16.2 megapixels; DX-format CMOS sensor; 3-inch articulating (tilt-and-swivel) LCD, 921,000 pixels; Live View mode; ISO 100-6400 (25600 extended); 18-55mm NIKKOR VR Image Stabilization kit lens; 1080p 24/30fps, 720p 24/30fps HD video; RAW + JPEG formats; 11-point autofocus; Continuous autofocus; 420-pixel 3D color matrix meter; 4fps burst mode; Effects Mode: Night vision, Color sketch, Miniature effect, Selective color; In-camera HDR processing; Captures to SD/SDHC/SDXC media cards; Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
The D5100 is Nikon's latest mid-range dSLR (or "advanced beginner" model, as they're calling it), sitting between the D3100 and D7000 and in the same ballpark as the Canon T3i and Sony A55. It's par for the course in that range: 16.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, 1080p video, a high-res tilt-and-swivel LCD, and full-time autofocus (after a fashion). Since it mostly checks off the standard features in the mid-range space, it feels like a late-to-the-game, me-too model, but it's still absolutely a worthy camera -- just not particularly exciting given the context of the market. The most compelling feature is arguably the 16.2 megapixel sensor, the very same one used in the D7000 -- based on some hands-on previews, we've heard that the image quality is very, very close to that of its big brother, and that's a very good thing, though the 11-point autofocus system is considerably more modest. It's also worth noting that the D5100 also seems to be much sleeker and more refined than its predecessor, the solid but homely D5000. It's about 10 percent lighter and smaller, and the articulating LCD is thinner and side-mounted -- basically, all the unwieldy bulk is gone. In an effort to separate the D5100 from the competition (nice try), Nikon is really pushing the Effects Mode feature. It's, uh, cute? Is that the word? But it doesn't seem -- to us at least, we could be wrong -- like anyone springing for a $900 kit will really be swayed one way or another by some art filters. The only effect of any considerable interest (and that isn't readily available on any $200 point-and-shoot) is the night vision effect, which Nikon claims boosts the effective ISO range into six-figure territory. It'll be interesting to see how that turns out, but we have modest expectations. Anyhow, we finally have Nikon's answer to the current crop of mid-range dSLRs, it looks like a totally worthy, if perhaps conservative entrant into the field, and we're sure that because of its excellent sensor will attract a large number of buyers.