Zoner Photo Studio X: The photo editor for your entire workflow

Nikon D5100 Digital SLR Hands On Preview

ePHOTOzine was at the launch event of the Nikon D5100 and have a hands on look at the new DSLR

|  Nikon D5100 in Digital SLRs
 Add Comment

The Nikon D5100 is the latest digital SLR from Nikon and significantly updates and improves upon the D5000, including improved swivel screen, new effects, and full HD video mode. We had a hands on look at the camera and can give you our impressions of the new camera.

The D3100 with Full HD has been a number one seller in the DSLR market in the UK for the last 2 months, with the D5000 regularly sitting in 2nd place. With the new Nikon D5100, Nikon hope to place the new camera in the number one spot overtaking the D3100, where it can sit in 2nd place. 

Nikon's market share continues to grow at the expense of Canon and others in the UK market, with Nikon the number one DSLR seller in March. With the key features of the new Nikon D5100 it will be interesting to see if this trend continues. We spoke to Simon Iddon, the UK product manager for Nikon's DX range, from the D3100 to the D300s, about the new Nikon D5100.

When held vertically, the screen rotates automatically.

Simon highlighted three key features that make the D5100 stand out: the new horizontal opening 3 inch screen is designed as the best approach for use with a tripod or video work. The camera is ideally suited for creativity using the creative effects, HDR and other modes, including the Full HD video. The D5100 has the strong Nikon image quality as featured in the Nikon D7000, thanks to the camera using the same 16.2 megapixel CMOS sensor - read our review to find out how the image quality performs.

Nikon D5100 Features

  • 16.2 mp sensor, APS-C, DX series, same sensor as the D7000
  • Full HD video 1920x1080/30/25/24fps - upto 20 minutes per video
  • EXPEED 2 image processing
  • 3inch screen, 921k-dot (VGA resolution), horizontal vari-angle
  • Dust / airflow control sensor cleaning system
  • 7 creative effects, available in photo and video mode: Colour Sketch, Selective Colour, Miniature effect, Night Portrait, Silhouette, High Key, Low Key
  • Picture control system: Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, Landscape
  • Improved live view function, dedicated auto return lever
  • Faster AF in live view, several AF modes, face priority, subject tracking, scene auto
  • ISO100-3200, 6400, Hi.1 12800, Hi. 2 25600
  • HDMI CEC connection allows control of the camera with a remote


Effects in detail 

The D5100 introduces seven new creative effects, as well as a new HDR mode. These are JPEG only, and it does not record a RAW file at the same time as the effects modes. Here are some of the examples shown at the press event.

Colour sketch HDR Miniature
Colour sketch HDR Miniature
Night Vision Selective Colour Silhouette
Night vision Selective Colour Silhouette
Effects: Low key, High key, Miniature, Selective colour, Colour sketch, Silhouette, Night vision, and new HDR mode (combines two shots, upto +/- 3 EV). The silhouette mode removes detail from the subject. The colour sketch mode lets you change the colour and line density. Using the selective colour mode it's possible to select up to three colours, with the rest of the image appearing in black and white.

Nikon D5100 Handling

The camera has a good sized hand grip that feels great, with an elastic rubber coating. It's also 10% smaller than D5000, and has a 17% thinner TFT in comparison. The camera body feels very solid with an easy to access memory card cover. It's also reasonably easy to access the battery compartment.

A full array of connections on the side provide HDMI, External Microphone, USB, GPS connections. Very easy to access the live view mode thanks to the new auto-returning lever, much more intuitive than trying to locate a specific button in a sea of identical buttons. As you would expect the DSLR has a metal tripod mount, and there are a number of dedicated buttons on the camera including: Flash, Function (default timer button, can be customised), dedicated video recording, exposure, plus more.

