Saturday, November 27, 2010

Nikon D3100 Hands on: Part 2

Check out part 1 of my hands on preview of the D3100.

I went out for the afternoon to do some shooting with the Nikon D3100, and I'm impressed with how well it performed over all. I was expecting the camera to have sub-par auto focus performance, considering that the D3100 is an entry level model, but from what I noticed today I'd say it is as good as the D90, if not a little better in some areas. I believe the improvements may be a result of using the new Expeed2 processor. First of all, 3D tracking seems to be far better a maintaining focus on the subject when moving from one side of the AF area to the other. I didn't attempt to use 3D tracking when shooting birds, but I might next time I go out! BTW, I've added more images to the sample gallery (link in sidebar).

The above image was shot with the D3100, with Nikon AF-S 300mm F4 IF-ED and TC14E mounted. Tracking birds with the AF-S 300mm F4 isn't very hard for most Nikon cameras, but attach the TC and auto focus slows down a bit, even on the D300. I found that the D3100 performed admirably with this setup, and I got some nice images.  Sure it cannot match the auto focus performance of the D300, but it did a good job none the less. I also recorded a few videos with the camera to see how well it works in that area. Read on for the details.

Notes On Video
The 1080p 24FPS video output from the D3100 is very nice, and generally smooth. Where the smoothness of the video starts to come into question is when there is a lot of subject movement, in which case I would recommend shooting video at lower resolution 720p, and with recording speed set at 30FPS.


This sample video was shot at 1080p (full resolution on YouTube). I was testing the full time auto focus with this video, and as you watch the video you'll note that at the start everything is in focus, but when the bird turns it's head focus is lost. I waited a few seconds, but the camera never reacquired the subject so I switch to manual focus.

Notes On Image Quality
Image quality is good so far, although I did notice that like the D300 and other Nikon DX bodies with CMOS sensors there is some noise in the sky and other blue areas, even at ISO200. I was hoping that this generation of Nikon sensors would improve in this area, but alas that is not the case.

Read Part 3 of the Hands on Preview