Some people think that I may have too many camera bodies. They are correct. I have even owned a few more than I have today. My “core set” that gets the most use are the D800, D300s, D3100, and mirrorless V1. But, also on the shelf are a D2x, D80, and D70. The D70 is having some problems reliably writing to memory cards, so it’s reserved for hazard duty and periodic “First Sunday” shoots. Along the way, there was also a D100, D50, D60, and Canon XTi. Of those, I truly miss the D50.
I’m often asked two questions – A. Which of my current cameras is my favorite and B. If I could only have one, which camera would I keep?
What may seem somewhat odd is that my answers to questions A and B are different. My favorite camera is my D300s. I realize that the D800 is the big new FX daddy in my collection and is extremely capable. Over time, she may become my favorite. The D300s, however, still fits me like a glove, and since it is DX, it is well suited for the majority of my lenses, which are DX.
That brings me to question B – if I had to part with each of these bodies except one, which would I choose? I would choose my least favorite of the bunch, the D3100.
I’m an active person – I bring my V1 nearly everywhere. I have not checked the numbers, but it is probably the camera that I shoot with the most. Its glaring limitation as a full-time body is the limited lens choices available. Some may argue that its small sensor limits its performance – this is not my first hand experience. Its high ISO performance is equal to or better than DSLRs from one or two “camera generations” ago.
Not nearly as compact as the V1 are the D800 and D300s. They are similar in many ways, with the D800 superior in sensor size and resolution while the D300s can crank out more frames per second. They are great sisters and I enjoy using them both.
The D3100 is not the fastest of the collection – that is either the V1 or the D300s… the V1’s 10, 30, and 60 fps modes carry certain limitations. The D3100 does not have the highest resolution of the bunch… it’s second to the D800 by a mile. It is not as small as the V1, but it is smaller and lighter than the D800 and D300s.
Image quality on each of these cameras is superb. The D800 takes the cake, but the D3100 is not too far behind.
Finally, since the D3100 is DX, it has the most compatibility with my existing lens collection compared to the D800 or the V1.
So, D3100 wins. For me.
BUT, everyone is different, and frankly, I’d be happy with any one of these cameras as my only body. Is FX your thing, then “the one” for you would be an FX camera. Want the ultimate sports camera? D4 or D3s? Want fantastic performance on a budget? D3100/D3200 are worth a look. Want to go compact but still deliver great results? Perhaps the V1 or J1, then.
We’re all wired differently – frankly, some of us spend more time focusing on specifications than taking pictures – THAT’s OK, too. There are no rules or “correct” criteria to use when shopping for a camera. In truth, there is no one best camera for everyone. For me, it would be all of the fantastic capabilities and resolution of the D800, the speed of the D4, all in a V1 size body. We may see that one day, but it’s not available today.