Canon 1100D or Nikon D3100 as a budget DSLR?


Well this is a bold review and a step up from remote cables and wifi cards but at these prices you may well be interested in upgrading!

When I first bought my 300D 10 years ago (as I featured here) I paid just under £1000 for it and now you can get the same thing for around £250! It’s not a wonder more and more people are dabbling in SLR cameras and with that comes even more need for sites like this to educate, anyway I digress.

So, if you have a camera that’s looking rather tired, one of these could be spot on for you.

Now, I’ve only had a little play with these in John Lewis yesterday so I can’t compare image quality but I know there won’t be anything between these two manufacturers.

“A gift that keeps on giving”


I love this idea, that it’s a gift that keeps on giving, and it’s so true! I heard it on the John Lewis YouTube advert above but giving a camera as a gift is so big, you’re opening up the world of photography that can be so rewarding, as hopefully you know.

What’s great about these two cameras is they wont break the bank, and you need to be clear about your budget as it’s so easy to creep up the range and spend more than you intended.

Which camera should I choose?

Well as the title suggests we are looking here at the Canon 1100D and the Nikon D3100. I strongly recommend you stay with one of these two manufacturers unless you already have lenses for another. If you visit a store, don’t get sucked into the gadgets or features of any other make, Canon and Nikon are so far ahead of anyone else and as you develop in your photography and either add lenses or upgrade your camera, everything is compatible and will move up with you. Their range of lenses is huge and the second hand market on sites like eBay confirms that.

Canon or Nikon?

As a Canon user for over 10 years I am biased here but in the same way a BMW owner would be if asked ‘BMW or Mercedes?’ For me, I went down the Canon route simply because the 300D was the only digital SLR under £1000 when I started out but now I’m 5 cameras on I’m used to the layouts and have built up lenses and accessories so I would need a really strong reason to move away from them. Ask a Nikon user the same question and they’d be as passionate about their brand.

Now, if we were looking at £5000+ cameras and had a specific niche like Motorsports photography we might be able to get really picky and actually determine which truly is best, but remember we’re looking at entry-level cameras here and I assure you both are pretty much as good in terms of performance.

What are the differences?

Without getting too technical on you here are a few of the stats in a comparison chart. Now I have included the next model up to each so you can see the difference and if you can afford to you may prefer to pay a little extra for the upgrade.

[table id=2 /]

Ok, so what’s to be said about these cameras. Firstly, looking between the Canon 1100D and the Nikon D3100, there’s little to choose between them, and although currently show the Nikon at £328, John Lewis show it as £279 on their site so even in price there’s really no difference.

NOTE: what might change the prices is whether or not the 18-55 lens has IS (image stabilising), that will make at least £30 difference to the cost. I have listed on the chart whether or not the lens has this but options on other stores may vary (Nikon refer to it as VR – Vibration Reduction). I don’t want to go into great detail about Image stabilising lenses here, you could Google it if you choose but the idea simply is that it takes some of the shake or vibration from the camera and therefore allows you to shoot at a lower shutter speed without blurring your image. This doesn’t take blur from a moving subject, rather the shaking of the camera – you! Now this will help you by shooting at a lower shutter speed so I’m not saying don’t bother, however I’ve never had IS on any of my pro lenses and don’t miss it. If £30ish isn’t going to dissuade you from your purchase I guess I’d say have it.

How do they compare?

On paper, the Nikon looks the stronger contender although the differences aren’t hugely significant. The screen is slightly larger on the back, the resolution slightly higher, the video (if you plan to use it) is 1080 rather than 720 and the biggest difference is the maximum ISO level. That has to be the biggest disappointment for me with the 1100D, it only goes up to 6400. Now you may be wondering ‘what is ISO?’ Well, I have an article on this as it’s a key part of setting your exposure. Being able to select a high ISO allows you to keep your shutter speed faster even in lower light situations, for example capturing movement on stage in the school play without the kids being blurred. That said, this is a £270 DSLR so you really can’t complain and you’re unlikely to push the ISO this high in 95% of situations.

How did they feel?

me playing with camerasI’m used to handling a big heavy pro camera so these both felt very small and light in my hand (even though they were cabled to the desk). Now that may be a plus to you of course, they’re certainly very portable.

The 1100D has a smooth rubbery finish unlike the 600D which takes more style from the bigger models. The controls were very obvious as a Canon user and all where were I wanted them to be. I’m less interested in changing pre-shoot settings like image file size but if I want to change the aperture, shutter speed and spot for focussing while I have my eye in the view finder they need to be very handy, and they were.

The Nikon was less obvious to me but I guess that’s because I don’t have any experience with them. On a Canon the main scroll wheel is up next to my ‘shooting’ finger but on the Nikon I have to use my thumb on the back. I couldn’t work out how to change the focus point either and gave up in the end. It felt very wrong to me but as I said above, a Nikon user may feel the same way holding a Canon camera.

The Nikon lens felt chunkier too although this doesn’t reflect on the image quality.

In Summary

Honestly, I’m being picky to separate these two. One very key factor to consider that I haven’t mentioned is what do friends or family may have. For instance if a good friend has a Canon and you can share lenses from time to time, and they may be able to put you right easier, then go for Canon. If you’re upgrading from an old Nikon then it makes sense to stay Nikon, but it would be worth checking about compatibility first, not all film lenses will upgrade, you may find you lose autofocus etc.

“The Nikon D3200 wins!”

I am a Canon man, and always will be so for me, as Kevin Bacon would say ‘it’s a no-brainer’. If I had no existing camera kit or friends with Canon kit, honestly I would probably go down the Nikon route based purely on these two contenders, in fact I’d go for the newer D3200 for the difference in megapixels and screen resolution.


Now I did put the next model up for each camera as certainly the D3100 will soon be phased out and replaced by the D3200 so it’s not the next range up, just a good upgrade. The 600D on the other hand is a jump in range and has some lovely additional features including the 4 times higher resolution pull out screen which is gorgeous. If I were looking at the two Canon models and could afford to go for the 600D, I would but it’s quite a jump. Remember what I said at the start, if this is a gift for a teenager or you aren’t going to be using it that much, stay with the 1100D.

Haha, I hope I haven’t left you totally confused!

If I have and you want to ask me anything about these please do reply in the comments and I’ll happily help you.


Where can you buy them?

As always, I’m linking to Amazon as their system is very easy to shop on. That said, this is one purchase you may want to visit a store for and if you’re in the UK I strongly recommend you buy from John Lewis as you get a further year free warranty and the staff tend to know what they’re talking about. If you’re happy to shop online then I’d appreciate you linking through here as I get a small introductory commission from Amazon which hopefully you’ll feel I’ve earned.


Canon 1100D on – click here

Canon 600D on – click here

Nikon D3100 on – click here

Nikon D3200 on – click here

Canon 1100D (Rebel T3) on – click here

Canon 600D (Rebel T3i) on – click here

Nikon D3100 on – click here

Nikon D3200 on – click here

NOTE: Both manufacturers currently have Cashback offers on at time of writing this so prices may vary.


Well as always, please let me know how you get on, I hope this has been helpful.