Nikon D3000 Review
The D3000 is Nikon’s latest entry-level DSLR following the highly popular D40, D40x, and D60 models. It remains to be very small and light, convenient for casual photographers.
One of the main weaknesses for the D40 and D60 is the Multi-CAM 530 AF module that has only 3 AF points, which do not cover the frame very well. Nikon has solved that problem on the D3000 by applying the higher-end 11-AF-point Multi-CAM 1000 AF module, previously found on the D200, D80, D90, and D5000.
The D3000 uses 10MP CCD sensor that is similar to those on the
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Key D3000 Features
- 10MP CCD sensor, 3872×2592 pixels
- ISO sensitivity from 100 to 1600 plus Hi 1
- Multi-CAM 1000 AF module with 11 AF points, center point cross type
- Large 3-inch LCD
- Nikon EXPEED image processing
- Nikon Active D Lighting
- Auto sensor cleaning
- 3 frames per second continuous capture
- 6 scene modes: portrait, landscape, child, sports, close up and night portrait
- New on-camera Guide Mode for quick learning
- File formats: RAW, JPEG fine, normal, and basic, RAW + JPEG basic
- Date/Time imprint on the JPEG images
Construction and Control Layout
A few years ago when I saw the D40 for the first time, I could not believe how small that camera was. The new D3000 is practically exactly the same size. I asked my wife and some of her women friends to hold it with the 18-55mm kit lens, including a friend’s 6-year-old daughter, and they all like it very well. However, the grip on the right side of the camera body still has sufficient thickness so that people with larger hands can feel comfortable holding these small cameras.
Because of the limited space on the camera, there is only one large 3" LCD on the back, one command dial, and a few buttons. There is no top LCD to display the frame count, aperture and shutter speed; instead, they are shown on the back LCD as well as inside the viewfinder. On the top right side of the camera, there is a dial for selecting the A, S, P, and M exposure modes and the scene modes (e.g. portrait, landscape, children, sports, macro and night). The single command dial controls both the aperture and shutter speed. In other words, the most frequently used controls are still directly available on the camera.
A lot of controls that are used less frequently such as memory card formatting, ISO selection and white balance selection are only available as menu options. In a way it is less convenient for the photographer and can slow down the operation, but it seems to be a reasonable compromise for the sake of small size and therefore limlited space on the camera. The D3000 does have one programmable function button. The user has a choice on which frequently used control to assign to that button for faster selection.
The D3000 uses separate zoom in and zoom out buttons to control the current image on display. If you keep on pressing onto the zoom out button, it will show the thumbnails of 4, 9, and 72 images; with another press, the D3000 will display a calendar for the current month and shows the thumbnail images captured in each day. If one keeps a lot of images in the memory cards for a long period, this feature makes it easy to review older images.
New 3" LCD
Naturally, the large 3" LCD dominates the back of the camera, and it is considerably larger than the 2.5" version on the D40 and D60. As a result, there is not much space for everything else. The Multi-Selection pad is now pushed to the far right and is therefore a bit too close to the edge; it is slightly less convenient but not a major problem. The D3000 3" LCD has 230K dots; it displays a nice image but not as sharp as the 920K-dot version on the high-end D3, D700 and D300/D300s bodies.
New Guide Mode
The D3000 has a new feature called the Guide Mode, which is selectable from the top Exposure Mode/Scene Mode dial. The Guide Mode has three sections:
- Set up
Essentially it is an on-camera guide on how to set up the camera, e.g. ISO, white balance, file format, etc. and how to capture images either with a shallow depth of field or to freeze motion. In other words, it contains a beginner’s guide that shows you to use a large aperture to blur the background, a shutter speed around 1/200 sec to shop people motion and 1/1000 to stop vehicle motion, etc. It is convenient for early beginners, but once you learn how the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings affect the image, you can easily decide on those settings yourself.
Since the D3000 uses the same Multi-CAM 1000 AF module as the D200, which I have owned since 2007, I am quite familiar with its strengths and weaknesses. On the D3000, it performs in a similar fashion. For outdoor photography under brightly lit conditions, it is very good. The Group Dynamic option is especially convenient for sports photography. However, indoors under dim light, only the center AF point that is of cross type is highly effective. If you use any one of the other 10 line type AF point, you may experience some AF “hunting” under low light.
