Updated (August 2010): Compare the Nikon D3100 vs Nikon D90

Nikon D90 vs Nikon D3100

Nikon D90


Nikon D3100



Reasons to buy the Nikon D90

Large viewfinder
Viewfinder size
Great viewfinder
Barely any delay taking photos
Shutter lag
208 ms shutter lag
Great battery life
Battery life
850 shots

Reasons to buy the Nikon D3100

Movie format
Full HD
1080p @ 24fps
Really small
Prosumer size (124×97×74 mm)


Explore our gallery of 49 sample photos taken by the Nikon D3100.
Explore our gallery of 50 sample photos taken by the Nikon D90.


Nikon D90 Competitors

Nikon D3200

Nikon D3200

Entry-level DSLR

$289 body only

$382 - $447 with 18-55mm lens

Movie format Higher resolution movies
True resolution Much higher true resolution
Viewfinder size Much smaller viewfinder
Nikon D7000

Nikon D7000

Entry-level DSLR

$479 body only

$723 with 18-105mm lens

Movie format Higher resolution movies
Low light performance Lower noise at high ISO
Shutter lag More shutter lag
Nikon D7200

Nikon D7200

Entry-level DSLR

$949 - $1,097 body only

$1,397 with 18-140mm lens

Movie format Higher resolution movies
Low light performance Significantly lower noise at high ISO
Viewfinder size Smaller viewfinder

Nikon D3100 Competitors

Nikon D3200

Nikon D3200

Entry-level DSLR

$289 body only

$382 - $447 with 18-55mm lens

Screen resolution Much higher resolution screen
Overall image quality Significantly better image quality
Thickness Thicker
Canon EOS Rebel T5

Canon EOS Rebel T5

Entry-level DSLR

$399 body only

$360 - $399 with 18-55mm lens

Screen resolution Higher resolution screen
True resolution Significantly higher true resolution
Low light performance More noise at high ISO
Nikon D3300

Nikon D3300

Entry-level DSLR

$400 - $497 with 18-55mm lens

Low light performance Significantly lower noise at high ISO
Screen resolution Much higher resolution screen
Size Slightly larger


Advantages of the Nikon D3100

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Movie format
Higher resolution movies
1080p @ 24fps vs 720p @ 24fps
Shoots higher resolution Full HD (1080p) video
Video autofocus
Contrast detection vs None
Automatically focuses shooting video
True resolution
Higher true resolution
14.2 MP vs 12.2 MP
Capture around 20% more detail in your photos
Significantly smaller
124×97×74 mm vs 132×103×77 mm
Around 20% smaller
Lowest price
Significantly cheaper
$259.89 vs $579.99
The best price we've seen is $320 cheaper (2.2x less)
Significantly lighter
505 g vs 703 g
Around 30% lighter
2.9" vs 3"
Almost the same
Light sensitivity (boost)
Better boost ISO
12,800 ISO vs 6,400 ISO
The D3100's boost ISO is 2 f-stops better
Nikon D3100 Learn more about
the Nikon D3100

Advantages of the Nikon D90

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Screen resolution
Much higher resolution screen
930k dots vs 230k dots
More than 4x higher resolution screen
Dynamic range
More dynamic range
12.5 EV vs 11.3 EV
1.6 f-stops more dynamic range
Viewfinder size
Much larger viewfinder
0.63x vs 0.51x
More than 50% larger viewfinder
Overall image quality
Better image quality
73.0 vs 67.0
Around 10% better image quality
Battery life
Significantly longer battery life
850 shots vs 550 shots
More than 50% more shots per battery charge
Continuous shooting
Shoots faster
4.5 fps vs 3 fps
50% faster continuous shooting
Shutter lag
Less shutter lag
208 ms vs 279 ms
Around 30% less delay when taking photos
Low light performance
Slightly lower noise at high ISO
977 ISO vs 919 ISO
The D90 has a slight edge (0.1 f-stops) in low-noise, high-ISO performance
Has a pentaprism viewfinder
Pentaprism vs Pentamirror
Pentaprism viewfinders are typically brighter
Built-in focus motor
Has a built-in focus motor
Yes vs No
Autofocuses with all autofocus lenses
Color depth
Better color depth
22.7 bits vs 22.5 bits
Almost the same
Startup delay
Slightly less startup delay
300 ms vs 400 ms
Around 30% less delay when turning on
Viewfinder coverage
Better viewfinder coverage
96% vs 95%
Almost the same
Nikon D90 Learn more about
the Nikon D90


