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Nikon D5100 HDSLR Camera Review

Nikon D5100 HDSLR Camera Review

Feature rich, excellent image quality and great low light performance make the Nikon D5100 a strong contender in the sub-$1,000 price range.

The Nikon D5100 DSLR camera is jam-packed with some very nice features, great in-camera effects and produces gorgeous images to boot. It definitely packs plenty of punch and the average consumer or enthusiast will surely be left pleasantly pleased.

Bustin' Out

Our camera came with a cover for the accessory shoe, a rubber eyecup that mounts onto the viewfinder and an eyepiece cap to protect the viewfinder when not in use. Also included are a shoulder strap, USB cable, A/V cable, battery charger, rechargeable Lithium-ion battery with terminal cover, User's Manual and Quick Start Guide. As ours was the D5100 18-55 VR Kit we also received the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens and cap.

Body of Evidence

The left front of the camera is home to the lens release button, flash mode button, built-in microphone and self timer button, which may also be programmed for quick access to other functions as well, such as white balance or ISO sensitivity. The speaker resides above the shoulder strap eyelet on the left side while a single cover hides all of the camera's connection ports below. Connection options include USB and A/V out, HDMI (no cable included), an external microphone port -definitely a plus, and a GPS port.

The rear of the camera is home to the highly versatile, super sharp (921,000 dots), side-hinged, 3-inch, Vari-angle LCD monitor. Above the monitor is the Menu button for accessing the various menus including a menu of your recently changed settings. Next to this are the viewfinder with diopter adjustment wheel and the Information Edit button. This button provides quick access and easy adjustment to the camera's current settings. Continuing to the right rear is the AE-L/AF-L button for locking, and in some recording modes, altering and exposure. Next is the Command Dial which may be used alone or in tandem with other buttons to adjust functions such as shutter speed, aperture, or even ISO or white balance settings if previously associated with the programmable function button.

Below these are the playback button, the multi-selector pad and OK button for navigating and selecting the various menus and settings options, the playback zoom-in button, the thumbnail/playback zoom-out button and the delete button. Topside is the Mode Dial for accessing the various recording modes, a variety of scene modes and some very interesting special effects modes. Two in particular are Selective Color, which allows the user to select up to three colors to be retained while all else is recorded in black and white, and Night Vision, which records quite well in extremely low light conditions by utilizing very high ISO settings. Images are monochromatic and ultra grainy but still manage to deliver a great deal of detail. Alongside the Mode Dial is the Live View switch for toggling between the viewfinder and the LCD screen. An info button cycles through several display options including a framing grid and showing camera settings across the top of the LCD. Also on top are the exposure compensation/aperture button, the video record and shutter release buttons and the power switch. The media card slot is found on the right side of the camera while the battery slides in from underneath.

In use, the zoom function is manual only, utilizing the zoom-ring on the lens. The motion is smooth and precise. Focus however may be achieved through either auto or manual means. When focusing manually, eleven focus points are displayed through the viewfinder, any one of which may be selected utilizing the multi-selector pad. A small greenish dot lights up in the lower left portion of the viewing area when proper focus on the desired point has been achieved. As with zooming, focus-ring action is both smooth and precise.

The built-in microphone does a very nice job of picking up sound - all sound - equally well. When placed close to the subject, with care taken to eliminate as much other sound as possible, you will get some decent, usable sound - if you don't mind a bit of slight upper range frequency tone throughout. Even at a distance, the pickup is good. Drop-off from six feet to twenty feet was negligible. Unfortunately, it also picks up operator and camera noise such as breathing, walking, button pushing and zoom and focus action from the lens. Voices behind the camera are picked up almost as clearly as those in front. Thankfully, Nikon has wisely included an external microphone port.

The Verdict

In spite of the aforementioned "audio-syncrasies" and some rolling shutter issues, not at all uncommon with CMOS sensor based cameras, the D5100 produces beautiful images, both still and video, with excellent color reproduction. Coupled with some great effects and easy to access features this is one camera that is sure to be guilty of excellence.

Tech Specs

Image Sensor Type: CMOS
Image Sensor Format: DX
Sensor Size: 23.6 x 15.6mm
Effective Pixels: 16.2 million
Image Area (pixels): (L) 4928 x 3264; (M) 3696 x 2448; (S) 2464 x 1632
File Format: Compressed 14-bit NEF (RAW); JPEG (Baseline Compliant); MOV
Storage Media: SD; SDHC; SDXC
Card Slot: Secure Digital (SD)
File System: Compliant with DCF (Design Rule for Camera File System) 2.0; DPOF (Digital Print Order Format); EXIF 2.3 (Exchangeable Image File Format for Digital Still Cameras)
Viewfinder Frame Coverage: 95% Approx.
Shutter Speed: 1/4000 to 30 sec. in steps of 1/3 EV
Top Continuous Shooting Speed at Full Resolution: 4 frames per second
Exposure Modes: Advanced Scene Modes; Aperture-Priority (A); Auto; Auto (flash off); Manual (M); Programmed Auto with flexible Program (P); Shutter-Priority Auto (S); Special Effects Mode
ISO Sensitivity: ISO 100-6400; Hi-0.3; Hi-0.7; Hi-1 (ISO 12,800); Hi-2 (ISO 25,600)
High ISO Noise Reduction: Low; Normal; High; Off
Focus: Auto (11 AF points); Manual (Can be selected from 11 focus points)
Focus Modes: Auto AF-S/AF-C selection (AF-A); Continuous-servo (AF-C); Face-Priority AF (in Live View and D-Movie only); Full-time Servo (AF-A - Live View only); Manual Focus; Normal area; Single-servo AF (AF-S); Wide area
White Balance: Auto; Cloudy; Direct Sunlight; Flash; Fluorescent (7 types); Incandescent; Preset Manual; Shade
Movie Video Compression: H.264/MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding
Movie Resolutions: HD 1920x1080 at both 24 and 30fps; HD 1280x720 at both 24 and 30fps; VGA 640x424 at 30fps
Monitor: 3.0 inch diagonal LCD; 921,000 dots; 170-degree wide-viewing angle
Interface: Audio/Video out; HDMI output; Hi-speed USB; NTSC; Stereo Microphone input
Approx. Dimensions: 5.0" W x 3.8" H x 3.1" D
Approx. Weight: 19.7 oz (560g) - camera body only

Strengths

  • External microphone port
  • Supports optional geotagging
  • User selectable focus points
  • Great color reproduction
  • Strong low light performance

Weaknesses

  • Onboard microphone picks up everything
  • Dedicated ISO button would be a plus

Summary

Feature rich, excellent image quality and great low light performance make the Nikon D5100 a strong contender in the sub-$1,000 price range.

Nikon Inc.
1300 Walt Whitman Road
Melville, NY 11747
www.nikonusa.com
$900 (kit price with lens)

Mark Holder is a video producer and trainer.

Tags:  September 2011
Mark
Holder
Thu, 09/01/2011 - 12:00am