Similar to the Nikon D200, D80, D40x, and D60, the 10MP CCD sensor Nikon uses gives good high ISO results up to about 800. If there is sufficient light, ISO 1600 is still fair, but under very dim light, the resulting image becomes noisy. You lose about 1 stop of high ISO capability compared to the newer 12MP CMOS sensor on the D300/D300s, D90 and D5000.
The D3000 provides a date/time imprint feature that is popular for consumers, but this option is only available if one captures JPEG only. There is no date imprint in RAW (NEF) images, not even in the JPEG from the RAW + JPEG basic option. The D3000 has an orientation sensor so that the imprint always appears on the lower right corner of the image, regardless of whether the camera is held horizontally or vertically. I even tried to hold the D3000 vertically in two ways, by rotating it 90 degrees clockwise as well as counter-clockwise from the horizontal position, and both vertical images have the date imprint in their respective lower right corner.
However, you can neither control the location of the date imprint in the image nor move it in post-processing. Therefore you need to crop the image later on, you can potentially cut into the middle of the imprint and it will look very strange.
With a few exceptions, almost all Nikon F-mount lenses since their introduction in 1959 can be mounted onto the D3000 to capture images, including most pre-AI (Auto Indexing) lenses from before 1977. Recent 2009 statistics show that Nikon has manufactured over 50 million F-mount lenses in the last half century. However, the D3000 can only meter with modern lenses that have a built-in CPU chip to relay aperture opening electronically to the camera body. Essentially all Nikon AF lenses plus a few late manual-focus P lenses have a CPU chip in the lens. Additionally, since the D3000 body has no built-in AF motor, only Nikon AF-S (including the earlier AF-I) and equivalent third-party lenses that have an in-lens AF motor can auto focus with the D3000. Other AF and AF-D lenses that have no motor become manual-focus only on the D3000.
In the US, the D3000 is only available as a kit with the 18-55mm/f3.5-5.6 AF-S VR lens; you cannot purchase the D3000 body only. Optically this lens is good and the vibration reduction (VR) feature is a great help. The maximum aperture f5.6 on the long end is on the slow side so that a flash is pretty much required for any indoor photography. The construction is typical consumer grade with a plastic lens mount. There is no distance scale on the lens, and unlike higher-end AF-S lenses, you cannot manually override the (auto) focus when the lens is set to A (auto focus). You must manually set the lens to M (manual focus) first and the focusing ring on the front end of the lens is quite narrow.
For indoor work, Nikon now has a very affordable 35mm/f1.8 AF-S DX lens that is highly popular among consumer DSLR users. It is a fast lens that is small in size. The mostly plastic construction is adequate and its lens mount is metal. Its AF can be overridden manually without switching to manual focus. The main disadvantage is that it has a moderate amount of color fringing (chromatic aberration).
For telephoto lenses, Nikon has an affordable 55-200mm/f3.5-5.6 AF-S VR which is good optically but also on the slow side with a maximum aperture of f5.6 on the long (200mm) end. This lens also has a very consumer-grade plastic mount.
The D3000 has a built-in pop-up flash that has limited power, and unlike those on higher-end models such as the D90 and D300/D300s, the D3000’s pop-up flash cannot be the Nikon CLS (Creative Lighting System) master flash to control remote slaves.
For those who use flash frequently, they are better off with an external flash. The D3000 uses Nikon iTTL flashes such as the SB-400 and SB-600. The SB-400 is a small flash that also has limited power and cannot rotate upward for bounce flash in the vertical orientation. The SB-600 is more power and more versatile; it is larger but is still quite reasonable on the D3000’s hot shoe.
There are also the more advanced SB-800 (discontinued) and SB-900 iTTL flashes, but while they are compatible with the D3000, they seem to be way too big for this small camera (especially the SB-900). See our Nikon iTTL Flash Guide for more information on Nikon flashes.
Memory Cards and Batteries
The D3000 uses SD memory cards and is SD-HC compatible. The D3000 is sold with the new EN-EL9s battery, which is interchangeable with the older EN-EL9. The new EN-EL9a is gray in color and is rated at 1080mAh, so it hold slightly more charge than the older EN-EL9: 1000mAh and black in color.
