Defective sample of D5100 or sad reality?

Started Dec 9, 2011 | Discussions thread
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Chris and Laura
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Defective sample of D5100 or sad reality?
Dec 9, 2011

Hi everyone, have been reading dpreview forums for a few months researching, now registered because we are about to pull the trigger on a purchase and suffered a rude awakening, and so are looking for feedback.

Last night we compared side by side the Canon T3i with the D5100 in a Ritz camera store (night time, fluorescent lighting) using our own SD card which we then brought home. On each we took shots in automatic flash on and automatic flash off, and a video clip.

What I'm asking and why I'm in the Nikon forum is our shattered faith in the Nikon brand. How could the D5100 we used last night take such awful, crummy pictures? Looking for reassurance from the community that it was a bad sample, or otherwise a sad confirmation, yup the D5100 processor is underperforming.

Across the board the T3i photos looked MUCH better. "Different League" better. It was perfect in automatic flash off mode, and still excellent with flash on. At least on our home computer monitor (we haven't made any prints), the skin tone is absolutely perfect. The focus is perfect. The eye color is perfect. My wife said of the photos on the monitor screen, "that is what I see in real life with my eyes." (Talking about automatic no flash. Turning flash on hurt rather than helped.) Subject 10 feet away at max zoom 55mm. Every shot had the subject in perfect focus except the rare one where the background was in perfect focus.

The D5100 was POOR with no flash and only slightly better with flash. There was no detail. Could not see the glint off of a single strand of hair, could not see pores in the skin. Color was way off, skin was too pinkish/rosy and a bit yellow too. Worse with no flash, but not good with flash, either.

A snapshot of a print of a butterfly on canvas through the T3i looked like we were literally looking at that canvas through our computer monitor. While with the D5100, the flower was green instead of yellow, the butterfly wings' saturation/brightness was radically different, uneven, and unnatural while looking at red vs gray, and you couldn't clearly see the pattern of the canvas. Color radically wrong and focus weak. There was no way for the autofocus to be confused in this case, the picture was taken from 4 feet away and the subject completely filled the frame.

Was there just something wrong with that particular D5100 unit? Should the focus have been sharper? Did not take a perfectly focused razor sharp shot the entire night with the D5100. (The one thing we didn't try was manual focus--what if the lens is actually damaged internally and impossible to focus?) And what's up with the faulty color balance?

My wife has a strong bias towards Nikon because the snapshots taken by her BIL with a D40 always look so awesome. We were set to buy the D5100 based on reviews and specs and this Nikon favoritism, but I insisted on comparing it to the Canon competitor side by side. And now we're in a quandary, because we are speechless that the T3i pictures were SO much better, as if the D5100 was a $200 point and shoot in comparison.

Oh, by the way, our use for this new camera is to replace a Canon SD870 point and shoot and a Canon Z400 camcorder. We want great low light no flash shots and videos at family gatherings--we want this to be the last camera we need to buy for at least 5 years. Wondering if we should wait yet more for a T4i from Canon, or a follow on to the D5100. Tired of missing good photos and don't really want to wait any longer!

Thanks for your insights!

Chris

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