Nikon D5100 And Nikon D7000 Compared

I had the opportunity to shoot with a Nikon D5100 recently and to take it on a trip to the United States.

I have been shooting with a higher-end camera – the Nikon D7000 – for a while now. It is a lovely camera, but it weighs 220g (almost half a pound) more than the D5100.

And because I prefer to carry as little weight as possible when I am traveling, I grabbed the chance to take the lighter camera and just one lens – the Nikon 35mm f1.8 AF-S – to the USA.

I have used the D60 and before that the D40, and both of them are very good cameras. So I had some expectation of what the more modern D5100 would be able to deliver.

The D5100 – D7000 Comparison

The D5100 and the D700 use the same sensor, but the image-processing engine within the two cameras is different.

There is no doubt that the D5100 can produce high image quality – as witness this shot and the crop from it:

So this comparison is not about the image quality, but about the handling.

The D5100 In Use

The D5100 is a pleasure to shoot in all but one respect. That one respect is the essential one of being able to see whether the camera has focused on the subject.

I already knew from the D40 and the D60 that there is no lock button for the focus point. So if one catches the rear four-way controller, the focus point will be moved – to the side or up or down, depending on which part of the controller one catches inadvertently.

The Back Of The D5100 Showing The Four-Way Controller And The 'OK' Button

The standard way to deal with this is to get into the habit of hitting the OK button in the center of the four-way controller when one raises the camera to shoot. That centers the focus point.

So, picture the scene: the camera goes to my eye and I look through the viewfinder. Except that in California, the light is bright and contrasty, rather than overcast and cloudy as it had been in Edinburgh.

I have hit the OK button – so I know the focus point is in the center of the frame as I look through the viewfinder.

But exactly where is the center of the frame?

You might think that is easy to answer, but with your eye jammed up against the viewfinder, it is not so straightforward to see.

Now on the D7000, the active focus points are big and bright: When the red light on the active focus point lights up, you can see it.

Not so on the D5100. The focus points are tiny and in bright sunlight against a busy scene, it is very difficult to see the little red light that lights up on the active focus point when the camera achieves focus.

Remember that you would not looking at a blank white background like that shown in these illustrations. You would be looking at a busy and perhaps colourful scene where you have to pick the red focus light out of a confusion of shapes and colours.

Sure, after a second or two of hunting for the illumination of the active focus point and repeatedly half-pressing the shutter, you will see it.

But those are precious seconds when you want to be focusing and shooting. And the feeling of uncertainty that it causes is not conducive to keeping a steady hand and a clear mind while shooting.

D7000 Focus Points
D5100 Focus Points

Conclusion

This is a step backward for Nikon compared to the focus points on the D40 and the D60.

And that is as much as I want to say about the D5100 in the real world: Great camera – pity about the poor illumination of the active focus point.

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    Comments

    1. says

      Nice review here. I use a Nikon D70. It’s quite old (at least in digital terms), but still quite good. The built-in flash is a feature I particularly like.

    2. Dochu says

      Does a one line statement on D7000 cover the headline “Nikon D5100 And Nikon D7000 Compared”?. It is one-sided towards the D5100.

      • David Bennett says

        Thank you for your comment. There are many well-known advantages to the D7000, principally that it can focus with all autofocusing lenses and not just AF-S lenses. There are other things like the fact that it has a top plate but the point is, I think, that these features are well-known and there is no reason for me to repeat what is found elsewhere on the web.

        The two advantages that the D5100 has are lower price and lower weight. But for me, these are negated by the poor active focus point illumination.

        As I said in the article, I have a D7000. If I didn’t and if I was trying to decide which camera to buy – I might have decided on the D5100 except that now I know that it is often difficult to see where the camera focuses.

        Now I would never have the D5100 as my main camera.

    3. dr.k says

      Very nice article. i have been doing research on dslr for 2 weeks and I have seen over 50 videos on youtube and read 200 comparison articles and so on.

      I have even written to those using d5100 and exchanged emails with experts, but no one raised these so very important practical points.

      I congratulate the writer for crisp and sharp ‘well focused’ information to clearly differentiate between D5100 and D7000.

      Thanks a lot.

      Regards,
      k

    4. dr.k says

      1. In my city, the d5100 is half the price of d7000. Do you think the d7000 is worth it?
      2. Do both the d5100 and d7000 have the same sensor and exactly same picture quality?
      3. If we choose between the d5100 and d5200, which is the safer bet? The d5100 is time tested but d5200 has some features of d7000 and could strike a great balance.
      4. Which is best best d5100, d5200 or d7000?

      thx
      k

      • David Bennett says

        The image quality is more or less the same on both cameras.

        The viewfinder is bigger on the D7000 than on the D5100, so you can see what you are looking at more clearly.

