Nikon D5100 DSLR Announcement

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.

Nikon D5100

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:

  1. Effective Pixels: 16.2 million
  2. Sensor Size: 23.6 x 15.6mm
  3. Image Sensor Format: DX
  4. Image Sensor Type: CMOS
  5. File Format Compressed: 14-bit NEF (RAW), JPEG (Baseline Compliant), MOV
  6. Picture Control: Landscape, Monochrome, Neutral, Portrait, Standard, User-customizable Settings, Vivid
  7. Storage Media: SD, SDHC, SDXC
  8. Viewfinder: Eye-level pentamirror single-lens reflex viewfinder
  9. Viewfinder Frame Coverage: 95% Approx.
  10. Viewfinder Magnification: 0.78x Approx.
  11. Lens Compatibility: AF-S Lens Required for Autofocus
  12. Bulb Shutter Setting: Yes
  13. Shutter Release Modes: Continuous, Delayed remote, Quick Response Remote Mode, Quiet shutter-release, Self-timer mode, Single-frame mode
  14. Top Continuous Shooting Speed at full resolution: 4 frames per second
  15. Exposure Metering System: TTL exposure metering using 420-pixel RGB sensor
  16. 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
  17. Exposure Compensation: ±5 EV in increments of 1/3 or 1/2 EV
  18. Exposure Bracketing: 3 frames ±2 EV in 1/3 or 1/2 steps
  19. ISO Sensitivity: ISO 100 – 6400, Hi-0.3, Hi-0.7, Hi-1 (ISO 12,800), Hi-2 (ISO 25,600)
  20. Long Exposure Noise Reduction: Yes
  21. High ISO Noise Reduction: Low, Normal, High, Off
  22. Active D-Lighting: On
  23. Single-point AF Mode: Yes
  24. Dynamic AF Mode Number of AF points: 11 (3D-tracking)
  25. Auto-area AF Mode: Yes
  26. Autofocus System: Nikon Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection
  27. 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
  28. Built-in Flash: Yes
  29. Flash Sync Speed: Up to 1/200 sec.
  30. Live View Shooting: Yes
  31. Movie Maximum recording time: 20 min.
  32. Movie File Format: MOV
  33. Movie Video Compression: H.264/MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding
  34. 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
  35. Movie Audio: Built-in microphone, monaural, Optional external stereo mini-pin jack (3.5mm diameter)
  36. Monitor Size: 3.0 in. diagonal
  37. Monitor Resolution: 921,000 Dots
  38. Battery: EN-EL14 Rechargeable Li-ion Battery
  39. Battery Life (shots per charge): 660 shots (CIPA)
  40. Approx. Dimensions: Width 5.0 in. (127mm), Height 3.8 in. (96.5mm), Depth 3.1 in. (78.7mm)
  41. 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.

The Nikon D5100 is currently available for pre-order for $799 from B&H Photo Video and other major photo retailers.

I will put together some feature comparisons between the D5100 and D5000, D3100 and D7000 later this week.


  1. 1) boywashington
    April 10, 2011 at 1:17 am

    Did it has built-in AF motor ?

    • 1.1) Rahul
      April 10, 2011 at 10:31 am

      No, it doesn’t. Bad move , Nikon. I don’t know exactly how much it would cost to include AF motor but it would dispel a lot of confusion regarding lens compatibility (and please Nikon, don’t cripple low end SLRs , as in “will AF but will not meter” kind of stuff).

  2. 2) Aggie
    April 10, 2011 at 2:01 am

    What? The upper-entry level DSLR also DOESN’T have a built-in autofocus motor too? Just when I like this camera and thought I could upgrade to the D5100 :(

    I’m fine with my manual focus now on my D3000 (as I’m trying to save on lenses), but I’d like the option to have an autofocus too. Splurging on AF-S lenses is not an option for me.

    If all Canon DSLRs have built-in autofocus motors, why can’t Nikon? :(

    • 2.1) Rahul
      April 10, 2011 at 10:33 am

      Canon DSLRs don’t have AF motors built-in. Canon decided at the start to move the AF mechanism into the lenses instead of the body. Nikon did the same, but later , after initially implementing AF with the mechanism as part of the body instead of the lenses.

  3. 3) Peter
    April 10, 2011 at 6:12 am

    Sounds like camera HDR is in the initial primitive stage. Good start, however.

    I generally take 5-shot HDRs and even 7-shot depending on the situation. It catches a lot of tones that way.

  4. 4) Michael
    April 10, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Nice camera for beginner but i will stay with my old D90 waiting for…D800! :)

  5. 5) Raaj Datta
    April 22, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    I’m confused over Nikon D5100 and Canon 550D. Final image quality matters though.
    Which one do you vote for? Please help!

    • 5.1) Rahul
      April 23, 2011 at 2:12 am

      The Nikon’s certainly better, but if you intend to buy more lenses (if you are a hobbyist) , then remember that Nikon lenses tend to be more expensive than Canon equivalents. More than the body , it’s the lenses that should dictate your choice. If you’re only ever going to buy the DSLR with kit lens and maybe a telephoto zoom, then either will do just fine with not too much variation in prices.

      • 5.1.1) Raaj Datta
        April 23, 2011 at 5:26 am

        Thanks Rahul.

        The lack of in-body auto-focus motor and manual white balance plus the absence of DPOF preview button in D5100 is pushing me towards the Canon 550D. But to be precise, I’m not so sure of the photo quality of the 550D.

