using the new Nikon D3100 for its video capability

Melissa & Dennis – their wedding day from Neil van Niekerk on Vimeo.

review of the Nikon D3100 video capability

Nikon recently released two very interesting D-SLRs – the Nikon D3100 (B&H) and the Nikon D7000 (B&H). Improving on several of the entry-level Nikon D-SLRs, they also offer HD video capability (1080p at 24 fps), and even does so with full-time auto-focus capability.

So when B&H sent me a Nikon D3100 for review, I thought what better test than to start in the deep end, and use it during a wedding to shoot HD video. The intention was to use the HD video from the D3100 along with the still photographs from my usual set of Nikon D3 bodies … and compile this as a stills & video Fusion clip, shown at the top here. I shot the stills, and Jessica, my assistant with an attitude, shot & edited the D3100 video clips. A first attempt at stills/video Fusion for us.

So how did the Nikon D3100 fare? Quite impressively actually …

The camera is very small, as you’d expect from a camera that came from a D40x, D60 and D3000 lineage. For my large hands, the camera is a bit too compact, especially since I’m used to the heft of a D3. But it is truly light-weight and compact.

The video quality is superb. Really impressive. Skin tones looked great, and digital noise wasn’t a problem at all. The sound we recorded with the on-board microphone was also clear. (However, we didn’t use any of the sound in the Vimeo clip shown here, aside from the brief section where the group of guests cheered.

Shooting video hand-held just doesn’t look good, so we used the light-weight Manfrotto 560B-1 video monopod (B&H), to steady the camera. We didn’t use the Nikon 18-55mm VR zoom lens that comes as a kit with the D3100. Instead, I chose to use the Nikon 85mm f1.4G AF-S (B&H) for the low-light wedding reception, and the superb Nikon 24-70mm f2.8G ED AF-S (B&H) for everything else we shot with the D3100.

The auto-focus ability during video recording might be useful if you used the camera for motion work with a Glide-Cam, but generally you are better off using manual focus. If you are shooting something and the video pops in and out of focus, the clip is not really usable. So the live AF during video recording is a great feature, but ultimately not essential for much of video recording.

The LiveView lever and Movie Record button are very well-placed and instantly accessible, without the chance of accidentally engaging it.

An improvement over previous recent entry-level Nikon D-SLRs is that the different drive modes are now accessible from a switch on the top deck instead of being buried inside the menu.

Final verdict:
The D3100 is a likable and very capable little camera offering superb video quality. Hopefully the Vimeo clip shown here will reveal some of that, even though the Vimeo clip was posted as 720p HD video.

As a final note – I hope to test the D7000 soon. As the bigger brother of the D3100, I’m expecting a spectacular camera.

[ note: the clip was edited with iMovie ’11 ]
More articles about wedding photography

 

equipment used during this photo session

Nikon D3100 (B&H)
Manfrotto 560B-1 video monopod (B&H)
Nikon 85mm f1.4G AF-S (B&H)
Nikon 24-70mm f2.8G ED AF-S (B&H)

Nikon D3; Nikon 14-24mm f2.8G ED AF-S (B&H);
Nikon 24-70mm f2.8G ED AF-S (B&H)
Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S VR II (B&H)

Nikon SB-900 (B&H); Nikon SD-9 battery pack (B&H)

36 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 2pasquier says

    Neil,
    That is truly amazing – sheer genius – really inspiring.
    Thanks for sharing your talent and work with us.
    Groete, P.

  2. 5Sebastian says

    Hi Neal, very nicely done! I have a d3100, but not used the video much because I was thrown back by the AF, both visually and in the noise it produces in the recording. Will give it another try after seeing this, adding a bit of video to a photo compilation is really nice!

    Could you say something about the camera settings you used for the video? In which mode did you operate the camera (PASM, auto etc.)? I assume that you controlled at least Aperture, to have a manageable DOF with the manual focusing.

    Any tips appreciated! Thanks for sharing all the great content.

    -Sebastian

  3. 7 says

    Neil,

    The video was simply amazing. I have been thinking that my next step might be adding video to my still image slideshows for my clients, but have not reserched the technical aspects enough yet….. Looks like you have it down… What software did to use to put the stills and video together?

    Very Nice!

    David

  4. 8 says

    Whether shooting stills or video, good lenses are still key to getting visuals under optimal conditions.

    It’s good to know that we should be shooting in manual AF for video.

