn't have the good 16mp Sony sensor that the D5100 and D7000 has, not sure if it's any better than the D90 or D5000.

    IQ is probably not that different than the Panasonic GH2 or G3, possibly even somewhat worse.

    Also it has a weird tutorial user interface.

    What the D3100 has going for it, is cheap normal primes, macros and telephotos, you can get the 35 1.8, 50 1.8 afs lenses for 200 bucks each, 40 2.8 macro for 270, 85 1.8 AFS for 500, 55-300 for 250 etc...

    These newer lenses are much better than their Canon counterparts.

    If you want to mess around with Nikons, a refurb D5100 is a tremendous value and not much bigger than the 3100.
  4. Armanius

    Armanius Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2010
    Real Name:
    The D3100 is an entry level DSLR, while the GH2 is the flagship Panasonic. The menu system on the D3100, controls and AF performance are dumbed down considerably, just like in the D5100. I think Nikon and Canon try to make a clear distinction between their entry level stuff vs enthusiast, especially Nikon. Once you get to the D7000, which was more or less in the GH2 price point originally, you will likely be more impressed with Nikon stuff.

    In most m4/3 cameras, both Oly and Pany didn't dumb down the entry level stuff too much. There are less direct controls, but the capabilities and features are pretty much the same. Kudos to Oly and Pany.
    • Like Like x 2
  5. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Look at it like this.

    The D3100 is an entry level DSLR - The GH2 is not an entry level Micro Four Thirds body.
  6. songs2001

    songs2001 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 8, 2011
    I agree, you get things like DOF preview, metering with manual focus lenses, remote flash even in the most basic Olympus bodies.
  7. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Real Name:
    Promit Roy
    Okay, replace GH2 with G3, or even G2. I don't feel any different about the comparison, except the G2 is clearly struggling on the raw IQ front in that case. (And I guess the G3 will also be behind once this rumored D3200 drops.) I'm really struggling to see why most would want the Nikon instead of the G3.
  8. Jonathan F/2

    Jonathan F/2 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 10, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    I've owned a lot of Nikon bodies, and I really disliked the D3100. The D3000 it replaced took much better pictures that were incredibly sharp and the last of the weak AA filter, CCD Nikon DSLRs.
  9. phigmov

    phigmov Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 4, 2010
    A thread close to my heart. I'm keen on a DSLR and have been eying up a second-hand D90 (primarily for the in-body AF motor to drive my older AF Nikon lenses).

    Its definitely interesting to hear an opinion on the D3100. Particularly the viewfinder and ergonomics to get a feel for the low/mid-range of the Nikon range.

    I've got an old F100 and the AF on that is awesome (as is the viewfinder and metering).
  10. songs2001

    songs2001 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 8, 2011
    You are more likely to find a Nikon D3100 in brick and mortar stores. I don't think I have seen a G3 or a G2 in person.

    The 55-200 lens is $100 more when you buy in a kit, the Nikon 35 1.8 is only $200. The Nikon SB400 bounce flash is only $120. The Nikons are remote flash capable with SB700/SB800/SB900.

    D40/D40x/D60/D3000/D3100 can mount non AI Nikkor Manual lenses, not even the D3 cameras can do that. Chipped AI lenses like the Rokinon 85 1.4 allow for non stop down metering. Focus confirmation dot.

    There are tons of inexpensive 3rd party options for everything, from lenses, to batteries, to vertical grips.

    Nikon USA has a 5 year warranty on lenses.

    Nikon lenses are not focus by wire, so you can use extension tubes with no issues other than aperture control on g lenses.

    Nikon DX lenses have standardized 52mm filter threads,

    Nikons have 250 volt flash triggers, can use older flashes safely.

    Nikons are forward and backwards compatible, a DX lens you buy today will work with the APS Pronea cameras, certain 35mm AF cameras with vignetting, manual focus cameras stopped down to min aperture, full frame DSLRs in crop mode, the Nikon 1 cameras with full phase detection autofocus.

