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Photography is something that just about everyone can enjoy nowadays. Point-and-shoot cameras are dirt cheap and the quality is exceptional especially if you take photos outdoors during the day. There are a lot of smartphone and tablet owners that can take pictures as well. The quality may be a bit lower depending on the smartphone model but various software can enhance the photo quality. Just ask all of the Instagram users. But as you take pictures every now and then, you may realize the limitations of a point-and-shoot camera or smartphone. Even if you own those pricey superzooms, you cannot expand your creativity so much because it is locked into the lens. A DSLR lets you change the lens for different occasions. There are also more manual features to play around with. However, DSLR cameras are expensive and you might be tempted to get the cheapest model. Cheap models like the new Nikon D3200 serve as big upgrades but if you choose something a bit pricier like the Nikon 5100, you will be very happy for the purchase for these reasons.
Blows Away any Entry-level Camera
The Nikon D5100 is one of Nikon’s cameras that sport the EXPEED 2 image processor. Combined with a 16.2-megapixel image sensor, the dynamic range and noise performance is very good. The more feature-rich D7000 has the same processor which shows that the performance is very close to one of those advanced consumer DSLR cameras that usually sell for more than a grand. Although there is no option for taking uncompressed RAW files, you can get the best dynamic range if you get that format. You can also combine Active D-Lighting with High Dynamic Range so you can take breathtaking landscapes will the right contrast and details.
Vari-angle LCD is Special
The Nikon D5000 was special because the LCD monitor can tilt and swivel which can be useful for taking better pictures of children but the hinge is located on the bottom. This makes the feature virtually unusable if you mount the D5000 on a tripod. The Nikon D5100 fixes this issue by putting the hinge on the side.
Easy Learning Curve
The Nikon D3200 is one of the easiest DSLR cameras to learn because the features are so minimal and the “Guide” mode really helps ease the learning curve. Although the Nikon D5100 lacks that mode, the functions are still minimal and you can head to the “Effects” setting on the mode dial to apply all sorts of fun effects to your shots. Even though there are several manual features to learn, other functions are fully automatic like the chromatic aberration reduction.
Serves as a Nice Digital Video Camcorder
Video recording with the Nikon D5100 is surprisingly simple as there is a dedicated movie record button within reach. Combined with the swivel LCD display, recording video is so much fun and the quality is good at 1080p 30fps. Other DSLR cameras in that price range only support 24fps unless you switch to 720p.
If you have $850 to spare, the Nikon D5100 offers excellent value and you get an AF-S 18-55mm lens too. If you do not have a digital camcorder, the D5100 can gladly take that role.
The Nikon D5100 has gotten a lot of attention because of its price and features. Even if it is already 1 year old, people still continue to recommend the D5100 for people that are just getting started with a DSLR camera. However, the Nikon D5100 isn’t really the cheapest digital SLR camera on Nikon’s block. In fact, Nikon recently launched the Nikon D3200 which offers a number of nice improvements that first-time DSLR users can enjoy. But once you realize the limitations of an entry-level DSLR, you may feel the need of buying something that is a bit more feature-rich. The Nikon D5100 has a lot of great qualities that make the purchase more worthwhile than any of Nikon’s entry-level offerings.
The Nikon D5100 is more feature-rich than the entry-level models but the size, dimensions and weight are virtually the same. The D5100 pretty much makes the D3200 look like a camera with incomplete features. Anything that is pricier than the D5100 is a bit heavier and slightly more complicated to use depending on the particular model you’ll get.
The entry-level feel is a double-edged sword though because you will have to settle for the cheap build quality that is quite vulnerable to splashes. But if you know how to take care of a standard point-and-shoot camera, you should have no trouble handling the Nikon D5100. Besides, the D5100 has good ergonomics so you will feel that comfortable grip while trying to take pictures.
The D5100 also has that entry-level feel in terms of usability. If you have used a point-and-shoot camera before, you should be familiar with the buttons on the back. All of the common buttons like the directional buttons, playback and trash buttons can be found on the right of the display so you can access them easily with one hand. The dial features the rest of the core features where you can do fun things like take artistic pictures with the effects mode.
