Brilliant value for beginner-enthusiasts!
2 April, 2013
I am a beginner to the world of SLR and after a lot of research decided to go with Nikon D5100. If you are new to this world like I was a few months ago, then you would have some of the same questions I had. I will answer some of those below because that will be relevant when reviewing a DSLR that straddles the in-between path.
First of all, if you are a beginner looking to enter the maze of DSLRs, Nikon and Canon should perhaps be the only names in the reckoning set. How you'd go about choosing between these two will essentially boil down to which camp looks more cool. But jokes aside, both have areas of strengths that vary slightly but you would be a happy camper either way. In short, it does not matter much.
Nikon has positioned the D5100 somewhere between the entry and pro level - 'prosumer' is the new industry slang (which I personally hate). On the lower end of this spectrum is the beginner-friendly D3100 while D7000 sits at the higher-end of the spectrum. First the specs, the D5100 has a 16 megapixel image sensor,shoots 4 frames per second in continuous mode, has 1080p HD video capability at 24, 25, and 30 fps, and includes the fully rotating rear LCD screen.. It has a single control dial (a common feature of Nikon SLRs at this range I think), with a pentamirror viewfinder but no built-in autofocus motor.
I have been using D5100 for the last 5 months and learning SLR photography along the way. These are my thoughts on the product:
D5100 has a 11 Point Auto focus system. This covers majority of the spectrum of areas you would want to hit and still have the subject in the right areas in terms of composition. The auto-mode (where the camera picks the focus points) is fairly intelligent and works in majority of the situations. When specific compositions require you to control the focus point, the single point focus mode lets you manually select one of the 11 points depending on where the subject lies. Note that Nikon D5100 does not have a built in autofocus motor in the body of the camera. This means that in order to be able to focus automatically you'd need lenses with built in autofocus motor. All the new Nikkor lenses have them so you should be good if you are beginner. However if you have collection of old lenses, you would not be able to auto focus using them and would have to revert to manual focus.
Is pretty awesome and I was pleasantly surprised. Unless you do a lot of video capture or use the LCD to view your shots, the battery seems to go on and on. Using the view finder to capture majority of shots, I exhausted the battery after about 650 shots. This included a little bit of LCD usage to try out some of the features that would require using it for composition.
D5100 uses the same image sensor as D7000 and has the same processing abilities. What strikes the most is the low noise in low-light images. Even higher ISO shots (1600) have really good clarity for majority of use case scenarios.
Customization and Control
There's only so much you can control using the controls on the exterior of the camera but there is a wealth of controls and customizations possible through the menu using the LCD screen. Its provides a nice graduation for a beginner to move from learning to use the basic controls to more complex (but intuitively designed) controls and functions
Additional 'fun' things
D5100 has an in camera HDR (high dynamic range) mode that lets you create HDR images on the fly without having to do any post processing. The function has limited ability and may not always produce the HDR image you have in your head, but it is great for someone getting into HDR and trying it out directly using the in-camera option.
In summary, D5100 is one of the best DSLRs to learn to shoot on. Since buying the camera, I have used various resources to learn the different aspects (often disjointed) but trying each one out enough to get them as part of your sub-concious system while looking at a scene. It is a versatile camera while not being intimidating for beginners. A must buy!
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