Nikon D3100 gets new 14 MP sensor which is cleaner in high ISO setting than Canon T1i which get sensor similar to Canon 50D. Nikon D3100 also get a better overall score in DXOmark lab test. D3100 produces better image quality.
CAMERA BODY & QUALITY
Both cameras are made by plastic and rubber for better grip. I prefer Nikon D3100 buttons instead of T1i’s button because the latter is too plasticky and shiny.
Like Nikon D3000, D3100 still has 230k 3″ inch LCD screen. This is disappointment because Canon T1i already has hi-res 920k resolution screen.
Both cameras has roughly equal in viewfinder size and quality.
Overall, Canon T1i has better built quality mainly because it has much better LCD screen.
Canon T1i has better interface because it has two important dedicated buttons, WB and ISO. On the other hand, in D3100, you need to access the menu to change WB or ISO. Or you can set Fn (function) button for ISO/WB.
I generally like Canon menu system more because it is better categorized and easy to find important setting without having to press to many times.
However, Nikon D3100 has new drive mode lever under mode dial which is a nice addition. Live view switch and dedicated movie record button is better than Canon one because you might less likely to hit the button accidentally like Canon live view button.
Overall, I like Canon T1i interface a bit better than Nikon D3100’s
SIZE & WEIGHT
Both cameras have almost similar size and weight. It is a tie.
Canon T1i has better overall performance than Nikon D3100, it starts up faster, has faster auto focus and less shutter lag. Canon T1i also shoot faster continuous burst and has a bigger buffer. T1i wins this category easily.
Both cameras are able to produce Full HD 1080p video, but Nikon D3100 can record @ 24 fps than T1i’s 20 fps. So, D3100’s video in 1080 resolution will be smoother. However, in 720p they are about the same.
Both cameras does not have full manual exposure control during video recording, but you can always use exposure compensation to get the desired exposure.
Nikon D3100 has improved auto focus in live view mode and offer continuous auto focus while recording video. In practice, this feature is still far from perfect and almost unusable in many circumstances.
D3100 is slightly better in this department.
Canon and Nikon are leading DSLR company in the world with a lot of support around the world ans has plenty lenses and accessories. However, Nikon D3100 does not has built-in autofocus motor, therefore, when you mount older Nikon lenses you can’t activate auto focus. Canon also offers more lenses and generally cheaper than Nikon counterpart.
Canon T1i / 500D is a better camera because it has better camera body, interface, performance and ecosystem, while Nikon D3100 is better in image quality and video quality. But if image quality is the utmost important for you, then Nikon D3100 is a better choice.
Canon T1i vs Nikon D3100 comparison table
|Canon T1i||Nikon D3100|
|Image||15 MP / APS-C Sensor||14 MP / APS-C Sensor|
|LCD||3 inch, 920k resolution||3 inch, 230k|
|Auto Focus||9 AF points||11 AF points|
|ISO||ISO 100-6400, Auto 100-1600||ISO 100-12800, good up to 3200, adjustable auto ISO limit|
|Movie recording||720p @ 30 fps, 1080 @ 20 fps full manual exposure||Full HD 1080i @ 24 fps, 720 @ 24 / 25 fps|
|Continuous shooting||3.4 fps, buffer 170 JPG / 9 RAW||3 fps, buffer about 100 JPG|
|Handling/Control||Dedicated WB button, ISO button, creative auto mode||Release mode lever, guide mode|
|Body material||Plastic + Rubber||Plastic + Rubber|
|Size/Weight||129 x 98 x 62 mm / 450 g (1.0 lb) without battery||124 x 96 x 74.5 mm / 455 g (1 lb) without battery|
|Viewfinder||95% coverage, .87x magnification||95% coverage, .8x magnification|