Nikon D3100 vs Z50
The Nikon D3100 and the Nikon Z50 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2010 and October 2019. The D3100 is a DSLR, while the Z50 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The D3100 has a resolution of 14.2 megapixels, whereas the Z50 provides 20.7 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D3100 and the Nikon Z50? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The physical size and weight of the Nikon D3100 and the Nikon Z50 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The D3100 can be obtained in two different colors (black, red), while the Z50 is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D3100 and the Nikon Z50 are of equal size. However, the Z50 is markedly lighter (11 percent) than the D3100. It is noteworthy in this context that the Z50 is splash and dust-proof, while the D3100 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
The power pack in the Z50 can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Nikon D3100||124 mm||96 mm||75 mm||505 g||550||n||Aug 2010||599|
|2.||Nikon Z50||127 mm||94 mm||60 mm||450 g||320||Y||Oct 2019||859|
|3.||Nikon D5500||124 mm||97 mm||70 mm||420 g||820||n||Jan 2015||899|
|4.||Nikon D5300||125 mm||98 mm||76 mm||480 g||600||n||Oct 2013||799|
|5.||Nikon D3200||125 mm||96 mm||77 mm||505 g||540||n||Apr 2012||599|
|6.||Nikon D5100||128 mm||97 mm||79 mm||560 g||660||n||Apr 2011||749|
|7.||Nikon D7000||132 mm||105 mm||77 mm||780 g||1050||Y||Sep 2010||1,499|
|8.||Nikon D3000||126 mm||97 mm||64 mm||536 g||500||n||Jul 2009||599|
|9.||Nikon D5000||127 mm||104 mm||80 mm||590 g||510||n||Apr 2009||749|
|10.||Nikon D60||126 mm||94 mm||64 mm||522 g||500||n||Jan 2008||629|
|11.||Nikon D40X||124 mm||94 mm||64 mm||522 g||520||n||Mar 2007||729|
|12.||Nikon D40||124 mm||94 mm||64 mm||522 g||470||n||Nov 2006||499|
|13.||Sony A6400||120 mm||67 mm||50 mm||403 g||410||Y||Jan 2019||899|
|14.||Sony A6100||120 mm||67 mm||59 mm||396 g||420||n||Aug 2019||749|
|15.||Sony A6300||120 mm||67 mm||49 mm||404 g||400||Y||Feb 2016||999|
|16.||Sony NEX-5N||111 mm||59 mm||38 mm||269 g||460||n||Aug 2011||699|
|17.||Sony NEX-C3||110 mm||60 mm||33 mm||225 g||400||n||Jun 2011||599|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The D3100 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 30 percent) than the Z50, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the Z50 is 4 percent bigger. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
Technology-wise, the Z50 uses a more advanced image processing engine (EXPEED 6) than the D3100 (EXPEED 2), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.
With 20.7MP, the Z50 offers a higher resolution than the D3100 (14.2MP), but the Z50 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.22μm versus 5.01μm for the D3100). Yet, the Z50 is a much more recent model (by 9 years and 1 month) than the D3100, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the Z50 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon Z50 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the Z50 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 27.8 x 18.6 inches or 70.7 x 47.1 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 22.3 x 14.8 inches or 56.6 x 37.7 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 18.6 x 12.4 inches or 47.1 x 31.4 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D3100 are 23 x 15.4 inches or 58.5 x 39 cm for good quality, 18.4 x 12.3 inches or 46.8 x 31.2 cm for very good quality, and 15.4 x 10.2 inches or 39 x 26 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Z50 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Nikon D3100 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200, which can be extended to ISO 100-12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon Z50 are ISO 100 to ISO 51200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-204800.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
| DXO |
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the Z50 provides a better video resolution than the D3100. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the D3100 is limited to 1080/24p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the Z50 has an electronic viewfinder (2360k dots), while the D3100 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The viewfinder in the Z50 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the D3100 (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the Z50 has a higher magnification (0.68x vs 0.53x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D3100 and Nikon Z50 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The Z50 has a touchscreen, while the D3100 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.The Z50 has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the D3100 does not have a selfie-screen.
