The “Worst DSLR – Ever”?

This is Abby's Nikon D3000. Note that she keeps a green aluminum carabiner on the right camera strap.  When she's hiking, she locks it though her belt loop, so it doesn't fall forward when she leans or climbs.
This is Abby’s Nikon D3000. Note that she keeps a green aluminum carabiner on the right camera strap. When she’s hiking, she locks it though her belt loop, so it doesn’t fall forward when she leans or climbs.

In October 2010, my wife Abby was spending a weekend attending her family’s annual reunion in Duncan, Oklahoma. I planned to join her late Saturday night, since I was working during the day.

She called me Saturday afternoon to tell me, with quite a bit of frustration, that her beloved Nikon D70S, her main Digital Single Lens Reflex (DLSR) camera since the summer of 2005, was dying. It was seizing up every few frames, and she was missing much of the reunion’s entertainment, a donkey ride. I told her I would bring one of my cameras for her, but it occurred to me that she would need a replacement. I knew that Staples and Wal Mart both had some Nikon D3000 cameras in stock, since I had handled them a couple of times passing through the electronics departments. On my way out of town for the drive to Duncan, I bought one for her.

The D3000 is quite small as DSLRs go, and lightweight as well. It came with a plasticky 18-55mm, but Abby’s Tamron 18-270mm, although heavier, is her usual go-to lens.

Abby shot this Ada Magazine cover photo with her Nikon D3000.
Abby shot this Ada Magazine cover photo with her Nikon D3000.

A couple of weeks after the reunion, Abby gave the D3000 its first trial by fire, on our sixth anniversary vacation. She carried and shot the D3000 the whole trip, and it seemed perfect for her. It was small and light, versatile and fun. The images we got from it were very satisfying. She kept shooting with it, and I tapped her, as I sometimes do, to shoot a couple of magazine covers with it, and they looked great. In December 2011, Abby was my second shooter at my sister’s wedding, with the D3000 and the excellent DX-Nikkor 35mm f/1.8. Aside from some difficult noise at ISO 3200, which was easier solved since we shot RAW files, the images were great. I shot with it sometimes too, and I honestly couldn’t find very many flaws with it.

So I was genuinely surprised when I was clicking through some of the reviews on the pages of KenRockwell.com and saw that the Nikon D3000 was “the worst DLSR – ever.” Were we talking about the same camera? You can read the review here. I wish we had known it was the “worst DSLR ever,” so we wouldn’t have made all those beautiful pictures with it.

Years ago I shot with the Nikon D1, and even in its heyday, it was a piece of crap. You could call it innovative or groundbreaking, but it wasn’t a great image maker. We used the D1 because that’s all we had, and in that context, we made great images anyway. It was without a doubt the worst DLSR ever, unless you count the appallingly terrible NC-2000 of mid-1990s vintage. The D3000 is better than those cameras in every way, even when adjusted for era.

Abby captured this bumble bee among flowers at the famous San Francisco de Asis Mission in Taos, New Mexico.
Abby captured this bumble bee among flowers at the famous San Francisco de Asis Mission in Taos, New Mexico.

I hate to pull rank here, but I am credentialed. I am a multi-award-winning news photographer with more than 30 years of experience. I am a seasoned photography instructor. I am a magazine editor. Ken Rockwell is well-heeled as well, but as an engineer and technologist. As far as I know, he hasn’t, at least not recently, worked in the daily grind of professional imaging. Mostly, though, he is an internet equipment reviewer with opinions that frequently contradict each other. And his portfolio, at least the one he displays on his web site, is mediocre at best.

One of Ken’s biggest fallacies is his potent criticism of certain cameras combined with his contention that “your camera does not matter.” I think that to people like Ken Rockwell, the camera probably matters more than anything. For me, when my students come to class with 10-year-old point-and-shoot cameras, I tell them, truthfully, that they won’t make pictures with their camera, they will make pictures with their hearts and minds and imaginations, using those cameras.

The Nikon D3000 is about four years old, but if you picked one up on the used market,  I would recommend it.
The Nikon D3000 is about four years old, but if you picked one up on the used market, I would recommend it.

 

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1 Comment

  1. I’m glad to hear your wife is talented enough to make excellent images with the “worst DSLR Nikon has ever made”. 😉

    I remember when Canon released the Rebel XTi (400D) and thousands of Rebel XT (350D) users instantly proclaimed that the new version was horrible. Same thing when they replaced the 50D with the 60D (which I now own). The 60D was “craptastic” and “made of plastic like the Rebels” and “doesn’t have any of the features that made the 50D great”. Yet I’m managing to take better photos than I ever have before.

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