Nikon D5100 Review


Let me first start with a disclaimer.

You won’t find a real review here, its rather a very personal way of looking at Nikon’s most recent camera – the Nikon D5100. I’ve got mine just yesterday, so bear with me that this cannot be a full review, potentially it will never be one. It is rather a journey and if you are willing to join me on the walk, I’ll enjoy your company.

A little background on why and how you will find some Nikon related information on my blog. I enjoy photography as a hobby since many years and it happened that my first serious camera was one with a F-mount. Being what it is, all further investments in camera gear centered  around this mount. While finding many used lenses and bodies I could never convince myself to sell any gear and so the collection grew over time.

I am not a professional photographer, I have no special relationship with Nikon beyond buying their stuff via my dealer. All gear reviewed at this site is my personal stuff and I do not intend to change this personal site to become a revenue generating advertorial eldorado “to feed my growing family” or the like. I am no scientist either, so please forgive, if some test procedures are wrong or some datapoints are potentially erroneous. I welcome constructive and polite input and feedback what is wrong and will do my best to fix it when I have time doing so. Ahh, before I forget: as said I am not and do not pretend to be a professional photographer with centuries of experience and basically a holistic knowledge about everything related to photgraphy and photographic gear.

I’ll leave tables about functions and detailed specifications to other groups which are more specialized in this effort. What I think readers will be interested in, is a comparison of newly introduced cameras and lenses with other existing Nikon bodies. I am not sure, but don’t think that many reviewers (I am not one) have access to all bodies and a solid number of different Nikkor lenses to seamlessly and concurrently compare either indivdual components or the interaction between different combinations.

With that: Welcome to this story about the Nikon D5100



Whenever there is new major technological evolution I am interested in its real merits beyond what marketing claims are out there. Last November I started a similar review on the Nikon D7000 as it had 2 important new components. First a new DX sensor and second a new AF/Exposure subsystem (CAM 4800). The D7000 broke new ground in many areas with advanced capabilities unheard of in this segment before. Needless to say, it got also its fair share of thumbs down in some internet forums (AF accuracy, image softness), but overall it seems to be a commercial success.

When the D5100 was still in the rumor mill, it wasn’t clear which sensor it will get. Much to the surprise and joy of many, the 16,2 MP sensor of the D7000 found its way into the new upper entry level body. Leading to the interesting questions:

  1. Has Nikon used the 6months since the D7000 was introduced to improve some image quality aspects? Traditionally, later modells based on the same sensor design dispaly better IQ (D90 vs. D300)
  2. How will the small body with it somewhat crippled AF system be able to leverage the inherent quality of the new 16 MP sensor? Most of the D7000 complaints centered around AF inaccuracy impacting picture quality.
  3. How will the new hinge and the higher resolution monitor facilitate new shooting styles ? (at least for Nikon DSLR owners)


As expected and not surprisingly a shipping box. A couple of slight changes versus the previous model – the Nikon D5000. It seems that not only the engineers of the D5100 tried to shrink the camera vs. its predecessor, but the box department as well . The new box is slightly smaller then the D5000 box. Guess, with shipments in the hundred of thousands, every inch counts to the bean counters.

The second difference is the handbook. The D5000 box contained a full handbook with 250+ pages. With the D5100, Nikon changed to a more cost effective method to let customers print their own copy. Only a 80 page introductory doc is in the shipping box, the full version of the reference manual (260 pages) need to be printed at home. Yesterday, I asked Nikon support to get a copy of the handbook.(paid or free), but this won’t be available. You have to print it at home if you want a paper version. Needless to say, I would expect that a printed copy would be available from the manufacturer for a 600$ gadget – even at (reasonable) cost.

There is a change with the battery and charger. The new battery EN-EL14 with basically the same dimension and capacity like the EN-EL9a of the D5000 was necessary to comply with flight regulations. The old design *might* short circuit in your luggage and FAA/IATA wanted to address this by the industry. Shall it be.

What I don’t like at all is the recent change with chargers. It used to be a nice, sometimes small, box fitted with a cable to connect to the power outlet. With some recent cameras like the Nikon P7000, Nikon changed this to a direct plug in the charger. This connection is so stiff that you won’t  easily separate it to get it in your bag. This design is weird and unneccessary.

