Nikon D3100 vs Olympus E-3
The Nikon D3100 and the Olympus E-3 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2010 and October 2007. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D3100) and a Four Thirds (E-3) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 14.2 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 10 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 Olympus E-3? 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 side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D3100 and the Olympus E-3. 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 measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The D3100 can be obtained in two different colors (black, red), while the E-3 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 Olympus E-3 is notably larger (38 percent) than the Nikon D3100. Moreover, the E-3 is substantially heavier (73 percent) than the D3100. It is noteworthy in this context that the E-3 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. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3100) and the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-3).
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.
|Nikon D3100||4.9 in||3.8 in||3.0 in||17.8 oz||550||n||Aug 2010||599|
|Olympus E-3||5.6 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||30.9 oz||750||Y||Oct 2007||1,699|
|Nikon D3200||4.9 in||3.8 in||3.0 in||17.8 oz||540||n||Apr 2012||599|
|Nikon D5100||5.0 in||3.8 in||3.1 in||19.8 oz||660||n||Apr 2011||749|
|Nikon D7000||5.2 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||27.5 oz||1050||Y||Sep 2010||1,499|
|Nikon D3000||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.5 in||18.9 oz||500||n||Jul 2009||599|
|Nikon D5000||5.0 in||4.1 in||3.1 in||20.8 oz||510||n||Apr 2009||749|
|Nikon D60||5.0 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||18.4 oz||500||n||Jan 2008||629|
|Nikon D40X||4.9 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||18.4 oz||520||n||Mar 2007||729|
|Nikon D40||4.9 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||18.4 oz||470||n||Nov 2006||499|
|Olympus E-5||5.6 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||30.8 oz||750||Y||Sep 2010||1,699|
|Olympus E-30||5.6 in||4.3 in||3.0 in||24.7 oz||750||n||Nov 2008||1,299|
|Olympus E-520||5.4 in||3.6 in||2.7 in||18.9 oz||750||n||May 2008||699|
|Olympus E-510||5.4 in||3.6 in||2.7 in||19.0 oz||750||n||Mar 2007||799|
|Olympus E-1||5.6 in||4.1 in||3.2 in||26.0 oz||750||Y||Jun 2003||1,699|
|Sony NEX-5N||4.4 in||2.3 in||1.5 in||9.5 oz||460||n||Aug 2011||699|
|Sony NEX-C3||4.3 in||2.4 in||1.3 in||7.9 oz||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.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The D3100 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 65 percent) than the E-3, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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 tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D3100 features an APS-C sensor and the Olympus E-3 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-3 is 37 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 2.0. The sensor in the D3100 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-3 offers a 4:3 aspect.
With 14.2MP, the D3100 offers a higher resolution than the E-3 (10MP), but the D3100 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.01μm versus 4.74μm for the E-3) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the D3100 is a much more recent model (by 2 years and 10 months) than the E-3, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D3100 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D3100 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 23 x 15.4 inches or 58.5 x 39 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 18.4 x 12.3 inches or 46.8 x 31.2 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 15.4 x 10.2 inches or 39 x 26 cm. The corresponding values for the Olympus E-3 are 18.2 x 13.7 inches or 46.3 x 34.7 cm for good quality, 14.6 x 10.9 inches or 37.1 x 27.8 cm for very good quality, and 12.2 x 9.1 inches or 30.9 x 23.2 cm for excellent quality prints.
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 Olympus E-3 are ISO 100 to ISO 3200 (no boost).
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under review, the D3100 provides substantially higher image quality than the E-3, with an overall score that is 11 points higher. This advantage is based on 0.9 bits higher color depth, 0.8 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.7 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
|Olympus E-3||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.6||10.5||571||56|
|Olympus E-5||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.6||10.5||519||56|
|Olympus E-30||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||none||21.3||10.4||530||55|
|Olympus E-520||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.4||10.4||548||55|
|Olympus E-510||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.2||10.0||442||52|
|Olympus E-1||Four Thirds||4.9||2560||1920||none||..||..||..||..|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The D3100 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the E-3 does not. The highest resolution format that the D3100 can use is 1080/24p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The D3100 and the E-3 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinder in the E-3 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 E-3 has a higher magnification (0.58x vs 0.53x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D3100 and Olympus E-3 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
One feature that differentiates the E-3 and the D3100 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The E-3 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the D3100 offers no blur reduction with lenses that themselves do not provide optical image stabilization.The E-3 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 D3100 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the E-3 uses Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. The E-3 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D3100 only has one slot.
