Product Review: Nikon D5100 DSLR

I enjoy taking photos, and I got good use from my trusty Fujifilm bridge camera, but I decided I wanted something a bit more serious, so with some money from my birthday I got myself a new camera 🙂 Originally I’d been aiming fairly modestly, for a decent second hand DSLR. After a lot of research, and a lot of eBay watching, I’d decided on a Nikon (it helps that a friend has a D3100 which he is very pleased with). I was planning to spend about £150-£200. Then I found a website that was selling the D5100 with 18-55mm lens kit for £295 brand new. So I bought that instead! Good intentions…



First impressions – lots of buttons and switches! This wasn’t my first SLR, I used to love my old Yashica FX-D 35mm, but that was like a pocket calculator compared to a supercomputer besides the Nikon.

I love the fold out screen, mainly, to be honest, because you can fold it back against the camera body to protect it from scratches, but also because I don’t normally use it. As a camera geek I try to always shoot in full manual mode, and have never actually used the live view mode either, so the screen is only used for browsing the menus and reviewing shots after shooting.

Picture quality is extremely impressive, especially if professionally printed, the images look like true film, with no colour noise (a noticeable limitation of my old camera) at all, unless using really high ISO values. A small selection of samples is shown below. Click on the small image to view the full resolution file (approx 6MB each).

 

The supplied lens is nice to use, the 18-55mm zoom gives a decent range of shooting options, from a fairly wide angle to close up. The max aperture at f/3.5 is alright for most conditions. I would like something faster, but smaller numbers cost bigger numbers. My next lens will be the Nikkor 55-200mm AF-s VR II, which should let me shoot better wildlife shots. I personally prefer plants, animals and people (in that order!!) to landscapes, so am looking forward vto getting that. Additional sample images will be uploaded once I’ve got the hang of it.

The menus are quite logical to use. One slight annoyance is that if you switch on the built in HDR mode RAW saving is disabled (fair enough) but isn’t re-enabled again afterwards.

I have’t tried the video modes yet, to be honest I’ve got a perfectly good 1080p Panasonic camcorder, which is smaller and lighter. Ironically the SLR would probably do the job better, with improved sensor size and lens.

All in all this is an extremely nice camera for me. It isn’t the best or newest model, but that’s why it was good value. A full frame camera would give better quality, but the camera and lenses are both significantly more expensive, and I find this one very nice to use.