  1. It is awkward to pack it in your bag.
  2. You have to plug it in the wall outlet (inconvenient) and it is so big, that other outlets are covered by the charger itself, rendering other wall outlets useless .

Nikon, please change this change back to the original method to charger with a cable. This is pretty cumbersome.



According to Nikon’s marketing machinery the D5100 shrinked a bit – which is fine for me. How much did it shrink? To visualize the different sizes, I’ve put 6 cameras on the table. From left to right: D60, D5000, D3100, D5100, D7000 and D90. (Klick on the 2 images for a larger version. The smaller version is nice for keeping the format here, but you can’t really see anything? Here is a solution.)

As you can see, the D5100 is virtually identical in size to the D3100 and visually smaller than the D5000. In case people think that the dimensional loss in height and width forced Nikon to increase its depth, there is good news. It didn’t.. In the next photo you can see that the D5100 is somewhere in thickness between the D3100 and D5000. This can be attributed to slimmer monitor vs. the D5000.

From a usability perspective, I had no issue carrying the camera like all cameras when a lens was mounted on it – with the tips of 2 fingers. The surface, rubber and ergonomics shows clearly the Nikon design philosophy – which I got used to since the F5 and D1 were introduced ages ago.

The microphone ME-1 was delivered this week as well. I am wondering, how this will evolve going forward? With flashes, GPS and microphones competing for the flash hot shoe, some innovative solutions are overdue in this space. Either a 3-rd party hotshoe multiplier or potentially a next generation Nikon camera with 3 hot shoes built in. W’ll see.

Initial operation

Turning the D5100 on for the first time, a small tidbit happened. It seems that in this early setup phase only empty SD cards can be inserted. My reasonably full sandisk card was rejected with “card error”. Putting another empty card in the camera during setup solved this issue. After the setup process, the half full card was perferctly usable. Just that you know.

One ask to Nikon in this area: While the semipro and pro bodies allow to change the filename with a camera specific prefix (i.e. D3x or D7k) this pure software based option is not available in the entry level camera line. All bodies in this area have to use “DSC_xxxxx”. Would be nice to be able to change it with every entry level camera as well to facilitate later processing on the PC.

What lens? What lens?

Shall I buy a body only or a kit? If a kit, which one? I do have lenses, do I need a new one? What lens shall I take for my trip to Portugal?

Lenses are the reason-d-etre for DSLRS. Why bother with the size, price and complexity of a Dslr cameras, when you will never ever change any lens? Anyway, this is not the place to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different lens types for each purpose. Instead of this, I’ve put some very typical lens settings together, so that the interested reader can check for the dimensions. Needless to say, there are countless other combinations possible.

Option 1: The compact D5100

The AFS 35mm/1.8G is the most compact lens, which fits from an IQ perspective quite well to the D5100. For those who prefer available light shooting. A compact companion, a typical film body with a 50mm and 70ties feeling – this is it. Nice thing about this combo – it fits in very small bags. Here the LowePro.

Option 2: The universal D5100

Not sure about your preferences? Looking for a singe universal lens? Don’t want to change lenses? The AFS 18-200mm VR II might satisfy our requirements. Its a bit bigger than option 1, but can still be considered compact.

Option 3: The standard D5100

Potentially most customers will go in this direction. With the 18-55mm kit lens, the natural extension is the AFS 55-200mm tele zoom. Like hundred of thousands customer in the past, many will take this combination and like its performance for the initial phase of their D-SLR photography.

Option 4: the versatile D5100

Another well received kit lens – the AFS 18-105mm. For those who would like to keep one lens on the body but more reach then the other kit lense. With built-in distortion correction in the D5100 one of its major flaws will vanish.

Option 5: The ambitous D5100

Enjoying the huge and diverse world of photography? Travel, people, macro, night, close ups, telephoto, etc ? Here you will find a potential set up with 5 lenses. Somehow close to the price point of the D5100. It’s the AFS 10-24mm/4 UWW (ok, this one is pricey), the AFS 16-85mm as great standard lens, the new AFS 55-300mm VR telephoto zoom (if you do not intend to switch soon to the FX camp), the AFS 35mm/1.8 as available light lens and the AFS 85mm/3.5 micro for macro photography. Its a great setup, basically covering a very diverse range of opportunites without severely overinvesting into lenses.