Combined with the AF-S 18-55mm VR lens that comes with the package, the Nikon D5100 is quite powerful for a sub-$1,000 camera and the overall image quality nearly matches the quality of the D7000. The D7000 has the same EXPEED 2 image processor as the D5100 so this is expected. You only need the pricier D7000 if you want more options on the manual controls. But in terms of general photography, you will get some very nice results every shot and 16.2 megapixels mean that large printouts look good too. Learn how to use some of the other features like Active D-Lighting and HDR and you can come up with even better landscape shots. You will also have more professional options if you invest in a better Nikon lens.
Inexpensive and Unique
One of the most unique features of the D5100 is the Vari-angle LCD display which can tilt and swivel. Since this camera also has 1080p video recording functions, this feature is very nice and you may not need to buy a separate digital camcorder as a result.
Even if a successor comes out, the Nikon D5100 will still remain as a hot item since the price will go down even more.
Shopping around for a digital SLR camera isn’t an easy task because you are dealing with models that cost at least twice as much as a feature-packed point-and-shoot or superzoom camera. It may sound safe to get the cheapest digital SLR camera that you can find but you should sort out your priorities first. Top companies like Nikon will always release new versions of their cameras every couple of years and you will have to spend lots of money if you want to keep up with the latest tech. In buying a DSLR, you should get something that can really last you more than a couple of years. The Nikon D3200 for instance is a nice camera for the $699 price tag and it is specifically priced that way for people on a tight budget. But before you get attracted to that camera, look at something that is a tier higher like the older Nikon D5100. This article will explain why you are better off saving $150 so you can afford the D5100.
It brings out the main qualities of a digital SLR
Digital SLR cameras are not just about superior image quality. Those that only want higher image quality than point-and-shoot cameras will be happy with the Nikon D3100 which can be bought really cheap nowadays. But your options will be limited if you get something like the D3100. The Active D-Lighting feature for enhancing the shadows and highlights are not customizable. But with the Nikon D5100, you can set the Active D-Lighting to extra high, high, normal or low if you like. The Nikon D5100 also has a wider ISO range along with AE bracketing. Nikon carefully selected the most important features for a sub-$1,000 camera.
It comes with a decent lens
Once you are aware of all the good features of a typical digital SLR camera, you might be attracted to the Nikon D7000 which has a more durable frame. However, this impressive Nikon camera is not only more expensive but it does not come with any lens. Cameras like the Nikon D7000 are for those that want to make a living out of photography or simply have more money to spend on something more durable. But with the Nikon D5100, you can get a nice AF-S 18-55mm VR lens which should enable you to take some very sharp photos even if you are just learning how to make full use of the camera’s features.
It works as a digital camcorder too
If you do not have a very good digital camcorder, you can actually use the Nikon D5100 as your primary recording gadget. The video controls are nicely integrated to the design of the camera so it shouldn’t be so hard to quickly shift from snapping shots to recording some critical footage. Although you are limited to recording a maximum of 20 minutes per file, you can make full use of your camera’s lens including autofocus.
The $849 price tag is well worth the features that you are getting. Also remember that this price can go down once Nikon reveals a newer version of this camera. If you have a nice camera lens, you can even get the Nikon D5100 for cheaper by getting the body without the free kit lens.
Nikon has been selling the Nikon D5100 for more than a year which is why some aspiring photographers want to wait for the successor which will likely be called the Nikon D5200. Nikon hasn’t made any formal announcements at the time of this writing but the Nikon D5100 can easily be found in online stores and the price is better than ever. You have to remember that the Nikon D5100 isn’t necessarily a dated camera. It was launched after the more advanced D7000 and D300S models and Nikon continues to manufacture them. In fact, the Nikon D5100 can be viewed as the cool younger brother of the D7000. This leads to many good reasons to buy a Nikon D5100 right now.
Fun to Use
The price of the Nikon D5100 exceeds pretty much every compact camera which may suggest that the D5100 is more intended for professional use. But with all the fun features, the D5100 is more of a camera that can build on one’s imagination. The Vari-angle LCD monitor gives you that flexibility to take some wonderful waist level candid shots and overhead shots. You can tilt and swivel the nice 3.0-inch display so you can take some self-portraits.
