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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Nikon D3100 vs Nikon D90

Nikon D3100 VS Nikon D90

I ran down the specs of the new Nikon D3100 against the time-tested Nikon D90 to get a feel for how they compared.

Yes, I know, the D3100 is replacing the D3000, not the D90, but take a look and see how well the D3100 stacks up against the D90.

The biggies here are the sensors, lens compatibility, monitors, HD movie capability, and full-time autofocus for video.

The D3100 sensor features a few more megapixels, 2.1 to be precise. Not really much in term of real resolution, but hey... all take it given it doesn't appear to have impacted negatively on performance.

Which brings us to the other big point on the sensor... high ISO performance. Looks like the D3100 is going to beat the D90 by at least a stop for high ISO performance, and it's still giving us two more megapixels! This is HUGE! I'm always looking for better high ISO performance, and this comes to us in a very nicely priced DSLR.

Lens compatibility is where the D90 beats the D3100 hands down. The D3100 won't auto focus with anything other than the newer G lens that have an autofocus motor. The D90 will auto focus with any AF Nikkor. This will be a big issue for some, and a non-issue for others. For me, not so much. I'll be buying the D90 replacement (D7000) as well, so I'm thinking my Nikon 50mm f1.4G prime will be permanently glued to my D3100. :-)

The monitor is another big difference between the D3100 and the D90. The D3100 monitor is a lower resolution monitor similar to the D5000's, while the D90 is the sweet 920,000 resolution monitor just like it's bigger brothers, the D300, D300s,D700, D3, D3s, and D3x. This is a biggie for me. I didn't like the low resolution on my D5000's monitor, and it was one of the main reasons I sold it in favour of my D90. Then again, the D3100 is only going to be about $500 so you can't have everything.

On to the HD Movie capability! The D3100 is the first Nikon DSLR to feature full 1080p HD! The D90 is only 720p, so the D3100 wins here. Remember though, the D90 is now about 2 years old and was the first DSLR ever to have HD movie capability.

And last, but not least... in fact, perhaps the BIGGEST difference of the D3100 and ANY OTHER DSLR currently available, is the full-time autofocus on the D3100. The Nikon D3100 is the first Nikon DSLR to feature it, and nobody else has it. Can you say Gamechanger! I can't wait to see how the D3100 performs at 1080p HD with the new full-time autofocus!

For the first time, I'm excited to buy Nikon's entry level DSLR. I've never owned anything in the low-end Nikon DSLR line-up before. The Nikon D5000 was the lowest down the chain that I have owned, and I sold it in favour of the Nikon D90. The D3100 though has SO much to offer that I think it will be worth having, especially if it turns out to be the perfect prime camera as I hope.

Nikon D3100 vs Nikon D90 Spec Comparison

Sensor - D3100 14.2 megapixel vs D90 12.3 megapixel

HD Movie Mode - D3100 1080p with full-time autofocus vs D90 720p (no full-time autofocus)

Auto Focus - 11 point AF system on both D3100 and D90

Compatible Lenses - D3100 only AF with G with AF motor vs D90 AF with all Nikkor AF lenses

Metering - 3D Color Matrix Metering II on both D3100 and D90

ISO - D3100 ISO 100 - 12,800 at 1 EV steps vs D90 ISO 100 to 6,400 at 1/3, 1/2, or 1 EV steps

Active D Lighting on both D3100 and D90

Built-in HDMI port on both D3100 and D90

Monitor - D3100 3" 230,000 dots vs D90 3" 921,000 dots

Battery - D3100 EN-EL14 Li-ion Rechargeable Battery vs D90 EN-EL3e Li-ion Rechargeable Battery

Dimensions - D3100 4.9"wx3.8"hx2.9"d vs D90 5.2"wx4.1"hx3.0"d

Weight - D3100 16oz (455g) vs D90 22oz (620g)

Related Posts...

3 Reasons to Buy the Nikon D90 over the Nikon D3100

What to buy... Nikon D90, Canon T2i, or Nikon D3100???

Nikon D3100 Auto Focus First Impressions

Nikon D3100 at ISO 3200 with Bounce Flash Dialed Down
Nikon D3100 Comparison of ISO 1600, 3200, 6400, & 12,800
Nikon D3100 High ISO Wedding Images

Nikon D3100 Unboxed


Rah said...

Should I buy the D90 or d3100?

Matt Ballard said...

Rah, that's impossible to answer without knowing more info on what you shoot and what you need in a camera.

The Nikon D3100 is the best entry level DSLR on the market now.

The Nikon D90 is still one of the best DSLR's with professional options (i.e. non-AF-S lens auto focus, better LCD monitor).

