Previous page Next page

Nikon D5100 In-depth Review

Buy on GearShop


Review based on a production Nikon D5100, Firmware A 1.00, B 1.00

The arrival of the D5100 appears to signal the completion of Nikons refresh of its non-pro DSLR lineup. Its feature set and pricing mean that it sits very comfortably between the beginner-friendly D3100 and the high-end D7000 - it's clearly aimed to attract the attention of enthusiast photographers without cannibalizing sales of is sister models. A camera maker can judge the success of its market positioning by seeing how many people are wondering 'which model is right for me?' on discussion forums - and we think a D3100/D5100/D7000 progression would minimize such doubts. The official line is that the D90 maintains its position in the range, but both its naming and overlap with other models suggest that its role is now more one of historical interest than future significance.

The D5100 has a very similar 16.2MP CMOS sensor to the excellent one seen in the D7000 but, understandably, loses out on that camera's high-end build and feature-set. So there's no wireless flash control, magnesium alloy build or 39-point AF system but the underlying image quality is all but identical.

As has become standard for a Nikon at this price point, the D5100 offers a single control dial, pentamirror viewfinder and no built-in autofocus motor. However, it gains 1080p video capability (at 30, 25 or 24fps), saved using the efficient H.264/AVC codec, and a 920,000 dot fully articulated LCD panel to help shoot it. These are both significant gains over its predecessor the D5000, and the improvements extend to the D5100 having smaller, neater construction and a more conventional side-mounted hinge for that LCD.

These changes resolve two rather awkward aspects of Nikon's existing lineup: if the D5100 and D7000 end up being neighboring models it will avoid the inelegant overlap that existed between the D5000 and D90. It also ensures a more elegant appearance to the models themselves (the D5000 was many things, but pretty wasn't one of them).

Although the D5100 is listed as having an Expeed 2 processor, it's worth remembering that Nikon doesn't use this naming system to denote any specific components, so the actual chunks of silicon and capabilities aren't necessarily the same as those in the D3100 or D7000. However, in addition to a similarly specced 16.2MP sensor, the D5100 offers the same ISO settings as its big brother - extending up to an equivalent of ISO 25,600. It also inherits 14-bit Raw shooting - one of the factors that helps give the D7000 its impressive dynamic range - which is something Nikon used to offer only on its more expensive models.

Side by side

The D5100 is slightly smaller than the Rebel T3i/EOS 600D - probably its nearest competitor. Both are slightly larger than the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2, which is built around a smaller sensor, and of course lacks an optical viewfinder assembly (instead using a high quality electronic finder). Ergonomically, the G2 is the most 'involved', and has the most physical control points and a touch-sensitive LCD screen, but overall the three cameras are physically quite similar.

Nikon D5100 Key Features

  • 16.2 megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor
  • Side-articulated 3.0" LCD monitor (920,000 dots)
  • 11 AF points (with 3D tracking)
  • IS0 100-6400 range (Up to 25,600 equivalent when expanded)
  • HD movies (1080p, 720p or WVGA)
  • 4 fps continuous shooting
  • In-camera effects filters in both stills and video modes

Compared to D5000

The D5100 is a smaller and (we think) more attractive camera than its predecessor the D5000. It is less bulbous, and closer to the D3100 and D7000 in terms of styling. The most significant design difference is the addition of a side-hinging LCD screen in the D5100, as opposed to the bulkier (and more awkward) bottom-hinged LCD used in the D5000.



Key Differences

  • Higher resolution sensor (16.2MP vs. 14MP)
  • 1080p video mode
  • Wider ISO range (100-25,600 equivalent)
  • Full-time AF mode (AF-F in live view)
  • Dual IR receivers (front and rear)
  • Side-articulated LCD screen (as opposed to bottom-articulated)
  • 921k dot LCD screen
  • 14-bit NEF (Raw) mode
  • Effects modes

Compared to the D3100 and D5000: major feature and specification differences

As you can see from the table below the D5100's specification is a significant advance over its predecessor, and substantially in advance of its little brother the D3100.

