Skip Navigation

Nikon D3100 Camera

From still life photos to sports action shots — and HD video, to boot

Meredith Krebs was a video producer and copywriter at Crutchfield for several years. She wrote about cameras and produced over 100 videos for the website.

More from Meredith Krebs

Nikon D3100 with kit lens
Nikon D3100 with the 18-55mm kit lens

I started using the Nikon D3100 with the 18-55mm kit lens just as the flowers began to bloom in my yard. After living in the city for years, I have recently become an enthusiastic gardener. And, like many gardeners, I was excited to document the progress of my garden. But my tiny point-and-shoot camera just wasn't up to the task of capturing close-ups and the rich colors of my plants, so I was happy to try out the D3100 and see if I could capture the fleeting beauty of my bulbs and trees.

Intuitive, easy to use menu

The first thing I noticed was that the menu for the camera is right on the LCD screen. Like most people, I don't like to consult the manual very much. I'm usually out when I'm taking pictures, and I don't like to carry around lots of instructions. I also like the camera controls to be intuitive and easy, and menu on the D3100 was extremely easy to access and use.

I also liked having two options when I took my photos: using the LCD screen or the viewfinder. The viewfinder was great for sunny days when the LCD screen was hard to see, and the big LCD screen was terrific for reviewing photos to make sure I got exactly what I wanted.

cherry tree
Cherry blossoms

Ready for some close-ups!

I used either the auto or flower settings for most of my shots, and I was quite pleased with the results. First I snapped a picture of our tiny new cherry tree which bloomed the first year that we had it (unlike our dogwood tree, which still hasn't figured out that it's supposed to put on a show in the spring). I took a couple shots, experimenting with angles and settings, but I liked the one where the background was out of focus making the white blossoms really pop. I went on to take pictures of my long awaited iris, cherry tomatoes on the vine and my new day lilies.

day lily
Day lilies

Rapid-fire mode captures active kids

Besides flowers, I found the D3100 did a great job taking photos of wiggly kids. When I wanted to take a quick shot of my son and his friend, who were determined to make faces at the camera, I snapped a few pictures of the boys clowning around. Then the responsiveness and quick focus on the camera allowed me to keep snapping away until I got a great shot of them grinning at their own cleverness. The last photo was definitely a keeper, and worth sending to the grandparents. If I had had to wait for the camera to reset or take time to process the photos, the moment would have been missed.


HD video, too

I still hadn't used the HD video feature, so I decided to try it out on a school field trip to the park. I chose the highest 1080p setting since I knew my memory card was big enough to handle it. At the park, I was pleasantly surprised that I could easily go back and forth between shooting video of the kids shrieking and running around in the water and taking photos of them doing the same.

Switching just required changing from the viewfinder to the LCD screen (one lever) and then pushing one button for video on the back, or the shutter button on top for photos. It was very simple, and I really appreciated that I didn't have to dig deep into the menu settings every time I wanted to switch. Watching the videos on my computer, I was impressed by how good they looked, and pleased also to have some great photos of my son and his classmates to send to their teacher.

pink tree
Pink tree

All in all, a great starter camera

This is a great entry level SLR for anyone who would like to get great close-ups, portraits, and action shots, but might be intimidated by a large professional DSLR. I found the Nikon D3100 simple to use, and I was very pleased with all the photos and videos I took with the camera.


Ask an expert advisor

No pressure, no commission — just lots of good advice from our highly trained staff.