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Nikon D5100 review
The Nikon D5100 is the company's latest 'upper-entry-level' DSLR aimed at beginners or those wanting a step-up from a basic budget model. Announced in April 2011, it comes exactly two years after its predecessor, the popular D5000. The new D5100 is positioned between the entry-level D3100 and the mid-range D7000, and goes head-to-head against Canon's EOS 600D / Rebel T3i.
Externally the Nikon D5100 enjoys a redesigned shape that's noticeably shorter than its predecessor and a little lighter too. Physically the biggest difference though concerns the screen round the back: it's still articulated, but taking a leaf from Canon and Panasonic, it's now hinged at the side rather than the bottom. Nikon's also upgraded the screen from the basic 2.7in / 230k panel of the D5000 to a larger and much more detailed 3in / 921k panel here.
Inside, the D5100 inherits the 16.2 Megapixel sensor of the D7000, giving it four Megapixels more than its predecessor. It also unsurprisingly now offers Full HD 1080p movie recording, although unlike the D7000 this is offered at 24, 25 or 30fps. The D5100 also offers the Full-time continuous autofocus during movies of the D3100 and D7000 before it, along with an external microphone input. Completing the headline upgrades is a new EFFECTS position on the dial which presents a variety of special effects including miniature, sketch and selective colour, along with a Night Vision option working at up to 102,400 ISO. Let's now look at the camera in more detail.
So the Nikon D5100 essentially offers three major upgrades over its predecessor: it inherits the excellent sensor of the D7000, upgrades the screen size, resolution and hinge mounting, and borrows the core movie capabilities of the D3100 and D7000, while also offering a broader selection of frame rates at 1080p and a mic input. The much preferable side-hinging for the screen has also eliminated the D5000's disproportionately tall viewfinder head, allowing Nikon to design a shorter and curvier body for the new model. In addition to this you also get the new EFFECTS mode which can be applied to some movies as well as stills, along with an HDR option.
While the viewfinder, AF system and continuous shooting remain essentially unchanged from its predecessor, the upgrades described above add up to a much improved camera experience. Revealingly most of the core improvements are focused around the Live View and movie modes, with little other than an improved sensor to tempt traditional photographers, but that's par for the course for most new entry-level DSLRs. Canon employs exactly the same strategy, essentially leaving Sony to innovate at this price point.
If you were hoping for faster continuous shooting, improved AF or a bigger viewfinder, you'll be disappointed, but by offering the D7000's quality at a lower price point with an excellent flip-out screen and a broader selection of 1080p frame rates, there's a great deal to like here. The D5100 is destined to become another big seller for Nikon, although its rival from Canon has never been closer.
I've always wanted to get deeper into photography, but I was never willing to cough up the money for a real DSLR. I wanted to have a decent camera for my upcoming honeymoon so I did my research and ended up buying the Nikon D5100, and I'm glad I did. I am nowhere near a professional photographer, so there was no need to spend a ton of money on a pro-level camera. The Nikon D5100 has been reviewed as the best upper-tier entry level camera on the market, and although I have not physically tried other cameras, I would have to agree. The D5100 has many features that higher end cameras have, yet at quite a lower price point.
The picture quality is really impressive IMHO, I have not taken a bad picture (the ones I put effort into)as of yet. The noise level has been very low from the start, and only gets a bit fuzzy with a lot of zoom, or lack of light. All other pictures are crystal clear, and for this, I give the D5100 four stars. On a side note, I have played with the F-stop, aperture, and ISO settings and have managed to reduce noise even more, but still have a lot of learning to do.
The D5100 comes in a nice compact package, and is fairly light weight. Even with a decent sized zoom lens the D5100 has a good balance to it, and doesn't feel front-heavy. The size itself is really nice, yet I have fairly large hands, and had to get used to holding on to the camera so it was fully secure in my grip. I gave this category three stars because of this. On a side note, I recently purchased a battery grip and have no issues at all holding the D5100 now. Some people may prefer the D5100 without the battery grip, but I think this is the way to go for comfort, plus extended battery life.
