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Nikon D5100 DSLR Review

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating
User Rating 4 Star Rating (1 Review)


Nikon D5100 DSLR

Nikon's D5100 is designed to sit comfortably in the middle of its consumer DSLR range.


The Nikon D5100 is the manufacturer's latest edition to its consumer DSLR lineup. Replacing the D5000, the camera sits neatly in between the entry-level D3100 and the high-end D7000. The camera is clearly aimed at attracting enthusiasts who have outgrown their basic entry-level DSLRs, and it will be in close competition with Canon's T3i

Continue reading this Nikon D5100 review to learn how it measures up to its competitors!


  • Resolution: 16.2 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • ISO: ISO 100-6400, plus H1 and H2 settings equivalent to 12,800 and 25,600 
  • Focusing: 11 AF points
  • Movie Mode: HD movie mode
  • Flash: Built-in popup flash
  • LCD Screen: 3-inch LCD panel, 921,000 pixels
  • Battery: LiIon EN-EL14 rechargeable battery
  • Dimensions: 128 x 97 x 79 mm (5.0 x 3.8 x 3.1 in.)
  • Weight: 560 g (1.4 lbs.) (including battery)
  • Maximum Image Size: 4928 x 3264 pixels (RAW and JPEG)


  • Excellent image quality
  • Articulated LCD screen
  • Sophisticated AF system for the price


  • Odd placement of some controls
  • Movie mode is inconsistent, and prone to "bugs"
  • Sluggish AF in Live View and Movie Mode

Nikon D5100 DSLR Review

Nikon's new mid-range offering is certainly a far prettier offering than its predecessor, the D5000. The camera gains the D7000's 16.2MP sensor, but it obviously misses out on some of that camera's high-end features. So there's no magnesium alloy body and fewer AF points, but there's no loss of image quality. It certainly produces excellent shots, but how does the camera hold up on other points?

Body and Controls

The D5100 is a small and neat camera, which fits easily into the hand. It feels substantial, but weighs less than its predecessor (as it has a plastic body). The camera also benefits from the addition of an articulated LCD screen with a side hinge. This feature makes the screen far easier to use, but the side hinge has led to a fairly major reshuffling of buttons.

Unlike other Nikons in this range, there are now no buttons at all on the left hand side of the screen. Buttons for controlling the menu and playback options have been moved to the right hand side of the screen, sitting alongside the four-way dial for controlling exposure parameters. On the top of the camera is a convenient switch next to the mode dial to quickly push the camera into Live View mode for fast recording.

However, yet again Nikon has not provided a direct access button for adjusting the ISO. Instead, you'll have to assign this to the function button, which sits on the front of the camera, next to the flash activation button, and it's too easy to get these two mixed up. 


Like the D3100, the D5100 doesn't have an in-body autofocus motor, which means that the speed and accuracy of the autofocus is largely dependent on which lens you're using. This also means that the camera won't focus with some third-party lenses that don't have a built-in focusing motor and with non-AF-S Nikkor lenses. 

Autofocus in still image mode is accurate, and it is acceptably fast, even with the 18-55 mm kit lens. However, in Live View and Movie Mode, the focusing becomes very slow, and it will even drift in and out of focus during recording. 


Unlike higher spec models, the D5100 is not a wireless flash controller. However, the flash activation button does boast a couple of useful features. Hold the button and spin the control dial, and you'll have access to different flash modes. Holding down the button in conjunction with the exposure compensation button allows you to apply flash exposure compensation.

Image Quality

The D5100 really comes into its own in terms of image quality, which is fantastic, in both RAW and JPEG formats. It shares the D7000's sensor, but yet it doesn't seem to have the same overexposure problems in high contrast situations.

Even more impressively, at the higher ISO settings, noise levels are very low. The automatic noise reduction does a good job of preserving details. It's probably one of the best APS-C cameras available at present for shooting at high ISOs. 

Simply put, the camera produces excellent images with a minimum of difficulty.

In Conclusion

Taken on its own merits, this is an excellent camera. It has lots of good features and produces beautiful images. It loses a star, though, for the complicated and somewhat random placing of some of its function buttons. This complicated arrangement may make users go for the simpler D3100 or pay more for the feature-rich D7000. 

User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 4 out of 5
Stats Error, Member tlushnia

Overall I thought the review was pretty good, however I noticed that there was a mistake in the weight of the camera (including battery). 560 grams does not equal 1.4 pounds. Either it weighs more than 560 grams or less than 1.4 pounds.

3 out of 3 people found this helpful.

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