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Saturday, 9 October 2010

New Camera

Took delivery of a new camera body this morning - a Nikon D3100. I've bought this as a light weight alternative to my D300, which is about twice the size and weight. I've found that carrying the D300+500mm plus the D700 as a second camera with a shorter lens does not really work for two reasons -
  1. The D700 is very heavy and bulky when hanging around your neck with a 300mm f4 attached to it - especially if you are already carrying a long lens on a tripod.
  2. The lack of crop factor on the D700 means that it inevitably has far less reach than the D300+500mm. I eventually decided that what I need is two DX bodies, so the they match up better in terms of reach. The D300+500mm on a tripod, plus the D3100+300mm f4 around my neck is what I'm thinking.

I've been testing it out this afternoon, and I'm very pleased with it. Here are my impressions so far:
  • The camera handles reasonably well, I think it will be too small for some peoples hands. I don't really mind this myself, as it was the small form factor that attracted me to the D3100. 
  • I do prefer the larger number of external controls you get on the D300, but this isn't really a complaint, given the relative costs of these two cameras.
  • The menu system is fine - bog standard Nikon really.
  • The size and weight make this a great travel camera.
  • The slight increase to 14MP  (compared to the 12 MP of say the D90, D5000 and D300/s) does not produce any noticeable increase in image detail.
  • The high ISO performance of this new 14MP sensor is slightly better than that of my D300 (about half a stop, I would say). Images are noise free at 400 ISO, with a tiny bit of noise at 800 ISO, and a perfectly tolerable amount at 1600. I found there to be a lot of noise at ISO 3200, so I won't be using it above ISO 1600. Not unlike the D300 really - just a little bit better.
  • I'm pleased to find the buffer is bigger than that on Catherine's D40 (about 8 frames when shooting RAW, compared to only 4 on the D40). I wasn't expecting this.
  • Like Cath's D40, the shutter sound is very quiet, and much quieter than either my D300 or my D700. This may come in useful!
  • No interest in video personally, but it's there if you want it.
Overall, given the quality of the sensor, which is better than that in any current Nikon DX model (at least until the D7000 becomes available), I think this is camera is great value.

I hope to be using it on the Farne islands a week from now - hopefully the weather will hold!

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