This is a comparison between the new Nikon D3100 and the Nikon D5000 for those who want to know the differences between the two. I get a big number of requests from our readers, asking which one to buy and I hope this quick comparison in this “Nikon D3100 vs D5000” article will make it easier to make the right purchasing decision.
The new Nikon D3100 is an update to the existing Nikon D3000 line which was released in 2009 as an upgrade to the Nikon D40/D40x/D60 line. Similar to the D40/D40x/D60/D3100 cameras, the Nikon D3100 is classified as an entry-level, affordable DSLR camera that is targeted towards photo enthusiasts that want to get into the DSLR world. The Nikon D3100 was the first camera announced by Nikon that features the new Expeed II processor, allowing faster image and video processing up to 1080p (the previous Expeed processor could not handle more than 720p video).
So, here are the differences between the Nikon D3100 and D5000:
- The first and the most important difference between the D3100 and D5000 is the sensor. Nikon D3100 has a 14.2 megapixel 23.1×15.4mm sensor, while the D5000 has a slightly larger 23.6×15.8mm sensor, but with less resolution of 12.3 megapixels. The difference in megapixels is very small though and does not represent a huge improvement by D3100 over D5000.
- The new sensor on the D3100 also has slightly different specifications – its base ISO starts from 100 compared to 200 on the D5000 and can go up to 3200, just like on the D5000. The ISO boost levels (very grainy images) on the D3100 go up to 12,800, while the D5000 is limited to 6,400, a one stop difference.
- The new Expeed II processor on the Nikon D3100 is capable of full HD (1920x1080p) @ 24 fps (frames per second), while D5000 can only go up to 720p (1280x720p) @ 24 fps. D3100 can also shoot 720p at 30, 25 and 24 fps and 424p at 24 fps; Nikon D5000 only records video at 24 fps.
- Nikon D3100 comes with a 3″ LCD screen, while Nikon D5000 comes with a 2.7″ swivel screen.
- Nikon D5000 allows bracketing, while the D3100 does not (bad for those who shoot HDR).
- Nikon D3100 is classified as an entry-level DSLR, while Nikon D5000 is classified as an upper-entry-level DSLR.
- Nikon D5000 has more D-Lighting options, letting users choose between Auto, Extra High, High, Normal, Low and Off, while D3100 only lets to toggle between On and Off.
- Nikon D3100 shoots 3 FPS (frames per second), while Nikon D5000 shoots 4 FPS.
- Nikon D3100 is a slightly smaller camera than the D5000, measuring 124x96x74.5mm versus 127x104x80mm of D5000.
- Weight-wise, the Nikon D3100 is approximately 105 grams lighter than the D5000.
- Both cameras will not autofocus with older non AF-S lenses such as Nikon 50mm f/1.8D.
- Both cameras have exactly the same autofocus system.
- The price difference between the two cameras is around $150 – the Nikon D5000 kit with the 18-55mm lens retails for $850 (currently at $750) while the Nikon D3100 with the same lens is priced at $700 (currently at $645).
Here comes the big question – which one would I recommend to buy? Considering the feature and price difference, I would say the Nikon D3100 is a better buy than the D5000. Sure, the Nikon D3100 is a little worse when it comes to speed (FPS) and lack of the bracketing feature, but in every other way, it is clearly superior than the D5000. The swivel screen on the Nikon D5000, in my opinion, is not very useful – I found it to be a nuisance rather than a feature for everyday photography. While it can be useful for those who shoot video, it is basically useless for still photography. Judging from the ISO samples, the high ISO performance on the D3100 is also superior, especially at ISO 1600 and above. On top of that, the Nikon D5000 is now discontinued (you cannot purchase D5000 anymore at B&H), which means that Nikon has stopped the D5000 production and shifted manufacturing efforts towards D3100 and D7000 DSLRs.
The Nikon D3100 kit with 18-55mm lens is currently selling for approximately $645 at B&H.