Nikon D3100 versus Panasonic GH2
The Nikon D3100 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2010 and September 2010. The D3100 is a DSLR, while the GH2 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-C (D3100) and a Four Thirds (GH2) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 14.2 megapixel, whereas the Panasonic provides 15.9 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.
Body comparison: Nikon D3100 vs Panasonic GH2
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D3100 and the Panasonic GH2. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the D3100 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic GH2 is notably smaller (6 percent) than the Nikon D3100. Moreover, the GH2 is markedly lighter (12 percent) than the D3100. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D3100 nor the GH2 are weather-sealed.
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 find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3100) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (GH2). Mirrorless cameras, such as the GH2, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|Camera Body Specifications
|Nikon D3100 (⇒ rgt)||124 mm||96 mm||75 mm||505 g||550||no||2010||599||discont.||check|
|Panasonic GH2 (⇒ lft)||124 mm||90 mm||76 mm||442 g||330||no||2010||1,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft | rgt)||124 mm||98 mm||76 mm||445 g||1200||no||2016||499||latest||check|
|Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||124 mm||97 mm||70 mm||465 g||970||no||2016||699||latest||check|
|Nikon D3300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||124 mm||98 mm||76 mm||430 g||700||no||2014||499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||125 mm||96 mm||77 mm||505 g||540||no||2012||599||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5100 (⇒ lft | rgt)||128 mm||97 mm||79 mm||560 g||660||no||2011||749||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||126 mm||97 mm||64 mm||536 g||500||no||2009||599||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||127 mm||104 mm||80 mm||590 g||510||no||2009||749||discont.||check|
|Nikon D60 (⇒ lft | rgt)||126 mm||94 mm||64 mm||522 g||500||no||2008||629||discont.||check|
|Nikon D40X (⇒ lft | rgt)||124 mm||94 mm||64 mm||522 g||520||no||2007||729||discont.||check|
|Nikon D40 (⇒ lft | rgt)||124 mm||94 mm||64 mm||522 g||470||no||2006||499||discont.||check|
|Panasonic GH3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||133 mm||93 mm||82 mm||550 g||540||YES||2012||1,299||discont.||check|
|Panasonic G3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||115 mm||84 mm||47 mm||336 g||270||no||2011||599||discont.||check|
|Panasonic GX1 (⇒ lft | rgt)||116 mm||68 mm||39 mm||318 g||320||no||2011||949||discont.||check|
|Panasonic G2 (⇒ lft | rgt)||124 mm||84 mm||74 mm||428 g||360||no||2010||599||discont.||check|
|Panasonic GH1 (⇒ lft | rgt)||124 mm||90 mm||45 mm||385 g||300||no||2009||1,499||discont.||check|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D3100 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 60 percent) than the GH2, 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.
Sensor comparison: Nikon D3100 vs Panasonic GH2
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better 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.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D3100 features an APS-C sensor and the Panasonic GH2 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the GH2 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 GH2 offers a 4:3 aspect.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the GH2 offers a higher resolution of 15.9 megapixel, compared with 14.2 MP of the D3100. This megapixel advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 3.76μm versus 5.01μm for the D3100). It is noteworthy in this context that the two cameras were released in close succession, so that their sensors are from the same technological generation.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most 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"). Of the two cameras under review, the D3100 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the GH2 (overall score 7 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 1.3 bits higher color depth, and 0.5 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
|Nikon D3100 (⇒ rgt)||APS-C||14.2||4608||3072||1080/24p||22.5||11.3||919||67|
|Panasonic GH2 (⇒ lft)||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60i||21.2||11.3||655||60|
|Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.8||13.9||1192||86|
|Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.1||14.0||1306||84|
|Nikon D3300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.3||12.8||1385||82|
|Nikon D3200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.1||6016||4000||1080/30p||24.1||13.2||1131||81|
|Nikon D5100 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||1080/30p||23.5||13.6||1183||80|
|Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||10.0||3872||2592||no||22.3||11.1||563||62|
|Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||12.2||4288||2848||720/24p||22.7||12.5||868||72|
|Nikon D60 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||10.0||3872||2592||no||22.5||11.4||562||65|
|Nikon D40X (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||10.0||3872||2592||no||22.4||11.4||516||63|
|Nikon D40 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||6.0||3008||2000||no||21||11.0||561||56|
|Panasonic GH3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||22.7||12.4||812||71|
|Panasonic G3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||15.8||4592||3448||1080/60i||21||10.6||667||56|
|Panasonic GX1 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||15.8||4592||3448||1080/60p||20.8||10.6||703||55|
|Panasonic G2 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||720/30p||21.2||10.3||493||53|
|Panasonic GH1 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||1080/24p||21.6||11.6||772||64|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the GH2 provides a faster frame rate than the D3100. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60i, while the Nikon is limited to 1080/24p.
