Free Shipping on ALL Products
Nikon D3100 Gordon Laing, November 2010
 

Nikon D3100 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise


Nikon D3100 vs Canon EOS 550D / Rebel T2i Real-life resolution (default settings)

Support this site by
shopping below

Canon Rebel T2i/550D
To compare real-life performance we shot the same scene with the Nikon D3100 and Canon EOS 550D / T2i within a few moments of each other using their best-quality JPEG settings and and base sensitivities. Scroll down for a comparison against the Canon EOS 1000D / XS.

Both cameras were fitted with their respective kit lenses: the D3100 with the Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR and the 550D / T2i with the EF-S 18-55mm IS. Both were set to f8 and focused on the target area using magnified Live View.


Like most Nikon DSLRs we've tested, the D3100 slightly over-exposed this composition, so to prevent the highlights from saturating, we applied -0.3EV compensation. The resulting exposure was 1/500 at 100 ISO with the lens set to f8 in Aperture Priority; the original Large Fine JPEG measured 6.49MB. Interestingly to match the brightness of the D3100 image, we had to shoot with a slightly slower shutter speed on the Canon EOS 550D / T2i – in this case 1/400 at f8 and 100 ISO. This implies the D3100 sensor is actually one third of an EV more sensitive than the Canon at the same ISO value. The crops below are taken from the area marked with a red square and presented here at 100%; the 550D / T2i crops show a smaller area because of its higher resolution.

With four Megapixels between them, you'd expect the Canon EOS 550D / T2i to enjoy a significant advantage in resolved detail, but at first glance, the major differences below are in terms of lens aberrations and default processing styles.

As we've seen many times before, the Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS kit lens suffers from coloured fringing around areas of high contrast, especially near the edges, and this is clear to see in the mountain ridge, not to mention the boat in the third row of crops. Now this isn't to say Nikon has miraculously cured its kit lens of chromatic aberrations, but the company has long been employing digital reduction of fringing on in-camera JPEGs, and its effectiveness is plain to see. To be fair, Canon also offers digital reduction of chromatic aberrations, but you'll need to be shooting in RAW and correct it after the event, whereas Nikon has been doing it automatically and without fuss for some time now.

Fringing aside, the other obvious differences between the two models here are their respective image processing strategies. The Canon EOS 550D / T2i is clearly applying greater sharpening and contrast by default for a punchier result, whereas the Nikon D3100, like its predecessor, is taking an unusually laid-back approach for a consumer-focused DSLR. Technically speaking, it's no bad thing, as the D3100's images here look very natural, although some photographers will definitely prefer them to be more vibrant, especially if they're upgrading from a compact point-and-shoot.

Luckily it's very easy to change the processing style using the D3100's range of Picture Controls, so if you're finding the default Standard mode a bit flat, just try Vivid instead. Alternatively tweak the Picture Control settings yourself, or of course shoot in RAW and apply them later as desired. That said we believe the D3100's target audience would prefer their JPEGs a little punchier by default, so perhaps Nikon should tweak them for future models.

But what about actual resolved detail? The Nikon D3100 falls short of the Canon EOS 550D / T2i by four Megapixels, which certainly sounds like a lot, but judging from the crops below, there's actually very little between them in real-life detail – at least with the kit lenses. Indeed while the Canon crops certainly show a smaller area due to its higher resolution, we can't definitively point at an area and say 'look, there's obviously more detail there'. Fit the Canon EOS 550D / T2i with a higher quality lens and you will resolve a little more fine detail, but with the kit lens, there's essentially nothing between it and the 14 Megapixel D3100.

So a great start for the D3100 in our tests, but how does it compare to Canon's cheaper EOS 1000D / Rebel XS? Scroll down for a comparison, or further still to see the benefits of shooting in RAW. Alternatively head on to our Nikon D3100 High ISO Noise results page or if you've seen enough skip straight to our verdict.


