Nikon’s D3000; Welcome To D-SLR Land Page 2

Speaking of amateur, there is a rather large “GUIDE” on the command dial along with the Exposure and Scene modes, and turning to it brings up instructions on shooting and setting up the camera on the LCD. If you choose a certain scenario in the “Shoot” GUIDE the camera will set up the shot for you. For example, choose “Distant Subjects” from the Easy menu and the camera opts to put you in the Sports mode for a fast shutter speed, plus you can choose the Release mode and AF Area mode.
Not sure what AF Area mode is and what it does and how to set it? Press the “?” button on the camera back and it informs you: “Chooses how the camera selects the focusing point.” Well, that seems self-evident but if you take it another step and hit the OK button it then explains what each focusing area choice does for you.


Street Scene
This grab shot in Bath, Maine, was made with the center-weighted metering pattern on auto ISO (it chose ISO 160) at an aperture of f/8 at 1⁄320 sec. I
center-weighted and locked on the upper center of the image then recomposed. It’s nice to see that even amateur cameras offer all the exposure controls one buys an SLR to utilize.
© 2009, George Schaub, All Rights Reserved


Fill Flash
It was a hazy, overcast day at the Shaker Village in Canterbury, New Hampshire, so I used the built-in fill flash to add some brightness to the foreground. Exposure at ISO 200 with Matrix metering was f/16 at 1⁄125 sec.
© 2009, George Schaub, All Rights Reserved



Depth Of Field
I have to complain about the fact that this camera lacks depth of field preview. Even without it, however, you can still get good depth of field shots using Av mode, setting the lens at f/11 or narrower, and using the focusing areas in the foreground to lock focus. Exposure here was f/16 at 1⁄500 sec at ISO 200.
© 2009, George Schaub, All Rights Reserved


Through a combination of the Info and OK buttons in the GUIDE menu, the Info button in all modes, and many of the other options for learning, you pretty much get the grand tour of how to operate the camera and what each function does.

You might be saying “so what?” by now, why not just use the instruction book and take a quiet Sunday to learn the operation and functions of the camera? (By the way, the supplied instruction book is quite brief, at least in relation to recent Nikon tomes, and most in-depth instructions are only on the supplied PDF version.)

Just to see if it might work for me I eschewed the PDF and written instructions and used only the camera to show me the way. And guess what, the camera not only teaches you about these things, it actually makes the settings as you learn and makes choices for each shooting scenario. It’s something new—an interactive learning system that creates the actual settings you are reading about and working with as you go through the steps. You can actually take the picture at the end of the “lesson,” as part of the process is your making the actual settings as you go. This is not a passive route like reading the instruction book and then taking the camera in hand. It’s using the camera to both teach and make the settings as you learn, so the settings, and thus the picture, reinforce the lesson. If that floats your boat then this is the camera for you.

Pano Manual
Yes, you can do lots of advanced techniques with this camera, including making exposures in Manual Exposure mode, as should be done for panoramas. This shot from photographer David Wade’s front porch was done with six exposures in Manual, all at f/11 at 1⁄500 sec at ISO 400, then automatically stitched together with Photoshop’s Photomerge function out of Bridge.
© 2009, George Schaub, All Rights Reserved

There may be some debate about this way of learning in the hallowed halls of academia. But you have to admit that the D3000 is a fascinating piece of gear that posits a wrinkle on the learning curve and that might just change the way folks attempt to learn about photography, and their camera. In all, I enjoyed working with the camera regardless of the theory of learning it proposes, and found that it did everything I wanted it to, given its limitations.

Yes, it lacks auto-bracketing. But surprisingly it does have a quick access button for exposure compensation. Yes, the framing rate precludes it from use at ice hockey games, but there is a quick release and delay remote shutter release option, great for groups in which the photographer wishes to be included or to dampen the potential shake in low light. The kit lens has VR (Vibration Reduction) but at 55mm (about 82mm in 35mm format) the max aperture is f/5.6, which pretty much negates the VR advantage. You can set ISO to 1600, or the riskier “Hi” (ISO 3200), and there is one level of Noise Reduction (NR) available.

When contrast is high and the sky becomes a good part of the scene you might consider using D-Lighting, Nikon’s shadow-boosting tonal compensation. There is only one level of adjustment offered, and I think it might be set a bit high. Don’t get me wrong—it works quite well, but I did notice that when I went to adjust a D-Lighting set image it was a bit more “touchy” when post-processed than those without the effect applied. Though repro will mask this, here’s a shot with D-Lighting where I needed a touch more tonal curve control, which seemed to set the image on a path toward HDR-land the more I adjusted.
© 2009, Grace Schaub, All Rights Reserved

My shooting tests included bright sunny days, use of the fill flash on overcast days, tonal exercises for the metering system, how the camera behaves with focus and exposure lock, and of course low-light image quality. Overall image quality was good from the 10.2-megapixel APS-C chip, given the kit lens with which I worked. Noise was fine until ISO 400, then I thought a bit much at ISO 800, and by ISO 1600 even with NR on it was high, pointillistic upon high enlargement of low-light scenes. For many scenes I had D-Lighting on. I did notice that when “worked” or processed later, D-Lighting affected scenes are quite a bit more touchy than those without this shadow-boosting curve applied.

Response was quick and I was successful in getting to the metering patterns, ISO, and white balance in the field with absolutely no hassle. Screen brightness was sufficient outdoors for image playback and review and excellent for making settings. The menu screen rotates when shooting vertically, which made no difference to me but is a nice touch. Playback can be with full information and histogram or full screen, plus hitting the OK button brings up the Retouch, or in camera processing menu.

This is as good a test of the camera’s Matrix metering system as any, a white picket fence on white clapboard scene. The metering system nailed it in Av mode at ISO 200 with an exposure of f/20 at 1⁄100 sec.
© 2009, George Schaub, All Rights Reserved

I have very mixed feelings about doing Retouch in camera but evidently Nikon believes folks like it and I guess it’s something to do while waiting for the bus. It makes a JPEG copy of whatever you do, so no harm, no foul. I guess it’s for those who are loath to do this sort of thing in the computer and it does allow for some creative work in the camera itself, another camera-centric functionality.

If you are a more advanced photographer you can use workarounds for all the camera’s shortcomings, but I would not consider this a second body for your pro D-SLR and would stick to the three-digit models, if you will. For those whom this camera is intended my advice would be to think about how it intends you to learn and set up your images and then decide. For beginners it’s a competitive model with most of the features you’ll enjoy and need to make very good images, and there’s no doubt that it and the system surrounding it will yield a decided advantage over a point-and-shoot model in a similar price range.

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