        You can lock the focus point on the D7000. There’s no lock on the D5100, so I had to keep remembering to hit the OK button when I picked the camera up, to return the focus point to the middle of the focus area, in case I knocked it accidentally when it was in my bag.

        The focus points are easier to see on the D7000 and there are more of them.

        The D7000 has a motor in the body, so it will drive just about any Nikon autofocus lens. The D5100 doesn’t have a motor in the body so it will only autofocus with AF-S lenses. That might not be a problem for you because most new Nikon lenses are AF-S. But I have a 105mm lens that is not AF-S.

        The D5100 weighs 8 ounces less than the D7000.

        The D5200 is great – just as great as the D5100.

        Like you said, the D5100 is much cheaper than the D7000.

        You might want to take a look at this article I wrote about choosing a digital camera – it might help with your decision:

        http://quillcards.com/blog/index.php/guides/ten-things-to-know-when-choosing-a-digital-camera/

    5. dr.k says

      Thanks for the answers. I will read that article. In the mean time, i have decided to go for either the d5100 or d5200 and skip the d7000. Between d5100 and d5200, I like d5200 more in terms of features….39 focus points, better rgb system and some other features.
      a. Is the 39 point system in d5200 exactly same (nice and big) as d7000
      b. Usually a new sensor is a better performer, but I am wondering – should I trust the d5200 new sensor or wait for reports to come, or go ahead with time tested d5100, although I am interested in the new sensor.
      c. Price in India are 33INR for d5100, 45INR for d5200 and 77INR for d7000 – so the d5200 is not far from the d5100 and I could go for either of the two. On one side is the trusted sensor of the d5100 and on the other is the better features of the d5200.
      thx
      k

      • David Bennett says

        I’ve never held a D5200, so I can’t say about the appearance of the focus points in the viewfinder. If I get a chance to look at one, I’ll add that information here.

        I would not be worried about the quality of the D5200 sensor. Nikon have a very good track record.

    6. dr.k says

      1. What is advantage of fx over dx, except that it captures more view in the picture and may be slightly better picture quality and better ISO. Anything else for which double cost should be paid?
      2. I understand, dx lens offer 1.5 times zoom effect due to crop sensor….so that way it could be better if one needs zoom effect.
      3. Which is best fx Nikon today? I guess the d600 is a good option for a non professional because of its light weight like the d7000….although costly due to recent launch.

      thx
      k

      • David Bennett says

        It depends what size you want to print and for what purpose. If you are shooting studio portraits for full-page spreads for a top-class magazine, then the larger size of the FX sensor micro lenses will pay off and be worth it.

        For shooting wildlife – you want the extra reach – and that means either a longer lens with FX or DX.

        If you are shooting sports professionally, choose the camera with the fastest frame rate and best focus accuracy.

        There is no one camera that does everything best.

      • David Bennett says

        I have never used it, so I can’t comment. I didn’t think the camera in the iPhone would be very good – and compared to a good camera, it is limited. But it is much better than I would have thought it would be before I used it.

    7. dr.k says

      I could select D5200 over D5100 because D5200 has same autofocus technology like d7000 (nice big autofocus points) but they say D7000 had soft focus issue and the same has been passed on to D5200. What would you comment?

      Thanks.

      k

      google – “D7000 soft focus”

      • David Bennett says

        I googled for ‘D7000 soft focus’ and I don’t know whether there is a problem. Some of the issues seem to be user error.

        I have not used the D5200, so I cannot comment.

    8. dr.k says

      Are you happy or unhappy about removing anti aliasing filter in D7100. Are you happy because this makes pics sharp or are you unhappy because it brings in more noise in some situations. what would you comment?

      k

      • David Bennett says

        The anti-aliasing filter prevents moiré, which is the interference pattern caused by objects that have lines close together.

        Certain kinds of material, like closely woven cotton shirts or tweed jackets, show this effect.

        Removing the anti-aliasing filter does not increase noise but it does increase the risk of moiré.

        However, removing the anti-aliasing filter increases sharpness, and I would choose that rather than worry about moiré.

    9. dr.k says

      Do you think buying a D600 should be avoided due to its inherent issues of oil leak and dust. (Google “D600 oil spots”)?

    10. dr.k says

      in this situation, cost no bar, which dSLR is a safe and sensible bet to buy for a non-professional?

      1. D3200 – NO – better to take d5100 – at least it has swivel screen and sensor of d7000.
      2. D5100 – NO – screwed focus points.
      3. D5200 – NO – same soft autofocus issues like d7000 and too high resolution on small sensor.
      4. D7000 – NO – some face serious soft autofocus issues.
      5. D7100 – NO – missing anti-aliasing filter could be an issue sometimes and sensor not yet time tested.
      6. D600 – NO – oil and spots issue.
      7. D800 – NO – at such high resolution, mild hand shake easily leads to blur.

