Nikon D5100 review

Mid-range Nikon DSLR with 16-megapixel sensor

Image 1 of 4 D5100 top
Image 2 of 4 D5100 lens
Image 3 of 4 D5100 front
Image 4 of 4 D5100 shutter button

DSLRs are notoriously difficult to use, often making it impossible for lowly photographers to take the pictures they see adorned all over Flickr, fear not the Nikon D5100 is a versatile step-up DSLR for novices and enthusiasts

Although DSLRs are becoming increasingly complex and feature-rich, manufacturers are trying to make them easier to use. Nikon has been at the forefront of this development, over the last six months we've seen the Nikon D3100 and now it's bigger brother the Nikon D5100.

Nikon D5100 specs inclue a 16.2Mp Nikon D5100, which replaces the D5000, has straight-forward handling, easy to use Special Effects modes (Night Vision, Color Sketch, Miniature, Selective Color, Silhouette, High Key and Low Key), an image-merging HDR option, a host of scene modes and an articulated 3in LCD screen to help when shooting from unusual angles.

In many ways the D5100 seems to offer everything the aspiring photographer could wish for as the more advanced Program, Aperturee Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual exposure modes are also on hand.

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Nikon D5100 Controls

There isn’t much room for buttons on the rear of the D5100 so live view and movie recording (1080p) are activated by controls on the top-plate. This may seem odd given that using live view and shooting movies means looking at the screen, but as the D5100’s screen folds in and out users may view the camera from above more often than usual.

Small niggles aside, the D5100 is easy to get to grips with, and while there might not be direct control for aspects such as sensitivity, white balance and metering, these and more can be accessed quickly via the on-screen Information Edit Display.

Nikon D5100 Screen

With 920,000 dots the D5100’s 3in LCD shows plenty of detail, but reflections are an issue in bright sunlight and it may be necessary to shade it with a hand. However, the articulated joint on the screen’s left is a real bonus when shooting from unusual angles.

Although the LCD image is clear and movement is usually smooth, when the Color Sketch or Miniature Special Effects modes are activated the live view image becomes very jerky, presumably because of the demand on the D5100’s processing power.

Nikon D5100 Speed and performance

All the controls on the D5100 are responsive and it starts up quickly. When a class 6 SD card like a SanDisk Extreme III is installed, the D5100 can shoot continuously at a maximum rate of 4fps for around 100 highest quality JPEGs, or 20 raw images, or 12 simultaneous raw and JPEG files.

Nikon D5100 Battery

Nikon supplies a rechargeable Li-ion EN-EL14 battery with the D5100. This takes around 1 hour 30 mins to charge from flat using the supplied MH-24 charger. A fully charged battery should last for around 660 shots in single-frame release mode or 2,200 shots in Continuous release mode.

Nikon D5100 Picture and video quality

The D5100 features the same 16.2 million pixel CMOS sensor and EXPEED 2 processor as the Nikon D7000. These prove to be very capable and noise is controlled well throughout the D5100’s sensitivity range (ISO 100-6400 expandable to ISO 25,600). At low sensitivity settings the level of detail visible in images and video also impresses.

We have seen the D5100’s white balance, metering and (11-point) AF systems before in the D5000 and they don’t disappoint. Grass can look a little too yellow in sunlight when the auto white balance setting is used though. This isn’t an issue for Raw shooters, but those wanting to get JPEGs right in-camera may wish to switch to the Direct Sunlight option or the Landscape Picture Control mode.

The Special Effects are easy to use and generally work well, although a grainy monochrome mode might be more popular than the Color Sketch mode. It would also be nice to have control over exposure compensation when these modes are selected. Although there is some subtle haloing, the image combining HDR mode proves very useful for capturing high contrast scenes such as landscapes with deep shadows.

Nikon D5100 Verdict

Nikon has produced a very capable and versatile camera that is fun and easy to use, its image quality is also superb. While it would make an ideal SLR for a novice looking to take more creative images, it has enough features to make it worthy of consideration by enthusiast photographers.

Nikon D5100 launch date: Out now, link Nikon

Nikon D5100 price: £699-£799 online, with kit lens