  5. 11Dragos says

    Maybe D3100 is fine for video, but D7000 is indeed a spectacular camera for photo, in my opinion. I really wait your review.

  6. 13 says

    Neil,
    The slideshow with video is fantastic! I have been looking at the D3100 as a travel camera. I hadn’t even considered its video capabilities!
    Thanks for sharing!

    Brian

  7. 16pasquier says

    Neil,
    Thanks for showing us how simple this really can be – no special software – just a Mac with iMovie11 + loads of talent (well done Jessica).
    The combination of still photography and video is really special – and sure to become an important feature in future. I was first attracted to it following reports using the Nikon D3S and was blown away:
    http://www.studioimpressions.com.au/blog/2009/10/nikon-d3s-sample-video-stills-and-motion-portrait/
    Now it has really entered into a new era – time to give it a try – not much to lose.
    P:)

  8. 17Matt says

    Somewhat off-topic question. What software are you using to create this video? I’m specifically interested in how to pan over the still shots. I have Premiere Elements 8. Possible with this?

    Thanks!

  9. 18 says

    Matt,
    Neil said in an earlier post that they were using iMovie ’11. It should be installed on the latest Macs, or you can purchase iLife ’11 software suite.

  10. 19chapmanc123 says

    I’d say this fusion worked tremendously well. Just stunning work. the Bride and Groom must have been thrilled with this.

  11. 20David D. Nelson says

    Neil, Excellent video. Thank you. In addition to the excellent presentation and story line the video is an excellent teaching addition to your blogs about some of the stills in the video. I found it useful to see the video of the “set up” of some of the stills followed by a still from that portion of the shoot.

  12. 23Tim says

    Hi Neil,

    a question for you/Jessica,

    I’ve used a 5d for video at a wedding before and created a beautiful slideshow with movie footage spliced in for the couple in iMovie. Regardless of how good the quality is of the video or what super high-quality setting in iMovie used – whenever I come to burn the slideshow to DVD that can be played on a TV, the quality is un-usable. I know that DVD stills quality is limited, but the slideshow becomes a totally useless pixelated mess. Ive also used several different DVD burning programmes. I was wondering if Jessica (or yourself) has ever burned a slideshow to DVD (for use in a DVD player & TV) and if so whether you’ve encountered this problem?

    thanks

    Tim Young

  13. 24 says

    Thank you, helped me make my decision, going to buy a D3100 and use the money I saved to buy more lenses!

    Loved the video, you have inspired me and I am looking forward to my next wedding.

  14. 25Ike says

    @6 Do PSM exposure modes work with video on this camera? People say it’s totally AUTO, whichever mode you choose..

  15. 26luggo says

    could you please advise me how to record video. i’m not sure if it’s working at all in my nikon d3100. i change it to live view, then press the button with a red dot on the middle, but it just change it to normal view again. what am i doing wrong?

  16. 30Steve says

    Fantastic work. Really looks the part.

    For others wondering how to get such steady exposure levels (I guess you already know this Neil!) I found this youtube video shows how to setup the exposure lock on the D3100 which stops the footage from getting brighter and darker as you shoot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dRxpMnsco0

  17. 31Ray says

    Hey Neil,
    Since I read this article the other day my mind has been on fusion. Is the D3100 or would the D3100 be your choice for this now? If you had a dedicated camera for fusion what would that camera be? Thank you in advance for your thoughts
    Ray

  18. 32 says

    Right now, I’d say a Nikon D7000 or a used Canon 5D mark II, would be your best choices to shoot HD video with when you compare quality vs price.

    If you have the money, then a Nikon D800 or Canon 5D mark III

    Neil vN

  19. 33iaog says

    hi there. i have d3100, when i tried to edit the video i took with movie maker it won’t play nor appear. what should i do?

  20. 34 says

    I don’t have specific help for you … but I will say this, it was my struggle with video and Adobe Premier on a Windows PC, that pushed me into going with a Mac and iMovie (and Final Cut). All my hassles disappeared, instead of being stuck trying to find codecs, etc to make the Windows option work.

    best of luck there.

    Neil vN

  21. 35Dan S. says

    Thinking about purchasing the Manfrotto 560B-1 monopod for use with Nikon D3100 for shooting video. Did you require any additional equipment, such as a different video head, or did they work together well right out of the box? Thanks for sharing your excellent work and tips!

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