Which camera do we recommend? Relative to the best recent entry-level DSLRs, and ignoring price

Snapsort Recommends
Nikon D3100 Nikon D3100 53
        You save
        68 Nikon D90 Nikon D90
              You save


              Compared to recent entry-level DSLRs

              Common Strengths
              Lens availability Many lenses available Help
              230 lenses
              Startup delay Minimal startup delay Help
              D3100400 ms
              D90300 ms
              Common Weaknesses
              Fastest shutter speed Slow max shutter speed Help
              1/4000 of a second
              HDR Neither has in-camera HDR Help
              You could do HDR manually
              True resolution Capture low resolution images Help
              D310014.2 MP
              D9012.2 MP
              Light sensitivity (boost) Poor boost ISO Help
              D310012,800 ISO
              D906,400 ISO
              External mic jack Neither has an external mic jack Help
              Limited to the in-camera mic
              Light sensitivity Poor maximum light sensitivity Help
              3,200 ISO
              Viewfinder coverage Below average viewfinder coverage Help
              Cross type focus points Few cross-type focus points Help
              Continuous shooting Slow continuous shooting Help
              D31003 fps
              D904.5 fps
              Focus points Few focus points Help
              Screen flips out No flip-out screens Help
              Less flexible
              Weather sealed Neither is weather sealed Help
              Need to shelter it from weather
              Image stabilization No image stabilization Help
              Risk of blur
              Touch screen No touchscreens Help
              More buttons
              Movie format Poor movies Help
              D31001080p @ 24fps
              D90720p @ 24fps




              Nikon D90 Nikon D3100
              Nikon D90 Nikon D3100
              Nikon D90 Nikon D3100


              Nikon D90

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              Nikon D3100

              Report a correction

              Showing 25 comments

              Joko (10:09 AM, May 18, 2012)
              D3100 is crippled it's missing so many basic feature can't auto FP, no CLS either for wireless unless you buy a trigger or use a higher end flash, no DOF preview, small VF, menu dive frustrations. Seriously D90 tears it a new one entry level or not it's anciently outdated v it's competitors
              diana (6:50 AM, May 04, 2012)
              I currently have a d3100 and was thinking about upgrading to a D90. I use the camera mainly for photography purposes but I do like the option of having the 1080p video if I ever feel like capturing a moment. I became a little doubtful when I read all these reviews of people saying how awful the video on the D90 is. Is that something not to worry about or is it really not that bad? I know the D90 is a great camera but I'm still thinking about it 
              Darcy22 (8:44 AM, May 02, 2012)
              I think if you're looking to upgrade make it worth while. There are many people on here saying that the two cameras are quite similar aside from some minor features, which they are. Of course if high price is a problem than the D90 might be better for you.
              Lancecarlo1601 (8:31 PM, April 09, 2012)
              Hi, good day to everyone!
              Im planning to buy my first dslr camera by next month and i cannot decide until now which one is better, the nikon d3100 or the nikon d90. And i am getting confused which one is the better and fits to my attitude most especially to my budget. Anyone could suggest, please thanks

