Nikon D3000 Operation

As with the Nikon D40 which it replaces, the Nikon D3000 is aimed at beginner and casual shooters, rather than professionals and hard-core SLR enthusiasts. Befitting that purpose, the D3000 inherits an interface that's very similar to that of the D40 -- a camera which we described as clean, uncluttered, and as approachable as possible. While the body has been restyled slightly to accommodate its larger rear-panel LCD display, the positions of all controls are essentially unchanged. The Nikon D3000's design keeps the number of buttons, knobs and dials to a minimum, and replaces the top-panel data display traditionally found on more complex SLRs with a very attractive and logically laid-out information display on the large, rear-panel LCD screen. The mode dial is easily accessed with your thumb while you're holding the grip, and sports a new Guide mode aimed at making the camera even less intimidating to those who don't yet understand the technical details of things like apertures, shutter speeds, and ISO sensitivities. The Guide menu not only helps beginners set the camera up to achieve the effects they desire, but also explains what settings changes have been made and why, providing a valuable learning opportunity. Experienced shooters may seldom if ever touch the Guide menu, but it could prove a lifesaver for less-experienced photographers, allowing the user manual to stay at home.

Nikon D3000 Shooting Mode

Like other consumer digital SLRs (starting with the D40), the Nikon D3000 displays shooting info and settings on the main LCD when the Info button is pressed in record mode. There are two shooting display styles: the Graphic display which helps the user to visualize what's happening with shutter speed and lens aperture, and the more conventional looking Classic format (see right), which displays the same basic settings information, but uses larger fonts and icons. I personally like the Graphic format a lot, but can see a time coming when my eyes will prefer the larger type of the Classic display. Interestingly, you can choose different display formats for different camera operating modes: An option on the Setup menu lets you select layouts for the Digital Vari-Program (Scene) modes separately from the PASM (programmed, aperture-priority, shutter-priority, or manual) exposure modes. This is a nice feature, because you can set up the camera with the Graphic display option for a novice user, but have it automatically operate in Classic mode when the more advanced user was shooting using one of the PASM modes. You can also change the color of the displays, with choices of green, black, or brown for the Graphic display, and blue, black, or orange for the Classic mode (blue shown). The Nikon D3000 will also rotate the display 90 or 270 degrees when shooting in a vertical orientation.

The illustration below (Courtesy of Nikon USA) shows the meaning of the various icons and readouts in the Graphic display mode.

Shooting mode
Active D-Lighting
Aperture (f-number)
Shutter speed
AF-area mode
Shutter speed display
Focus mode
Aperture display
Release mode
Exposure indicator
ISO sensitivity
Exposure compensation indicator
White balance
Electronic rangefinder
Image size
Auto-area AF indicator
Image quality
3D-tracking indicator
Battery indicator
Focus point
Beep indicator
Help icon
Picture control
Flash mode
Auto ISO sensitivity indicator
Exposure compensation
Manual flash indicator
Flash compensation
Flash compensation indicator for optional flash units
Number of exposures remaining
Date imprint indicator
"K" (appears when memory remains for over 1000 exposures)
Eye-Fi connection indicator

There's a lot of information shown there, but a logical layout and the large/sharp LCD screen makes it easy to tell what you're looking at. The column of data down the right side of the screen and the row across the bottom of the screen represent settings you can adjust directly from this screen.

As mentioned above, settings can be adjusted right in the shooting display by pressing the "i" button. The cursor keys can then be used to navigate to the setting you wish to change. The OK button is used to select the setting, and a new value or option is selected using the Up/Down cursor keys. For features that have a dedicated button (such as exposure compensation, shutter speed, etc.), the button is pressed and/or the command dial is used to change the value or option. The animation on the right shows the Flash mode menu being activated after scrolling through all the available options. As part of the Nikon D3000's designed-in user-friendliness, most options on the shooting menu include "assist" images, to help you understand the types of shots or conditions that each setting is most appropriate for.


Nikon D3000 Playback Mode

Playback mode is entered by pressing the Playback button. The Nikon D3000's Playback mode provides a great deal of information about your pictures after you've shot them. You can cycle through a variety of Playback displays using the up/down arrows on the multi-selector, including the image alongside either file information, basic shooting data and a luminance histogram, or an RGB histogram (if enabled in the display mode menu). Four further displays include the image with either three screens of overlaid shooting info and image parameter information, or the image with a blinking indication of clipped highlights -- all of which must again be enabled in the display mode menu.

The Nikon D3000's histogram display modes are very useful tools. Histogram displays are common on professional digital cameras (and many amateur models now), regarded as almost mandatory by many pros for evaluating exposure levels. A histogram is simply a graph of how many pixels there are in the image at each brightness level. The brightness is the horizontal axis, running from black at the left to white at the right. The height of the graph shows the relative number of pixels having each brightness level. This sort of display is very handy for determining under- or overexposure. An underexposed image will have a histogram with all the data lumped on the left-hand side, with nothing reaching all the way to the right. Likewise, an overexposed image will have all the data lumped on the right side. The one defect of a luminance histogram is that it might not be obvious that there's clipping if it is restricted to only one of the three color channels. The inclusion of an RGB histogram function hence allows the photographer to confirm that each individual color channel is correctly exposed, with no clipped values.

Of course the Nikon D3000 also lets you zoom out to quickly find and select images, or magnify them for closer inspection on its 3.0-inch LCD. There is a calendar view as well as the normal 4-, 9-, or 72-image thumbnail displays available by pressing the thumbnail/zoom-out button, and you can magnify images up to approximately 25x for large, 19x for medium, and 13x for small images, using the zoom-in button. Once magnified, you can scroll around the image using the multi-selector to examine critical detail and framing, and you can view other images at the same zoom ratio using the command dial. The Nikon D3000 can detect up to 10 faces while in Playback mode. The camera highlights them with a white frame, and you can cycle through them at the current zoom ratio by holding the zoom-in button while pressing the left or right arrow buttons. This makes focus verification of faces faster and more convenient.

To return the Nikon D3000 to shooting mode, simply press the Playback button again, or half-press the shutter button.


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