Our Score


User Score


  • Hi-resolution articulated monitor
  • Easy to use
  • Much improved live view AF


  • Special Effects a bit limited
  • No wireless flash control/DoF preview

Review Price £730.00

Key Features: 16-megapixel CMOS APS-C sensor; Nikon EXPEED 2 image processor; 3in, 921k-dot articulated monitor; 1080p Full HD movie recording; Expanded sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 25,600

Manufacturer: Nikon

Retailing for approximately £670 body only or £750 with an 18-55mm VR kit lens, the Nikon D5100 replaces the D5000 as Nikon’s advanced entry-level DSLR. Sitting below the enthusiast-level D7000 but above the bare-bones D3100, the D5100 takes some advanced specifications from the former and mixes them with some of the more basic elements of the D7000, before adding some all-new features of its own to produce a neatly-specified model that bridges the gap between the two.

Turning straight to the headline specs, the D5100 employs the same 16.2-megapixel, DX-format CMOS sensor found in the D7000. While it’s not quite class-leading in terms of resolution (that honour goes to the 18-megapixel Canon EOS 600D), it does represent a considerable upgrade over the 12-megapixel sensor used in the D5000, and is also a step up from the 14.2-megapixel chip found inside the D3100.

Furthermore, the D5100 also benefits from Nikon’s latest EXPEED 2 image processor, first seen in the D3100 last year and then in the D7000, but which was not present when the D5000 was launched in 2009.

Along with faster processing times, better battery performance and the ability to record 14-bit (as opposed to 12-bit) Raw files, the new processing engine is able to deliver a maximum continuous shooting speed of 4fps – a slight improvement over the D3100’s 3fps, but not quite up there with the 6fps of the D7000. Compared to its competitors, this puts the D5100 somewhere in the middle; the Canon EOS 600D is a tad slower at 3.7fps, the Pentax K-r faster at 6fps, and the Sony A580 faster still at 7fps.

Nikon D5100 8

Since the arrival of the D3 and D300 in 2008, Nikon has deservedly gained a reputation for producing DSLRs able to shoot in low-light at high sensitivities while delivering images largely free of intrusive, image-degrading noise. The professional-grade D3s currently leads the way here with a top (expanded) ISO setting of 102,400, but models further down the line are increasingly benefitting from Nikon’s expertise in this field.

The D5100 offers a sensitivity range that stretches from ISO 100-6400 in standard mode, stretching to a maximum extended setting of ISO 25,600. If that’s still not quite enough, you can also call upon a ‘Night Vision’ option that pushes the sensitivity up to ISO 102,400, although these images can only be recorded in monochrome and are, as you might expect, super grainy in appearance.

Next page


May 12, 2011, 3:38 am

I'm confused as to how this sits alongside the D90. Going by the 'best price' given, the D90 with the much more versatile 18-105mm VR lens can be had for less. The D90 also has the missing features you cite.

I can only imagine this has been added to the line-up to compete with competitors' products for those who feel things like HD video and a twisty screen are important. As long as Nikon continue the D*0 range I'll be happy.

I've got an old D70s and the one thing I don't think I could cope without is the front wheel that's missing from the D5100...


May 12, 2011, 2:24 pm

No direct access ISO button... seriously? Given that higher ISO's are so much more usable nowadays, the omission of an ISO button is unforgivable, especially at this pricepoint.


May 12, 2011, 6:44 pm

I've had my D80 for some years now, and just got myself a D5100. In France the D5100 is offered with the 18-105mm lens kit.

The front wheel and the top LCD screen are the 2 things I miss. The missing AF motor makes some old lens "unusable". The slower top shutter speed can be problematic with very fast lens too.
However, if you can live with those short-comings, the D5100 beats the heck out of my D80.

First and foremost, image quality is incredible. MUCH better than the D80; not to mention the much improved high ISO performance. Even 6400 iso is quite usable, better sharpness and noise than 1600 iso on the D80.

Secondly, full HD video. Not everyone's cup of tea, but I appreciate the ability to record video if needed. The main reason I pick the D5100 over Canon 600D is better video AF and better high iso perf.

Thirdly, the small size and light weight really help to carry the camera everywhere with you.

I wouldn't go back to the D80. Top LCD screen and front wheel be damned. I'm not sure if there are enough reasons to get the D90 today. Judging from the better image sensor alone, for me, the D5100 is a clear winner.


May 13, 2011, 2:01 pm

True, there is no dedicated ISO button, although thanks to the 'quick settings menu' (accessed via the 'i' button to the right of the viewfinder) it's only takes a button press or two more to change ISO settings. While I'd certainly agree that a dedicated ISO button is convenient, I'm less inclined to agree that the omission of one is 'unforgivable'.


May 13, 2011, 2:19 pm

Nikon have said that the D5100 sits below the D90 within their range. While the D90 is undoubtedly a fantastic camera (that does indeed offer wireless flash control and a depth-of-field preview button) it's also a couple of years old now, which in digital camera terms means it's close to receiving a free bus pass. Nikon made it clear at the D5100 launch that the D90 was being retained due to "continued demand", which I would take to mean exactly that - continued demand for a great product.


May 16, 2011, 8:18 pm

@Audley Jarvis - Thanks for the review. I'm wondering if you could help me with something..?

I'm looking for a camera with interchangeable lenses, that produces great image quality in both stills and video (full HD), but one where I NEVER have to use the viewfinder. Oh, and it has to have a fully articulated monitor as well.
So the AF needs to be quick and reliable while using Live View mode, and it needs to have Continuous AF when shooting video.

Now, I know that Panasonic's GH2 ticks all these boxes. But I'd like to know if there are any serious alternatives out there, mainly amongst the more traditional DSLRs like this Nikon D5100, or Canon's 600D? Or does their more traditional technology prevent them from being used effectively without the viewfinder??

I'd be grateful to hear a professional opinion from someone who's actually tried using these different models in this way. Cheers!


May 17, 2011, 6:47 pm

Sony Alpha A55 or NEX-5.

Both have great live view systems, great image quality, and video performance is very decent.

The Alpha A55 is a more like a traditional DSLR, but uses a translucent mirror which enables the camera to permanently use phase detect AF, even during video, so it's very fast.

The NEX-5 is a more compact system, but uses an APS-C sensor, so image quality is comparable to DSLRs using the same type of sensor. It uses contrast detect AF though, which is slower than phase detect, but focusing is completely silent.

The A55 is pretty much designed around live view, but the way it combines live view and full-time phase detect AF makes it seem like the ideal camera for you, based on the requirements you've listed.


September 18, 2014, 4:34 am

I bought a D90 shortly after it was introduced as my first serious, if not a fully professional, DSLR. Since then I have been reasonably pleased with the results, particularly for portraits using only natural lighting. However, I've recently seen some shots taken with a D5100 which are extremely good and seem sharper than my D90 even though it seems to be in the same general category as my D90. Is this because the chip in the 5100 is superior, being closer to that in pro Nikon models? Would it even be worth trading the D90 for a D5100?

comments powered by Disqus