So I finally had a chance to get hold of this D-SLR at Best Buy today. I am not a pro by any means but I have used many different D-SLRs including Canon (40D, T2i, XSi) and Nikon (D90, D5000). When I picked-up the camera for the first time, my initial reaction was, "whoa - this is so small and light weight"! It wasn't that I wasn't aware of the specs - I knew them beforehand but I was still blown away by how small and light it felt when I held it in my hands. Then, I thought, the grip would not be very comfortable but I was wrong as holding and operating the camera is just fine - thanks to Nikon's well-thought-out design and grip. For the size and feel, it's very similar to D3000 but has more goodies from the higher versions. So from an initial wow factor, I quickly moved on to focusing on features and capabilities.
I have just started using this camera so more update will follow but in the meantime my initial assessment of this camera is - I am impressed! It is one heck of a camera which can certainly compete against the best in its class (Canon T1i, T2i, Nikon D5000).
I love this camera because it:
+ has enough mega pixels for my needs (14.2).
+ captures crystal clear images (thanks to EXPEED2 processor & the CMOS sensor, the sensor is slightly smaller than the one used in D7000).
+ offers 1080p (HD) recording, AF subject tracking is awesome (10 min max is fine with me; it records outstanding videos even in low light and to me that's big).
+ offers ISO from 100-3200 (D90 starts at 200), it can go higher but I really don't think why I would need anything above that.
+ is small & light weight yet has good grip, easy to carry around in hands or neck.
+ supports SDXC cards on top of SD and SDHC - now that's nice.
+ (25-Sep-2010): has buttons that are well organized especially the video recording mode with a lever so you cannot mistakenly activate recording. That video recording lever once unlocked, gets locked in 30 seconds if you do not record and the countdown begins as soon as you unlock the lever. Also you can record video while you're in any dial (imaging) mode (Auto, P, A, S, M, and so on) where as in Canon T2i, etc. you have to move the camera dial to movie mode. So this is a great convenience - you can jump between taking pictures and recording videos with a simple unlocking of the lever. Additionally, you can be in a preferred dial (imaging) mode (Auto, P, A, S, M, and so on) and change the release mode to Single, Continuous, Self-timer or Quiet mode (this is located right underneath the main dial) - another great convenient feature.
+ (04-Oct-2010): In-body photo and movie retouch menu. This is great as we don't need any special software to apply certain touches. I love it.
Could have been even better if:- it had the bracketing option (not too much to expect at this price point level but oh well I don't use that much but for some people this could be a big plus).
- grid lines were available (I miss them in both in live view and in the view finder).
- Active D Lighting was not limited to just ON or OFF (either you have it or not at all, instead of low, medium, high, etc.). Don't get me wrong the ON just worked fine (better than Canon T2i) but I can't compare with all other modes.
Recommendations (optional accessories):
* In my personal order of importance - your preference may differ. *
1. Nikon UC-E4 USB Cable - not included. (~$6)
2. UV filter - a must for protecting your lens against accidental damage. (~10$)
3. Carrying case is a must to protect your investment. There are many cases to choose from and it's up to you to decide but I suggest getting something like Lowepro SlingShot 102 AW (all weather proof carrying case) so if it rains, you can pull out the weather guard and cover it up. ($90)
4. Additional rechargeable Lithium Ion EN-EL14 battery so you never run out the juice when you're traveling and do not want to miss capturing a moment for good. (~$35)
5. SB-600 Speedlight. Those who have used speed lights would know what difference it can make to an image with adjustments you can make to light for an image. (~$225)
6. 18-55 VR lens has its limitations so if you have extra $$s, buy body only (if that even is an option) and get yourself a 18-105 VR lens. But at that point, you may want to consider D90 which still is a good camera and offers many more controls. (~$325 to $350)
I give Nikon D3100 5 Stars because it takes excellent pictures in almost all conditions (bright or low-light) and that is exactly what I wanted this camera to do for me. Period.
I must commend Nikon for not getting into the mega pixel race (read marketing). They instead kept the photographer in mind and focused on delivering greater picture quality. Kudos to Nikon for having that courage.