Taking the Middle Way.
You could spend approximately $1,600 (MSRP) for the Nikon D7000, the high-end choice of Nikon’s “redesign” of its selection of non-professional DSLRs, but that would only prove you can spend the money. You’re enough of a photographer that the basic model, the Nikon D3100 (MSRP $700), just won’t satisfy, as it doesn’t offer the features and image quality you want.
Read real customer reviews of the Nikon D5100 here.
Lucky you! Nikon has created a middle-of-the-road choice in the Nikon D5100 DSLR camera (MSRP $900). If you’re a member of the broad market of non-professional DSLRs buyers than the D5100 will give you an excellent balance of value and capabilities and picture sharpness that tend toward professional-grade.
Carry Less Weight.
The D5100 is less bulky than the D5000, and only 90% of its size and weight. Even though the D5100 is smaller and lighter, the redesigned grip feels very comfortable in the hand.
A Side-Hinged LCD Screen.
What has many digital photography enthusiasts’ attention is the side-hinged LCD screen; a definite step forward from the D5000’s unwieldy bottom-hinged LCD. Nikon has moved the complete button layout to the right to make room for this newly designed LCD screen. Now, it’s easier to access the camera’s functions with the right hand.
Not only is the D5100’s screen left-hinged, but also it has a bigger screen, a 3-inch instead of a 2.7-inch, and four times the resolution at 920,000 dots (The D5000 only has 230,000 dots).
You’ll quickly discover that the D5100’s left-hinged LCD screen works remarkably well in live view mode. You see a bright image, even in direct sunlight, and the colors are amazingly clear and sharp. The D5100’s LCD screen extends and retracts smoothly, locks securely and provides excellent stability at all viewing angles.
The people who bought the wrong camera will think you’re ready to go pro when they see all the features the D5100 shares with its big brother, the D7000, the most pro-like model in the line.
The D5100’s CMOS sensor is 16.2 MP, similar to the D7000. The D5100 also matches the D7000’s ISO settings, to an equivalent of 25,600 and performs extremely well at high ISO settings, especially at greater than 1,600. More importantly, the D5100 also has the D7000’s 14-bit RAW shooting function, which, in the past, Nikon reserved for its more expensive cameras.
Highly Creative Effects.
The Nikon D5100’s various effects modes will be very helpful to many digital photographers. Surprisingly, the night vision mode works more than adequately in a mid-priced, non-pro DSLR. Of even more interest to many enthusiasts will be the miniature, selective color and color sketch effects. There is also considerable value in the D5100’s HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode. Two images are captured with two different exposures. They are then merged into a single photo that reveals the details in the shadows and highlights.
The video upgrade in the D5100 is quite amazing when you consider it can shoot 1080p at 30 frames per second (fps) and the more expensive D7000 cannot. You also have the choice of shooting 1080p video at 25 or 24 fps as well as 720p and WVGA video-capture modes. Your video segments are saved with H.264/AVC codec.
Scores High Against the Competition.
The Nikon D5100 DSLR compares very favorably to its competition: the Canon Rebel T3i/EOS 600D and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2. The Rebel does have a slightly larger sensor at 18 megapixels, but only a 9-point AF system compared to the D5100’s 11-point and rated at 3.7 fps in continuous shooting mode compared to the D5100’s 4 fps. The Panasonic has a smaller sensor and an electronic viewfinder instead of an optical viewfinder. The Panasonic moves slightly ahead because of its ergonomics, the most physical controls and a touch-sensitive LCD screen.
If you’re primarily a hobbyist, who shoots digital photos and video of the kids, vacations, family outings, etc, then you’ll appreciate the D5100’s high points—1080p video, articulating LCD screen, “full-time” auto-focus and its various creative effects. The D5100 is the total package of value and quality for the non-professional. You’ll make a wise choice when you buy it, which can’t be said about those who don’t.