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Nikon D5100

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#1 ChrisLilley


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Posted 05 June 2011 - 06:59

If you have used the Nikon D5100 let others know what you think of it by posting about your experiences here.
Camera (ˈkæ mə rə), n. Device for taking pictures in bright light
D7k and primes - on flickr

#2 lenmil


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Posted 21 August 2011 - 00:10

D5100 belongs to my youngest son. It is quite small compared to a D700. But it feels good and is compact. I really like the flip out screen. It is so handy for awkward angles. Video seems ok and is easy to use via a lever. It does not have a LCD panel on the top. The Flip out screen layout is nice with plenty of help tips for explaining what each setting does, great. I will post some pictures later when i can wrestle the camera off my son. He loves the camera i have to say. Night time shots are amazing for thie price range.

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Edited by lenmil, 22 August 2011 - 08:48 .

Take the shot, you never know.

#3 lenmil


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Posted 25 August 2011 - 11:43

Here is a sample video of the D5100. Its on YouTube so the video is most likely not the same on a a big HD TV or PC screen.

nikon D5100 sample video.

Take the shot, you never know.

#4 Mike M

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 18:47

My first Nikon, (30 yrs Film exp) and from my initial photos it is an exceptional device with tons of features.

I purchased both the 18-55mm and 55-300mm lenses with it, in addtion I have also a SB900. We got the camera to take my own photos of my sons wedding ( hired a professional for the occaision, so I could enjoy myself.) and reception.

I plan to take many family photos over the Holidays and try out some of the video features in addition try out some of the gear I now have. I going through my older photo gear and see what I can reuse and what I can sell for a new Prime 85mm lens.

Mike M

#5 otoien


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Posted 26 November 2011 - 06:39

A month ago, with flooding in Thailand and a D300s follower possibly not becoming available before next summer, I decided rather than downgrading (body wise) my D200 to a D7000 to upgrade my backup camera (D40x) to D5100. So this review is how I experience it as my smaller "backup" body (although my D200 has only been in use the last month for comparison shots). As the sensor is shared with D7000 and is pretty well known, I will concentrate on the handling. I could not stand the design of the D5000, and luckily Nikon decided to use the successful D40(x) -D3100 series of bodies as starting point. It fits in a ThinkTank Digital 10 holster, which is important for me because I have previously preferred to carry the D40x in this holster when I ski to work in winter. This is also the time of the year where a sensor with good high ISO capability is really needed so I convinced myself that the earlier than planned upgrade of my small body was the right thing to do.

For me an important advantage the D5100 has over the D40x (and I believe the D3100) is that one can select release priority of the shutter rather than focus priority in continuous focus mode. This allows me to configure the AE/AF lock button to work the same way as the AF-On button on my D200, with continuous focus always on, and focus with the AF-On only, not shutter release. Because of this the D5100 feels a lot closer to my D200 than the D40x. The latter I had to use in AFS-mode mode with shutter release activation, which for me felt a lot more like a point of shoot. Both on the D200 and D51000 I wish that this button was sticking out a bit more like on the D300. I did consider the much more expensive option of a D7000 as the small body, but ThinkTank told me it would not even fit in the slightly larger ver2 of the Digital 10 holster. I still checked out D7000 during a quick visit to a store in Oslo this summer. What I found was that the AE-lock/AF lock button is in a position more to the left and not easily reachable without and awkward grip on D7000, while the presence of the 'i' button on the D5100 has brought the AE-lock/AF lock into the same relative position as the AF-On button on the D200, more easily reachable. Also I could not stand how D7000 fit in my hand opposed to the nice grip I have on my D5100 in spite of the smaller size. I think this has a lot to do with the more rounded shape of the right hand side of the body on the D5100 and the shutter release that has been brought even more forward and to the left than the already excellent D40x body. (It appears this position is partially possible because of the lack of a front wheel). The front of the grip allows a bit more space for the fingers between the grip and the lens than D40x, which is nice and improves ability to use it with glowed hands. (Thick mittens usually have to come off though opposed to with my D200).

