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** Size Comparisons **


** In the Box **


 

NIKON-D3000-boxshot.jpg

• Nikon D5000 body with body cap

• 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens

• DK-20 rubber eyecup (on camera)

• EN-EL9a rechargeable Li-ion battery

• MH-23 Quick Charger

• Camera strap

• UC-E4 USB cable

• BS-1 hot shoe cover

• DK-5 eyepiece cap

• Software CD

• Quick Start Guide, in English and Spanish

• User's Manual, in English and Spanish

 

**Color Accuracy *** (11.86) *


The D3000 scored very poorly in our color accuracy testing, due in part to the apparent decision to oversaturate every color mode in this entry-level consumer camera. The most accurate color mode is Neutral, yet even here colors are oversaturated to 108%, and in the Standard mode most users will probably be inclined to use, the oversaturation climbs to nearly 120%. As for reproducing hues, the camera did well with purple, orange yellow and green, but purplish blue, red and cyan were way off. Even flesh tones, which are handled well by most cameras we test, were noticeably wrong.

We test for color accuracy by shooting an X-Rite Color Checker chart under controlled 3000 lux studio illumination. We shoot in all available color modes, analyze the test photos using Imatest software, and score based on the best color mode results. Click here for more on how we test color

The chart below includes same-size crops taken from our sample photos from several inexpensive SLRs, each in the camera's best color mode.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

As seen in the graph above, the Nikon D3000 delivered the least accurate color in our comparison group. We chalk this up in part to a conscious decision by someone at Nikon to oversaturate colors in an effort to please the presumably unsophisticated entry-level SLR buyer.

NOTE: We updated our testing and scoring procedures in January 2009. For comparison purposes, we re-tested several cameras we'd reviewed in 2008, producing the scores shown in the chart above for the *Canon Rebel XS**. However, the scores in the original reviews for the re-tested cameras remain unchanged, for consistency's sake.*

 

Color Modes*(4.00)*


The Nikon D3000 supports the company's standard  Picture Control system, with settings that adjust saturation and hue along with sharpening, contrast and brightness. The six presets provided are Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape. These Picture Controls and their customization options are discussed in the Picture Effects section.

The following table shows actual-size samples from photos of the X-Rite ColorChecker chart taken with the D3000 using each color Picture Control setting, except for Monochrome. The left column shows the original chart colors; the color names are the ones used by X-Rite.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

Long Exposure*(10.52)*


The D30000 performed reasonably well in our long exposure testing, which combines marks for color accuracy and image noise when shooting in low light, for exposures between 1 second and 30 seconds. Color accuracy still wasn't great, and even under low light colors were oversaturated, but noise was quite low, with and without noise reduction processing. Click here for more on how we test long exposure.

In the following chart the bars represent color error, so shorter bars indicate better performance. The color error shown here is substantial; by way of comparison, the Nikon D5000 color error measured roughly 25% lower. However, there isn't much variation in color reproduction as the shutter speed increases, which is a desirable result. 

At an illumination level of just 20 lux, the D3000 noise performance is solid at under 0.8% across the board. Noise reduction didn't have much effect one way or the other (on some cameras, the digital processing actually makes the situation worse). Here again, a shorter bar indicates a better result. 

The Nikon D3000 trails the Canon Rebel XS and Nikon D5000 in our long exposure testing, but not by a wide margin, and entirely due to mediocre color accuracy. By contrast, the Olympus E-620 received the lowest score despite decent color accuracy due to very high image noise.

NOTE: We updated our testing and scoring procedures in January 2009. For comparison purposes, we re-tested several cameras we'd reviewed in 2008, producing the scores shown in the chart above for the *Canon Rebel XS**. However, the scores in the original reviews for the re-tested cameras remain unchanged, for consistency's sake.*

 

Noise*(6.21)*


Our image noise tests show that the D3000 isn't overly prone to annoying speckles and imperfections, though our test images were marginally noisier than three out of four comparison cameras (the Olympus E-620, with its smaller Four Thirds format sensor, had particular problems with this test). To measure noise performance we shoot the X-Rite Color Checker chart under bright studio illumination (we turn the lights down for our separate Long Exposure testing), at each available ISO and with noise reduction processing at each available level (in this case, that's on and off). Digital noise reduction will supress visible imperfections, but at the expense of image detail.  Click here for more on how we test noise.

The noise reduction system on the D3000 is unsual for an SLR. A single On/Off setting controls both high ISO noise reduction (over ISO 400) and long exposure noise reduction (longer than 8 seconds), and there are no noise reduction level settings. When shooting at settings above ISO 800 some noise reduction processing is used, even if you've turned it off.

This chart shows that noise reduction has no effect below ISO 800, and makes a significant difference at the two highest ISO settings. When shooting at ISO 100 and 200, image noise is about 0.6%, a decent performance.

 

The following graph breaks out the individual components of image noise: red, green, blue, and chroma (grey). The blue noise is somewhat elevated above the rest, which could make it more visible even when the overall noise level is relatively low, depending on the colors in your photo.

The Olympus E-620, with its smaller Four Thirds format sensor, was by far the noisiest camera in our test group with the noise reduction system is turned off (to retain as much image detail as possible). The closeness of the other lines indicates the marginal visible differences between the other four cameras.

