Updated 08/09/2010

At the beginning of July I posted my thoughts on the upcoming release cycle for Nikon. However there are a few things that need to be amended with the announcement of the D3100.

This camera has a formidable specification:

  • DX Format 14.2MP CMOS Sensor
  • Expeed 2 processor
  • 11-point AF System
  • 3″ (230, 000 dot) LCD
  • Full HD (1080p @ 24fps) video with AF
  • Wired remote/GPS port (but strangely no IR remote  support – so no ML-L3)
  • AF for AF-S and AF-I lenses only

Things are happening that we have never seen before, we are seeing Nikon introduce a new sensor from the bottom of the line up. The D3100 is officially being said to run in parallel with the D3000 and the D5000, but the days of both these models now appear to be numbered. At the heart of the D3100 lies a 14.2MP CMOS sensor that is designed and built by Nikon possibly a variant of that from the Sony A550/A560/A55/NEX-3/NEX-5. Nikon has never introduced a new sensor from the low end of its lineup, preferring the technology to filter down from the DXXX series cameras.

Based on the specifications, the D3100 can easily be a D3000 replacement, or even a D5000 replacement. Although Nikon is officially continuing these two cameras it is highly unlikely that all three cameras will be around for the long run.I was not expecting a D3000 replacement until Q111, and a D5000 replacement until Q410, but the D3100 may represent a convergence of the two lines or even (although I feel it is unlikely) a third camera in this entry line up. But for now the D3000 and the D5000 will be around.

Why? Nikon has often be criticised for lagging behind Canon in repect to megapixels and video capability, and we have seen a rapid roll out of the EOS 500D and then the EOS 550D. The D3100 with its full 1080p video with subject tracking AF can be seen as a return volley. The camera gives Nikon a camera with a few extra megapixels but more critically equal if not better video capability.

A 14.2MP D90 upgrade/replacement? The D90 is due, and this D3100 is better specified than the D90 and even the D300S in some ways (1080p video with AF and 14.2MP). This leads up with two options, either we will see this 14.2MP CMOS arrive in the D90 upgrade/replacement, or we will see a subtle D90s upgrade and a new sensor arriving when the D300S is replaced by the D400. I prefer the thought of a new sensor arriving with the D400 and then a proper D90 replacement (D95/D8000) following with the new sensor, this will allow Nikon to avoid being stuck with 14.2MP for the next 2-3 years. The arrival of a 16.2MP EXMOR CMOS with the Sony A580 and A55 provides an interesting sensor that may be utilised by the D400 and D95/D8000 which is more evidence to suggest that we won’t see a 14.2MP D400 and D95/D8000. However, the arrival of a Nikon designed and built sensor in the consumer lineup may swing the likelihood of the continued use of the 14.2 MP CMOS in the upcoming generation as Nikon may wish to be self sufficient with their sensors and may not have the capacity to fabricate two new sensors alongside the two FX sensors already being manufactured. The D3100 may be a short run stop-gap camera (like the D40x was) designed to provide Nikon with an answer to the cameras on offer from the competition.

What about the D700S/D700X and the D90S/replacement, will the D3100 affect their arrival? The announcement of the D3100 means Nikon’s Thailand plant will be busy pounding out D3100’s so we may see the D90 being held back for another month or two, so maybe a late Q310 announcement in time for Photokina. As the D700 is built in Japan, this announcement shouldn’t affect the arrival of a D700S or D700X.

So in review we can say:

  • The D3000 stays for now
  • The D5000 stays for now
  • The D90 may still be upgraded in Q310/Q410
  • The D700S and/or D700X may still arrive Q310/Q410
  • The D3100 officially should slot in between the D3000 and D5000
  • The D400 should still get a new sensor, possibly the 14.2MP unit but possibly the 16.2MP unit
  • The D95/D8000 should still get a sensor derived from that of the the D400
Nikon DSLR Map August 2010

Nikon DSLR Map August 2010