ISO Performance at low ISOs (ISO 100-800)
Note: Since Nikon D5100 has exactly the same sensor as the Nikon D7000, all images and comparisons in this and other pages of the review are taken from the Nikon D7000 Review.
Let’s take a look at how the Nikon D5100 performs at low ISOs that I use the most. Here are some crops at ISO 100, 200, 400 and 800:
As I have already stated earlier, the noise levels at base ISO are typically the cleanest, as the above crops indicate. ISO 100 and ISO 200 look identical in terms of details, but ISO 200 already has a little more luminance noise in the shadows (visible on the right side of the image). ISO 400 picks up noise even more, with grain starting to appear in other darker parts of the image. At ISO 800, noise starts to affect the shadows, but the image details are still preserved across the frame. Overall, the ISO performance of the Nikon D5100 at ISOs 100-800 yields very good results.
High ISO Performance (ISO 1600-6400)
High ISO performance is a very important measure of DSLR sensor quality. Here is how the Nikon D5100 performs at high ISO levels between ISO 1600 and 6400:
ISO 1600 adds a bit more grain when compared to ISO 800, but there is still plenty of detail to work with. I would not hesitate to use ISO 1600 on the D5100 as well and would probably use noise reduction software if I needed to get rid of the noise. At ISO 3200 we are seeing loss of detail, especially in the shadows, but the image is still usable. ISO 6400 looks too grainy for me and there is a high level of noise across the frame. Judging from the above crops and my field tests, I personally would shoot between ISO 100-1600 and push ISO to 3200 every once in a while when needed, staying out of ISO 6400 as much as possible.
High ISO Performance “Boost” (ISO 12800-25600)
Nikon D5100 has two extra ISO “boost” levels – ISO 12800 and ISO 25600 for extreme situations. Take a look at these:
As you can see, there is plenty of detail/sharpness loss at ISO 12,800 and chroma/color noise is quite visible. The shadows on the toy have no texture left and there is lots of high magnitude noise across the frame. ISO 25,600 is much worse and looks unusable to me.
ISO Performance Summary
It is hard to judge the performance of the Nikon D5100 without direct comparison against other cameras, which is why you should definitely check out the next pages of this review. One thing for sure – the Nikon D5100 performs very well for a 16 MP DX camera. Let’s see what kind of a difference there is between the Nikon D5100 and the older generation Nikon D90. Click the next page below to see the comparison.
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