During my testing, I did not use the battery to exhaustion. After some moderate use, including plenty of image review on the LCD, there still seems to be plenty of charge left.
Nikon D3000 vs. D5000
Nikon introduced the D5000 a few months before the D3000. The D5000 represents a new class of DSLR that is still compact but has more features and options similar to the higher-end D90.
The D5000 uses a 12MP CMOS sensor and its ISO range is from 200 to 3200. Cameras with that sensor typically have a one-stop advantage over those that use the 10MP CCD sensor on the D3000. My side-by-side test among the D3000, D5000, and D700 at ISO 1600 verifies that difference. (With its 12MP FX-format sensor, the D700 is another stop better than the D5000, and that is also expected.) Additionally, the D5000 has the following extra features over the D3000:
- Live View
- Movie Mode
- Swivel LCD, at a slightly smaller 2.7"
- More Custom Settings
In summary, the D5000 provides some more advanced features for more serious photographers. For example, if one prefers to capture RAW and JPEG, on the D5000 the JPEG can be of any one of the three qualities available (fine, normal and basic). The D3000 only offers RAW and JPEG basic. The D5000 has a Custom Setting menu that is similar to those on the D3, D700, D300s and D90, although it does not have nearly as many options. The simpler D3000 does not provide that menu.
One thing to keep in mind is that the movie mode on the D5000 is very basic. It is certainly a nice additional feature to have, but the D5000 is still primarily a still-image camera.
Nikon has been raising the bar on their entry-level DSLRs. While the D3000 is intended to be their most affordable model, it is using a variation of the 10MP sensor and the same AF module on the D200, which was a $1699 prosumer model that was in very high demand merely a few years ago back in 2006. Meanwhile, the D3000 is conveniently small and light so that it is easy to carry around.
The D3000’s small size and affordable price lead to some compromises, mainly the lack of an on-camera AF motor and some dedicated control buttons. Most owners will only use AF-S lenses on the D3000 so that they have both metering and auto focus. Since Nikon now offers quite a few affordable AF-S lenses, this is not a major issue any more.
For consumers who are into family, travel and children sports photography and prefer a simple SLR with more lens selections, this is an excellent camera at a very reasonable price. For the more serious photographers who prefer more controls and user options, the D5000 and especially D90 should be better choices.
In the US, currently the D3000 is only available as a kit with the 18-55mm/f3.5-5.6 AF-S VR lens. You cannot purchase a new D3000 body separately. It can be an issue if you already have that particular lens or other standard wide-to-tele zoom and don’t need another one.
Features Compared: D5000, D3000, D60, and D40
|Sensor (all DX format)||4288×2848, 12MP CMOS||3872×2592, 10MP CCD||3872×2592, 10MP CCD||3008×2000, 6MP CCD|
|Sensitivity ISO||200-3200 + Hi 1, Lo 1||100-1600 + Hi 1||100-1600 + Hi 1||200-1600 + Hi 1|
|Auto Sensor Cleaning||yes||yes||no||no|
|Auto Focus||Multi-CAM 1000, 11 AF points||Multi-CAM 1000, 11 AF points||Multi-CAM 530, 3 AF points||Multi-CAM 530, 3 AF points|
|Built-in AF Motor||no||no||no||no|
|Shutter Speeds||30 to 1/4000 second||30 to 1/4000 second||30 to 1/4000 second||30 to 1/4000 second|
|Flash Sync||1/200 second||1/200 second||1/200 second||1/500 second|
|Frame Rate||4 fps||3 fps||3 fps||2.5 fps|
|File Format||RAW, JPEG fine, normal or basic, RAW + JPEG any size||RAW, JPEG fine, normal or basic, RAW + JPEG basic||RAW, JPEG fine, normal or basic, RAW + JPEG basic||RAW, JPEG fine, normal or basic, RAW + JPEG basic|
|LCD||2.7" 230K pixels, swivel||3" 230K pixels||2.5" 230K pixels||2.5" 230K pixels|
|Weight (w/out Battery)||560 g||485 g||475 g||475 g|
Where to Buy
Photo.net’s partners have the Nikon D3000 available in a few options. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.
- Photo.net Nikon Discussion Forum
- Nikon Digital SLR System Overview
- Nikon web site
- Factors to consider when choosing a Digital SLR
Original text ©2009 Shun Cheung.