Customer Review

4,325 of 4,385 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review Written for Beginner Photographers, October 12, 2011
This review is from: Nikon D5100 16.2MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3-Inch Vari-Angle LCD Monitor (Body Only) (Camera)
I am a photography teacher in NYC and online. (See my Amazon profile for my website.) I teach beginner and intermediate photography students every week. I've also been a professional photographer for the last five years with images published in The New York Times, GQ, New York Magazine, Women's Wear Daily, The New York Observer, The Village Voice and Time Out New York.

(This review is for beginner photographers.)

If you're a beginner, you're most likely asking yourself: Nikon or Canon? Really, I feel confident in saying that you can't go wrong with either. I've used both brand's cameras extensively and find that they both offer amazing image quality with well-built, solid cameras that, if taken care of, will last decades. There are two differences between the cameras, though, that can be taken into consideration.

The user-interface: If cameras were computers, Nikons would be PCs and Canons would be MACs. PCs are built for people not afraid of technology whereas Macs are built for people who want things super-easy. Nikons excel at customization options which means you'll see so many more options with the Advanced features of a Nikon than you will with a Canon. Canons, on the other hand, excel at ease-of-use for beginners. Canons offer less advanced options and can be easier to learn on. This can be frustrating down the line, though, once you've learned a lot about photography. At that point you may want all of the options that Nikon offers and be frustrated with your Canon. If you're someone who really likes to delve deep into your hobbies or if you're intent on becoming a professional photographer, I'd say a Nikon would be your best bet. If you're someone who wants to learn the basics of photography and only imagine yourself being a hobbyist, Canon would be a better option for you.

Where Nikon excels: Flash photography. I often find myself in situations where I'm shooting event photography (weddings, movie premiers, benefits and galas) where I need to use a lot of flash. For this kind of photography, I'll always prefer to be shooting with a Nikon. Nikon's flash metering (how the camera magically decides how much light to fire out of the flash) is much more consistent than Canon's. You can take a Canon and shoot the same scene three times in a row with flash and all three images will be at different brightness levels. You can do the same thing with a Nikon and all three images will be wonderfully the same. If you're somebody who plans on shooting a lot with flash (indoor photography, event photography, etc.) you'll want to consider going with Nikon.

Where Canon excels: Richness of colors. I've been in numerous situations where I've been on the red carpet taking the exact same picture as the photographer next to me. I'll have a Canon and the person next to me will have a Nikon. This has provided quite a few opportunities to compare the images side-by-side. What I've found is that the colors on the Canon's images look richer and make the image pop more. If I'm doing fine art photography (anything I'd like to someday hang in a gallery), I'll always want to be shooting with a Canon for this reason.

If you're set on Nikon, there are three cameras you should be considering and it all comes down to what your budget is:

D7000 $1,400 without lens
D5100 $750 without lens
D3100 $600 only available with lens
(current prices as of 2/19/11)

Here's what you get for spending extra money (each camera compared to the one below it):

D3100 vs. D5100:

The D3100 is an EXCELLENT camera so if you only have $550 to spend total on camera and lens then go out and buy this camera. You won't regret it. If you're considering spending more money, here's what you'll get from the D5100 in comparison:

-Better performance in low light situations.
-A higher resolution screen on the back of the camera so you can see your images more clearly and make out if they actually turned out well.
-An external mic jack. (If you're planning on shooting video with an external mic, you'll want the D5100 over the D3100.)
-A flip out screen (handy if you want to put your camera anywhere but at your eye level and be able to see what your camera is about to capture before you shoot it)
-Faster continuous shooting. If you're often shooting sports or any fast moving subject, continuous shooting allows you to capture multiple images in a single second. The D3100 shoots at three frames per second whereas the D5100 shoots at four frames per second.
-Higher ISO options. The D5100 offers one more stop of ISO than the D3100 does. If you don't know what ISO means (or what a stop is) just know that this allows you to more easily shoot images in low-light situations.
-Longer battery life. The D5100's battery will last 20% longer than the D3100

The two advantages of the D3100 over the D5100 are: less expensive and less weight. Whenever a camera is less expensive, it means you'll have more in your budget for the lens. The D3100 weighs 10% lighter and is 10% smaller than the D5100.