 

Nikon D3100

Nikon 5100

Nikon D5000
Sensor  • 14.2 million effective pixels
 • 23.1 x 15.4 mm CMOS (DX format)
 • 16.2 million effective pixels
 • 23.6 x 15.6 mm CMOS (DX format)
 • 12.3 million effective pixels
 • 23.6 x 15.8 mm CMOS (DX format)
Image sizes  • 4608 x 3072 (14.2 MP)
 • 3456 x 2304
 • 2304 x 1536
 • 4928 x 3264 (16.2MP)
 • 3696 x 2448
 • 2464 x 1632
 • 4288 x 2848 (12 MP)
 • 3216 x 2136
 • 2144 x 1424
Movie mode  • 1080p24
 • 720p30/25/24
 • 424p24
 • 1080p30/25/24
 • 720p30/25/24
 • 424p30/24
• 720p24
Sensor cleaning  • Image Sensor Cleaning
 • Airflow control system
 • Image Dust Off reference data (optional Capture NX 2 software required)
 • Image Sensor Cleaning
 • Airflow control system
 • Image Dust Off reference data (optional Capture NX 2 software required)
 • Image Sensor Cleaning
 • Airflow control system
 • Image Dust Off reference data (optional Capture NX 2 software required)
AF drive mode  • AF-A
 • AF-S
 • AF-C
 • MF
 • AF-F (Live view only)
 • AF-A
 • AF-S
 • AF-C
 • MF
 • AF-F (Live view only)
 • AF-A
 • AF-S
 • AF-C
 • MF
Sensitivity  • ISO 100 - 3200
 • To ISO 12800 with boost
 • ISO 100 - 6400
 • To ISO 25600 with boost
 • ISO 200 - 3200
 • ISO 100-6400 with boost
Continuous  • 3 fps  • 4 fps
 • 100 / 16 frames
   (Fine JPEG / RAW)
 • 4 fps
 • 63 / 11 frames
   (Fine JPEG / RAW)
AE bracketing No Yes Yes
Viewfinder magnification  • 0.8x  • 0.78x  • 0.78x
Viewfinder Frame coverage  • Approx. 95%  • Approx. 95%  • Approx. 95%
LCD monitor  • 3.0" TFT LCD
 • 230,000 pixel TFT
 • 3.0" TFT LCD
 • 921,000 pixel TFT
 • Articulated
 • 2.7" TFT LCD
 • 230,000 pixel TFT
 • Articulated
Dimensions 124 x 96 x 74.5 mm
(4.9 x 3.7 x 3.0 in)
128 x 97 x 79 mm
(5.0 x 3.8 x 3.1in)
127 x 104 x 80 mm
(5.0 x 4.1 x 3.1 in)
Weight  • No battery: 455g (1.0 lb)
 • With battery: 505g (1.1 lb)
 • No battery: 510g (1.1 lb)
 • With battery: 560g (1.2 lb.)
 • No battery: 560g (1.2 lb.)
 • With battery: 611g (1.3 lb.)
Image processing engine  • Expeed 2
 • 12 bit
 • Expeed 2
 • 14 bit
 • Expeed
 • 12 bit
Active D-lighting On/Off Auto, Extra high, High, Normal, Low, or Off Auto, Extra high, High, Normal, Low, or Off
In-camera retouching  • D-Lighting
 • Red-eye reduction
 • Trimming
 • Monochrome & filter  effects
 • Color balance
 • Small picture
 • Image overlay
 • NEF (RAW) processing
 • Quick retouch
 • Straighten
 • Distortion control
 • Fisheye
 • Color outline
 • Perspective control
 • Miniature effect
 • Edit movie 
 • D-Lighting
 • Red-eye reduction
 • Trimming
 • Monochrome & filter effects
 • Color balance
 • Image overlay
 • NEF (RAW) processing
 • Resize
 • Quick retouch
 • Straighten
 • Distortion control
 • Fisheye
 • Color outline
 • Color sketch
 • Perspective control
 • Miniature effect
 • Selective Color
 • Edit movie
 • Side-by-side comparison
 • D-Lighting
 • Red-eye reduction
 • Trimming
 • Monochrome & filter effects
 • Color balance
 • Small picture
 • Image overlay
 • NEF (RAW) processing
 • Quick retouch
 • Straighten
 • Distortion control
 • Fisheye
 • Color outline
 • Perspective control

Foreword / notes

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read some of our Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / recommendation / ratings are based on the opinion of the author, we recommend that you read the entire review before making any decision. Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of them, click to display a larger image in a new window.

To navigate this article simply use the next / previous page buttons or jump to a specific page by using the drop-down list in the navigation bar at the top of the page. You can support this site by ordering through the affiliate links shown at the bottom of each page (where available).

This article is protected by Copyright and may not be reproduced in part or as a whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

Dpreview use calibrated monitors at the PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally also A, B and C.

 
Previous page Next page
875
I own it
71
I want it
138
I had it
Discuss in the forums

Comments