With all of the features that the D5100 has, I feel I couldn't go wrong with the money. For those who simply enjoy a point and shoot type of camera, the basic settings are perfect and produce quality results. For those who want to make adjustments themselves, this camera totally rocks. I still haven't tried every setting to maximum potential, but the hours I have spent tweaking this and that have produced some truly awesome results. I bought the D5100 body only, and purchased lenses of my own choice which I think is the best way to go about it if you want to get the best out of this camera. I am definitely not throwing the kit lens (18mm-55mm) under the bus, it just was not for me.
All in all, I would recommend this camera to anyone looking to enter the world of photography as well as seasoned pros who might want a less expensive camera that takes really good shots.
I bought a Nikon D5100 with these TWO "kit" lenses: 18-55 and 55-200mm. As background, I have 45 years "serious amateur" experience in photography, but little in digital photography. My first "serious" digital SLR was a SONY A100 that I bought so I could use my Minolta AF lenses. I wanted to update my camera because technology has advanced so much! It was a major decision to change camera brands because of my investment over the years in Minolta AF mount lenses. BUT, I wanted something lighter than the SONY "professional" cameras, and something with a better imaging reputation.
I shot approximately 90 test images with each of the lenses. After carefully reviewing them at 100% magnification in Photoshop, I can honestly say that only 1 of the 180 photos was genuinely sharp.
The 55-200 had trouble focusing under certain circumstances even in mid-day on a mostly cloudy day. Either the lenses, the sensor or the in camera software did a poor job with contrast and color rendition, in addition to the lack of sharpness. Neither zoom ring moved "smoothly." Both felt "rough." I understand that they are relatively cheap "kit" lenses, but I expect better from a lens with the Nikkor name!
The mirror in the SLR body did something indicative of poor design, poor quality and/or poor manufacturing. It shifted at the last moment as it seated itself. It was not aligned properly for its travel and seating.
There is something about the design of the D5100 body front where it is supposed to fit your right hand that was VERY uncomfortable for me. This could be a personal issue since hand sizes vary.
Fortunately, I was able to return the camera for a full refund!
Overall, I was EXTREMELY disappointed! I expected MUCH better from Nikon. I then bought a Canon T3i with 18-55 and 55-250mm "kit" lenses, which is roughly equivalent to the Nikon D5100 package but $100 more. I had read MANY reviews, both professional and user. They almost unanimously favored the Nikon which is why I first tried the Nikon. I have now had the Canon for about a week and shot perhaps 80 test images. Out of the 80 images, most are extremely sharp even magnified to 200% in Photoshop. While both lenses appear to focus quickly and properly in all lighting conditions, I had trouble at the 250mm end. In defense of the lens, I do NOT yet know how to change the focusing parameters and I was trying to capture either a distant deer or bird both partly hidden in a mess of branches or trees. The camera did not know what I wanted to focus on. Exposure, color and contrast rendition are excellent!
Oddly, in the full automatic setting, the camera wants to use the flash in situations that I do NOT believe call for flash. Interestingly, and useful for idiot-proof photography, in full automatic the camera's brain alters the ISO setting to afford "optimum" settings for a decent photo. They may not be the settings a knowledgeable photographer would choose, but they work!
The camera body appears to be solid, properly designed, engineered and manufactured. Unfortunately, it is slightly heavier than the Nikon, which is a major factor for me.
So far, I am very pleased with the Canon T3i. I am only pondering TWO "walk around" lenses versus buying the Tamron 18-270.
Excellent Nikon DSLR with most of the features of the much higher priced D7000. The body is plastic so not as rugged as the more advanced models and like other "consumer" Nikons, you can only auto-focus with lenses having built-in motors. Virtually all the non-pro lenses have motors so this is not a major concern to most novice and casual photographers. You don't get the more advanced focusing system and the more sophisticated flash capabilities of the more expensive models, but again the target audience won't miss these features that much. However, you do get the same sensor and LCD panel as the D7000 so picture taking quality is just as superb. The articulated LCD panel comes in handy in some situations as I found out in framing a difficult shot in the woods. And I love the HDR setting for helping exposure in high-contrast situations though the need to reset every time is somewhat bothersome . The camera can take 1080p movies and the interface is sophisticated for a consumer model. Live View is excellent for a DSLR. Controls and menus are not as smooth as the larger cameras but functional. As numerous reviews have pointed out, the lack of ISO and White Balance buttons are annoying, but again for the target consumer not a big negative.
