Nikon announced the D5100 and the stereo ME-1 microphone this week. So far I like what I’m seeing. In my previous comparison of the D3100 and D5000 I found it hard to recommend the D5000. The D5100 ups the ante just enough to help differentiate it from the D3100 while increasing the price point for a better fit between the D3100 and D7000.
Price as of 08/06/11:
Rundown of the key changes from the D5000:
- 16.2 MP sensor (vs 12.3 MP)
- 1080p video at 24/25/30 fps (vs 720p24)
- H.264/AVC codec (vs Motion JPEG, big improvement)
- 3″ 921k pixel LCD (vs 2.7″ 230k pixel)
- LCD hinge on left of body (vs bottom edge)
- 14-bit processing (vs 12-bit)
- Default to ISO 100 (vs ISO 200)
- Autofocus during video
- Stereo microphone input
- Dual IR sensors (no reaching around to the front)
- Live view switch and record button moved to top
- Slightly smaller and lighter
The improvements to video and the higher resolution LCD are nice upgrades. The sensor is likely the same or very close to that of the D7000 which means it will produce very nice images with great high ISO performance.
If your budget for a camera is under $1000 then the main deciding factor between the D5100 and D3100 will be the video. If you aren’t going to use video then the D5100 might not be worth the extra $300.
The D5100 is competitively priced at Amazon:
Price Comparison (as of 9/26/11): D3100 is $529 (big drop from $600) at Amazon and the D5100 is $759
Update 5/09/2011: D5100 was announced at the beginning of April. See what’s new and some of my thoughts at this post: Nikon D5100 DSLR – What’s New and Impressions
The new D3100 really shakes up Nikon’s lineup of lower priced DSLRs. In my previous comparison between the D90, D5000 and D3000 I had a hard time recommending the D3000 and the extra money was well spent on the D5000. The D3100 changes this recommendation.
Major revisions to the D3100:
- New 14MP CMOS sensor – big improvement over the D3000’s ancient CCD sensor
- 1080p24 video – nonexistent on the D3000 and better than the D5000 and D90
- Autofocus while recording a movie – a first on any Nikon DSLR, before you had to lock focus before recording and tweak it manually
- Live view mode – brought over with the video features
- Automatic chromatic aberration correction – This is big, fixes fringing in your pictures before they are saved, previously only on the D90 and D5000
- Customizable function button
The D5000 is essentially obsolete now. The D3100 and D5000 have comparable sensors now and the inclusion of better video capability makes the decision between the D3100 and D5000 simple; until the D5000 is updated just get the D3100.
A lot of features from the D90 have been pushed down to the lower price points and the one thing that really sets the two consumer segments apart is the inclusion of an AF motor on D90. If you are going to use lenses without built in AF motors then the D90 (or it’s soon to be announced replacement) is still your only choice. If I was just starting out though, I wouldn’t hesitate to get the D3100 which beats the D5000 in bang for your buck.
You can get the Nikon D3100 from Amazon at a very competitive price.