Why You Should Buy The Nikon D5100

2011 PhotoPlus Camera Reviews Events Featured Lenses Nikon

Why You Should Buy The Nikon D5100Last week I wrote an article entitled, “Why You should buy the Canon EOS Rebel T3i.” I’m sure a lot of readers took that to mean I had a Canon bias. That is not at all the case. Really, that article was about why you should buy a cheaper camera and use your money for lenses instead. To that end, I now present a similar ode to the Nikon D5100 digital SLR.

Here’s why you should buy the Nikon D5100. The D5100 is a full-featured, entry-level digital SLR that shares the same 16-megapixel CMOS sensor, EXPEED 2 processing and full HD video performance as its higher-end sibling, the Nikon D7000 (our Nikon D7000 Pro Review). With the D5100 you also get a tilt-swivel LCD display – a feature you won’t get with the D7000. A tilt-swivel LCD display is an invaluable feature for anyone who works on a tripod or plans to use the D5100 for video. I love it for tripod-mounted landscape photography and studio product photography. The tilt-swivel LCD alone is a strong argument for buying the D5100 instead of the D7000.

Nikon D5100 Digital SLR

Nikon D5100 Key Features & Specs:

  • 16.2-megapixel DX format sensor (APS-C)
  • EXPEED 2 image processing
  • Sensitivity: ISO 100 to 6400, expandable to ISO 25,600 (Hi-2)
  • Video: 1920 x 1080 @ 30p, 25p and 24p; 1280 x 720 @ 30p, 25p and 24p; 640 x 424 @ 30p and 25p; MOV, H.264/MPEG-4
  • Display: 3-inch 921k-dot Vari-Angle LCD
  • Flash sync: 1/200th second
  • Built-in pop-up flash
  • In-camera, two-frame HDR
  • Effects Mode, including Night vision, Color sketch, Miniature effect and Selective Color

What do you give up if you choose the D5100 over the D7000? The D7000 has a studier body, a better auto focus system and it can do shoot bursts at 6 frames per second vs. the D5100′s 4 frames per second. But ask yourself – do you really need that faster burst rate, auto focus and tougher body? For most photographers, if they’re honest, the answer will be no. Unless you’re a serious sports photographer or you spend a lot of time banging your camera against rocks in the rain, the Nikon D5100 has all the important features you want from the D7000. So do yourself a favor, buy the D5100 and put the extra $400 you save towards a better lens than the 18-55mm kit zoom. My recommendation, seen in this photo I took at the PhotoPlus Expo (below), is to buy the D5100 body alone and get the excellent Nikon AF-S DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II lens instead. It’s not quite pro-level glass, but it’s likely the most versatile lens you’ll ever own. I use my 18-200mm zoom far more than any other lens and don’t know how I could live without it anymore.

Nikon AF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II Zoom Lens

You can take this argument one step further and consider the $600 Nikon D3100 over the D5100 or D7000. I recently did a review of the D3100 (Nikon D3100 Pro Review)and found it to be a great camera with excellent image quality. It wasn’t until ISO 1600 that the D5100 and D7000 got noticeably better. Ultimately, lenses are always a better investment than a better camera. That’s why you should buy the D5100.

The Nikon D5100 retails for $799 for the body alone and $899 in a kit with the 18-55mm VR kit lens. The Nikon AF-S DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II zoom lens I recommend has a suggested retail price of $850. Yup – that’s more than the camera alone and you’ll have to spend about $1500 to get up and running if you take my advice. But unlike a digital SLR body, you’ll probably own that lens for life and you can use it for almost anything. Trust me.

Nikon D5100 Intro >>
Nikon Digital SLR Buying Guide >>


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About the author: Photo-John

Photo-John, a.k.a. John Shafer, is the managing editor of PhotographyREVIEW.com and has been since the site launched back in 1999. He's an avid outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time as possible on his mountain bike, hiking or skiing in the mountains. He's been taking pictures for ever and ever, and never goes anywhere without a camera.

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