On April 5, 2011, Nikon launched the Nikon D5100 DSLR, an expected replacement for the Nikon D5000 that was introduced first in April of 2009. As a upper-entry-level DSLR, the Nikon D5100 stands above entry-level Nikon D3100 and below the semi-professional Nikon D90 and D7000 cameras. The changes from Nikon D5000 are significant – not only does the D5100 get the much improved 16.2 MP sensor from the excellent Nikon D7000, but it also comes with a side-articulated 3 inch swivel LCD with 920,000 pixels (the Nikon D5000 had a bottom-articulated 2.7 inch swivel LCD with only 230,000 pixels), full 1080p HD video recording and a completely redesigned camera body.
The biggest change, is obviously the sensor, which means we can expect the same image quality from D5100 as from D7000. This is great news for those, who do not care about all the extra features the D7000 offers, or cannot afford to spend over $1K on a DSLR. The 1080p video mode is great with 24, 25 and 30 FPS and allows semi-manual exposure control. Meaning, the camera will let you choose the aperture, shutter speed and ISO in video mode, but once the recording begins, the aperture stays locked. This is not a big deal, because normally you would not want to change the lens aperture while recording video. And the swivel LCD is a world better than on the D5000. When I tested the D5000, I certainly did not like the bottom-articulated LCD – it was just too bulky and inconvenient to use. The problem has now been addressed, since the LCD is now conveniently positioned to the left of the camera. For those who complained about the low-resolution LCD on the D5000, this issue has also been addressed and the D5100 LCD not only has more pixels, but is also bigger in size and thinner. Surprisingly, the redesign of the larger swivel LCD has actually decreased the size and the weight of the camera – it is 10% smaller than the D5000 and 50 grams lighter!
Two other features worth mentioning are in the camera firmware. The Nikon D5100 is the first Nikon DSLR to have an “HDR Mode”, which works very similarly to what the iPhone 4 does – it takes two pictures at different shutter speeds and then combines them into a single HDR image. While I do not think the final image is going to be superb, as there are too many variables involved when dealing with HDR photography, this is still something quite new in the DSLR market. Pentax was the first manufacturer to have in-camera HDR with their K7 DSLR and Sony followed with A-500 and A-550, also with HDR capabilities. Last year Canon filed for a much more complex HDR patent, so Nikon made the quick move by introducing it before Canon. Considering the complexity of Canon’s HDR patent, the company will probably take the lead in in-camera HDR processing when first HDR-capable Canon DSLRs are introduced. I will not be surprised, if going forward there will be plenty of HDR fine-tuning options available right from the camera menu. The second feature is picture and video “Effect Modes”, which add some “artsy” feel to images and videos. I personally don’t care much about these, but I can imagine that others might find them cool to use occasionally. Nikon will probably add more of these effects to future DSLRs.
Here is a short summary of Nikon D5100 specifications taken from NikonUSA:
- Effective Pixels: 16.2 million
- Sensor Size: 23.6 x 15.6mm
- Image Sensor Format: DX
- Image Sensor Type: CMOS
- File Format Compressed: 14-bit NEF (RAW), JPEG (Baseline Compliant), MOV
- Picture Control: Landscape, Monochrome, Neutral, Portrait, Standard, User-customizable Settings, Vivid
- Storage Media: SD, SDHC, SDXC
- Viewfinder: Eye-level pentamirror single-lens reflex viewfinder
- Viewfinder Frame Coverage: 95% Approx.
- Viewfinder Magnification: 0.78x Approx.
- Lens Compatibility: AF-S Lens Required for Autofocus
- Bulb Shutter Setting: Yes
- Shutter Release Modes: Continuous, Delayed remote, Quick Response Remote Mode, Quiet shutter-release, Self-timer mode, Single-frame
- Top Continuous Shooting Speed at full resolution: 4 frames per second
- Exposure Metering System: TTL exposure metering using 420-pixel RGB sensor
- 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
- Exposure Compensation: ±5 EV in increments of 1/3 or 1/2 EV
- Exposure Bracketing: 3 frames ±2 EV in 1/3 or 1/2 steps
- ISO Sensitivity: ISO 100 – 6400, Hi-0.3, Hi-0.7, Hi-1 (ISO 12,800), Hi-2 (ISO 25,600)
- Long Exposure Noise Reduction: Yes
- High ISO Noise Reduction: Low, Normal, High, Off
- Active D-Lighting: On
- Single-point AF Mode: Yes
- Dynamic AF Mode Number of AF points: 11 (3D-tracking)
- Auto-area AF Mode: Yes
- Autofocus System: Nikon Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection
- Focus Modes: Auto AF-S/AF-C selection (AF-A), Continuous-servo (AF-C), Face-Priority AF available in Live View only and D-Movie only, Full-time Servo (AF-A) available in Live View only, Manual focus (M): Electronic rangefinder can be used, Normal area, Single-servo AF (AF-S), Wide area
- Built-in Flash: Yes
- Flash Sync Speed: Up to 1/200 sec.
- Live View Shooting: Yes
- Movie Maximum recording time: 20 min.
- Movie File Format: MOV
- Movie Video Compression: H.264/MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding
- Movie: HD 1,920×1,080 / 30 fps, HD 1,920×1,080 / 24 fps, HD 1,280×720 / 30 fps, HD 1,280×720 / 24 fps, VGA 640×424 / 30 fps
- Movie Audio: Built-in microphone, monaural, Optional external stereo mini-pin jack (3.5mm diameter)
- Monitor Size: 3.0 in. diagonal
- Monitor Resolution: 921,000 Dots
- Battery: EN-EL14 Rechargeable Li-ion Battery
- Battery Life (shots per charge): 660 shots (CIPA)
- Approx. Dimensions: Width 5.0 in. (127mm), Height 3.8 in. (96.5mm), Depth 3.1 in. (78.7mm)
- Approx. Weight: 19.7 oz. (560g) camera body only
Nikon also introduced the “ME-1 external microphone” – a microphone that is specifically designed to be used on Nikon DSLRs while recording high definition videos.
I will put together some feature comparisons between the D5100 and D5000, D3100 and D7000 later this week.