Nikon D3100 Review

Nikon has announced its new D3100 entry-level SLR camera. While I'm sure there are many small improvements, the obvious and most touted improvement within the release is, of course, a much more robust video support than what we have seen in previous Nikon models. Since we are talking about video, here are my observations…

First, Nikon is supporting both 24 and 30 frames per second at both 720p and 1080p. Bravo Nikon!

Second, length of video file is limited to 10 minutes. I don't really understand why these camera companies are limiting the record time so drastically. My two working theories are that they're either trying to protect the sensor from overheating or trying to avoid high tariffs in the European Union related to video cameras. In the end, the record length should be a function of the memory card, not the camera.

Third, one thing I want to test, if I get my hands on one of these cameras, is the quality of the video that is coming out of the HDMI connection. Is it compressed? Will it output the video without any of the interface overlaid? And will it output a legal 1080p or 720p signal?

Obviously, an uncompressed signal that is truly 1080p or 720p (showing the entire image) would be exciting and would probably persuade me, even as a Canon user, to consider buying one of these cameras just for those capabilities. Without that, this camera should make Nikon users happy, create more of a competition for Canon's entry-level SLRs, but it doesn't really break any new ground except to show the trajectory of all cameras, at every level, enjoying HD video capabilities. Of course, I've come to believe that's exactly what these camera companies are committed to… giving us just enough to buy but not enough to really be excited about.

So? What do you think? Are you thinking about getting this camera? Are you shooting video on your SLR now? Let us know in the forums!

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  1. Just an interesting point here. In reviewing the Sony NEX we shot 25mins of video by which time the card filled up and it still hadn’t stopped. Looking to see it the A55 will do the same.

  2. Don’t forget it’s also the first dSLR to support autofocus in video mode. I was in the market for the D90, but the D3100 makes a compelling case with that feature. I’m waiting to see if there will be a D90 replacement with video autofocus towards the end of the year.

  3. I have the Alpha A55 and as soon as I can find my 8gig SD card I will check how long the video shoots for. First impressions on the AF in video, very very good.

  4. The 10 minute limit on the D3100 is not due to “protecting the sensor”, it’s simply the fact that Nikon chose to save the movie file in the “MOV” format as single file. Because the underlying storage file format us using FAT which has a maximum file size limit of 4GB, the MOV file can only be that size or smaller. The 10 minutes is simply an estimate based on the encoding used to save the file.

    Most true camcorders store the movie files (also on a FAT file based system by the way) in multiple files; thus not having the issue.

    Nikon probably chose this method because:
    1.) the FAT based system is already in place for the primary camera function (to store pictures) which would NEVER have a 4GB file size issue.
    2.) It cost more to implement the recording logic to store, track, playback and edit based on a multi-file solution.

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