              Gabriel (2:46 PM, February 09, 2012)
              Your calcs are wrong. The right way to calculate Pixel Density is Pixels/Sensor Area. So the D3100 do have bigger pixel density then D90.
              NTIL (0:46 PM, October 18, 2011)
              That may be all good and well, to save money if you do not intend to shoot in the magnification ranges of the kit lenses.  Nikon lenses are definitely a cut above the budget off brand lenses out there, so I would not say buy a cheep off brand lens instead of the nikon lenses normally available in the kit.  Also, in the evaluation of the D3100 it said there was no image stabilization.  This is true, if the VR switch is turned off on the lense.  If VR is turned on, (vibration reduction) it stabilizes the image for shakey old folks like me.  For half the price of a D-90, with virtually all the features, AND image stabilazion, AND autofocus video, the D-3100 is a superior camera for most hobby enthusiasts.  IF you are a professional, and need to advertise that you have the latest and greatest, buy the D-90 for the marginal improvement in picture quality.  Most people cannot see the difference in the image, though, and the higher MP of the D-3100 still blows up to a larger print at higher quality! 
              Avatar for Frankie Frankie (9:40 PM, September 15, 2011)
              i want one but i dunno what its like ( d90 ) would you recommend ...
              Chris L (3:24 PM, July 18, 2011)
              Can anyone help me get my head around this? I was given some money for my first dSLR to see if it's a hobby I enjoy. The D3100 has "Higher true resolution", but the D90 has "Better image quality". I do not think megapixels mean what I think they do. If the only thing I care about is picture quality (I don't understanding using a dSLR as a video recorder, but that's me), do I ignore the megapixels of the D3100 and buy the D90? Have megapixels became a camera marketing ploy like refresh rates on HDTVs?
              Irrelevant (11:10 PM, July 12, 2011)
              A pointless comparison IMO. The D3100 is a modern camera for budget-limited enthusiasts, not for professionals that make their living shooting pictures on the go. I just happen to own one and I don't know what everybody's problem with this camera is. I've been comparing images from many other dslr's and as long as you keep a good aperture like 8 at the smallest with the kit 18-55 lens, you get brilliantly clean and sharp pictures up to ISO 800 that aren't lacking anything compared to competition plus you still get decent DOF. If people don't like limited DOF, they should get a compact. You'd really have to be a perfectionist pixel-peeker to find anything wrong with d3100 images. They look as natural as any pro camera pictures. Also compared to Canon's massive purple fringing with kit lenses the d3100 is clearly on the winning side at a lower cost. And what's that with the ISO noise? Even at 3200 the detail is perfectly acceptable and completely unnoticeable on a 6"x4" photo printout. Not to mention that Photoshop can make your pictures printable at 6"x4" throughout the ISO range except maybe 12800, which is admittedly a gimmick.

              That aside, what more functionality would you expect from an entry level dslr? If you're serious about HDR pictures, you're using a tripod. How hard is it to change the exposure then? It takes like 3 button clicks or 5 seconds.

              Yes, d3100 has some unexpected functionality limitations (all are firmware based, so a fix is possible, although improbable), but that's just normal considering Nikon are in the business of selling cameras and other optics. They wouldn't want to put out the perfect camera, because nobody would want to ever upgrade. So to anybody out there reading this, if you're not planning to become a pro paparazzo, and you are on a budget, this camera will do you just fine and better. There's nothing wrong with the video either. How many people are shooting videos of vertically geometrical objects while slowly moving from side to side? I don't know, but I surely aren't one of them, so I'm not seeing any jello effect. And honestly, if you want to shoot decent videos, buy a camcorder and you won't have to complain about the AF noise picked up by the built-in mic either. What's this sudden hype abou dslr's shooting videos anyway?
              Robson de Souza (4:24 AM, July 09, 2011)
              Tenho uma d3100 não me arrependo pois cada uma tem suas vantagens e desvantagens, pretendo comprar uma d 90 mas não vou despensar a d3100 afinal nem tudo que reluz é ouro. ou seja amba são exelentes cameras e a câmera não faz o fotografo as máquinas podem ser boas, mas o que faz a foto boa ou ruim é o fotográfo.
              Alex (7:07 AM, June 01, 2011)
              I had D3100 but upgraded to D90 shortly, primarily for autofocus motor & higher resolution screen. The motor is very useful for moving subjects like babies, kids & animals using fast affordable primes
              geek (5:12 PM, April 15, 2011)
              AF-S lenses has build in motor for autofocus while AF-D lenses has no motor. D90 has motor which can auto focos AF-D lenses as well which can be big savings as AF-S lense are more expensive (Heavy) then AF-D lenses.

              If you take D3100 you can use AF-D lenses but only with manual focous

              Nikon has very small number of AF-S lenses.
              geek (1:59 PM, April 15, 2011)
              I think the comparison Reasons needs to be changed from "Image Sensor size" to "Pixel Density" which is more accurate.