The effects mode adds to the fun where you can apply neat effects like night vision or selective color. Even the more artistic effects like the miniature effect can be selected from that mode. The Nikon D5100 is pretty user-friendly as you can use the dial to select the mode. The back controls resemble point-and-shoot controls and you can conveniently access them one-handed. The 4 fps continuous shooting also makes it more satisfying in capturing the right moments.
Excellent Performance to Price Ratio
Many point-and-shoot cameras can be fun too but the Nikon D5100 offers 16.2 megapixels of fun so images will really shine with fine details and excellent color reproduction. Users of the superior Nikon D7000 were surprised to discover that the image quality and high ISO performance of the D5100 nearly matches the D7000. You can even take good landscape photos without worrying about contras thanks to the high dynamic range where the D5100 merges two exposures to create rich photos without much noise. Also remember that the D5100 comes with an AF-S 18-55mm VR lens so you have plenty of shooting options.
Better Video Recording Features than Most Other Nikon DSLR Models
Most midrange Nikon cameras can record 1080p but only at 24 frames per second. You have to reduce the resolution to 720p for the smoothest video recording. But with the Nikon D5100, 1080p at 30 frames per second is possible. Unlike the older D90, you can use the autofocus features as well.
The Nikon D5100 is a fun camera is on its own but it can get really serious with professional photography too if you equip it with a good lens. In fact, you can pick up the Nikon D5100 without the kit lens for under $600 which is an excellent deal considering the fact that the Nikon D7000 costs twice as much as does not include any kit lens either. Pair it with a $500 lens and you end up with a camera that can really expand your creativity.
Nikon launched the much awaited Nikon D3200 which is basically a modernized makeover of their previous entry-level model. With a fresh model that is likely to last until 2014 before a new successor is developed, this is a great time for aspiring photographers to hop on to the digital SLR bandwagon. The new features are pretty good but the $699 price tag shows that the older but superior models still have more to offer. The Nikon D5100 is more than a year old now but it still proudly represents the midrange consumer lineup of Nikon DSLR cameras. The price gap between the D5100 and D3200 is just a few hundred dollars and it might even be less if you find a store that sells the camera for even less. Therefore, it is best to give the Nikon D5100 another review to see if entry-level photographers should save up more for a more capable camera.
Being a sub-$1,000 DSLR camera, you cannot expect too much from the build quality. It is not as rigid or rugged as something like the Nikon D7000 so you need to be careful when traveling with this camera as it lacks full protection from dust, water and moisture. The only real advantage of the D5100’s plastic build is the weight. Weighing a bit more than a half a kilogram, you should have no trouble snapping shots and the ergonomics is quite good. In fact, the D5100 is a bit lighter than its predecessor.
The Vari-Angle LCD monitor is one of the best features of the Nikon D5000 and it has made its way to the Nikon D5100 in the form of a slightly larger 3.0-inch 920,000-dot display. As of June 2012, you cannot find this feature in any other Nikon DSLR camera. The flexibility of this LCD monitor lets you take better creative shots during situations where it is more difficult to use the viewfinder. To maximize usability, the controls had to be placed on the right of the screen for convenient one-handed operation.
Performance-wise, the Nikon D5100 surprisingly stacks up well against the Nikon D7000 which costs a few hundred dollars more. The image quality and high ISO performance is very good for the price and you can get very good dynamic range if you take pictures in RAW mode. In JPEG mode, you will be treated with automatic chromatic aberration mode. With a 16.2-megapixel sensor that can snap 4 frames per second in continuous mode, there is a lot of room for creativity and you should be able to print these pictures on large media without sacrificing detail. The filter effects make the Nikon D5100 even more fun to use.
The EXPEED 2 image processor takes a lot of credit for the camera’s performance. It also allows the Nikon D5100 to record 1080p video. Unlike other cameras that have this processor, the video performance is a bit better as you can take 30 fps video on the 1080p setting. You can also use the autofocus while you continuously record.
The Nikon D5100 is by far the best sub-$1,000 camera that money can buy. It is basically a Nikon D7000 minus a few extra functions like a dedicated ISO button. You just have to be careful handling the D5100 as it isn’t as rugged as the D7000.