Excerpt: Situated right between the entry-level D3100 and the fantastic D7000, the new Nikon D5100 ($899) packs features from both its brothers making it a worthy alternative to the aging D5000 and still-popular yet dog old D90. At the camera’s core is a 16.2 megapixel CMOS sensor from the D7000 capable of 4fps, ISO100-6400 and 1080p HD movie capture.
Conclusion: The Nikon D5100 offers a fantastic mix of still-image and video-recording quality, along with plenty of features including top-notch in-camera effects. This well-rounded shooter is an easy Editors' Choice for under-$1,000 D-SLRs.
Pros: Superb still image and video quality. Excellent low-light shooting capability. Sharp, articulating LCD. Continuous autofocus during Live View shooting. Lots of useful in-camera effects.
Cons: Continuous autofocus in Live View is slow. Some lens noise when autofocusing in video mode. No 720p60 video recording.
Summary: The Nikon D5100 is the upper-entry-level camera in the Nikon DSLR lineup. Slotting itself just above the D3100 Nikon D3100 , it produces superior-quality images using a similar design with a less efficient interface. Above it, the D7000 Nikon D7000 shares the 16 megapixels CMOS-sensor while providing a complete feature-set for advanced photographers including a large viewfinder showing 100% coverage, weather-sealing, 6 FPS continuous drive and an ultra-fast 39-point...
Pros: Very low image noise, Excellent white-balance, Reliable metering, Good dynamic range, Accurate autofocus system, Quick shutter-lag, Great shot-to-shoot speed, Instant power-on and off times, Quick to record and stop video, Full HD video with autofocus, Good build quality, Rangefinder MF assistance
Cons: Mostly slow autofocus, Uneven color response, Slight image softness, Noise-reduction even when disabled, LCD glare when settings are changed, Live-View not exposure-priority, Microphone records camera noise, Difficulty to setup video framing, Limited external controls, Limited interface control, Odd Auto ISO behavior, Lens mount lacks mechanical-coupling
Conclusion: If you’re in the market for a new DSLR you can hardly wrong with the Nikon D5100. It takes solid photos and videos, offering the response shutterbugs demand as they move from point-and-shoots to “real” cameras. We weren’t too thrilled with the kit lens, however. It’s an OK starting point but get ready — you’ll soon realize it really doesn’t serve the camera well. When that happens, you’ll end up tapping the credit line for more glass.
Pros: Quality 16-megapixel images, 3-inch vari-angle LCD (921K pixels), ISO range of 100 to 25,600
Cons: Kit lens is just a starting point, Awkward control system, Video good not great
Summary: The D5100 sits just above the D3100 in Nikon's product lineup and as such, it combines its younger sibling's ease of use with a slightly more advanced feature set. The D5100's trump card, however, is it's advanced 16MP sensor - inherited from the D7000. Judged on its own merits the D5100 is a great camera, but we're concerned that an enthusiastic beginner might outgrow it faster than some of the competition.
Pros: Excellent image quality, Unintimidating interface, but with plenty of manual control, Articulated, high-res LCD screen, Sophisticated AF system for the price, Easy manual selection of off-center AF points, Unusually fast Live View AF for a low-end DSLR (but still relatively slow compared to mirrorless competitors), Effects modes are fun and beginner-friendly, Much improved continuous shooting performance with Active D-Lighting turned on, Lots of in-camera raw conversi...
Cons: Sub-optimal placement of some second-tier controls (like live view switch), Movie shooting button 'orphaned' from live view switch, Buggy Live View / Movie Mode (movies aren't necessarily recorded at set aperture), No live histogram in live view, AF still a little sluggish in live view mode, full-time AF not very effective in live view or movies, Only direct external ISO control is via slightly inconveniently-placed 'Fn' button, Auto ISO logic is not well-suited for e...
Summary: All in all, I absolutely love the Nikon D5100. It’s an easy-to-carry and easy-to-use entry-level DSLR. The image quality is impressive and Nikon’s growing line of AF-S lenses for use with the D5100 moves it to the top of my recommendation list for new DSLR owners.
Conclusion: The Nikon is another well-specified DSLR that, while classed as entry-level, could easily be termed an intermediate model. Its small size and light weight, along with its ease to use and vari-angle LCD is sure to find favour with DSLR newcomers. Its range of features will keep most users happy too and while there may be some who turn their nose up at the creative functions, the wealth of in-camera effects is a real selling point and fun to try.
Excerpt: While nipping at the heels of its top level sibling, the D7000, this baby has a couple of advantages: a smaller size and arguably a less challenging user interface. It is in fact an excellent prosumer or enthusiast camera. In the hand it’s a practical camera and, at a pinch, could be used single-handed, with the shutter button, mode dial and command wheel within mills of the forefinger and thumb. But you wouldn’t, would you …!