Option 6: The companion D5100

Some photographers with heavy and professional gear could look for the D5100 from a kind of sidekick perspective. Even with a very “pro” AFS 35mm/1.4G, the combination is very compact. Sometimes it might even be  necessary to avoid the huge pro equipoment show off . Some early tests with this combo showed stunning results.


I have to confess, that until now (ca. 500 images), I’ve never used the monitor other than in its standard position. I’d even rather prefer to turn it with the screen inside, but that’s from a setting perspective not very practical. So it be.

Oh yes, if you someone got experience with FX viewfinders, the D5100 will look differently. Very differently. A narrow tunnel. After some time, I got used to it and it is basically fine. Two things aren’t easy to do though: First, manual focus is hard, very hard (with my eyesight). Second, the LCD display in the viewfinder is quite dim. In bright sunlight, it is alomst impossible to read the values swiftly. The viewfinder of the D7000 is better in this regard.

Buttons: It takes some time to get used to it – too deep is the entrenched behavior after 12 years of DLSRs. The menue button is fine for me. Don’t think that the button sequence to change settings like ISO is optimal. First you have to press “info” and then the “I” button. Which costs so much time, especially when you would like to change quickly some settings, or time is scare. The pro bodies are a class in itself for this. The D5100 shooter will miss more shots due to this slower process.

Another thing for me is the limitation of the 1/4000 sec exposure. On a bright day, this max shutter speed limits you practically to f2.8. All faster f-stops, i.e. with the AFS 35mm/1.8 will be overexposed. Either take ND filters or use this as an argument for your discussion with your spouse why you really need the D7000.

Another thing I missed was, the single (or dual) LCD screens on the body. With bright sunlight, they are so much better to read, vs the monitor. Yes it is a very high resolution monitor, yes you can read the monitor in sunlight, but not easily – again, it takes time vs. the D7000.

All the points above might suggest, that I don’t like the D5100 from a usability perspective. This is not correct, it is fine, but the points above are just some limitations i encountered in the first day.

Nightvision Mode

Wlecome to the Nikon marketing department. For capturing pictures – unusable. But I found something more valuable. When you are shooting in dim lights and the phase AF or contrast AF can’t find contrast spots, switch the mode selector from whatever you have (ie. “A” or “M”) and use nightvision for the AF phase when in contrast AF.  The camera was able to focus in a really dark scene remarkably well. After getting the focus right, keep the finger on the shutter and reselect your old program. Cool.

Image quality

Let me start with this statement – I am impressed, really impressed. This statement is based less on the absolute performance versus the best camera in this regard (ie the D3s in High ISO) but the exceptional price/performance Nikon achieved with this camera. It is even roughly 40% less expensive than the D7000, significantly less expensive then the other models higher up in the Nikon portfolio, yet the D5100 produces images unimaginable just a couple of years ago. Mostly gone are the days of “can’t crop”, or “need more sensitivity” when using the small D5100. Don’t underestimate this camera based on its size and price point. With good lenses the image quality is superb. Haven’t tried the camera with kit lenses yet.

Some photos from my first hours with the camera can be found here.

D5100 & AFS 70-200mm/2.8 VR II

100% crop


100% crop

D5100 & AFS 60mm/2.8

High ISO performance

Reading through some internet forums, ISO performance seems to be the new darling aspect, which cameras people should buy. I will not repeat the more formal methods of the established websites, but like to offer you my small test as well.

These photos were taken yesterday around midnight. It was so dark, that I had to use my flashlight to help the AF find its target. A street light was about 30 meters (90 feet) away, with some dim light on the scene. I did a complete run through from ISO 100 to Hi2. Exposure time with ISO 100 was 30 seconds.

Here are the photos. To facilitate viewing, I resized all images to 1920×1200.

ISO 100

ISO 6400

This concludes the first day in this review. More to come.

Hope you enjoyed it so far,


Next page: Part 2 – AFS 55-300mm VR, AFS 18-200mm and 52 ISO shots with 7 bodies


81 Responses to Nikon D5100 Review

  1. Nice write-up, was a nice read compared to the other usual reviews.

    • nikonandye says:

      Thank you for your kind remarks. I’ll add more material in the next couple of days. Its more driven by fun than any serious business objective 🙂

      • paul domson says:


  2. Ron L'Heureux says:

    I enjoyed your review very much. It was well written, photographed and presented. I would however take exception with your obvious jab at Ken Rockwell. It was completely unnecessary and a cheap shot. I have downloaded two of his Nikon manuals and bound and printed them. I’ve found the to be very helpful and was glad to make a small donation for both. I get a lot out of his camera and lens reviews and opinions. I even get his sense of humor! I think we can both agree that Ken and yourself have vastly different education, experience and knowledge. Not to mention his contributions to the art of digital photography.