      There is no perfect camera, but with cost no bar, which one could be selected? I have used the D90.

      Donsidering soft focus was user issue, I have 3 options D5200, D7000 and D7100. Maybe one could try the D7100 to get the latest technology! if going full frame one could choose the D800 to get great detail. What would you comment?

      I am not considering Canon because they offer less focus points and lower resolution in comparative models….although 650D does have touch screen and other options around. what would you say?

      Cnsidering both Canon and Nikon…..which one would you recommend?

    11. dr.k says

      Trustedreviews.com verdict is ‘There’s no denying that the D7100 is an incredibly well-rounded DSLR…..Despite all of this, there are faults. Most noticeably, the high saturation of pixels on the sensor means that images are nosier at lower ISO settings then one would hope.’

    12. dr.k says

      With all read and considered, I think I have to decide between the D5200 and D7100.

      I won’t go for the D5100 because of the small focus points and the D7000 cost is near D7100.

      So between the D5200 and the D7100, the D5200 could emerge a winner because it has a swivel screen, smaller size/weight and half the cost. Google ‘Nikon D5200 beats the Nikon D7100 on DXOMark’ and you will see an interesting video by ArtOfTheImage.

      • David Bennett says

        I’ll try to address all your comments in this one reply.

        Between APC size sensors and full frame, the considerations are image quality and the type of photography you want to do. I had a D700 and the image quality was better than the D7000. On the other hand, the APC size sensor on the D7000 means that I have more reach when shooting with long lenses. Take a look at the puffins I photographed on the Isle Of May.

        I would never have been able to do that with a full frame camera without having a much more expensive lens.

        I think the D5200 is a terrific camera. If there is one drawback it is that it does not support non-AF-S lenses. That may not matter to you.

        Another thing is that if you intend to use long lenses, a slightly bigger and heavier camera like the D7000 or the D7100 might be a better-balanced combination than the D5200.

        If you are not intending to do a lot of telephoto work, then I think the D5200 has to be a good option. I haven’t actually looked through the viewfinder on one, so I cannot absolutely say what the focus points look like.

        I mentioned in my review that the problem with the D5100 is that the illumination on the focus points is so tiny that it is hard to see. What I mean is that the focus point should jump out in a split-second and be obvious.

        Photography often doesn’t give you time to think much, so it’s important that the camera itself doesn’t slow you down.

        I have never shot a Canon dSLR. If I had the money to play about with a new system, I would try Canon. I like the colour rendition that comes out of Canon cameras.
        David Bennett recently posted…Puffins And RazorbillsMy Profile

    13. dr.k says

      Your comments did help me further. I understand that for my needs, I don’t need a full frame, I need dx.

      I like taking closeups, rather than wide view. I like taking expressions and close ups with background blur and so on, so what I need is dx.

      I decided – the D7100 is excellent if one has budget and if not go for D5200. The D5200 focus points are the same as the D7000. The D7100 is great because it has a top LCD, dual memory card slots and 100% viewfinder, more focus points than even D600. So if the money is there, D7100 or else the D5200. The D5200 is smaller and practically it would be used more by me because I can easily carry it around.

      I used the D90 earlier and sometimes I found it a little heavy. I think I should go for the D7100 because one can grow into it and it would be a long term investment.

    14. dr.k says

      I sorted what I wanted, but just for sake of discussion may I ask – Do you think buying a D600 should be avoided due to its inherent issues of oil leak and dust. (Google ‘D600 oil spots’)? dust on sensor could be accepted but ….oil? It makes cleaning even worse.

    15. dr.k says

      The 1.3 crop is different from zooming in into the view. isnt it? How different will it look taking a full frame and then using a great lens to zoom into the view to take picture using the D7100 and using crop 1.3.

      Will it be possible to appreciate difference?

    16. dr.k says

      Does the focal length change when we use the same lens on DX versus FX? In one place I read it just crops and the focal length does not change, while in a video it said the focal length does change.

      • David Bennett says

        The question of whether a shot from a longer focal length looks the same or different to a crop from a shorter focal length, is interesting.

        However, my experience is that there is more variation in the way that different lenses ‘draw’ – that is, the way they represent the subject.

        I have an old Agfa Super Silette, and the lens ‘draws’ or shapes subjects quite differently from my Nikon lenses.
        David Bennett recently posted…Puffins And RazorbillsMy Profile

      • David Bennett says

        I have no experience with the D7100. I recall when there were banding issues with other cameras, that a firmware upgrade seemed to deal with the problem – such as it was. I googled for the problem and it is not clear cut that there is a problem.
        David Bennett recently posted…Puffins And RazorbillsMy Profile

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