Is it time to upgrade your Nikon D3100?

    By | Nikon SLRs | Reviews | 28/05/2013 16:41pm
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    The D3100 is a great little camera, but sooner or later you’ll want to move on. But what do you look for – better quality, more features, higher specifications, faster shooting – or all of the above? So we help you work out which Nikon D-SLR you should upgrade to and why…

    Nikon D3100 upgrade

    The Nikon D3100 is a D-SLR for beginners. It’s designed to be easy for novices to get to grips with, but it still has enough manual controls and options to keep more advanced photographers happy. It’s the sort of camera you could outgrow quite quickly, though. It relies heavily on its graphical interface and menus, which can slow down many routine camera adjustments, and it lacks more advanced tools and features.

    • Sensor: DX format CMOS sensor, 14.2 megapixels
    • ISO range: 100-3200
    • Autofocus: 11-point
    • Continuous shooting: 3fps
    • User level: Beginner
    • Price: £310, $450

    Nikon D3100 vs D3200 (£390, $550)

    The D3200 offers a big step up in megapixels, from 14.2 to 24.2, though this doesn’t always mean sharper pictures – you’ll need good shooting technique (and good lenses) before you’ll see much difference. The D3200’s continuous shooting speed is slightly higher at 4fps, and the maximum ISO is 6400 instead of 3200, but controls, layout and general features are much the same. If you’re choosing between them, the D3200 is the best choice, but if you already have a D3100, the D3200’s increase resolution isn’t enough to make it worth swapping.

    Pros: Higher resolution Cons: but not much else

    Nikon D3100 vs D5200 (£600, $700)

    Like the D3200, the D5200 has a 24-megapixel sensor, but this is not its only advantage over the D3100. It also has an articulating LCD display to make it much easier to shoot pictures at awkward angles, a range of in-built special effects and other photographic options, like an ‘HDR’ mode, that the D3100 lacks. The maximum ISO is slightly better at 6400, the continuous shooting speed is improved at 5fps and there’s a much better 39-point autofocus system. The D5200 is a good upgrade choice if you want to stick to a novice-friendly design, because the other improvements still make the D5200 a useful step up.

    Pros: Higher resolution, more features, articulating display Cons: Still mainly for beginners

    Nikon D3100 vs D7100 (£1050, $1500)

    The D7100 is aimed at enthusiasts and experts. It’s a smart step up from the D3100 if you want an improvement in specifications and you’ve learned enough about cameras that you don’t need simplified controls any more – it’s much quicker and easier to change common settings. The 24-megapixel sensor delivers super-sharp detail because it has no low-pass filter in front of the sensor, and the 6fps continuous shooting speed can handle most action and sports needs. You also get the pro-spec 51-point autofocus system found on Nikon’s flagship D-SLRs, and a slight increase in the maximum ISO to 6400. It’s a bigger, more solid-feeling camera and, unlike the D3100, has a built-in autofocus motor, so you can use it with older Nikon lenses and those from other makers which don’t have autofocus motors in the lens. The D7100 does not have the D5200’s articulating LCD display, however, which is unique to that camera.

    Pros: Better quality, better specs, faster, designed for enthusiasts Cons: Needs more know-how

    Nikon D3100 vs D600 (body only £1300, $2000)

    The D600 is a big step up from the D3100 because it doesn’t just offer improved technical specifications and more features for enthusiasts and experts. It has the same external control layout as the advanced D7100 but a bigger, full-frame sensor, which means a likely investment in new lenses too. The larger, 24-megapixel sensor delivers visibly better image quality, the continuous shooting speed is good at 5.5fps and the maximum ISO is a step up at 6400. The 39-point autofocus system is the same as the D5200’s, though not quite as advanced as the D7100’s 51-point system, but both are a big improvement on the D3100. The D600 is Nikon’s cheapest full-frame D-SLR, but it’s a big step up from the D3100, so make sure you know what you’re getting into.

    Pros: Full-frame quality, higher resolution, advanced controls and features Cons: Too big a step for most

    Nikon D3100 vs D800 (body only £1950, $2800)

    These two cameras are at opposite ends of the Nikon range. The D3200 is a lightweight D-SLR designed for novices, while the D800 is a big, heavy professional model aimed at experts. The D800 has a 36-megapixel full-frame sensor that needs top-quality lenses and good shooting technique to deliver its full potential. The high resolution means that the neither the continuous shooting speed (4fps) or maximum ISO (6400) is particularly impressive, but this camera is all about outright quality, not speed – though it does have Nikon’s excellent 51-point pro AF system. We wouldn’t recommend the D800 as an upgrade to the D3100, though, because it’s too big a step – it’s a different type of camera to the D3100, and although it’s arguably the best Nikon you can get, there are others which are lighter, faster, easier to use and certainly cheaper.

    Pros: Stunning quality, professional features, rugged design Cons: Expensive, heavy and for experts only

    N-Photo says…

    Before you upgrade your D3100, you should be very clear about why you want to do it, because this has a direct bearing on the best camera to replace it with.

    Option A: The same but better: Nikon D5200

    If you like the D3100′s size and beginner-friendly design, we recommend the D5200. It’s just as easy to use, but brings a big boost in picture quality, a really useful articulating display and additional tools and effects which will help you take your photography to the next step.

    Option B: Time to move on: Nikon D7100

    If you’ve outgrown both your D3100’s picture quality and its simplified controls, we recommend the D7100. It delivers much better picture quality, it’s faster and more responsive, and it’s much better for hands-on manual control – and because it’s not full-frame, you won’t need new lenses.

    See also

    Nikon D5200 review
    Nikon D7100 review


    Posted on Tuesday, May 28th, 2013 at 4:41 pm under Nikon SLRs, Reviews. You can subscribe to comments.

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