    Take care and keep up the good work,

    • nikonandye says:

      thanks for reading the review. As written, it is rather a journey than a final piece of work. As fun is the key driver, the speed might vary over time.

      Not sure, I fully understand your comment: “.. Not to mention his contributions to the art of digital photography… ”


  3. Blagoja D. says:

    Fantastic reviews! I’m online since the pre-internet (BBS) days, and during that time I’ve learned to avoid reading through walls of text coming from commercial sites and peddlers (KenR and such) since their only goal is to get the commission. So I’m always skipping the so called reviews and just jump to the charts or conclusion. But your reviews are remarkable indeed, I’ve gone through the entire D7000 one and just starting this one. Amazing job you’re doing here.

  4. bendik says:

    Great first look! Would be nice if you could have a look at the two kit lenses and maybe put them up against each other? Very relevant for myself looking in to buying this camera as my very first dslr.

    Thanks, B

  5. birdkai says:

    learn your blog from dpreview, really really nice

  6. dave says:

    Nice review (I’m about to get the 5100, but am waiting for Costco to get it in stock). Learned about your blog from dpreview forums. good job! FYI: my eyes glaze over if there’s too much fancy empirical data thrown at me. I prefer your style of reviewing, which shows the practical sides (pros AND cons) of the reviewed item.

    • nikonandye says:

      Thanks Dave,
      also for the style of writing, which is a bigger effort for a non-native speaker, so really appreciate. I try to be as balanced, honest and insightful WHY some of the things do work for me or not. The data parts are still to come, don’t run away 🙂
      Cheers, Andy

  7. Peter Sussex says:

    Thanks for the joyful trip to the 5100’s world. Do like the way you guided me trough.

  8. Mike says:

    This was a helpful review and comparison. Good info!

  9. Steven says:

    Hi there! I am new to Nikon and pre-order the D5100 to use with a 18-2xx zoom. My question is: Does Nikon’s auto ISO implementation compromises the convenience when using a superzoom lens for you?

    A quote fro dpreview:
    “Also unchanged is the D5100’s auto ISO functionality. Whereas all other brands program Auto ISO in a fashion that’s designed to combat camera shake (or blur from relatively slowly-moving subjects) by automatically increasing the ISO at a shutter speed determined by the focal length of the lens, Nikon’s approach uses a single, user-specified minimum shutter speed, which has to be carefully selected for the specific situation and focal length being used. To be fair this method has a real advantage for sports and action work, but it also makes Auto ISO distinctly unsuited to general ‘walkaround’ use with a zoom lens.”


    • nikonandye says:

      Sorry, I do not use the Auto ISO feature of a camera as a general purpose setting, only in special circumstances (ie Sport in a stadium with uneven lighting). The D5100 and D5000 behave identical (just checked). Guess, there is one group of photographers who prefer that their camera preserves speed, and a second group preferring ISO preservation as long as possible. Unless Nikon introduces a new menue option to choose, only half of the photographers using this feature will be happy.

  10. ron moravec says:

    Plug your charger into a short extension chord.

  11. MikeL says:

    Thanks for the review. I bought the d5100 a few days ago and have only limited experience with it. However, my first impression is that I love the articulated screen for getting low down shots (birds pecking at seeds, bike races from a low point of view). My only negative comment is that the battery runs down really quickly when you use live view very much. Keep a spare charged battery with you when you’re out shooting!.
    Best, Mike

    • nikonandye says:

      I just hit 1.000 photos with the D5100 before the battery had to be recharged. About 10% of the photos were taken with LiveView, no Video yet.
      Enjoy your D5100,

  12. HOTTAFLEX says:

    Me allways love the Review and Knowledge of a real Nikon Collector
    forward ever !

  13. You ask ” Why bother with the size, price and complexity of a Dslr cameras, when you will never ever change any lens?”

    Answer: For at least two reasons – DSLRs are more responsive than fixed (P&S) camera lenses because focus is faster and when you press the shutter, they take the shot; and image quality from larger sensors is also a big advantage.

