A short time ago, Nikon announced it’s contender to the Canon T2i and first entry into the 1080 HDSLR market: The D3100. Like the T2i, it’s aimed at the consumer market, to beginners who are new to DSLRs, at a price of $699.95 US. It has a 14.2 megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor, continuous 11-point autofocus (a first for ANY DSLR), an ISO range of 100-1320 and blah blah blah. What really matters about this camera is that it can shoot 1920 x 1080 progressive video at 24fps, along with 720p @ 24/30fps.
This is the first Nikon HDSLR to shoot 1080p video, the first HDSLR (or DSLR in general) to have continuous autofocus, like a proper video camera, all at a lower price than the T2i. This is a big deal for Nikon, and a big deal for the HDSLR market. Well, it is on the surface, anyway.
Unfortunately, upon closer inspection, the D3100 doesn’t quite meet the high standard of perfection that I and other similar-minded videophiles are looking for. In a pitch, it sounds like a good match to the T2i, but in reality is only 3/4 of what the T2i is. Come on Nikon, if you’re going to release a camera that directly competes with another, could you at least match the specs of that camera?
First and foremost, the D3100 doesn’t have any audio input to speak of. HDSLRs are notorious for having shit quality mono audio, but at least most of them make up for that by adding an audio jack. Even the T2i at the low end of the spectrum has one. The D3100 does not. This alone is a deal breaker for me, among other things.
When recording 1080p video, you are limited to 24fps. While this is good for the cinematic look professional DPs are looking for, many of the consumers that this camera is aimed for will dislike the lack of 30p. Even for pros, the higher framerate is essential for sports and slowmotion videography. At least the T2i offers 1080/30p.
Another major flaw is the use of AVCHD compression. Sure, it’s wrapped in an H.264 container, but don’t be fooled. AVCHD IS CRAP. If you see AVCHD on any camera, AVOID AT ALL COSTS. It is an ugly, inefficient, HIGHLY compressed codec. Essential detail is lost, colours are either too flat or look too artificial, and some editing suites, especially on the consumer level, don’t work with this codec. Not only that, but I’ve read that the video bitrate is a meagre 20mbps, less than half the T2i, at 40-48mbps.
Those three flaws are major deal breakers for me. When I heard about this camera, I was literally jumping for joy. “FINALLY!” I said. Finally, a proper Nikon HDSLR! For the longest time, I was considering a T2i or even the 7D, but the cost of having to buy new lenses and equipment held me back. I already have a collection of amazing Nikon lenses and tons of Nikon accessories. That, and I prefer the look, feel and functionality of Nikon DSLRs. I need a Nikon HDSLR. I thought the D3100 was that camera, but sadly isn’t quite there. Maybe I’m expecting too much from it. After all, it is a consumer DSLR, and to its credit, it is a great camera, for that level. I guess it’s only a matter of time before Nikon announces a more professional HDSLR…