The Nikon D800 may be the ultimate camera, producing images of breathtaking detail and clarity even in poor light, but perfect it isn’t. It’s too big to lug around, for one thing, unless you’re a pro shooter and have a van to cart all your photo gear around in. And the lenses are big too, and it has too many buttons and settings. And it costs several big bills.
The D5100 is just the right size, in fact it’s only a fraction bigger than my little old D40. OK, so you only get 16 megapixels, 4fps continuous shooting and a viewfinder that is a bit cramped compared to the D800. You can’t shoot in near dark situations with impunity either but how often do you need to do that?
The important thing is this: the D5100 is good enough to shoot at ISO 800 or 1200 without giving it a second thought. That covers most situations for most of us, and you get an articulated screen which comes in handy. (Click on the images below to see larger files)
So the D5100 doesn’t have a screw drive for auto-focusing older lenses, so what? We now have all the AF-S lenses (with inbuilt AF motors) we need, and plenty of third party choices. If you happen to have a lot of older lenses, you'd better choose a D7000 - it's a fair bit bigger and heavier though.
My modest lens collection includes
- AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G DX - Prime
- AF-S Micro Nikkor 60mm f/2.8G ED DX - Macro
- AF-S Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF ED DX - walkabout
- AF-S Nikkor 55-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S VR DX – small and light tele
- AF-S Nikkor 55-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED IF DX – bigger tele
- Sigma AF 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM – ultra-wide
- Lensbaby Composer
The 60mm macro and the Sigma set me back close to $600 each, but the rest of the lenses cost between $200 and $300 (the 18-70 is about $200 second-hand). It’s a big number, but 2 and a bit grand is not a huge amount to invest in a decent set of DSLR lenses. These lenses are not too big and heavy, so a couple of them will easily go along in the camera bag. These lenses will be compatible with future DX bodies, and there’s a strong market for them on eBay.
Here’s pretty difficult shot in a dark tunnel against the bright light outside