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Nikon D3100 or Canon 1100D? Which One Should You Buy

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Nikon D3100 or Canon 1100D? Which One Should You Buy

When you come to buy an entry-levels DSLR camera, probably the two most obvious choices would be Nikon D3100 and Canon 1100D. Both cameras sit at the bottom of the camera’s lineup, which means they are cheap and have less of the advanced features. It is pretty easy just to spend a lot of money on a DSLR that has features that you don’t need. For many of us, both the Nikon D3100 and the Canon 1100D (Rebel T3) are the best choice for cheap but advanced DSLR cameras to start shooting with. In this Nikon D3100 vs Canon Rebel T3 (1100D) comparison review, I will try to help you decide between the two. This buying guide includes a specs comparison table and talks about the important differences between those two cameras. After reading this Nikon D3100 versus Canon 1100D comparison article, I hope that you will have a better idea which one you should pick up.

A bit on the Nikon D3100


Nikon D3100

Nikon knows how to create excellent entry level cameras. The Nikon D3100 camera is no exception. It has a lot of features found on more expensive cameras. So what makes the D3100 so interesting and what’s new about it?

Well, the first thing that you will notice is its compact design (124x 96 x 74.5 mm) and its low weight (455g wo/battery). It features a 14.2MP (effective) resolution CMOS sensor, a 4MP increment over the D3000.

The Nikon D3100 also features a 1080p/24 movie mode. The D3000 before it didn’t offer any movie recording capabilities. Furthermore, Live View is currently available with the D3100, what didn’t exist on the D3000. Nikon has also incorporated it EXPEED 2 image processing engine. Probably to allow HD movie recording in the camera. The LCD is a 3-inch one with “only” 230,000-dots. That’s a shame, I am sure that many beginner photographers would want a high resolution screen. Even so, I can understand Nikon, they wanted to keep the price of the D3100 low.

Overall, the D3100 is a compromise between price, features and performance. For the beginner photographer, the lack of extra buttons and advanced specs, won’t be that important, at least when you just starting out, but I will talk about it later.

Canon 1100D (Rebel T3) in a snapshot


Canon Rebel T3The Canon 1100D (Rebel T3) is Canon’s latest entry-level digital SLR camera. In terms of design, the Rebel T3 has been redesigned, and now looks more rounded and have better ergonomics compared to the 1000D/Rebel XS. The Canon 1100D features a 12-megapixel CMOS sensor. We can see that both Canon and Nikon haven’t been joining the megapixel race regarding its entry level DSLRs. It is a good thing that the megapixel count is low, so we can expect good low-light capabilities at high ISO settings (theoretically at least).

Compared to the Nikon D3100, the 1100D offers only 720p HD movie recording at 30 or 25 frames-per-second. On the other hand, it features a ISO 6400, compared to the ISO 3200 on the D3100. Although the D3100 can reach higher with the ‘Boost’ mode.

At the back of the 1100D you can find a 2.7″ LCD with 230,000-dots. It is a shame though. I just hope that future cameras will have by default a 3-inch 920k-dots minimum LCD screen. However, you can’t blame Canon for that, it is related to the price and it might also be related to battery life too.
The 1100D comes with Canon’s DIGIC 4 fast imaging processor, 9 AF points, Live View and array of in-camera processing features. Many people ask themselves if they should take the Canon 600D instead of this one. The 600D is a more featured camera, even so, we are here to compare the low-end entry-level ones.

Low-Light Performance

I know that many of you are interested to know how well the those two cameras perform in low-light. I didn’t have those two cameras in my disposal, so I’ve went to see some comparison shots on various professional camera reviews websites. After compiling my observations, here are my final conclusions:

  • Nikon D3100 low-noise performance has been dramatically improved over the D3000. Compared well to the D5000
  • On the D3100, details are well preserved at ISO 1600
  • The Canon T3 (1100D) wins against the Canon XS when it comes to low-light permanence, BUT at the price of fine details.
  • Canon RebelT3 vs T3i @ ISO 1600 – the T3 has less noise at ISO 1600, but again, at the price of the fine details. I think that if we considering the obvious aggressive noise reduction on the T3, they are about the same @ ISO 1600
  • Imaging Resource compared the Nikon D3100 vs Canon Rebel T3 at ISO 1,600. In that comparison, you can see that they are almost the same, while the D3100 was able to preserve more details.

Both the Nikon D3100 and the Canon T3 has proven to provide excellent low-light capabilities. I think that their low-light performance is virtually the same. Canon has used a more aggressive approach towards noise reduction, while the Nikon is more preservative. I think that in real life, we won’t see that much of a difference between the two. Overall, great achievement for both companies.

