Nikon D3200 vs D5100 Musings

I was in the market for a new camera about 3 months ago, my old one being a Canon with 8 megapixels and feeling its age.

For my price range, I'd finally narrowed down my choices and was going to jump ship away from Canon in favor of Nikon's D3200. Just one thing made me hesitate - the D5100.

The price is very similar, with the D5100 only around £50 at the time of writing.

But the D5100 is older technology you say... but the choice really isn't so clear cut. So I'm going to cut throught the jargon and try to point out the differences in palin English!

Let's look at the basic standout features of each first (there really aren't that many as they are so similar):

Nikon D5100

Nikon D5100

ISO Sensitivity:

At 100 - 6400, it's slightly better at low light settings than the D3200, so one up for the D5100, but only really a factor if shooting indoors most of the time.

LCD screen:

The D5100 has a kind of 'tilt-and-swivel' screen, whereby the screen is hinged when pulled out, an attempt by Nikon to steal back some on Canon's thunder. Not sure this would be a deal-breaker for me though as I'm more of a viewfinder kind of guy!

Battery Life:

The D5100 is good for around 660 shots, against the D3200's 540 shots. Most likely has to do with the greater processing required on the D3200 due to it having 24 megapixels against the D5100's 16 megapixels.

Weight:

The D5400 ways around 60g more than the D3200, which may not sound like much, but being bulkier as well due to the new screen deisgn, could be quite noticeable when out in the field.

Nikon D3200

D3200

Video:

Although both cameras are capable of shooting at full HD (1920 x 1080p), the D3200 is much more flexible where frame rates are concerned. It can also shoot in 720p - the advantage? Well, at 720p, it can shoot at 60 frames per second, which makes it much better for shooing slow-motion video. The D5100 can only shoot in full HD.

Resolution:

Probably the biggest difference between them on paper, The D3200 shoots at 24.2MP, against the D5100's 16.1MP. Again, not a deal-breaker unless you do lots of cropping and wish to make large-format prints, but still a nice-to-have.

Portability:

At nearly 60g lighter and slightly smaller all round, it just has to be better for field work.

Newer Technology:

The D3200 has 2 feature the D5100 doesn't: a wireless sync for syncing to your tablet over the W-Fi network, and a GPS feature for Geo-tagging your photos automatically.

Price:

50 bucks is 50 bucks!

See my comparison chart for full list of differences.

Conclusion

The winner for me hands down was the D3200 as I tend to do field work predominantly.

The slow-motion video improvement also appealed, as did the wireless sync and the GPS features - I'm a sucker for technology!

However, having said that, if you're an indoor photographer, you may be swayed by the D5100's better ISO range, as you'll most likely prefer the improved ISO range.

Hope this was helpful to you all!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.

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Comments

Total comments: 3
Michael 59
By Michael 59 (3 weeks ago)

I've had a D5100 for over a year now and love it. It delivers great photos and has so many features you may never use them all. I recently purchased a D3200 as a combination backup camera and one with a higher MP count that would allow tighter cropping. I put the camera to the test by taking some of the same shots I take or have taken with my 5100 and have to say that I'm a bit disappointed. For what the 3200 cost, I didn't get enough of a difference to make it worth it. I did see a slight increase in the image size and was able to crop a bit tighter without loosing too much resolution, but not what I had expected or had hoped for from 24MP. Maybe I'm just spoiled or used to the 5100 and all it's bells and whistles. I'm considering returning the 3200 and just use my 5100 with my old D60 as backup. If you already have a good 16MP camera "such as the 5100" now and thinking about upgrading to the 3200, i say stay with what you have.

0 upvotes
JD Juta
By JD Juta (7 months ago)

We buy DSLR for one thing only: quality. Low light performance is bound to be better with the D5100 with higher usable ISO and less pixels. More pixels = more noise at high ISO without flash.

From a D5100 owner who compared these two cameras.

0 upvotes
Mkins
By Mkins (9 months ago)

Great review and I know $50.00 is $50.00.
But at the same time I feel you can advance much further with the D5100. I actually did a comparison of the 2 as well at http://www.squidoo.com/why-nikon-d5100-vs-d3200-or-canon-t4i-a-beginner-photographers-dream-or-delemma. I also included the Canon t4i. Because I thought for the price difference on the Canon t4i you might as well go for the Nikon D5100 kit that is being offered.

2 upvotes
Total comments: 3