    As a nit, I noticed at least two punctuation issues that make legibility difficult: there is a practical difference between a comma and a period. 😉

    • nikonandye says:

      Thx Eduardo, I should have been more clearer in my statement, but you are of course right.
      With regards to punctuation, I’d like to know where the errors are to be able to fix it. Please let me know.

      Thanks for reading,

  14. Brian says:

    Hi Andy,

    Really great review you have here! Really like the image quality of the photos you have posted! 🙂
    However, I have a burning question in my mind now. I’ve read quite a few forums, and most people have recommended the D90 over the D5100, as both are at around the same price point, main reasons being its ergonomics.

    Can I find out from you if you have felt any problems with its ergonomics? And do they offset the image quality improvements over the D90?


    • nikonandye says:

      Hi Brian,
      welcome to this blog and thanks for your kind remarks.
      Huh, the question with the D90 is hard to answer appropriately. Ergonomics is so dependent on each ones previous experience, expectations and likes that a thumbs-up by one person, can really disappoint the other. I’ll try to answer it in the following way. I like the D5100, BECAUSE of its small size. The D90 is quicker to operate as it has 2 dial wheels and some of the more often used parameters have dedicated buttons instead of forcing the user to activate the menu. Many people prefer the bigger size of the D90 (I didn’t need a “bigger” body). Imho, I think that people tend to overestimate more and more the need for higher resolution sensors in base ISO settings. Most cameras above 10 MP will do just fine for most. The D5100 is better than the D90 in high ISO setttings when both files are viewed at similar sizes. If you intend to take video with your camera then the D5100 is clearly the way to go.

      As said in the beginning, it depends 🙂


      • Brian says:

        Hi Andy,

        Thanks for taking time out to reply! 🙂
        Sorry for being long winded, but did you feel like you had to waste more time digging in the menu to get to some function like metering or AF or white balance?
        I’m considered a newbie in DSLR photography, do you think that this would be a great hindrance/inconvenience for me during my shots?


        • nikonandye says:

          a quick reply.
          If you shoot under time pressure, like in sports, etc. than it might impact your “working” speed. In normal cases, I would not consider it a big hindrance. BTW, in the meantime, I can even switch ISO with one hand on the D5100 🙂

      • Brian says:

        Thanks so much, Andy! 🙂 Think I’m gonna get this lean mean machine! 🙂

  15. Wang says:

    i m an amateur and i m thinking to get the nikon d5100 for myself but i have a doubt regarding the absence of auto focus meter in the body. will this absence create a problem in future? and what are the advantages and disadvantages of not having an auto focus meter in the body, pliz help me out,

    • nikonandye says:

      You mean the absence of the AF “motor”? I don’t know your aspirations, but my assumption is – you will be fine.
      rgds, Andy

  16. Wang says:

    would have been great if had spared some time to elaborate its advantage and disadvantage,,,, anyways Thanks!!

  17. Pingback: | Nikon D5100 Tips

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  21. Borhan says:

    thx Andy for your wonderful review .as i will buy my first dlsr i want to experiment a lot with the options(i have used full manual compact before) .but i think nikon d5100 don’t give me much option .also its pricey lenses will reduce the possibility of buying more lenses.

    though in market some fine camera like Pentax kr(lots of pro option) or like Sony alpha a580(which has similar sensor rating as d5100) provide more flexible option with built in auto focus motor .

    recently i view some exif file of nikon d7000 and Sony alpha a580 .i was really amassed by seeing that sony alpha a580 provide much clear image in iso 6400 than nikon d7000. but the best color performance i found from pentax k-r . Nikon d5100,Nikon d7000 can’t keep the color accuracy in high iso but pentax kr can keep the same color though with lot of noise .now i learned that some software can reduce iso noise and make picture looks good .

    i m really confused though .i don’t want my dslr to make me think that i can’t do that and this is the limit for taking a good picture .its like Nikon will not give you every option in lower price dslr .they will keep you always hungry ,not always satisfied and that’s run their market .

    • nikonandye says:

      thanks for enjoying my review.
      Not sure what your intention is, but if you feel more compelled by the image quality of the pentax based on pictures taken by others, feel free to decide into this direction. I have no comparison to other brand cameras, but would tend not to agree tha the D7000 and D5100 wouldn’t preserve color fidelity. If a shooter is serious about this aspect, he will shoot RAW anyway.