What about the rest of the design? I find the body has beautiful lines; it has already have received a prestigious design award. One major difference from the D40x is of course the flip-out screen. This is incorporated in a much nicer way than the (in my opinion) ugly back of D5000. The left hinge makes it also more usable, but admittedly it feels quite vulnerable simply because it is sticking out in that position - the construction itself is likely as sturdy as it can be. Probably 90% of the time that I flip the screen out I do it to be able to view it more from above. If Nikon ever decides to have a flip-out screen on a more professional body (not my wish), I would hope they instead would limit it to be hinged at the top, so that all it is doing is to be capable of being angled to view from above (or below if held over the head). I find the inherently fragile left hinge more acceptable on a consumer body, and it certainly helps with a flip-out screen when working from a low tripod. It also works with vertical frames, although I have not tested with an L-bracket. I was disappointed to find that the D5100 RRS plate extends more to the left than on the D200 and partially disturbs the nice ergonomic sculpturing of the body on the left side. The ability to flip the screen inwards is of course nice for protection under very rough conditions. I then get a feeling of carrying a film body as I am quite dependent on the display for settings and chimping, so I do not use it much in that position...

A major criticism in the reviews has been what happened to the buttons on the left side which had to go somewhere else with presence of a left hinge. If one does not look at the body from a standardization point, I actually find that Nikon made a pretty good job at placing these buttons. There is the advantage that most operations can be performed with the right hand without changing position of the left hand on the lens. The 'i' button which I use to bring up settings on the display is nicely placed beside the AE/AF lock so it is very easy to get to the quick adjust settings display. The replay button above the multiselector and then the zoom + button below that is as close as one can get to the quick center press zoom action of the professional bodies (which is also missing on the D7000 by the way). The center press function has been taken by all the image edit functions, but I still wish there had been an option to disable these to allow center press 100% zoom for those of us who exclusively shoot in raw. As on the D40x the multiselector tend to move the focus point to the right unintentionally. I wish there was a firmware option to lock it to the center. The buttons on the back have more click action than on my D40x/D200, which help to avoid accidental activation.

What can be criticised is under-utilisation of some buttons. The action of the info button behind the video record and exposure compensation button on top can be replicated with the 'i' button to turn the settings display on, and half press of the release turns it off. The only additional function I have found of the info button is to flip between display modes in Live view. I wish for Nikon to add an option in the firmware to allow the info button to be alternately programmed as a second function button when not in live view. Likewise the +(zoom in) button does not do anything when not reviewing images or in live view.

I find that the placement of the video record button on the top beside the exposure compensation button works very well. It will be interesting to see what Nikon will do with that in the coming models, if there is any core of reality in the claimed (but obviously at least somewhat doctored) D800 images posted on NR, this could well be the "final" position of the video record button (same position also on the Nikon 1 models) rather than that used in D3100/D7000. Also the live view switch is very easily reachable with the index finger, so I do not understand what the reviewers complain about in this regard except for lack of standardization (the DPreviewer apparently tried to use the thumb on it...).

And talking about standardisation, I always found the D40x different enough in operation of the left side buttons that I anyway had to learn my fingers a different command set, so the disadvantage of having everything in the "nonstandard" right position is less than one would think. I do fumble a little when holding the body vertical or in the dark and cold on a tripod with gloves. So certainly this body is not as fast to operate as my D200, but it is a very acceptable compromise for a small second body.

Of course the D5100 will not meter with lenses that do not have a chip - and this is where I am now receiving the reward for chipping all my AIS lenses and a PN11 with Bjørn's custom chips this spring; I also added a Dandelion to my BR-2A. :biggrin: Nor will it autofocus AF lenses. I tend to use my few non-AFS lenses with manual focus anyway. The viewfinder is of course what sets it apart from the higher models. I immediately swapped my DK-21M over to the D5100, and with that help I do quite successfully focus my manual focus lenses using the matte area of the screen as on my other bodies. The smaller image size with the pentamirror and lower acuity (as on my D40x, there is a "line" down the middle that is slightly less clear, only detectable with DK-21M) is less comfortable than on a higher end body with pentaprism, and this makes the cost of the higher end bodies certainly worth it, but as a compromise... Both the stock screen and the autofocus generally seems to be well adjusted with my lenses.

So how do my lenses perform for a pixel peeper at 100% view with a 16 Mpix sensor? A lot better than I expected. The 28mm/2.8 AIS (including infinity), 105mm/2.5 AIS, 55mm/3.5 micro, 105mm/4 micro all seem almost better at 100% view (processed raw files in CNX) . Perhaps this is due to a weaker low-pass filter. I do see that the character of my 12-24mm becomes even clearer: There is a pronounced field curvature at 12mm (edges being focused closer) that has to be considered when focusing at infinity; this can easily be confirmed by moving the focus point wide open in live view. The high performance at 24mm has become even clearer. So generally I think what is seen here is that differences that the strong low pass filter partially subdued on the d200 has now become even clearer. I should probably take reservation that I am probably not quite dialed in on the sharpening level yet, but I seldom see sharpening artifacts at the 3-4 setting I use, so I cannot be far off.