While the Olympus was the noisiest model with noise reduction turned off, its maximum noise reduction setting is highly effective. The Nikon D3000 noise reduction doesn't kick in until ISO 800, leaving noise a bit high at the ISO 400 mark.

Overall the results here don't represent a major quality difference, with the exception of the Olympus E-620. Still, there is an unfortunate dip between the Nikon D5000 and its younger sibling.

 

NOTE: We updated our testing and scoring procedures in January 2009. For comparison purposes, we re-tested several cameras we'd reviewed in 2008, producing the scores shown in the chart above for the *Canon Rebel XS**. However, the scores in the original reviews for the re-tested cameras remain unchanged, for consistency's sake.*

ISO*(5.00)*


Available standard ISOs range from 100 to 1600, plus an extended range Hi 1 setting equivalent to ISO 3200. This represents an increase on both ends of the range compared to the Nikon D40.

There's an Auto ISO mode available for situations where the user-defined setting won't allow a workable exposure. Maximum and minimum acceptable values can be set.

The following chart shows same-size crops taken from shots of our standard still life with each comparison camera, at all available ISOs.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Resolution*(7.36)*


There are three components to our resolution testing: distortion, chromatic aberration and sharpness. For SLRs we don't include the distortion result in our scoring, but we do report on the result using the kit lens. In this case, the 18-55mm VR lens produced easily noticeable barrel distortion at wide angles. Even without that negative factor, the D3000 didn't score very well in our resolution testing. The sharpness score was only marginally higher than the disappointing results we saw with the Nikon D5000, and the chromatic aberration results were essentially the same. We test resolution by shooting a slant-line chart under bright 3000 lux illumination and analyzing the resulting images using Imatest software, producing a result that's independent of raw megapixel count.  Click here for more on how we test resolution.

Distortion

The kit lens showed significant flaws at the widest setting, measuring 3.17% barrel distortion. At the midrange and full telephoto, though, distortion was negligible.

Chromatic Aberration

The worst chromatic aberration occurs at the widest lens setting, with horizontal fringing that escalates as you move outward from the center of the lens. When not shooting at the widest angle, though, chromatic aberration falls within an acceptable range.

Sharpness

The top sharpness results were found in the center of shots taken at the widest-angle setting, with 1388 lw/ph horizontally and 1375 vertically. Performance was very similar when shooting at the midrange, but images became much softer when shooting at full zoom.

The tables below include actual-size crops taken from our test images at three focal lengths, with three aperture settings at each distance.

At the 18mm setting we find good sharpness in the center, falling off somewhat with the lens fully stopped down. There is noticeable color fringing along the outer edges at all of the aperture settings.

At 35mm chromatic aberration becomes less of a problem, but the slanted edges are quite soft, even in the center except when the lens is wide open.

The chromatic aberration is effectively gone but the softness is at its peek when shooting at full zoom.

While the overall resolution score for the Nikon D3000 is slightly better than we found for the D5000, it still lags behind the other comparison cameras by a significant margin.

NOTE: We updated our testing and scoring procedures in January 2009. For comparison purposes, we re-tested several cameras we'd reviewed in 2008, producing the scores shown in the chart above for the *Canon Rebel XS**. However, the scores in the original reviews for the re-tested cameras remain unchanged, for consistency's sake.*

Picture Quality & Size Options*(8.15)*


The D3000 offers three image size settings:

There are three JPEG compression settings: fine (approximately 1:4), normal (approximately 1:8) and basic (approximately 1:16).

The D3000 also supports RAW files in the Nikon NEF format, either on their own or in RAW+JPEG mode. Only basic JPEG images can be recorded in RAW+JPEG mode, though.

Dynamic Range*(6.55)*


The Nikon D300 dynamic range performance isn't a train wreck by any means -- those usually occur with smaller-sensor cameras such as the Olympus E-620 -- but it's nothing to brag about either. When shooting high-contrast subjects, the camera will do a fair job of maintaining detail in both the highlights and the shadows.

We test dynamic range by shooting a 20-patch Kodak Stepchart at each standard ISO setting, then use Imatest to analyze how many individual patches were distinguished in each test shot, and calculate an aggregate score. Click here for more on how we test dynamic range.

Dynamic range inevitably decreases as ISOs rise. The progression here is very similar to what we found when testing the Nikon D5000, except that the D5000 started with a significantly higher range at ISO 200 (7.46 stops versus 6.22 for the D3000 at the same setting), and maintained this advantage throughout the ISO settings.

The D3000 is less able to deal with high-contrast situations than most of the other tested cameras, though the difference is nowhere near as significant as the gap between he rest of the pack and the Olympus E-620, where image noise overwhelmed the ability to pick out clear distinctions on the dynamic range stepchart.

 

NOTE: We updated our testing and scoring procedures in January 2009. For comparison purposes, we re-tested several cameras we'd reviewed in 2008, producing the scores shown in the chart above for the *Canon Rebel XS**. However, the scores in the original reviews for the re-tested cameras remain unchanged, for consistency's sake.*

Image Stabilization*(7.54)*


Unlike the Nikon D40, the D3000 ships with an image-stabilized lens, the 18-55mm Nikkor VR, and in our testing we found that the vibration reduction system produced significantly sharper images when used under relatively low-shake conditions, and was somewhat helpful with more intense camera movement.