D5100 vs. D7000:

The D5100 is Nikon's latest and greatest and is even newer than the D7000. Phenomenal camera! If you're stuck, though, between the D5100 and the D7000, here's what you'll get by spending more money on the D7000:

-More focus points. When using auto-focus, the D7000 will have an easier time focusing on what you want it to focus on.
-60% longer lasting batteries.
-Faster continuous shooting. If you're often shooting sports or any fast moving subject, continuous shooting allows you to capture multiple images in a single second. The D5100 shoots at four frames per second whereas the D7000 shoots at six frames per second.
-Weather sealed. This means you can shoot with the D7000 in the rain.
-Two memory card slots. This is really a cool feature. The D7000 has two memory card slots which means you'll be less likely to find yourself standing in front of a gorgeous scene with no more memory left.
-Faster shutter speed. The fastest shutter speed on the D5100 is 1/4000th of a second; on the D7000: 1/8000th of a second. To be honest, I can't think of any practical reason why this would benefit you unless you're planning on shooting some really bright scenes like directly into the sun.

Advantages of the D5100 over the D7000:

-A flip out screen (handy if you want to put your camera anywhere but at your eye level and be able to see what your camera is about to capture before you shoot it)
-Smaller and lighter: The D5100 is 10% smaller and 30% lighter than the D7000. This is something to consider if you plan on carrying your camera around with you a lot.
-Less expensive so you can spend more on your lens!

If I can clarify any of this, please email me!

-JP Pullos, photography teacher, NYC and online (see my Amazon profile for my website)
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Comments

Tracked by 39 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 288 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 31, 2011 11:31:46 PM PDT
Bee Blume says:
Yes great review and very helpful. I wish you had reviewed the Canons as well. I am floating between the d5100, the d7000 and the Cannon 60d. I have owned both--I have a Nikon FM2 and several small canon digitals, but this will be my first DSLR. I am indeed a Mac user, though am attracted ti being able to customize. At the same time I tend more towards riich color and art photography so wonder f the canon would be a better fit for me. Of course you can't tell me what wlll work for me--but maybe you can say abit more about Canons options in this range. Thank you in advance!
Ruby Blume

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2011 9:34:20 PM PDT
jpullos says:
K. Ruby Blume,

I'm hoping it'll be helpful for me to do a comparison of the 60D with the D5100 and the D7000. Here goes:

D7000 vs 60D:

Where the D7000 excels:
-Higher ISO options. The D7000 offers one more stop of ISO than the 60D does. If you don't know what ISO means (or what a stop is) just know that this allows you to more easily shoot images in low-light situations.
-More focus points. When using auto-focus, the D7000 will have an easier time focusing on what you want it to focus on.
-Two memory card slots. The D7000 has two memory card slots which means you'll be less likely to find yourself standing in front of a gorgeous scene with no more memory left.
-Weather sealed. This means you can shoot with the D7000 in the rain.
-Continuous focus while you're shooting video (definitely helpful if you're planning on shooting video)

Where the 60D excels:
-Higher resolution: The 60D is an 18 MegaPixel camera whereas the D7000 is only a 16 MegaPixel camera. This effects how big you can print your images and have them remain high quality prints. 18 MegaPixels will print as big as 30 inches by 20 inches whereas 16 MegaPixels will print as big as 24 inches by 16 inches. A higher resolution also means you can crop an image and have the remaining image still remain high quality.
-A flip out screen (handy if you want to put your camera anywhere but at your eye level and be able to see what your camera is about to capture before you shoot it)
-Less expensive so you can spend more on lenses!

D5100 vs. 60D:

Where the D5100 excels:
-Higher ISO options. The D5100 offers one more stop of ISO than the 60D does. If you don't know what ISO means (or what a stop is) just know that this allows you to more easily shoot images in low-light situations.
-The D5100 is 20% smaller and 30% lighter. This is something to consider if you plan on carrying your camera around with you a lot.
-Continuous focus while you're shooting video (definitely helpful if you're planning on shooting video)
-Less expensive so you can spend more on lenses!

Where the 60D excels:
-Longer battery life. The 60D's battery will last 70% longer than the D5100's.
-Faster continuous shooting. If you're often shooting sports or any fast moving subject, continuous shooting allows you to capture multiple images in a single second. The 60D shoots at 5.3 frames per second whereas the D5100 shoots at four frames per second.
-Faster shutter speed. The fastest shutter speed on the D5100 is 1/4000th of a second; on the 60D: 1/8000th of a second. To be honest, I can't think of any practical reason why this would benefit you unless you're planning on shooting some really bright scenes like directly into the sun.
-In-camera HDR. This is only applicable if HDR is of interest to you. If you don't know what HDR is, I wouldn't worry about it, especially since there are tons of great HDR software programs you can buy, for very little money, if you want to explore it later.

I realize this was just a specs comparison which is of limited use but I'm hoping a few things will jump out here in terms of how you specifically like to use your camera and something will become clear through all of these numbers!

