Nikon D5100 DSLR review

Upgraded entry-level DSLR with pro-level specs
Photo of Nikon D5100 DSLR
£590 online

Nikon’s latest entry-level DSLR, the D5100, is an upgrade from the D5000 and is designed to fit snugly between the recent D3100 and the D7000.It’s aimed at the growing number of serious amateur photographers with a little more cash to spare, who want to explore all that DSLRs have to offer without necessarily rising to professional prices.

One thing you’ll notice straight away about the D5100 is that it’s less bulky than its predecessor, measuring a relatively trim 128x97x79mm, with the camera body alone weighing in at 510g – yet it’s a solid build and feels comfortable in the hand.

Restructured LCD
The most significant difference between the D5000 and the D5100 is the alteration to the LCD which has been upgraded from 2.7in to 3.0in, and its native resolution boosted from a meagre 230,000 to a mighty 920,000 pixels – the same as the more professional D7000. In addition, the hine on the screen has been shifted from the bottom to the more conventional left side, which is a lot easier to operate.

Nikon D5100 DSLR rear

Making this change, though, means that all the control buttons that were originally positioned to the left of the screen on the D5000 have now been redistributed. The Live View button that was on the back has disappeared, to be replaced by a lever attached to the main mode dial on top and a new movie record button has sprung up beside the shutter – both decisions might not be to everyone’s taste. You still have the ‘i’ button, which pulls up a quick menu for the likes of focus, image quality and ISO – but there’s no dedicated button for ISO unless you assign it to the Fn button on the front.

Improved sensor
On the positive side, the 14-megapixel sensor on the D5000 has now been replaced with a higher resolution 16.2-megapixel DX-format CMOS (identical to the D7000), and D-Movie now allows for Full HD (1080p) video recording, with HDMI out. The ISO range has also been expanded to the level of the D7000 (100-6400, manually extendable to 25600), and there’s a new Special Effects mode which covers Night Vision, Colour Sketch, Miniature, Selective Colour, Silhouette, High Key and Low Key.

Nikon D5100 top

HDR (High Dynamic Range) imaging is also available, enabling you to take two shots rapidly with different exposures and combine them for maximum range, heightening highlight and shadow detail.

While the D5100 does share significant features with its older brother, you’re still limited to an 11-point AF system and 4fps continuous shooting. Yet image quality is superb, especially in low light with all the extra ISO settings and you can now make use of an external microphone for your movie clips. With online prices as low as £590 for the kit which includes the 18-55mm VR lens, we can see the Nikon D5100 becoming a firm favourite.

Company: Nikon

Website: http://www.nikon.co.uk/

Contact: Nikon on 0330 123 0932

Positives
  • Stunning images quality, features you'd expect on pro-level cameras.
Negative
  • Some of the rearranged controls are a bit awkward.

Verdict

The Nikon D5100 shows considerable improvement over its predecessor with the larger sensor, restructured LCD, improved ISO range, HDR imaging and Full HD movie capability. Picture quality is excellent and this should be an ideal intro for DSLR newbies.