To test image stabilization we mount the camera on a custom computer-controlled rig, which produces repeatable movement patterns. We've programmed it for a low-level shake (about what you'd get when the average person shooting handheld) and high-shake (which might occur if you were moving and shooting at the same time). For each shake pattern, we take a series of test photos at a range of shutter speeds, with and without the image stabilization system engaged, and compare the blur levels in each batch, using Imatest software to analyze the images. In addition to testing two levels of shake, we perform separate tests for horizontal and vertical camera movements. Click here for more on how we test image stabilization.

Under low shake conditions, the image stabilization system produced a worthwhile improvement at most shutter speeds for both horizontal and vertical movement.

When we cranked up the camera movement the VR lens was less effective, though there is still a definite gain when combating vertical movement at relatively high shutter speeds. It's also worth noting that, unlike some cameras we've tested, there's essentially no harm done leaving the image stabilization system engaged at any shutter speed.

The D3000 received an exceptionally high score in this test. The Canon Rebel XS was tested before our image stabilization testing procedures were finalized, so it is not included in the score comparison graph below.

The chart below includes representative same-size crops taken from our image stabilization testing, to help visualize the actual differences involved.

White Balance*(10.65)*


The D3000 compensates well for the color differences between varied sources of illumination, with good results using the automatic system and exceptional accuracy when using a custom setting. We test white balance using the X-Rite Judge II light box, which produces illumination with consistent, repeatable color temperatures. We shoot the X-Rite ColorChecker chart under three types of lighting: incandescent (similar to traditional household bulbs), compact white fluorescent and daylight, first with the white balance set to Auto, then after taking a manual reading. Click here for more on how we test white balance.

Automatic White Balance (9.56)

Incandescent lighting is the greatest challenge to auto white balance systems, and like most cameras we've tested, the D3000 produced images that were noticeably warm, with a distinct orange tint under these conditions. Shooting in daylight, though, the white balance adjustment was effective, and compact white fluorescent results were nearly as good. The lines in the charts below indicate color error, so shorter is better.

The Pentax K2000 and Canon Rebel XS auto white balance systems handled daylight illumination exceptionally well, while the D3000 performance is respectable.

None of these cameras compensated for the color of incandescent lighting very well, but the Nikon D3000 is actually the best of the bunch.

With fluorescent lighting the Olympus E-620 and Canon Rebel XS again demonstrate their superior accuracy, though the Nikon D3000 does improve on the results for the Nikon D5000.

 

Custom White Balance (11.75)

Taking a custom white balance reading banished the incandescent orange hue from our test images, and improved on the already good results we'd seen using the auto WB setting under fluorescent lighting. Of course, we expect to get good results from an SLR using manual white balance, so our scoring standards here are quite high. That said, the D3000 outperformed all of the other cameras in our comparison group on this part of the test.

The poor performance of the automatic white balance system under incandescent lighting dragged down the D3000's overall score, but investing a few moments in taking a custom reading produced excellent results. 

 

NOTE: We updated our testing and scoring procedures in January 2009. For comparison purposes, we re-tested several cameras we'd reviewed in 2008, producing the scores shown in the chart above for the *Canon Rebel XS**. However, the scores in the original reviews for the re-tested cameras remain unchanged, for consistency's sake.*

White Balance Settings*(10.00)*


Nikon didn't hobble the D3000 when it comes to white balance presets, which include a wide variety of fluorescent light sources.

White balance settings can be precisely fine-tuned along the green-magenta and blue-amber axes, with thirteen available settings for each. What's missing here, compared to more sophisticated models, is the ability to enter a white balance setting in directly in degrees Kelvin, not much of a consideration given the target audience for the D3000.

Taking a custom white balance reading is a simple procedure.  Only a single reading can be stored at a time, but it is possible to apply the same white balance setting used in a photo already stored on your memory card.

Sample Photos


 

 

 

 

 

Still Life Examples


The following images were taken with each comparison camera at all available ISO settings. Clicking on a thumbnail image will download the full-size original in a separate window.

 

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

 

Noise Examples


In the chart below are same-size crops of sample images taken with each of our comparison cameras, at all available ISO levels.

 

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

 

Playback Mode*(9.50)*


There are eight available playback information displays which you toggle through by pressing up or down on the four-way controller. All of these displays don't have to be included in the sequence, though. The Highlights, RGB histogram and three Data screens can all be turned on or off through the playback menu if you don't want to use them.

The system for erasing images is worth a mention, since it's more streamlined than the procedures used by many other manufacturers. Instead of requiring you to move a cursor or hunt for a different button to confirm an image deletion, you simply hit the same Delete key a second time. Another handy feature is the ability to delete all photos taken on a particular date, either through the Calendar view or the playback menu.

The slide show utility is very basic. You can set the length of time each image will be displayed, but there's no control over which photos will be included, and no between-image transition effects.

In-Camera Editing*(10.00)*


Nikon offers an extraordinarily broad range of in-camera editing effects, which are particularly valuable for entry-level users who may be less inclined to fiddle with image editing software on the computer, and more inclined to output directly to an attached PictBridge printer or to order prints from a service bureau.

In-camera RAW processing is also available, Image size and quality, white balance, exposure compensation, Picture Control setting, color space and noise reduction can all be adjusted and a JPEG copy saved.

