Product Listing

Nikon D5100 - The Sequel is Better

By Alvin Soon - 10 May 2011

Image Performance II

Image Performance II

Nikon introduces a new Effects mode, with seven effects that are applied as you shoot. They include a miniature effect, which makes your subjects look like toys, high key and low key effects for an over or underexposed look, and color sketch for a sketch-like picture. While they may seem like gimmicks, they can actually be quite fun in practice. If you don't like applying destructive filters to your images, most of the effects are actually available in the Retouch menu.

Shot with the Miniature effect. Click for full resolution image.

Shot with the Sketch effect. Click for full resolution image.

Shot with the Selective Color effect. Click for full resolution image.

We had mixed results while playing with the new High Dynamic Range (HDR) function. When using the HDR function, the D5100 shoots two shots of varying exposures and combines them in-camera into a single image. Depending on the scene, you might even be able to shoot handheld if neither of the two exposures are too long. The HDR effect is more subtle than fantastical; unlike the more intense HDR images out there, the D5100 produces HDR images which are more realistic.

While the new feature is welcome, there are a few things that could have been improved. The function is buried inside the Menu, making it more difficult to activate, and once one shot is taken the function is switched off automatically. It would have been simpler if the HDR function had been listed under Effects mode. The camera only saves the final combined image, and it could have been better if it saves the originals as well, in case the final image contains artifacts like ghosting from moving objects.

The HDR feature is buried inside the Menu, and once a shot is taken it switches off automatically.

Ghosting occurs when subjects move in-between HDR exposures, seen here in a 100% crop of a image shot with the D5100's new HDR feature. It's not a problem unique to the D5100, but common in HDR photography.

The D5100's HDR function handles the merging of images very well, this shot was taken hand-held and the leaves were gently moving, but in a close-up they still retain their sharpness.

The HDR feature produces results that are more realistic than fantastic, though your results may vary.

You can leave the difference in exposures to be set automatically by the camera, or manually set it to a difference of 1, 2 or 3EV. Depending on the scene, that might or might not give you a lot of latitude - it certainly won't give you as much latitude as a larger sequence of HDR images you shoot and combine yourself, and the D5100 doesn't manage to expose for all highlights and shadows in a image with a wide difference in brightness levels.

As such, the HDR function is a convenient and automatic supplement to your photography, not a replacement for a more complete but more tedious manually composed HDR image. With the 3EV limit in exposures, we found that the HDR function produces images that look more like higher dynamic range photos, rather than high dynamic range photos - which isn't a bad thing at all if you find yourself shooting in difficult lighting conditions.

While you can't vary the exposures too much or tweak the final image too much, we discovered that you can set the exposure while in HDR mode and thus have some control over how bright or how dark the final image would turn out.

  • Performance 9
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • User-Friendliness 9
  • Value 9.5
The Good
Impressive high ISO performance
High quality images
Quick and accurate auto-focus
Higher-resolution LCD screen
The Bad
New Live View lever and Record button inconveniently placed