    Nikon has "superior" marketing, from Ashton Kutcher in the US, to Rain in Asia, support of social media like that of Chase Jarvis, bloggers like Ken Rockwell.

    And finally, Panasonics make microwaves and rice cookers. Nikon only makes cameras.

    So the above are some the reasons why someone might go with Nikon rather than Panasonic.
  11. Bhupinder2002

    Bhupinder2002 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Lol lol .. I like that but Nikon Entry level D3100 doesnt offer much than Panasonic G3. As u said G3 is not widely available and its a major plus point for Canon and Nikon as they are present everywhere . Now Canon and Nikon are well established camera companies but Panasonic is new . More over majority of people don't have any idea about MFT or how DSLR works . They want latest and greatest camera without knowing anything how it works. I have convinced nearly 50 people to buy MFT and more than 45 bought it thought majority bought Olympus PEN. If I have to choose Nikon DSLR I would pick up D5100 instead of D3100.Anyway walkman , DVD , tv , microwave maker Sony is providing sensors to ur NIKON and other camera companies so just don't underestimate Panny at all sir .

  12. songs2001

    songs2001 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 8, 2011
    If Panasonic makes a L1 styled camera with IBIS and built in EVF, then I might consider switching from Olympus. Until then I will continue being meh about their cameras.
    • Like Like x 1
  13. Bhupinder2002

    Bhupinder2002 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Hahaahah ..Did I mention that I love Olympus ?:wink::wink: But I don't hate Panny either . I have ben drooling over GX1 since long but Olympus OMD spoiled my plans.
  14. shnitz

    shnitz Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 25, 2011
    Austin, TX
    The viewfinder is a pentamirror. It's a cost and size issue. If you step up to the D90 or higher, you get a pentaprism. In fact, the D90 is basically the D200's viewfinder in a D50-sized body.

    Yeah, the 18-55mm's focus isn't great. It's not a true ultrasonic motor; it's like Olympus' MSC, in which a screw-drive inside of the camera moves a lens assembly. True ultrasonic motors are much better, such as Olympus' SWD, Nikon's true AF-S (pretty much every AF-S lens besides the 18-55mm, 55-200mm, and 55-300mm), Canon's USM, etc. Nikon's 18-105mm lens has an ultrasonic motor; if you have a camera store, or even a Best Buy or Sears near you that you can go test it; I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Many many of these lenses are sold on Craigslist, as they are the kit lenses with the mid-grade/high-end DX cameras (D90, D7000), which many people end up upgrading from. The 18-55mm has optics that are about as good as it gets for kit lenses, covering a larger sensor than m4/3, with an MSRP of $200 and a real price of $140. The MSRP of the lens used to be $120, and it had a low-dispersion element, but due to the clamoring of the noobs and their desire for image stabilization in every lens ever made, to keep up with the Best Buy buying crowd, they replaced the ED element with a VR assembly, and jacked up the price. So, if you are paying much less than most other lenses and still getting respectable optics, it's the build and features that had to suffer. That's why it's a bit plasticky and slow-focusing. Also, the Panasonic and Olympus kit lenses are nicer, but look at their selling price. The old-version Panasonic 14-42mm is $145 right now, but the cheapest that you can buy an Olympus for from an authorized dealer is much higher.

    You're unfamiliar with the menu system. It's not fair to deride where Nikon put auto ISO; once you're used to it, you'll find that Nikon has as well thought out a menu system as anyone else.

    Blowing highlights is shooter error :) You aren't used to the camera, give it some time. Active D-lighting is a jpeg trick that is the same thing as just using the "shadows" slider in lightroom. I agree with Nic that you're experiencing a bit of culture shock coming from a different system. Imagine how it was in the film days! When I got my first personal SLR, I had come from years of film experience, had a bit of formal education (in the way of college courses and mentorship from higher-level photographers), was working as a photographer for a newspaper using a Canon DSLR setup (D60, and later the 10D), got myself the D40 when it was announced, and it STILL took me a few months to be completely comfortable with the camera.