While shooting, you can store a comment of up to 36 characters in a photo's EXIF data. This could be useful if you wanted to flag where an image was taken, for example, though the time-consuming text input procedure and inability to sort by comments makes this a marginally useful feature at best. And unfortunately, there's no in-camera way to add or edit a comment for a photo that's already stored on your memory card.

Software*(5.00)*


The camera comes with two programs, Nikon Transfer and ViewNX, both in versions for Windows and Macintosh.

Direct Print Options*(3.50)*


As expected, the D3000 offers direct printing to a USB-connected PicBridge-compatible printer and the option to create a DPOF file for ordering prints from a service bureau.

Sensor*(2.50)*


The D3000 delivers 10.2-megapixel effective resolution (gross resolution is 10.75 megapixels), a huge jump from the 6.1-megapixel D40. This camera also incorporates Nikon's advanced dust reduction technology, which both shakes the low pass filter in front of the sensor and manages airflow to remove dust from the area -- no dust removal system was built into the D40. In addition, it's possible to take a dust off reference photo for use with the optional Capture NX2 software.

Viewfinder*(7.75)*


The pentamirror viewfinder offers approximately 95% coverage,with magnification at approximately 0.8x. The diopter adjustment ranges from -1.7 to +0.5m-1.

A grid pattern can be overlaid on the viewfinder display. The lines are light and unobtrusive, and very useful when trying to line up a shot precisely, particularly when shooting a scene with buildings or other visible reference points. We turned the grid on and left it on.

Here's what you'll see when peering through the viewfinder:

 

 

LCD*(4.90)*


The LCD measures 3 inches diagonally, a nice step up from the 2.5-inch D40 and D60, though resolution is still limited to 230,000 dots. The brightness level is adjustable, with seven available settings.

 

The LCD information display offers two different styles. The Graphic layout has some fancy typefaces and a diagram visually representing the current aperture and shutter speed settings. The Classic layout looks more like a traditional monochrome LCD readout, abandoning the left-hand diagram in favor of larger, more legible readouts for aperture, shutter speed and number of photos remaining. You can even choose to have one style for shooting in auto or scene modes, the other for PASM modes. Whichever view you prefer, pressing the Information button turns the display into an interactive menu system for quickly changing shooting settings.

NIKON-D3000-graphic-info-display.jpg
NIKON-D3000-classic-info-display.jpg

*The D3000 offers the choice of a Graphic (left) and Classic (right) info display.

*One feature we particularly savor when shooting with the D3000 is the way the information display pivots to a vertical format to match the camera orientation when shooting in portrait mode. It's correct no matter which end of the camera points up or down, and makes settings changes much faster and easier. It would be nice if the playback display did the same, but we're grateful for the current implementation.

 

NIKON-D3000-lcd-vert.jpg
 
NIKON-D3000-lcd-horiz.jpg


*Pivoting the screen readout when you hold the

camera vertically is a welcome feature.*

LCD Panel

As with most low-cost SLRs, there is no monochrome LCD on top of the camera to make settings visible from above.

 

Flash*(7.25)*


Nikon gives the guide number for the pop-up flash as approximately 12/39 in automatic mode, or 13/43 with manual flash, at ISO 100. We found the flash pumps out a lot of light, but it's very concentrated in the center, providing a bright hotspot and rapid fade toward the edges of the frame. It took quite a while to recharge between shots; we timed it at roughly four and a half seconds.

There is a hot shoe for an external flash, and compatiblity with the Nikon Creative Lighting System. Maximum flash sync speed is 1/200 second.

NIKON-D3000-flash-open.jpg
NIKON-D3000-flash-closed.jpg

The built-in flash is bright but highly targeted toward the center of your image.

 

 

The flash exposure can be adjusted in a range from -3EV to +1 EV. Flash output can also be manually set in six steps, ranging from full power to 1/32.

Lens Mount*(9.50)*


The Nikon F bayonet mount is fully compatible with AF-S and AF-I Nikkor lenses. The D3000 doesn't have an internal autofocus motor, so type G or D lenses without their own internal autofocus motors will have to be focused manually. Other AF Nikkor lenses can be used, but without autofocus or 3D color matrix metering. Type D PC Nikkor lenses support all functions except some shooting modes. AI-P Nikkor lenses support all functions except 3D color matrix metering II. IX Nikkor lenses and lenses for F3AF are not supported, As for non-CPU lenses, autofocus won't work and, while they can be used in manual exposure mode, the on-screen exposure meter doesn't function.

NIKON-D3000-lens-closed.jpg
NIKON-D3000-lens-open.jpg

The ability to accept Nikon lenses is a key part of the D3000's appeal.

The kit lens is an 18-55mm Zoom-Nikkor VR, with maximum aperture of f/3.5 at the widest setting and f/5.6 at full zoom; about what we expect to find bundled with an inexpensive SLR. The photos below show the relative framing when shooting at the widest, longest zoom and midrange positions.

Battery*(7.00)*


The D3000 uses the same EN-EL9a Lithium-ion rechargeable battery as the D40, D60 and  on several other Nikons, including the recently introduced D5000. The company says you should expect about 550 shots per charge based on CIPA standard testing.

NIKON-D3000-battery-open.jpg
NIKON-D3000-battery-closed.jpg

A raised ridge along the battery edge makes getting the battery ride-side up simpler.

Memory*(3.00)*


The D3000 accepts both SD and SDHC format cards, meaning a maximum 32 gigabytes of storage per cards (versus the SD-only D40, which maxed out at 4 gigabytes).

