Another clear improvement over the D5100 is the addition of a 3in, high-resolution, tilt-and-swivel LCD monitor that displays at a resolution of 920k dots a huge upgrade over the 230k-dots offered by the D3100 and D5000. This makes it much easier to review images at the time of shooting, using the zoom function to check for edge sharpness and fine detail without the need for a computer monitor.
Taking on-board previous criticism of the D5000's awkwardly-placed hinge on the camera base, the D51000's monitor is hinged to the side, avoiding any potential restrictions of movement when the camera is mounted on a tripod. An additional benefit of this arrangement is that the monitor can be folded into the body with the screen facing inwards, thereby protecting it from accidental scratches. In-hand it's a pleasure to use and feels solidly constructed, even though Nikon claims it's 17 per cent thinner than the D5000's monitor.
Compromises have had to be made elsewhere in order to keep the overall cost down and so the D5100 doesn't get the 39-point Nikon Multi-CAM 4800DX autofocus system of the D7000, nor the same model's 2,016-pixel metering sensor. Instead the D5100 employs the 11-point Nikon Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus sensor module and 420-pixel metering sensor found in both the D3100 and D5000. Continuous shooting is a claimed 4fps, although we weren't able to verify this during our time with the camera.
Turning to the D5100's new additions, the Special Effects options offer set of digital filters accessed via the Mode dial, used to add instantaneous creative effects to JPEG images and movies (but not RAW files), either during or after capture. The seven Special Effects on offer are selective colour, miniature, colour sketch, night vision, silhouette, high key and low key.
The D5100 also offers a new HDR mode that, when selected, takes two images (one under- and one over-exposed) with one shutter press before combining the two into a single HDR (high dynamic range) image. One further feature that will doubtless please strobist fans is that the D5100â€™s pop-up flash can be used as a commander to control an off-camera flash with.
While the addition of digital filters is a new step for Nikon, other manufacturers such as Olympus and Pentax have integrated them within their entry-level models for a few years now. Some purists may scoff at the idea of manipulating images in-camera, but for someone relatively new to the world of DSLRs there's little doubt that they provide an accessible and straightforward way of adding extra creativity to images. Manufacturers such as Nikon hope that this will, in turn, further stimulate an interest in creative photography. Given this, it's a trend that we expect to see more of in the next year.