    Image quality of the D3100 is a little better than m4/3 cameras, about comparable to the GH2 and G3. A bit better colors, and better high ISO performance, but probably near-indistinguishable at base or low ISO for most situations. It's not quite as good as the D90/D5000 sensor. I'd put good money that says it's the same sensor that's found in Sony's last-gen 14.2MP cameras. IQ is better in the D5100 for sure, but I wouldn't recommend upgrading from a D3100 to a D5100. It's more important to get comfortable with an SLR in general, and see how he feels in a few months.
    • Like Like x 1
  15. Armanius

    Armanius Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2010
    Real Name:
    Totally agree.
  16. songs2001

    songs2001 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 8, 2011
    The D90 is quite a bit larger than the D50. I know because I have a D7000 which is D90 sized, and also have a D50.

    Certain Nikon meters will blow highlights easier, generally the more lower end Nikons will blow highlights easier than the higher end Nikons. The lower end Nikons also tend to have more pleasing jpegs as well.

    The 18-105 is not a true AFS lens either. It only has partial manual focus override unlike the more professional lenses. It also has a plastic mount and build quality isn't that different from the 18-55, you'll need to step up to the 16-85 to get the better build quality, manual AF override, metal mount etc...

    Nice thing or bad thing depending on your perspective about Nikons is that there are dozens of standard zooms that will work with the D3100.
  17. riveredger

    riveredger Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 30, 2010
    Northern NJ
    I never understood how that argument makes any sense. Why should the diversity of a company's product line be a deterent to buying a camera? That's not the smartest way to make a decision lol.

    "I used to want a Canon, but then I found out they make fax machines and printers . . ."

    I've owned a Canon T1i and a Nikon D300, and now I have a G3. The G3 is by far the most versatile of these cameras. It is the only one with a useable live view mode - where having a tilt screen is actually a benefit for photography. It also has terrific video AF. While the D300's build quality was incredible, I find the G3 to be more solid in the hand than the T1i was. In terms of IQ, you'd be splitting hairs to see the real world difference in IQ between these cameras. And lastly - I use the PL 25 1.4. That focal length is about equal to a 35mm on an APS-C camera. If you think the little Leica is expensive, check out the prices for a Nikon or Canon 35mm 1.4!
  18. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    I've found center-weighted metering tends to be less prone to blown highlights. As to JPEGs, the WB seems to make a huge difference. I avoid AWB like the plague on sunny days - way too yellow.

    The discontinued 18-70/3.5-4.5 also has a metal mount and full AF-S. In fact, it probably has the fastest AF of any standard Nikon zoom I've tried.

    I tend to agree that the D3100 isn't a particularly exciting body (the D5100 is much more interesting). It's a camera you should get mainly for the lenses you can use it with...

  19. songs2001

    songs2001 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 8, 2011
    It's not my argument that one should care if their camera makers shouldn't make Microwaves or rice cookers.

    But here are a couple of reasons you might care.

    A large corporation with a different product mix will start and abandon products at whim, most people probably don't know that Samsung made K mount cameras or that Panasonic made Four Thirds cameras. Sony probably will abandon their Full frame SLRs and lenses and probably their entire Alpha line.

    A reseller that is authorized to sell Nikon products are probably somewhat knowledgable about cameras, a reseller that is authorized to sell Samsung products may only know about cell phone cameras.

    A 25 1.4 is similar in DOF control to A Canon 35 2.0 or Nikon 35 1.8 and those lenses are very cheap.

    Besides it proves my point, people will only buy expensive lenses if it says Leica in the case for Panasonic, Zeiss for Sony or Schneider for Samsung.
  20. tanngrisnir3

    tanngrisnir3 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 18, 2011
    No, that doesn't really prove your point.

    Plenty of people are buying the 7-14 Panasonic and the 12mm Oly, and there's no other names on the lenses.