Also announced today is a new Nikon ME-1 Microphone 

Designed specifically for use with DSLRs, it sits on the flash-hotshoe. Microphone - Stereo, vibration dampened with rubber isolating the microphone from the SLR body. Cable designed so as not to be in the way of shooting. Built in low level noise filtering, wind filter, battery powered, using the external microphone allows the vodeo to avoid picking up lens noise from focusing. Priced at £119 and designed for any DSLR with support for external microphones. Read the Nikon ME-1 Microphone press information.

ME-1 Key features:
Flat and low frequency cut off
Vibration reduction (using rubber damping)
Water and dust resistant


The built in menus are clearly laid out with each section notable from it's dominant colour, such as the green photo menus, blue playback, red setup, etc. The playback editing options are particularly feature packed allowing most of the effects and more to be applied to photos taken.

Overview of menus:

Playback Shooting Custom Settings
Setup Retouch Recent Settings

The retouch menu is worth highlighting as there is a large number of options available including: D-Lighting, Red-eye correction, Trim, Monochrome, Filter effects, Colour balance, Resize, Image overlay, RAW processing, Quick retouch, Straighten, Distortion control, Fisheye, Colour outline, Perspective control, Colour sketch, Miniature effect, Selective colour, and Movie editing.

The camera uses a Lithium Ion battery, model EN-EL14, and is the same battery as used in the Nikon D3100 and Nikon Coolpix P7000. Battery life is not specified at this moment in time, and we will update when we know.

Continuous shooting is quick at 4fps, the focusing system is quick with 11 focusing points, and in use the camera's focusing seemed particularly quick. There is also a built in AF illuminator for when you are in less than ideal lighting situations.

Nikon D5100 Performance

The camera's ISO ranges from ISO100 to ISO3200/6400 with Hi modes of 12800 and 25,600 available in normal use, and up to ISO102,400 setting available in the Night Vision scene mode (not a typo!). This should enable shots to be taken at night of wildlife or in other situations where you simply would not have otherwise been able to get a photo without using flash or alternative lighting methods. The camera does switch to black and white mode, however, I was unable to fully appreciate the mode in the brief hands on that I had, as lighting was generally quite good. 


The camera features a dedicated video record button, accessible regardless of the mode dial position, meaning you can apply creative effects to videos for example. Offering Full HD at 30/25/24fps covers all potential uses including use in the US (NTSC), UK (PAL), and film industry (24fps). Videos are recorded in the H.264 MOV file format (instead of M-JPEG on D5000), and lower resolutions, such as 720p are also available. The effects should be available without any noticeable effect on fps (to be confirmed).

Value for money
Priced at £679 body only or £779 with 18-55 VR lens / with vr double kit lenses - this prices it very competitively with the Canon EOS 600D, which costs around £769 with IS kit lens, and on face value the Nikon D5100 appears what some might consider a more complete package, although the 600D features an 18mp sensor, compared to the 16.2mp sensor in the D5100.

Nikon D5100 Verdict

Initial impressions were very positive, with the Nikon D5100 appearing to hit all the key requirements, and improves on the Nikon offerings by building on both the success of the D3100 and the D5000. The camera also appears to out perform the Canon 600D in specifications as it goes beyond what the Canon offers, with quicker shooting, improved focusing, and enhanced creative modes. With the well known and well respected 16mp CMOS sensor from the Nikon D7000, it should be able to offer improved low light, low noise photography and theoretically better image quality, in fact, you should get the same excellent Nikon D7000 image quality, but at a much more wallet friendly price. I suspect Nikon are onto a real winner here, and we will be giving the complete verdict when we review the production DSLR in the next couple of weeks. 