What about colors? In the beginning I felt that snow and yellows were leaning a bit too much to the green, however after pulling down one step on the green-magenta adjustment of automatic white balance setting I am more pleased. Due to the low outside light conditions and snow and lot of use indoors etc. I will probably not have a complete feeling before next summer. WB does handle fluorescent lights much better than D200 and D40x, and colors of objects floating around in office space and my home seems fairly accurate. It might have a tendency for reds to have higher lightness/slightly more orange than on my D200; it is a bit early to say. I should also add that the display is excellent under the outside light conditions we have here at this time of the year, and matches pretty closely to what I see on my computer monitor that has been calibrated with Quick-Gamma.

Are there any obvious flaws? Well mirror flipping in Live view is not one of them, that has been fixed. There is some closing and opening of the shutter on release which I understand is a necessity. Btw. be aware that the shutter count will increment when turning live view on and off. Even before I had fired the very first shot (posted in picture a week forum) I had a shutter count of 12. One flaw, I would almost say firmware bug, is that in low light there is a message on the top line of the display that will hide information on shooting mode. I have several times fumbled around in the dark, unable to see the mode selection wheel, and having no other information about the mode. So better carry a small flashlight to switch from A to M ! Actually switching to live view might be a solution, the message does not seem to appear then. Another issue is that shutter reponse time in live view is very slow even with manual focus lenses, it is almost as if it is still performing all the aquisition for contrast autofocus before shutter is released, which is a bit bothersome if live view is used to chase small bugs with reversed lenses. The zoom in live view is limited to 100%, so reading glasses might be needed for some of us for critical manual focusing in this mode.

Video seems to work well (although with slightly different exposure/color than stills); unfortunately my computers are not fast enough to play back the 1080p 30frames/sec high bitrate recordings without stuttering; with a good connection it the somewhat complressed files play OK off Zenfolio in in full screen mode (There is some cold jitter on my part in the posted example). Video, including metering also works with non-chipped lenses.

So how well does the D5100 perform under extremely cold conditions? This is very important for me, living in interior Alaska. To my joy we just experienced a 5day cold spell with temperatures dipping below -40°C (several cold records was made for this time of the year) which allowed me to repeat the tests I performed on my other bodies over two nights. To my relief my D5100 was just as good as my D40x in this regard: After a night outside at -38 to -40°C and after swapping in a warm charged battery it would continue taking properly exposed images both in normal and live view mode, and autofocused properly with my 12-24mm although a bit slower than usual. (The cold battery regained all its bars once rewarmed). As with other bodies, viewfinder LCD becomes so slow that it is nearly unusable. The TFT display at the back worked without marked distortion of colors. It did slow somewhat causing ghosting when moving around in live view. So not so good for action shots in live view at -40°C :crazy: , but OK for tripod use, although manual focusing and framing might be a bit slow. (This made me wonder about how well mirrorless cameras will perform in the cold since they entirely depend on electronic displays for framing...).

This review cannot end without commenting on the low light ability that I got it for. Generally D5100 performs quite well, a lot better than my D40x and D200. One should be aware that long exposures does increase noise level quite a bit compared to the studio samples posted on review sites, and some types of lighting can throw a lot of noise, for instance sodium vapor lights. This is may be due underexposed blue channel and the WB increasing the blue channel gain causing a much higher effective ISO of that channel than the nominal one. This would be expected in any body with an efficient white balance. Generally I prefer to keep ISO in very low light/night scenes in the 800 to 1600 ISO range. Use of high ISO for fast shutter speeds with long lens use on wildlife etc. should allow good results at even higher ISO, (colors seem to keep quite well up to ISO 3200), I have yet been able to test that.

Some illustrations, many of these are suboptimal (no tripod) just on the way back and forth to work:

Bug chasing, flash exposure at ISO 1600

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Undereposed with strongly pulled shadows to increase dynamic range, ISO 100

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Light from full moon, handheld at ISO 1600, 0.5s

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Ice fog, handheld at ISO1600 1/6 sec

Posted Image

Russian blockhouse handheld at night, ISO 1600

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Edited by otoien, 27 November 2011 - 08:03 .


#6 Steinar


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Posted 21 January 2012 - 14:36

I sold this camera to finanse my D3x, but now I miss this little charming gem with this fine flip out screen that gives so fine possibilities to shoot in strange angles, so I have just ordered it again today. :biggrin:

Very fine image quality - about the same as my Nikon D7000 (what else :) - same sensor)

The only thing I miss is the AF on my 10,5mm, because I am not so happy with MF, but I think I will try to tape the focus ring near/close to the infinity mark.... and then perhaps always in focus ??

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