Whether you’re a professional photographer or an amateur looking for an edge over point-and-shoot models, the Nikon D5100 is easily accessible, simple to maneuver directly out of the box, and lightweight enough for everyday, on-the-go shooting. With an easy-to-interpret mode dial that enables you to shoot automatically or manually, a three-inch high-resolution rotating LCD viewing monitor that switches from playback to live view with the flip of a switch, and the advanced vibration reduction feature of the Nikkor 18-55mm lens, the Nikon D5100 is among the most elegantly intuitive and creatively versatile DSLRs on the market today.
First-time photographers will be thrilled by its many picture-taking options, which are clearly highlighted on the mode dial. With little effort, users may make crucial decisions about obtaining the best possible images in varied situations, such as automatically pushing the camera’s shutter speeds to freeze motion, obtaining a more natural light balance between the main subject and the background for portraits taken in low-light, and even utilizing predictive focal tracking, which will continuously refocus the lens on a fast-moving subject. Playback is just as easy, with options that enable users to see continuous full-frame images (in which they may zoom in to ensure a clear focus was gained) four to nine thumbnails at a time, or even chronological options. Again, clearly labeled buttons make for easy, quick decisions between all choices, practically without ever reaching for the dreaded camera manual.
The versatility and practical design of the Nikon D5100 cannot be overstated. Even if you’re a photographer with rudimentary skills, you can instantly capture dramatic magazine-ready images on your own terms. Choose aperture-priority to decrease focal lengths for dreamy, blurred backgrounds, or fast shutter speeds to stop the action in its tracks. This model even offers a range of options in flash modes, including slow sync (for even background lighting in images like portraits) to rear-curtain sync (that enables the flash to fire before the shutter closes to create a stream of light behind moving light sources). A flexible rotating monitor allows easy overhead and out-of-range shots since you can tilt the screen in any direction, getting high- and low-angle shots as well as amazing self portraits. And with the ability to seamlessly shift between shooting stills and video (both options that come with a whole range of special effects features) you’re suddenly a photographic superhero documentarian who shoots with the precision of Scorsese and has a hundred thousand views on YouTube.
Those buying the Nikon D5100 as a still camera will be undoubtedly impressed with its vast array of features, though potentially surprised at the level of thought that was given to designing its video capabilities. In addition to the camera’s ability to shoot in full HD mode, the Nikon D5100’s optional microphone peripheral is a must-have addition for capturing stereo sound (though the included internal mic is fairly decent in a pinch). Amazing video effects, such as tilt shift (an option called “Miniature Effect” that plays back at higher-than-normal speeds), “Color Sketch” (an unusual enhancement that “outlines” details within the video), “Selective Color” (all colors other than the one selected are recorded in black and white), and “Night Vision” (an option that offers recording in low-light or dark conditions) offer quick, professional-looking results with little effort. Better still, you can return to shooting still photos in mere seconds by holding down the shutter release button. Nikon’s enclosed View NX 2 Software not only instructs how to easily copy and organize still images on your computer, but also offers a chance to retouch them, print them, and even edit video.
Critics have rightly praised Nikon for the affordability of its D5100, given that it contains the same eleven-point 23.6 X 15.6mm CMOS image sensor as its higher-end professional models without the added expense. The positive consensus is well deserved, as newcomers will be immediately pleased with its automatic features (the camera can select points of focus automatically when face priority AF or subject-tracking AF is used) and pros will enjoy subtle options like changing between focus modes (auto-servo or single-servo AF versus continuous servo as well as completely manual). Even in a fully automated mode, the Nikon D5100 enables you to have the last word on exactly where the action is: Move the camera over your image and a green square will constantly update accordingly, never leaving you with an image that focuses on the foreground while entirely missing the intended subject.
Professionals will also appreciate the ability to shoot 14-bit compressed RAW files, (that may be further manipulated later, as well as three different JPEG compression levels), the exquisite exposure range possible when shooting HDR images, a long battery life (up to 2,200 still images on one charge), and the immense detail afforded in 16.2 million pixels. Subtler, though no less important, features include options like an advance rate of four frames per second so you’ll never again miss a shot, as well as continuous and delayed remote shooting, and a “silent” option that allows for stealth picture taking in certain situations, such as during live performances where constant beeping can be a distraction. Skilled users will also enjoy preferences like automatic exposure bracketing, white balance bracketing, and active D-lighting bracketing without having to regularly switch between F-stops. And those with existing sight disabilities will enjoy a greater range of precision in Nikon’s newly advanced diopter ring. In fully automated modes, it also performs well when shooting from the hip for an entire range of ad-hoc street photography possibilities.
Overall, the Nikon D5100 is a fine choice for everyone from first-time users to professionals accustomed to heavier, bulkier equipment. Not only will it offer the chance to have amazing control over your final images and videos, but it also offers beginners who may be less interested in specifics confidence with a variety of automated functions, tremendous versatility, and easy-to-operate manual features. In short, purchase the Nikon D5100 not for the photographer you are, but for the one you hope to become.