The Nikon D5100 shares the same 16.2-megapixel sensor and Expeed 2 processor as the Nikon D7000, which costs £1,100. That bodes well for image quality, which is excellent, second only to the Canon EOS 600D. Colours are generally well reproduced and the autofocus can be relied upon to rapture fast-moving sporting action with minimal blur.
It may take time to get to grips with all the features and effects – including night vision, color sketch, miniature, selective color, silhouette, high key and low key-but it’s worth the effort. For instance, switching from the standard mode to landscape when shooting lush vistas can prevent grass from adopting a yellow tint.
For evening shots the sensitivity can be pushed to the equivalent of ISO 25,600. Meanwhile, the HDR mode, that merges two images taken in quick succession with different exposures, is very useful for high contrast shots. Full-HD, 1080p video at 24fps is just as successfully handled by the D5100. Autofocus is reasonably smooth and the manual exposure can be adjusted before you hit record. The quality of the results is universally impressive.
Solidly built, the D5100 feels durable, with the exception of a flimsy card port cover. The only downside is that there are few buttons. One specially-selected control can be assigned to the Fn button for quick access, but everything else, from white balance to sensitivity settings, is buried in the three-inch LCD’s menu.
The lack of easily accessible manual controls and the simplistic build gives this the air of a camera aimed at beginners; ambitious beginners won’t be disappointed.