      Don’t get your point about the confusion, what a camera “might” make you think that you can “not” do. This looks rather like a mental blocker by yourself than a limitation of the camera. There are thousands of excellent D7000 pictures out there (just don’t take mine as reference), which wouldn’t be possible at all if your assertation would be correct.

      Take it easy,

  22. Wonderful review! Very helpful indeed. I am thinking of getting a new DSLR camera and I can’t decide what to get between the Nikon D5100 and Nikon D90. Will definitely consider your review and I hope I won’t regret my purchase! Thanks! 😉

  23. Roman says:

    Wow what a great read. What a great job.

    I am a little frustrated with Nikon right now. I owned the D7000 for about two weeks and I had to return it. (backfocus issue). I really would like to get another one. However I am still a little concerned. After looking at your Bird shots that you took with the 5100. I am wondering if the D7000 can do the same as the 5100. The focus is just fantastic.

    Can your D7000 get sharp images like you got with the D5100? I know you originally had a litlle bit of problems with the D7000.
    Please let me know.
    Thank you,

    • nikonandye says:

      sorry to read you had issues with your D7000, but it looks like a problem with a sample, not a systemic issue. My D7000 had (together with some other “pro” bodies) AF errors, which were fixed by Nikon’s Service. The D7000 is on par with the D5100 with regards of sharp images. The AF moduel (CAM4800DX) is superior to the D5100 in the areas of low light and fast moving targets.

      Wish you all the best with your next D7000,

  24. BioBasics says:

    Great blog. So many websites like yours cover subjects that arent found in magazines. I dont know how we got on 12 years ago with just newspapers and magazines.

  25. Liu says:

    very useful information… This is more like a user point of view .. Thanks for sharing your personal experiance

  26. Jennifer says:

    Your pictures are amazing. Perhaps you can help me. I have a new d5100 and am just getting into photography. I tried to take some macro shots and the iso blinks and shutter will not fire… what is the issue?

    • nikonandye says:

      when you are in “M” mode and Auto-ISO is turned on and your time and aperture settings are too bright (or too low) for your lighting conditions, then your D5100 reminds you of this issue with a blinking ISO light. Change exposure appropriately and you should be fine. regards Andy

  27. Elmo says:

    Great review! I must say I enjoyed reading yours more than many other website reviews I’ve been reading while deciding if I buy a Nikon D5100 or a Canon 600D/T3i.
    In your review you didn’t mention an apparent bug in D5100 (and others) concerning the aperture change whilst in liveview. In several other reviews I read it’s said that “the camera won’t apply the aperture change via the body to the lens if you are changing the aperture whilst in live view mode, even though the information display on the LCD shows the aperture value changing, the camera always uses the last aperture value set whilst using the optical viewfinder”.
    Any comment about that? Thanks?

  28. Sanjeev Bawari says:

    I would like to compliment for

    a) for neat and clean webpage which is pleasing to eye and more comfortable to read.

    b) for review ,which is with different perspective ,uncomplicated with real world point of view.

  29. Ron says:

    Wonderful article. Thank you. ? How does the IQ of the 5100 compare to Pentax K-r? Considering Nikon’s XR lenses does the internal motor of the K-r give it an advantage over the 5100?

  30. Paul says:

    1st: Thanx for your nice work!

    The Pentax has built-in anti-shake (SR=shake-reduction) if that matters for you.
    It works even with old manual-focus lenses.
    I think that the image quality doesn’t differ that much so for me it is more a question of ergonomics!
    – oh: and lenses of course…

    As for ergonomics:
    One thing that were not that good with the Nikon is changing ISO-sttings.
    There Pentax is quite good: 1 button for the 4 main settings (ISO, WB, drive and … flash?). You get used to use this button most of the time. There you press direction for ISO-settings – there it is. Not 2 buttons where you have to know that you can change ISO behind…

    As for me: The hand-grip of the new small Nikons is simply too small. The lower fingers simply don’t find place to hold the body. I find the Pentax-grip an ergonomics much better!
    – but then again: I find the AF of Nikon much better so I have both systems….

  31. This is a simple flash that just fills a need for somebody who wants better results than the built-in flash of a Nikon dSLR camera without extra complexity. It does what it does, and quite well.

