If you're an enthusiast photographer and want to learn more about how to take photos in different situations, there is probably no better camera to get your hands on than the Nikon D3000.

The Nikon D3000 is an inexpensive digital SLR camera with manual features, but it also packs a useful Guide mode that you can use to change the camera's settings for different scenarios.

The Guide mode is much better than reading the Nikon D3000's manual: you can just bring it up anytime, anywhere, and follow the on-screen instructions to get the shot you desire. You don't even need to learn anything from it - just follow the steps. But if you do pay attention to the settings that can be changed for each particular type of shot, then you can park the mode dial in manual mode and adjust each variable for yourself.

The Nikon D3000's body doesn't have as many dedicated dials and buttons as a mid-range digital SLR, but you quickly learn what you need to do in order to change the settings swiftly. The body has a thumb dial for changing the shutter speed and lens aperture, and you can use the LCD's on-screen menu to manipulate the ISO speed, exposure compensation, white balance, metering and focus mode. It has a relatively small body for a digital SLR (approximately 12.2cm wide, 9.6cm tall and 7.7cm deep), but of course, it will become bloated depending on the lens you choose to attach.

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It will accept any Nikon DX-format lens and will autofocus with AF-S type lenses, but not with AF types. It's best to use lenses with built-in vibration reduction, as the Nikon D3000's body does not have optical image stabilisation built in. The sensor of the camera is 10.2 megapixels, which is more than enough pixels for printing large photos.

Photos can be composed through the optical viewfinder and they can be played back on the 3in LCD screen. The screen sits in a fixed position on the back of the body, so it can't be flipped out and rotated like the screen on the Nikon D5000, for example. Furthermore, the Nikon D3000 does not support LiveView, which means you can't take video nor shoot still images in the same way you would with a compact camera's LCD viewfinder.

The lack of a flip-out screen and video mode might be seen as a drawback by some, but we prefer looking through the viewfinder, especially on sunny days. We don't care much for the video mode on still cameras, either. But if you do want video, then the Nikon D5000 is a better proposition.

NEXT: testing the Nikon D3000