NIKON-D3000-memory-open.jpg
NIKON-D3000-memory-closed.jpg

The D3000 takes high-capacity SDHC cards, unlike the D40 it replaces.

Jacks, Ports & Plugs*(2.50)*


An AV out jack and industry-standard mini USB port for data are both found under a tight-fitting cover on the left side of the camera. What's missing in the box, though, is the cable required for video output, which Nikon sells for $12, and Amazon for $10. There's no video recording mode on the D3000, so leaving the cable out isn't a mortal sin, but it does feel a bit chintzy for a $600 purchase.

NIKON-D3000-ports-open.jpg
NIKON-D3000-ports-closed.jpg
  *The port cover snaps tightly for effectve protection.* **Shooting Modes***(11.00)* *** The D3000 can be used successfully by the SLR newcomer as a point-and-shoot camera in Auto mode; we found the camera usually delivered a well-exposed image, due in large part to the same sophisticated metering system used in pricier Nikon models. The Guide mode is a new addition to the Nikon lineup, a text-based system for determining camera settings that has its strengths and weaknesses, as shown below.   The Guide mode is one of the key differences between this Nikon and its predecessors. It's basically a step-by-step system for changing settings, a kind of menu system overlay, as opposed to a new camera capability. When you choose Guide on the mode dial you're presented with three sub-menus: Shoot, View/delete and Set up.
NIKON-D3000-guide-overview.gif

The three Guide sections

Select the Shoot section and you have three choices: Easy operation, Advanced operation and Timers & remote control.

NIKON-D3000-shootmenu.gif

The three Shooting options

The 'Easy operation' selection provides plain-English choices that lead to different scene mode selections.

NIKON-D3000-guide1.gif

*You step through the menu choices using

the four-way controller and OK button.*

Once you've selected a mode, you can make further settings adjustments by selecting More Settings. The settings available within the selected mode will then be displayed. In the sequence below, we choose Auto as our mode selection, then More Settings, which allows us to set the flash mode, drive mode and autofocus area.

NIKON-D3000-guide-moresettings.gif

*Settings are listed depending on

the shooting mode chosen.*

If you choose Advanced operation rather than Easy operation from the Shoot menu section, you're basically presented with a menu-based way to choose from aperture-priority or shutter-priority shooting, based on whether you're more concerned about controlling background focus or stopping fast action. The on-screen menus are meant to serve as a tutorial, so that the user will ultimately understand why and how a particular choice was made, and be able to go directly to aperture-priority or shutter-priority mode in the future. As with the Easy guide path, additional settings options are available after making the basic mode selection.

NIKON-D3000-guide-advanced.gif

*The relationship between aperture and shutter

speed is explained in Guide mode.*

The Timers & remote control section of the Shoot guide simply provides a text front end for the standard menu options. The advantage lies in the fact that the potentially cryptic icons used to designate the timer and remote control functions on the camera are spelled out in plain English.

NIKON-D3000-guide-timers.gif

On-screen captions eliminate confusion.

Similarly, the View guide section offers a subset of the playback mode capabilities. It does bring some hidden choices to the top for all to see, though. For example, without reading the manual, you'd never figure out how to find the calendar mode display (by zooming out past the various thumbnails displays). Here you can simply select 'Choose a date' and you're taken directly to this hard-to-find option.

NIKON-D3000-guide-view.gif

*Some hard-to-find options become

visible in Guide mode.*

The Set up menu in Guide mode is less helpful than the other choices, and potentially confusing. It brings together selected options that would ordinarily be located in the Record menu (such as image size and Active D-Lighting setting) the Playback menu (playback folder) and the standard Setup menu (LCD brightness, formatting memory card). It's a hodgepodge that doesn't help the user learn to make better choices faster.

NIKON-D3000-guide-setup.gif

*The Set up menu awkwardly balances

convenience and confusion.*

In fact, this last point is where our enthusiasm and our concerns about the Guide mode meet. Using these menus is a fairly time-consuming way to change a camera setting; we don't believe anyone is going to rely on this mode long-term and feel very good about the D3000 experience. However, particularly in the Shoot section, the available choices are well organized and well explained, and could serve as a nice training-wheels system helping a newbie along the path to greater photographic control and satisfaction. On balance, we give Nikon credit for trying a new approach and largely getting it right.

Live View*(0.00)*


Sorry, Live View fans -- Nikon had to hold back on some key features to encourage you to dig deeper for a more upscale SLR, and this is the most notable example.

Scene Modes*(4.00)*


It's disappointing that, for a camera targeted to users who are probably stepping up from a point-and-shoot, Nikon has pared down the preset Scene Modes to a bare minimum here. The D5000 has 19 scene modes, including potentially useful choices for high-contrast scenes, silhouettes and sunsets. The D3000 has only the six shown below.

Picture Effects*(4.50)*


The D3000 uses the same Nikon Picture Control system found on the company's higher-end cameras, which makes it easy to transfer custom settings between models. The Picture Controls incorporate settings for color reproduction and other image tweaks as shown in the Picture Control Adjustments chart below.

Six preset Picture Controls are built into the camera. The images below show the effects of each selection on the same scene; the Picture Control descriptions are Nikon's own explanations.