    The only controls on the unit itself is a on/off switch and a bounce angle. The camera’s iTTL function does the work, and I have no complaints about the results. Just a perfect solution to get a softer, more diffused lighting for indoor photography by allowing you to bounce the light rather than direct illumination. The body is quite compact, and when mounted to my D80 body does not throw off the balance in my hands. It even is compact enough to fit inside of some camera cases while still attached to the body.

    It is also versatile in that you can improvise a bounce-diffuser for low-cost. Just cut a piece of 4×6 inkjet photo print paper to the same width of the flash, fold it in a “L” shape and mount it to the flash with a rubber band above and just behind the strobe. When the flash is pointed up to bounce, some of the light gets reflected forward by the paper behind the light and fills the subject a little better. Does the same as $40+ aftermarket reflector/diffusers.

    The SB-400 by no means will do the same job as a SB-800, because that flash is made to give more options for the professional in more demanding situations. But for somebody wanting a flash for simple indoor photography (perhaps not a large public hall) where there is a desire to bounce the flash for better photos, or shoot from a little bit longer range, this does the job for not a great deal of money.

    It would be better if the light could swivel as well as be angled upward for more bounce options. If that’s important to you, then the SB-600 or SB-800 might be the right choice.

  32. planthub says:

    I like your blog and just get the 5100 for a week, so far so good, and I still have the good old 105mm F2.5lens from my FM2, and I can use it on this new cam, of course I have to do manual focus and adjust the f stop, but this is no big deal, since I can see the image result right away, another old toy I can use is the Sunpak flash that is also 30 yrs old and it is powerful and work as usual too, just set to the right f stop and done. 5100 did do a lot more compare to what I have the FM2 long time ago, but it did save me a lot on film and enjoy the photo right away. Right now I am do more reading on how to fully understand the in & out of this new toy.

  33. Wonderful article. I just discovered your site and wanted to tell you that I have actually enjoyed analyzing your web site. I have became a subscriber to your blog feed and I expect that you are going to post again soon. I am wondering if I have to subscribe to comments RSS feed too. Any helpful interactions taking place in posts comments?

  34. Hard Bass says:

    Nice Blog !!! your the best

  35. Thanks for some great information reagrding this

  36. Nice review. Thank you.
    I wonder why my Nikon D5100 in picture viewing mode did not let me see additional information. The up and down button did produce any result (the levels and shooting info, ect) when I click it.

    Thank you

    • Tom says:

      You have to go to “Playback display options” in the Playback menu and turn on the additional information pages. Seems a bizarre decision to have this feature disabled by default and isn’t covered at all in the menus.

      • Abrahus says:

        Thank you! I wondered the same about my all-new D5100. I thought to examine all menues, but apparently missed that one.

  37. Atlanta beginner says:

    I just got my Nikon D5100 today. Let me first say that I am the beginner of beginners so stone me to the wall of shame if I ask stupid questions. But if I don’t ask I won’t learn. So, I got a kit with 18-55 and 55-300 VR lenses. I only used the camera handheld with both sets and put a UV filter right away to protect the lens. First observation was that images came a little darker than I would have expected. I shot in daylight (from my balcony … 7 pm, sun still outside – not brightest light but definitely not dim since my point and shoot Canon can do it without flash. Is that something common right out of the box on auto settings?

    Second … perhaps I am not doing something right but some of my images were quite out of focus with VR and in AUTO mode. Ok … so 55-300 @ 300 without a tripod needs darn good light … fine. But even at wide end still the image was not in focus properly (AF on, VR on). And the speed was 1/200. Even the 18-55 was out of focus for some reason. Inside with flash suffered from the same issues (I know flash is not strong but was plenty of light coming from the windows).

    It seems I am not setting the camera properly because reviews are stellar and I do not hear of problems with the camera out of the box.

    I am trying to resist returning the camera as I am pretty sure that it is the photographer not the hardware that is to be blamed. Never had a DSLR before.

    As I learn slowly … could you have any suggestion on how to set the AUTO mode so that it exposes at a reasonable brightness without having to bracket every time? I will eventually learn the settings and how to better compose the pictures but I was hoping to actually enjoy the camera while gradually building knowledge.

