Nikon D3200 vs D5100

I recently picked up a Nikon D3200. The lure of 24 megapixels in a compact DSLR for a pretty inexpensive price got to me so I really wanted to try one of these out. Then after having it for a day I decided to buy a D5100 and test them out against each other and keep the one I liked the best. Either camera could be a great fit for a beginner or as a 2nd lightweight backup body for someone advanced . If you have the budget & want a camera you can grow with I’d recommend the D7000. Or hell go all out and get a D800! Anyways below are some things I noticed while comparing the D3200 & D5100.

Check the D3200 & D5100 out on Amazon: Nikon D3200 Nikon D5100 UPDATE 3-28-13 There really isn’t a reason to get the new D5200 either, if you don’t mind paying more than a D5100 I think you will really start to notice a difference feature wise and image quality wise with the D7100 and the Full Frame D600

Live View
  • The D3200 has a very grainy magnified view compared to the D5100. It’s much easier to manually focus with the D5100. Plus auto focus in LV seems more accurate too. I’m guessing it’s because the D3200 must be skipping a lot of lines & pixels for LV to look so awful.
  • This D3200 has a display that has a very cool color pallet i.e. it has a blue tint. The D5100 screen is much warmer and looks much more accurate. It’s nice Nikon upgraded the pixel count versus the older D3100 (921k vs 230k pixels) but it seems like the color is definitely off.
  • With the D3200 you can adjust only in 1 EV steps but in the D5100 you get 1/3 steps. Also you can set the camera to show your Auto ISO value in the viewfinder with the D5100 but not the D3200.
  • For Auto ISO the D3200 has a new feature that sets the shutter speed based on focal length but if you want to set the minimum shutter speed yourself only these values are available: 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, 1/2000.
  • The D5100 has all of these shutter speeds to choose from: 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/40, 1/50, 1/60, 1/80, 1/100, 1/125, 1/160, 1/200, 1/250, 1/320, 1/400, 1/500, 1/640, 1/800, 1/1000, 1/1250, 1/1600, 1/2000.
Image Quality
  • The D3200’s 24mp sensor does resolve more detail with a good lens. Pixel level sharpness doesn’t seem as high as the D5100 sensor though. Maybe a stronger anti-aliasing filter? It seem to show less moiré than the 16mp sensor.
  • At 6400 ISO I feel the Nikon D5100 is slightly ahead. Downsampling the D3200 image gives pretty close results. The one thing I really don’t like on the D3200 with higher ISO shots is flecks of random hot pixels.  Play around with the compairison at dpreview to check this out (shows up on dark objects in particular).
  • The 16mp sensor has a VERY low read noise. Shoot ISO 100 & you can push the shadow or even the overall exposure 5 stops and still have a clear, not too grainy image.  With that sort of abuse the D3200 can’t keep up. It starts to show much more noise and banding.
  • D5100 shoots 14BIT RAW vs D3200’s 12BIT. This might lead to more Dynamic range (I haven’t seen any official #’s from dxomark yet). This could possibly be why the 16mp sensor can have it’s exposure pushed further than the 24mp one.
D5100 Bonus Features
  • The D5100 has a Interval Timer to record multiple images automatically over a course of time. Useful for time lapses.
  • Auto Bracketing, 3 shots up to 2 EV +/- exposure.
  • Swivel screen. Useful to shoot up high, down low, self portrait facebook shots, etc.
  • Grip is a millimeter or 2 longer but this really helps my hand get a better grip. My pinky can’t quite stay on the D3200’s grip with my normal man sized hands.
D3200 Bonus Features
  • Buttons feel better, less mushy “multi selector” 4-way button compared to the D5100. I also like the LV button versus the lever.  Plus there is one extra button, a dedicated drive mode button.
  • It shoots video at a slightly higher bitrate (about 24mbps vs 20mbps). They both shoot pretty mediocre looking 1080p video when compared to a Panasonic GH2 though. You get full manual video controls with the D3200 to though! You have to trick the D5100 to set your preferred exposure while shooting video.
  • If you want the most megapixel DSLR for the least amount of money get the D3200. It’s lacking in so many areas though I would get the D5100 which as of right now is the same price! Or save $100 by going with the “body only” D5100 & put that toward the awesome Nikon 35mm F1.8G lens. That lens & the great sensors Nikon uses are the main reason why I recommend Nikon to people getting into  photography.

Check the D3200 & D5100 out on Amazon

Nikon D3200 24.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR NIKKOR Zoom Lens (Black)

Nikon D5100 16.2MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3-Inch Vari-Angle LCD Monitor (Body Only)

Image Samples Below: 1) screen color difference, 2) live view difference, 3) 50mm f1.8G at f7.1 alcatraz full scene (downscaled), 4) D3200 100% crop, 5) D5100 100% crop, 6) 50mm 1.8G @ f8 church/bay bridge full scene (downscaled), 7) D3200 100% crop, 8) D5100 100% crop, 9) ISO 6400 full scene (downscaled), 10) D3200 100% crop, 11) D5100 100% crop, 12) ISO 100 full scene -5 stops (downscaled), 13) D3200 100% crop pushed 5 stops, 14) D5100 100% crop pushed 5 stops

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