Go through the specs and major points in the Nikon D3100 vs Nikon D90 article and see which camera fits with your requirements better.

yash said...

hey there I have been waiting for over 6 months to get a SLR, I was planning on buying an entry level d3000 or d5000 first but then I used a d40 for a week and felt that it was too slow for me to change settings quickly, so I planned on buying a D90, but then I heard D7000 was going to replace D90 so i waited but now it seems that it will be out of my budget.
The advice I am seeking is Should I go with a D90 or should I buy a D3100 rather. I will be doing Portrait, landscape, and art mostly. May be some games. I have an HD camcorder so movie isn't that imp for me, but i would like to have it to add some clips here and there.
also i was planning to buy a 50mm 1.8 for portraits but i can buy a 35mm 1.8 g if I buy a D3100.
and also I am planning to buy a camera and stick with it for at least 4-5 years.
Please advice D90 or D3100??
thank you

Jimmy said...

Hi I am having this same problem now. This will be my first DSLR and I will be using it to take photos during travel and maybe taking some photos of goods for advertisement, but anyway it will be mostly for travel.
I have heard good stuff about the D90 and like it when I borrow my friend's, but it's more expensive and is an older model. I've read your posts but still can't make a decision. Should I spend the $300 more to get the D90 or spend approx 700 for the D3100? I don't think I'm changing lens all that often at this stage but I'm looking for a camera that will last a good 3-4 years and I'm hoping my photo skills will be better by then.
Your expertise will be very welcomed. Thanks!

Matt Ballard said...

Jimmy, ultimately only you can decide, but if you're looking for a camera you can grow into as your photography skills improve over the next 3 or 4 years, then I'd get the Nikon D90. Really, I'd go for the Nikon D7000, but then, that's me. Don't sweat it too much. Even if you buy the Nikon D3100 and find you need more camera, you can sell it for a fair buck, and then up-grade to whatever is the latest and greatest at the time. The important thing is to get something and start shooting! :-)

Matt Ballard said...

Yash, like I recommended to Jimmy, if you're looking for something to grow into, I'd take the Nikon D90 over the Nikon D3100. I think the D90 is more camera and is worth the little bit of extra cash.

elsie said...

I just wanted a DSLR to shoot my model's good makeup. Is D3100 good to pick up make up colors already? Then compared to Cannon Rebel eos XS, w/c is better?

Matt Ballard said...

@elsie - Yes, I think the Nikon D3100 would be fine for make-up shots.

I would say the Nikon D3100 is better than the Canon Rebel XS. More resolution, more features, better build quality, and better auto focus.

LexPinoy said...

Hi Matt! I'm also trying to figure out which to buy. I'm relatively old to photography having had a Canon EOS 650 since 1987 (which always broke down). This will be my first DSLR, though, and my first Nikon camera. Looking back I never changed my old 35-105mm lens ever.

Most people and store clerks universally say that the D90 is better. But I'm looking at the specs of the D3100 which almost all seem to be better than the D90. Is there something I'm Missing?

Cost is a major factor, so my question is: Is the D90 worth the added cost over the D3100 in terms of picture quality? I'm looking at the same lens for both the 18-105mm AF-s. My main use will be events and special occasions, shooting indoors.


Anonymous said...

I have a D90 before and I can say it's really superior in most angles than my D3100 today...After my D90 was taken on a robbery, I decided to get a much more cheaper DSLR..I love D90's auto focus feature but since I'm shooting small objects in manual mode I decided to get D3100 which has a much bigger pixels..but now I'm thinking on getting a new lens..what can you suggest?

Anonymous said...

higher ISO performance is not the same as better low light performance. Compare how they shoot at 3200 and 6400. Both bodies are good but I think the D90outperforms. Higher possible ISO _settings_ is a very minor benefit if shots at that setting look like they came from a cell phone.

Groverfam said...

I came upon your article through google and have read all the comments. I have to ask does the 3100 take photos as quick as the D90/ I am looking to upgrade, big time, from the Canon S5 because i can't stand the lag time. I have had my eye on the D90 but the things I want the most are quick photo taking and good lenses...

Groverfam said...

Lenses are a concern to me and being new the photography world I am learning but what is the difference between a "g" lense and other lenses. If i were to upgrade to another camera after the 3100 would the "g" lenses be compatible to the 90, 7000, etc...

Matt Ballard said...

@LexPinoy - I wouldn't say the D90 has better picture quality than the D3100. The advantages are more in the fact that it is a more professional body, dual command dials, and can shoot with non-AF-S lenses like the Nikon 50mm f1.8 AF-D. For me, I'd choose the D90, but the D3100 may be the right choice for you. Only you can decide that one. :-)

sandeep said...

Both the models belong to giant brand, but if I have to choose the best between both of them, I would choose Nikon D3100 as the camera quality is much better than D90. Nikon D3100 comes with sd memory card whereas D90 doesn't have. And, almost all the rest features are same, but by dint of these two features Nikon D3100 is the best opt to choose.