The Nikon D5100 is a solid entry-level DSLR camera that assumes some knowledge of photography from its users. Its image quality is on par with that of cameras boasting higher resolutions. It also has expanded bracketing of shots, usually found on pricier models.
Swiveling screen comes in handy. Although it's an entry-level DSLR, the Nikon D5100 doesn't provide as much guidance for beginners as other cameras in its class. Testers say it's compact and lightweight, with easy-to-navigate buttons and menus. The D5100 offers the usual full-auto mode, so you could just let the camera do all the work. But "if you are a complete beginner and are looking to learn more about photography, the D3200 (Est. $530 with kit lens) offers more in terms of development than the D5100," says TechRadar.com. The D5100 has a side-hinged, tilt-and-swivel LCD screen that experts say really does make it easier to shoot photos at odd angles.
Image quality equals or beats the D3200. Critics say the Nikon D5100 packs high-end image quality into a low-priced package, even boasting the same 16.2 megapixel compact image sensor as the more expensive cameras. Its image quality is comparable to that of DSLRs with a higher-pixel resolution and a higher price point. In some tests, the lower resolution of the D5100 produced less grainy images. The D5100 shoots full 1080p HD and continuously autofocuses while doing so. Battery life is rated at a respectable 660 shots per charge.
Plastic body "feels pretty solid." Like other under-$1,000 DSLRs, the Nikon D5100's body "is made of composite materials (read: plastic)," says Jeff Keller at DCResource.com. Still, he says, "it feels pretty solid for the most part."
TechRadar.com's Angela Nicholson agrees: "It is, on the whole, very well built. It feels nicely put together and designed to last," she says of the D5100. Experts' only quibbles reference its port doors; Nicholson notices that the Secure Digital (SD) card port cover "when closed, still moves under a tapping finger," and Keller says the battery-compartment door feels a little weak. One owner at Amazon.com complains that he dropped the D5100 a foot or two in a heavy camera bag and it stopped working. But several other users say theirs survived falls just fine.
Adds exposure bracketing. While the Nikon D3200 appeals to beginners with its take-you-by-the-hand Guide Mode, the D5100 aims at advanced beginners. In addition to its swiveling screen, the D5100 boasts exposure bracketing and an Effects mode. The DSLR can shoot three photos -- one regular exposure, one slightly higher and one slightly lower -- just in case the regular exposure isn't quite right, then you can choose from several Effects options such as Color Sketch, Miniature, Selective Color or Night Vision.
If you're trying to decide between the Nikon D5100 and D3200, this thoroughly detailed review offers helpful updates comparing the D5100's image noise and dynamic range with the new D3200. An easy-to-understand video outlines their differences and explains what kind of shooter should choose each camera
Review: Nikon D5100 Review, Angela Nicholson, June 21, 2012
After shooting thousands of frames and minutely testing every detail of the Nikon D5100, experts here find a lot to like. Most important, it delivers the same image quality as the pricier Nikon D7000. However, the D5100 lacks some of the D7000's important advanced features, and reviewers say it's not quite as easy to use as the cheaper Nikon D3100.
Review: Nikon D5100 In-depth Review, Barney Britton, Richard Butler, Andy Westlake, April 2011
Terrific image quality and features and an "approachable design," including a useful swiveling LCD screen, make the Nikon D5100 an easy top pick, testers say. They show side-by-side comparisons between the D5100 and several other cameras shoppers might consider, including the Nikon D7000 and Canon EOS Rebel T3i.
Review: Nikon D5100 Review, Shawn Barnett, Mike Tomkins and Zig Weidelich, July 14, 2011
4. Reviewed.com Cameras
The Nikon D5100 "blows away" its under-$1,000 rivals, TJ Donegan concludes after an extensive review. The D5100 compares favorably to the more expensive Nikon D7000, with the same image sensor found in Pentax and Sony cameras.
Review: Nikon D5100 Digital Camera Review, TJ Donegan, June 3, 2011
Jeff Keller recommends both the Nikon D5100 and its rival, the Canon EOS Rebel T3i, after thorough tests. This easy-to-understand review clearly states how the cameras compare.
Review: DCRP Nikon D5100 Review, Jeff Keller, June 4, 2011
Eric Reagan illustrates his review of the Nikon D5100 with a variety of test shots, including several challenging low-light, no-flash photos shot indoors at Disney World. In the end, its "impressive" images boost the easy-to-use, easy-to-carry D5100 to the top of his recommended list of cameras.
Review: Nikon D5100 Review, Eric Reagan, July 18, 2011
7. Ken Rockwell
Plain-spoken camera critic Ken Rockwell calls the Nikon D5100 "the best all-around camera for most people" in his buyer's guide. This full evaluation explains why, comparing it to other Nikon cameras including the D7000.
Review: Nikon D5100, Ken Rockwell, Not dated
With more than 780 owner reviews posted, the Nikon D5100 earns an average rating of 4.6 stars out of 5. Some comments are written by knowledgeable camera enthusiasts, and they're extremely detailed and helpful.
Review: Nikon D5100 16.2MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of February 2014