Nikon D5100

The Nikon D5100 will undoubtedly put a smile on every photographer's face with its excellent image quality and feature set.


8.5
CNET Rating
7.8
User Rating

About The Author

CNET Editor

Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.


Design and features

Nikon ever-so-slowly evolves its SLRs, with a slight tweak here, a button change there, a grip adjustment elsewhere. The D5100 encapsulates this gradual refinement, with a comfortable in-hand feeling and easily accessible buttons and dials for all common shooting functions. This is the camera that replaces the D5000.

At the top of the camera is a mode dial, the main way that users interface with the controls, ranging from full automatic and scene modes for beginners right through to PASM exposures for manual tweakers. Nestled in with the mode dial is the Live View switch that activates the mode when flicked down. Things start to get more interesting moving down the body, when the 3-inch articulating LCD is revealed. It's much improved from the tilt-down model found on this camera's predecessor, with a significant resolution bump to 921,000-dots.

The addition of the flip-out screen means that the traditional Nikon button arrangement down the left-hand side has gone, replaced instead with a small scattering of the same features on the other side. It's simple enough for beginners to acquaint themselves with, and intuitive enough for seasoned SLR users to use.

In an exciting turn, the D5100 sports the same image processor and CMOS sensor as the D7000 at 16.2-megapixels, with a maximum ISO rating of 6400 (25,600 in boost settings). Full HD video recording comes at 25fps or 24fps and the D5100 comes with all the connectivity options that one would expect, including a 3.5mm microphone jack, mini-HDMI out, mini-USB out and a connector for an external GPS unit.

Like the Canon EOS 600D, the D5100 is equipped with filters, called "effects" on the mode dial. These include seven options for altering the look of images: selective colour, colour sketch, miniature effect, night vision, high key, low key and silhouette. There's no wireless flash control, unlike on the D7000. To go with the trend of HDR imaging, the D5100 has a built-in mode that captures two shots at different exposures, merging them together in-camera to extend the dynamic range.

Compared to

D5100 vs.
Nikon D5100 Canon EOS 600D Nikon D7000
16.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS 18-megapixel APS-C CMOS 16.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS
3.0-inch, 921,000-dot articulating LCD screen 3.0-inch, 1,04K-dot articulating LCD screen 3.0-inch, 921,000-dot fixed LCD screen
Full HD video (1080p, 24/25fps) Full HD video (1080p, 24/25/30fps) Full HD video (1080p, 24/25fps)
No wireless flash control Wireless flash control Wireless flash control
Nikon D5100 vs. Canon 600D

In a head-to-head comparison with the 600D, the above test shot shows that the Canon produces slightly brighter JPEG images with more contrast. As is the case when comparing any test shots, the issue of preferred colour rendition is an entirely subjective judgement. (Credit: CBSi)

Nikon D5100 vs. Canon 600D

With the kit 18-55mm lens on the Nikon and the 18-135mm on the Canon (shot at the same 18mm focal length), both cameras opt to raise the pop-up flash to get a decent exposure in automatic mode. The D5100 produces a slightly sharper image at full magnification (see 100 per cent crop inset). (Credit: CBSi)

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Time to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • RAW shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • Nikon D51000.30.60.70.3
  • Canon 600D0.20.40.70.1
  • Nikon D70000.30.20.30.1
  • Canon 60D0.30.40.40.1
  • Canon 550D0.30.60.60.2

Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)

  • 6
    Nikon D7000
  • 5.3
    Canon 60D
  • 3.8
    Nikon D5100
  • 3.7
    Canon 600D

Note that shutter lag is significantly reduced to less than 0.1 second when using manual focus. Nikon rates the battery for 660 shots.

Image quality

Sharing the same sensor as the D7000 is an excellent step forward for this camera. It produces very similar-looking shots, but with less of that blown-highlights behaviour that characterised some shots from the D7000.

Colours are true to life in JPEGs and are punchy without being oversaturated when all defaults are left activated. As for the effects mode, some of the filters are better than others — our picks are the miniature effect and night vision. The rest are fun to play with; however, the all-automatic nature of them (exposures and no adjustments to the intensity of the effect) limit their longevity.

