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If you haven’t noticed, the crew here at Gear Patrol loves to take photos. Not too long ago, this GP contributor was the last member of the crew still trying to take photos of the latest gear with his trusty old point-and-shoot (the venerable, yet aged Canon PowerShot SD200). Feeling that it was time to join the ranks of DSLR-wielding weekend warriors known as Gear Patrol Contributors, he reached out to none other than Gear Patrol founder and resident photography guru, Eric Yang, for a few recommendations on getting into a new, easy-to-use DSLR for as little money as possible. In typical Yang fashion, the recommendation was short and sweet and consisted of only two words: Nikon D3000 (full stop).

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The D3000 may be Nikon’s latest foray into the entry-level DSLR market, but this isn’t just an over-sized point and shoot camera with a fancy lens. The Nikon D3000 comes packed with a 10.2 megapixel CCD image sensor, 11-point Autofocus system, AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Vibration Reduction lens (as part of the kit) and is focused specifically towards buyers like this writer (just getting started with a DSLR), though I have had experience with film (gasp) SLR cameras in the past. The D3000 features 6 automatic exposure scene modes from sports to night-portraits, and best of all it features the Guide mode. The Guide mode is basically like having your own DSLR for Dummies book built into your camera and makes getting the right settings easy even for camera n00bs such as myself.

In your hand, the D3000 is light, compact, and easy to maneuver, perfect for breaking out your best one-handed E.Yang photo taking impersonations. It’s also constructed from a hard plastic in case you knock it a few times while attempting your impersonation. Additionally, the camera is coupled with a bright 3.0 inch LCD that’s visible in direct sunlight and packs features such as in-camera photo editing and Active D-Lighting to help you get the best photo in shadows and highlights. The D3000 also turns on in a fraction of a second so you won’t find yourself missing many shots either.

Editor’s Note: We’ve seen plenty of reviews on the internet knocking the D3000 for being too “entry-level” and for not packing a ton of features. Honestly, if you’re looking to become the next Ansel Adams, you’d probably want to consider saving up for something like the Nikon D90, the Canon 5D Mark II, or the D3s, which have more extensive feature sets and capabilities. The only gripes we have with the camera are the lack of live view (which you should ween yourself of as soon as possible if you have any photographic inclinations), and the somewhat sluggish image preview, and auto focus. Regardless of the flaws, if you’re anything like average DSLR buyer who uses it primarily as a fancy point and shoot, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better camera for the price.

As with any DSLR, you’re not just buying another camera but buying system of lenses too. I spent about a week with the standard 18-55mm lens before quickly equipping it with a Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G and haven’t looked back since. The image quality from the D3000 has far exceeded my expectations and is most evident by my recent reviews. Without a doubt, I can safely say this camera has made my articles better even if my writing isn’t.

You can find a couple of untouched sample photographs taken from the D3000 below in the gallery.

Cost: $530 (Kit) | $430 (Body Only)

Nikon D3000 Gallery

Other Nikon D3000 Reviews