 

Several parameters of the Picture Controls can be adjusted by the user. The changes to a Picture Control remain in effect until you change them again but, unlike other Nikon models, the results can't be stored as new custom settings:

While it probably won't be used frequently, we like the option to have the date and/or time imprinted on your photos. This could come in handy in a business environment, where photos are used not just for art but for recordkeeping, and seeing the date and time at a glance is helpful.

Focus*(13.75)*


The D3000 uses 11 autofocus points, versus just three for the D40 and D60, making continous autofocus more practical. Focusing speed feels a bit sluggish with the kit lens, though. There's a noticeable pause between pressing the shutter halfway and hearing the focus confirmation beep. On the plus side, the autofocus assist lamp is bright and effective: we found about the same AF speed in sunlight and dim indoor lighting, and never failed to achieve focus even when shooting in the dark.

The camera supports four focus modes:

When focusing manually, the in-focus indicator in the viewfinder lights when focus has been achieved. The kit lens, though, has a very loose feel while turning, making precise manual focus difficult.

 

Exposure*(4.75)*


Exposure compensation is available over a wide ±5 EV range, in 1/3 EV increments. Surprisingly, there is no auto exposure bracketing system, despite the fact that it would cost approximately nothing to include it. A ploy to encourage you to buy a more expensive D5000, or an attempt to maintain simplicity for novice users? You decide.

The Nikon dynamic range expansion system, called Active D-Lighting, is available on the D3000. There is also a D-Lighting function, applied after an image has been shot, available in the Retouch menu.

Speed and Timing


Shot to Shot (3.00)

In our lab testing, the D3000 delivered a measured 2.996 frames per second, putting it on the nose with Nikon's claimed speed. For an entry-level camera, this is about the burst speed we expect to see.

Shooting best-quality JPEGs, we could squeeze off about eight shots before the shooting speed slowed; shooting RAW the slowdown occurs after about six shots. There's a convenient countdown display in the lower right corner of the viewfinder that lets you know how much more room there is in the buffer, so at least you're spared surprises while shooting an action sequence.

Drive/Burst Mode (4.00)

The promised maximum burst mode speed is about 3 frames per second. A display in the lower right corner of the viewfinder indicates how many more photos at current resolution will fit in the buffer before continuous shooting slows down.

Depth of Field Preview*(0.00)*


There is no depth of field preview capability, an omission that's not uncommon on entry-level SLRs but still disappointing. One reason to step up to an SLR from a point-and-shoot is the ability to control how much of a scene is in focus and how much is blurred, by varying the aperture setting. Depth of field preview lets you see this effect before you press the shutter, allowing quick adjustments. Without it, you're stuck shooting at various settings and checking each test shot on the LCD until you get the look you're after, which is tedious.

Metering*(7.50)*


The D3000 uses a 420-pixel sensor that supports 3D Color Matrix Metering II with type G and D lenses, and Color Matrix Metering II with other CPU lenses.

Shutter Speed*(10.00)*


Shutter speeds range from 1/4000 second to 30 seconds plus bulb shooting for extended exposures, same as the D40.

Self-Timer*(5.50)*


The self-timer can be set to 2, 5, 10 or 20 seconds.

One ongoing annoyance with the self-timer is the fact that it has to be reset after every shot. This is a royal pain if you're taking repeated tripod shots and want a 2-second delay to minimize camera vibration for each photo. There should be a setup option to either retain or reset the self-timer after each shot, but there isn't. There's also just one active self-timer delay available at a given moment, where many cameras put a 2-second and 10-second timer choice right on the menu. This is balanced out to some degree by the fact that you can choose from four different timer settings in the setup menu.

A cap to cover the viewfinder is provided with the camera, to prevent light from leaking in and affecting exposure settings when the camera is mounted on a tripod. Unfortunately you have to remove the rubber eyepice to use this cap, making it a clumsy opertaion.

Video*(0.00)*


The D3000 doesn't offer video recording -- the stop-motion video creation tool is cute, but not a real movie mode. The least expensive Nikon that does provide video shooting is the D5000, which is reviewed here.

Handling*(7.00)*


The D3000 body measures 5.0 x 3.8 x 2.5 inches (126 x 94 x 64), making it identical to the D40 in size. The D3000 is a bit lighter, at 16.1 oz (485g) versus 17 oz (475g) for the D40, but we'd be hard pressed to tell the difference blindfolded.

The camera's handling is a definite strong point -- this feels like a serious Nikon camera. The righthand grip is large and deep enough for a comfortable grasp and, while it isn't rubberized, the plastic is textured effectively, with a top lip that balances well against the top of your middle finger. There's also a well-positioned sculpted thumb rest on the back, above the four-way controller. Combined with the front finger rest, this produces a very secure hold, even if you're shooting one-handed. And unlike some flyweight SLRs (the Canon Rebel series springs to mind), the Nikon D3000 has a nice heft in your hands, avoiding that uncomfortable feeling that the camera body was crafted by Fisher Price.

Controls*(8.50)*


There aren't a whole lot of buttons on the D3000, which keeps it from looking intimidating, but also cuts down on the instant accessibility of certain key controls. There's no direct access to ISO, white balance, drive mode or autofocus settings, for example, all of which we frequently adjust.  Many cameras use the four-way controller for this purpose in addition to its menu-navigating functions, but Nikon chose not to take this practical route.