Noise control on the D5100 is excellent, with ISO 6400 being the level at which colour noise starts to show through. Automatic white balance is excellent.

RAW vs. JPEG
RAW vs. JPEG D5100

The D5100 produces excellent RAW files with lots of usable detail, particularly at higher ISO levels. As you can see from the comparison image above, at lower ISO levels, RAW and JPEG images are virtually identical. (Credit: CBSi)

Video quality

Video quality is very good, though definitely not as sharp or crisp as that taken on the Canon 600D with a similar lens. The D5100 has a built-in 3.5mm microphone jack but has no visual audio levels — just three preset levels of sensitivity or an automatic option. Audio quality from the built-in microphone is decent, if a little distant. It's also worth noting that there is no 30fps option in video mode.

Nikon D5100 HD video test from CNET Australia on Vimeo.

Image samples

Click each image for a full resolution JPEG (~5MB) from the D5100.

Exposure: 1/160, f/6.3, ISO 6400

Exposure: 1/100, f/3.5, ISO 800

Exposure: 1/200, f/3.5, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/125, f/3.8, ISO 400

(Credit: CBSi)

Conclusion

The Nikon D5100 will undoubtedly put a smile on every photographer's face with its excellent image quality and feature set. Its video implementation is still not as good as the Canon 600D — though only really noticeable to videographers and audio connoisseurs.

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LMCC72 posted a comment   
Australia

Im looking into the entry level DSLRs and the reviews are very informative however find myslef trying to compare too much. In the Nikon entry level on camera basis alone would you recommend the older D5100 or the current D3200 and why?

 

StephI posted a comment   

There are a couple of glaringly obvious incorrect statements made in this review. Firstly, the D5100 does have a remote shutter sensor, and in fact, it actually has two, as in one on the front and back. Secondly, it has full-HD 30fps. It also has a stereo microphone jack. I don't know who researched this review, but it seems amazing that they missed the 2 infra red sensors, and that they weren't aware of the frame rates in HD. All this info is easily sourced from the owner manual, as well as the Nikon website.

 

Lexy Savvides posted a reply   
Australia

Hi there,

I am not sure which review you were reading, but it clearly states in the copy above that the D5100 has a microphone jack. There is also no reference to the IR sensors whatsoever or remote functionality either?

 

BrianM1 posted a comment   

I just purchased the D5100 and I am impressed with the image quality. It replaces my old D70 but I have used a D2 and D300. It doesn't have the power speed of the D300 but the image quality is great. Not bad for a camera around $1000 to buy

Grazzo Facebook
8
Rating
 

"I found that when you go to print the image in RAW format, the printer software changes it to JPEG and sRGB anyway."

Grazzo posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Graphic option on the LCD Screen

The Bad:Short battery life should you like editing on the camera.

Leave the settings in sRGB & JPEG

Whether your a beginner, amateur/enthusiast or a "Pro"; leave the colour in sRGB and image size settings JPEG "Fine".
This camera performs better and faster on the lower settings and you'll rarely truly use RAW in its truest format!

rv_1966
9
Rating
 

"Fantastic quality pictures in a compact and easy to use package"

rv_1966 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Great for a beginner like me to learn how to use manual controls

The Bad:An extra button for HDR and longer battery life please.

After a month:
Picture quality superb in any light.
Zoom photography of sports action has produced great results.
Love the miniature and selective colour special effects.
Video is good, although live view can be a little slow.
Could not have asked for more.

 

"Genuine items??"

AsimZ posted a comment   
Australia

is this cameraparadise is genuine website?? i mean do they sell genuine products??

 

9111 posted a comment   
Australia

Hi Alexandra,

A quick question. If you had to pick a camera from the list below which one would pick?

Nikon D3100, Nikon 5100, Canon 600D, Canon 550D

I am really getting confused! I know it mainly depends on the features that I want and it basically boils down to " what do you want take picture from?", but just wondering would you do if you had no experience and eager to learn?

Also, Video quality is not a hugh factor as long as it records something decent.

