Nikon's Consumer Range expands – D5100 & ME-1

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Nikon D5100April 5th sees the announcement of the fourth Nikon “thousand” model, the D5100. Following on from the D7000 and D3100 launches last year – both excellent cameras that introduced new sensors to Nikon’s range and left the D5000 mid-ranger looking a bit orphaned, the D5100 takes the logical step of bringing the larger 16.2Mp sensor from the D7000 into a cheaper, more consumer-oriented camera. Nikon have sensibly retained the swivel screen of the 5000, albeit with a more conventional side-hinged layout rather than the quirky (and tripod-unfriendly) base hinge of the original, and introduced a new body design with a slightly aggressive edge to the top plate. All of this is very predictable – with an older 12Mp sensor the D5000 was looking increasingly uncompetitive (despite the fantastic results it’s capable of delivering) whilst the D3100 introduced 1080p video – 14.2Mp and 1080p in the model below the former consumer video star couldn’t last!

So with the D5100, priced at £669, rising to £779 for lens kits, Nikon have given the sensor of the D7000 and the size and flexibility of the D5000. It makes for a comprehensive lineup. What else has Nikon brought along to the party…

Having given users the D7000, Nikon has not saved the best ’till last, nor has it gone for a trickle-down approach; the professional cameras are still offered with 12Mp sensors apart from the D3X’s 24Mp; we don’t even have a D3X in a D700 body – something Nikon users around the world have been desperately begging for. I suspect that, poor as it would look in the spec sheets of amateur rags, the lack of video on such a camera would fail to be the commercial disadvantage Nikon’s marketing team might be assuming with the critically acclaimed (and successful) Canon 5D Mk II in that market – professional photographers want to take pictures still. Regardless, speculating about missing D700x/D800 cameras is pointless – Nikon did deliver a fantastic compact pro-quality body with the D7000, and today’s D5100 has that sensor for less money. What’s not to like!

As with so many consumer Nikons, the D5100 lacks an in-camera focus motor, and it’s using the older Multi-Cam 1000 and 11-point AF, compared to the D7000’s fantastic new 2016-segment RGB matrix metering and 39-point AF. The D5100 also lacks weathersealing, which at this price point is no surprise!

What Nikon have done is to expand the creative in-camera functions to include selective colour, live preview of tilt, monochrome and artist paint effects, and further automate the selection process with interactive scene mode behaviour in Live View.

Bolstering the video credentials, Nikon also released their own stereo microphone, with dampers to minimise focus motor noise interference and a cable positioned for greater comfort when mounted on the hot shoe. The ME-1 is priced at £119.

Key features

  • Vari-angle LCD monitor: View life at a unique angle with high resolution 921k dot wide-viewing angle screen
  • Live View with AF modes: Live View is a straight-forward way of taking pictures and AF modes keep the subject in focus
  • Special effects mode: New to the D-SLR range, effects including selective colour and miniature effect for more creative expression when taking stills or movies
  • DX-format, 16.2 megapixel CMOS image sensor with EXPEED 2: Inherited from the D7000 for exceptional quality even in poor lighting conditions
  • High ISO (100-6400) extendable to Hi 2 (ISO 25600 equivalent): Keeps the detail with low noise in low-light situations
  • D-Movie: Full (1080p) HD movies can be taken at up to 30fps. Simple edits can be made in-camera and movies can be watched on HDTV using the HDMI connectivity
  • High dynamic range (HDR): Gives detailed shots of high-contrast scenes by combining two shots taken within a single shutter release
    • Active D-Lighting: Retains details in highlights and shadows for well balanced images, even if the subject is moving
    • Continuous shooting at 4fps: You will not miss that all important fast-moving action shot
    • Retouch menu: Gives a range of post editing effects in-camera including movie edits and image resizing
    • Picture controls: Lets you set the look and mood of your images before you shoot. Choose from six settings: Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape
    • Scene modes: Automatically adjusts camera settings, including Picture Controls and Active D-Lighting, for optimal results. Sample photos appear on the display to help select the right mode
    • Front and back infrared receivers: ensure maximum usability of the optional ML-L3 remote control when taking self portraits or close-ups
      • GPS compatible: Records the exact location of the camera when a picture is taken by using the optional GP-1 unit
      • Dual integrated dust reduction system: Image Sensor Cleaning and Airflow Control systems keep dust away from the camera’s image sensor for clear, spot-free images
      • Stereo sound: Designed specifically for D-SLRs, Nikon’s optional Stereo Microphone, ME-1, lets you record movie clips in high-quality stereo sound, with no AF noise. Comes with windscreen and soft case accessories