              Pixel Density = portion of image sensor is available per pixel

              In D3100 image sensor is a bit smaller (23.1x15.4mm = 355.74) and storing 2MP more.
              So Pixel Density (355.74 / 14.4MP = 0.025052)
              While in D90 image sensor is a bit larger (23.6x15.8mm = 372.88) and storing 2MP less.
              So Pixel Density (372.88 / 12.2MP = 0.030564)

              Pixel Density is 22 % more on D90 which allows it to work with almost 22% less light than D3100 which is very big advantage but just the image sensor size comparison hides this fact as it seems almost same

              Even if D3100 would have same image sensor size still it would be at disadvantage on its side
              Avatar for Snapsort Snapsort (2:35 AM, April 13, 2011)
              The AF-D lenses are older design lenses, generally AF-S lenses are better. But, there are some incredible AF-D lenses, which are often inexpensive compared to other lenses. For example, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4D, 50mm f/1.8D, 85mm f/1.8D and 85mm f/1.4D are all amazing, very sharp, shallow depth of field etc. Btw, have you seen our sister site http://lenshero.com, you can explore Nikon D90 lenses for example.

              If you're serious about photography, and plan to buy several lenses, and keep your body for a while, I'd recommend the D90. The D90 also has more features and more controls available on the body, giving you more room to grow.
              NevelN (2:05 AM, April 13, 2011)
              Which would be a better investment though (D3100 vs D90) for a first time DSLR user? For me, I'm wondering about the AF motor in the D90. Are the lenses that require an AF motor (such as AF-D) better or similar to AF-S lenses by Nikon? I'm considering this since I don't want to buy another body in the next few years, and would rather save up on a variety of lenses.
              Avatar for Snapsort Snapsort (2:16 PM, March 29, 2011)
              Hi Jai, yes, the D3100 replaces the D3000, you can see that on our page about the Nikon D3000. Yes the D90 is still an awesome camera, but the D7000 is even better, see our comparison of the Nikon D7000 vs D90.
              Jai (7:56 AM, March 29, 2011)
              D3100 replaces D3000 not D90. D90 is still superb photography aside. even though it was released 4 years ago it still matches the photographers itch and a very good pro level cam.

              on the other hand D7000 replaces D90 which definitely will beat D90. Agree?
              Tingchuy, Wilson (5:10 AM, March 14, 2011)
              hi everyone! i have d3100 and it is 3 months old already and i'm planing to buy a new d90. Do you it's worth it to sell my d3100 and buy a d90?
              Avatar for Snapsort Snapsort (10:57 PM, March 01, 2011)
              If you are looking for a lens then you can check out our sister site LensHero.com, you should be able to find some great lenses that work with both the D90 or the D3100.

              I own the D90 and love it! The D3100 and it is also a great camera, the biggest difference is that the D3100 doesn’t have a focus motor. This means you will need to spend more on lenses, because you will have to buy lenses with a motor built in if you would like to have your camera autofocus.
              Piyush_bond007 (6:42 PM, March 01, 2011)
              hi...i am a beginner...i don't know which lens will be more appropriate for me .Can you tell me which DSLR will be sufficient for me whether d3100 or d90.And suppose if i take d3100 , is there any scope for making a better camera?
              Pras (5:10 AM, February 13, 2011)
              Buying the 3100 with 55-300 mm lens makes more sesnse than the D90 for an amateur.
              Avatar for Snapsort Snapsort (11:24 PM, February 09, 2011)
              Hi April, check out the comparison above, it shows the Nikon D90 has a slight edge in image quality over the D3100. The D3100 is a lot cheaper though, and its just about as good (I doubt you'd notice any difference).
              April (6:54 PM, February 09, 2011)
              My bad it has the new sensor. I'm not sure if thats the same as a processor ( I guess I'm thinking computer hear) Like I said I'm a newbie.
              April (6:41 PM, February 09, 2011)
              I'm getting the Nikon D 3100. Its in my price range and I have heard that the upgraded prosseser is better and will make better quality pictures then the D 90. I'm a newbie so mabey I don't know what I'm talking about. It's my first DLSR. So I think the Nikon D 3100 would be the best camera to learn on. Hopefully once I get the hang of using a DLSR I will be able to up grade in a few years.
              Avatar for Snapsort Snapsort (6:18 PM, February 08, 2011)
              Hi Clag77, I think many people just use the kit lens. The kit lenses are good all-round lenses. If you know which lenses you want, then I'd suggest skipping the kit lens to save $.