 

Lexy Savvides posted a reply   
Australia

Hi,

Well, it also comes down to how much you want to spend really as some are more expensive than the others!

If you are new to SLR photography I would look at the D3100 as it has the best built-in guide mode that takes you through common photographic techniques without you needing to know all the jargon. It also produces great photos.

The D3100 produces very good HD video but there is no microphone input. That's the only disadvantage to its video compared to the other three cameras on the list.

 

9111 posted a reply   
Australia

Thanks for the reply.

My budget is $1200. My main question is that if I spend $200 more on the camera ( Say from D3100 to D5100) do I get something that I notice the difference or is that something that only professional photographers should be concerned with?

Another question. Would you buy twin lenses(18-55 and 55-300 Nikkor) or would you buy AF18-200mm Tamron lens?

I heard that 18-200mm lenses add distortion. Is that something that I should be bothered with or ...?

Again thanks a lot for your help.

 

Lexy Savvides posted a reply   
Australia

Hi again,

The price difference between the D3100 and D5100 also adds some extra features (such as mic input, better image sensor and noise control, and faster performance). If you can afford it, I would not hesitate to spend the extra money on the D5100. It shares the same image sensor as the more expensive and higher-end D7000.

I prefer the flexibility of one lens rather than two separate lenses you need to change all the time. I haven't reviewed the 18-200mm Tamron but I have looked at the 18-270mm which is a great lens: http://www.cnet.com.au/tamron-af18-270mm-f35-f63-di-ii-vc-339293668.htm

Yes there is some distortion at the wide-end in particular, but not that much more than you would get on the kit 18-55mm lens anyway. Unless you are shooting architecture you probably won't notice the distortion too much.

If you are particularly concerned you can get lens profiles in Lightroom or Photoshop to adjust the distortion in post-processing. Hope this helps you.

 

SatyamJ posted a reply   
Other

ofcourse Nik D5100...it stands out high.....compare it on snapsort.com with any entry level it has the highest rating and nearly rate of canon 550D...!

lizzibrown Facebook
9
Rating
 

"Easy to use, so far Im loving it!"

lizzibrown posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Easy to use, great effects,

The Bad:Manual a bit difficult to understand in parts, battery life with Live view

I've not written a review on here before, but I purchased this camera 2 days ago, and so far I love it! I was concerned that after being 'out' of the SLR market for many years I wouldn't be able to use one due all the new technology, but this camera has been great. I charged the battery, turned it on, typed in the language, time zone and date and we were ready to go. After using a film SLR many years ago, I have a basic understanding of all the terms, but I don't think you would even need that to operate the D5100. The different modes and pre-set options are great, and would cover most occasions for a beginner to operate but it seems like there are also a lot of options that can be explored for a more experienced enthusiast. I only just started trying out the special effects and the colour saturation one does amazing things, I can't wait to try out all the rest.
I probably should have waited and written this review after a few weeks, but I saw that the user rating was low and didn't think that was warranted, well not from what I have experienced so far. Will check back in in a few weeks after I have had more time to try out this camera.

 

Lexy Savvides posted a comment   
Australia

Thanks Harvz, just left out the "no" in that sentence :)

 

harvz posted a reply   
Australia

no problem, one more thing is that you can get 30fps in video but u need to change the mode from PAL to NTSC

 

harvz posted a comment   
Australia

"There's also wireless flash control included."
i dont think it has this lexy


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User Reviews / Comments  Nikon D5100

  • LMCC72

    LMCC72

    "Im looking into the entry level DSLRs and the reviews are very informative however find myslef trying to compare too much. In the Nikon entry level on camera basis alone would you recommend the old..."

  • StephI

    StephI

    "There are a couple of glaringly obvious incorrect statements made in this review. Firstly, the D5100 does have a remote shutter sensor, and in fact, it actually has two, as in one on the front and..."

  • BrianM1

    BrianM1

    "I just purchased the D5100 and I am impressed with the image quality. It replaces my old D70 but I have used a D2 and D300. It doesn't have the power speed of the D300 but the image quality is gr..."

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