In-Camera Feature Guide For Beginners



Beginner photographers will enjoy a wide range of creative filters and in-camera feature guide that suppose to help beginners to shoot great pictures without the hassle of understanding all the advanced features. The Nikon D3100 also features a easy-to-understand guides that will help you understand each operation and settings in the camera. The feature guide is like a personal tutor which sits right inside your camera. Every feature is explained with a few lines, so you know what you are doing any step of the way.

At the right side You can see the screenshot from the Nikon D3100. As you can see, it allows you to choose between shooting still images via the viewfinder or live view or shoot movies. Also many of the settings are visually presented on the back LCD screen. That means that you can change the settings, while watching images that will help you understand what each feature does (e.g., changing the aperture settings).

At the picture below you can see the aperture settings screen. It pre-visualize the optical effect that you will get when you set the aperture settings to a lower or higher F-number.


aperture settings, Nikon D3100 cameraEach camera has its own Smart/Intelligent auto modes. I didn’t get into it in more details, but in general, both cameras offers both smart auto shooting modes and manual modes for more advanced photographers.

D3100 or T3, Which One is Better?

I knew that we would come to this question. Well, I think that there are some features that might cause you to prefer the Nikon D3100 over the Canon T3/1100D. I didn’t cover some aspects regarding the AF and Exposure accuracy. From what I’ve read, the D3100 tends to overexpose, so you need to lower the exposure for at least -0.3 to get it right (depends on the scene of course). In terms of focus accuracy, the D3100 was good, but didn’t overwhelm reviewers.

If you want to shoot Full HD movies, the D3100 is the best camera of the two, but because the T3/1100D doesn’t sports 1080p videos. If you have an 1080p Full High Definition LCD, with the Canon T3 you can take advantage of your display’s high resolution. Videos will look sharper and it will enhance your viewing experience for sure. 720p is well suited for the web, but you can still enjoy very high quality videos on your HDTV display at home. Some of the HDTV displays don’t even have 1080p support, so make sure that you check out your HDTV resolution specs.

In terms of low-light performance, I think they are equally as good. Canon takes a more aggressive approach towards noise reduction, but I think that, in reality, you won’t notice the differences.

Having a 3-inch is probably better, considering the fact the most of the DSLR cameras today have 3-inch LCD displays. Even new P&S cameras now feature a large 3-inch display. The resolution is low on both cameras, but remember that you are looking at the low-end of the DSLR camera lineup. If you want better features, you will have to pay for it.

Both cameras have been engineers and designed for beginner photographers. They are the latest entry-level DSLRs from Canon and Nikon. If you are just starting out, I highly recommend that you start with one of those cameras. If you already have some lenses, you should know that the D3100 doesn’t employ in-camera AF motor, so you’ll need to manually focus with old lenses without AF motor. On the other hand, the Canon T3 has a built-in AF motor, so you can use older lenses and still be able to AF with them.

For beginners, I recommend buying the Kit lens and start growing from there. Both are excellent new-generation cameras. They offer very high image quality that wasn’t possible just a few years ago. We really came a long way since the early days of the Canon 350D. You can be sure that you are buying very high quality DSLR cameras. If you think that there is something missing, well.. it means that you are probably ready to upgrade or buy a more sophisticated camera, which costs more of course.

Visit our Online Photography School Again for better understanding of photography. You will again fall in love with what you love doing.

Let us know what do you think about the article in comments section below. If you like the article then make a effort to share. Thanks

3 Responses
  • Rio Vidic
    December 2, 2012

    Great article. 🙂 Thanks for it.
    I am just a beginner to DSLR cameras world.
    I will be buying one of them in a few days.
    I mention here the prices of them to be considered as a fact.
    Canon 1100D is 325 euro and Nikon D3100 is 400 euro.
    Both are current prices of the brand new ones.
    Is it worth spending 75 euro more on Nikon compare to Canon?
    Could you recommend me which one should I pick up?
    Your words will be highly appreciated.

    • admin
      December 2, 2012

      Both the DSLRs are entry level. So there is not much of a difference between the two. Go for the camera which will suit you better. See for the availability of lens, check which camera your friends have so you can use their lens and vice versa. Good Luck with the choosing process. Do let us know which one you will end up buying and why did you choose it.

  • Sajal
    February 4, 2013

    Hi. I was searching all over the net for 1100d vs d3100 and so far found this article explains best. I am opting for canon 1100d as i won’t be shooting much videos. Also the inbuilt autofocus motor and 3rd party lens support is a plus point. Thanks a lot for helping me out!

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