Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Nikon D5100 adds a 1 to the name, new features too!


Nikon announced a new DSLR today, the not-very-excitingly-named D5100.  It's a replacement for the D5000.  I still contend that this naming scheme reminds me of a car, or perhaps the Atari 5200, but let's not dwell on that.  The important point is that it looks like a great camera, especially if you're in the market for a small, mid range DSLR.  It's basically a slightly modified D5000 with an image sensor borrowed from the more expensive D7000.  This is standard practice with camera companies these days: you upgrade a few things, trickle down some parts from another camera, throw in a gimmick or two to get people's attention, and vavoom: you have a new product cycle.

Here's what's upgraded from the D5000:
  • A vastly improved LCD.  The D5000 had an ill conceived LCD that swiveled down instead of to the side.  Swiveling to the side is much more useful as it allows you to swivel the LCD when the camera is on a tripod or sitting on the ground.  It's also a higher resolution screen, at 921k pixels vs 230k.
  • It's about 10% smaller than the D5000, and a bit lighter.  Smaller is almost always better, in my opinion.

And this is what it borrows from the D7000:
  • The 16.2 MP Sensor, and all the features that come with that, including an ISO range of 100 to 25,600.  This sensor is really good, in my experience, but be warned-- the file sizes will eat a hole in your hard drive.
  • All the video modes that come with the D7000.  1080p at 30/25/24fps.  I personally never use them.

BUYING ADVICE: If you already own a D5000 and are perfectly happy with that camera, keep shooting with it and be perfectly happy.  I assure you, your photos will not turn into a pumpkin at midnight.  If, however, you were thinking about buying a D5000, you may as well get the D5100.  I personally think the LCD screen is enough of a reason to chose the D5100, but obviously the newer sensor is a benefit as well.

Potential D7000 buyers will have to play a game of "what do I need?" vs "what can I afford?"  Yes, these cameras share the same sensor, but the D7000 has a whole host of professional features that are lacking in the D5100.  Notably, a weather sealed body, drive motor, 100% viewfinder, and 39 point autofocus system.  Of course, the D5100 is $400 cheaper.

Further info: Nikon USA, DP Review, Engadget.
Preorder at Amazon: Not available yet, but will be priced at $799 (body only) or $899 (w/ kit lens).

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