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 Olympus E-3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Olympus E-3 (unlike the D3100) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the D3100 and the E-3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-3 was replaced by the Olympus E-5, while the D3100 was followed 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 and Olympus websites.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D3100 or the Olympus E-3 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Advantages of the Nikon D3100:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (14.2 vs 10MP) with a 21% higher linear resolution.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (11 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.8 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.7 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/24p movies.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
- More compact: Is smaller (124x96mm vs 142x116mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 371g or 42 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (65 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 2 years and 10 months of technical progress since the E-3 launch.
Reasons to prefer the Olympus E-3:
- 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 (0.58x vs 0.53x).
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (750 versus 550) out of a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in October 2007).
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-3 emerges as the winner of the match-up (13 : 10 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 Olympus E-3 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D3100 and the E-3 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 where reviews by experts come in. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). 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.
|Nikon D3100||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2010||599|
|Olympus E-3||88/100||+ +||o||o||4/5||Oct 2007||1,699|
|Nikon D3200||+ +||73/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2012||599|
|Nikon D5100||+ +||76/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2011||749|
|Nikon D7000||..||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,499|
|Nikon D3000||+||72/100||4/5||3.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||599|
|Nikon D5000||+ +||75/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2009||749|
|Nikon D60||80/100||+ +||4/5||o||4.5/5||Jan 2008||629|
|Nikon D40X||79/100||+ +||4/5||o||4/5||Mar 2007||729|
|Nikon D40||81/100||+ +||o||5/5||4.5/5||Nov 2006||499|
|Olympus E-5||..||75/100||4/5||..||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,699|
|Olympus E-30||..||71/100||4.5/5||..||4/5||Nov 2008||1,299|
|Olympus E-520||87/100||+ +||4.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||May 2008||699|
|Olympus E-510||89/100||+ +||3.5/5||o||4.5/5||Mar 2007||799|
|Olympus E-1||..||+||o||o||..||Jun 2003||1,699|
|Sony NEX-5N||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2011||699|
|Sony NEX-C3||+ +||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2011||599|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
- Canon 1D Mark II N vs Olympus E-3
- Canon 1D X vs Olympus E-3
- Canon 5D vs Olympus E-3
- Fujifilm X20 vs Nikon D3100
- Leica S Typ 007 vs Nikon D3100
- Nikon D2X vs Nikon D3100
- Nikon D3100 vs Nikon D700
- Nikon D3100 vs Panasonic FZ82
- Nikon D3100 vs Panasonic ZS80
- Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-5
- Olympus E-3 vs Sony A77 II
- Olympus E-3 vs Sony RX0
Specifications: Nikon D3100 vs Olympus E-3
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||Olympus E-3|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Four Thirds lenses|
|Launch Date||August 2010||October 2007|
|Launch Price||USD 599||USD 1,699|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D3100||Olympus E-3|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Four Thirds Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.1 x 15.4 mm||17.3 x 13.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||355.74 mm2||224.9 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||27.8 mm||21.6 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||14.2 Megapixels||10 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4608 x 3072 pixels||3648 x 2736 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.01 μm||4.74 μm|
|Pixel Density||3.98 MP/cm2||4.44 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/24p Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 3,200 ISO||100 - 3,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 12,800 ISO||no Enhancement|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 2||TruePic III|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||67||56|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.5||21.6|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.3||10.5|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||919||571|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D3100||Olympus E-3|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||2.5inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||230k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Swivel screen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D3100||Olympus E-3|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3 shutter flaps/s||5 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||100 000 actuations||150 000 actuations|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||CF or XD cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D3100||Olympus E-3|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||no HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Nikon D3100||Olympus E-3|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||550 shots per charge||750 shots per charge|
124 x 96 x 75 mm
(4.9 x 3.8 x 3.0 in)
142 x 116 x 75 mm
(5.6 x 4.6 x 3.0 in)
|Camera Weight||505 g (17.8 oz)||876 g (30.9 oz)|
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