Nikon D3100 (JPEG using in-camera defaults)
with Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR
 
Canon EOS 550D / T2i (JPEG using in-camera defaults)
with Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
     
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
     
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
     
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO


Nikon D3100 vs Canon EOS 1000D / Rebel XS Real-life resolution (default settings)

 
Support this site by shopping below

Canon Rebel XS/1000D
To compare real-life performance we shot the same scene with the Nikon D3100 and Canon EOS 1000D / XS within a few moments of each other using their best-quality JPEG settings and at each of their ISO settings. Scroll up for a comparison against the Canon EOS 550D / T2i.

Both cameras were fitted with their respective kit lenses: the D3100 with the Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR and the 1000D / XS with the EF-S 18-55mm IS. Both were set to f8 and focused on the target area using magnified Live View.


As explained above, the D3100 slightly over-exposed this composition, so to prevent the highlights from saturating, we applied -0.3EV compensation. The resulting exposure was 1/500 at 100 ISO with the lens set to f8 in Aperture Priority; the original Large Fine JPEG measured 6.49MB. Interestingly to match the brightness of the D3100 image, we had to shoot with a slightly slower shutter speed on the Canon EOS 1000D / XS – in this case 1/400 at f8 and 100 ISO. This implies the D3100 sensor is actually one third of an EV more sensitive than the 1000D / XS at the same ISO value – just like the EOS 550D / T2i above. The crops below are taken from the area marked with a red square and presented here at 100%; the 1000D / XS crops show a larger area because of its higher resolution.

There's another four Megapixel difference between the cameras here, but this time it's 14 to the D3100 versus 'just' 10 for the budget Canon. Interestingly we used exactly same kit lens sample on both Canon bodies, and while the coloured fringing remains present on the 1000D / XS, the lower resolution of this model is more forgiving when viewed on-screen at 100%. That said, the D3100 avoids fringing altogether by simply eliminating it on in-camera JPEGs digitally.

After the relatively high contrast and sharpness on the EOS 550D / T2i above, it's interesting to see the 1000D / XS being a little more laid back here with its processing, delivering a style that's not dissimilar to the D3100.

But while there wasn't much difference in resolved detail between the D3100 and EOS 550D / T2i above, there's a clearer differentiation here. The Nikon D3100 is quite clearly resolving more real-life detail than the entry-level Canon, whether it's in the buildings or the foliage. Couple this with the in-camera reduction of fringing and the Nikon D3100 comfortably out-performs its budget rival.

To be fair, the EOS 1000D / XS costs less than the D3100, but the facilities and quality on offer will justify the expense for many. Now scroll down to see the benefits of shooting in RAW with the D3100. Alternatively head on to our Nikon D3100 High ISO Noise results page or if you've seen enough skip straight to our verdict.


Nikon D3100 (JPEG using in-camera defaults)
with Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR
 
Canon EOS 1000D / XS (JPEG using in-camera defaults)
with Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
     
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
     
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
     
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO


Nikon D3100: JPEG versus RAW


We photographed the scene above using the D3100's RAW plus Large Fine JPEG mode, allowing us to directly compare images created from exactly the same data. Below are crops taken from the original JPEG file alongside the RAW version, processed in the optional Nikon Capture NX 2 software.

When converted using the default settings (sharpness of 3), the RAW file was a fraction more contrasty than the in-camera JPEG – and looked better for it – but we wanted to see if the file would benefit from a little more sharpening. So the crops you see here were made using Capture NX's default settings, but with the sharpness boosted a little from 3 to 4.

Image processing settings are always a personal choice, but we'd say the D3100 certainly benefits from a little more contrast and sharpness. The difference in the crops below can be subtle at times, but overall the converted RAW version looks crisper without suffering from any undesirable artefacts.

So if you're after punchier, more consumer-friendly output from the D3100, consider either switching the in-camera Picture Style to Vivid, or better still, shoot in RAW and experiment with the settings in programs like Capture NX.

Now it's time to check out the camera's low-light performance in our Nikon D3100 High ISO Noise results page or if you've already seen enough skip straight to our verdict.



Nikon D3100 (JPEG using in-camera defaults)
with Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR
 
Nikon D3100 (RAW with Capture NX2, sharpness 4)
with Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
     
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
     
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
     
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO


Nikon D3100 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise



If you found this review useful, please support us by shopping below!
All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2014 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

/ How we test / Best Cameras / Advertising / Camera reviews / Supporting Camera Labs