I've never done a camera review on the blog before, but when I got my hands on the Nikon D3100, I felt compelled to give it a shout out.
With the temporary assistant I've got coming to do some of my PR work, one of my prioritiies was to make sure she was getting usable shots when she went on location. Since I've been using my D90 (and my D80 before that) as my work camera for almost three years, I've become pretty spoiled with high resolution shots and great shutter speed as well as the ability to shoot in low light, etc. And while I like the new PR assistant, I'm not handing my camera off to anyone. So I told my boss it was time to pony up and buy an really good agency camera or wrestle with bad shots that other people take. He agreed.
After significant research, I decided the D3100 met my requirements. Being easy enough that someone used to a point and shoot camera wouldn't be intimidated by it, being versatile enough to shoot in a variety of environments when out in the field and being in the range of our non profit budget including camera and lens.
Some things I really like about the D3100...
As opposed to the small setting screen on the D90, it has an easy to read 3" lcd screen to veiw settings when you turn it on. For the lay person, it tells you what you need to know before you shoot, such as "subject is too dark".
It came with a nifty little beginner's lens, an 18-55 VR G lens. Although the D3100 is not motorized the G lens is and it seems to do a good job of auto focusing with a tiny bit of patience.
The shutter selecter is a switch instead of a button and is easy to read. The mode selection wheel is also well marked, and has this cool option called guide!
The guide mode offers basic tutorials for the new user, but in addition, if you select the shooting option...
...and the advanced mode, the camera will actually walk you through scenarios you might be trying to shoot.
The camera goes on to provide you with additional information regarding setting up your shot!
I've been shooting around the office with the D3100 for about 2 days. Today I switched back to the D90 to take these shots. I'm in no danger of trading my camera for the D3100, but I'm really impressed with this little camera and it's capabilities.
My impression is that this would be a great learning camera for any new photographer. It's smaller and lighter than the D90, and while it has fewer lens options if you're looking for auto focus, it has a full range of shooting capabilities that I think would meet a beginner's needs for quite some time.
Lastly, for those accustomed to the point and shoot, looking through a lens finder is a big adjustment. On the D3100, the live view option for the led screen is extremely responsive with no lag and taking and replaying video was seamless and easy. The battery charger is compact and the camera uses your standard SD or SDHC memory card.
I bought the camera online from B&H camera. It was my first purchase with them and with the shipping discount, I was again able to meet my budget. The camera/lens kit arrived in great condition and I couldn't be happier with their customer service and ease of tracking my shipment.
Overall, I found the D3100 to be a well engineered entry level DSLR camera. I'm looking forward to seeing what it can do in the hands of a new photographer!