d3100 is certainly catered towards beginners, but best is if u head down to the stores or NSC if possible to try it out and see if it suits ur preferences.
d5100 and d7000 r great alternatives if u can stretch ur budget a lil further
another thing to note that both d3100 and d5100 lack in-built AF motor, which means u can only use lenses with in-built motor to perform AF (AF-S or AF-I lenses). there r still screw-driven AF (AF-D) lenses in production n they r generally cheaper than the AF-S lenses. if this is a serious limiting factor to u, get the d7000.
D5100 and D3100 are very much similar. I had a hard time using the d5100 as all the shortcuts buttons are not present. They are all hidden in the menu. Ultimately, you'll forget to change some settings when doing different kind of shoots. If you can, get either the d90 or d7000. You'll have more controls coming from this two camera. D90 may be old. But as a beginner, you have easier access to the controls and all. At least make it habit to learn to use such settings to get different results.
Different people like different things. Same for beginners. Some beginners go for D700 or even D3s. Some beginners go for PnS. So it really depends on what you like. It is better if you go to Nikon Service Center at Fuji Xerox building at Anson road. Do some hands-on trying and see what you really like. Just bring your own memory card (SD for D3100 to D7000, CF for D300s to D3s).
D3100 is design as an entry level DSLR, with all the scene mode built in, it also have other exposure modes too, even you are seriously into photography it should able last you for a good few years, of course by that time you should know what you are really looking for.
Any modern dslr including the D3100 can produce great pictures.
You just need to spend more time reading and practicing, that's all.
Anybody who tells you that the D3100, being a beginner's camera and thus not able to give good pictures, is lying and probably not very capable.
Here's a link to give you an idea what the D3100 can do.
I have been using D3100 since april 2011. being new to photography myself, the D3100 offers me the learning opportunities w/o high cost. I have brought it overseas with me and it had served me well. Overall the D3100 is still a great camera to start with for your learning journey.
For every each price point, Nikon has enabled or disabled features in a progressive manner. The D3100 is priced to sell. It comes with a highly capable wide to normal AFS lens with vibration reduction. Using plastics for parts it is also very light and quiet. Its sensor is sensitive at ISO 3200 which many cams struggle at. Makes a good travel camera for light weight and small loss if stolen. Go and find from those art schools what the students are buying as they often have limited budget. Their popular choice should qualify as a beginners cam.
I recently bought a used one, for my backup, and found out i'm using it more than i thought i would. It's relatively small & light, so v.nice to use. U can try getting a used one, and pair it with nikon afs 35mm or afs 50mm lens. U can easily get good photos
Wish you all the best!
Remember that the best camera is the one you have in your hands when a situation presents itself
D3100 is a very light (compared with its bigger siblings) and compact DSLR. I'm sure it will last you for quite some time.
Set yourself a budget and stick to it as best you can... the BBB virus is hard to cure most times
Often the other stuff you end up buying (lenses, flash, tripod, accessories, etc) can cost you much more than the camera itself, so plan wisely.
Well it was an easy switch over from PnS for my GF when i bought the D3100 for her... But the actual fact was I wanted to get one. Her PnS cybershot is not in the drawer collecting dust until recently I took it out for normal carry around use.