My Gear – Chapter 16
Nikon D5100

Nikon D5100I didn’t need this camera. My three year old D40 was working just fine and was all the camera I really needed. But, while facts and logic may have slowed me down, they didn’t stop me. Although I can’t entirely deny the attraction of more pixels, that was not the the primary or even secondary reason I wanted this camera. The main attraction was the supposed superiority of the D5100’s CMOS sensor over the D40’s CCD. Secondly, I desired vibration reduction (VR) lenses. Yes, I could have simply bought VR lenses without the camera but I had convinced myself that putting money into lenses then attaching them to the lowly D40 was not wise. As I said, facts and logic only slow me down.

So, when finances allowed, in September of 2011, I spent right at a grand on the D5100 and a pair of lenses. One lens was simply the VR equivalent of the 18-55 mm D40 kit lens. The other was a 55-300 mm zoom that gave me some more range (300 mm vs. 200 mm) over the lens it replaced in addition to VR.

In many respects, the D5100 is just a slightly better and slightly bigger D40. It is still near the bottom of Nikon’s DLSR offerings. The higher resolution is nice and I believe that the VR lenses have helped from time to time but I’ve no hard evidence to support that. The CMOS sensor does deal with low light better than the CCD but I can’t shake the feeling that the D40 produced some brighter images in the “middle light” of an overcast day. That could certainly be an illusion and I’m really quite pleased with the D5100’s overall performance.

Not everything about the camera is just a step up in specifications over the D40. There are three obvious additions and all are related. First, the D5100 does 1080p video. Then, since you really can’t have the viewfinder mirror flapping around while recording video, a “live view” has been added which locks the mirror in the up position and puts a through-the-lens view on the rear mounted 3″ LCD screen. Both video and stills can be recorded in this mode. I’ve experimented a little with video and do use live mode occasionally for one handed shots. It’s also handy when I ask someone to take my picture who is baffled by an eye level viewfinder. Lastly, to make live view even better, the screen is fully articulated so you can record in assorted odd positions.

One subtle difference from the D40 that I’m starting to appreciate is the ability to record JPEG and RAW files simultaneously. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I just use the JPEGs as I always have but once in awhile I’ll salvage a picture with a little HDR processing using the RAW file.

My Gear – Chapter 15 — Garmin nüvi® 2460LMT

2 thoughts on “My Gear – Chapter 16
Nikon D5100

  1. Although I didn’t understand a single thing you said about your new camera–except that you were sure you didn’t ‘need’ it, but you did ‘want’ it–which makes perfect sense to me–I will not know the difference on my end. You do great pictures and have for the several years I have enjoyed your work. I am so happy the WalMart kid was able to show me the basics of my $75.00 (or maybe less) digital camera and I figured out how to transfer to my laptop that I feel like a pro. Until you start telling me what all your camera will do, I didn’t know I was so bad. Honestly, I’m happy you bought the camera–for yourself. I enjoy and appreciate what you do and wish you the best so you will continue to give us all a little something extra in our lives. I was disappointed when you quit driving your Vette on the road trips. It gave just another reason to keep and enjoy mine—or perhaps I should be honest–my wife has laid claim to ‘her’ Vette. I do get to drive it for service. Miss seeing yours. Hope you enjoy your new ‘toy’ as much as I enjoy the ‘results’!—j

    • That’s funny. The scary thing is that I probably understand less that 10% of the camera’s features and it probably has less that 10% of the features on what the pros use.

      I sometimes miss the Corvette, too. I had a second year C5 & C6 and admit the thought of a 2015 (second year) C7 has occurred to me. We shall see.

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