Instead, you have a quick menu on the LCD while shooting, brought up by pressing the button left button on the back of the camera. This is a shortcut, but it still requires cursoring around a menu to find the setting you're seeking, which is much more time-consuming than just pressing a button labeled 'ISO' and making the change.

There's one control dial placed conveniently for right-thumb access on the camera back. When shooting in full manual exposure mode, the dial changes shutter speed by default, and holding down the exposure compensation button while turning the dial changes the aperture setting.

There is a single programmable Fn button, which does offer a user-selected shortcut to some of the controls mentioned above. However, it's been banished to the left side of the camera, along with the flash control button, where it's inconvenient to push and easily forgotten altogether.

 

 

Menu*(6.50)*


The D3000 offers both a standard Nikon menu system plus a quick access shooting menu that transforms the LCD information display into an interactive panel for changing key shooting settings. After pressing the zoom in button on the bottom left of the camera back, you can navigate to each of the settings listed along the right and bottom of the screen, press OK, and choose from a screen of settings options.

NIKON-D3000-quickmenu.gif

*The quick access menu offers shortcuts

to most shooting settings*

The main menu system follows the tried-and-true Nikon design, with its lefthand tabs for navigating from section to section and clear, easy readability. We're not fans of having to scroll down several screens to see all the options in a given category, but at least the Nikon strategy lets you jump immediately from menu tab to menu tab, without having to scroll all the way back to the top of a page.

Manual & Learning*(9.50)*


You can't fault Nikon when it comes to providing every snippet of information needed to make the most of your D3000 camera purchase, even if we were briefly baffled by what to find where.

You get a one-page fold-out Quick Start Guide (in English and Spanish) that's basically limited to camera setup (attaching the strap and lens, charging and inserting the battery, taking a picture in Auto mode) plus software installation, and using USB to copy photos and print.

There's also a printed 68-page User's Manual (again in both languages) to introduce users to the basics of the various camera modes and features. It's a nicely prepared publication, including lots of clear diagrams and screen captures, instructions that are step-by-step enough for anyone to follow, and a good balance between full explanation and fear-inducing complexity. The only significant problem here: there's no index, and even with a decent table of contents, there needs to be one.

Also in the box is a CD-ROM with a PDF version of the 216-page Reference Manual (in English, Spanish and French). This manual includes everything in the User's Manual plus further details on advanced camera operations, again with a well-structured words-and-pictures approach (and yes, a complete index, which even manages to have the terms you're actually likely to use when searching for information). For no apparent reason, this document is called the D3000 User's Manual on the Nikon web site, where it's available for download here.

But wait, there's more, as the man in the informercial says. In addition to the printed learning materials, there's a built-in Help system, accessed by pressing the question-mark button when '?' is displayed at the bottom left of a menu or shooting screen. The screens that pop up via this help system are brief and to the point, not an entirely adequate substitute for an actual user manual but a good step toward defining the choices at hand.

Finally, we can't find a thing in the D3000 box that points to a useful web-based learning system Nikon provides, which is a shame. The Digitutor site for the D3000 (available by clicking here) basically provides a video-and-text walkthrough of all the camera's functions and capabilities. It's a painless way to get acquainted with all the camera features, almost like turning the camera manual into a lean-back-and-watch experience. And if the English language announcer seems to think he's working for Nick Cohen instead of Nikon, that only makes it more fun.

 

 

Performance

The most obvious performance difference between these two cameras is video recording: the D5000 offers 720p movie mode at 24 frames per second, the D3000 is a stills-only camera. And when it comes to stills, the D5000 offers more accurate color, a wider dynamic range and faster burst rate (4 frames per second versus 3 for the D3000), while the less expensive D3000 is more precise in its white balance and doesn't suffer the level of image sharpness problems that bothered us about the D5000.

Components

The D5000 offer Live View shooting, which the D3000 lacks, and has a hinged LCD that can be pivoted out from the camera body and rotated around to allow shooting from odd angles. Both cameras are nicely built, with the solid professional feel you expect from a Nikon SLR. They offer the same lens and external flash compatibility. The D5000 has an HDMI output for direct connection to a high-def TV, which of course is useful when viewing video shot with the camera, but also allows high-res output of your still images, not possible with the D3000.

Handling

Though the D5000 is slightly larger and heavier than the D3000, in practice they feel about the same in your hands, which is a good thing: the bodies are well designed, with comfortable grips on the front and well-positioned thumb rests on the back. The articulated screen on the D5000 offers some additional shooting flexibility, but in practice we found ourselves more likely to shoot with the screen pivoted outward when shooting video than when taking photos.

Controls

The D5000 provides a higher top ISO speed (ISO 6400), finer control over noise reduction settings.and a far greater selection of scene modes (an odd decision, given the entry-level nature of the D3000). Beyond that, the two are very similar, relying more on the on-screen quick menu when shooting than dedicated buttons, offering a single programmable function button and the familiar tabbed Nikon menu system. One nagging omission on the D3000: there's no exposure bracketing.

 

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

 

 

 

Performance

The Canon Rebel XS outscored the Nikon D3000 in every lab-tested category, with significant margins in color accuracy (where the Canon performance is exceptional) and  resolution, where the Nikon was underwhelming.