Nikon D5100 Specifications

Price £669 body only, 18-55VR Kit - £779.99, available 21/APR/2011
Viewfinder Pentamirror with 95% frame coverage and 0.78x magnification
Resolution 16.2 million pixels
Sensor size DX APS-C
Sensor type CMOS sensor
Max. Image size 4928 x 3264
Aspect ratio 3:2
Monitor 7.5-cm, approx. 921k-dot (VGA), Vari-angle TFT LCD with 170° viewing angle, approx. 100% frame coverage
Shutter speed 1/4000 to 30 s in steps of 1/3 or 1/2 EV; Bulb; Time (requires optional Remote Control ML-L3)
Focusing system Nikon Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection, 11 focus points
Focusing modes Single-point AF, dynamic-area AF, auto-area AF, 3D-tracking (11 points), Autofocus (AF): Single-servo AF (AF-S); Continuous-servo AF (AF-C); Manual focus (MF)
Exposure Compensation –5 to +5 EV in increments of 1/3 or 1/2 EV
File types NEF (RAW): 14 bit, compressed; JPEG: fine, normal or basic; NEF + JPEG, MOV; H.264/MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding
ISO sensitivity ISO 100 - 6400, Hi1, Hi2 (25.600 equivalent) in steps of 1/3 EV
Exposure Metering  TTL exposure metering using 420-pixel RGB sensor
Metering Method Matrix, Center-weighted, Spot
Continuous 4.0 frames per second
Exposure Modes Auto, Auto Flash off, Scene Modes: Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close up, Night portrait, Night landscape, Party/indoor, Beach/snow, Sunset, Dusk/dawn, Pet portrait, Candlelight, Blossom, Autumn colours, Food; Programmed auto (P), Shutter-priority auto (S), Aperture priority auto (A), Manual (M)
Movie mode 1,920 × 1,080, 30p/25p/24p, H high/normal; 1,280 × 720, 30p/25p/24p, H high/normal; 640 × 424, 30p/25p, H high/normal, Mono microphone built in.
Media type SD / SDHC / SDXC
Interface Hi-Speed USB; Video output: NTSC, PAL; HDMI output: Type C mini-pin HDMI connector; Accessory terminal: Remote Cord MC-DC2 (available separately), GPS Unit GP-1 (available separately); Audio input: Stereo mini-pin jack (3.5-mm diameter)
Power One Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL14, AC Adapter EH-5a/5b; requires Power Connector EP-5A (available separately)
Box Contents Camera, Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL14, Battery Charger MH-24, Eyepiece Cap DK-5, Rubber Eyecup DK-20, USB Cable UC-E6, Audio Video Cable EG-CP14, Camera Strap, AN-DC3, Body Cap BF-1B, Accessory Shoe Cover BS-1, ViewNX 2 CD-ROM
Size Approx. 128 × 97 × 79 mm
Weight approx. 560 g with battery and memory card

Read the Nikon D5100 press release for more information.

Buy Now

We don't have the latest price however the link below will take you to the most relevant items.

Nikon D5100 SEARCH

We don't have the latest price however the link below will take you to the most relevant items.

Nikon D5100 SEARCH

We transform the way that people buy, sell and trade in photo and video kit.


Support this site by making a Donation, purchasing Plus Membership, or shopping with one of our affiliates: Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon CA, ebay UK, MPB.

It doesn't cost you anything extra when you use these links, but it does support the site, helping keep ePHOTOzine free to use, thank you.

Photographs taken using the Nikon D5100

THE WAYSIDE CHAPELThe Silver ManLady In BronzeSCOTLAND THE WHATIts Not Mine HonestSunday UseStepsEdinburgh Summer 2022A PLACE CALLED STREETSocksLiving StatuePonytail..... and all that jazz ..........Guitar ManPurple Patch

Other articles you might find interesting...

Pentax K-3 III Review
Canon EOS 850D Rebel T8i Review
Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Review
Nikon D6 Review
Best Full-Frame DSLR
Pentax K-3 III Available For Pre-Order
Nikon Updates WebCam Software So It's Compatible with More N...


I understand that yet again this Nikon does not have a mirror up shooting mode, but only a flip flap as the mirror goes uo and down when the shutter is pressed in live mode. Is this so?
Not sure about that.... but it almost certainly has the Nikon "quiet" mode which has a sort of minor mirror-up function. I certainly find that it helps greatly in reducing shake on low shutter speed hand-held shots (on my D5000)

Sign In

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join For Free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.