Nikon D3100 hands-on

Nikon has fired a fresh salvo in the battle for dominance of the entry-level DSLR space. The Nikon D3100 comes in to replace the D3000, ticking off many of the wishes of D3000 owners.

The new model packs more megapixels onto the CMOS sensor and is backed by the Expeed 2 processor. With it comes the ability to capture Full HD (1080/24p) video and improved low light shooting performance, with regular ISO running up to 3200 and a Hi ISO setting of 12800.

You also get live view, toggled via a lever on the back, with a video capture button in the centre, for instant video. You'll find an HDMI output so you can connect straight to your TV.

The D3000's Guide mode persists, but has been enhanced, and is a comprehensive addition to this camera, really taking a bite out of Canon's CA option on their entry-level DSLRs which looks a little basic by comparison.

The D3100 is Nikon's smallest and lightest DSLR camera to date and we certainly found it compact in the hand - some might say it could be too small for those with larger hands - measuring 124 x 96 x 74.5mm and weighing 505g (body only, with battery and SD card).

The new video recording mode only offers you 10 minutes of filming however and you'll get a MOV file at the end of it. Nikon has made some bold claims about the autofocus, with subject tracking offering to keep you in focus when filming moving objects and face detection for up to 35 faces in a scene. You also get 11-point autofocus for your stills shooting.

We also notice that audio capture is mono, with no external mic option, so budding videographers might have something to moan about.

Sound too good to be true? With a body-only price of £499 and a kit price of £579 with the 18-55 VR lens, it looks like a veritable bargain as an entry level model. Of course, we'll be bringing you a full run-down of the performance when we get our hands on a review model.

What say you? Will the D3100 achieve Nikon's aim of dominating the entry-level DSLR market? How does it compare to Canon's 550D?