        So far, I’ve been shooting in film and was at ease with manual focus telephoto lenses of both Zenit and Vivitar. It is just that getting a good DSLR will get me on the track once again. I need something that is fast to shoot with….I mean more user control.


        • Rahul
          April 23, 2011 at 7:48 am

          The D5100 sensor is better than the 550D sensor in terms of noise and dynamic range, but it’s not close to full frame, or film. If you don’t need much low light performance, the 550D will serve pretty well too, have seen splendid images off a 550D which is the same sensor as the 7D. I think the D5100 does have manual WB preset option ,though not the option for setting the color temperature, and the 550D doesn’t offer that either, only custom white balance from a reference image- is that what you’re looking for ?

          If you’re intending to focus manually, the lack of AF motor shouldn’t be much of bother. Otherwise consider the D90, it’s a little down on ISO and dynamic range vs the D5100/D7000 sensor but has more to offer for manual control, has an AF motor and the VF is prism, you might like that coming from film. The D90 is more expensive of course, the body alone costs more than D5100 w/ 18-55mm kit, or the D7000 w/18-105mm kit which is 2x as expensive as D5100 kit.

          If you have some lenses already, the Canon may work better , you’ll need an adapter though. And the lenses prices are another advantage for Canon. Aside from prices of lenses which are more expensive for Nikon especially the AF-S ones required for AF on D3100 and D5100, the 550D and D5100 are neck and neck in terms of features and price, the D5100 has newer sensor and offers better image quality. You can work around the lens prices by using 3rd party lenses though.

          • Raaj Datta
            April 23, 2011 at 8:58 am

            Thanks once again, Rahul.

            In that case, D5100 seems good to start with…or may be the D90 is a more logical choice.

  6. 6) Shin
    April 28, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    Nice website. Thank you for the informative info on camera.

    I am a newbie that is looking for new DSLR.
    Currently my plan is go for D5100.
    After seeing your article, will plan to purchase 35mm/1.8 also.

    Looking forward to see the comparsion between D5100 and others (D90,D3100)
    I think later will help me to decide which DSLR I am going to purchase.

  7. 7) sherife
    April 29, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    I want to buy Nikon SLR5100 new product.But can’t see anywhere its price.I live in turkey.Could you help me, please if you know its price?

    • 7.1) Rahul
      April 30, 2011 at 1:59 am

      If your local Nikon subsidiary website ( Nikon Turkey ) does not have the price listed, wait for a few days. Here too the local price was announced a week after the US/EU announcement. Expect the D5100 + 18-55mm kit lens to be priced similar to or slightly less than the D90 body only price.

  8. 8) Raaj Datta
    May 4, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    I was in two minds, but finally went ahead and bought the D90 and I’m enjoying it. The controls are really pro and that’s exactly what steered my decision. I did cautiously avoid the 18-105 though and instead got an 18-55 VR for everyday use. The second stop would obviously be the 35 mm.

    One more thing……now that I have this DX format camera and my manual SLR side by side, I precisely understand why the FX format is the real deal :)

  9. 9) Adi
    May 10, 2011 at 4:34 am

    which is better, Nikon D3100 or D5100 ???

  10. 10) John
    May 11, 2011 at 7:22 pm


    Great website you have here! :)
    I would like to ask some advice from the really knowledgable people who run this website.

    I would be getting a nikon D5100 soon, and I would like to ask about which lenses I should get to help me improve in terms of learning.

    For zoom lenses, i do not know if I should get the nikon 18-105 or tamron 17-50 VC

    For primes, I am thinking between the nikon 35mm 1.8 and the sigma 50mm 1.4.
    Which should I get, or should I get both? Which lens would help me train my composition and improve in terms of photography better? I am more tempted to get the sigma due to its large aperture, widely appraised centre sharpness and bokeh, but I am worried that the 75mm range from the crop factor of this lens will make it awkward for photo taking.

    Thanks for reading and the advice, I look forward to hearing from your! :))


    • 10.1) Adi
      May 11, 2011 at 11:30 pm

      I suggest you to zoom lens you can take 18-105 mm.

      For primes, I suggest to sigma 50mm due to its large aperture and nice for portrait lens because nikon 35mm is just too short with DX :)

    • 10.2) Rahul
      May 12, 2011 at 9:01 am

      I’d get the Tamron 17-50 over the 18-105. True, the Nikkor is more versatile, but anytime you have to shoot in low light, the widest aperture of the Nikkor drops too fast, it’s already f/5 by 50mm.

      On a DX, a 35mm is more useful, but a 50mm is close 85mm on FX which many prefer for portraits. Get both if you can, even over an above the Tamron if you don’t need the wide end much.

      • 10.2.1) John
        May 12, 2011 at 8:31 pm

        Thanks so much, Rahul and Adi! I guess the tamron is more versatile at any time of the day! :) I guess I will be getting the tammy and both primes if I can afford them! :)

        Thanks again! :)

  11. 11) Rakesh
    October 1, 2012 at 4:02 am

    Great website
    As per my budget I have selected D5100 & D3200. Please let me know which is practically better.
    Which lens combination I should buy for my study/hobby of wildlife, flowers, and birds?
    And one doubt is there is any focusing problem with D5100.
    Please guide me.
    Thank You,

  12. 12) Stephen
    June 29, 2013 at 5:27 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Both D5100 and D3200 are priced the same in India.I would go with the camera which has the most features and which you would recommend. Could you pls reply soon as i want to purchase it soon. Thanks in advance. Steve

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