Components

The XS offers Live View mode that the D3000 lacks and, while it's not great (slow autofocus in Live View makes it best suited to shooting inanimate objects), it's certainly better than no Live View at all. The XS also provides more direct access buttons, by using the four-way controller to bring up autofocus, picture style, self-timer and drive mode options. The D3000 does offer a substantially larger LCD (3 inches to a meager 2.5 for the XS), though both have the same 230,000-dot resolution. The key advantage of the Nikon over the XS here is build quality. The Nikon D3000 feels like a serious piece of photographic hardware. The XS is too lightweight and, while we didn't try drop-testing it, feels flimsy in your hands.

Handling

These are both compact cameras, though we found the grip on the NIkon to be more comfortable to hold. We also like the way the D3000 shows the position of the mode dial on the LCD screen as you turn it, making it a bit faster and easier to change settings without having to check the top of the camera. Finally, Nikon gets credit for offering Guide mode, which presents camera setting options in plain English. It isn't entirely successful in this first attempt, but for some newcomers to SLR photography it provides a useful path to learning more about available options.

Controls

The Nikon is a bit more generous when it comes to control flexibility, with a top setting of ISO 3200 and a wider exposure compensation range. On the other hand, Canon gives you finer control over the noise reduction system, and provides exposure bracketing (oddly missing on the D3000) plus white balance bracketing.

 

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

 

 

 

Performance

In our lab testing, both cameras had strengths and weaknesses. The Olympus delivered extremely accurate color reproduction, and scored very well in resolution testing as well, two areas where the D3000 showed its limitations. However, with its Four Thirds format sensor, the E-620 has problems with image noise and related issues with dynamic range.

**

Components**

The E-620 has a slightly smaller screen, but it's articulated to allow a variety of shooting positions, and also the option to fold the LCD in against the camera back to protect it while traveling. We also like the HyperCrystal screen technology used by Olympus, which reflects some of the light off the back of the screen to enhance illumination when shooting in sunlight. The E-620 Live View mode, a feature missing from the D3000, has a slightly faster autofocus than most cameras we've tested. Also worth considering: Olympus incorporates its image stabilization system in the camera body, so any lens mounted on the camera benefits, where Nikon builds image stabilization into individual lenses (the D3000 kit lens, it should be noted, does include the VR stabilization feature, a step up from the Nikon D40 it's replacing). Both cameras are solidly well-constructed, with a comfortable feel in your hands.

Handling

The camera dimensions are very similar, though with our large hands we found shooting with the D3000 grip a bit more comfortable than the E-620. The articulated screen does offer some additional shooting flexibility, though we find this feature more useful when shooting video than stills, and neither of these cameras offers a movie mode.

Controls

Control options are similar for both cameras, with top ISO at 3200 and a 5-stop exposure compensation range. The E-620 does offer the exposure bracketing feature that's missing from the D3000 (plus flash, white balance and ISO bracketing), and has a significant burst-rate advantage, with a tested 4 shots per second versus 3 for the Nikon. For advanced photographers, the E-620 offers more customization and fine control features, including three levels of high ISO noise reduction and separate long exposure noise reduction control. When it comes to newcomer appeal, the E-620 offers a far greater variety of scene modes plus six Art Filters that produce dramatic (some would say cheesy) effects without requiring any image editing expertise. The D3000 provides Guide Mode as a text-oriented menu-based system for specifying camera settings to achieve a desired result. It's a slower process than simply entering the settings directly, of course, but should be a useful learning tool for SLR newbies. 

 

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

 

 

 

Performance

The Pentax delivered significantly better results in our resolution and white balance testing, offers a wider dynamic range, and held a slight edge in color accuracy. The only real shortcoming for the Pentax in this head-to-head was in long exposure testing, where image noise was much higher than the Nikon for shutter speeds from 1 to 30 seconds.

Components

Neither camera offers Live View mode, but the Nikon does have a superior screen, both larger (at 3 inches versus 2.7) and brighter, with a wider viewing angle. Unusual for an SLR, the Pentax K2000 is powered by AA batteries instead of the Li-ion rechargeables used by Nikon. While at first glance this seems to be a disadvantage, we're fine with it: a set of rechargeable AAs is inexpensive, and you have the option to use off-the-shelf alkalines if your charge runs out, a flexibility lacking on most SLRs. Interestingly, both Pentax and Nikon chose to make their proprietary video out cable an optional accessory, where nearly every other SLR comes with this cable in the box.

Handling

Both Nikon and Pentax managed to craft compact camera bodies that still feel comfortable to shoot with if you have large hands, a sigificant accomplishment. We prefer the feel of the Nikon buttons and dials: the Pentax buttons are more difficult to press accurately, and the mode dial can be turned accidentally if you're not careful. However, Pentax offers direct access to ISO, white balance, flash and and self-timer settings via the four-way controller while shooting, far more convenient than having to rely on the Nikon menu system. 

Controls

The two cameras offer the same ISO 100-3200 range. Exposure compensation for the K2000 is limited to a narrow ±2 EV, versus the more generous ± 5 EV for the D3000, but the K2000 provides the exposure bracketing that should have been included in the D3000 as well. For SLR newcomers, the Pentax offers fifteen scene modes to the Nikon's six, plus a wide selection of in-camera filter effects, while the Nikon provides more extensive in-camera editing options and its unique Guide mode, offering step-by-step on-screen instructions for key camera settings.

 

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

 

Meet the tester

Steve Morgenstern

Steve Morgenstern

Editor

Steve Morgenstern is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.

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