Feature comparison: Nikon D3100 vs Panasonic GH2
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the GH2 has an electronic viewfinder (1534k 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D3100 and Panasonic GH2 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.
|Nikon D3100 (⇒ rgt)||optical||no||3.0||230||fixed||no||4000||3.0||12||no|
|Panasonic GH2 (⇒ lft)||1534||no||3.0||460||swivel||no||4000||3.0||15.6||no|
|Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||921||fixed||no||4000||5.0||7||no|
|Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.2||1037||swivel||YES||4000||5.0||12||no|
|Nikon D3300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||921||fixed||no||4000||5.0||12||no|
|Nikon D3200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||921||fixed||no||4000||4.0||12||no|
|Nikon D5100 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||921||swivel||no||4000||4.0||12||no|
|Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||230||fixed||no||4000||3.0||12||no|
|Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.7||230||full-flex||no||4000||4.0||17||no|
|Nikon D60 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.5||230||fixed||no||4000||3.0||12||no|
|Nikon D40X (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.5||230||fixed||no||4000||3.0||17||no|
|Nikon D40 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.5||230||fixed||no||4000||2.5||17||no|
|Panasonic GH3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||1746||no||3.0||614||swivel||YES||4000||6.0||12||no|
|Panasonic G3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||1440||no||3.0||460||swivel||YES||4000||4.0||11||no|
|Panasonic GX1 (⇒ lft | rgt)||no||no||3.0||460||fixed||YES||4000||4.2||7.6||no|
|Panasonic G2 (⇒ lft | rgt)||1440||no||3.0||460||swivel||YES||4000||2.6||11||no|
|Panasonic GH1 (⇒ lft | rgt)||1440||no||3.0||460||swivel||no||4000||3.0||10.5||no|
Both the D3100 and the GH2 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D3100 was replaced by the Nikon D3200, while the GH2 was followed by the Panasonic GH3.
Review summary: Nikon D3100 vs Panasonic GH2
So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D3100 or the Panasonic GH2 – has the upper hand? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Advantages of the Nikon D3100:
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (7 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.3 bits more color depth).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.5 stops ISO advantage).
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (550 versus 330) on a single battery charge.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (60 percent cheaper at launch).
Reasons to prefer the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2:
- Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60i versus 1080/24p).
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (460k vs 230k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 63g or 12 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the match-up finishes in a tie (6 points each). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the D3100 and the GH2 in practical situations. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites. You can find the full text of the reviews, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.
|Nikon D3100 (⇒ rgt)||84/100 HiRec||72/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2010||599||discont.||check|
|Panasonic GH2 (⇒ lft)||86/100 HiRec||79/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2010||1,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3400 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||76/100||4/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2016||499||latest||check|
|Nikon D5600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||79/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4/5||2016||699||latest||check|
|Nikon D3300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||77/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2014||499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||73/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2012||599||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5100 (⇒ lft | rgt)||86/100 HiRec||76/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2011||749||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||80/100 Rec||72/100 HiRec||4/5||3.5/5||4.5/5||2009||599||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||88/100 HiRec||75/100 HiRec||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||2009||749||discont.||check|
|Nikon D60 (⇒ lft | rgt)||80/100||HiRec||4/5||reviewed||4.5/5||2008||629||discont.||check|
|Nikon D40X (⇒ lft | rgt)||79/100||HiRec||4/5||reviewed||4/5||2007||729||discont.||check|
|Nikon D40 (⇒ lft | rgt)||81/100||HiRec||reviewed||5/5||4.5/5||2006||499||discont.||check|
|Panasonic GH3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||79/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2012||1,299||discont.||check|
|Panasonic G3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||88/100 HiRec||75/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2011||599||discont.||check|
|Panasonic GX1 (⇒ lft | rgt)||85/100 Rec||77/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2011||949||discont.||check|
|Panasonic G2 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||72/100 Silver||4/5||4/5||4.5/5||2010||599||discont.||check|
|Panasonic GH1 (⇒ lft | rgt)||89/100 HiRec||72/100 HiRec||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2009||1,499||discont.||check|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when refering 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. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
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