I have been a Nikon photographer, part time pro and full time enthusiast, for most of my life, and I am surprised to find that the D5100 is the best camera I have ever owned! I was really reluctant to buy it because of the lack of a top screen, buttons and focus motor, but I have never been happier. It has a seemingly endless list of features including HDR, which no other Nikon has. I read the reviews and did not think I would use HDR much, but I was wrong. I put in on my function button! The low light capability is nothing short of astounding! I used to work so hard with my monopod to get good twilight shots, but now I can handhold and get better results. The exposure has probably surprised me the most. It is always correct, 99.9%. This is the first Nikon I have not had to bracket with. Battery life is better than advertised too, but I always use an external flash when I need one. So bottom line, if you are like me and afraid to "move down," take the reviews with a grain of salt. This is an incredible camera, better in every way that matters to me, and you quickly get used to working the menus and learning to not look at the top of the camera. My only wish is that it was a little bigger, but that is just my preference.
I have been shooting with the Nikon D60 for a year and a half and have been more than satisfied with the results. It originally came with the 18-55 lens and I also got a 55-200 but those were upgraded to a 18-105 and a 70-300 over the past year. I have now had the D5100 for four weeks, received for a milestone birthday, and I absolutely love it. For me it provided everything I needed without having to reach up to the D7000.
The image captures from the D5100 using either the 105 or the 300 are very very high quality. The D5100 has the same image sensor as the D7000, which is a nice benefit. When I go out to shoot, I shoot. It is nothing to snap two or three hundred clicks in very short order. And very few of them do I ever have to delete while still on the memory card in the camera or discard later once downloaded to my pc or laptop.
The settings and functions are easy to learn and easy to use. The additional "Scenes" and "Effects" I am still playing with but the ones I have used have delivered as Nikon promises. I still do an awful lot of landscape photography, as well as sunrise and sunset images, and the D5100 executes exceedingly well with both the 105 and 300. Very rarely do I ever end up with an under- or over-exposed image regardless of the setting or function that I use.
As mentioned in my D60 review I enjoy the use of a viewfinder and even though the D5100 has liveview I still now prefer the viewfinder. Of course, using the built-in "Selective Color" function means I have to use liveview and that is fine. And, speaking of which, selective color works just great. I have experimented with it on various types of scenes, all hand-held without a tripod, and the results are quite remarkable considering the unit snaps two photos. That, in itself, says much about Nikon’s VR capabilities.
I greatly enjoy the 3" display, over my D60's smaller one. Not just for the size, but the color clarity is superb. The addition of the articulating display was brilliant on Nikon’s part as it assists framing difficult shots with relative ease.
The performance of the D5100 in low-light situations, with either the 105 or 300, is outstanding. I have not yet experimented with the "Active D-Lighting" function that works to improve the dynamic range between low and high light, so cannot address that. Once I have done so, I shall update my review.
As a final note, I am, at this point, keeping my D60, and have the 105 on one of the cameras and the 300 on the other because I just hate to take the time to change a lens and I do still get great images from the D60. However, depending on what I plan to shoot the D5100 gets first choice of lens and the D60 takes the backseat.
For the money I do not think the D5100 can be beat for quality of performance.
I got this camera in May shortly after it was released. There hasn't been a whole lot user reviews but overall it seemed to have been a good model. I this is my first DSLR so I don't have much as of comparing it to over models or brands. I got mine at Best But as at that point they were selling them for the same price everywhere. Added extended warranty on it as I have a tendency to be clumsy with my things. However I have been very very careful with this camera so far, not dropping or banging it against anything. I used it for the first two months or so with no problem. Then it sat around the house for about a month, and when I went to use it again I noticed that the auto focus was not working. The manual focus was still working fine however. I thought it was the lens, so I took it to Inkley's and they tried another lens on it, same problem. They established that it was the body that was having the problem. The camera was still under manufacture warranty so I took it to Best Buy and they told me it'd be 4-6 weeks till I get it back. I needed it well before then, so I've been using it on manual focus for a few months now, it's a pain at times, others it does give better flexibility to the image, however I wanted all functions of this pricy toy of my to work, so finally I took it back in. It's out being fixed now, hope it'll come back as good as new. Oh another thing I noticed with the camera (also started to happen the same time the auto focus went out) was when I took pictures vertically if I was using the screen instead of the view finder the screen would go almost black and I couldn't see the image. I mostly had to switch back to view finder to frame and focus my vertical shots. I hope that gets fixed as well, as I forgot to mention it to the guy at Best Buy. I'm hoping this is a fluke and is not a re-accruing issue, as I haven't read other reviews with similar problem since this happened.