The reported shutter speed information refers to the use of the mechanical shutter. Yet, some cameras only have an electronic shutter, while others have an electronic shutter in addition to a mechanical one. In fact, the Z50 is one of those camera that have an additional electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (risk of rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (risk of flickering).
The Nikon Z50 has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the D3100 and the Z50 write their files to SDXC cards. The Z50 supports UHS-II cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 312 MB/s), while the D3100 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Nikon D3100 and Nikon Z50 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
It is notable that the Z50 offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the D3100 does not provide wifi capability.
The Z50 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Nikon. In contrast, the D3100 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the D3100 was succeeded by the Nikon D3200. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon website.
So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D3100 or the Nikon Z50 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D3100:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (550 versus 320) on a single battery charge.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (30 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2010).
Advantages of the Nikon Z50:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (20.7 vs 14.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 21%.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (EXPEED 6 vs EXPEED 2).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/24p).
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.68x vs 0.53x).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 230k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 55g or 11 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-II standard.
- More modern: Reflects 9 years and 1 month of technical progress since the D3100 launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the Z50 is the clear winner of the contest (25 : 5 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D3100 and the Nikon Z50 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D3100 and the Z50 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is why expert reviews are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|1.||Nikon D3100||5/5||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2010||599|
|2.||Nikon Z50||5/5||..||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2019||859|
|3.||Nikon D5500||5/5||+||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2015||899|
|4.||Nikon D5300||4/5||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||799|
|5.||Nikon D3200||5/5||+ +||73/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2012||599|
|6.||Nikon D5100||5/5||+ +||76/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2011||749|
|7.||Nikon D7000||4/5||..||80/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,499|
|8.||Nikon D3000||..||+||72/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||599|
|9.||Nikon D5000||..||+ +||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2009||749|
|10.||Nikon D60||..||80/100||+ +||4/5||4.5/5||Jan 2008||629|
|11.||Nikon D40X||..||79/100||+ +||4/5||4/5||Mar 2007||729|
|12.||Nikon D40||..||81/100||+ +||o||4.5/5||Nov 2006||499|
|13.||Sony A6400||4/5||+||85/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jan 2019||899|
|14.||Sony A6100||..||..||82/100||4/5||5/5||Aug 2019||749|
|15.||Sony A6300||4.5/5||+||85/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2016||999|
|16.||Sony NEX-5N||3/5||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2011||699|
|17.||Sony NEX-C3||3/5||+ +||74/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2011||599|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Nikon D3100 vs Nikon Z50
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Nikon D3100||Nikon Z50|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||August 2010||October 2019|
|Launch Price||USD 599||USD 859|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D3100||Nikon Z50|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.1 x 15.4 mm||23.5 x 15.7 mm|
|Sensor Area||355.74 mm2||368.95 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||27.8 mm||28.3 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||14.2 Megapixels||20.7 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4608 x 3072 pixels||5568 x 3712 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.01 μm||4.22 μm|
|Pixel Density||3.98 MP/cm2||5.60 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/24p Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 3,200 ISO||100 - 51,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 12,800 ISO||100 - 204,800 ISO|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 2||EXPEED 6|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||67||..|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.5||..|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.3||..|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||919||..|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D3100||Nikon Z50|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2360k dots|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.2inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||1040k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D3100||Nikon Z50|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||On-Sensor Phase-detect|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/4000s|
|Continuous Shooting||3 shutter flaps/s||11 shutter flaps/s|
|Electronic Shutter||no E-Shutter||up to 1/4000s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||no||UHS-II|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D3100||Nikon Z50|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Bluetooth Support||no Bluetooth||Bluetooth built-in|
|Body Specs||Nikon D3100||Nikon Z50|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||550 shots per charge||320 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
124 x 96 x 75 mm
(4.9 x 3.8 x 3.0 in)
127 x 94 x 60 mm
(5.0 x 3.7 x 2.4 in)
|Camera Weight||505 g (17.8 oz)||450 g (15.9 oz)|
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