    Many thanks

  38. Danmark says:

    outstanding “prothusiast” D-SLR, solid upgrade from my D5000
    As a long-time owner of the Nikon D5000, and former owner of the Nikon D60, I was eager to purchase the D5100 after seeing the announcements and pre-reviews. Being one of the lucky ones to buy the D5100 with 18-55VR kit earlier this week, I’ve had a few days to play with this camera and can honestly say it’s a solid upgrade to the D5000

  39. Arjun says:

    hi andy,

    nice write-up must say,
    i am an amateur and looking to buy my first DSLR and i am confused between Nikon D5100 and canon 550D, can you please tell me which one to consider or rather which one is better technically, physically and in practice and which one of the two out perform another…i have felt both in my hands, and was comfortable with both…am in a very confused state…
    any help would be appreciated 🙂

    Arjun Sahu (from India)

    • nikonandye says:

      I am sorry.
      I don’t have any personal experience with Canon cameras – hence I will abstain from any recommendation …

      regards, Andy

      • Miguel says:

        Hi Arjun, Hi Andy:

        I have two cameras and, assuming that I am not a professional, I’ll recommend you the Nikon. The reasons, besides ergonomics (this depends on your taste, size of your hands, etc..) are mainly for picture quality. The sensor of the 550D, which is one of its attractions being the same as the 7D, has one big disadvantage: diffraction. Any aperture beyond f8 will result in starting to lose sharpness (due to the density of pixels on the sensor). In addition, the D5100 has the superb D-Lightning (much better than Canon´s ALO, and I say this from experience: I have lots of white skies in the pictures of my trip to Milan with the 550D). At high ISO the D5100 has a slight advantage for me. Also, to get the full potential of the 550D sensor, you’ll need good glass. The D5100 can take great pictures with a simple 18-105mm (As Andy says the built-in distortion correction helps).
        Hope this helps (and hope not to have earned the hatred of any Canon user: was my first brand and still have Canon cameras, that also have good things).
        Sorry my English.
        Best regards.

  40. Thanks i love your article about Nikon D5100 Review Andy E.'s Photo Blog

  41. Nikon D5100 Price says:

    This is an excellent post on the Nikon D5100. You have great information for anyone considering buying the D5100 or just getting started in an exciting photography hobby. Great job!

  42. Sanjay says:

    I have gone thro the review and should appreciate that i am yet to buy any DSLR and i could understand many technics of photography and how i will need to handle it, i have also read all the Q&A, specifically would like to get my query resolved to satisfy myself in freezing my decision,

    Should i go for D5100 with 18-200 lense or buy seperately 55-200 lense and Kit with 180-55 lens?

  43. planthub says:

    I will buy the 18-200, if I can afford it, 18-55 is ok, but be honest not good enough for travel. only good thing is that it is using 52mm filter and I can use all the old stuff.
    one thing I also find is very good to buy nikon is the software support is far better due to so many people using it, take a look at the free software from apple app store call sofortbild, it is mac tethered shooting, it is the best and it is free. I like it.

  44. Spirit HD Apk says:

    I agree with your Nikon D5100 Review Andy E.'s Photo Blog, excellent post.

  45. Framton says:

    Wow, I’m slow. I remember thinking the manual that came with the camera was a bit sparse. It never occurred to me that it wasn’t the full manual and that I’d have to download a PDF. Now I feel ridiculously stupid, but hey! I’m liking your blog a lot. Thanks for putting it up!

  46. Fiona says:


    I have just purchased the d5100 and aim not sure what I have done but when I take photos in the sports motion they are blurred where the kids are moving ? Can you help me?


  47. Ganesh says:


    Seriously a great review….I’ am planning to buy D5100 and I’ am amateur…. Eagerly Looking forward for ur next pages about this ….


  48. Bettye says:


    Great review of your personal experience. I just got the d5100 myself. Do you know if there is any adjustment on the camera to allow the information to stay on the monitor a little longer? It seems to disappear way to quickly for these old eyes.
    Thanks for your help.

  49. satyam says:

    on ISO base, which is best performer…Canon 550D or Nikon D5100 !!! Anyone please ????

  50. tony says:

    One major comment. If you are not located in the US … aka “centre of the universe” then the “reference manual” supplied with the camera on a CD cannot be printed. It is a “secured .pdf”. The manual that comes with the camera is total overview and next to useless. Give me a break. Over $1500 spent on lenses and a camera and I cannot print out the reference manual ???? The ego of these Nikon idiots is beyond me.

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