In the Lab
In our tests, the D3000 posted resolution right between two major 10MP competitors, Canon’s EOS Rebel XS ($500, street, with 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 IS lens) and Sony’s Alpha 330 ($550, street, with 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 lens). The numbers were very close, though—2150 lines for the Rebel XS, 2100 lines for the Nikon, and 1970 lines for the Sony A330.
That’s not enough of variance to call one a big winner. Most shooters would be hard-pressed to see a difference between the amount of detail captured by these three cameras in typical shooting conditions, especially when shooting handheld with their respective kit lenses. And while all three of these DSLRs delivered Excellent ratings in color accuracy, the D3000 served up the best result with an average Delta E of 6.4 for 8-bit TIFFs generated from RAW files using the latest version of Nikon’s Capture NX. The Rebel scored 7.8, barely making our cutoff of 8 for Excellent, while Sony split the difference with a score of 7.1. We would have liked better noise control with this camera, however. We’ve seen what Nikon can do with its higher-end models, so we were disappointed that the D3000 maintained a Low or better rating only up to ISO 200, while its two competitors held down noise that far up to ISO 800 (Rebel XS) and ISO 1600 (Sony A330).
Still, we were impressed with the D3000’s ability to keep its resolution virtually unchanged all the way up to ISO 800. Even at ISO 3200, it dropped only to 1930 lines, although that was just enough to lower the score to a High rating from its Very High rating through ISO 800.
In our AF speed test, we were less impressed. In the brightest light (EV 12), it took 0.5 sec to focus—not bad, but the Sony A330 took 0.27 sec under the same conditions. In fact, the Sony beat the Nikon at every light level, though both cameras failed to focus in light dimmer than EV –1 (typical of consumer DSLRs).
To put things in perspective, while the A330 focused in 0.49 sec at EV 4, about the same light level as a well-lit living room, the D3000 took 0.76 sec. And while the Nikon was able to focus at EV –1, taking an average of 1.29 sec, its performance was erratic in that near-moonlit darkness.
You can’t shoot RAW files and Fine JPEGs at the same time with the D3000—instead, it restricts you to Basic (heavily compressed) JPEGs during RAW + JPEG capture. None of this camera’s competitors have this restriction, and we can’t think of any reason for it other than skimping in either processing or the camera’s buffer.
Worse still, the D3000 doesn’t have automatic exposure bracketing, simply unacceptable given that this is purely a matter of programming the camera to shift exposure during continuous drive mode.
Combine these issues with a skimpy manual that doesn’t even have an index, and we started to wonder if Nikon is trying to force buyers to step up to the D5000.
So, while its test results put this Nikon in the middle of the budget DSLR pack, we can’t ultimately recommend the D3000 over Canon’s EOS Rebel XS, which has higher resolution, faster AF, and better noise control. We might put the Sony Alpha 330 ahead of the D3000, too, were it not for a poorly designed grip that seriously affected that camera’s handling in our field tests.
Instead, if you’re committed to the Nikon system, we recommend that you take a good hard look at that D90.