Assuming this is an isolated incident, otherwise the camera has been very easy to learn the settings and to make good pictures. For a starter DLSR is' for the most part a good camera. I haven't tried out much of the video yet, I'm more into stills, but once the baby comes I'm sure I'll make a use of that function as well.
The camera is great. I would start off by saying that having the same sensor as the D7000, which costs considerably more, is a big plus. You will, indeed, see very similar picture quality.
The D5100 is loaded with nice features for all types of users. If you are just starting with photography you will certainly enjoy the automatic modes as well as all the scene and effects available. The camera also shines in manual mode, the built in light meter works wonders.
Another thing that usually goes unnoticed but that can make big difference is the fact that this model has 2 infra-red receivers, which makes perfect sense. That way you can release the shutter from both the front and the back of the camera using a remote.
Just to list a couple of "cons"... if you are into video, definitely go with the Canon T3i and you will see much better quality. Another thing are the lenses that come in this kit. I expected them to be much more sturdy. After using the camera for a couple of weeks, they started making some squeaky noise. But well, they are cheap kit lenses anyway.
Have been shooting digital for years using my old reliable (and still reliable) D70. Have amassed a small but premium lens collection so transition to Canon was not an option. Furthermore, I am loyal to Nikon and Nikkor build and optics.
I was looking to upgrade my D70 and looking at the D90 and D700 but did not have the ready reserve of cash for that kind of outlay.
Though is my have been a technical step back to go to the 5100 I felt it could be a good bridge buy just to get my hands on some of the advances in digital photography over the years. The paradigm of “technology gets cheeper over time” is correct.
Overall, the advancement and features of the 5100 have come as a more than pleasant surprise.
Image quality and video or outstanding. The 5100’s built in intervalometer now means I do not have to use a PC to control my camera for time lapse or extended bulb shots.
I am pleased with the camera.
A note on the con. If you have a Nikkor lens collection of any size - you know it has been an investment.
One drawback to the 5100 is that it does not have a focus drive motor in the body - read, must use AF-I/S lenses if you want autofocus. If you have some older lenses you may be limited to manual focus. Not a big deal with Nikkor AF-S range of lenses.
There is a small learning curve with the back plane buttons and trick-wheels. The placement is not the traditional Nikon DSLR setup - so you will have to do some muscle memory retraining.
Feel is subjective - but to my hand the smaller and lighter body just feels off and a bit too plastic/toylike in the hand. If you do much shooting you may find the light weight a plus.
Over all - the 5100 is a good value and should be a good bridge DSLR to all but advanced and professional shooters.
This is my first DSLR..I own Nikon SLR products and was looking for one that would work with them..can be done, but in Manual mode only - no prob - used to that with the SLR's.
I read many reviews before choosing this model which was near the pricing range I wanted to spend.
So far, I'm ecstatic with the results using my old lenses - not so happy with the stock kit lense. The details, color, and depth of field is much better with the old Nikkor's. The 18-55 can give good results and in the auto modes it is fairly predictable, but I find the images a bit snapshot-ish.
The AF is slow and not always accurate, and I mainly use it in manual focus mode. The presets are great for a fast setup and the in-camera editing features are fun to experiment with.
The camera itself is loaded with features and I found it helpful to print the user manual that comes on the disk. Yes, it's alot of pages..but totally worth it!
My only real complaint so far is there seems to be an amount of shutter lag regardless of what speed you set it on. Probably something I need to get used to, but definetly not
as quick as I would expect from an electronic device. Maybe this is something that will be fixed with a firmware update? If not, I'm learning to lead my moving subjects...
I'm having fun experimenting in different lighting using different combos of shutter speed and ISO and instantly seeing the result. Interestingly, I took some shots of a hummingbird that came out almost pitch black on the view screen, but with some exposure correction came out great..well, atleast viewable!
For my own personal case, I do loose alot of the features available on this camera using it with the old lenses and Manual mode. But as an old Nikon user there is an amount of "expectation" from each image that this method seems to satisfy best. Maybe with some better AF DX lenses..I don't know...