All the best,
JP Pullos
http://www.jpcolors.com/online.html

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2011 11:35:36 PM PDT
Bee Blume says:
Thanks very much. I am probably going with the d5100 , much more comfortable iny small hands and I will be more likely to choose it when I am running out the door. The cheaper body allows me the luxury of spending a bit more on two really great lenses.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 2, 2011 8:09:34 PM PDT
jpullos says:
K. Ruby Blume,

I think you're going to be really happy with your purchase!! I'm glad I played a part in helping you come to a decision!

All the best,
JP Pullos
http://www.jpcolors.com/online.html

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 27, 2011 2:06:31 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 27, 2011 9:27:43 PM PST
1234 says:
What would your feedback and recommendations be between the D5100 and the Canon EOS Rebel T2i 18 MP CMOS APS-C Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens + Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS Telephoto Zoom Lens - I would like to purchase one of them as a gift for my 15 year old daughter who will be taking her first digital photography class. I like the price of the Cannon because it comes with a second lens for about the same price as the D5100, but I worry that the Nikon will be better for down the road. We are Mac users and love rich, vivid colors, but worry about Cannon's quality in low light situations? Please help. I am so confused by this. Thank you!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2011 4:14:22 PM PST
jpullos says:
SD Mom,

My recommendation is to go with the Canon T2i. This will be her first digital photography class so you'll want something that's more intuitively easy to learn on and, if you've found a good price for the body and two lenses, that's the direction to go in. Don't worry about Nikon being better down the road. With all this comparison shopping that people do, they tend to lose sight of the fact that Canons and Nikons are both REALLY, REALLY excellent cameras. Until you get to the professional level, it's very rare that someone regrets buying a Canon or a Nikon camera. They may have their differences but you'll be overthinking it if you really try to break them down too much. While the D5100 may do a little bit better in low light conditions than the T2i, this isn't a reason, in and of itself, to go with the D5100.

Also, remember, there's only one way for your daughter to see which features matter to her in a camera which is for her to get experience shooting. She may decide, down the line, that she likes one camera over another but you can't know that until she actually starts shooting.

I hope this was helpful!

If, by chance, you end up buying through Amazon, please purchase via a link on my website:
http://www.jpcolors.com/purchase.html

All the best,
JP Pullos
http://www.jpcolors.com/online.html

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 1, 2011 8:52:43 PM PST
1234 says:
Thank you for your wonderful feedback. Unfortunately I didn't see it until just now and I have already purchased the camera. I decided to go with the Nikon after much back and forth. Hopefully she will be able to pick it up quickly and not get discouraged right off the bat. I have to say, my gut was telling me to go with the Cannon. Oh well Im sure it will work out. When we are ready to add a lens etc. I will definitely check out your site. Thanks again!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 5, 2011 9:01:56 AM PST
jpullos says:
SD Mom,

Really, I think your daughter is going to love the Nikon. As I mentioned, you really can't go wrong with either brand. They both offer really well-made cameras.

Yes, let me know when you're looking to buy a lens and if I can offer any advice on which lens(es) to buy!

If you didn't already notice, I have an instructional series on the D5100 here:

http://www.d5100manual.com/

It's a great way to learn how to use the camera!

All the best,
JP Pullos
http://www.jpcolors.com/online.html

Posted on Jan 6, 2012 3:25:03 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 6, 2012 3:26:10 PM PST
Dear jpullos,
please, I would like to know if you experienced difficulty in focusing, especially at night, with the nikon's d5100 and the 18-105mm lens.
This lens blocks partially the light of my nikon d3100 used to aid focusing. The focus gets very imprecise and slow and misses the events. Does it happens also with d5100 with this lens?
thank you

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2012 3:28:35 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 9, 2012 3:28:51 PM PST
jpullos says:
Sergio,

All cameras/lenses have a harder time focusing in low-light situations since cameras need there to be at least some light on the subject in order for it to "find" focus.

It doesn't make sense to me that your lens is blocking the focusing light. More likely, the problems are: 1) You're starting off with very low light. 2) What you're focusing on is farther away than the focusing light will reach and 3) You may not be pointing the camera at a pattern or an edge of an object. (If you have your camera focusing on the center of your shot and what's in the center of your shot is a blank wall, for example, the camera won't be able to focus. You need to focus on an edge of an object or something with some kind of pattern to it, like a face or a anything that's not a solid color.)

Let me know if I can clarify that!

All the best,
JP Pullos
http://www.jpcolors.com/online.html
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