Nikon D3100 Gordon Laing, November 2010

Nikon D3100 video samples

Here are a selection of sample videos filmed with the Nikon D3100 using its DX 18-55mm VR kit lens and best-quality 1080p / 24fps movie mode. Registered members of Vimeo can download the original files by clicking the links below each window; these take you to the Vimeo page where the video is hosted and the link to download the actual file can be found under the 'About this video' section in the lower right. We used VLC Player to watch the MOV clips under Windows. Check out our Nikon D3100 Movie Mode page for full details on the camera's video recording capabilities.


Nikon D3100 sample video 1: Outdoors, handheld panning and zoom with DX 18-55mm VR
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In our first clip above the first thing to notice is the lack of vertical streaking around the sunlight reflections on the water – this is a benefit of a camera with a CMOS sensor. But if you're playing the file with audio, you'll almost immediately notice a faint squeaking or scratching in the background. This is the sound of the kit lens being refocused by the D3100's continuous AF-F option, and it's quite audible on this clip. Unfortunately in this example, the continuous autofocus isn't doing a great job either, regularly searching for a subject with sufficiently strong contrast for it to lock onto. So while the actual video quality itself is fine, the continuous AF option hasn't performed so well in this example; indeed disabling it would have probably produced better results. But before you write-off the D3100's AF-F mode, check the clips below as it can work reasonably well under the right conditions. PS – at the end of the clip we've attempted to smoothly zoom the lens in and out, and as usual this is an almost impossible task with a handheld DSLR.


Nikon D3100 sample video 2: Outdoors, tripod-mounted pan with DX 18-55mm VR
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In our second clip, above, we've locked the D3100 to a tripod, disabled VR and AF on the kit lens and smoothly panned from left to right. Despite being a little over-exposed (like the same shot in our Outdoor results page), there's plenty of detail here, and we've also paused at the start in case you'd like to grab a frame for closer analysis. We also filmed the same sequence moments later in the three 720p modes, so if you'd like to compare them, check out our 720p / 24fps, 720p / 25fps and 720p / 30fps clips.

Nikon D3100 sample video 3: Indoors, dim light, handheld pan with DX 18-55mm VR
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Moving on, our third clip above was filmed handheld in a relatively dim bar with both VR and AF-F enabled, although thankfully the latter doesn't appear as confused by the subject matter as in the first clip.

Nikon D3100 sample video 4: Indoors, continuous AF test with DX 18-55mm VR
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Our fourth clip, above, deliberately put the new AF-F mode to the test. Here we moved the camera around, pointing it at various subjects near and far to see how the continuous autofocus coped. At first it doesn't seem to do very well, refusing to focus on the coffee cup until the composition was readjusted. But give the D3100 some sharp edges for its contrast-based AF system to lock-onto and it can actually do quite a good job. Sometimes the focusing searches a little, but at others it feels more confident as it locks-onto the desired subject. Indeed as the clip progresses, it's hard not to be quite impressed by the AF-F mode as it succeeds more than it fails. It may not be as consistent as a consumer camcorder, nor as confident as the phase-change AF on the Sony Alpha A33, but the D3100 still manages to keep the subject mostly focused as the composition changes, while the ambient background sounds mostly mask the kit lens's AF motor. This is an impressive capability for a camera that only has a contrast-based AF system at its disposal while filming (along with the challenges of a shallower depth-of-field than a camcorder); remember Canon's DSLRs don't even attempt to continuously autofocus while filming, making this clip impossible without constant manual adjustments.

Nikon D3100 sample video 5: Outdoors, continuous AF tracking with DX 18-55mm VR
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In our fifth clip, above, we've given the D3100 a more predictable subject to track with its continuous AF. We zoomed the kit lens to 55mm, selected the D3100's central AF point only, and kept it positioned over the Skyline logo on the cable car as it steadily approached. Like most contrast-based AF systems, the D3100 searches back and forth as it attempts to lock-on, and this is quite visible at several points during the clip. This is undoubtedly off-putting, but to be fair, the D3100 does manage to keep the logo relatively sharp throughout the clip, even when it's only a meter or so distant. Once again this is something which would have required constant manual focus pulling on a Canon DSLR. So while the D3100's continuous AF during filming may not live up to the experience of a consumer camcorder (nor the unique capabilities of the Sony Alpha A33), it remains a very impressive attempt given the available resources.



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