Nikon recently launched the D5100 and it can safely be said that the camera is placed between the already launched D3100 and D7100 cameras. The features and functions, as well as the dimensions, all fall between the two existing models. The Nikon D3100 is very light and easy to carry around, while the D7100 is heavy and quite large in size. The Nikon D5100 is not as light as the D3100, yet not as heavy as the D7100. The grip compartment on the right is relatively deeper in size than the D5000 model. This makes it easier for users with longer hands to carry the camera.
The Nikon D5100 succeeds the D5000 model and a number of changes can be seen in the upgraded model. While the older model had a 12 megapixel CMOS sensor, the upgraded one employs a CMOS chip of 16.2 megapixels. This provides for a number of features like constant feed of the live view, HD video capture, capturing as many as four frames every second for close to a hundred JPEG (high quality) images or about twenty RAW pictures.
Another interesting feature of the device is the self-cleaning function. The sensor is capable of clearing off dust particles by simple vibrating at a high frequency. This can either happen while the device is starting up or shutting down. You can opt for both or do away with this function altogether. The function doesn’t take up any extra time and the camera switches on and off almost instantly. The camera comes with a 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens and it attaches well to the Nikon D5100.
The Nikon D5100 is a relatively quieter device. The action of the shutter can be made silent, which is a pleasant change from most cameras in this range. So if you want a quiet camera, you will be satisfied with this model. However, it is important to point out here that this function reduces the shutter speed marginally and most people therefore do not mind the mild shutter sound. The sound is marginalized anyway and so doesn’t cause much of a trouble.
The speed of the shutter can be customized while recording videos. The minimum allowed speed is 1/30th for 1 second. Along with this, the exposure allowance and AE lock functions can also be activated. The camera has a built in mike which records monophonic sounds. However, you can attach an external mike if you want enhanced sound quality. You can record a maximum of 2GB per video. It must be noted here that videos take up close to 100MB space per minute and this fills up the memory slot pretty quickly. A maximum of 5 minutes per video can be recorded and stored on the Nikon D5100. All videos are recorded in high resolution.
The design of the D5100 is pretty traditional and similar to most digital SLRs. There is a ring indicating the modes of shooting on the top portion of the camera. With the help of this, you can choose the mode you want to use and customize your images accordingly. There is an ‘exposure compensation’ button placed near the release of the shutter. This makes it easy and quick to use.
The ‘effects shooting mode’ is a new addition to the digital SLRs from Nikon. The D5100 sports this function. With the help of this, you can add as many as 7 filters, all different from the other, to pictures as well as videos. With a staggering 102,400 ISO, the camera takes some brilliant night shots too.
If you want to take only still pictures, you can use the ‘live view’ mode. While capturing a video, you can alter the speed in accordance to the effect you select. Since recording takes up a lot of power, the quality of the video sometimes suffers.
There is an info button on the panel and once you press it, you will be categorically informed about the camera’s functions and usability. This is a very helpful tool and supports you whenever you have trouble understand the workings of the device.
The well laid out screen of the D5100 is a wonderful example of the upgradation from the D5000. It is attached to the sides and not to the bottom of the device. This is a very good change as it helps in making it more flexible. You can fold the screen after use and prevent it from scratches and other damages. The size of the upgraded screen stands at three inches and boasts of a higher resolution as well. There is an antiglare layer which makes viewing easier. It also makes for better viewing under sunlight. However, you may need to deal with the problem of objects reflecting on the screen.
The D5100 is fitted with a good optical viewfinder that goes through the lens. It magnifies up to 0.78x and this is similar to most cameras in this range. The model has eleven points of auto focus and these can, at all times, be seen on the screen while the focus function is in use. There are some grid lines to help you, and these can be brought on display as and when needed by selecting the options from the menu. If the battery needs to be charged or if the memory card hasn’t been installed, you will see warnings flashing on the screen. Towards the bottom of the screen you will notice all the info about the shooting mode.
As already mentioned, there are eleven auto focus points in the Nikon D5100. The point found right at the middle is a cross type point. The remaining ten only cater to vertical and horizontal details. This barely causes trouble as the camera focuses itself on the object promptly and without much difficulty. The auto focus points which are active glow in red on the viewfinder and this makes it simple enough to spot them.
One of the minor drawbacks of the Nikon D5100 is that it has only one control ring. You do not find separate function buttons to alter the ISO, change the white balance, or activate the auto focus. Most functions have to be bought in from the main info on the screen. This is not much of a problem, as with regular usage you end up getting used to the changes.
The battery life of the D5100 is good as it is powered by an EN-EL14 Lithium-ion battery. You can take over 650 uninterrupted shots as well as record videos. The videos and the still images can be stored on SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards. It would have been helpful had there been a secondary memory card slot, but users of the D5100 have to make do with just one. This model also doesn’t have any slot for compact flash. There are ports for USB/VideoOut and Mini HDMI and this makes the connectivity fantastic. There also is a port for connecting remote controls or GPS devices. These are hidden behind a flap found on the camera’s left corner.
The Nikon D5100 therefore is a good and very user-friendly camera. It is a great entry-level device and is perfectly suited for beginners. If you are stating out with digital SLRs, then the Nikon D5100 is highly recommended.