The Nikon D3100 is a great entry-level DSLR. Even in its automatic mode, you can take great photos. Once you're comfortable with it, take it off automatic and experiment with the options that let photographers capture exactly the image they envisioned. This Quick Start Guide will get you shooting in a hurry.
Unpack and Set Up Your New Camera
The very first thing you need to do is charge your battery. Fully charging the battery may take a couple of hours. You won't be able to do anything with your camera until it has a power source.
The second thing you should do is attach the strap. Make sure you have a secure grip on the camera every time you use it.
If your previous camera was a point and shoot, the fact that a DSLR has interchangeable lenses is a major change. You need to attach a lens to the camera before you can take photographs. While you can purchase additional lenses later, your new camera probably came with an included "kit" lens. The steps to attach it are:
- Turn the camera off.
- Remove the caps from the rear of the lens and the front of the camera.
- Align the lens properly using the mounting marks and insert the lens into the camera mount. Turn the lens counter-clockwise; it will click into position.
- Slide the switch on the lens to A to enable autofocus.
- Slide the VR switch on the lens to 'On' to enable Vibration Reduction.
While it isn't strictly required, it's a good idea to attach a filter to protect your lens in case you drop it. There are many kinds of filters that have different effects on the images taken, but to simply protect the lens, you should use a UV filter. Remove the lens cap and screw the filter into place. Be sure the filter you buy is the correct size. The standard kit lens for the Nikon D3100 takes a 52mm filter.
When the battery is fully charged, you can start setting up your camera for use. Insert the battery and press the power button to turn the camera on. You will be prompted to choose the language for the menus and set the time and date.
Turn the camera off and insert a memory card. The Nikon D3100 uses SD cards, including SDHC and SDXC formats. If you plan to record video, use a card with class 6 or faster write speed. Turn the camera back on to format the card for use.
The last preliminary step is to adjust the viewfinder. This is helpful if you don't have 6/6 vision. Remove the lens cap and turn on the camera. Look through the viewfinder and turn the diopter adjustment control (located immediately beside the viewfinder) until the display is sharply focused.
Get to Know Your Camera and Menus
At this point, your camera is set up and ready to use. Take some time to get familiar with all the controls and the menus first, though. This will help you work efficiently without fumbling with the camera once you're out in the field.
Some of the key controls are on the top right side of the camera. Besides the power switch, these controls include the mode dial, exposure compensation button, aperture button, flash compensation button, and shutter release button.
Key controls and features on the backside of the camera include the viewfinder, monitor, playback button, menu button, help button, information button, AE-L/AF-L button, command dial, LiveView switch, movie record button, multi selector, OK button, and delete button.
The bottom of the camera has a socket allowing the camera to be mounted on a tripod.
Besides identifying where all of those buttons are, take a moment to walk through the menus. The shooting and setup menus are needed to set controls and options for taking pictures, while the playback and retouch menus let you review and edit your work.
The Nikon D3100 has several modes that vary how much the shooting decisions are made by the camera or by the photographer. The Auto mode is the typical mode on point and shoot cameras. The Nikon D3100 supports five automatic scene modes, including Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close up (macro), and Night Portrait. In Guide mode, the camera helps guide you to choose settings based on the effect you want to achieve. P, S, A, and M modes let you choose settings independently.