D5100 specifications


Image sensor CMOS sensor with 16.2 million effective pixels
Dust-reduction system Image sensor cleaning system, Airflow control system
File format NEF (RAW): 14 bit, compressed; JPEG: fine, normal or basic; NEF + JPEG
Viewfinder Pentamirror with 95% frame coverage and 0.78x magnification
Monitor 7.5-cm, approx. 921k-dot (VGA), Vari-angle TFT LCD with 170° viewing angle, approx. 100% frame coverage
Shutter speed 1/4000 to 30 s in steps of 1/3 or 1/2 EV; Bulb; Time (requires optional Remote Control ML-L3)
Drive mode 4.0 frames per second
Autofocus Nikon Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection, 11 focus points
AF-area mode Single-point AF, dynamic-area AF, auto-area AF, 3D-tracking (11 points)
Lens servo Autofocus (AF): Single-servo AF (AF-S); Continuous-servo AF (AF-C); Manual focus (MF)
Exposure metering TTL exposure metering using 420-pixel RGB sensor
Metering method Matrix, Center-weighted, Spot
Exposure mode Auto, Auto Flash off, Scene Modes: Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close up, Night portrait, Night landscape, Party/indoor, Beach/snow, Sunset, Dusk/dawn, Pet portrait, Candlelight, Blossom, Autumn colours, Food;
Programmed auto (P), Shutter-priority auto (S), Aperture priority auto (A), Manual (M)
Special effects Colour Sketch, Selective Colour, Miniature effect, Night Portrait, Silhouette, High Key, Low Key
Picture Control System Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, Landscape
Exposure compensation –5 to +5 EV in increments of 1/3 or 1/2 EV
ISO sensitivity ISO 100 – 6400, Hi1, Hi2 (25.600 equivalent) in steps of 1/3 EV
Built-in flash Auto flash with auto pop-up; P, S, A, M: Manual pop-up with button release; Guide number: approx 13m
White balance Auto, incandescent, fluorescent (7 types), direct sunlight, flash, cloudy, shade, preset manual, all except preset manual with fine tuning
Live View lens servo Autofocus (AF): Single-servo AF (AF-S); full-time-servo AF (AF-F); Manual focus (MF)
Live View AF-area mode Face-priority AF, wide-area AF, normal-area AF, subject-tracking AF
Live View Autofocus Contrast-detect AF anywhere in frame (camera selects focus point automatically when face-priority AF or subject-tracking AF is selected)
Automatic scene selection Available in Auto and Auto Flash Off modes
Movie metering TTL exposure metering using main image sensor
Frame size(pixels) and rate 1,920 × 1,080, 30p/25p/24p, H high/normal; 1,280 × 720, 30p/25p/24p, H high/normal; 640 × 424, 30p/25p, H high/normal
File format and compression MOV; H.264/MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding
Audio recording device Built-in monaural or external stereo microphone (optional NIKON ME-1); sensitivity adjustable
Playback Full-frame and thumbnail (4, 9 or 72 images or calendar) playback with playback zoom, movie playback, slide show, histogram display, highlights, auto image rotation and image comment (up to 36 characters)
Connectivity Hi-Speed USB; Video output: NTSC, PAL; HDMI output: Type C mini-pin HDMI connector; Accessory terminal: Remote Cord MC-DC2 (available separately), GPS Unit GP-1 (available separately); Audio input: Stereo mini-pin jack (3.5-mm diameter)
Supported languages Arabic, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish
Battery One Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL14
AC adapter AC Adapter EH-5a/5b; requires Power Connector EP-5A (available separately)
Dimensions (W x H x D) Approx. 128 × 97 × 79 mm
Weight approx. 560 g with battery and memory card
Supplied accessories Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL14, Battery Charger MH-24, Eyepiece Cap DK-5, Rubber Eyecup DK-20, USB Cable UC-E6, Audio Video Cable EG-CP14, Camera Strap, AN-DC3, Body Cap BF-1B, Accessory Shoe Cover BS-1, ViewNX 2 CD-ROM

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